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6 Tips for Successful African Cichlid Breeding

Blake B

Posted on July 03 2018

If you are a cichlid lover, then having your African cichlids breed and produce new aquatic life right at home may be appealing to you. If you’re thinking about jumping into the world of cichlid breeding, here are a few tips which will help you along your way.

It’s not about making it happen, it’s about letting it happen.

Like any other animal, cichlids have a mind of their own, and work by an evolutionary logic which we can only partially understand. While there certainly are things you can do to encourage your cichlids to breed, you ultimately will have to have patience and dedication. It may take them days, weeks, or months to produce fertilized eggs. Consider this an opportunity to find your inner stoic, doing what you can to create the right conditions and leaving the rest to mother nature.

Stock the ideal ratio of males to females.

In general, cichlids do better when there are more females than males. This is particularly true because of the aggressive personality of most African cichlids. Not only will males be less aggressive towards one another, but they will also have less cause to continually harass females for breeding. In general, an abundance of females means a more peaceful environment, which is also better for the mothers’ stress level.

Know how to spot a brooding female.

Especially if you’re considering relocating your brooding females, you’ll want to spot those with fertilized eggs in their mouth. Generally, a bulge underneath the mouth is a clear sign, and you’ll also notice some behavioral changes. For instance, females often hide away and become less social while brooding, and also eat less or none at all.

Know whether or not to relocate brooders.

One of the biggest obstacles when breeding African cichlids can be stressed out mothers. Most African cichlids are mouth brooders, holding their fertilized brood in their mouths until they begin to hatch. If the mother gets stressed, theres a possibility she may either swallow them, or spit them out too early, and that spells the unborn fry’s peril.

To avoid this, you can try to keep her comfortable; the question is, would she be more comfortable in her native environment, or being moved to her own separate tank? The general rule here is that if the native environment is stressful, primarily if it has a variety of other fish, then it may be a good idea to relocate her, but only if the native tank is likely to be more stressful than the moderate stress of being relocated.

Create the ideal water conditions.

Your cichlids are most likely to breed when they feel most safe and comfortable, and this means having the ideal water conditions. Although there are some variations by species, which you should definitely research, in general this means a water pH of 8, and temperature of about 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another thing you can do to create the ideal breeding water is to change the water out at a higher rate than normal. You can change as much as half of the water every week, and all this fresh water will encourage the cichlids’ reproductive instincts.

Hiding places are key for both mothers and babies.

In general, cichlids do much better with a large number of rocks and plants to break up lines of sight and reduce aggression. However, in the case of breeding, this is even more important, as females will want to hide away while brooding, and then babies (or fry), once hatched, will need places to hide so as not to be consumed by adults and/or other fish.

The ideal rock for this is ocean rock, as it typically has a lot of porous pockets and holes for the fry to hide in.

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