It is undisputed fact that African cichlids are a wonderful fish species to be included in any given aquarium. That is if you are looking to add diversity and dramatic colorful swimming in your fish tank.
African cichlids have what it takes to make your aquarium lively and vibrant throughout. This is due to their uniqueness in behavior and general appearance. Every aquarist will tell you that this type of fish is a must-have for a number of reasons. Some of the obvious reasons include their ease of breeding, bright coloration, their sizes and ability to tolerate varying water conditions.
On the flip side of the story, these fish are not for beginners because they are relatively harder to maintain compared to other tropical fish. Also, adequate planning is necessary especially when setting up your aquarium.
This is because African cichlids, which are native to African rift lakes, are very aggressive in their behavior. Their aggression is one of the most interesting things you will notice with these magnificent aquarium fish.
This article is going to take you on a fact-finding mission regarding the aggressive behavior of African cichlids and how it can be reduced to make them coexist with other species of fish in aquarium setup.
Eliminating Aggression in African Cichlids
To make your cichlids less aggressive, there are methods you need to adopt. These methods include keeping fish of similar size or temperament behavior in the same tank, placing the fish of different patterns and coloration together, proper feeding, putting together the fish that live on different levels in the tank, ensuring that there is enough horizontal space in the aquarium, providing enough cover, overstocking, sexing your cichlids and changing the arrangement of your aquarium.
Keeping Same Size and Temperament Together
It is a well-known fact that African cichlids are of different species and sizes. Upon reaching their maturity, African cichlids assume their respective sizes with a good number of them looking larger than others. As an aquarium hobbyist, this is a very good point to be at your fingertips given that most cichlids are sold when they’re still young. At their juvenile stage, these fish look nearly of the same size making it impossible to differentiate them. To be on the safe side, you need to conduct some research prior to acquiring any species for your aquarium.
This way, you will be able to eliminate the mistakes of placing a larger species in the same tank with a smaller one. If that happens, there’s a possibility of you waking up to find the smaller species wiped out completely.
Also, you need to ensure that the species you are keeping together in the tank have the same temperaments. Otherwise, combining a highly aggressive fish with a less aggressive one will lead to something else. It is likely that the aggressive species will take advantage of the docile one and make its life unbearable.
As such, you need to place aggressive species together so they may fend for themselves. The fact that they are a match, you can rest assured that no one will turn against the other. Keep at the back of your mind that different species display different degrees of temperament. But quite a number of species are likely to get along well with other types of fish in the same aquarium environment.
Placing Species of Different Patterns and Coloration Together
When in the wild, the African cichlids perceive others within their species as potential competitors. As such, they would resort to harassing their own constantly while not touching other species at all. Cichlids have a tendency of looking at the patterns and color of other fish species with the aim of trying to see if there is a similarity between them.
Take a good example from the demasoni, the type of cichlid that is identified from its black and blue stripes (native to Lake Malawi). If this species is combined with other fish-bearing similarities to its appearance, there’s the likelihood of it becoming more aggressive.
You can change the aggressive behavior of African cichlids by simply keeping them together with other species bearing various patterns and colors that they will not have a problem with. With the availability of thousands of cichlids out there, you cannot fail to find those that will be compatible with your African cichlids.
Providing them the Right Diet
Another aggressive behavior that is common among the African cichlids is their tendency to be territorial. In most cases, cichlids become territorial when mating but they can also exhibit similar behavior due to the scarcity of food. As you know, animals compete for food as one of the major factors influencing their survival.
The same is true with the African cichlids, especially where there is the scarcity of food. These species of fish get aggressive and resort to guarding their territory in a bid to protect the little food they have at that particular moment. But when food is in plenty, they rarely become aggressive or territorial. It doesn’t mean that you should overfeed them to reduce their aggression.
It is just a reminder that they need to feed properly at specific intervals. Therefore, you can always follow your feeding routine of two or three times a day to keep them less hungry. With the good feeding practices, your African cichlids will not become aggressive to other fish as such.
Occupying Various Levels in the Fish Tank
Inasmuch as there are different species of aquarium fish out there, the truth is that each species has its own level it occupies in the aquarium. It is the same way different types of fish occupy various zones in the wild. There are those that choose to stay at the rocky shores while others swim freely in the open waters and the majority makes the sandy bottom their home. The same case scenario is true with the fish in the aquarium where different species occupy different levels.
And when it comes to African cichlids, you will realize that they tend to stay at the bottom of the tank most of the time. For that reason, ensure that you include all zones or levels when setting up your tank for different fish to occupy.
Provide Enough Horizontal Space
By now you should know that cichlids occupy the bottom part of the tank. As such providing enough horizontal space when setting your tank up is a sound idea if you truly want to reduce their aggression. Even though your tank might be having enough vertical space, that does not deter the African cichlids from showing their aggressiveness towards other docile It is a good idea to have your tank with shorter vertical space and longer horizontal space.
The extra horizontal space will enable you to find better ways of including multiple hiding places along the bottom where the less aggressive fish can hide. In addition, the extra length will ensure that each fish has enough space to make their own territory. After all, different species of fish are known to fight for their own territory in an aggressive manner.
Provide Adequate Cover
It is advisable to study different species of fish before introducing them to your aquarium. This is very important considering that there are those native to rocky habitats, hence the need to include a few rocky areas in your tank. The main reason for doing so is to provide them with enough caves in order to prevent them from fighting over a few that are available.
Apart from that, rocky areas will provide enough room for less aggressive fish to hide from the dominant species.
Sexing Your African Cichlids
Aggression issues arise between males fighting over females during mating times. As usual, a dominant male will become aggressive towards other potential male competitors by fiercely driving them away. In this case, it will be wise of you to reduce the number of male cichlids in the aquarium. This move ensures that there are very few males for the available females during mating seasons.
Avoid Overcrowding African Cichlid Tank
Overcrowding plays a very significant role in curbing aggression among cichlids. Why is the case? When overcrowded in a tank, it becomes extremely difficult for some aggressive fish to focus on others most of the time. In other words, it gets difficult for the dominant fish to single out their victims. However, you need to be on the watch out when overcrowding your tank because you will need to provide the required tank parameters to handle the crowd.
Changing the Arrangement in Your Tank
Rearing your aquarium is a good idea, especially when you are bringing another cichlid species. The new arrangement ensures that the already established cichlid do not fight the new species over available space. You can rearrange your aquarium by moving the rocks to new positions while creating room for the new species as well as creating equal chances for every fish to occupy their territories.
Additionally, this is a routine exercise that should be done at least every 2 to 3 months to help in breaking up the territorial strongholds. This way, you will be able to reduce aggression to manageable levels.
Are African cichlids aggressive? Yes, they are very aggressive when it comes to fighting over territories and during mating time. However, you can make them coexist with other less aggressive species by reducing their aggression to certain levels as discussed above.