Cichlids (Cichlidae) are a species of fish for tropical freshwater aquariums , of which there are more than 900 registered species, with a very wide geographical distribution.
Most of the Aquarium Cichlids come from Africa , although there are also species from Central and South America , and very few from Southeast Asia, which provides a great variety of aquarium fish of other species.
Although not all of them are suitable to live in aquariums, there is a sufficiently large representation, which brings a good variety and showiness to freshwater aquariums.
Varieties of Cichlids
As I have mentioned, there are more than 900 species of these original fish , but not all of them are available for sale, nor do they all adapt well to life in the aquarium.
When it comes to Cichlids, aquarium enthusiasts usually make two well-differentiated distributions, the African Cichlids and the American Cichlids, to which a third is added, which are the Dwarf Cichlids.
We are going to see the unique characteristics of each of these varieties of Cichlid fish.
The African cichlid come mostly from lakes Malawi , Tanganyika , Victoria and Edward , being the most popular and known of Malawi and Tanganyika lakes, which give name to the species that come from these lakes.
It is thought that there are still quite a few species to be discovered and although we have about 900 described (between African and American Cichlids), it could reach at least 1,600 species of African Cichlids.
African Cichlid Aquarium
The African Cichlids refer to waters with a high pH and gH , with scarce vegetation.
African Cichlidae are prone to moving aquarium plants . The reason is very simple, the lakes they come from do not usually have much vegetation, due to their special conditions.
This custom greatly complicates the development and maintenance of a planted aquarium. But if you still want to contemplate adding some vegetation, the plants that best support its behavior are the Vallisnerias and the Anubias .
Malawai Cichlid Aquarium
The ideal conditions for a Malawi aquarium are:
- pH: 7.5 to 8.5
- gH: 8º to 20º
- Temperature: 25º C
Malawi Cichlids are especially curious as they are mouthbrooders. They are Cichlid fish characterized by a very striking color.
Lake Tanganyika Cichlid Aquarium
The water quality for this aquarium must be within the following parameters:
- pH: 7.5 to 9
- gH: 10º
- Temperature: 25ºC
The big difference between Lake Tanganyika Cichlids and Lake Malawi is in diversity. While those of Tnaganica are very diverse in forms and attitudes, those of Malawi are much more homogeneous.
Varieties of African Cichlids
The American Cichlids, contrary to what happens with the Africans, are more frequently found in rivers than in lakes, such as the Convicted Cichlid, which inhabits the rivers of Central America.
They also tend to require other types of more acidic and soft waters , typical of the rivers in which they live, such as the Negro River or the Amazon.
They contribute a smaller number to the known and named species of Cichlids, only about 200.
American Cichlid Aquarium
American freshwater cichlids prefer planted aquariums . The reason is obvious, their habitats usually have a good amount of aquatic plants.
What both Cichlids agree on is the need for powerful filtration , in addition to having to propose extra oxygenation to the aquarium .
The quality of the water for the American Cichlids has to move in the following parameters:
- pH: Between 4.5 and 6.5
- gH: From 2º to 12º
- Temperature: 25ºC to 30ºC
Dwarf Cichlids can be classified within the American group , since it is common that when talking about these fish we are referring to the Apistograma, Microgeophagus and Nanacara genera, varieties that do not usually exceed 10 centimeters.
They are fish with a calm character , which can share space with a wide variety of fish.
We can apply the same water quality needs to them as for American Cichlids, taking into account that they are quite delicate, and that you have to show a lot of control over the aquarium.
Varieties of American Cichlids
Habits and customs
Most of the Cichlids reach a size of between 5 cm and 30 cm inside the aquarium.
To the attractiveness of its coloration and shapes, we must add its more than interesting reproduction habits, since these species are very attentive with their young, while other species eat them.
As we are talking about a very broad genus, the behavior between individuals of the same species, and with the rest of the inhabitants of the aquarium is quite uneven.
As a rule we can say that they are quite territorial, so it is necessary to have a good size aquarium if we introduce several specimens.
They usually swim in the lower part of the aquarium, where we must provide them with shelter where they feel safe.
They are omnivores, they will not have problems when it comes to being fed in the aquarium. Cichlidae are usually fed live prey, freeze-dried food and industrial foods designed for them: scales, granules … You have to be careful with their feeding in captivity, since they tend to suffer from overfeeding.
To avoid this point, they should be fed twice a day, with all they can eat, but for a short period of time.
Its reproduction in home aquariums is relatively simple, for those varieties adapted to home aquariums.
It is usually important that the couple be of a similar age, because if not, they tend to face each other and see each other as adversaries.
It is necessary to distinguish two main types of laying, those made on the substrate of the aquarium , and the one that takes place in caves.
Some species carry out mouth incubation, in which the fertilization of the eggs occurs in the female’s mouth.
Maintenance of a cichlid aquarium
Aquariums for Cichlidae should be spacious. The ideal aquarium should be long and wide, regardless of the height of the urn , since most of these fish require enough space to swim.
Inside the aquarium you have to strategically place stones and wooden logs , so that they can have their shelter and define their territory.
Although it is always a good idea to have plants in the aquarium , to help us improve the maintenance process, the Africans tend to move them, making their maintenance very difficult.
However, Americans are usually perfect in planted aquariums. In any case, it is best that the plants are well anchored, to avoid having to fix the interior of the aquarium every day.
A very important point to have a good Cichlid aquarium is to take care of the filtration system.
Cichlids are fish that stain a lot, so we must have a good filter , and also think about providing a good amount of extra oxygen.
The lighting of the aquarium is not a point of conflict for cichlids. Normal lighting with fluorescent tubes is more than enough, unless we have plants that require higher luminescence environments.
Many hobbyists like to introduce led lamps , which highlight the natural color of the Cichlidae .