Cichlids are fish of the family Cichlidae, which is an important and large family of perciform fish. The family includes more than thousands of species of freshwater fish. With their diverse body shapes and stunning colors, cichlids are some of the most popular aquarium fish. The popular angelfish also belongs to the family of Cichlidae, along with discus fish, convict cichlid, and oscar fish.
If you want to keep these exotic fish as pets, then it is very important to replicate the conditions that prevail in their natural habitat. So, set up an ideal aquarium with appropriate filtration system, and be sure to maintain the appropriate level of temperature and pH in the aquarium.
The aquarium for keeping these fish should be a large one. Usually, a 20 gallon tank can be used to set up an aquarium. The tank should be cleaned thoroughly by rinsing with water. But be sure to not use soap to clean the tank, as soap can be detrimental to their health. Filtration is very important to keep the aquarium water clean. A sponge filter can be used, if the aquarium is not too large. Apart from sponge filters, several other types of filters are also available.
Along with the filter, you will also need an air pump, gravel, and a thermometer. If the water contains chloramine, then a chloramine remover will be required to protect your fish from chlorine. You can include rocks and plants in your aquarium to create an environment similar to the natural habitat of cichlids. You can also opt for live or false plants, depending on whether the live plants can survive the high pH level of the aquarium water. Some species of cichlids live primarily in a rocky environment, and so, they may prefer to live in an aquarium filled with rocks rather than plants.
You need to maintain the ideal temperature and pH of the aquarium water. To maintain the ideal range of temperature in your aquarium, you can set up a heater along the back wall of the tank. Keep the temperature between 74 to 82°F. Do not keep the aquarium in a sunny area. This can help avoid temperature fluctuations.
The pH level of water should be maintained between 7.5 to 8.5, as cichlids prefer alkaline water. If the water is acidic, a substrate can be used to maintain the alkalinity of water. You can use common soda, limestone, or crushed coral and gravel to make the water alkaline. Water in a closed environment like aquarium can become dirty quite rapidly. So, change the water once in a week. However, do not change more than 10% of the aquarium water at a time.
Remember to go slow and avoid overfeeding, especially for the first few days. It is preferable to add small amounts of food to the aquarium frequently, instead of adding a large amount at a time. You can use a variety of foods, including cichlid flakes and pellets. Many also opt for frozen and live foods as well.
There are basically two types of breeders - open brooders and shelter brooders. The open brooders lay eggs in the open, such as on a rock or substrate. The shelter brooders can be cavity brooders or mouth brooders. The cavity brooders spawn in cavity or caves, while the mouth brooders carry the eggs and the fry in their mouth till they can swim freely. The open brooders, on the other hand, care for the young ones till they can swim and eat on their own.
The factors that are important for successful breeding are the health of the fish, their diet, and age. It is preferable to get several females for one male. Feeding more protein-rich food at the time of breeding can prove quite helpful. For the mouth brooders, you can provide sheltered places, like rocks and plants. This can prove immensely beneficial for them.
Maintain the ideal temperature and alkalinity of water to facilitate breeding, as well as hatching of the eggs. For harvesting cichlids, you can allow the female to release the fry in a separate tank. This can help protect the fry from other adult fish. The fry will grow quickly, if you provide healthy food, along with an ideal growing environment.
A large aquarium is usually preferred over a small one, mainly to reduce aggression among cichlids. In a small aquarium, the fish tend to get more aggressive. Aggression is observed to be more intense among fish of equal sizes. Hence, it is better to keep fish of different sizes in an aquarium. You can also lower the water temperature, which can help slow down the rate of metabolism and thus lower aggression among cichlids. Even keeping a lower male population, and isolating the breeding pairs can help control aggression.