There are more than 100 species of African cichlids. These fish inhabit the African Rift freshwater lakes, such as Lake Malawi. These are the most colorful freshwater fish, and African cichlid care is relatively easy.
Their body length averages 5” and can live from 4 to 10 years. These cichlids can be territorial, predatory, and aggressive. They live in groups, and in a group, the brightest colored fish is the most dominant.
African Cichlid Habitat
The aquarium should have lots of rocks and caves, because they live and breed under these. This fish also likes to dig and rearrange the gravel. These fish can kill any plants by digging and eating them; plants are not recommended in the tank.
A 30-gallon tank is an optimal size, however, a larger tank can be used if you want more fish. An external filter is better than an under-gravel filter, due to the fish's digging. Water temperatures in the range of 75-80° Fahrenheit are recommended. There are no lighting needs. The optimal pH is alkaline (pH 8.5). Aquarium water should be ammonia-free, so regular water changes of 25-40% are necessary.
African Cichlid Diet
These are omnivorous fish, and they'll eat a wide range of food. This includes algae, brine shrimp, insect larvae and bloodworms. Live, frozen, flakes and pellets are appropriate foods. Feed the fish small amounts two to three times daily. Don't feed more than they can consume in 30 minutes.
African Cichlid Breeding
The African cichlid is an easy fish to breed. Males fertilize the eggs and the female fish incubates the eggs in her mouth for 3 to 4 weeks, until hatching. After mating, the male may harass the female. It's necessary to move the female to a separate tank, to allow the fry to safely grow and the mother to recover.
African Cichlid Compatibility
African Rift Lake cichlids are territorial and the males can be aggressive towards other males. A little over-crowding may reduce aggression. Mixing African cichlids with cichlids from other regions of the world is not recommended. When building a cichlid aquarium, start with juvenile fish, with less aggressive varieties first. When introducing new fish, rearrange and add more rocks to create new territories. Avoid having more than one male of the same species in the aquarium.1
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