Green Terror Chichids [Care Guide] – Tank Mates, Size & Much More

The green terror cichlid is a beautiful and unique freshwater fish that is quite popular among aquarists. Learn how to care for them in our fantastic new guide.

Green Terror – Quick Facts

In a rush? Check out the quick facts about Green Terror below.

Fish Info

Scientific NameAndinoacara rivulatus
Common NamesGreen Terror, Gold Saum, White Saum, Orange Saum
AppearanceLarge, heavyset, glittering, eye-catching blue and green coloration
DifficultyGreen terrors are difficult to care for because of their aggression.
DistributionThe green terror is distributed from the Tumbes River in Peru to the Esmeraldas River in Ecuador.
LifespanThe lifespan of a green terror is about 7-10 years.
TemperamentGreen terrors are incredibly aggressive and territorial fish that become more so as they age.
Keep in Groups of1-3
Tank MatesJack Dempsey cichlids, Texas cichlids, Corydoras, Oscars
DietThe diet of green terror consists mainly of carnivorous foods, such as frozen bloodworms, krill, and brine shrimp, although they will also consume green vegetables and plankton.
LengthThe length of the green terror cichlid is around 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm).
Sexual DimorphismMales are larger than females, males have a kok (rounded hump on their heads)
Breeding DifficultyGreen terror cichlids are difficult to breed in captivity.

Water/Tank Recommendations

Water TypeFreshwater
Water TemperatureThe ideal water temperature for green terror is 77°F (25°C).
Water pHThe ideal water pH for green terror is 6.5 to 8.0.
Water HardnessThe ideal water hardness for green terror is 5-20 GH.
Tank sizeThe minimum recommended tank size for a green terror is 35 gallons, and the recommended tank size is 75 gallons.


If you want a unique freshwater fish to add to your home aquarium, cichlids are an excellent choice.

And one of our favorite types of cichlid is the green terror. Learn everything there is to know about this aggressive but beautiful fish below.

You’ll find information about their appearance, size, temperament, tank mates, and more. You’ll be an expert in no time!

About Green Terror

Green terror cichlids are a popular species in the aquarium trade. They’re endemic to South America and they tend to inhabit fast-moving waters that contain rocks or wood for them to hide among.

Green terror cichlids are a member of the Cichlasomatini tribe, which makes them part of the Cichlidae family (more commonly referred to as “the Chichids”). The scientific name for this fish is Andinoacara rivulatus, but many aquarists prefer the common name green terror instead.

These large fish can get up to twelve inches long when fully grown. While juvenile specimens stay closer to four inches long at first, the males quickly start developing their characteristic hump on top of their head! That lump can become quite pronounced as these fish grow bigger.


The green terror cichlid is a large and colorful fish. Adult male green terrors have extremely bright colors that stretch from the top of their heads to their dorsal fins.

The tops of their bodies are usually blue, turquoise, or aquamarine in color, with hints of yellow or gold on the front section. The most commonly seen shade is bluish-green with turquoise spots covering them all over. You’ll also find some light vertical stripes around this area as well for an extra pop!

You can see these beautiful colors shimmering when they swim through your tank because of how reflective they are! Their bellies take on a lighter hue compared to the rest of their body.

Their Length

The green terror cichlid can grow to be as long as 12 inches in captivity, but up to around 8 inches is more typical. In their natural environment, they are only known to exceed lengths of 12 inches.

Several factors influence the growth rate of this fish species. However, it’s important to keep green terrors well-fed with a diet that consists of high-quality foods.

Fish that are not getting the nutrients they need will grow more slowly than those in a healthy environment.

NOTE: There are instances of green terror cichlids growing longer than 12 inches in their natural habitat!


The average lifespan of green terror cichlids is about 7-10 years. This makes them quite a long-term pet that can grow with you, no matter where your interests lie in the fishkeeping world.

Of course, there are no guarantees. Like any other fish species, the green terror can die early from poor care or severe disease.

Stay on top of maintaining the tank and water conditions in order to help your green terror live as long as possible.

NOTE: The most common cause of death with this species is aggression. If you don’t provide enough hiding spots and caves, the fish may attack each other in an attempt to claim territory.

Sexual Dimorphism

Male Green Terrors are usually larger than females and the males have a kok, which is a rounded hump on their heads. Other than that, there is not much difference between the two sexes.


The green terror cichlids are found in the warm and clear waters of South America. They come from rivers that are rich with vegetation, rocks, and driftwood. These fish are very adaptable to a wide range of water conditions (except for extreme pH levels).

The green terror is distributed from the Tumbes River in Peru to the Esmeraldas River in Ecuador.

They can be kept in aquariums decorated with plants. Some aquarists prefer using sand substrates instead of gravel ones. Gravel tends to collect waste materials. This can affect the water’s pH balance, making it unsuitable for this species.

Caring for Green Terror

The best way to care for green terror cichlids is to provide them with a large tank and the right kind of habitat.

These fish like plenty of places to hide out, so add rocks or plants throughout the aquarium. Plants will give your fish somewhere safe to go during their more aggressive moments.

The most important thing you can do for these fish is to provide good filtration and water changes regularly. Green terrors produce a lot of waste that could harm other life in your tank if left unchecked.


Green terror cichlids are carnivorous and should be fed high-quality commercial food that is intended for active predatory fish.

This means sinking pellets, frozen foods (bloodworms, brine shrimp), live foods (crickets or worms) if you choose to provide them. Do not overfeed your green terror because this can lead to health issues.

How Often & How Much to Feed Them

You should feed these fish twice each day, once in the morning and again at night. Feed them an amount they can consume in 5 minutes to avoid overfeeding.

Possible Diseases

There are several diseases that green terror cichlids can suffer from. The most common is Ich, also known as white spot disease. This disease manifests itself in spots on the fish’s body and will progress to affect gills if left untreated.

It’s recommended that you quarantine your fish before treating them so as not to infect other fishes in your tank.

There is another disease called “hole-in-the-head,” which affects the brain and causes convulsions.

Tank Setup

The best tank setups for green terror cichlids are those that replicate their natural environment as closely as possible. This means a lot of plants, rocks, and hiding places.

Start by laying down some sand substrate so these fish can dig if they want to. Then add rocks, wood, or even plastic caves where your fish can feel safe and secure when they need it. Live aquarium plants are also recommended.

Don’t overcrowd the aquarium either: give your fish plenty of room to roam!

Aquarium Size

The minimum size for a green terror is 35 gallons.

This will allow you to keep one or two fish in your aquarium, but if you want to introduce some more into the mix, bump up the tank size accordingly. Larger tanks are always better since they’ll give your fish plenty of room and help them stay stress-free. Optimally, you want 75+ gallons.

NOTE: If you plan on keeping a large community of green terrors, go as big as possible! These fish love to swim around and will appreciate all the extra room they can get.

Water Conditions

Ideal water conditions are essential for any fish. The best way to create the ideal environment is by creating a habitat that mimics their natural environment as much as possible.

Green terrors come from warm, tropical waters filled with algae-filled rocks and vegetation. To recreate this in your tank, start by filling it with live plants of many varieties. You can use both floating aquarium plants or submerged aquatic ones (you can even utilize driftwood).

Next, add some cave-like hiding spots made out of rocks and driftwood.


The pH level of the green terror habitat should be kept between 6.5 and 8.0, with a specific target range of 7.0 to 7.8, in order for them to thrive (this species can live within that variance).

It’s important to test the water on a regular basis so you have visibility into how your fish are reacting to their environment and can make any necessary adjustments as needed.

NOTE: Many aquarists find themselves in a situation where the water parameters of their green terror tank aren’t ideal. If this is you, do whatever it takes to get your levels into a range that works for them.


The typically recommended water temperature for green terror cichlids is 77 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the range of 70 degrees to 80 degrees can work as well.

While it’s possible to keep these fish in a cooler tank environment, they will not be nearly as healthy or energetic without some warmer water (though some aquarists have had success with this).

NOTE: Make sure to stick close to the recommended ideal temperature, as green terrors are sensitive to any wild swings in water temperatures.


It’s important to keep the water hardness in the correct range to support the green terror cichlid.

Hardness refers to a range of numbers that measure how well your water holds on to minerals and salts. Because fish live in water, they need hardness levels above 5 GH and below 20 GH.


Filtration is an important part of keeping any fish alive and happy. With that being said, green terror cichlids require a powerful filtration system to maintain clean water with their heavy bioloads.

Green terrors produce tons of waste throughout the day, so it’s essential to have an extra large filter that can handle all this debris. A hang-on-back (HOB) filter or canister filter are both fine options for these fish as long as they are rated for at least 75 gallons of water volume.

Aquarium Plants

A good selection of live plants should be included in the tank to offer a nice change of pace, more variety in the diet for your fish, and also help to maintain excellent water quality.

Green terror cichlids appreciate dense vegetation since it helps them feel secure from other aggressive species that share their habitat. However, they can be rather destructive when they decide that certain plants look like a good snack!

A common choice is Hornwort – one of the best aquarium plants due to its ability to thrive even with low light levels and high nutrient loads. It’s also great at helping moderate pH levels.

Behavior and Compatibility

Green terror cichlids are not recommended for beginners. These fish are highly aggressive and prone to attacking other species in the tank, including smaller ones or those that can’t defend themselves.

Aggression will also occur within a single species if there is a hierarchy issue. This means you need plenty of space for each fish so that no one feels threatened by another.

How Many to Keep Together

The recommended number of green terror cichlids to keep together in one tank is no more than three. Green Terrors are very territorial and will fight for the best territories within your aquarium, so you’ll want to avoid this as much as possible.

If you plan on keeping even fewer green terrors in a single tank, it’s essential that you provide ample space. A good rule of thumb is 35+ gallons of water per fish.

However, even with large tanks, you will face aggression from your fish. As a result, it’s always best to provide several hiding spots for each fish within the tank.


The green terror cichlid is a highly aggressive fish that can become even more territorial as it ages. They have been known to attack other similarly colored fish and may also target any fish species with long flowing fins, such as guppies or mollies.

Green terrors tend to be more active during the day than at night. However, they will still investigate dark shadows in order to find food sources.

They are prolific diggers and will often move large amounts of substrate in order to find food. They also tend to burrow into the substrate during spawning time.

When they’re not digging, green terror cichlids enjoy swimming throughout their tank and investigating every nook and cranny in search of food.

Tank Mates

The best tank mates for the green terror are the following fish:

  • Jack Dempsey cichlids
  • Texas cichlids
  • Corydoras
  • Oscars

NOTE: Green terrors also need plants and hiding places to feel comfortable in their environment. You can use driftwood and rock structures to give them some extra privacy if needed.


Breeding green terror cichlids is not for the faint of heart. It’s a long and stressful process that requires you to be extremely hands-on if you want your fish to breed successfully.

In order for these fish to breed, they need very specific conditions in their tanks. This means that you have to check the parameters regularly and make changes as needed (this can take hours). Obviously, this makes breeding quite frustrating!

Keep an eye on your female so she stays healthy during the breeding period. During this time, females will get much more aggressive than normal and may try attacking other fish in your tank (obviously, avoid putting any other species in there while they are trying to spawn).

Once all of those factors are right, though, it isn’t too difficult to tell when spawning has occurred. You might see small fry swimming around or find them hidden inside plant leaves at the bottom of your aquarium.

Are Green Terror Fish a Good Choice For Your Tank?

If you’re looking for a challenging species to take care of, green terror cichlids are definitely worth considering.

Andinoacara rivulatus is not an easy fish to own. These fish have their fair share of challenges that come with owning them. They need large tanks, have aggressive personalities, and need specific water parameters!

However, if you can provide these fish with the right tank conditions, they will reward you tenfold by being some of the most beautiful freshwater creatures on this planet.

As long as you’re committed to giving them what they need, green terror cichlids are worth it!


Green terror cichlids are quite the attention-grabber. As a popular freshwater species, these fish create a beautiful tank when kept in numbers.

These fish can be quite interactive and fun to watch as well. They will spend time swimming around the aquarium looking for food or hiding spots. This makes them an exciting addition to any home aquarium setup!


Green terror cichlids are very beautiful fish. However, looking after them can be a challenge.

The main issue that most people run into is their aggression and territorial behaviors (very common with cichlids). As we mentioned earlier, they become more aggressive as they age. This means you’ll need to monitor the tank closely once they reach maturity and make sure there isn’t any fighting going on between your fish.

Another challenge that owners of this species face is their high sensitivity to changes in water conditions. A large change in the pH level or hardness can cause health problems for your fish. While you should always keep an eye on your tank anyways, these fish need even more attention!

Green terror cichlids are also sensitive to poor water quality and stress levels. If you don’t pay close attention to the state of your tank, then they might be more prone than expected to disease.


Green terror cichlids are an amazing fish to own and we highly recommend them for the experience tank owner. The beauty and intensity that this species brings are truly unmatched!

We’re always looking to improve our guides and make the information they contain as useful as possible. If there are any topics you would like us to include in future updates, let us know!

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