Caring for African Cichlids

  • Feb 08, 2020
  • PalaciosAn
  •   2932        0      0

[Picture taken by Zach Petro]

When freshwater aquarium owners are looking to add a variety of colorful fish to their tank, African cichlids are often an option. Most African cichlids that are kept in home aquariums originate from Lake Malawi. There are over 1500 different species located there, and each species can bring a different visual and temperament to an aquarium. Maingano cichlids can add brilliant blues, while Fuelleborni cichlids can add a variety of shades of orange. Though African cichlids can bring beauty to your tank, there are a few concerns that a new cichlid owner should be aware of.

Picture was taken by Jay Holcomb


African cichlids are territorial and can be aggressive. Their behavior means that setting up a tank maybe a bit different. There should be plenty of hiding places. Placing caves, rocks, and plants will allow the cichlids to claim a space for themselves. When choosing other fish as tank mates, it easier to choose other cichlid species to add to your tank or at other medium-sized to large-sized semi-aggressive fish. So, if you are attached to neon tetras, then African cichlids may not be the fish for you how tetras would become the cichlid's dinner.

Picture was taken by Tanner Murphy


The size of the tank needed for African cichlids depends on the species and the number of fish you want to keep. Cichlids can vary in size but tend to range between 6-8 inches. For a single cichlid, a 20-gallon tank is sufficient. If you are thinking about having more then one, then a larger tank is necessary. An excellent way to judge how big of a tank you will need is to multiply the size of the fish times two. For example, if you want to keep three fish that are 6 inches, then you will need approximately a 40 gallons tank ((3x6)+(3x6)=38).


The temperature of the water should be kept between 73 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Before adding cichlids to the tank, monitor the water temperature for at least 24 hours. Depending on the size of the tank, it could require two or more heaters to maintain an even temperature throughout the aquarium. If one goes out, you have the others to pick up the slack and still maintain temperature. Placing a heater close to the water filter will also help by heating the filtered water as it is released back into the tank.


Flake foods are perfectly fine for African cichlids to eat and will probably be most of there diet. If you want to feed your cichlids meals that are more natural to their diet in the wild, try smaller fish (like those adorable tetras), insects, and algae wafers. Overfeeding cichlids are a common cause of death. They are always searching for food even though they are well fed. Owners can sometimes be tricked into thinking they need more food because they are so active in your tank and look like they are hunting for food.


Several common diseases can affect the life span of cichlids. Poor water quality and nutrition lead to most of the common diseases that they can catch. Cotton Wool Disease and Hexamita are the two most common diseases that occur from poor water conditions. Symptoms of Hexamita can be loss of appetite and lesions, where Cotton Wool Disease can be recognized by white growths caused by fungus. If swelling is noticed in the abdomen or the cichlid is having trouble staying submerged, it could be a sign of poor nutrition. Mixing African cichlids in the same aquarium as South American cichlids is not recommended due to differences in how their immune systems developed.


African cichlids can bring beauty to an aquarium and challenges to the owner. If you want a peaceful aquarium environment, cichlids may not be the fish for you. African cichlids fit better in aquariums that meant to display more active fish and owners who up to the challenge of raising a healthy fish for eight to ten years.




About author

I have been in the hobby for a while, my main focus is automation. I am interested in doing aquaponics in 2018.


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