Together with the South American cichlids, the Central and North American cichlids form a group known as New World Cichlids. Almost all the Central and North American cichlids are monogamous substrate breeders. Unlike the South American cichlids, a majority of the Central and North American cichlids originates from one single lineage – the Cichlasomine. The Central and North American cichlids that do not originate from Cichlasomine are found in Panama and have probably developed in South America and later reached Panama.
Since Central and North American cichlids inhabit various environments in a large region of the world, they have naturally adapted to different conditions and their preference will vary when it comes to water chemistry, temperature etcetera. Compared to South American cichlids, the Central and North American cichlids display smaller variations when it comes to soft and acidic waters. In South America you will find cichlids in the exceptionally soft and acidic blackwaters, but such environments do not exist in Central and North America. It should be noted that comparatively soft and acidic waters can be found in Central and North America, but the hardiness and pH-levels are less dramatic in that part of the world. In Central and North America you will on the other hand find some waters that are extremely hard and alkaline.
One of the most well known species from the Central and North American cichlid group is the Convict cichlid, Archocentrus nigrofasciatus. This is a suitable beginner cichlid for aquarists with no previous cichlid experience, since it is comparatively sturdy and will adapt well do various water conditions. They will also breed in aquariums. If you want to keep at Convict cichlid you should provide it with an aquarium of at least 100 liters (24 gallons). The name Convict cichlid is derived from the black stripes found on this fish, which resembles the striped garments worn by prisoners. These stripes have given Archocentrus nigrofasciatus another aptly chosen name: Zebra cichlid.
For the more experienced cichlid keepers, Parachromis managuense can be an interesting choice. This cichlid is an aggressive predator that can reach a size of 55 centimeters (22 inches). You will need an aquarium of at least 540 liters (120 gallons) to house this cichlid. If you have an even larger aquarium it will be easier too keep Parachromis managuense and it will also be easier to find suitable tank mates. Parachromis managuense should never be kept with small fishes since they will be considered prey. Parachromis managuense have gotten an undeserved reputation as being impossible to keep with other fishes, but this is not true. Yes, Parachromis managuense is an aggressive fish and it will naturally eat small fish since it is a predator. A Parachromis managuense will however work well in an aquarium with other large cichlids that can fend for themselves. Make sure that you form natural borders when you decorate the aquarium, and create a lot of different sheltering places where the fish can stay out of each others sight. This is extra important if you want to breed Parachromis managuense and therefore keep a male and a female together, since the male will harass the female.