The chocolate cichlid is a large freshwater fish originally from South America. It is favored by aquarium enthusiasts for its calm temperament and ability to cohabitate with other large fish. With proper care and attention, your chocolate cichlid may even become tame enough to take food out of your hand.
If you think that the chocolate cichlid will make the perfect aquatic pet, you must first be prepared to purchase a large tank. This fascinating fish has the potential to grow as large as 12 inches (30 cm) in length. This species will not thrive or grow to its greatest potential size in a a small tank, therefore providing a tank that is at least 55 gallons (208 l) will be best for your finned friend. If you want a pair of cichlids or additional tank mates, a 100-gallon tank (379 l) will provide the space you need for multiple large fish.
Tank Setup and Maintenance
Because the chocolate cichlid comes from a warm, tropical climate, an aquarium with a heater and thermometer to monitor the water temperature is vital for his growth and health. By keeping the water between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (25 to 30 degrees Celsius), you will create an environment that is similar to the chocolate cichlid's natural habitat. Aquarium sand on the bottom of your tank will also add a natural feel to your pet's aquatic home, and provide a substrate that is good for digging and scavenging for food. Driftwood, bog wood and large rocks will give your chocolate cichlid places to hide. By using a pH balance test kit, you will be able to keep the water's acidity-and-alkaline balance around 5.0 to 7.4, which is ideal for these hardy fish. A strong filtration system combined with weekly water changes will keep your chocolate cichlid tank clean and clear.
Selecting Chocolate Cichlids
If you decide that one chocolate cichlid is enough for you, the age and size of the fish you select from your local pet or aquarium store is up to you. However, when selecting multiple cichlids, it is best to select a mating pair that are the same size. Though this type of cichlid is one of the most passive available, a larger, older fish may pick at a smaller, younger one in its tank. In addition, if you want your cichlids to mate, choosing a male and a female similar in size and age will help make this a possibility in your aquarium. Because of the chocolate cichlid's impressive size, it is difficult to keep more than two in one aquarium. As with the selection of any aquarium fish, looking for healthy, active chocolate cichlids with no signs of disease or injury on their bodies will help ensure that they live up to their potential life expectancy of 12 years.
This large, omnivorous fish appreciates a meaty diet. Prepared fish food pellets formulated for large cichlids will provide the necessary vitamins and minerals that will allow your pet to thrive. In addition, supplementing your chocolate cichlid's diet with dried, frozen and live food will provide variety. If you want to train your fish to eat from your hand, simply offer treats such as shrimp, worms and feeder insects to your pet by handing them to him at the water level at the top of the tank. Soon your pet will come to greet you every time he sees your hand.
A pair of chocolate cichlids will readily breed in captivity under the right tank conditions. If you keep the water temperature and pH balance regulated and the tank clean, and feed your pets good-quality food, you will help to encourage mating. If this is your goal, you will also need to provide flat surfaces such as large, smooth rocks in your tank. Female chocolate cichlids lay their eggs on these types of surfaces in the wild.
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.