Do African Cichlids Eat Their Fry?


Do African Cichlids Eat Their Fry? (wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

Do African Cichlids eat their fry? This is one of the questions that every aquarium hobbyist should be able to answer.

Well, the truth of the matter is that African Cichlids do eat their fry. It may sound scary to any upcoming African Cichlid breeder but there is always a remedy to this vice.

African Cichlids have a tendency of keeping their young ones in their mouths. This is a move to protect their fry as opposed to eating them.

However, this species of fish is notorious for eating each other’s fry. As an aquarist, you should have prior knowledge of why this behavior is prevalent among the captivity bred, unlike the wild caught cichlids.

The wild caught cichlids are known to protect their fry by putting them in their mouths. On the other hand, the captivity bred cichlids eat their fry because they are not specially ordered.

This is a worrying trend among the aquarium hobbyists. Therefore, a solution to the problem is needed in time to ensure that the newly bred cichlids survive to adulthood. And the best way to solving this problem is by isolating the fry and placing them into another tank away from the adult cichlids.

If you wish to raise the fry in the same tank alongside their mother, ensure that there is enough food to keep the mother well fed throughout. Doing so will prevent the mother from looking for other food alternatives such as her own fry.

Here is a comprehensive guide to breeding and raising cichlid fry. Read on to find out more about the right procedure to follow if you are looking to become a successful African Cichlid breeder.

Understanding How African Cichlids Breed

Breeding freshwater tank fish is a rewarding venture but a challenging experience. With the right attitude, determination, and skills, nothing should stand in your way to achieving your aquarium fish breeding goals.

Challenges should not give you an excuse for giving up prematurely but help you find the best ways to get everything right. The following tips will help you increase the chances of raising African Cichlid fry from the eggs all the way to maturity.

A number of species of fish are extremely difficult to breed in the fish tank environment. But with the right conditions, you can easily breed and raise some species of fish such as African Cichlids.

Large breeds of African Cichlids are capable of laying hundreds of eggs but only a handful fry survive to adulthood when raised in the community tank.

Certainly, this is not the best breeding practice for a serious breeder. If you really want to breed cichlids and raise them in large numbers to maturity, then you should think out of the box. This means you need to set up an African Cichlid fry tank separately from the usual breeding fish tank

. When separated from the rest of community tank fish, you can rest assured that the majority of cichlid will grow to maturity. A separate tank gives them greater chances of survival.

Breeding African Cichlids Successfully

Generally speaking, breeding cichlids need you to have prior knowledge of how these fish behave. Most of the seasoned breeders will tell you that cichlids are divided into two major groups in relation to their breeding habits.

The first group consists of mouthbrooders while the second one contains substrate spawners. Knowledge of these two separate groups is crucial, especially when handling each species of cichlid individually.

Starting with the mouthbrooders, you need to know their mating behavior. Mouthbrooding species follows the mating habit that is not so different from the rest of other cichlid species.

Surprisingly, the African Cichlid species belong to this category. After laying their eggs, one of the mating pairs will collect all the eggs in the mouth until they hatch. Mostly the females take up the task of collecting the eggs in their mouths while the males assume the responsibility of fertilizing them afterward.

To some extent, a handful of species of cichlids end up exhibiting paternal mouthbrooding. This means the males take the role of collecting eggs in their mouths with the aim of hatching them.

After hatching, the fry resort to staying close to their parents while growing. In return, the parents provide them with protection and food, the two most basic requirements for their growth and development.

After the mouthbrooding species, the second group is the substrate spawning. This group is divided even further into several groups based on the location they deposit their eggs.

While others prefer scattering their eggs across a wider area on the substrate, a few of them choose to deposit their eggs on flat surfaces or prepare a nest by digging in the substrate before depositing their eggs there.

Despite their diverse breeding methods, all cichlid species have one common behavior; guarding their eggs. Mouthbrooding species guards in their mouths while the substrate spawners guard their eggs where they deposit them until hatching.

In the course of the breeding season, you will realize that cichlid especially the African Cichlid will become aggressive and territorial. Obviously, this is the only way of protecting their eggs or fry until they become mature enough to be on their own.

Raising the Fry in a Nursery Tank

Once your African Cichlids have spawned, the first step to take is to separate the parent fish from their fry. You can do so by removing it from the breeding tank and transferring it to a community tank. But make sure that you carry out this task only if the breeding fish doesn’t exhibit any parental care.

Luckily for you, you will discover that the African Cichlid species is capable of taking good care of its fry. Being a mouthbrooding species, it is not strange to discover that the African Cichlid do offer parental care to their young ones for a couple of days or even longer after they hatch.

While this is good news to any hobbyist, nothing should be taken for granted in the assumption that this species provides parental care to the fry. Some research needs to be carried out to determine if your cichlid is indeed capable of taking care of its fry after hatching.

If you find out that your African cichlid is incapable of protecting and providing for their young, then you should separate the adult from the breeding tank as soon as possible.

After the first hatch, the cichlid fry will not need a lot of space. Instead, they will need a safe environment to spend much of their time during the initial stages of their growth

Between the first five and seven days after hatching is complete, your fry will survive on the remains of their yolk sac. In this case, you shouldn’t bother feeding them because doing so will lead to a decrease in the water quality within the tank.

The quality will go down because the food you provide to your fry in their early days will not be consumed but go to waste thus affecting the water quality.

By the time the fry start to show signs of maturity, they need to be transferred to the rearing or nursery tank. The nursery tank is smaller in size and should be decorated sparsely to make water changes easily.

Most significantly you can fill the nursery tank with aquarium water, provide it with the heater and sponge filter in order to ensure that the parameters are perfect for the young African Cichlids.

A week later, you may start planning for the routine water changes. The changing must be between 10 percent and 20 percent of the total amount of water in the tank before the addition of fresh dechlorinated water. At this time, you can start feeding your fry at least two to three times every day with recommended food for the fry.

In the following few weeks, your fry should start to grow and develop into mature cichlid fish. Once you are certain that they are already mature, you may transfer them to the grow-out tank. This is a larger fish tank designed to enable your African Cichlid fry to grow freely.

Setting up The Grow-Out Tank

Your grow-out fish tank for the African Cichlids should be able to accommodate about 20-30 gallons of water. Ensure that your grow-out tank is fully equipped with the necessary heating, filtration, and lighting equipment to provide your growing fish with the right parameters.

Also, it is recommended that you do frequent monitoring of all the parameters in the tank to ensure that the environment your fish is growing in is perfect.

Even though a number of mature fish species adapt well to slight changes in water quality, African Cichlid fry is a little bit sensitive to variations such as the pH or temperature of the water around them. A lot of care is needed to ensure that the right conditions in the grow-out tank are maintained all the time.

When decorating the grow-out tank, you should somehow be creative in one way or the other. You can start by filling the bottom with the correct amount of dark substrate to give the fry enough places to hide. Add some rocks, clay pots or PVC pipes to create crannies and nooks for the young African Cichlids to hide inside.

Don’t forget to include a few live plants such as hygrophila or java moss to provide your fish with oxygen. Most importantly, ensure that the grow-out tank is spacious enough to let your fry swim freely. And when it comes to their diet, make it as balanced as you possibly can and you will be amazed at how fast your African Cichlids will mature.


It is true that African Cichlids eat their fry. This is a common thing especially when the young cichlid are left to grow in the same tank with their parents.

But you can make sure that the majority of the hatched fry survive to maturity by raising them away from their parents.

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