Most Common African Cichlid Types
The cichlid family is one of the most diverse fish families to exist. They come in various sizes, colors, shapes, and forms and their requirements too are just as varied. Some are easy to keep; others, not so much. In our African Cichlid care guide, we will get you acquainted with them all.
In fact, some cichlid types are not at all social and will kill those that dare invade their space, yet aquarists do keep them. We don’t blame them; Cichlids are incredibly attractive and come in multiple colors and patterns, which many fish enthusiasts enjoy.
Some of the most common cichlid types are actually some of the most visually attractive ones, for they are known to be aggressive. Why else would anyone want to keep a somewhat hard to care for fish if not for the visual appeal they offer.
The Maingano Cichlid has a deep blue colored body with light blue colored stripes. Their bellies are a lighter color, and their pelvic fins are shorter than other cichlid types. They grow up to be about 7.5 centimeters long and have incisor-like teeth, as it is an omnivore.
Zebra Mbuna aka Zebra Cichlids
The Zebra Mbuna has a bright blue body with around eight to 10 black vertical stripes on the body. It has a single dorsal fin which is blue in color, and the anal fin is blue-gray with orange/yellow spots. The male fish vary in color depending on their area of origin. Some have a black head while others have a blue-gray head.
The Orange Zebra is a bright orange-colored Cichlid. It is its tail and fins that depict beautiful patterns and capture the attention. It is lighter, almost transparent towards the edges with a light spattering of orange/yellow spots.
The Compressicep is also known as the Malawi Eye biter. It is a very thin or compressed-flat fish with a dynamic blue body. Its fins have orange edges, and the entire body has orange accents or highlights that make it even more visually appealing.
Out of all the cichlid types, the Electric Yellow cichlid is the most popular among aquarists. As the name suggests, it features an electric yellow colored body. Mature specimens develop black stripes on the fins and the body, which add more dimension.
The Peacock Cihclid is stunning, yes, but it may not be for everyone. The fish comes in varying color combinations, and while some of those look amazing, others, not so much. You can choose from shades of blue, orange, green, yellow, and red. They are sure to stand out from other fish in the aquarium.
The sunshine peacock features a yellow-blue colored body. The males in the species feature a bright yellow colored body with a blue mouth and slight blue colored accents on the body, whereas the females feature a blue body with yellow shading here and there.
Hap or “Haplochromis”
The haps are another popular aquarium fish as they are known to be some of the more peaceful cichlids that balance out the aggressiveness of others. They have long metallic blue bodies with black and gray horizontal stripes.
Electric Blue Hap: Kribensis or “kribs”
The electric blue hap has an electric blue colored body. The names of the cichlids give you a fairly clear idea of what the fish looks like. The electric blue has a few dark blue vertical stripes down the middle that add dimension to the body.
Blue Dolphin Moorii
Blue Dolphine moorii has an electric blue colored body and a snout like that of a dolphin; thus, the name. It has an elongated body featuring a few black marks here and there. It also has a large bump on the forehead that makes you look at it twice.
The Buffalo head cichlid comes in shades of blue, blacks, or gray. It also features a bump on the head though significantly smaller than that on the Blue Dolphin Moorii. It has a jerky swimming style that is interesting to watch.
Mbuna or Malawi cichlids
Mbuna is the name for a large number of cichlid fish, all of which originate from the Lake Malawi and are thus known as Malawi Cichlids. They are colorful fish, and different types have different patterns.
Giraffe Cichlids feature a lime yellow colored body with blue-gray spots similar to that on a giraffe’s body. They also have a blue-colored head and bright blue highlight on the tail and at the ends of the fins, which counters the earthy dark gray spots on the fish’s boy.
Temperament and Behaviour: Are Cichlids Aggressive?
There are over 100 types of African Cichlids originating from over three different lakes in Africa. Almost all of them are known to be territorial, most of them are also quite aggressive, and a substantial amount of cichlids are predatory. In fact, they are more aggressive than tetras, guppies, or even gourami’s.
In their natural habitat, they move in groups. However, the group only has one male at a time, as the males are particularly territorial and aggressive. They are a darker color than females and tend to attack any other male that tries to step into their territory.
There really is no way you can tame the Cichlids, but you can reduce the aggression if you set up your aquarium right. You don’t want to have to buy more fish every other day because you paired the wrong teammates, which is a common mistake that beginners make.
The purpose of this article is to get you acquainted with the cichlids, their requirements and to give you tips on how to care for them. Read on if these interestingly aggressive, bright-colored fish attract you.
Cichlid Lifespan: How Long Do Cichlids Live?
In their natural habitat, Cichlids can survive for around 10 to 20 years. In a tank, the average lifespan of an African Cichlid is around 8 years. However, the exact lifespan depends upon the species. Some African Cichlids can also survive for up to 15 years in an aquarium.
African Cichlid Tank Set-Up
Moving on to the main part in your African Cichlid Care Guide, the tank set-up. African Cichlids originate in hard water lakes and thrive best in surroundings that capture the essence of their natural habitat. When setting up your tank, you will have to make sure you try to recreate the same atmosphere or surroundings.
Almost all of them like to hide behind large rocks and search for dark, gloomy places to take cover in. you will have to add a substantial amount of rocks in your aquarium to make sure all the cichlids have ample hiding spots.
Some cichlids are omnivores, so you will also have to add in live plants in your tank decoration to give them something to nibble on between mealtimes.
A water heater is another must-have item in your fish aquarium as African lakes rarely ever get cold. Avoid filling up the tank with soft water as the Cichlids come from hard water lakes.
They also thrive best in strong currents, so you will have to add in some filter or wavemaker to add some disturbance to the water if you don’t want your cichlids to become agitated.
Tank Size: How Big Should Their Tank Be?
Cichlids are active fish that like to swim. In fact, if you look at their movements and behavior it may look like they are in a constant game of hide and seek. They not only need ample hiding spots but also require a large space or area to move around in.
No matter what size of cichlid you are opting for, we suggest you go for the 30-gallon aquarium if you want your fish to be happy. Make sure you add in a water heater large enough to keep the water warm at all times.
How Big do Cichlids Get?
The size of the cichlid also depends upon the species. Some of the larger species can grow up to around 90 cm long. Needless to say, they aren’t fit for the aquarium. The biggest African Cichlids that are popular among aquarists only grow up to be around 15 cm long at max. The more popular ones that are perfect for aquariums remain at around 8 cm in length.
How Many African Cichlids Per Gallon
When stocking cichlids, we suggest you stick to the 1 inch per gallon rule. Make sure you actually calculate the exact amount of water in the tank after adding in the decorations before deciding on the number of fish to put in. As we mentioned earlier, cichlids are quite aggressive, so do not overcrowd your tank at any cost, or you may lose quite a few of your beloved pets.
Ideal Water Conditions
Because African Cichlids originate from hard water African lakes, you will have to pay extra attention
You will need to create smooth currents to recreate the motion of water from their natural settings. They don’t need a river water-like fast-flowing current, but they do need movement in the water, which a bubbler can help you recreate.
The ideal hardness level for most African cichlids is between 160 to 320 parts per million.
The ideal pH levels for African Cichlids are 7.8 to 8.6.
Water temperature for African Cichlids
You will also have to ensure the water stays at a comfortable, warm temperature of around 23-28 degrees Celsius or 78 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Food and Diet: What Do African Cichlids Eat?
The majority of African Cichlids are omnivore with some predatory carnivore exceptions, but those aren’t exactly suitable for aquariums or community tanks. Most aquarists stock omnivore African Cichlids that enjoy sinking pellets or fish flakes.
You can also feed them a variety of plants, such as spinach or other green foods. However, we suggest you provide them a healthy amount of protein obtained through flakes and pellets and include live plants in the tank set up to ensure they get the best of both worlds.
Occasionally you can also give them frozen shrimps as treats if you feel like pampering your cichlids a little.
Breeding African Cichlids
Breeding African Cichlids is easy. Some species are mouth breeders, while others breed normally. To encourage them to breed, you don’t have to do anything. Like literally. Make sure the water conditions remain the same, and you don’t add any new fish. The Cichlid won’t breed if it isn’t 100% comfortable in its surroundings.
They lay their eggs in dark places and guard them until they hatch. They care for the young ones for a few days, after which they fend for themselves. You will have to prepare a separate breeding tank to ensure the additional fish do not disrupt the water conditions.
If breeding is on your mind, then know that Cichlids become much more aggressive when they are breeding, so you may want to divide them into two different tanks to prevent bloodshed. You should also remove the fry from the tank and place them in another within a few days, or the Cichlid may eat their own child.
Cichlids are also able to crossbreed. You may even end up with some interesting colored new Cichlid types if you do manage to give them the ideal breeding conditions.
Are African Cichlids Suitable for You?
Are you one to shy away from a challenge? If yes, then no! Cichlids aren’t for you! They can be a handful to manage for sure, and there is a substantial amount of trial and error period involved before you get familiar with their requirements.
In our African Cichlid care guide, we have covered all basic points to get you acquainted with the species and understand their basic needs. As long as you don’t overstock the tank, don’t put the extremely aggressive cichlids together, and restrict the amount of males in a tank, you shouldn’t have trouble caring for them.