Africa is estimated to host at least 1,600 species of cichlids, many of which are unidentified. The great majority of those are found in the African Great Rift lakes of Malawi, Tanganyika and Victoria. Madagascar has its own distinctive species as well. Male and female African cichlids will typically live well together in the same tank; they'll also do well with other territorial fish. Catfish also make ideal tank mates and will aid in keeping your tank clean.
African cichlids need room to swim and grow – tanks of 55 gallons or more are recommended (species dependent). The water temperature should be between 74 and 82 degrees. We keep our tanks around 78-80. You will also need plenty of hiding places and caves to allow each fish a place of refuge while also maintaining open areas for swimming. An inexpensive tank decoration can be the clay pots from home depot - be mindful of the sharp edges if they are broken.
African cichlids will eat a variety of different foods and they typically require more than just a vegetable based flake fish food for optimum health and coloring. They digest food more slowly than other fish because of their long intestinal tracts. Supplement the daily flake food with a frozen meaty treat on occasion (species dependent – skip meaty treats with Tropheus). Feed as much as the fish will eat within a few minutes – it is better to feed smaller quantities on a more frequent basis. Our fish are fed 1x daily. If ANY leftover food is observed accumulating on the substrate, decrease the amount given at the next feeding. If changing food types, allow for at least a week of transition – slowly introducing the new food over time. Abrupt food changes can lead to bloating.
We feed a combination of Xtreme Pee-Wee pellets and mix of Tetra Min and Sea Chem Chlorella flakes. We believe that the Chlorella is a superior algae based food that is better nutritionally than spirulina based foods. We also supplement with frozen blood worms (NOT LIVE) or formula 2 on occasion for most species except ones that primarily eat algae like Protomelas and Tropheus. African cichlids always seem hungry and will eat more than is necessary to sustain them.
We recommend changing (with a Hydroclean) at least 50% of the tanks water every 2-3 weeks. More frequently is better – this is also determined by filtration quality, fish load, fish species and the size of the tank. If algae appears on the sides of the tank, use an algae sponge or magnet to scrape the walls of the tank before changing the water. We like to leave a bit of algae on the glass for species like Tropheus as algae is their primary food. Always use water that is free of chlorine and other chemicals – we recommend SeaChem Prime as a water conditioner. Prime is also helpful to have on hand if you get an ammonia or nitrite spike.
We only use Reverse Osmosis water (non de-ionized) that is allowed to sit in a holding tank. It is conditioned with crushed coral and held at a temperature of 78 degrees. Water temperature is important to watch when changing water in your tank. It should always be within a few degrees of your tanks temperature when adding.
Healthy African cichlids will have clear eyes, a good appetite and electric coloring (species dependent). Illnesses that affect your African cichlids may include: fin rot - which is signified by redness at the base of the fins and disintegration of the fins, and/or ich - which is signified by white dots (looks like salt crystals) on the body of the fish. Other signs of illness include a loss of appetite, erratic swimming, concave belly and loss of coloring. It is very important that you look at or “read” your fish daily. If they are acting differently in any way you will need to determine why. Call your local fish store (LFS) immediately if something doesn’t make sense in their condition or behavior. You will need to move quickly if something is amiss. We have seen tanks full of fish take fast downturns - A quick diagnosis of any problem is essential in keeping your African Cichlids healthy.