African Cichlids - Fish
Cichlids are fishes from the family Cichlidae in the order Perciformes. Cichlids
are members of a group known as the Labroidei along with the wrasses (Labridae), damselfish (Pomacentridae), and surfperches (Embiotocidae). This
family is both large and diverse. At least 1,650 species have been scientifically described, making
it one of the largest vertebrate families. New species are discovered annually, and many species remain
undescribed. The actual number of species is therefore unknown, with estimates varying between 1,300 and
Most cichlids being displayed in aquariums nowadays can be classified into two categories: New World cichlids and
African cichlids. New World cichlids are further divided and are often
referred to as South and Central American cichlids. There are many different species and sub species of each
group. They are a hardy, easy to care for fish species and they tend to have vivid colors. This characteristic
is what initially attracts fish collectors and hobbyist to cichlids.
African cichlids come from three lakes in Africa: Lake Malawi, Lake Tanginika, and Lake Victoria. Lake Malawi is Africa’s third largest and
second deepest lake. The 1000 species or more of Lake Malawi cichlids include some of the most beautiful fish in
the world, fresh water or otherwise. African cichlids are known for their beautiful patterns and array of colors
that are not typical to most freshwater fish. No other group of freshwater fish are more colorful than African
cichlids. These fish are simply fascinating to observe and they will amaze you with their social behavior and
the degree of intelligence they possess.
The cichlids of East Africa are renowned for their proliferation. With very few exceptions, African cichlids,
especially those from Lake Malawi, are among the easiest aquarium fish to breed. Cichlids readily adapt to
captivity, and that is why many species are available in local pet shops. They are very hardy fish, which makes
them relatively easy to maintain. This characteristic of cichlids have helped them survive introduction into new
environments and geographic locations.
One cichlid that’s been introduced a lot is the Tilapia, a species which has been important to the
human food supply for thousands of years. It is well documented that the Egyptians kept fish in aquaria, and
hieroglyphics in the tombs of the Pharaohs very clearly describe the farming of tilapia in ancient Egypt from 2500
BC. However, with its bland coloration, Tilapias are more known to be a food source rather than an aquarium
African cichlids have very interesting behaviors. Most are what’s called â€œmaternal mouth brooders,â€ that is,
the mothers carry eggs and young in their mouths. Once a male has fertilized the eggs, the female will pick them
up, and incubate them in her mouth for a period of 3 weeks to 31 days, depending upon the species. Many researchers
believe that this behavior is an advancement in the evolution of reproductive methods, since it provides further
protection to the offspring during a delicate period of their development. Even after the young have been released,
the mother will frequently take them back up into her mouth when they are threatened.
In general, African cichlids are more aggressive than their New World counterparts. African cichlids are highly
predatory and extremely territorial. In the wild, they often live together in groups or schools of like species.
Mature cichlids guard their territory and they are not hospitable and may even behave aggressively to other fish,
including cichlids of different species.
Cichlids often express timidity and dominance through their coloration: a pale fish could be a stressed or
submissive fish, and a bright fish is usually an aggressive or dominant fish. Sometimes when a male loses his
territory, he also loses his bright coloring. However, some may go into hiding and retain their colors of dominance
to pretend that they are still dominant in hopes of attracting potential mates.
In the aquarium, the largest cichlid is usually the dominant one and will
behave aggressively towards all of the other fish. Sometimes the smallest cichlid in the aquarium is attacked
and killed by the larger, more dominant fish. This occurrence can be dealt with or minimized through crowding
or overstocking, which generally works well when done properly. When kept in this kind of environment,
aggressive and dominant fish tend to lose their victims in the crowd. Crowding is actually a condition that is
found in the wild, as cichlids are often found in densities as high as 10-18 fish per square meter.
The popularity, as well as availability, of different species of African cichlids in the market have skyrocketed
in the past couple of years. Many hobbyists and fish collectors have shown increased interest with these wonderful
creatures. Mainly because of the cichlids’ unique characteristics and unmatched beauty among aquarium fishes.
Another reason is the ease of care for these fish, even for beginner aquarists. They are intelligent, attractive
fishes and they make the most devoted parents. Plus, not all of them are that large or nasty either. With their
amazing diversity and capacity to adapt and survive as pets, cichlids have endeared themselves to aquarium
enthusiasts and people receive a great deal of pleasure and enjoyment having them around.
So you’re thinking about trying Cichlids. A good choice. I will in this article
try to give a few examples on good cichlid aquariums that are suitable for beginners. I’ve tried to create
setups that will be easy to maintain, beautiful and with species that are easily breed so that you might
observe this fascinating side of cichlid behaviour.
Cichlids are one of the most popular freshwater fish varieties. They belong to the
Cichlidae family. It is the largest family of vertebrates. Scientists and biologists agree that there are more
than 2,000 cichlid species in the world and hundreds of them have not yet been discovered.
Cichlids may be small or large in size. You can find cichlids ranging from one
inch to thirty six inches. Their shapes are also different. Some of them are cylindrical and some are elongated.
They live in freshwater. However, some varieties can tolerate to survive
in saltwater for short periods.
It is possible to keep some cichlids, such as Lamprologus ocellatus, in very small
aquariums. However, for your first cichlids aquarium I would recommend a larger aquarium on no less then 30
gallons/120 L. There are several reasons for this:
- A larger aquarium is easier to maintain and easier to keep in good
- Cichlids are aggressive. Some cichlids are much
more aggressive then other but almost all cichlids are aggressive and a larger aquarium makes it easier for
weaker fishes to avoid this hostility.
- Cichlid behaviour
usually gets more interesting if you can keep more then one isolated pair in an aquarium. For one this allows
you to see the parents guarding their young.
Cichlid Water conditions:
Which water conditions you should have
depends on which cichlids you want to keep since their preferences differs greatly. For your first aquarium I
recommend keeping species that are less sensitive to water conditions, New World or South American are easier to
keep than African Cichlids
Generally cichlids accept all kind of food, however I would recommended giving them a
diverse diet consisting of pellets/flakes, frozen food and the accessional live food.
Cichlid breeders are of four types.
Breeders' laying their eggs on open surfaces such as logs, leaves and rocks are the open breeders. Females care for
the eggs until they hatch while the male cichlid carefully guards the territory from predators.
Caver breeders are cichlids that lay eggs in holes, crevices, caves and any other hidden areas. This type of
breeders shakes their bodies and flicks their fins to communicate with the young ones.
Eggs are snatched up and kept in the mouth by the ovophile mouth brooders. Examples of this type of cichlids
include those found in Victoria, Tanganyika and Malawi lakes. Larvophile mouth brooders on the other hand lay their
eggs in open surfaces and wait till they hatch to take the fry into their mouth and offer protection.
Cichlids can be either polygamous or monogamous, though consistency cannot be found in this type of pairing of
specific species. Keeping cichlids will show you that they are great parents taking care of their breed diligently
during the process of breeding.
Interestingly, instances have been noted by breeders where generations of cichlid parents extend their help in
raising off-springs of their brood.
Cichlid Social Interaction:
As mentioned, cichlids are mostly aggressive, even to their own
kind. Alpha males tend to fight other fishes for territory and would not hesitate in swimming after others and
biting them in different body parts. This is why some breeders usually heavily stock their tanks with different
cichlid types. The technique makes it harder for cichlids to maintain dominance and therefore lessen the aggression
within the school.
How to Deal with Aggressive Cichlid Behavior
In order to deal with the aggressive side of cichlids, individuals must first consider exactly what is causing
them to behave badly. If it is a territorial war, the most ideal method would be to rearrange the tank designs. This is because the fish use the designs as boundaries to their
territory and by rearranging the area; they will become confused and therefore not be too aggressive.
Also, correctly choosing cichlids before buying them would also lessen the possibility of violent behavior. This
is because cichlids also operate on an alpha-beta manner. This means that the biggest fish would usually be the
school's alpha while the others will be dominated and usually hide in their caves. In order to avoid this, try
choosing cichlids that are roughly the same size.
Other Cichlid Resources: Here