10 Fun & Interesting Facts about African Cichlids

Cichlids are the most numerous and diverse fish species on earth. And just around the African rift lakes (more precisely, a total of 3 lakes), there are more than 500 species known today.

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Therefore, there are many diverse specifications about African cichlids, and we have collected the 10 funniest facts about these amazingly colored fish. And who knows, you may even decide to adopt some after reading them.

1. Various Size & Color

The African cichlid family is extremely differentiated and that is exactly what makes these fish so special. They can vary a lot between them according to their size and colors.

For instance, some smaller dwarf species such as the shell-dwelling multis never exceed an inch in length. Oppositely, large variations such as the Boulengerochromis microlepis can grow up to even 36 inches in body length.

When it comes to coloration, the possibilities are endless here. This is all thanks to their genetics and many different species being discovered, but also as a consequence of recent crossbreeding activities from professional breeders and enthusiasts.

From dark brown variations to vibrant combinations of reds and yellows, these fish can feature them all. As well as the most diverse patterns, too.

2. Change Color

Another cool factor related to coloration among African cichlids is not just their diversification, but also their naturally embedded ability of actually changing their colors over time. How amazing is that?

Males are able of changing their color according to their dominant position among a group. The more dominant a male is, the more vibrant will its coloration be.

Oppositely, males which are not strong or young enough to become dominant will feature more pale color variations. But not only. The intensity of their colors depends on other numerous factors such as available light sources, but also on the different stress levels they are under as well as the quality of their food.

All in all, they make fish pets around which you will never ever get bored.  

3. Food & Diet

Different species of African cichlids mean different organism types. Indeed, their feeding preferences can vary drastically between the types of fish. Most of them are herbivores and omnivores, but there are also some completely carnivores little predators among the family.

Furthermore, if we take in consideration the carnivores species, they vary hugely between them as well. And they vary mostly according to the shape and ultimate strength of their jaw.

For instance, some fish types are powerful enough to literally crush the shells of the mollusks they want to feed on and require no previous food processing. Others focus on their agility and may suction the legs of the shellfish, forcing the pray to leave its protective home and become a meal soon enough.

4. Mouthbrooders

Not all African cichlids are mouthbrooders, but the very majority of them are. That means that one of the parents will carry their eggs inside their mouth for several days, until they are ready to hatch. And in most cases, it is the female which will mouth brood, not the male.

These amazing fish reproduce by spawning. When ready to breed, the female will release her eggs nearby the nesting area which the male has carefully chosen and prepared. Next, he will happily hoover over the released eggs and will fertilize them.

This is followed by the female which collects all of the eggs again and stores them safely inside her mouth. She can carry them around until they hatch, but she can also allow her babies to hide inside for a while when feeling threatened or endangered. Quite the responsible parents!

5. Brood Care

Non-depending on the way of how they decide to take care of their babies, all fish belonging to this family are greatly nursing parents. Some species carry their fry inside their mouth and this is their way of keeping them safe and protected from various natural predators.

Others, which are not able of mouthbrooding, will guard their eggs and fry with extreme caution. Moreover, some particular species of African cichlids can even perform a mixture of both.

6. Long Lifespan

If we take in consideration their medium or sometimes tiny body sizes, these fish have a decently long-life expectancy. This will obviously vary a lot between different species, but a relatively medium lifespan is around 8 to 10 years. Therefore, you can expect your beloved fish to spend a nice part of your life by your side.

Some species can live as briefly as 3 or 4 years, but there are others which are known for surviving up to even 15 years.

7. Aggressive

Even though fish belonging to the family seems quite cute and friendly with their simple body shapes and amazingly vivid colorations, they are actually famous for being quite the aggressive little creatures.

The reasons hiding behind their naturally high levels of aggression are related to their overly territorial temperaments and characters. These are largely enhanced during the breeding season, or even when protecting their recently hatched fry.

Moreover, they can often fight for their food. Therefore, if one wants to minimize the chances of attacks between these fish, there should be enough horizontal space for them to swim around freely, plenty of food sources, and lots of great rocky hiding spots.

8. Big Tank Size

Although they are not generally large species of fish, their tank size requirements are. Indeed, African cichlids need lots of space to thrive. This is intricately linked to their universally aggressive behavior, and a large tank can greatly decrease the odds of territorial attacks.

Moreover, they require longer tanks rather than deeper ones, as basically, all cichlid species love spending their time towards the bottom levels of aquariums.  

Adding to that, they tend to produce quite some waste when compared to their body size, so large tanks can help their keepers in maintaining stable water parameters.

9. Disturb the Substrate

These adorable substrate diggers love performing tank re-decorations, especially when the bottom levels are in question. First of all, they are rock dwellers, so they simply adore having plenty of rocky decorations and caves around their tanks.

But moreover, they also love digging their substrate up. African cichlids can use the substrate bottoms to hide, look for food, place their eggs, or to simply play around. Whatever the reason may be, such behavior is part of their natural instincts and cannot be stopped.

Instead, you can cichlid-proof your tank by attaching the plants directly on rocks and decorations and have some fun time while observing your colorful decorators doing their own thing.

10. Heavy Eaters

Nonetheless, if your cichlids feed by scratching the rock surfaces for algae or attacking insects that pass by them, they all tend to be quite heavy eaters. And indeed, this is one of the main reasons which makes them become overly aggressive sometimes, but also to produce larger amounts of waste than other fish do.

These foodies can become extremely stressed if there is not an abundance of food around, so some keepers prefer feeding their pets even 3 or 4 times per day.

Obviously, you should still be really careful not to overfeed them, as this can soon develop into a highly dangerous and even life-threatening situation.

Wrapping Up

African cichlids can be described with a lot of words, but boring certainly is not one of the appropriate ones. These fish are so different from each other, presenting various body shapes and amazingly diverse colorations, but still featuring some common lines such as being greatly responsible and caring parents.

We hope that our list of 10 fun facts about African cichlids has been as interesting as these fish are. And if you are now thinking of adorning your living room with these beauties, you certainly will not be sorry.

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