How to Raise Cichlids. African cichlids are a wonderful addition to an aquarium. They come in a plethora of colors and shapes, and most can grow large enough to become a conversation piece. Adding them to an existing tank can be tricky business, especially for someone who has never raised them. Choose fish wisely, never because of the beauty. Learn all you can about cichlids, and recognize the commitment.
Understand cichlid temperament. Cichlids are proud, aggressive and territorial fish. They do not swim peacefully next to their neighbors, singing fishy songs of harmony and love. Cichlids prefer to eat their neighbors, or at least beat them up on occasion. To raise them, you must be certain you have an aggressive tank. Add a few cichlids to a community tank, and the non-aggressives are toast! Ensure that all fish in your tank (at least all fish not considered snack food) are aggressive in nature and similar in size to the Africans you intend to add.
Prepare for growth! Some varieties of cichlids can grow over 12 inches long. Oscars, Pacus and Red Devils are well known as tank busters for their tendency to outgrow standard 20- and 30-gallon tanks. Know the growth expectancy of any cichlids you intend to purchase. Be certain your tank can accommodate such sea monsters. If you cannot provide them with a long-term good home, leave them at the store for someone who can.
Purchase healthy fish. When shopping for fish, observe the entire tank in the store. If any fish appear dull, listless, dead or just plain stupid, purchase from another tank. One diseased fish in a closed aquarium exposes all of them. Purchase cichlids from healthy tanks.
Nourish them properly. Cichlids enjoy variety in their meals. They are not a bland diet sort of creature, they prefer 3 course dinners with appetizers and dessert! Feed your new Africans pellets (floating and sinking), cichlid flakes and a variety of frozen fish treats. (Skip the ice cream bars and try frozen brine shrimp instead.)
Provide the right environment. Africans love to play hide and seek. To keep them happy, provide numerous plants, rocks, tunnels and hidey-holes. Cichlids will stake out an area and defend it as their own, running trespassers right out of Dodge. They even decorate their front yards by digging holes in the gravel, exposing under-gravel filter grates. Exposure causes these filters to operate less efficiently, so praise the little guy's efforts, then bulldoze those holes into oblivion.
Maintain a clean and healthy habitat. Fish often poop. It is a fact, get used to the idea. Cichlids, like any other fish, need a good filtration system, healthy PH balance and the proper temperature to survive. Stay on top of tank maintenance. Test their PH monthly. Do partial water changes every 2 weeks. Change those filters when they become dirty, and don't overcrowd the aquarium. 1 inch of fish (length) to 1 gallon of water is a safe rule of thumb. If you have 10 cichlids, each 5 inches long, they must be in a 50-gallon aquarium--and bigger is better. Take care of your new friends. Treat them well, and they can provide great enjoyment for many years to come.