Q. Are there any cichlid fish I can keep in my freshwater aquarium with my red brick swordtails?
Salt Lake City, Utah
A. There are cichlid fish you can keep with your red brick swordtails, but the list is rather short, especially if you want your swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri var) fry to survive. Depending on the size of your aquarium, there is a good chance that any red brick swordtails born in your aquarium would quickly be eaten by any cichlid fish present. Also, swordtails tend to like water that is not too acidic and a bit on the hard side, so that rules out most of the smaller cichlid fish from South America. Given enough space and proper water conditions, there are a few cichlid fish species that would live peaceably with adult swordtails.
I’ll start off by suggesting the Bolivian ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus). Although it is from South America, it readily adapts to most water conditions – as long as your aquarium water is not too hard and alkaline. If your pH is less than 8.0 and hardness is less than 8 degrees KdH, the Bolivian rams should do fine. Bolivian rams are a small bottom-oriented species that should pretty much ignore the red brick swordtails swimming over their heads.
Other options include keyhole cichlids (Cleithracara maronii), which are also relatively adaptable and peaceful. Another good option is the rose-breasted acara (Laetacara dorsigera). There are other options for this freshwater aquarium, but I’ve kept my suggestions to species that are very behaviorally manageable. In the wild, swordtails share their river habitats with firemouth cichlids (Thorichthys meeki) and convict cichlids (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus), both of which can be a little hard to manage in the close confines of a modest-sized aquarium. Hope your red brick swordtails like their new neighbors!