Originating from some of the deepest lakes in the world, cichlids thrive in dark, murky conditions full of plants, rocks and algae. If the lighting in your tank replicates these conditions, your cichlids will grow to their full potential both physically and mentally.
Most cichlids live in the murky, rocky conditions of the Rift Valley and Amazonian waters. Some cichlids even live at the bottom of these lakes and rivers in depths of up to 84 meters. The Nyassa peacock cichlids spend most of their time hiding away in caves. Even when they leave their nests to look for food, floating plants such as duck weed diffuse a lot of the light that shines onto the surface of the water. There are cichlids, such as those that originate from the shallower, sandier waters of Lake Tanganyika, that prefer slightly lighter conditions, but only slightly. Compared to most other freshwater fish, they still live and thrive in darker conditions.
What Type of Lighting Should You Use?
Animal expert David Alderton advises that you use fluorescent tubing rather than incandescent bulbs. These give out light rather than heat, keeping the water a consistent temperature. If these lights are left on at least eight hours a day they stimulate plant growth, particularly the growth of algae that for many cichlids is an important source of food. You must, however, change the lights at least once a year. If the light output declines, it will affect all life inside the tank.
The brightness of these tubes will depend on your cichlids’ natural habitat. For example, the cichlids from Lake Victoria are used to murkier conditions than the cichlids from Lake Malawi. If you cannot adjust your lighting to a suitable level, you can diffuse the light with floating plants such as duckweed.
Benefits of Good Lighting
Good lighting will enhance the coloration of your fish and stimulate plant growth. Of these plant growth is most important. Not only are the plants a food source and a spawning site, but they both utilize the nitrate that would otherwise prove harmful to the fish and produce the oxygen they need to breathe under water.
If you maintain lighting as close to your cichlid's natural habitat as possible, both physically and mentally, your cichlid will grow to his full potential.
Dangers of Poor Lighting
Failure to maintain the correct lighting in your tank will expose your cichlids to conditions that will cause them great stress. In this environment your unhappy cichlids will go from aggressive to depressed, which in turn will leave them vulnerable to illness. Combined with a deteriorating plant life, any illness they contract will likely prove fatal.
There are two ways to know that you have to adjust the lighting in your tank. Firstly, if the fish's color grows too light, it may mean you have to turn the lighting down. Secondly, if there is too much algae in the tank, making it darker than it should be, then you may need to turn off your lights for longer periods. .
- Cichlid-Forum.com: The Correct Lighting for Your Aquarium
- Understanding Angelfish, Oscars and Others; David Alderton
Simon Thomas has worked as a writer and journalist since 2004. He has contributed articles to several online publications, including Smashing Magazine, an art-and-design e-zine. Thomas holds a B.A. in film and media from Winchester University.