African Cichlids

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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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African Cichlids are among the most popular fresh water aquarium exotics. They fill fresh water aquariums with the diversity of colors and patterns often associated with salt water aquariums.

Cichlids can range in size from four to nine inches. Breeds can be very different ranging from zebra stripes to giraffe spots to bright colors. Often the males are vividly beautiful and the females mutely colored. Some are even dichromatic with the males and females looking like completely different species.

With the right knowledge, these fish are not difficult to maintain and breed. I recommend picking up a copy of the e-book Keeping Cichlids for all the important information you need.

Easy Care Breeds

Many cichlids are considered easy to care for. Among these are the ‘sunshine peacock’ cichlid and the colorful ‘Eureka Red Peacock’. Each grow to an average of 5.9 inches(depending on tank conditions). The males are known for their beautiful coloration, just like the bird of the same name. Another easy breed is the blue dolphin cichlid, which can grow to be 10 inches, and the ‘Afra’ or ‘dogtooth’ cichlids which grow to only 3.9 inches. The ‘Venustus’ cichlid is another easy care breed and has giraffe spots while in its juvenile state.

Eureka Red Peacock

Rock Caves Needed For Some Breeds

One entertaining, easy care breed is the gorgeous ‘electric yellow’  Malawi cichlid. This is a very popular breed among the Malawi Cichlids. To create the best living conditions, the aquarium should include rock caves where males are able to establish territories. Other rock cave dwellers include the ‘red zebra’, the ‘cobalt blue’, and the ‘johanni blue’. These fish are entertaining and social creatures.

Rock Setup


Snail Shell Dwellers

Several breeds of cichlid fish, such as the striped ‘neolamprologus similis’ and the neolamprologus multifasciatus’, are actually shell dwellers. They prefer to make their homes in an empty snail shell. To make them feel at home, the tank should have many shells and a sandy bottom. Plants should be well anchored because these cichlids like to bury the shells in the sand.

Dwarf Cichlids

Dwarf cichlids come in a variety of colors and patterns, just like their slightly bigger cousins. One of the most common is the ‘blue ram’ which is considered easy to care for. Other dwarfs need a higher level of expert care. These include the ‘checkerboard’, ‘two-stripe’, ‘three-stripe’, ‘panda’, ‘cockatoo’ and ‘zebra’ dwarf cichlids.

Dwarf Cichlid


When choosing among cichlids, it is best to find out how aggressive the males of any breed will be. The ‘electric yellow’ Malawi Cichlids are known to be a pretty calm fish.  However, mixing the wrong species together can cause severe aggression, so be careful when choosing your tank mates!

By following simple guidelines, you will be able to fill your aquarium with these exciting species and know that they will bring years of joy and entertainment.

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The most popular African Cichlids are those which originate from three of East Africa’s Lakes: Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Victoria. Water conditions vary from lake to lake; therefore it is important to identify which type of cichlid fish you want to keep in your aquarium so you can avoid complications.

Lake Victoria- Lake Victoria Cichlids live in moderately hard water with a slightly alkaline PH (7.2-8.6).  The water in which they live has very poor clarity and quality.

Xystichromis Victorian Cichlid

Lake Malawi- Lake Malawi Cichlids also live in moderately hard water with alkaline of 7.5-8.0.

Mbuna Malawi Cichlids

Lake Tanganyika- Lake Tanganyika Cichlid fish live in a much harder water and alkaline water (8.5-9.3).

Frontosa Tanganyika Cichlid

Both Lake Malawi and Tanganyika live in high quality water that is clear and pure from the turnover of waves, causing high oxygen levels.

All three of these lakes maintain average water temperate of around 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit. They have a variety of biotopes from sandy and rocky shorelines to open waters. It is important to try replicating their natural environment in your aquarium. There are many types of décor that you can use to help maintain hardness (KH and GH) and alkalinity: crushed coral, aragonite sand, and rocks or slate. However, it is very important to assure that the natural substances you are putting in your aquarium are safe for your fish type.

Setting up an African Cichlid fish aquarium can be very fun and exciting but at the same time it could be disastrous if you don’t know what you’re doing. I recommend doing a little bit of research before you dive into setting up an aquarium. I also suggest checking out the e-book Keeping Cichlids to get all of the proper information you need for keeping up with your aquarium.

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