African Cichlid Care Guide – Types, Breeding & More

African butterfly peacock

African Cichlids are fairly difficult fish to care for, so you’ll need a good amount of experience. 

They are known for being very vibrant and colorful, which is just one of the things that make them a good aquatic pet.

African Cichlid Types & Appearance

The physical traits of the African Cichlid vary depending on the sub-species, of which there are many.

1. Yellow African

Yellow african Cichlid Fish in Aquarium

The Yellow African Cichlid grows to around three inches and is mostly yellow with some black at the ends of its fins. It isn’t quite as aggressive as some of the other types of this species.

2. African Butterfly

African butterfly peacock

The African Butterfly is also approximately three inches long as a fully mature adult. It features four or five black stripes going vertically down either side of its body. There are also spots that can be a variety of colors, most often green or blue.

3. African Peacock

Peacock cichlid

The African Peacock Cichlid can grow up to six inches and has a variety of colors, each of which is very bright. When you are looking to add some color to your aquarium, this is an excellent choice.

4. Orange Zebra Cichlid

zebra cichlid

The Orange Zebra Cichlid is mostly orange with black at the ends of its fins. It also features some neon yellow, making it one of the brightest fish of its species. With a maximum size of five inches, these fish require a decently large tank to live comfortably.

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One of the things that so many people love about African Cichlids is that they tend to be extremely active. You will typically see these fish swimming around all over the tank, and they are even capable of jumping out!

These fish can get fairly territorial, especially during the mating period. This is just one of the reasons why you need to give these fish plenty of different places to hideout.

Natural Habitat

You can naturally find African Cichlids in open water, weed beds, and even sand flats. Many of these species were first discovered in the Lake Tanganyika area. They have a tendency to breed in the hollow shells of various types of snails in the area.

African Cichlid Care Guide

1. Tank Setup

If you are going to keep any African Cichlids, you will need a minimum 30-gallon tank. The importance of providing these fish with rocks, caves and other places to take cover cannot be understated. This is a crucial part of ensuring that your fish feel safe and secure in their new environment.

You can use a fine-grained material for the substrate of the tank. Larger grains could injure your fish, so you need to keep this in mind. These fish only need a minor current, which the filter outlet should provide.

A heater will also be necessary, but you don’t need to spend a ton of money on an advanced model. There is really no special or high-end equipment required to keep these fish, but you don’t want to go too cheap. An under-gravel filter is not a good idea, as these fish are known for being diggers.

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You only need to provide these fish with a moderate amount of light. You can choose to use either LED or UV lights with this sort of tank setup.

2. Water Conditions

You’ll want to make sure that the temperature of the water in your tank is always kept at 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. These fish need to be kept in hard water with a rating of 4 to 6 dH. It is not a good idea to try keeping them in soft water, as they won’t survive for very long.

3. African Cichlid Tank Mates

Due to the aggressive nature of African Cichlids, finding suitable tank mates can be a little tricky. You’ll want to choose larger fish that will be able to hold their own, such as African Catfish. You definitely don’t want to keep these Cichlids with any smaller fish, as they will be quickly injured and/or eaten up. This includes a vast majority of Tetras.

4. African Cichlid Food

You will be able to give your African Cichlid a steady diet of meat, plants and insects. It is important for these fish to have a balanced diet with all three of these things on a regular to semi-regular basis.

It is important to consider the species of the Cichlid you are keeping, as not all of them have the same exact dietary needs. Most of these fish can eat flake foods, but you need to buy one with a high-quality formula.

Common Health Problems

A lot of African Cichlids are prone to Malawi bloat, which is a fairly common disease that fish get when kept in captivity. It causes swelling of the abdomen and can be quite serious. Some of the signs of this condition include lack of appetite, spending a lot of time at the bottom part of the tank, and breathing faster than usual.

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African Cichlid Breeding

While it is possible to get African Cichlids to breed in captivity, it can be quite a challenge. You will need to provide these fish with a cave that they can breed in. This is where the eggs will remain until they start hatching.


  • There are a number of different African Cichlid species, each of which has its own unique appearance.
  • These fish are known for being fairly territorial, which can result in extreme aggression.
  • It is crucial that you get at least a 30-gallon tank for keeping these cichlids.
  • A moderate current and lighting will suit these fish just fine.
  • The temperature of the water should be kept at 75 to 85 degrees at all times.
  • You can give your African Cichlid a diet that consists of flakes or pellets, meat, vegetables and insects.
  • Malawi Bloat is a condition that affects a lot of African Cichlids, so you will need to watch out for the signs.
  • Breeding these fish can be a real challenge, so you need to get the tank conditions just right before starting.
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