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Home Guide for Cichlid Breeding

Blake B

Posted on March 04 2019

Have you ever considered breeding cichlids? Odds are, if you are a cichlid enthusiast, you have at least entertained the idea, because how couldn’t you? Many of the fascinating behaviors and eccentricities of the cichlid species has to do with mating and courtship. So, aspiring cichlid breeders, this post is for you.


However, there’s one important thing to consider, before proceeding. If you are aiming to breed cichlids as a business venture, be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. Breeding cichlids on a scale that is required for a profitable business is no small task, involving enormous equipment, time, and energy. Truly, it’s a career in itself, so be warned, it’s not something you can just do in your normal home aquarium, in your spare time.


That being said, many cichlid enthusiasts merely wish to breed their pets because it’s interesting, and can perhaps make up for the costs of keeping the fish in the first place, if a few offspring are sold on the side. In that case, this post is for you: an overview of how to breed cichlids in your home aquarium.

What You’ll Need

You’ll be happy to know that it’s actually not that difficult to get most species of cichlids to breed in captivity. As they say, nature takes its course. Not only that, but a single coupling can often result in a dozen or more fry. Of course, the easier and more prolific of a breeder a given species is, the less valuable its fry are on the market, but again, I’m assuming you’re not in this to get rich off fish, but for the enjoyment of it.


The most important piece of extra equipment you’ll need to breed cichlids is simply a secondary, smaller tank. This will be either a nursery or breeding tank, depending on the type of cichlid, and can simply be a smaller tank, with its own filter, rocks, etc.

Breeding Different Types of African Cichlid

Cichlids are divided into two primary types of breeders: polygamous mouth-brooders, which are the majority, and pair-bonded egg layers, which are a smaller group.

Breeding Mouth Brooders

In the case of breeding polygamous mouth-brooders, as their title indicates, they should be housed according to the principle of polygamy, with 2-3 females for a single dominant male of the species. While it’s possible for sub-dominant “beta” males to survive alongside an “alpha,” it’s generally not a good idea, as conflict and possibly death of the less dominant one is likely to occur.


If you’re starting from scratch, the best approach is to simply purchase about 5 fry or juvenile cichlids, which are not generally distinguishable by sex. Like most species, the differences between sexes become much clearer as they mature into breeding age. As they grow, you can notice which are the more colorful males, and arrange them according to a polygamous structure, removing and perhaps selling extra males.


When they’ve reached maturity, you can add some slightly colder water to stimulate breeding instincts. Other than that, it’s mostly a case of wait and watch.


When a female has laid her eggs and is keeping them in her mouth, she can be delicately caught and moved to the secondary tank, which in this case we’re calling a nursery tank, to care for them in safety until they’ve been free swimming for a while, keeping the mother for at least a week or two after that point.

Breeding Pair Bonded Egg Layers

In the case of these minority of breeders, they are a bit pickier and you’ll want to get a pair to bond, although it’s not always possible to force this. The process is actually quite similar to what you do with mouth brooders, getting them in a group of 5 or more, and allowing the pairs to form naturally.


The main difference is that in this case, you’ll be separating one or more breeding pairs into a separate breeding tank. If you don’t separate them from other fish in the larger tank, the fry are much less likely to survive. It may be necessary to separate the male from the female and eggs in particularly aggressive species, but quite often this variety take equal shares in caring for their young.


That pretty much sums up my overview of the process and requirements for home cichlid breeding, but check out our other blogs for more information on tips for cichlid breeding, as well as cichlid breeding behavior. Of course, when you get serious about cichlid breeding, you’ll want to do more detailed research on the specific species you plan on breeding, etc.

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