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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Care Guides > African Cichlids Setup Steps

African Cichlids

Experience Level: Advanced

African Cichlids in tank

African Cichlids

Did you know? African Cichlids are generally peaceful with fish of the same size and temperament, but may eat any fish small enough to fit into their mouths. African Cichlids are often territorial and may become aggressive to others of their species. Be sure adequate hiding spaces are available in the aquarium.

Step 1Choosing an Aquarium

Aquarium
(A) Minimum aquarium size should be 29 gallons (110 L). A good rule of thumb for Cichlids is two gallons (8 L) of water for every 1" (2.5 cm) of full-grown fish.

Aquarium Stand
(B) An appropriate aquarium stand will safely support the weight of your filled aquarium. Aquariums weigh as much as 10 lbs. per gallon capacity and require strong stands.

• Locate your aquarium in a low-traffic area, away from direct sunlight and drafts.

Hood and light Fixture
(C) Place an aquarium hood with light fixtures on the aquarium to reduce water evaporation, splashing, and fish jumping out.

• The light should be on for 8-12 hours a day. Turn it on during the morning feeding and off after the evening feeding, or use an automatic timer.

Step 2Filtration and Heating

Filtration (mechanical and biological)
(D) Undergravel filters or power filters provide aeration and filtration for the aquarium. Consult filter package for appropriate filter size.

• The filter should move the water in the aquarium through the filter media 3-5 times per hour (e.g., a filter for a 20-gallon aquarium should filter 60-100 gallons of water per hour).

• Beneficial bacteria supplements may be added to your aquarium to promote biological waste break down during initial setup or when adding new fish.

Water Heater and Thermometer
(E) Use an aquarium heater to maintain the water temperature. The general rule for aquarium heaters is five watts of power for each gallon of aquarium water. For large aquariums, it is better to divide this into two heaters, one at each end of the tank rather than using one large heater.

• Tropical fish require water temperatures ranging between 74-82º F (23-28º C).

 

Step 3Substrate and Decor

Aquarium Gravel
(F) Use 1.5 lbs. (680 g) of aquarium gravel for every gallon (4 L) of tank capacity to make a 2-3" (5-8 cm) layer on the bottom of the aquarium. Rinse the gravel in a clean container before adding it to the aquarium.

Plants
(G) Decorate the aquarium with lots of live or artificial plants. Some species of African Cichlids (Mbunas) may eat live plants, so artificial plants may be necessary for decorating in their aquarium. Be sure to place them on the sides and back of the aquarium so the fish will have enough space to swim in the center.

Ornaments and Rocks
(H) Use rocks that are designed for aquariums to provide hiding areas for the fish. African Cichlids like to hide in caves, so build rockwork with many hiding areas. This may help prevent aggression.

See the informative care guide on Setting Up an Aquarium for more details. 

Adding Fish

Acclimation
• Whether starting a new aquarium or adding to an existing aquarium, only add 1-3 new fish at a time to avoid problems associated with water quality.

• Float bag of new fish in the aquarium 10 minutes to equalize temperature before adding fish.

• Add fish to the aquarium with a net, avoiding the addition of bag water to the aquarium.

WATER QUALITY TESTING
PetSmart offers free aquarium water testing. By bringing in a sample of your aquarium water, we can test the quality within minutes. See the guide on Setting Up an Aquarium for more information about water quality and water testing.

THINGS TO WATCH FOR
• Unusual swimming pattern

• Thinness or decreased appetite

• Abdominal swelling

• Inflamed or discolored skin or fins

• Fins clamped to sides of body

• Scraping body on rocks (flashing)

If you notice any of the signs described above, speak with a PetSmart store associate or a veterinarian about the health of your pet.

PETSMART CARES
Pets purchased at PetSmart are part of our exclusive Vet Assured™ program; a program designed by PetSmart veterinarians to help improve the health and well-being of our pets.

The program includes:
• Specific standards our vendors agree to meet in caring for and observing pets for common illnesses.

• Specific standards for in-store pet care.

• The PetSmart Promise: If your pet becomes ill during the initial 14-day period, or if you’re not satisfied for any reason, PetSmart will gladly replace the pet or refund the purchase price.

 

african cichlids aquarium

Water Quality Testing
PetSmart offers free aquarium water testing. By bringing in a sample of your aquarium water, we can test the quality within minutes.
• Pets may transmit disease to humans; be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling your pet, their food or cleaning their home. Adults should assist children with hand washing.

• Persons at an increased risk for health concerns (children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, infirm or elderly), should use caution when in contact with the pet or its habitat.

• Do not clean aquariums in the kitchen or food preparation areas.

• Do not release pets into the wild as they most likely will not survive and may impact the native environment.

Safety & Cleanliness
Pets may transmit disease to humans; be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling your pet, their food or cleaning their home. Adults should assist children with hand washing.
• Persons at an increased risk for health concerns (children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, infirm or elderly), should use caution when in contact with the pet or its habitat.

• Do not clean aquariums in the kitchen or food preparation areas.

• Do not release pets into the wild as they most likely will not survive and may impact the native environment.
 

PetSmart Cares
Pets purchased at PetSmart are part of our exclusive Vet Assured™ program; a program designed by PetSmart veterinarians to help improve the health and well-being of our pets.
The program includes:
• Specific standards our vendors agree to meet in caring for and observing pets for common illnesses.

• Specific standards for in-store pet care.

• The PetSmart Promise: If your pet becomes ill during the initial 14-day period, or if you’re not satisfied for any reason, PetSmart will gladly replace the pet or refund the purchase price.