African Cichlid Care Guide: Diet, Tankmates, Lifespan & All | 2023

By: Martin McAdam
Updated: March 20, 2022

African Cichlid (scientific name: Tilapia) is a freshwater fish that is native to Africa. They are popular aquarium fish and are available in many different colors, including blue, red, yellow, and white.

The African cichlid is a freshwater fish that is native to Africa. They are popular aquarium fish and are often kept as pets.

They are also known as tilapia, and they are available in many different colors, including blue, red, yellow, and white.

There are over 1,000 different species of African cichlids, making them one of the most diverse fish families in the world. They come in a variety of colors and can be found living in a variety of environments.

They are easy to care for and make a good choice for beginner fishkeepers. African Cichlids require a durable fish tank that is at least 15 gallons, but bigger tanks are preferred.

They are not picky eaters, which is another reason they are popular with many different types of fishkeepers. Below, you will find some information about stocking your tank, how to feed them, and what equipment you will need to keep them healthy.

Facts And Characteristics Of African Cichlid

Given below are some facts and characteristics related to African Cichlid.

African Cichlid Appearance

African cichlids are available in many different colors, including blue, red, yellow, and white. There are over 1,000 different species of African cichlids, making them one of the most diverse fish families in the world. African cichlids come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

African Cichlid

Some are quite small, while others can grow up to 12 inches in length. They have a torpedo-shaped body, and the majority of them have a hump behind their head.

The African cichlid is known for its vibrant colors and patterns. They have an oval-shaped body with elongated fins.

They can grow as long as eight inches and as tall as three inches. The female specimens are usually larger than the male specimens, but other than that, there is little difference between the sexes. Many specimens are traded as young fry, which are only one to two centimeters in size.

African cichlids come in many different colors and patterns. The most common variety is called the blue or peacock cichlid because of its vibrant blue coloring with black spots on the lower lobe of its tail.

There is also a gold variety with an orange-brown stripe under the dorsal fin and blue fins. Another colorful type is known as the Jack Dempsey. It has a bright yellow body with blue spots along the front half of its body and red speckles on its gills and snout.

Other varieties include the red devils, the yellow labs, and the electric blue cichlid. Each type has its unique markings and coloration.

Their mouths are not very large, so they can eat small food items, but they will also happily take larger pieces. Some species even act as scavengers and will feed on leftover food in the tank or directly from an owner's hand.

They also have a set of small teeth that they use to feed on food or as a means of defense if an aquarium keeper tries to catch them.

Both males and females can be identified by their coloration or markings. Males tend to have brighter colors than females and may also have a noticeable nuchal hump on their heads. Females will often have a fatter appearance when they are full of eggs.

Also Read: Assassin Snail 101: All You Need To Know

African Cichlid Growth & Lifespan

They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with some being quite small while others can grow up to 12 inches in length. The male African cichlid is usually larger than the female. They weigh between 1 and 10 ounces.

African Cichlid

The red devil cichlid is one of the larger types, growing up to 12 inches in length. They can weigh as much as eight pounds when they are fully grown.

Another type that gets quite large is called the convict cichlid. They can grow up to 14 inches long and weigh more than a pound. The yellow lab cichlid is one of the smaller types, typically growing to around six inches in length.

The average lifespan for an African cichlid is about ten years, but some live up to 20. A male African cichlid will live longer than a female. With proper care, they can live for up to 10 years. In captivity, they can live even longer with proper care.

Read: Peacock Cichlid 101: Facts, Characteristics & Care Guide

African Cichlid Temperament

African cichlids are known for their aggressive behavior when defending their territory. They will stake out an area and aggressively protect it from other fish in the wild. They will even attack other cichlids of their species.

African Cichlid

They like to live in groups and will form what is known as a dominance hierarchy. The dominant fish will be at the top of the hierarchy, and the subordinate fish will be at the bottom. This social order is established early in life and is usually quite rigid.

They are not as aggressive in the aquarium, but they can be territorial with other African cichlids or with fish that look like them. They will not attack other types of fish unless they feel their territory is threatened.

They are also known for their breeding behavior. Some species build elaborate nests out of sand or rocks, while others will guard their eggs until they hatch.

When kept in captivity, African cichlids can be quite tame and will often come to the front of the tank to beg for food. They are also known to be very intelligent and can be trained to do tricks.

Also Read: Bladder Snail: Best Care Guide Explained in Details

African Cichlid Habitat

African cichlids typically live in large lakes or rivers throughout Africa, especially along the coasts of West Africa and Lake Malawi.

African Cichlid

They live both in saltwater and freshwater habitats. They are found in the majority at depths between 15 to 75 feet in open waters that have a sandy or rocky bottom.

They are found at various locations around Lake Malawi, including Chinyamwezi Bay, Nkhata Bay, and the southern tip of the lake.

Around West Africa, they are common in Cameroon's White River, Senegal's River Gambia, Guinea's Niger River, and Cameroon's Wouri River.

They are also located in the rivers of Congo, Nile, Senegal, and Volta basins. They are found at various locations within these river systems as well as their surrounding areas.

Some also live in man-made environments like fish farms or aquariums. They are not known to be found in any other part of the world aside from these areas.

African Cichlid Social Structure

African cichlids live in an elaborate social structure, which becomes even more complex when they reproduce.

African Cichlid

A dominance hierarchy will form within the group of fish, and each individual will be able to predict where they stand based on their behavior.

The size and color of a fish are what usually determine its place in the dominance hierarchy, although it can also be influenced by age, aggression, and other factors.

The dominant fish is at the top of the hierarchy and has the most control over the group. They are usually the largest and most brightly colored fish in the school.

The subordinate fish are at the bottom of the hierarchy and have little control over their surroundings. They are usually smaller and less colorful than the dominant fish.

This social order is established early in life and is usually quite rigid. Fish that are not able to conform to this social order will often be bullied or even killed by the other fish in the group.

African Cichlid Breeding

The dominant male and female will release their gametes at the same time and fertilize the eggs together. This process is known as "syngamy" and is the same process used by most organisms, including humans.

African Cichlid

The eggs will be laid on rocks or plants in an area of the tank that has good water flow. The dominant female will make a depression in the substrate to lay her eggs in. She can lay up to 4,000 eggs during each spawning period.

The male will then guard the eggs until they hatch, which can take anywhere from 3 to 10 days. He will chase away any other fish that come near the eggs and will fan them with his fins to keep them oxygenated.

The fry will be able to swim and feed on their own within a few days of hatching. The male will continue to guard them until they can fend for themselves.

In the wild, African cichlids will spawn several times a year. The female will lay her eggs, and the male will guard them until they hatch. The fry will then join the school of fish and start their breeding cycle.

Breeding Tips

It is very difficult to breed different types of African cichlids together in the same tank. Some species of cichlid will not interbreed, so it is necessary to know which type of fish is getting put into the aquarium.

  1. Be sure to provide your cichlids with a breeding area before you try to get them to breed. These fish like spawning in caves or pits dug out from under large rocks or pieces of wood. They will not breed if there is no designated breeding area.
  2. Use a soft substrate like sand or gravel to make it easier for the fry to bury themselves and hide from predators.
  3. Be sure to have plenty of hiding places in the tank for the fry to use once they are free-swimming. This will help reduce the amount of stress they experience.
  4. Feed the fry a variety of different foods like baby brine shrimp, crushed flake food, and powdered spirulina to help them grow big and strong.
  5. Remove any unhatched eggs or fry that have died to avoid overcrowding and
  6. Have patience! It may take a while for your cichlids to start breeding.


African cichlids are very powerful fish and can cause a lot of damage if they get frightened or startled by an outside stimulus like splashing around in the tank. They will begin to attack the source of the stimulus and may cause some broken aquarium decorations along with it.

Keep their tank away from any windows or doors that could open suddenly because the fish's powerful jaws may accidentally hit them.

African cichlids are also very territorial, so they will often fight with other fish in their school if there are not enough space or hiding places. This can lead to serious injuries and even death.

Keep only one male cichlid per tank and make sure that there are plenty of places for them to hide. If there is not enough space, the fish will become stressed and may attack other fish in the school.

African Cichlid Care Guide

African cichlids are a popular fish for hobbyists and aquarists. They are found at various locations within the African continent and can be kept in captivity. They are not known to be found in any other part of the world aside from these areas.

Let's get to know how to take care of this lovely creature in the aquarium.

Tank Requirements

These fish are very active and need a large aquarium in order to live comfortably. They should always be kept in groups of at least 6 or more because they are extremely social creatures.

If this is not done, the dominant fish will not feel secure and will become aggressive towards its owner.

African Cichlid

The tank does not have to be any particular shape or size. It should be at least 55 gallons, though, to ensure that there is enough space for all of the fish in the school. The more space, the happier your cichlids will be.

The substrate for an African cichlid aquarium can be any type of sand or gravel. Gravel with sharp edges is not recommended, though, because it can damage the fish's mouth while feeding.

The substrate should be at least 2 inches deep to ensure that there is enough space for plants and decorations.

The low-light plants used in an African cichlid aquarium will need to be sturdy because these fish love to dig around in the substrate. They may uproot or break soft, delicate plants that are not strong enough to handle their digging.

It is also important for the plants to be able-bodied because they are used to cover any bare spots in the tank.

The cichlids will go swimming around the tank at times and may knock things over while doing so. Plants can help prevent this from happening by covering up any exposed areas.

The African cichlid will need a variety of different types of rock and/or driftwood in their tank for hiding places.

This fish is naturally very territorial, and they will feel more secure if they have areas where they can hide from the other fish in the school.

They are not able to control their surroundings, so it is important to provide them with plenty of places to hide.

Water Parameters and Lighting

African cichlids come from a variety of different climates within Africa. This means that they can tolerate a range of water temperatures in the aquarium.

African Cichlid

The ideal temperature for them is 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can survive in temperatures as low as 65 degrees or as high as 90 degrees. It is important to always monitor the water's temperature, though, because it can change at any time.

The fish will also begin to look sluggish if their preferred temperature drops below 65 degrees, which makes them more susceptible to illnesses like ich and fin rot.

They do not require any special lighting in their tank, but they can be kept under a variety of different types of light.

Fluorescent light is the most popular type of light for aquariums because it mimics natural daylight. This will help to keep the fish's color vibrant and their appetite high.


The African cichlid aquarium will need to be cleaned regularly to keep the water healthy for the fish. This can be done by removing approximately 25% of the water and replacing it with fresh, dechlorinated water.

The substrate can also be vacuumed to remove any built-up waste or food. This should be done at least once per week but may need to be done more often if the tank is heavily populated.

The plants should also be trimmed every 2-3 weeks to prevent overgrowth, and the water in the tank should be treated with a conditioner that removes chlorine or chloramines.


African cichlids are carnivores and should be fed a diet that consists mostly of meat. They can be fed once per day or up to 3 times per day, depending on how many fish and how big they are.

The amount of food given each feeding will also depend on the type and quantity of food that is being used.

African Cichlid

These fish should be fed a variety of meats like beef heart, shrimp, earthworms, and blood worms. They can also be fed peas once or twice per week to help with internal parasites.

Meat should always be cut into tiny pieces that are small enough for the smallest fish in the school to eat.

This is because these fish have very small mouths and will not be able to swallow anything larger than their mouth can handle.

Frozen foods like krill and brine shrimp can also be used to supplement the cichlids' diet. They should only be fed these foods once or twice per week as they are not a complete meal.


African cichlids are very aggressive fish and should not be kept with any other type of fish. They will become territorial and may attack other fish in the tank.

They can, however, be kept with other types of cichlids. There are a variety of different types of cichlids that come from Africa, so it is important to know which type of cichlid you are getting.

African Cichlid

They can also be kept with smaller species like tetras, gouramis, and discus fish. These types of fish need to be larger than the African cichlid to avoid becoming prey.

The tank should only house one school at a time as they become territorial and will attack each other if there is more than one school.

It is also possible to keep African cichlids with larger carnivorous fish like barbs, goldfish, and loaches. If the African cichlid is a smaller variety of cichlid, it can be kept with any type of aquarium fish as long as there is a large enough difference in size.

Common Possible Diseases

African cichlids are susceptible to contracting many different types of diseases. Unfortunately, the majority of these come with no warning signs and will kill your fish within a few days.

African Cichlid

These fish can get common diseases, including hole-in-the-head disease, ick, dropsy, fin rot, discuss plague (often referred to as ich), and bacterial/fungal infections.

It is best to medicate your fish for all of these diseases if you have a large enough tank with other cichlids to catch the disease from. If you do not, it is best to observe closely and try to spot any signs of a potential problem before it gets out of hand.

If you do not notice any symptoms and the fish gets sick very suddenly, it is recommended to treat the tank with a broad-spectrum antibiotic like penicillin or tetracycline.

You can also add aquarium salt to reduce stress on your fish, prevent secondary infections, provide extra oxygen by running an air stone, give the fish a varied diet rich in nutrients, and take away any uneaten food.

A combination of these things should help your sick cichlid get better quickly. The biggest threat to African cichlids is other cichlids, so it is important to only have one type of cichlid per tank.


African cichlids make a great addition to any aquarium and are very easy to care for. They come from a variety of different climates within Africa, so they can tolerate a range of water temperatures.

The ideal temperature for them is 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can survive in temperatures as low as 65 degrees or as high as 90 degrees.

Cleaning their tank is a relatively easy process and only needs to be done every 1-2 weeks. Feeding them a diet of meaty foods will keep them healthy and happy.

However, they should not be kept with other aggressive or territorial fish as they may get injured or killed. Thanks for reading.

Disclaimer does not intend to provide veterinary advice. We go to great lengths to help users better understand their aquatic friends. However, the content on this blog is not a substitute for veterinary guidance. For more information, please read our disclaimer.

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