African Cichlid Filter System – All You Need to Know

The right filter is essential for perfect aquarium water quality. Therefore, it is important to do enough research and discuss with others how exactly the equipment you want to choose works to ensure a healthy environment for your fish.

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After all, it is important to get the most out of these devices and to tailor them to the type of aquarium we want to set up.

But what demands do African Cichlids make on water filtration equipment? What aspects should we take into account when designing our tank?

In the following article, we have tried to gather the most important information.

Do African Cichlids Need a Filter?

Well, the answer is yes. In fact, their living water must be extremely well filtered.

It’s important to know that African cichlids are actually one of the few fish species for which it is important to be well prepared and careful when designing a filtration system. These are the fish that experienced aquarists encourage their novice keepers to slightly over-filter the water to reduce fish aggression.

Also, remember that they are very messy when it comes to feeding or carrying out their biological processes.

To meet their increased needs, we recommend the double filtration method, which is designed to filter nearly 10 gallons of water per hour, providing them with adequate water flow and water clarity.

Filter System Setup for African Cichlids

There are three different ways to filter aquarium water: biological, chemical and mechanical. Unfortunately, however, certain types of materials are more critical for African Cichlids aquariums.

So, let’s look at what you need to know about these three-filtration media.

– Mechanical

Mechanical filtration removes physically visible impurities from the water. For this purpose, for example, a sponge or filter cartridge is used as a filter material in external filters.

Although mechanical filtration can remove contaminants such as aquatic plant leaves, fish feces and uneaten fish food, which are relatively large in size, smaller contaminants often pass through the filter media and can cause clouding.

– Biological

This type of filtration is the most important in their aquarium. Materials that provide biological filtration, such as glass and ceramic rings, pellets and lava stones, do not directly purify the water but provide a habitat for bacteria that convert substances that leave the fish’s digestive system and enter the water through respiration into nutrients that are useful to plants.

High oxygen content in the water is essential for this process to work smoothly.

One of the best filter media for this filtration process is Biohome Ultimate Filter Media, made of premium quality sintered glass. Its filtering capacity is extremely good, but its excellent composition and large contact surface area effectively remove excess nitrite, nitrate and ammonia from the water.

– Chemical

In chemical filtration, the chemical filter absorbs decomposing contaminants and removes ammonia and other substances that color the water, which unfortunately appear in every new aquarium.

The best known and most commonly used versions are activated carbon and resin.

Best Filter for African Cichlids

For African Cichlids aquariums, as mentioned above, double filtration is recommended. For this reason, we cannot forget the external filter, which, as the name suggests, must be connected to the outside of the aquarium.

The water is fed into this through an inlet pipe and, after the filter material has been properly cleaned, is pumped back into the aquarium.

The external filter can accommodate a wide variety of filter media, such as felt, ceramic or foam, and does not take up any space inside the tank.

In addition, an important aspect is that as they are located outside the aquarium, they are much easier to maintain than the inside and are less exposed to impact. They, therefore, need to be cleaned less often. It is usually recommended that they are cleaned when their efficiency has started to deteriorate spectacularly.

One of the most recommended versions is the canister filter, which is a high-performance, highly reliable pneumatic filter pump. It provides three filtration processes simultaneously. Its filter materials are activated carbon, black bio-foam and white cotton filter. Low energy consumption and low noise level.

For an external filter, depending on the size of your aquarium, consider the Fluval FX4 High-Performance Aquarium Filter, which can be used up to 250 gallons.

This multi-stage filter can purify up to 700 gals of water per hour while using advanced technology to continuously monitor and optimize pump performance. Plus, it’s fully self-starting. Just add water and plug it in and it does the job.

And, of course, thanks to its extremely compact design, it doesn’t take up much space and can be easily placed under or next to your aquarium.

However, if you want a tank larger than 250 gallons, you should consider a more powerful model, code-named FLUVAL FX6. This can be used for aquariums up to 400 gallons.

How Should You Setup Filter Media?

There is one thing that should always be the same, regardless of the type of aquarium or filtration system. And that is the order of the filter media.

Mechanical filtration must be the first step, followed by biological filtration. Chemical filtration should be the last step in the sequence.

This is important because after mechanical filtration, the pores are no longer clogged with larger, visible debris and so the beneficial bacteria have enough space to grow without any problems.

Once the biological filtration is complete, we can move on to the third step, where the chemical media extracts substances from the water and introduces chemicals that would interfere with the beneficial bacteria.

How Often to Clean the Filter?

The external filters are relatively easy to clean, but unlike the internal filters, this is not necessary as often. On average, it is advised to clean at least once every 3-4 months, but no later than when their efficiency has been spectacularly reduced.

Although it is also true for internal filters that they should be cleaned when their efficiency has deteriorated, this is much more frequent, approximately every 2 weeks.

How Long Can African Cichlids Survive Without Filter?

It happens to all of us that a device accidentally breaks, the filter gets clogged, malfunctions or becomes inoperable for reasons beyond our control.

This creates a stressful situation not only for us but also for our pets. In fact, for them, the situation can easily become life-threatening.

However, how long our African cichlids can survive in such conditions depends on several factors. In such cases, the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water can vary rapidly depending on the condition of the aquarium and the equipment.

The number of living plants in your tank is an important consideration, as they photosynthesize and release oxygen into the water, which African Cichlids inhale through their gills. If you have more plants in your fish habitat, you usually don’t need a separate aeration system for them.

In this case, with a non-functioning filter, our pets can survive for a long time. The interval can be more or less depending on the number of fish in your tank, as with more fish in a larger population, the water level can reach toxic levels sooner.

Consequently, we also need to know that if we do not have any living plants, an aeration system is justified for our fish. In the case of a non-functioning filter, the aeration system can keep our fish alive for a few days, but the problem needs to be rectified as soon as possible, as aeration systems are not very effective.

Let’s assume, however, that our aerator has become inoperable, but our filtering equipment is showing some activity, even if it is weak. Under these conditions, our African Cichlids may be able to survive for a day.

Unfortunately, if the filter and aerator fail at the same time, our fish will have barely a few hours before they die. In such a situation, immediate action is required.

That’s why it’s important not to overcrowd your tank with fish and to try to maintain the most livable water conditions and least stressful lifestyles for them even when your equipment is working perfectly, to give them the best chance of survival when conditions change unexpectedly, such as when a filter fails or breaks down.


So a well-chosen and well-designed filter system can be extremely important for our African Cichlids. It is important to be properly prepared and well informed. Get the right and necessary equipment and set up a dual filter cleaning system for your fish.

Monitor their condition regularly. If you notice even a slight change in their efficiency, it is worth cleaning them. Do not wait for a possible clogging, as a light agent can lead to the death of your pet. Of course, cleaning them will take some time and effort, but this is the responsibility we take on when we set out to build a tropical aquarium.

However, if you want to be sure that your fish have a safe habitat and can survive, it is worth getting some plants that not only oxygenate the water but also have several other positive effects.

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