How to Decorate a Cichlid Tank

Cichlids are comfortable in tanks with suitable decorative items.

Cichlids are comfortable in tanks with suitable decorative items.

If you are considering setting up a cichlid aquarium, choosing the right decorative items for your aquatic pets' home will help them thrive. These active swimmers like to dig, and often dislocate tank decor. However, cichlids also need places to hide and spawn in their tanks.

Evaluate your cichlids. These fish have common behavior traits, including the need to dig and the tendency to be aggressive. However, the variety, number and size of cichlids you have will help you determine which tank decorations to choose. Large cichlids, such as oscars, need room to move and can dislodge small items easily. A sparsely-decorated tank consisting of large rocks or aquarium caves are ideal for these large fish. African cichilds are friendlier and smaller than other varieties, and require more hiding places, such as planted areas and rocks. Small cichlids, like the dwarf, also enjoys ample hiding areas. A school of cichlids also needs plenty of crevices to hide to prevent stress. Cichlids that originate from Central America can be very aggressive with tank mates, which makes an aqua scape with plenty of hiding places vital.

Line the bottom of your cichlid tank with appropriate substrate. Aquarium pebbles or medium-sized stones are ideal for cichlids, because they enjoy scavenging through the material on the aquarium floor for food. A rocky substrate also provides a natural environment for your pets, because cichlids originate from rocky lake bottoms.

Choose safe decor items for your cichlid tank. You do not want to add anything to your pets' environment that may harm them, so it's best to purchase aquarium-approved decor items from your local pet store. Items that are small enough to swallow or can be dislodged also may cause injury to your fish. Therefore, selecting items that are substantial and weighted will keep your finned pets safe and happy.

Clean rocks you find thoroughly. If you find pretty rocks outdoors that you think will make your cichlid tank look great, you can use them once you remove dirt and debris that could make your pets sick or contaminate your tank. By using a mild soap and warm water, and rinsing your rocks thoroughly, you will be able to put these natural items in your cichlid's aquarium.

Use aquatic plants carefully. Large cichlids will remove small plants almost as soon as you add them to your tank. Ferns and sword plants are good choices because they have sturdy stems. If you have smaller varieties of cichlids however, you have many more options when it comes to adding aquatic plants to your aquarium because these little fish are less likely to uproot them.

Provide flat rocks for your fish to lay their eggs. The smooth, flat surfaces of rocks that are tucked away in the corner of your aquarium make ideal spawning locations for cichlids.

Items you will need

  • Medium-sized aquarium stones or pebbles
  • Large rocks
  • Flat rocks
  • Aquatic plants (optional)
  • Other aquarium approved decorative items, such as caves

Tips

  • Use aquarium silicone to secure rocks together or to the sides of your tank to keep them in place.
  • If you want your cichlids to reproduce, providing many hiding places will help you achieve these results. Cichlids not only need privacy when spawning, but other fish in your tank also need hiding places to get away from parents that become aggressive while protecting their young.

Warnings

  • Do not use sand or small stones on the bottom of your cichlid tank. These fish are known to swallow small stones, which could lead to digestive problems.
  • Never wash rocks that you are planning to add to your cichlid tank with strong chemicals or bleach. Even trace amounts of these harsh cleaners can fatal to your fish.
 

About the Author

Jennifer Lynn has been writing as a correspondent and reporter since 1991. She has written for numerous newspapers and currently writes as a correspondent for Gannett. Lynn has a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on English from Ohio University, where she also studied journalism at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

Photo Credits

  • Aquarium Fish dwarf Cichlid(Apistogramma nijsseni image by Vitas from Fotolia.com