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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > African Cichlids

African Cichlids

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Traits & behavior

Carnivores
This means they eat mostly animal matter, including fresh, frozen and freeze-dried foods.

Middle swimmers
You will see your cichlids swimming in the middle of your aquarium. To create a beautiful environment, be sure to add some top and bottom swimmers as well. Ask a PetSmart associate to help you choose.

Semi-aggressive
They are generally peaceful with fish of the same size and temperament, but may eat any fish small enough to fit into their mouths. They may also be territorial and aggressive to others of their species.

Many varieties
There are many species of African cichlids, including the rock-dwelling cichlids from Lakes Malawi and Tanganyika.
 

Things to remember

Adding fish
Whether you're just starting your aquarium or introducing new fish to your tank, don't forget to add only 1-3 at a time.

Safety & cleanliness
Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit disease to humans. Keep your pet's home clean and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home. Infants, young children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and the infirm or elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with the pet or its habitat. Consult your doctor for more information.

Nutrition

Staple diet
Choose a cichlid flake or pellet food, or freeze-dried fish foods. Feed according to the directions on the packaging.

Specialty foods
Cichlids enjoy fresh or frozen bloodworms, adult brine shrimp and glass worms. Always remember to thaw frozen foods before feeding.

Spirulina
Supplement the diet with a food containing spirulina, a nutritious type of algae.

Frequent feedings
For optimum health, feed your cichlids as much food as they will consume in 1-3 minutes, twice a day. You can alternate between regular staple diet feedings and 2-4 meals per week of a specialty food.

Health

Signs your African cichlids are healthy:

  • Eating vigorously and swimming actively
  • Clear eyes, smooth, clean skin and fins free from any lesions or inconsistent colorations
  • Calm, steady gill movements

Things to watch for:

  • Lying on bottom of aquarium
  • Poor growth or weight loss
  • Inflamed gills, skin or fins
  • Fins clamped to sides
  • Scraping body on rocks

If you notice any of the signs described above, check your aquarium water quality and consult a PetSmart Aquatics Specialist.
 

Environment

Aquarium
Use a 29-gallon or larger aquarium. A good rule of thumb is one gallon of water for every one inch of full-grown fish.

Décor
Line the aquarium with a sandy substrate, and provide plenty of rockwork with caves and cracks for hiding.

Fish compatibility
African cichlids should be housed in a semi-aggressive or cichlid-only community aquarium with fish of similar size and temperament.

Water changes
Test water weekly to assess water quality. It is recommended that 10% of your aquarium water be changed per week. At the very least, 25% of your aquarium water should be changed per month.

Water temperature
African cichlids require a tropical aquarium with water temperatures ranging between 75-82° F. Use an aquarium heater to maintain water temperature.

Aquarium placement
Place your aquarium in a low-traffic area, away from direct sunlight and drafts.

Aquarium stand
The aquarium stand will safely support the weight of your filled aquarium.

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