Cichlid Behavior

Their amazing colors and unique mannerisms are why cichlids have become one of the more domesticated and favored fish with aquarium enthusiasts.

Cichlid behavior is one of the most interesting subjects i have studied and here i will share with you some of the things i found out. Cichlids display color schemes that enhance the aesthetics of any ones aquarium and brings life and wonder to one’s humble abode. This being said, it is no wonder Cichlids are by far the most popular freshwater fish for people to start aquariums with.
So you may have made the decision to get your own, it is then up to you to understand cichlid behavior. This will certainly make it easier for both you and the fish for the first few weeks you have them.

Raising cichlids is by no means an easy feat, but if you follow the guidelines i set out for you find on my website, you will get great satisfaction and enjoyment out of raising and breeding them.

Once you have adjusted to your cichlids, you will discover more unique behavior in them. Find pleasure in getting to know your cichlids, and you will find that they will reciprocate your positive behavior.


Once you have added your new fish to your tank , you will find as they settle they will each claim a different area of the environment as their own.Then generally before long you will find one will dominate the whole tank and these are usually the biggest fish. So it is important to start with a small group of the same sort of fish of roughly the same size which will make the settling process not only quicker but literally less painful.

There is several reasons as to why cichlids can get aggressive. It can be jealousy over an enemy trying to steal a potential mate, defending ones food and even defending their little bit of your aquarium.
Cichlid’s will show aggression by flaring their gills and spreading their fins to make itself look as large as possible whilst either standing at the ready or darting about like a crazy fish.

This can progress to tail beating where a cichlid attempts to show off its power by pushing water at its enemy.This can and often does escalate into to a combat situation, which includes mouth locked wrestling and then a lot of chasing one another in attempt to bite.If this behavior persists they may have to be separated for it will surely go on till one dies.

Put a couple of cichlids into a tank and one of them is bound to dominate, while the rest of the bullied population will retreat to their caves. Any way just below are two proven methods to prevent tank aggression amongst your cichlids.

Adjust The Amount Of Shelter Present!

Shelter and “hiding” spots are vital for cichlids to live in any sort of peace. The more areas of cover present, the more chance each fish will have to claim a spot for itself.

If there just isn’t enough rock or wood, your fish will be open game for the aggressive dominant male in the tank. And on the other hand having to much of these materials just makes cleaning your tank a real headache and can lead to possible health problems. You will have to find the equilibrium that’s just right depending on your tank size.

Male to Female Ratio!

Another very important tip is to know your male to female cichlid ratio. Males tend to chase females when they want to breed, and if there is too many males chasing the one female she stands no chance to rest.

This will certainly lead to the death of your female fish.This can also lead to much more males fighting with each other in turn stressing the whole tank environment out.

The best female to male ratio I have used is about three girls to every one boy!

Breeding Behavior!

Breeding behavior among cichlids vary. Some lay their eggs on open surfaces such as rocks, leaves, logs, and substrate—this type of cichlid is an open brooder. Others, on the other hand, need to retreat into caves or crevices to lay their eggs. For this type of cave brooders, it is important that the aquarium has many caves and other hiding places.

Still another form of cichlid breeding is mouth brooding, in which the mother fish carries her eggs in her mouth until they hatch.

Breeding cichlids are a joy to watch. In some open-brooding cichlids, both the male and female parents are involved in caring for their brood, with the male guarding the territory against predators and the female fanning the eggs to increase oxygen supply. There have been some cases of female cichlids eating their young. This is often seen in mouth brooders.

Because mouth-brooding cichlids carry their fry in their mouth, they often go hungry during the entire breeding process and end up eating their fry once hatched. This is why when you suspect that you parent cichlid could be eating its young, it is important to put it in a separate tank to preserve your baby cichlids.


Cichlids are well known for changing their colors to suit the current mood of fish. Most male cichlids will turn much darker in there natural color when breeding time comes around. When some cichlids are stressed or timid, they look pale, but they turn dark or show off brilliant colors when they get angry and aggressive.

Some cichlids simply change color when they are stressed, which can quite often be seen when they have been moved to a new environment. ie. A new aquarium. Not to worry though this will pass as they adjust and get used to their new surroundings. It wont be long before you have adjusted to your cichlids and them to you, will discover more unique behavior in them.

One particular cichlid, the rift lake species, shows shyness and dominance through color. When rift lake cichlids are stressed or timid, they look pale, but they turn dark or show off vibrant colors when they display their aggressive streak. Some cichlids, like the Maylandia crabro, for example, change coloration when they are stressed, such as when they have recently been moved to a new tank.
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