African Cichlid Rock Setup – All You Need to Know

If you are considering keeping African Cichlids, it is important to be aware of the right aquarium equipment to make their lives easier and more enjoyable.

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One of these is the rocks. Let’s see if we need to spend time buying rocks and, if so, exactly what kind we need.

Do African Cichlids Need Rocks?

Yes, African cichlids need rocks to mimic their natural habitat. Because of their territorial behavior, rocks provide them with landmarks to delimit their territories. If the aquarium does not contain any rocks, they will conclude that the entire tank is their territory.

They also use the gaps and caves between the rocks as shelters when they need to relax, rest or escape from larger fish.

In addition, the rocks also provide a great surface for their eggs to meet.

Not to mention that they can occasionally rub against surfaces during itching or parasitic infections.

It is therefore important to provide them with a suitable habitat by decorating their aquariums with rocks.

What Rocks do African Cichlids Need?

In their natural habitat, cave-dwelling fish usually live in several feet of rock with a fine, soft facade at the bottom.

Unfortunately, it is neither feasible nor practical to have such large rocks in the aquarium.

But what kind of rocks should we be thinking about? What types do you need?

Well, although tufa used to be one of the most popular types for tropical fish, its popularity has now waned. That’s why limestones and dolomites are currently the most popular, as they are not only very practical but also particularly good for maintaining the right water chemistry.

But if you don’t like them, don’t be alarmed – any simple or even artificial stone will do.

Nowadays, rounded rocks up to 11 inches in diameter, preferably dark in color, are most recommended. Fortunately, most of these can be found not only in aquarium shops but also in garden shops.

An important consideration, however, is what kind of rocks to avoid.

The first and most important rule is to avoid those that are sharp or deformed, thus giving our pets the possibility of possible injury.

Examples include lava rocks, which are pieces of lava that have solidified after volcanic eruptions. Although it could be popular in our fish habitat for construction and hiding places, it is still on the banned list because of its hard, sharp, hard-to-mould texture.

Not to mention that its porous nature means that African Cichlids may even try to eat it.

How do You Setup Cichlids Rocks?

The first and most important step is to make sure that your aquarium is under load. The best way to do this is to place the tank on a stand that supports the entire bottom section to provide better load support.

Once this is in place, clean all sides of your aquarium, both inside and out, and then do the same with the stones.

It is important that in African Cichlids aquariums, the rocks are placed first, not the bottom. You can lay the pieces on top of each other, but you can also use them to build bridges and structures. Before finalizing them, make sure you make a plan, as using aquarium glue will permanently glue the pieces together.

If structures are finished, make sure they provide enough space and shelter for your pets. If we judge that they do, we can also test the stability of the enclosures, protecting the health of our fish.

It is also important to be careful with the weight and size of the rocks, as they can easily damage your tank.

When we have determined that their placement is suitable in all respects, we can add the sand that will secure the bottom of our tank. By adding this in afterward, we will help to provide sufficient grip and weight to the rocks, avoiding the possibility of the Cichlids knocking them over.

How to Secure Rocks in Aquarium?

How the rocks are arranged depends largely on their type. The best case is if the surface of your rocks is relatively smooth, as this gives you two options.

One is to stack them in smaller piles, neatly fitting them on top of each other to create what are almost smaller piles of rubble. This is mainly used for decorative purposes, as the resulting gaps and caves will not provide enough space for the fish to hide and spawn.

The second option is to use aquarium glue or silicone glue. However, this must be used in the final version only, as it is so strong that once applied, the rocks will remain that way permanently.

This is also important because some fish may require the rocks to be moved for territorial reasons. However, once they have been glued together, you may need to choose new ones to replace them.

Simply start by making a nice, wide, large base and placing it firmly on the bottom of the aquarium, before laying down the sand or gravel for the bottom. Finally, place the substrate on top. Then gradually place the stones on top, taking extra care to ensure that each piece is very stable.

You can check the stability of each piece by pressing it at different points. This way, if it falls over, we know clearly that we need to adjust our strategy.

Moving upwards, try to place thinner and smaller rocks on top of the pile. Make sure that the cavities you create are large enough for the fish, and that the rocks do not touch and weigh down the glass of the aquarium.


Stones are an essential part of the life of African Cichlids. It’s important to find the most suitable and appropriate pieces and then place them in your tank to create the best and most livable habitat possible.

Be cautious, and be sure to check all aspects of the stones before buying, as this will serve as a home for them, just as it would when choosing your own house.

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