Green Terror Cichlid: Care, Diet, Lifespan, Tank Mates and More

Green Terror Cichlid Appearance

There aren’t many cichlids that will provide with the thrill that the Green Terror provides. That’s because they pack so many cool features that aquarists yarn for in a fish.

Firstly, thanks to their colorful bodies they are amazingly beautiful. 

It’s impossible for these fish to not stand out in any tank. So, it’s not hard to understand why many hobbyists consider them as one of the most colorful freshwater fish around.

Secondly, they are quite active and will explore every nook and cranny of your tank. This makes them a good option for anyone who wants a large fish that will actively wander around their tank.

Thirdly, their care isn’t that precarious. About the only thing that makes keeping them rather challenging is their aggressive temperament. 

Luckily with the proper knowledge, you can succeed in lessening their aggressive tendencies. This guide will help you achieve that, and provide you with all you need to successfully keep the Green Terror Cichlid.

Let’s dive in!

The Green Terror (Andinoacara rivulatus) is a freshwater fish from the popular cichlid family. These fish are mostly known for their amazing body coloration and aggressive temperament. 

What do you expect from a fish named green terror? 

Now before you opt-out of keeping them because of this, understand that they are not as intense as their name sounds temperament-wise. 

Also, their body is not covered in just green, they are much more interesting than that. 

These Cichlids are native to the tropical freshwater of South America. They can specifically be found in the coastal slopes of the Pacific Ocean from the Esmeralda River, Ecuador to the Tumbes River, Peru. The area is characterized by a sandy substrate.

Green Terrors usually stay away from coastal streams with greater pH which means they can not stand significantly high pH. 

They also prefer sticking to areas with adequate cover from sunlight and with enough spaces for them to hide. 

It’s important to understand their environment because the only way they will do exceptionally well in captivity is if the tank conditions resemble their habitats. 

Green Terror Cichlid Care Snippet

  • Maximum fish size: 12.0 inch
  • Minimum tank size: 35 gallons for 1, 75 gallons for a pair
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Experts
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Temperature: 69°F to 75°F
  • PH: 6.5 to 8.0
  • Hardness: 5-13dH
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Ideal tank mates: Jack DempseyFiremouth Cichlid, Flowerhorns Cichlids, Severums Cichlid, Silver Dollar, Pacus, Clown Pleco, Bristlenose Pleco, Striped Raphael Catfish, et Cetra.

Green Terror Cichlid Appearance

It’s easy to imagine that the Green Terror are just covered in green when you hear their name, however, that’s not the case. 

Due to sexual diphormism, males and females have some differences in terms of appearance. 

The males tend to have brighter coloration than females. Adult males are usually covered in a striking metallic green complemented by lighter blue markings throughout their face and body. Some specimens have bright orange markings instead of the light blue.

Their caudal and dorsal fins are edged with a very nice orange color. Apart from being less striking than males, the females also don’t have that nice orange edging on their fins.

Note that there are slight color variations between specimens. You will see most variations in female green terrors.

The color of the fish changes from when they are young to when they mature. 

Juveniles are usually covered in silvery blue and changes gradually to that metallic green as they start to mature. 

Another fascinating feature of the green terror cichlid is the prominent dorsal fin. They have an upright dorsal fin supported by a series of tiny spines. This is why they are classified under ray-finned fish.

The easiest way to sex the Green Terror is that males have a very pronounced hump on their forehead made up fatty tissue.

 In the wild, this feature only manifests during the breeding period. 

In captivity, however, this hump is made to stay throughout the fish lifespan.

Green Terror Cichlid


In most cases, the Green Terror Cichlid grow to a maximum size of about 8 inches long in captivity. 

However, it seems that the maximum growth they attain is mostly determined by the of the habitat they are in.

Many specimens that were put in large home aquariums were able to exceed 10 inches long, close to how big they get in the wild (which is around 12 inches long).

Green Terror Cichlid Lifespan

Most Cichlids stay around a long time and this one too is no exception. 

The average lifespan of the Green Terror cichlid in captivity is between 7 to 10 years. Having said that, it’s important to point out it is not impossible for them to fail to make it to that seven years if it’s not giving proper care. 

Factors such as poor water quality, poor diet and unsuitably sized tank can considerably decrease their lifespan. 

If you want yours to have a shot at making it to that 10 years, you first have to make sure you get them from a reputable pet store. 

That’s because poor breeding practices and subpar care prior can affect their future health and lifespan potential.

Temperament and General Behavior

Although Green Terrors are infamous for their aggression the aggression can still be reduced if you know how. 

To accomplish that you have to understand what causes the aggression.

First of all, they are highly territorial and always want to feel that they are in control of a portion of their habitat. 

If it’s a tank, they will take a portion of it and guard it aggressively against any intruder. This is why it helps if your tank is very spacious and equipped with tank decorations that will help them carve out their territory.

In this case, if you have other species in the tank they can successfully hide from the Green Terror. Something worth noting is they are more aggressive towards their kind.

Second of all, their aggression increases during the breeding period and at this time they need ample space and other species to stay out of their way. They also need suitable food in the right quantity.

Unlike most cichlid Green Terrors do not stick to swimming in one section of the water column. 

Instead, they swim actively in all the section of the tank from up to bottom. Consequently, they are referred to as a benthopelagic fish

You can see them near the base searching for food or plying around with the substrate. It’s common to also see them swim across the tank and check for food near the surface.

They are curious species that will explore any part of the tank they can. 

So if you have the intention of putting them with species that occupy a different section of the tank it will not work. Especially if the other species cannot depend themselves (more on this later).

Strangely, female Green Terrors are more aggressive than males which is why they are best kept singly except during the breeding period. 

Green Terror Cichlid Appearance

Tank Size

To keep a single Green Terror Cichlid, you need a minimum of 35-gallon tank, for a pair you need 75 gallons.

That said, if at all possible I recommend you go for a bigger tank like 50-gallon for the first fish and another 35-gallon per each added fish.

This will help douse their aggression by giving them ample space they need to roam giving their activity level. Plus any additional space needed to decorate the tank as required. 

Tank Requirements

After obtaining a suitable tank the next thing to do is equip it with all the fish will require to thrive. This mostly involves setting it up in such a manner that it closely resembles the fish natural habitat.

These elements will help us achieve the desired result; substrate, tank decoration, plants, lighting and filtration. 

Female Green Terror in a decorated tank

Substrate for Green Terror Cichlid

Sand is the most ideal substrate to use in the Green Terrors tank. Not only because is what you will find in their habitat but also it perfect for their digging habit. 

These fish are fanatic tank diggers like many other cichlids and sand is easier for them to shift through and won’t harm them if they accidentally ingest it. 

It also won’t scratch their body and cause them injury, unlike gravels. 

Not to mention, it will conveniently settle back after its dug. A coarse substrate on the other hand will not settle back easily. It will just end up leaving a pile of mess and craters all over your tank. 

Tank Decoration for Green Terror Cichlid

Tank decoration such as large rocks, driftwoods and caves are important elements to add to the Green Terror Cichlids tank.

That’s because they help create natural barriers where these fish can successfully demarcate their territories. 

If you have more than one fish in the tank they can help prevent the other fish from always being exposed to the Green Terror. They are even more important when you have more than one Green Terror. 

Make sure to not overdo the decoration and leave enough space in the middle of the tank for the fish to swim. 


It’s not only when choosing the substrate that you have to consider their digging habit. You have to take that into account when choosing the plants to use in the tank as well.

Floating plants like Java Fern, Anubias are the safest options because anything attached to the substrate is quietly vulnerable. 

They can easily remove rooted plants in the cause of their digging. 


Green Terrors love hiding in areas shaded by plants in their natural habitat. That means they are not fond of bright light and therefore you should provide moderate lighting in their tank. 


You can probably guess from their large size that these cichlids will put out a lot of waste. 

Unless you want harmful levels of ammonia and nitrate to build-up, you have to equip their tank with powerful filters to take care of the waste. 

High-quality external filters or canister filters like the Fluval FX4 will suffice. 

Remember to keep the water current moderate like they are used to in the wild. 

Replacing 15-20% of the water after every two weeks is highly recommended as it will help a long way in keeping the water clean. 

Green Terror Cichlid Water Parameters

Mimicking their habitats water condition is one key factor in keeping a very healthy Green Terror Cichlid just like pretty much any aquarium fish. 

Thankfully, these fish are considerably hardly so you have a bit of leeway to stay within what’s ideal for them. 

Green Terror Cichlids do best when kept within the following parameters:

  • Water Temperature: 68°F to 77°F 
  • pH Level: 6.5 to 8.0
  • Water Hardness: 5 to 20 dGH

You will need a heater to keep the water temperature within the above ranges. 

Make sure your tank is fully established before introducing your Green Terror because of their sensitivity to parameter changes.

It’s a good idea to purchase a high-quality test kit that will help you check their water condition every day.  

Food and Diet

Green Terrors tend to favour carnivorous food like small crustaceans, worms and insects in the wild. 

Fortunately, they aren’t choosy eaters in captivity as they readily accept different frozen and live foods, flakes, pellets.

Your task mainly is to make their diet as varied as possible and make sure whatever you feed them is high quality. 

Another thing is, feed them more live food if possible. You have lots of choices on what feed them some of which include earthworms, crickets, tube worms, fish pallets, shrimp, pellets and flakes. 

Sporadically, throw them some veggies like cooked spinach and peas.

Because of their size, many people tend to overfeed them. Be sure to avoid that as overfeeding can result in a severe digestive problem. Especially if the food contains a high amount of protein. 

Adult Green Terror should be fed twice a day and juveniles 3 times a day since their body needs more food to grow. 

If given the opportunity they will eat more than they need to, so give them as much as they can consume in a couple of minutes, and that’s it.

Green Terror Cichlid Tank Mates

You have to be careful which fish you choose to keep with the Green Terror, most likely for the sake of the other fish. 

To start with, be sure you have a lot of room in your tank before thinking of introducing any other fish.

If the tank is not big enough for each cichlid to carve out its territory, forget it.

It’s better to keep a bonded pair of green terror before adding other species. In most cases, they will not fight one another, unlike 2 males and will act as a team during the breeding period.

But, make sure to remove them from the tank during breeding time if you have other fish in the tank. As I mentioned before, they can become very violent to other fish at this time.

Take size, temperament and water parameters into consideration before qualifying any fish as their ideal tank mate.

Green Terrors are considerably large, as such, avoid any fish small enough to get eaten or even stressed out by them. 

That means keeping them with species like Tetras, Rasboras, Barbs, African cichlids to mention a few is out of the question. 

Passive species of whatever size should not be kept with them because they will surely stress them out. 

For this reason, don’t keep them with species such as Discus, Angelfish, Iridescent Shark even though they aren’t small.

Therefore, the best tank mates for these fish are species of similar aggression and size. 

All things considered, here are some of the most ideal Green Terror cichlid tank mates.

Andinoacara rivulatus


Fortunately, breeding the Green Terror Cichlid is considerably easy and straightforward. 

It becomes even easier when you already have a bonded pair in the tank. This is part of the reason why I recommend keeping male and female in the tank earlier.

If you don’t have a bonded pair in the tank you can easily buy them at pet stores. 

Another option is to buy a few juveniles and allow them to pair off naturally. This only works if you have a large enough tank. 

In many cases, bonded pairs breed often if the tank conditions are alright without any intervention.

Green Terrors breeding can be stimulated by increasing the temperature to a range of 77°F to 80°F. Feeding them live food regularly can also help greatly. 

These cichlids are egg layers but unlike many other egg layers like Tetras or Rasboras for example, they care dearly for their eggs. Usually, the female guard the eggs while the male fend off intruders to the area. 

When Green Terrors are ready to breed their body coloration becomes more striking. They will also look for a flat look and clean it in preparation for the eggs. If that not available, the will clean the base of the tank and deposit the eggs directly on glass. 

The female will lay between 400 to 600 yellowish semi-transparent eggs which the male will then fertilize. 

It will take 3 to 4 days for the eggs to hatch. You can start giving the fry baby brine shrimp, powdered dry food and infusoria in 2 to 3 days. 

The fry is better off with the parent because Green Terrors like most cichlids are good parents. They will continue to care for them until they can survive on their own. 

Common Diseases

Despite the fact that they are considerably hardy, Green Terror cichlids are susceptible to a number of diseases.

Apart from common freshwater ailments such as ich, skin problems and parasitic infection they are also susceptible to two other diseases. The first one is called HILE short for Head and Lateral Line Erosion. 

HILE usually affects these fish when their water quality deteriorates or when the hardness level is too high for long.

Another name for this disease is Hole-In-Head because it causes the flesh in their head and body to deteriorates creating a hole in their head and body.

The second disease is called Lymphocystis disease and its caused by a virus which affects the connective tissue of the fish.

Affected fish can develop white contusion on their body, fins, mouth and even on gills sometimes. This disease has been proven to be caused by stress mostly resulting from unsuitable water conditions. Here is one more reason to always be on top of their water quality by monitoring the conditions regularly and making the proper adjustments.

The good news is thanks to their hardiness you can significantly lower the chance of your Green Terror getting sick by maintaining top-notch water quality. And feeding them a healthy diet. 

An important tip is make sure you quarantine any fish you are planning on adding to their tank. 

This way you can be sure it isn’t carrying any disease they can transmit to your fish. 

Also, be sure to take a similar measure before adding any element such as driftwood to the tank by cleaning them thoroughly. The same goes for anything you are planning to feed them. 


Green Terrors are undeniably one of the most exciting fish you can have in your aquarium. Regrettably as good as that sounds, they aren’t ideal for everyone for two major reasons; size and aggression. 

No matter how experienced you are if you can’t provide them with a large enough tank I highly recommend you give them a pass. You do not want to cramp your Green Terror, trust me!

While the rest of their care is rather easy and straight forward, their aggression can be a huge bummer. Particularly when you don’t have much experience with aggressive species. This is why Green Terror are more suited for experienced aquarists.

To recap their care, keeping them basically entails providing a spaciously adequate tank (a minimum of 35 gallons for a single fish). 

After this, you need to set up the tank with water similar to what they are used to in the wild. Make sure you avoid parameters fluctuations to the best of your ability and always keep a clean tank.

The next thing they need is to have their tank well decorated so that they have abundant hiding spots that will quell their curiosity. 

Should you choose to add other species in the tank make sure they are similar with the Green Terror in both size and temperament. A high-quality varied diet will help a long way in keeping them healthy and less aggressive.

If you decide to breed them be sure to remove any other fish in the tank. This virtually sums up their care.

I hope that this guide has provided you with all you needed to know about keeping the Green Terror Cichlid. And if you are contemplating whether to keep them or not I hope it helps you make the right call.

Please feel free to rich out if you have any question we haven’t covered or if you have any info you think will help improve this guide. We’ll be more than happy if you do.

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