All of the 1,500 cichlids species, including all of the cichlids in your local pet shop come from the Cichlidae family. Cichlids can be found in the United States, South America, Africa and parts of Asia. Cichlid care is relatively easy because these are hardy fish and is one of the reasons why these fish have become so popular among aquarists.
Cichilds have now spread to continents that they weren’t on previously both through accident and intentional introduction in the form of commercial fish breeding. There are over 1,500 cichlid species that have been identified with more being discovered every year.
Many aquarist keep these fish as different as Discus fish, Oscar fish and marbled Angelfish without even knowing that they are all scientifically related. I bet you didn’t know that the large members of the Cichlidae family are breed for food so you may have meet them in a seafood restaurant or even at home.
Cichlid Care Guidelines
There is a minimum amount of cichlid care that you are responsible for when keeping cichlids. In the wild, aquarium fish can take care of themselves, but in an aquarium they must rely on your expertise for survival. The first step to solid cichlid care is making sure that the tank has the right water temperature and the right amount of water.
The idea is that you want to mimic the cichlid’s natural environment as closely as possible. Most of the cichlids that you will find in a pet shop thrive in warm water and the feel right at home when the water temperature is a constant 82F (27.8C).
Tank temperature is quite important in cichlid care because the temperature has a direct effect on cichlid metabolism and activity, especially the fries. Fries in a warm tank will be twice as fast and twice as hungry than if they were in a colder temperature tank.
Cichlid Care – Ideal Temperature
A tank with a little lower temperature will create is active and less aggressive cichlids. If the tank is too warm, the fish may become too aggressive. As the aquarist, your job is to keep the temperatures ideal and constant. In an effort to keep temperature constant, do not place your tank in direct sunlight and do not place it outside. For a cichlid tank, a digital heater is best because it can regular the temperature easily.
Cichlid Care – pH Levels
Cichlids prefer basic or alkaline water. This is in direct contrast to other fish species, including gold fish, who prefer slight acidic or neutral pH. Make sure that you test the alkalinity of the water with a pH testing kit and keep it in the 8.5 range; that’s a good pH for cichlids. If you are going to make an adjustments to the pH, first remove some water from the tank and place it in another tank and put all of cichlids in there as well. Keep them there until you have finished making the adjusts and you think the cichlids will be able to take the water conditions.
Cichlid Care – Installing a Filter
Successful cichlid care also requires you to have proper water filtration. Sponge filters are highly recommended versus under-gravel filters. A sponge filter that is correctly installed and regularly maintained will last for years in a cichlid tank. Under-gravel filters are not as effective and cichlids enjoy burrowing into the substrate which can cause all kinds of problems for an under-gravel filter.
Cichlid Care – Proper Feeding
Cichlids need variety in their diet, so make sure that you feed them dry, frozen and fresh foods. The first you will need to do is figure out whether your cichlid is a omnivore, carnivore or herbivore.
Carnivore cichlids will need flakes and pellets with fishmeal.
Herbivore cichlids should not be given fishmeal-based foods because it will cause bloating and death.
Omnivore cichlids can be given both fishmeal-based and plant-based foods. You can also serve up live foods as long as you make sure that the food is free of diseases.
I bet you didn’t know this: you can create a food source for your cichlids right in your aquarium. In their natural habitat cichlids feed on algae. If you let algae grow on some rocks in your aquarium your cichlids will eat the algae (even the carnivores). Having an algae covered rock is kind of like a safety back up in case you forget to feed your fish for a day or two.
Cichlid care always beings with the proper cichlid aquarium setup. Always make sure to check the water temperature, the pH, the filter and the heater. Also, try to avoid overcrowding in the tank.