If you keep your cichlid happy, he will grow to his full potential, lighting up your tank with both his beautiful colors and his energetic personality. All you need to do is provide an environment for him as close to his natural habitat as possible.
Find out what species and gender of cichlid you have from the breeder or pet shop where you bought your cichlids. There are more than 1,500 species and their preferences vary from one to the other. In this respect it is best to keep only cichlids of the same or similar species.
Create the right lighting in the tank. Though there are exceptions, cichlids generally prefer dark, murky lighting. Florescent tubes are best because unlike incandescent bulbs, they don't create heat. If left on for about eight hours a day they also help to form algae -- an important food source for your fish. You can use floating plants such as duckweed to diffuse any extra light that shines through the surface.
Create the right water temperature. Originating from hot countries in Africa and the Americas, cichlids inhabit waters with temperatures as high as 86 degrees Fahrenheit. They can adapt to a lower temperature, but in general you should try to maintain the right temperature, checking it at least once a week.
Find the right supplies for your cichlid tank. Most cichlids like to dig so you will need to buy gravel. Natural insoluble gravel is better than the artificial kind. The color on artificial gravel can wear off over time and change the chemistry in the tank. If you are keeping female and male cichlids together, include plenty of hiding places for the female. These can include caves and a variety of plants. Female substrate brooders will also need caves and plants to spawn. Females can become aggressive if they can't find a surface to lay their eggs. Rocks are also an important part of the tank, however, like artificial gravel, they can dissolve in some waters. Your best option is to buy insoluble rock such as slate or granite.
Know what kind of fish to keep with your cichlid. It is best to keep cichlids only with other cichlids, as they tend to attack and even eat other passive or aggressive fish. Males can also be territorial so don't keep them together. The best combination is male and female or three females. More than three females will create a hierarchy in the tank with strongest females bullying the weakest.
- Understanding Angelfish, Oscars, Discus 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.