9 Tips for Working With African Cichlids

9 Tips for Working With African Cichlids

African cichlids can be very aggressive fish. When newcomers arrive, they quickly become targets.

As fish hierarchy dictates who gets priority in terms of food, breeding rights and other privileges, the best way to prevent such behavior is through providing your fish with a well balanced diet.

1. Know the Breeding Season

As breeding times may vary depending on the species of cichlid you care for, to make the most out of your aquarium it’s wise to research specific details about each of the cichlids you care for so you know when breeding should take place. To maximize the potential of your tank environment and ensure maximum enjoyment when looking after your aquatic environment it would be useful to know when breeding will happen and ensure maximum success from it!

At mating time, many African cichlids engaging in mouth brooding engage in a fin-shaking dance to attract females and lay their eggs for fertilization by the male before carrying them back inside their mouth for incubation until hatching occurs.

Feeding your cichlids the proper diet is vital for their overall health and happiness. While Mbuna cichlids are herbivores, Peacocks and Haplichromis (Haps) fishes are carnivores. All require high-quality flake or pellet food like Aqueon to provide essential nutrients.

2. Set Up a Tank with Vallisneria

Vallisneria is an extremely durable plant, capable of withstanding both high water stress levels and growing quite long, making it an excellent addition to planted tanks. When selecting one for use it’s wise to select one with at least 15 gallon capacity if possible.

Vallisneria thrives under moderate to high planted tank lighting; corkscrew varieties in particular enjoy brighter lighting as it enhances their leaf twisting and coloration.

Vallisneria are hardy plants that need proper nutrition in order to thrive. When planting them, provide a nutrient-rich substrate and give a little extra iron as extra fertilizer; place their crowns above it to avoid rot. Feed two or three times daily as often as needed (no more than they can consume within three minutes).

3. Don’t Mix Breeding Groups

African cichlids often view members of their own species as competitors instead of individuals that must stay together as part of an ecosystem, so for optimal conditions it’s best to keep these aquatic creatures in aquariums specifically tailored for their biotope or microhabitat.

Lake Malawi’s mbuna (pronounced mboo-nuh) fish enjoy scavenging for food on substrate, and can protect their territory by harassing other mbunas that they perceive as potential competitors – often through aggressive behaviors such as chasing and fin nipping.

Therefore, it is recommended to place the mbunas into their own breeding tank or purchase them as juveniles so that they can grow together as one group. Furthermore, an adequate tank should be chosen because female mouth-brooders require an egg-safe substrate sand substrate.

4. Don’t Add New Fish to an Existing Tank

Addicting one new fish to an established group can be like throwing a kitten into a room full of pit bulls: quickly become targets for bullies as they battle over territory and rank. So it is important to know fish compatible with cichlids.

Cichlids require a tank with plenty of hiding spots, caves and tunnels in which to live; this is especially essential for Malawi- and Victoria-born species that prefer rocky environments.

These fish require a filter that facilitates algae growth, as this provides one of their natural sources of nutrition in their native lakes. I prefer a canister filter as this requires only occasional maintenance compared to other forms of filtering which require sterilizing chemicals which could leave harmful particles in your tank that could harm and infect cichlids.

5. Keep the Tank Clean

African cichlids can be territorial fish that will chase away other fish species or even their own breed, so providing ample hiding spaces for bullied individuals to seek sanctuary is also essential to their wellbeing.

Female birds that are ready to breed will dig nests or caves in the sand near hiding places, as soon as males begin courting behavior such as shimmying towards her or flicking water with their tails towards them. When this occurs, she will soon follow behind as males begin courting her by courting, including shimmying closer towards her and flicking water her way using his tail.

When breeding, feed the pair only what they can consume within 20-30 seconds to minimize waste and prevent bloat. Overfeeding can impede reproduction. Furthermore, too much animal protein may cause digestive issues in Malawi cichlids; take note!

6. Keep the Temperature in Check

Environmental parameters must be maintained properly to keep African cichlids healthy and vibrant. They require slightly alkaline water with temperatures ranging between 75-82degF.

An effective heater and thermometer are essential to maintaining an ideal environment in your fish tank. Furthermore, regular water changes are necessary to remove ammonia buildup from the tank’s environment and maintain clean environments for your aquatic inhabitants.

African cichlids, as omnivores, require a balanced diet consisting of both fish and plants in order to stay healthy in the long run. Offering live or frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms and spirulina will be most beneficial in helping these creatures to flourish.

Rockwork is also essential to African cichlids. Depending on their species, certain need lots of hiding spaces and caves while others prefer more open environments. Rocks such as Texas Holey Rock or Lava Rock should be available as hiding and spawning areas; additionally a deep substrate must also be provided so the fish can dig in and claim their territory.

7. Don’t Overfeed

African cichlids can be quite voracious eaters, causing them to overfeed which may lead to bloat in their bodies and pollution in their aquarium. You should only feed your cichlids three or four times each day for maximum effectiveness.

A larger aquarium could help reduce aggression and promote schooling of fish in an aquarium, keeping them busy so they won’t attack each other as often. You could even try rearrangeing rock formation in your cichlid aquarium to disorient and decrease aggression levels further.

Keep in mind that these strategies won’t completely stop your cichlid from becoming aggressive; rather they can help make their behavior more manageable. Stable water conditions and plenty of hiding places will also prove invaluable for keeping your aquatic friends at optimal levels for as long as possible while saving money by not spending so much on equipment or food costs.

8. Don’t Leave Live Plants in the Tank

Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi feature rocky substrates covered with thick mats of algae that cichlids utilize for food and habitat, often picking and scraping at this waste to feed on it and make their home. If left unattended, however, these algae and waste could quickly poison the water; hence 15% water changes are highly recommended on a regular basis to flush away excess ammonia build-up and keep substrate clean.

When male cichlids are ready to breed, you will notice them shimmying towards females and flicking water with their tail. Once the female shows signs of attraction, she will begin laying eggs either directly onto the substrate or carrying them in her mouth until they hatch within 21 days.

Relocating hiding spots or caves may cause territorial fish to become aggressive, prompting us to discuss how we can arrange your tank’s rock formation to reduce aggression in an effective way.

9. Don’t Overwater

African cichlids reside in shallow lakes and spend most of their time foraging for food on the substrate. Being territorial animals, it is also essential that they have plenty of places where they can hide such as aquarium rocks, furniture and caves in which to hide out.

This type of habitat also fosters algae growth, one of the primary sources of nutrition in nature for wild fish like Mbuna species. These fish scrape or pick at it off rocks or in water bodies while infusoria grow within these blooms and provide additional tidbits they devour as food sources.

African cichlids require water with an elevated PH level for proper health, so products like Seachem’s Malawi buffer or crushed coral in your tank substrate may help achieve this ideal environment. Regular 15% water changes should also be performed to eliminate ammonia build-up while refreshing and purifying your environment.



Jeremy Lawson