Welcome to your African Cichlid Community

Hi,

Welcome to the African Cichlid Community Website. Here you are able to post comments and articles on your favorite fishes. We plan on covering alot of various subjects on these mysterious creatures. For exmaple we will look at the various lakes that originate from, how to care for them in a home aquarium, and the best way to help these fish survive and prosper.

This is just the beginning of a long voyage into the life of these very intelligent and loving fish. African Cichlids are what this site is about, so I urge you to join in on the fun and give us a shot.

More basic information about Cichlids below:

Cichlids (pronounced sick-lids) are a large family of freshwater fish prized and adored for their beautiful coloration. They are amongst the most diverse and specialized group of fish in the world. There are estimates of about 1300 or more species of this kind of fish, with a staggering number of color and size combinations. Many people have probably encountered a cichlid without even knowing it. Freshwater angelfish and oscars, both common aquarium fishes, are actually cichlids.

Most cichlids being displayed in aquariums nowadays can be classified into two categories: New World cichlids and African cichlids. New World cichlids are further divided and are often referred to as South and Central American cichlids. There are many different species and sub species of each group. They are a hardy, easy to care for fish species and they tend to have vivid colors. This characteristic is what initially attracts fish collectors and hobbyist to cichlids.

African cichlids come from three lakes in Africa: Lake Malawi, Lake Tanginika, and Lake Victoria. Lake Malawi is Africa’s third largest and second deepest lake. The 1000 species or more of Lake Malawi cichlids include some of the most beautiful fish in the world, fresh water or otherwise. African cichlids are known for their beautiful patterns and array of colors that are not typical to most freshwater fish. No other group of freshwater fish are more colorful than African cichlids. These fish are simply fascinating to observe and they will amaze you with their social behavior and the degree of intelligence they possess.

The cichlids of East Africa are renowned for their proliferation. With very few exceptions, African cichlids, especially those from Lake Malawi, are among the easiest aquarium fish to breed. Cichlids readily adapt to captivity, and that is why many species are available in local pet shops. They are very hardy fish, which makes them relatively easy to maintain. This characteristic of cichlids have helped them survive introduction into new environments and geographic locations.

One cichlid that’s been introduced a lot is the Tilapia, a species which has been important to the human food supply for thousands of years. It is well documented that the Egyptians kept fish in aquaria, and hieroglyphics in the tombs of the Pharaohs very clearly describe the farming of tilapia in ancient Egypt from 2500 BC. However, with its bland coloration, Tilapias are more known to be a food source rather than an aquarium fish.

African cichlids have very interesting behaviors. Most are what’s called “maternal mouth brooders,” that is, the mothers carry eggs and young in their mouths. Once a male has fertilized the eggs, the female will pick them up, and incubate them in her mouth for a period of 3 weeks to 31 days, depending upon the species. Many researchers believe that this behavior is an advancement in the evolution of reproductive methods, since it provides further protection to the offspring during a delicate period of their development. Even after the young have been released, the mother will frequently take them back up into her mouth when they are threatened.

In general, African cichlids are more aggressive than their New World counterparts. African cichlids are highly predatory and extremely territorial. In the wild, they often live together in groups or schools of like species. Mature cichlids guard their territory and they are not hospitable and may even behave aggressively to other fish, including cichlids of different species.

Cichlids often express timidity and dominance through their coloration: a pale fish could be a stressed or submissive fish, and a bright fish is usually an aggressive or dominant fish. Sometimes when a male loses his territory, he also loses his bright coloring. However, some may go into hiding and retain their colors of dominance to pretend that they are still dominant in hopes of attracting potential mates.

In the aquarium, the largest cichlid is usually the dominant one and will behave aggressively towards all of the other fish. Sometimes the smallest cichlid in the aquarium is attacked and killed by the larger, more dominant fish. This occurrence can be dealt with or minimized through crowding or overstocking, which generally works well when done properly. When kept in this kind of environment, aggressive and dominant fish tend to lose their victims in the crowd. Crowding is actually a condition that is found in the wild, as cichlids are often found in densities as high as 10-18 fish per square meter.

The popularity, as well as availability, of different species of African cichlids in the market have skyrocketed in the past couple of years. Many hobbyists and fish collectors have shown increased interest with these wonderful creatures. Mainly because of the cichlids’ unique characteristics and unmatched beauty among aquarium fishes. Another reason is the ease of care for these fish, even for beginner aquarists. They are intelligent, attractive fishes and they make the most devoted parents. Plus, not all of them are that large or nasty either. With their amazing diversity and capacity to adapt and survive as pets, cichlids have endeared themselves to aquarium enthusiasts and people receive a great deal of pleasure and enjoyment having them around.

The Ideal Aquarium for African Cichlids

Getting the ideal size aquarium for your African Cichlid is not enough. You also need to consider how its natural environment should be. If you’ll answer yes to the following questions listed below, I’m certain your cichlids will grow healthy and free of any illness.

Does the water have a pH of 7.6 – 8.0?

Does the water have a hardness of 300 – 400 ppm?

Does the carbonate level have a hardness of 120 – 300 ppm?

Does the water have a temperature of 25 – 27 degrees in celsius?

Does the aquarium contain biological filtration for the prevention of ammonia?

Does the aquarium have sufficient water circulation ensuring oxygen saturation?

Is the use of airstone adequate to get rid of carbon dioxide?

Does changing water minimizes the build up of nitrates?

Certain materials in affordable prices can now be bought in local fish stores to help you determine whether your tank is a real haven for African Cichlids whether they are breeding or not.

Am I Ready for African Cichlids?

African Cichlids are popularly known for its extroverted personalities and pleasing appearances. You can immediately say “This is the fish for me, This is for me!” However, it’s not enough to say those words. It’s not enough to just pet any of these type of fishes considering there are certain considerations you need to get use to. First, you must have a room for an appropriate size aquarium. African Cichlids should be kept in a large aquarium that has plenty of rocks, substrates and hiding places, especially for spawning. The water quality, water temperature and the pH level should be consistently stable. The temperature of the water should not be up or down with this range: 72 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Second, ask yourself if African Cichlids are the most compatible fishes to your other aquarium inhabitants. One of the unique qualities of African Cichlids is its ability to recognize its mates and its owner. You can never fool them by just putting any type of fish inside their territory. They are not the type of fishes who easily make friends. Once they are uncomfortable with their mates, there is a constant competition of superiority.

Third, you must have a long-term commitment to providing proper care. As the owner, it’s your obligation to take care of these fishes. Create a schedule as to when you’re going to clean its aquarium’s filter, when to change the water and when to introduce them to new fishes.

Lastly, you must be a mature person who can provide primary care for the fish at all times. Of course, expect a lot of health issues every now and then. Once you recognize loss of color, loss of appetite, erratic swimming pattern and frayed fins, don’t second-guess it – it means they are ill. Improve the quality of water immediately or quarantine them until they are healed. Also, call a local fish doctor whenever you can.

The Art of Aquascaping Principle #11 – Maintenance

Aquascaping is completely a different field from maintaining your aquarium. Yet, it’s hard to achieve the fish kingdom you dream of if you’re not aware of the maintenance tips.

There are maintenance routines you should be doing daily, once a week and once a month. I bought my very first aquarium when I was twelve years old and my cousin quickly shared to me the four general maintenance tips.

First General Rule:
Never change about forty percent of the water aquarium at the same time.

Second General Rule: Never empty an aquarium while cleaning. This technique causes biological disturbances in the aquarium. Instead, change only half of your filter media.

Third General Rule: Never use detergent soaps when cleaning. Research what’s the best way to clean your aquarium without using those highly-poisonous soaps.

Fourth General Rule: Limit the times you put your hands inside the aquarium. The hands contain oils and it causes stress in fish.

Daily Maintenance Tips:

1) Perform a quick check on the cichlids. Make sure there no unusual patterns in their behavior.
2) Check the water’s temperature, the heater, the filter and the lighting.
3) Remove any dead fishes, plants and debris.

Weekly Maintenance Tips:

1) Perform a water change of about 5 – 10%.
2) Clean the lights.
3) Eliminate algae buildup.

Monthly Maintenance Tips:

1) Buy supplies (food, water conditioners, stones, etc)

The Art of Aquascaping Principle #10 – Fishes

The tenth principle in aquascaping involves fishes. Since this website is about African Cichlids, let’s talk about them.

These cichlids from the three largest lakes in Africa are well-known for their aggressive behavior. The males, especially, love to chase the opposite sex and they also love to dig.

This is simply a disaster, right?

To avoid this type of situation, better study how your cichlids behave. Read a book about them and watch a number of instructional videos before figuring out how you must design your aquarium.

You must only choose the right type of African Cichlid to buy. Start with only a few and small ones. Add new fishes in the coming weeks before deciding to have a community.

The Art of Aquascaping Principle #9 – The Leaves & the Color

The type of plants you put inside your aquarium affects its overall feel. You must not consider buying whatever plants are available in the fish store. You must also know what plants are compatible with African Cichlids. Also choose those that create more depth and add more openness.

For example, only buy plants with small leaves if the size of your tank is too big. Smaller leaves, as many fish hobbyists say, look bigger in big tanks.

The color of the plants plays a vital role. You must choose a plant that gives contrast from the rest of the elements. The color red is a stand out and it can be your focal point. People can immediately recognize it and will not anymore question your style in aquascaping.

A stone can also be a good focal point but it creates too much tension. As you look at your aquarium, you’ll easily recognize your eyes start to wander from one focal point to the other.

The Art of Aquascaping Principle #8 – Planting Order

To achieve the symmetry and balance of a cichlid aquarium, you must first plant your focal point before the lowgrowers, midgrowers and highgrowers plants.

You must learn how to plant densely. Aquatic species such as M. Umbrosum, Rotala Indica and Mayaca Sellowiana can easily be trimmed when they are close together.

During the initial stage, it is considered a wise strategy to cut only the tops and just replant the cuttings between the old plants. You just need to leave the rooted parts in the substrate for easy propagation. Expect new buds in a short time.

The Art of Aquascaping Principle #7 – Foreground, Midground, Background

Different plants must be planted in different areas of the aquarium. An expert once told me the foreground plants are being raised by circulating it into the short green carpet where there is enough space and time. They are called foreground plants because they are planted near the front of your aquarium. Anyone can easily recognize them despite of its slim and slight height. Examples of forground plants are Eichhornea Azurea, Glossostigma, Chain Sword, Spiral Val, Vallisneria, Hair Grass, Banna Lilies, Java Moss, Lilaeopsis, Anubius and Eriocaulon Setaceum.

Bachground plants are regularly stem plants. These aquatic species can easily be reproduced by way of cutting the substrate and have the potential to grow tall especially in good conditions. Examples of background plants are Java Fern, Foxtail, Vallisneria, Hydrilla, Baby Tears, Najas Grass, Wisteria, Dragon Flame, Bacopa, Tonina and Ludwigia.

Midground plants are called as such because they complete the visual transition from foreground to background. These plants are widely known for their large size and decorative foliage. Some background plants can be good midground plants but you must make sure they are regular pruned. Examples of miground plants are Banana Lilies, Java Moss, Flame Moss, Red Tiger Lotus, Amazon Sword, Anubius, Rotala Wallichii and Aponogeton Crispus.

Just make sure whatever plants you choose, these must be compatible with your African Cichlids. Cichlids from the three major lakes of Africa are freshwater fishes, therefore, only choose freshwater plants.

The Art of Aquascaping Principle #6 – Setting the Main Focal Points

Greek philosophers and early mathematicians confirmed the best ratio that pleases a human eye is 1:1,618.

You might now wondering what’s the relationship of this ratio to aquascaping your African Cichlid aquarium. The answers are simple. This ratio is used to spot your tank’s focal point by measuring the length of your tank then dividing the result with 2.618. Take the result as it is then measure the other side of your tank. Mark it. The number represents the focal point of your aquarium.

Just be reminded to never try creating more than two focal points. If you desire to have smooth aquascaping, you only need to create one focal point or if the size of the tank is very large, there can be two focal points but make sure its layout is symmetrical.

The focal point of an aquarium can either be a stone, a piece of driftwood or a group of attractive plants.