Can You Keep Cichlids With Piranha? {Which One Is More Aggressive?}

Are you thinking of stocking cichlids with piranhas? Will they cohabitate or will there be carnage? In this article, we’ll find out if cichlids can be kept with piranhas.

Can You Keep Cichlids With Piranha? It isn’t advised to keep Cichlids and Piranhas together in the same tank. Cichlids will be the territorial aggressors, but the Piranhas may allow it until one day they take a lethal bite and devour the instigators. Lip locking tendencies of aggressive Cichlids will be a disaster against Piranhas. 

Will My Piranhas Kill My Cichlids?

Piranhas like to keep to themselves in schools. They will not seek to kill a cichlid or any other fish if they are well fed and there is enough space in the tank. You would need at least 20 gallons for a single piranha to be comfortable. Adding in cichlids will create territorial issues.

If cichlids pair up, they will become even more aggressive. Cichlids like to lip-lock as their main form of fighting. Their mouths could get torn off by a piranha who becomes fed up with being chased or backed into a corner.

It could be a peaceful coexistence for a set amount of time, then one day, your piranhas may kill your cichlids. Nothing is definite in the aquarium hobby, but reduce the chances of death by keeping cichlids away from piranhas.

Will Cichlids Stress Out Piranhas?

Yes. Aggressive cichlids such as convicts may band together and target any type of fish in their designated territory. They need space, but peaceful bottom dwelling tankmates will not care about them.

Piranhas such as red bellied types have been routinely stressed by convicts in the past under the supervision of aquarists who had no choice but to temporarily house them together. It took a week or so until the red bellied piranhas decided to fight back. They took a bite out of two convicts and went for the kill.

There are cases of the opposite where piranhas become so stressed by territorial cichlids that they retreat, stop eating and slowly depreciate and succumb to an early death due to the stress of constant harassment.

How Can I Keep Cichlids and Piranhas Together?

You will need a very large tank or tank dividers. The problem is that a divider could get dislodged or fall. A large over 100 gallons would require plenty of decorations or plants to serve as territories for your cichlids to occupy.

Piranhas will keep to themselves in spacious amounts of open water, but you will need 20 gallons of water per piranha. Nothing is guaranteed. We’ve seen piranhas and plecos grow up together for over a year and a half and suddenly, one piranha chose to take a bite out of one pleco.

It happened when no one was watching. The end result was a pleco with half its head bit off. The same or worse will occur to cichlids who are not as docile or peaceful as plecos. Once again, you have some options if you choose to keep cichlids and piranhas together. They are as follows:

  • Extremely large and wide tank
  • Plenty of decorations and plants for cichlid territories
  • Plenty of open water for piranhas
  • A tank divider for added security 
  • No guaranteed whatsoever
  • Separate tanks advised
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Which Tankmates Can Be Safely Kept With Piranhas?

None. There are no tankmates that we can assure with confidence will be secure in a tank with piranhas. You can consider bottom dwelling catfish, but no aquatic life is fully safe. If any sized fish is small enough to be bitten or eaten, a piranha may take a bite out of anger, defense or impatience.

  • Sailfin Pleco
  • Striped Raphael Catfish
  • Suckermouth Catfish

The three examples above may have a better chance at surviving with piranhas. They stay at the bottom layer of the tank and have added protection with bone planes across their bodies. Once again, there are no guarantees with piranhas as tankmates.

Are Cichlids More Aggressive Than Piranhas?

Although cichlids are smaller than piranhas, they are far more aggressive in general. Piranhas may wish to keep to themselves and stake out a rough area as their territory.

The problem is that cichlids may encroach on this space and make attempts to widen their own territory. You may have both types of fish living together for weeks or months, but cichlids won’t stop their pursuit of territorial takeovers and defense.

Cichlids may chase away larger fish including piranhas. It may take a single encounter for a piranha to realize how easily they can take a bite out of a cichlid who likes to chase or lip lock. Just because cichlids are more aggressive doesn’t mean they stand a chance when a piranha is fed up.

Do Piranhas Eat Cichlids?

Piranhas eat anything they can fit into their mouths that is edible. They are not going to hold back when a cichlids is offered as a meal. Piranhas get larger and become more confident with age.

A cichlid will become an easy meal if it continues to push back and attempt to fight for territory. You may not believe it because your tank with cichlids and piranhas is working out, but one day you wake up and your cichlids are gone.


We are against the idea of placing cichlids with piranhas. Try silver dollars instead of piranhas if you have cichlids. Try catfish varieties instead of cichlids if you have piranhas. We tend to feel that piranhas do best in a species specific tank.

Most people who choose to keep cichlids with piranhas do so because they have no choice and need a temporary home for one or the other. It may work for a few days or weeks, but you cannot predict the day when a piranha decides to devour a cichlid.


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Brian Arial

Brian Arial has kept fish for leisure and worked with fish stores for most of his life. He enjoys writing and caring for aquariums and ponds.

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