African cichlids are often referred to as the most aggressive cichlid, and most inexperienced aquarists will tell you that you should not keep this species because they are too “mean”. African Cichlids have a tendency to be aggressive by nature, but don’t let this discourage you from keeping them as a pet. In this article I am going to explain some of the most common ways to reduce African Cichlid aggression.


Food is the number one cause for Cichlid aggression. This is because African Cichlids live in vast numbers in the wild and are required to defend themselves for food. They also display the same behavior in an aquarium. It is best to feed in small amounts several times a day. By feeding throughout the day, you are helping to eliminate their food related aggression.

Tank Size

Since African Cichlids tend to be very territorial by nature, it is important to have a large enough tank for them to live in. It is suggested that you use at least a 55 gallon aquarium for keeping this species. Having a larger tank will allow you to build a lot of nooks and crannies for your Cichlids to hide in and claim as their territory.

Similar Sizes

When choosing your African Cichlids, it is best to pick those that are similar in size. If you have one Cichlid that is much larger than the others, it is most likely going to take over your tank and be the most aggressive Cichlid. This rule of thumb is especially important if you are keeping several males of the same species.

Before choosing your tank mates, I suggest that you do a bit of research to determine how big they will get when they are adults. This will also help to ensure that you have the proper size tank for the species you plan on keeping.


Having a large variety of colors with different body markings will also help reduce African Cichlid aggression. If they look like one another, chances are they will not get along.


It is recommended that you keep the temperature of your Cichlid tank on the low side. High temperatures will increase the fish’s metabolism and can trigger more aggressive behavior. Of course you don’t want freezing cold water, but 74-76 degrees is acceptable for most African Cichlid species.

Male/Female Ratio

The general rule for most African Cichlid species is to keep one male per every three females. This is important because males, in almost all cases, tend to be the most aggressive cichlids in the tank. This is because the males will be aggressive towards females that do not want to mate. Having more females in the tank will take the male’s focus off of just one female and instead his anger will be evenly distributed.

Mixing species

The three main lakes that African Cichlids originate from are Malawi, Tanganyikan, and Victorian. Although it has been done, I do not recommend combing species from different lakes. However, if you insist on mixing African Cichlids from different lakes, Malawi and Tanganyikan are going to be your best bet. If you plan to mix the two, I suggest that you do some serious research to determine which species will be compatible with one another. If you are a beginner at keeping cichlids, it is best to stock your tank with African Cichlids from the same lake.

African Cichlids are a wonderful species to keep, but it is important to remember that they can be aggressive if you aren’t careful. Taking precaution and following these guidelines will help keep your African Cichlids aggression at a minimum. These really are a beautiful species of fish and I hope that you can enjoy them as much as I do.

For more helpful information, I recommend checking out the step-by-step guideKeeping Cichlids

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Just like any other freshwater fish, cichlids need proper filtration in order to provide a healthy happy environment. There are two types of filtration to consider; a canister filter or a sump. A canister filter is one of the most commonly used filtration systems for freshwater tanks because they are easy to use and you can find them at a reasonably fair price. Sumps are not used as often with freshwater, but are used more in the saltwater hobby. Sumps are a bit more difficult to get setup, but you will soon find out that the advantages of a sump far outweigh the disadvantages. In this article I will describe the advantages and disadvantages of the two.

Canister filters

Canister filters are most popular within the freshwater hobby because they are simple to install and are normally more than enough filtration if maintained properly on a regular basis. When a canister filter is purchased, pretty much everything is already together and all you need to do is add the filter media, place the intake and outtake in the water, and start it up. Below is a picture of a basic canister filter and its functions.

Water enters the canister filter on the left hand side, running through filter pads that catch debris. Once the water has run through the filter pads it does a U-turn and flows up the right side where the filter cartridges are placed, then pumped back into the display tank. Of course this is just a basic concept of how a canister filter operates; therefore you should know that different models will function differently.

Depending on your preference, you can put whatever media you would like into the cartridges. Personally, I like to place larger filter media at the bottom such as pre-filter media grams. This media is used to catch large to medium size particles. In the second cartridge, I prefer to fill about half with pre-filter media grams and the other half with a polishing filter pad. In the last cartridge I normally use something that helps to clarify the water such as carbon. This is just my personal preference, and you can pretty much setup your cartridges however you’d like.

I have used canister filters for several years and I personally prefer Hagen Fluval filtration over the other brands. I used a Fluval 204 filter in a 40 gallon aquarium for over 6 years and never had any problems. I am currently running a Fluval fx5 in my 110 gallon tank and it does an awesome job at keeping my tank clean. I wouldn’t use anything else.

The only disadvantages of a canister filter are that it requires regular cleaning about twice a month. This does not mean that the media needs to be changed, but filter pads should be rinsed along with the canister to get rid of any unwanted buildup. Whichever media you decide to buy, the instructions will tell you how often it needs changed.


If you want to do a more complex filtration system, a sump may be for you. A sump or a wet/dry filter is a separate tank that is located below the main display aquarium that consists of compartments/dividers used to place filter media and equipment in. You can also add a canister filter into the sump for even more filtration. The idea of a sump is to dilute the bio-load of your main aquarium by adding the extra amount of water. Most people use a sump that is about 1/3 of the size of their main aquarium, but it can’t hurt to go even bigger. When it comes to the sump, bigger is usually better; more dilution.

Okay, this is how it works. The water enters the sump by using an overflow box. The overflow box is started by a syphon and drains down to the sump through plumbing. Water moves through the sump to the other end where there is a return pump. The return pump delivers the water back into the main tank, which also requires plumbing.

Here is a diagram of a basic sump setup:

Advantages of a sump:

  • A place to put equipment such as chillers, filters, and heaters eliminating clutter in the main tank.
  • Water level in the main tank always remains the same because evaporation takes place in the sump.
  • Overflow box always keeps the surface of the main tank clear, which also allows for better gas exchange.
  • Water changes can be done in the sump rather than disturbing the main tank.
  • Dilutes bio-load which helps keep nitrates down.
  • Gives you the ability to fully customize your filtration to maximize its effectiveness.

From my experience with sumps, I can’t really say that there are any disadvantages other than the fact that it takes a little extra work to get setup. In my opinion, I personally enjoy doing things myself and taking the time to do things right to avoid complications later down the road.

Of course this is just an overview on the advantages of a sump and I will go into more detail on how to actually build a sump in a different article. You can find prebuilt sumps at under the filtration section.

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Being a cichlid fish owner, there will most likely come a time when you notice a diseased fish. This disease could be brought into the aquarium by a new fish, or could be an illness that develops overtime due to the lack of proper maintenance. Whatever the case may be, it is important to be able to identify the disease so that you can find a cure before it is too late.

First, let’s take a look at some of the signs that a cichlid will show when they are sick:

-Loss of color
-loss of appetite
-damaged or deformed fins
-hanging out in uncommon areas of the tank
-fuzziness or growths on the body
-irregular behavior

Of course these signs can only be detected if you are familiar with the behavior and health of your cichlid fish.

If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, you should immediately place the sick fish in an isolated tank. This tank is also commonly referred to as a hospital tank and should be an appropriate size according to the fish. It is important to place some bio media, décor, and water from your main display tank into the hospital tank in order to keep the water parameters stable. The décor will provide the fish with a place to hide to ensure they feel safe and secure. I suggest not using carbon media in the hospital tank because this will cause most medications to not work properly.

In the hospital tank there should be a filter to keep the water clean and circulated; you may also need an air stone to provide adequate oxygen.

Here is a description of some of the most common cichlid fish diseases and treatments:


This is one of the most well-known diseases among freshwater fish. Most fish that are infected with ich will show small white specs all over their body and fins.



The easiest way to cure this specific disease is to purchase an ich treatment such as Clout. Carefully follow the instructions given on the bottle, and be sure not to dose more than recommended. Even once the white spots have gone away it is not acceptable to assume the disease is completely cured. You should continue to dose the ich treatment for at least another 3-4 days after the spots have disappeared.

Malawi Bloat

Despite the name, this disease can affect every species of cichlids and is normally caused by overfeeding, adding too much salt, or stress. This particular disease is very fast acting, and if not caught early, it can kill your fish within 1-7 days. Common symptoms for this disease include swelling, loss of appetite, breathing difficulties, and white feces.

Malawi Bloat


To treat this disease, I recommend placing the ill fish into your hospital tank and using the medication called Clout. When dosing Clout, carefully follow the instructions given on the bottle and perform a 30-40% water change before each dosage.


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Of course there are several diseases and infections that can occur with cichlid fish, but there are far too many to list. If you would like to learn about more diseases and treatments, you can find them in the Keeping Cichlids e-book.

I hope that you found this article informative and that you have success with curing your ill cichlids.

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With a new aquarium, cycling your tank is the first and most important thing you need to do. This is the process in which your aquarium needs to establish good bacteria. When you first setup your aquarium it will be contaminated with bad bacteria. Before putting cichlid fish into the tank it is important that this bad (harmful) bacteria converts into good bacteria. The first stage of bacteria will break down ammonia into nitrites, and the second stage of bacteria will break down the nitrites into nitrates. Both ammonia and nitrites are harmful to your fish, but nitrates are not, as long as they are at a safe level.

There are two ways to cycle your tank: with or without fish. They both have their advantages and disadvantages, but most fish enthusiasts prefer to do a fishless cycle. Doing a fishless cycle (which I recommend) has many more advantages: it’s faster, easier, and avoids permanently harming fish.

Fishless Cycle

One effective way of doing a fishless cycle is to use media, gravel, sand, or decor from another (disease free) aquarium that already has good bacteria established. If you can’t find any of these materials, you can purchase bacteria in a bottle from your local fish store. Also, during this process I suggest raising the temperature in the aquarium to around 85 degrees, this allows for a faster chemical reaction.

Cycling with fish

If you decide to go the other route, then you will need hardy fish that can withstand these harmful water conditions; I recommend using either tetras or guppies. Cycling your tank with fish can take anywhere between 4-6 weeks for the nitrates to become established. You will need to do frequent water changes (20%) 3-4 times a week until the cycle is complete. Of course if you are doing a cichlid fish aquarium you will need to remove the starter fish before adding any cichlids to the tank.


Whichever method you chose, it is important to realize that this can be time consuming, therefore patience is a virtue. It is also important to constantly test your water during this process to ensure that your tank is cycling properly. Before adding sensitive fish, your nitrates should be at, or below 20ppm.

For more information on how to properly care for your cichlids and maintain a healthy living environment, I highly recommend reading Keeping Cichlids. This all in one e-book will tell you everything you need to know.

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