Cichlids hold a reputation for being feisty and picking fights with other fish, especially if they are small. The Green Terror is no slouch in that matter.

But as fierce as it is, Green Terrors are also considered one of the most attractive in the Cichlidae family.

But attending to them can be challenging for people who have never taken care of Cichlids before.

However, it is only a matter of understanding their needs, and behavior as it is said that every single individual has a slightly different personality. Some may be a bit more peaceful than others, but aggressive nonetheless.

This article will uncover their most typical behavioral patterns giving you a basic understanding of their nature.

Generic Facts about Green Terror Cichlid

Quick Species Facts
Scientific name Andinoacar arivulatus
Other popular names Gold Saum
Family Cichlidae
Average Lifespan 7 – 10 years
Average size 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm)
Diet Carnivorous
Temperament Aggressive and Territorial
Breeding Egg layers
Origin South America
Type Freshwater
Generic Facts about Green Terror Cichlid

Habitat and Origin

Green Terrors are native to the South American waters, and their area stretches from the Tumbes River, Peru to all the way up to the Esmeraldas River, Ecuador in the Pacific region.

It is speculated that the subspecies inhabiting the Esmeraldas River might be a separate species of its own rather than a variety of the original.

These fish prefer clean waters but can also thrive in slightly turbid habitats. Additionally, you will not find them in highly alkaline streams connected to the coastal regions.

Physical Attributes and Size

In the wild, they can grow and achieve a size of around 12 inches (30 cm) in length. But, in captivity, they cannot get that big. Instead, it is generally about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) approximately.

These Green Terrors come in several color combinations. This can range from gray, blue, or orange bodies with signature metallic-green stripe patterns on their face. These green stripes will be present in all varieties irrespective of color.

Their fins and tail end color can also be unique from the rest of the body. Some have a bright orange sheen, while some are dull white.

The presence of the typical cranial hump is seen, whose size can vary with the age of the fish. As they grow older, the hump gets bigger.

Life Expectancy

These Cichlids live around 7 to 10 years in the wild and in captivity. However, there are reports that some have even lived over that limit.

It all depends upon the genetics and the living conditions of the tank. Even with a strong gene, life expectancy diminishes vastly if the water is unclean.

Male vs. Female

Male Green Terrors tend to be slightly bigger than its counterpart. But, the females are a tad bit more aggressive than the male, which is unusual as this behavior is reversed in other Cichlids.

The male has a different colored anal fin, which has a bluish tinge compared to the green color of the female.

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However, the most effective way to identify the male is by looking at the nuchal hump. They tend to have a bigger-sized hump than the female.


The price can vary with the color and size of the fish. More contrasting colors tend to sell for a higher price.

Furthermore, the hump on the head also influences their value. It is said that the bigger and rounder the hump, the more desirable it becomes.

Their price range is anywhere between $6.99 to $15.99.

Always remember that you should buy these exotic fish from a certified seller or an online store to get the best value for your money.

Care Guide

Feeding Habits

Green Terrors are primarily carnivorous fish, but you can slip some greens into their dietary plan. A combination of vegetables and meaty foods will ensure a healthy lifestyle.

When it comes to favorite food items, red earthworms or bloodworms are the way to go. They also like brine shrimps and krills, whether frozen or alive.

However, if you face difficulties getting these or are not bothered enough, you can opt for Cichlid flakes. These are cost-effective and can easily be found in an aquarium store.

You should feed them 2 to 3 times a day at regular intervals instead of giving them all at once. This is a much better approach to feeding any sort of fish.

Pro Tip: Do not feed them red meats, as these are not good for them. And it also raises the nitrogen levels in the water.

Behavioral Patterns

As mentioned above, they are highly territorial and will fight any fish its size if it tries to invade their space. Thus, it is a non-schooling fish.

They grow more aggressive as they age till they reach sexual maturity. After mating, they do seem to calm down, but it only lasts till the next breeding season.

It is best to keep a single one in a tank or a breeding pair if you have a big enough aquarium. And when it comes to community behavior, it is advisable to keep it at bay from other fishes.

Most people like to keep a single one and pair them up with the opposite gender during the mating season.


Green Terrors, like any other Cichlid, lay eggs. They are later fertilized by the male in open water. Most fishkeepers tend to buy a suitable pair from the store, as it is tiresome to find a perfect mating couple.

However, some prefer to buy a couple of juveniles with mixed genders and let them pair up on their own. This eliminates the issues faced while choosing a compatible suitor.

Suitable Conditions

The first and foremost important thing is to create a proper breeding environment in the tank. To ensure the breeding takes place, maintain these water parameters –

  • The pH of the water should be slightly more acidic than usual (around 6.5).
  • Keep the hardness between 4 and 12 dGH.
  • The temperature should be slightly warm (78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit).


After a while, you will see the couple perform their mating ritual, moving around the tank and bumping each other on the bodies.

While doing that, the female will look for a nice flat spot to lay the eggs in a pattern resembling the number “8”. Normally, around 600 eggs can be spawned periodically over time, which can go up to 1000 depending upon the individual.

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After this, the male will fertilize the eggs with his milt and start his patrolling duty to protect them. The female Cichlids are also known to guard their eggs and babies until they grow a bit.

Hatching of Eggs

The fertilized egg will be glassy with a yellow tint. Generally, colors other than that mean that the eggs were not fertilized completely or went rotten (which are usually cloudy white in color).

In any case, the female will stay with the eggs until it hatches. During this time, they tend to be more territorial than usual. So, be careful while feeding them.

Eggs take around 3 to 4 days to incubate, after which the babies can be seen inside them, ready to come out. It takes about 2 to 3 days more for them to hatch.

Quick Tip- If you do not see the parents caring for the eggs, it is better to shift them away to a separate tank. There is a high probability that they might even eat their own eggs.

Rearing of Babies

After the breakout, sac-fries are taken to a safe place under the protection of the mother, where they stay with her for a few days.

You can also remove the parents or transfer the babies to a smaller tank to feed them properly without complications.

The juveniles will eat a lot during the first few weeks of growth. So, be prepared to provide quality food for them (several times a day).

Now, the most important thing is what food you should give them. Many fish keepers like to feed the babies ground-up cichlid flakes that sustain the adults too.

But live food is always better if you can manage to get them. The most appropriate choice is larvae or nauplii of brine shrimps (crustaceans) like Artemia or Daphnia.

Phytoplanktons and Mycoplanktons are viable options, but they can be hard to find sometimes.

Author Tip-The babies do not usually swim a lot to find food on their own. So, you can use a small dropper to put the food right near their mouth.

The babies will start to look like adults after a couple of months, after which they can safely be transferred back to the tank of their parents.


These Cichlids are somewhat hardy but still are prone to diseases like any other freshwater fish. So, the tank conditions must be kept as hygienic as possible.

The most prominent is Ich, characterized by tiny white spots all over the body. All these white spots are parasites that attach themselves to the body of the fish using tiny hooks.

Another common disease often reported in many Cichlids is Head and Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE), also known as the “Hole In The Head” disease. It is generally caused by an increased level of water hardness.

However, the first thing to do is visit a vet if you suspect your fish is sick rather than try to solve it yourself.

Tank Recommendations

Tank Overview
Minimum Tank Size 35 gallons
Temperature 68 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
pH Level 6.5 to 8.0
Hardness 5 to 20 dGH
Lighting Requirements Well-lit
Green Terrors Tank Setup, Size and Care

Tank Size

Green Terrors are large fish, so naturally, they will require a big tank to roam around. You should consider at least 35 gallons.

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Adequately, 50 gallons should be the perfect size if you wish to keep a pair of these Cichlids, which will also be suitable for breeding.

For raising juveniles, 20 to 30 gallons should be fine. But it also depends on the number of babies you are trying to rear.

Tank Setup


Sandy substrates can be considered the best for them due to their immense digging habits. Plus, it is also harmless if ingested accidentally and mimics their natural living conditions.

The color of the sand totally depends upon your preference. I would personally go for white sand, as it helps bring out their beautiful colors.

Try to avoid Aragonite sand as it can single-handedly increase the pH of the water, which is not favorable for them.


A combination of small and big plants should be perfect for them. Amazon Sword, Water Wisteria, and Java Ferns are common choices for many people.

Plants with strong roots should be the first preference. Plants with weak roots should be avoided as they can easily be uprooted by their digging habits.

Pro Tip- You can even fix your plants to rocks and decorations using a thread or something to avoid their destruction by these giant fish.


It is better not to put too many decorations as these fish are sizeable, and decorations will block their free swimming space.

However, you can opt for naturally-occurring decors like logs of driftwood, and big flat rocks, which are favorable for spawning purposes.

Filtration & Apparatus

Green Terrors eat a lot of food and subsequently produce a large amount of waste. These factors alone can raise the water ammonia levels, which should be avoided at any cost.

So, having an efficient filter can help you eliminate these issues.

Ensure whatever apparatus you install inside the tank is sturdy. Green Terrors do bump into them from time to time, knocking them out of their place.

Suitable Companions

Green Terrors are big, aggressive, non-schooling fish, which eliminates most of the compatibility options out of the water.

They are mostly kept solo or with a suitor in big tanks. The females, especially, are always kept single as they are more aggressive. They are only paired up during mating.

The first priority would be keeping fish that are of similar size, or larger than them. Smaller ones will definitely get harassed or maybe eaten.

Secondly, the companion should have a bossy temperament of its own, which will keep the Cichlids at bay.

The potential options are as follows-


Are Green Terrors predators?

They can be considered predators because they hunt for worms, crustaceans, and even small fishes in the wild.

Green Terror and Gold Saum: are these two the same fish?

Yes, Gold Saum is another name for Green Terror. The Gold Saum has a bright gold-orange color on its fins and tail borders.

Another variety known as the ‘White Saum’ or ‘Silver Saum’ has a gray-whitish tone to its fin and tail tips.

Whether a Green Terror is a Gold, White, or Silver Saum depends upon the color of its fin tips.


Cichlids have always been a center of attraction in many aquariums, as these come in vibrant color variations.

Not just the color but their individual personality makes up for a playful companion when you come back after a tiring day at work.

It can be difficult at first due to their curious and aggressive nature, but once you get the hang of it, they prove to be the best pets.

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About the Author

Shelby Crosby

Shelby is a passionate fishkeeper who has been writing about fish for over 5 years. She is a pro aquarist and holds a BSc Honors Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries. She creates her own beautiful aquarium layouts and loves to share her knowledge of tropical fish with other hobbyists. Career Highlights: Has worked with several…

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