Here are a few examples of possible combinations.
South American cichlids
Tank size: 40-80 gallons, water hardness soft, pH 6.5 and lower.
- One or two paris of German Rams (Microgeophagus ramirezi)
- If bigger than 50 gallons: a group (4-6) of Angels (Pterophyllum scalare)
- Non-cichlids, like South American characins.
Tank size: 40-80 gallons
- a pair of Kribs (Pelvicachromis pulcher)
- a pair of Anomalchromis thomasi
- some other harmless fish (characins) for the upper regions of the tank.
- if bigger than 60 gallons: two pairs of Pseudocrenilabrus multicolor
This is a nice selection of species for beginners: The kribs will most likely going to breed soon, and all of them are beautifully colored. However, a powerful filtration is required.
Malawi mbuna cichlids
minimum tank size: 90 gallons, pH > 8, hard water
Tank size 80 gallons or larger, hard water, pH > 8
- A group (10 or more depending on the tank size) of Cyprichromis leptosoma
- A pair of Neolamprologus or Julidochromis, for example Neolamprologus brichardi or Neo. leleupi
- a small group of shell-dwellers, such as Neolamprologus brevis, Neo. ocellatus or Neo. multifasciatus.
- if larger than 120 gallons: a group of sand cichlids", e.g. Xenotilapia, Enantiopus, Cytopharynx or Ophtalmotilapia
Tanganyika shell dwellers
If you have a tight budget you can get a "dwarf shell dwelling" cichlid tank, e.g. a group of 6-10 Neolamprologus brevis or Neolamprologus multifasciatus (and nothing else).
I have a two foot with two females and one male. They like a small type of gravel such as rough coral sand as they like to labourously move it one grain at a time and can create mountains and vallys within a very short time. They have amazing personalities and are interesting to watch. They need shells to be truly happy and will breed within a mounth or two if happy. Good luck!