There are over 100 species of African cichlids, which belong to the Cichlidae family. These freshwater fish are inhabitants of African lakes such as Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Victoria. African cichlids are the most colorful freshwater aquarium species and are easy to maintain and cultivate in freshwater aquariums.
Their body length ranges between 4 and 6 inches with a lifespan of 4 to 10 years. These fish tend to be aggressive, predatory, and territorial. In nature, they live in groups and their pigmentation determines the dominance between the species; in groups, the bright fish is the dominant and the pale one is submissive.
The aquarium should be decorated with rocks and caves to maintain the natural environment of the fish because they live and spawn under the rocks and caves.This species likes to dig in the gravel and organize it, thus, gravel should be decorated around the rock (or clay pot) on the bottom of the tank. Aquarium silicone may help to glue rocks together in order to prevent a cave forming due to cichlids digging. The fish can destroy the plants by digging and eat all of them, it is not recommended to cultivate a plant in the tank.
A thirty-gallon tank is the optimal size with a minimum size of 29-gallons. A 55-gallon tank may be necessary depending on the tank density. An external filter or under-gravel filter is available for filtration. An external filter is more useful because fish can ruin the under-gravel filter due totheir digging activity. Water temperatures in the range of 24-270Celsius (75-80° Fahrenheit) is recommended. There is no intense lighting needed in the tank. Shallow rocks contain algae, insects, bacteria, and crustaceans, which these fish enjoy scraping and eating. Their optimal pH requirement is alkaline (pH=8.5), but they can survive in neutral and acidic water, though this will make the species prone to illness. Aquarium water shouldn’t contain ammonia, thus regular water changing (25-40%) is fundamental.
As an omnivorous fish species (except Tilapia and Geopagus),cichlids have a wide range of food they can consume, which may include algae, insect larvae, bloodworms, and brine shrimp. Live, frozen,pellet, flake food and algae are suitable food for this species, especially since they process food more slowly than other fish. Feeding can be done two to three times a day in a small amount and once a day in large quantity. Food should be consumedin 30 minutes ordecreased if leftover food is observed.
African cichlids are very easy to breed. Eggs can be found on rocks, walls, or atop flowerpots, and in caves. Male cichlids fertilize the eggs and the female fish, “maternal mouth brooders,” incubate the fertilized eggs in her mouth for 21 to 31 days until hatching time. During this period, she tumbles the egg in her buccal cavity. In time, the female releases free-swimming fry to the water. If the newborn fry is threatened by other fish, mother cichlid takes them back in to the buccal cavity. After the mating,the male will disturb the female. It is necessary to transfer the female to a separate tank that allows the fry to grow safely and the female to recover easily.
Poor water quality and stress are the main reasons fish are vulnerable to diseases. It is important to feed fish with the correct diet. If the fish is pale, slow-moving, and/or not eating it is recommended to transfer the fish to a quarantine tank. Malawi bloat, skinny disease, swim bladder disease, cotton wool disease, hole-in-the-head disease, and white spot are the most common African cichlid diseases.A poor diet can damage the internal organs of the fish. The fish’s diet shouldn’t contain protein-rich food.
Poor water quality and diet can cause the Malawi boat disease. In this situation 50% water change is required. Skinny disease is contagious and lethal. The disease manifests with a sunken stomach. In the case of swim bladder disease, the fish struggles, loses balance, and cannot swim regularly. The fish will swim towards the lower part of the tank or float on the top of the water.
Fungi cause cotton wool disease and is manifested by white coloring on the skin. Hole-in-the- head disease and white spot disease are caused by a parasitic invasion. The fish should be transferred in to quarantine tank when suffering from parasitical, bacterial and viral diseases.