Can I mix South American and African Cichlids? By Lev Ingman
Many people mix South American and African Cichlids. However, this is probably a bad idea. Most South American Cichlids come from areas that are low in PH whereas most African Cichlids come from areas that are high in PH. South American Cichlids are primarily carnivores, whereas African Cichlids are primarily vegetarians. The problem is that if you mix your fish in one tank, you cannot control which fish eats the food that goes into your tank and in the long run nutritional issues may arise. African Cichlids can get bloat, which is literally a clogging of their intestinal tract, from eating meaty products and South American cichlids can develop Lateral-Line Disease or Hole-In-Head Disease from poor diet that lacks protein.
Often times people will say that they have seen lots of tanks that mix South American and African Cichlids and there are no problems. If by no problems you mean that the fish are alive, then yes you are correct, you can mix these cichlids and they may live. However, in the long run the fish may start to show symptoms of being kept in improper conditions. It is often very difficult for someone to tell what a healthy looking cichlid looks like, but if you compared a cichlid that comes from a mixed tank with a cichlid that comes from a tank with optimum conditions you will see an immediate difference. The bottom line is that its best to mimic the natural conditions of your fish so that they can be healthy in the long run and this is hard to do when you mix fish from vastly different habitats together.