Which is the most aggressive SA/CA cichlid in your experience/opinion?


MFK Member
Jul 29, 2020
1) Nandopsis beani - if you've ever seen or spoken to a very knowledgeable keeper on these, you'll agree that NO other cichlid flips out like this one does. I've heard stories of foot long specimens taking 600g for themselves. Now THAT is impressive.

2) Neolamprologus Christyi - easily the most aggressive african cichlid. Attaining an average length of 5-6 inches and potentially 7-8, I know of several keepers who kept them in tanks upwards of 75g and still had them slaughter tankmates. Another account tells of them killing a colony of neets that were previous tankmates. NOT a fish to be messed with. After keeping another colony of these guys, I have a newfound respect for them. Insanely aggressive, perhaps WORSE than N. Beani. My friend had his in a 125, juvie pair (4 inches) kill off tankfulls of Lethrinops and Venustus at over 8 inches. ALL were killed, with chunks missing.

3) Telmatochromis Dhonti - This 6 inch monster is #2 on the african badboy list, and IMO #3 overall. These guys have some seriously heavy jaws and can easily tear chunks, break bones, etc. A friend of mine had a male mouthlock with a larger neolamp sexfasciatus and the dhonti tore the jaw completely off with ease. He was unsuccessful in keeping them with anything else. As soon as parental care began to wane on the fry, the fry were slaughtering each other already. Definately not a fish to be messed with. The only african that can exceed it's aggression would be N. Christyi, but a squabble between the 2 could easily go either way.

4) Caquetaia umbrifera - a 2-3 foot fish maybe, but 1000g of space is ALOT of tank regardless, and usually it takes MORE than that to house a mature male umbie with tankmates

5) Parachromis dovii - the infamous wolf cichlid, not overrated and still a VERY nasty fish that even at only 1.5-2 feet can still take up a tank of easily 500g, usually 600 or more.

6) Nandopsis haitiensis - one of the most underrated cichlids as far as aggression goes, this fish is literally black hell. At only 14 inches, a large male could quite easily take up more than 200g for itself.

7) Amphilophus festae - basically the red version of N. haitiensis when it comes to aggression. I would have given the average festae a tie with the average haiti, but haitis should take the #6 simply because festae tend to be very wimpy until they hit a certain size (differs for each specimen IME), but still a big fish with one of the nastiest tempers around.

8) Parachromis motaguensis - another underrated cichlid, very nasty guapote with teeth to back it up. Notorious for disembowling tankmates.

9) Nandopsis istlantus - hyper aggressive and nasty despite its small size. Sheer temper problems with this fish.

10) Nandopsis salvini - IME they've been jsut about as nasty as the average istlantum, but again, there seems to be more variation in temperment with this fish (I've heard of a few tame sals, but ever of a tame istlantum). Still a contender though.

11) Nandopsis grammodes - I've heard of these fish taking down istlantum and salvini, and judging by the equipment and the temper I don't doubt it. However, I've heard of alot more tame grammodes than either salvini or istlantum.

12) Herichthys bartoni - another underrated cichlid, which from what i've seen/heard is just about as nasty as the grammodes/istlantum/salvini trio. If grammodes = mini dovii, istlantum = mini umbie, and salvini = mini trimac, then bartoni could pass for mini haitiensis.

13) Hemichromis fasciatus - IMO one of the most overrated fish for aggression... I've heard of them killing buttikofferi in the wild though so I think they deserve a spot on this list, but not as high as most people would think.

14) Nandopsis urophthalmus - a VERY VERY VERY underrated guapote type cichlid. They're quite possibly one of the most tenacious cichlids out there, and tend to be very consistent in temperment.

15) Melanochromis sp. "giant pike/giant black and white pike auratus" - the largest of the melanochromis, both attaining near 10 inches, with a temper to match. Easily the most aggressive mbuna, and even giving neolamp. chrysti a run for worst temper of the africans. If you thought auratus or chipokae were bad, this fish will blow you out of your seat. They're even worse than M. melanopterus.

16) Amphilophus saggitae - commonly called "black demon" cichlid. Deserves every letter of it, being worse than its close relative amphilophus citrinellus.

17) Amphilophus zaliosus - the most aggressive of the RD complex, super nasty hyper charged fish. Too bad it only reaches 8 inches.

18) Amphilophus trimaculatus - a well known bruiser, VERY high on the top toughest, but I've noticed ALOT of variation in the temperment of this fish. However, if more trimacs were as aggressive as they're generally seen, I'd put them after motaguensis.

19) Amphilophus citrinellus - I had a hard time deciding whether this fish should come before or after the trimac, but I decided after. Still, expect about the same level of roughness as a trimac with a few more exceptionally well behaved specimens

20) Crenicichla strigata "venezuela" - the largest pike cichlid, and consequentially the most aggressive. Nasty fish, will usually attempt to kill any tankmates it is capable of overpowering.

21) Amphilophus labiatus - another very aggressive cichlid, but much more variable in temperment than the rest of the RD complex. Still, a very aggressive fish which demands close attention when tankmates are incorporated.

22) Neetroplus Neematopus - little speed demons, very nasty fish capable of encompassing a large territory. However, many specimens are peaceful until breeding, so they get a lower rating than alot of other cichlids.
Really interesting list, it really opened my mind on how many cichlids there really were out there. I'm curious if anyone actually had experience with these fish as it seems that many aren't too commonly kept. An update on no 15 however is that this species has been reclassified to melanochromis kaskazini and its not that bad. Less aggressive than auratus and chipokae and seems to get smaller in captivity (The largest reported in the wild was 17 cm, largest reported in captivity that I saw was 18 cm). Not a common species but I doubt they'd get too much over 20 cm while there's plenty of chipokae in that range. As to the tangayikans, never kept either, but I have experienced the telmatochromis temporalis which was very aggressive but in line with mbuna aggression, I'd say they are comparable to demasoni. Not sure if dhonti is worse than temporalis but I doubt it'd be second just based on temporalis.
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Jack Dempsey
MFK Member
Mar 21, 2013
3. Full grown male carpintis (I've had smaller ones that were soft but one time I bought a full grown male and it was on a mission to kill everything in the tank. Broke my heart to sell it)
When I first read this I thought it was a joke, this fish is beautiful and doesn't seem like much of an aggressor. However, to my surprise my full grown FEMALE Carpintas did a number on a FEMALE Chancho recently in less than 24 hours...:shocked: Therefore I agree with adding this fish to the list.
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MFK Member
Jan 13, 2021
I had a female guttulatus that quickly earned the name "Cyco" because when she was really young (2 inches or so) she jumped out of the tank while my wife was feeding and latched onto her finger.

Ourtof shock and fear she flung the fish off and went to pick it off the floor. It flopped up to her waist (she is 5ft tall) that's some power.

As an adult I saw her teeth and always thought it would be very painful to have her lock on to a finger. She attacked the glass constantly. I really miss her


MFK Member
Apr 26, 2017
I'll drop another vote for jags. I used to have one named cheddar about 12". Beautiful fish. After numerous murders he went in the turtle pond with the turtles. Only fish I've ever owned that would kill ANY tankmate.


Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Dec 13, 2020
I’ve had oscars that are just like lazy playful labradors. So they can be a crap shoot. But EVERY red devil ive ever had was a demon from hell that wiped out anything that entered the tank. One would have killed me if he could have broken through the glass. :)


Jack Dempsey
MFK Member
Nov 9, 2020
Baddest Is the dovii and on second r jags