African cichlids are colorful, delicate freshwater fish that are extremely common additions to aquariums. The name cichlid actually refers to an entire family of fish, so species of cichlid are available in a huge variety of colors, sizes and body types. This allows aquarium owners a lot of flexibility in deciding which type of cichlid they want to keep. The size of the fish relative to the size of the tank, as well as the owner’s personal preference in terms of color and appearance can be major factors in deciding which cichlids to buy. Fortunately, no matter what species of cichlid you decide on, there are some similarities in how they should be raised and cared for. Use this handy guide to learn the basics of raising African cichlids.
The Right Tank for African Cichlids
African Cichlids tend to prefer large tanks. If you are keeping several different species of cichlids, make sure that you have lots of room for all the fish to have their own territories. While cichlids won’t seek out fights, they may become aggressive if they feel their personal space is threatened. Making sure your cichlids have plenty of room to move can greatly cut down on losses to aggression.
Make sure that your tank has a good filter, and perhaps two filters. Cichlids eat a lot and excrete even more. They need to have their tanks filtered well and cleaned frequently in order to keep the contaminants from building up.
Water for African Cichlids
Cichlids prefer warm water with a high pH. While cichlids tend to be able to tolerate a wide variety of temperatures and water types, their colors will appear brighter and more vibrant in water with a pH of around eight. Many pet and aquarium stores sell aquarium additives that are designed for cichlids. These ensure that the pH and mineral content of the aquarium are appropriate for your fish.
Feeding Your African Cichlids
Cichlids should get most of the nutrition from cichlid food pellets, which are available from pet and aquarium stores. You should make sure you are using food that is specially formulated for cichlids and not goldfish or tropical fish foods. Since cichlids are omnivorous, you can occasionally supplement their diets with fresh vegetables, blood worms or a little raw hamburger meat as treats.
Habitat for African Cichlids
African cichlids prefer rather crowded tanks with lots of natural rocks and plants. Having plenty of places for cichlids to hide allows them to better divide up the tank into habitats and prevents fights between the fish. A crowded tank also mimics the cichlids’ natural habitat and makes them feel more at home. Each fish should have its own small cave, hideaway or retreat within the tank in order to best keep the peace.
Substrate for African Cichlids
Sand is the preferred substrate for African cichlid tanks. Since cichlids tend to live in sandy lakes, sand substrate tends to make them more comfortable. In addition, cichlids do the majority of their feeding by scavenging in the sand, and small grains they ingest during the process serve as a dietary aid.
Happy and healthy African cichlids can live for several years, making them a good investment for any freshwater aquarium.