How to take care of Cichild fish?

We will talk about cichlid fish care in this blog post.We will also discuss important factors such as their habitat, types,lifespan,tank set-up, water parameters and healthcare, etc.Everything you need to know about cichlid fish care will be briefly discussed.


In this blog

  • Key specifications of cichlid fish
  • Why is cichlid fish care important?
  • How many cichlid fish should you start with as a newcomer?
  • Habitat of cichlid fish
  • Types of cichlid fish
  • Different strains or colors of cichlid fish
  • General and physical attributes of cichlid fish
  • Cichlid fish lifespan
  • Cichlid fish tank set-up
  • Cichlid fish diet and feeding requirements
  • Cichlid fish healthcare and health conditions
  • Cichlid fish daily care and Bi-weekly care
  • Summary

How to take care of Cichild fish?

Daily care tips for cichlids

  • They should be monitored daily for their aggressive behavior. Remove the agressive cichlid immediately and keep them in a separate tank.
  • Observe their swimming patterns,their appetites,body changes and skin colourations.
  • If they are not looking normal then it indicates their bad health due to poor water conditions or not getting enough nutrition in their diets.Shift them to a hospital tank for some days or weeks until they fully recover.
  • It is advised to check water temperature, filters and other tank equipment daily.
  • Defrost frozen food before feeding them.

Bi-weekly care tips for cichlids

  • You should religiously change 25-30 % water weekly to keep nitrate levels down in the tank.
  • If you are planning to clean the tank,you can clean the whole tank once in a month.Don’t use detergents and soaps to clean the aquarium, as it is toxic to them.
  • Water testing can be done depending upon the species.Some species need it weekly some once or twice in a month.
  • Quarantine new cichlids for a couple of weeks before adding them to an existing tank.
  • Quarantine live food for weeks before feeding them as it can be infectious.

Key specifications of  cichlid fish

Name Cichlids 
HabitatConservation statusAfrica and AmericaSome are vulnerable and some not listed 
Lifespan10-20 years (depends upon the species)
Body sizeBody shape
ColorSexual dimorphism
3-10 inches longLaterally compressed,cylindrical and elongated bodyVivid colorsIn most species it is prominent during breeding season.
Another namesDifferent cichlids have different common names.
Optimum temperatureOptimum pHWater hardness75F-85F7.8-8.64-6 dGH
TemperamentBeginner or experienced Aggressive and semi aggressiveBoth levels depend upon the type of cichlid.
Care levelModerate to difficult
Tank size and set-up55 gallons
Preferred plants/decorationsLive plants 
CompatibilityOther cichlids
Number of cichlids species found 1650 and some are not known
BreedingParental careBreeding level
Breeding type
Tank breedingSome show parental care, some don’t.Breeding level could be easy to difficult depending upon the cichlidSubstrate spawning, mouth breeding

Why is Cichlid fish care important?

Cichlids are one of the most popular aquarium fish in the aquarium industry due to their different patterns and intense colourations.They are super hardy and sturdy aquarium fish and are mostly bred in tanks for different varieties of colors and patterns nowadays.

They are the first choice for any fish keepers due to their vivid colourations.They can tolerate a wide range of water conditions but if the water parameters are not stable and the diet is not healthy and nutritious then they can get infections and even die off.

So it’s important to give them proper care for their better survival and growth in aquarium settings.

How many Cichlid fish should you start with as a newcomer?

The important thing to keep in mind before getting cichlids as a new owner is, get cichlid varieties that get along well with each other and have the same feeding habits and temperament.You can start with 2-3 cichlids as a newcomer.

Some aquarium shops do free water testing too, so you can carry your water sample for testing to know the quality of water.It can be done in a few minutes.

Habitat of Cichlid fish

  • Freshwater tropical fish
  • Original habitat – Africa and America
  • Aquarium – Captive breeding
  • Lakes -Malawi,Victoria and Tanganyika

Types of Cichlid fish

There are around 40 types of aquarium cichlids .

Common aquarium cichlids are:

  • Angelfish
  • Oscar 
  • Convict cichlid
  • Discus 
  • Kribensis 
  • Blood parrot cichlid
  • Jack dempsey cichlid
  • Firemouth 
  • Venustus 
  • Jewel 
  • Frontosa 
  • Yellow lab
  • Peacock 
  • Cockatoo 
  • Electric rams

Different strains or colors of cichlid fish

Cichlids come in huge varieties of colours.They are very famous in aquarium markets due to their color schemes and patterns.

Different color schemes and combinations are :

  • Blue/yellow with red body
  • Blue/yellow with red ventrum
  • Blue or yellow with red dorsum
  • Some cichlids can change their color when threatened and also when the water conditions are poor.

General and physical attributes of cichlid fish

  • Single nostrils
  • Body size- 3-10 inches in length
  • Body shape-Laterally compressed,elongated & cylindrical body.
  • Scales are present 

Cichlid fish lifespan

Different cichlids have different lifespans and their longevity totally depends on the amount of care they are receiving from their owners.

Right water parameters, feeding habits, food quality and stress free environments will help them grow better in aquarium settings.

  • Nicaragua cichlid can live between 10-15 years
  • Blood parrot cichlids around 10 years

Cichlid fish tank set-up

Tank sizeLight intensitySubstrateWater parametersTemperatureTank plantsTank mates

Tank size for cichlids

  • Quarantine their tanks for some weeks before introducing them to a new tank.
  • You can keep 10-15 cichlids in a 55 gallon tank depending upto the type of cichlid,their temperament and their maximum size. Keep the tank near a power source.
  • If you want to maintain larger communities of cichlids then get a bigger tank of size between 125-150 gallons.
  • For keeping dwarf cichlids a small tank is more than enough.
  • Tank should have enough space for swimming and hiding.
  • Some cichlids are active jumpers and they jump out of the tank when they feel threatened,so a lid or hood is necessary to cover their tanks.
  • Small cichlids – 30 gallons tank
  • Bigger cichlids – 55 gallons tank
  • Community of cichlids- 150 gallons or more

Light intensity for cichlids

  • Moderate lighting does well with them.
  • Keep them away from direct sunlight.
  • Some species need sunlight daily for 1-2 hours to display and enhance their body colouration and they look more beautiful during morning hours.
  • Avoid excessive sunlight, because it can enhance algal growth in the tanks.

Substrate and decoration for cichlids

  • Gravels or sand substrate- Clean the gravel before adding them in the aquarium.
  • A layer of 3 to 3 and half inches length gravel should be added at the bottom of the tank.
  • Cave structures-For hiding and sense of security when threatened.
  • Driftwood, bogwood, Live rocks can be added to their tanks.
  • Some species need zero to minimal decorations and some like well decorated tanks.
  • Avoid sharp and edgy decorative items in the tank as it can hurt cichlid body parts.
  • Clean decorative items once or twice in a month to avoid infections.

Water parameters for cichlids

  • They are tropical fish and need warm water in their tank.
  • Fill half of the tank with chlorinated water while setting up the tank before adding your cichlids.
  • You can get beneficial bacteria supplements from shops and add them in cichlid tanks to enhance biological waste breakdown.
  • Filtration – An efficient filtration system which can process all the tank water five times per hour.

Temperature for cichlids

  • A five watts aquarium heater is required for each gallon of water.
  • If your aquarium size is larger than you are supposed to install two heaters at each end of the tank.
  • Always keep heaters close to filters to circulate warm water in the aquarium.
  • Temperature plays a vital role in their metabolism and colouration, a sudden dip or increase in temperature can weaken their immune system and they start losing their colors.

Tank plants for cichlids

  • Java ferns
  • Anubias 
  • Amazon Swords 
  • Trim tank plants whenever it is required and remove dead plants from the aquarium.
  • Some tank plants need sunlight for some time for their growth.

Tank mates for cichlids

Some cichlids occupy middle and top regions of the tank, some are bottom dwellers,so choose their tank mates accordly.

Not all cichlids are friendly and peaceful,some can get along well with other cichlids, some with other fish of similar temperament & some don’t need tank mates because of their aggressive behavior, especially male cichlids.

They can kill each other to death white fighting.Its important to choose their tank mates wisely.

Tank mates to avoid:

  • Avoid small fish as they become snacks for cichlids.
  • African and american cichlids should not be kept together
  • Never keep males together in  similar tanks because they get aggressive with each other, kindly maintain male to female ratios depending upto the type of cichlids you are keeping in your tanks.
  • Most gouramis, some tetras, angelfish and few livebearers can be kept with cichlids.

Cichlid fish diet and feeding requirements

Cichlids don’t have similar diets.They are both herbivore and carnivore in the wild so replicate their diets for better results.They can eat both commercial food and fresh food in their diets.

Make sure you are including a protein rich diet to keep them healthy. Feed them 3-4 times a day, an amount which they can consume within 30 seconds.

Best food for cichlids:

  • Staple food- Sinking flakes and pellets
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Live and frozen food

They like to eat a lot,and they create a lot of biological waste in the tanks.

So it is advised not to overfeed them,underfeeding is fine and fasting them once a week except juveniles is even better.Fasting helps them to process and clear their digestive systems.

Cichlid fish healthcare and health conditions

Infections in cichlids: They can get bacterial, parasitic, protozoans and fungal infections due to poor water conditions and temperature fluctuations.

  • Malawi boat infections
  • White spot infections or Ich
  • Fin rot 
  • Swim bladder disease
  • Hole in the head
  • Cotton wool disease


  • Antibiotics as food soaks
  • Antibiotics mixed with water
  • Salt bath for some weeks
  • Improve water quality


  • Each cichlid has its own patterns and color schemes.
  • Most of them are produced through captive breeding, so buy them from a right breeder who is aware of their genetics.
  • Cichlids need well oxygenated and bigger aquariums.
  • Replicate their natural environments for better survival.
  • Feed them a protein rich diet to maintain their body colourations.

Frequently asked questions on cichlids:

Are cichlids easy to care for?

Not all cichlids are difficult to care for,their care level ranges from moderate to difficult.Convict cichlids are easier to care for and are a very good community tank species among cichlids.