I just got a 29 gallon and I think dwarf cichlids are the way to go. There are plenty of bright colored species and since they only get 2-3 inches you can keep a few of them along with some other small schooling fish. Here's my stocking plan: a cockatoo cichlid
, a blue ram
, a dwarf gourami
, and maybe a blue cheek dwarf cichlid
. Also a school of 8 or so neon tetras and 4-5 corydoras. Maybe you were thinking about African cichlids but I don't know much about them. I've only had South and Central American cichlids.