There are two types of brooders in the cichlid family -- the mouth brooder and the substrate brooder. Once you understand the type of brooders you have in your tank, you can begin to assess whether or not you'll soon have a school of fry in your tank.
Know the conditions your cichlids need to breed. If you own cichlids from the calm lake waters of the Rift Valley lakes, they will breed as long as the conditions in the tank are close to the acidic waters of their natural habitat. Cichlids that originated from the changeable Amazonian conditions will usually only mate in low waters. If you have drained your Amazonian Cichlids of only enough water to swim in, the chances are that they will mate. When the males want to breed they will chase the females around the tank.
Check the type of brooders you have in your tank -- mouth brooders or substrates. Mouth brooders keep their eggs in their mouth while substrate brooders like to lay their eggs on a flat surface such as a rock. When they are pregnant the colors of both fish will brighten and you may catch a glimpse of the eggs in a mouth brooder's mouth, but in general, from their physical appearance alone, it is difficult to know if either fish is pregnant. Behavior-wise, mouth brooders are unlikely to eat for the 21 days they have their eggs in their mouths and you may see substrate brooders cleaning a flat surface on which to lay their eggs.
Observe the behavior of the male cichlids. While most male mouth brooders are known to move from one mate to another, the male blackchin mouth brooder is known to look after the eggs instead of the female. Male substrate cichlids are generally monogamous. If you see a male and female substrate brooder swimming together, this means that they are not only a pair, but the female is likely to be pregnant. Often male substrates attract females by making a nest specific to their species.
- Leave any pregnant cichlids alone and let nature take its course.
- If they cannot find a flat surface to lay their eggs, female substrate brooders can become aggressive.
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