Introduction to the Salvini Cichlid

The Salvini Cichlid, Cichlasoma salvini, is a stunning Cichlid and is exciting to watch its color changes as it matures. A Central American Cicihlid, it can reach a maximum size of 9 inches (22.8 cm) and as such, needs aquarium planning before purchasing.

Young Salvini’s are rather dull in coloration and take time to develop their colors and patterns. Usually displaying a greyish/yellow color, the yellow coloration tends to become more dominant as they mature.

Coloration is at its greatest when they are spawning, with the female displaying the greatest colors and can develop black spots on the dorsal fin and gill cover. Males typically develop blue streaks along the bank and head.

The Salvini Cichlid

Salvini Cichlid Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Intermediate – Advanced
  • Hardiness: Hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 60 gal (230 L)
  • Maximum Size: 9 in. (22.8 cm)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive, territorial.
  • Temperature: 71 – 79° F (21.6 – 26.1° C)
  • pH Range: 6.5 – 8
  • Water Hardness: 8 – 16 dGH
  • Diet: Omnivore

Also known as Salvin’s Cichlid, they are moderately aggressive fish and can be territorial. Being predators, they will eat smaller fish that they can fit in their mouths, so suitable tankmates need to be carefully thought out if housing in a community tank. During spawning, aggression levels will increase significantly.

While a 60 gallon aquarium is recommended for a single fish, any more fish will demand that you have at least 100 gallons in order to mitigate aggression and territory problems. Like most Cichlids, they can dig substrate, but a generally not prolific diggers and most plants should be fine. Given their size and strength, however, it is important to secure all rock work and equipment.

Salvini Cichlid – Cichlasoma salvini

Aquarium Setup

60 gallons is the suggested minimum for a single Salvini and 100 gallons plus, if you are keeping one with additional tankmates. As with all Cichlids, they produce a big bio-load and your filtration will need to be excellent. One or more canister filters that turn the tank over at least 6 times per hour is required. They also like good water flow, so aligning your water outlets correctly or using a low/mid strength powerhead is a good idea.

They like plenty of hiding places and will use plants as cover. They shouldn’t eat or dig out your plants and proper selections of freshwater plants will provide an excellent contrast for their colors. All rockwork and equipment should be well secured.

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Salvini Cichlid Aquarium Guide

  • Minimum Tank Size: 60 gal (230 L)
  • pH Range: 6.5 – 8
  • Water Hardness: 8 – 16 dGH
  • Temperature:71 – 79° F (21.6 – 26.1° C)
  • Lighting: Normal lighting
  • Substrate: Sand / Gravel
  • Water Flow: Mid to High
  • Tank Region: All regions, requires good swimming areas


This is not a Cichlid for beginners due to their aggression and potential size. Experienced keepers that can mitigate aggression and aquascape for territory will have better success at raising and keeping healthy Salvinis. Given their large bio-load, they need high quality water filtration and strict water change schedules. While these are important facts to keep in mind, the Salvini Cichlid is considered hardy.


A carnivore by nature, they will take flake and pellet foods enriched with spirulina and some plant based products. They do best of live and dead meaty foods such as blood worms and brine shrimps. Cichlid specific pellet and flake food is also fine to supplement their diet with, and products with spirulina additives will enhance their colors. You can also feed them partly boiled dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale.

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Salvini Cichlid Feeding Guide

  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Frequency: Several small feedings per day
  • Pellet Foods: Yes, Cichlid specific pellet foods. A blend with spirulina is recommended
  • Flake Foods: Yes, Cichlid specific flake foods. A blend with spirulina is recommended
  • Live Foods: Blood worms, brine shrimp and smaller fish
  • Meat Foods: No warm blooded animal meat or fat, other freshwater fish are fine
  • Vegetable Foods: They will eat partly cooked dark leafy greens

Sex Differences

Both the male and female will show greater coloration, especially yellows, when breeding. The male has notably longer fins. Females usually display a spot on the gill cover and on the dorsal fin.


Salvini Cichlids are egg layers and both male and females will aggressively protect eggs and fry. These eggs will be laid on clean, smooth, flat surfaces, that are often prepared prior to breeding. Sexual maturity happens once the fish reaches around 5 to 6 inches in length. If you want to raise the greatest number of fry, it is best to remove them from the main tank in order to properly feed, and avoid any other fish from eating them. The parents may attack or eat them once reintroduced to the tank, so it would be best to add 5 to 6 of them at a time and monitor.


These Cichlids are quite peaceful and will do well with other peaceful fish. The only requirements are extra space when breeding and to ensure all fish have sufficient territory as the Electric Yellow can claim certain areas and chase away other fish. Overpopulating your tank (provided you have excellent filtration) will help iron out any aggression problems with this fish.

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