Setting Up and Caring for African Cichlid Fish

raising-african-cichlidsHere you can get help raising and caring for African Cichlid aquarium fish. African cichlids are among one of the more temperamental freshwater fish. They are not as easy to care for as other fish just because of the environment where they originate from and their aggressive tendencies. But their a lot better than a silly bird or those stinky ferrets. They are amazing fish that exhibit all the color that you would expect out of a saltwater tank without the high level off difficulty to maintain. Like the Jack Dempsey cichlid, they truly are a fish for the expert and beginner.

African Cichlids are different than any other fish in the world. They may have close relatives from South America but they are unique to the world. Cichlids come from five high elevation lakes in the mountains of Africa. Filled with rocks and having a mineral content that would make it hard for any other fish to breathe. These fish require a high temperature tank of around 76 degrees Fahrenheit and are very fickle about the pH of the water that they are in. Meaning that cichlids tanks should be monitored closely for three very specific things. Mineral content or water hardness, pH, and lastly temperature.

Research the Right Setup for Your African Cichlids

Once you are aware of these requirements you are ready to decide what cichlids you want. Don’t rush off to the pet store because unless it is a specialty shop they won’t know what you need. You need to look at the cichlids you want and decide which of the five lakes you are going to choose from. Why do this? Because each lake has a different pH and water hardness. You may find that your choices become a bit limited but don’t worry about it. There are many colorful cichlids in each of the lakes that you are sure to find some that you are content with. Also you can risk mixing species from a lake that is close to another in specifications. Just be aware that you are taking a risk.

Caring for African Cichlids Needs

African cichlids have a tendency to be a little rough with each other. This is the territorial nature of the fish that it exhibits in the wild. It is a good idea to have a large tank for your cichlids to have a lot of turf. Along with rocks and a few plants are a good idea to allow the fish to use these markers to draw boundaries. Plants are a struggle however in a cichlid tank. It’s not like you can get out your underwater robot fish and protect the little guys from the more aggressive bullies.

Live plants with most certainly die in the high pH water and the African Cichlid adds to the equation by digging up any plant that they see. In order to move boundary lines in their favor. Fake plants are a must in these tanks and the best have ceramic bases so that they will not float when they are dug up. Rocks are the main attraction in a cichlid tank and you have to be aware that you need a lot.

Do not allow your rocks to be in contact with the bottom of the tank. You are just asking for trouble. Place them on top of a light layer of substrate, such as gravel, and then add the majority of gravel above that. This is because cichlids like to dig even if there isn’t a plant involved. One of my fish actually killed himself by digging too far and pinned himself under a rock. Make sure your rocks rest stably on the bottom of the tank and do not wobble. I always thought that limestone or slate rocks were good to build higher aquarium rockscapes.

African Cichlids Are Aggressive

african-cichlid-fightThere is a common misconception that having fish of the same size in a tank decreases aggression. That is not the case because in the same way that having boundaries makes fish aggressive having another fish that is the same size does even more to fuel the fire. A fish that is smaller than another fish is no threat to a bigger one and the bigger fish will not try to hurt it unless it is small enough to be eaten.

Two fish of the same size are more aggressive because they can not intimidate the other fish through size. They have to mark boundaries by fighting. Having a good variety of size in your tank is a good idea because of this. Not small enough that the little fish will become snacks but big enough to fend for themselves. Also it is a good idea to have caves for fish to hide in if they are on the smaller size.

Lastly, do not mix true African Cichlids with their South American counterparts. This is a very bad idea because the South American variety is not going to be comfortable in the tank conditions and they will most likely kill off the other fish. They are more aggressive towards other fish than any other type of cichlid and will not stop at the other fish submitting.

These are all the biggest mistakes that beginner and advanced aquarium owners make when dealing with the African Cichlid. One of the more amazing fish that can grow to a decent size and have a color to amaze. These are very easy fish to care for and a joy to own.

5 thoughts on “Setting Up and Caring for African Cichlid Fish

  1. i’ve been keeping africans for almost 25 years.. never checked ph… fish always lived for years, lots of rocks and hiding places and decoy fish… i have a large tank and a school of (cheap) tiger barbs.they chase them and show off to each other but no casualties… i’m no expert but i try to buy at least 2 at a time so there is less pressure on the new guy… sometimes rearange the rocks if they get mean…
    love your site… thanx …
    one more thing.. i’m total overkill on the filters and keep the water moving.. lotsa rocks means lotsa places for bad stuff to grow..

  2. hi i’m starting to get in to African cichlids and i wanna start of with like two Malawi dolphins and i have a 10 gallon do you think thats ok for a little while if there just baby because i know that African cichlids take a little while to grow.

    thank you

  3. I am haveing a good bit of algea on the sides on my tank (75 gal). which algea eaters would be best for the tank .

    • HI Fred, Maintaining proper pH is an important element in creating a healthy environment for your fish. Most tap water has a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. However, many of the natural chemical processes that occur in an aquarium, such as nitrification, can lower the pH. A reading below 7 is considered acidic, while readings above 7 are alkaline. There is not a single correct pH for your aquarium, but rather ranges which are appropriate for each species. Among freshwater fish, tanganyikan cichlids prefer the highest pH at 7.6 to 8.6, while discus and angelfish can be content with a pH as low as 5.0.
      Purchase a pH increaser such as pH Up, or a pH conditioner that is rated for a specific pH. There are also products such as Seachem’s Neutral Regulator that promise to bring your water to neutral (7.0), whether it started as acidic or alkaline.
      If you prefer a more homegrown approach, add crushed coral, coral sand or sea shells to your tank to increase the pH while increasing the buffering capacity.

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