African cichlids can die for various reasons and most of them are related to the care of their owners. This is why learning about the needs of the particular species you want to keep is key.

If you do so, the chances that your cichlids are going to live a long and healthy life are very high.

The thing about African cichlids is that they are especially sensitive to changes in water parameters. Most of them are also aggressive and territorial, meaning that you need to provide them enough space.

Simply put, there are lots of factors to talk about and we are going to bring up all of them in this article.

Reasons why African Cichlids are Dying

Most of the problems that can cause your African cichlid to get sick and die can be prevented in time.

Every fish that people keep at home requires proper care on a daily basis. We are talking about tropical fish that come from African lakes such as Tanganyika, Victoria and Malawi.

Keeping fish in a home aquarium is all about replicating the natural environment of your fish. You also need to make sure that the species in your tank are compatible with each other.

Without further ado, let’s get into the main reasons why African cichlids can get very sick.

1. Poor Water Quality

The rule of thumb is to remove 20 percent of the water weekly and pour in some clean water. Although filters are necessary too, you can’t solely rely on them. All the leftover foods and waste generates over days are going to make the water quality worse and worse.

Not to mention that African cichlids especially generate a lot of waste. Providing them clean, well-oxygenated water is the first step towards making them healthy and thriving.

2. Non-Cycled Tank

Before you put your African cichlids into the aquarium, the water in it has to go through some cycling.

This includes gradually adding ammonia to the water, approximately 4-5 ppm per gallon. For this process, you need to buy ammonia that doesn’t contain any surfactants or scents.

The reason why you need ammonia is because bacteria that break down ammonia into nitrite and then nitrate need to develop in the tank. African cichlids live in high-pH water, which makes ammonia particularly toxic to them.

This practice ensures that your fish are not going to be poisoned with ammonia once you introduce them to the aquarium.

3. Raising Ammonia Level

This point goes back to the importance of water changes and filtration. If you don’t filter the water or change it, ammonia levels are inevitably going to raise. In case you know exactly how to keep it low, then you might not even need to measure it.

But if you are not sure, then you might need to check it from time to time. Again, African cichlids generate a lot of waste, which means a lot of ammonia. Since it is very toxic to them, this is something you need to be careful about. 

4. Overfeeding / Wrong Food

For African cichlids, eating junk food is just as bad as for us, humans. If you have herbivores, feed them the right portion of veggies and algae.

This way, they are going to thrive and be healthy throughout the day. Feeding pastry, flavored cereals or bad quality fish food is not okay.

It is going to make them sick in the long run. Omnivores and carnivores also have a specific diet you need to provide. They need their daily dose of proteins, fibers and such.

Also, cichlids typically need to eat twice a day, the amount they can consume in about 2 minutes. This is how you can avoid overfeeding.

5. Overcrowded Tank

The problem with an overcrowded aquarium is that it can cause a lot of stress to your African cichlids. These species are especially territorial and aggressive. Leaving them little to no space to live is going to make them go insane.

They are going to be so stressed that their immune system is going to suffer a devastating blow from it. As a result, they are going to get so sick that you might not be able to cure them.

Make sure to look into it and buy a tank that is big enough for the African cichlid species you want to keep.

6. Water Temperature

For African cichlids, the water temperature has to be bigger than room temperature. In Lake Tanganyika, Victoria and Malawi, they got used to tropical conditions. The water is warm there all the time in the African climate.

This is why you need to buy a filter and set it to the recommended temperature. Also, be careful during water changes. Pouring in water that is really cold can cause a lot of stress for them.

They are rather sensitive to changes in water temperature and consistent deviations as well.

7. Diseases and Parasites

Diseases and parasites can develop over time if you don’t clean the tank. They can spread rapidly if the water conditions are really bad. Some of them can be even fatal, which is why you need to act immediately once they appear.

Often times, you can easily find remedies for diseases and parasites. If you are not sure what to do, don’t hesitate to call a veterinarian.

How to Keep Your African Cichlids Healthy?

Are you ready to invest that minimum time and effort that is required to keep your African cichlids happy? It is really not a big deal, you only need to be aware of a couple of important facts. These cichlids only need what every other keep-at-home fish need.

They need their diet, pH, temperature, ammonia level, water hardness and tank size to be on-point. Another factor is keeping them with the right tank mates. In case they get sick, there are still a lot of things you can do. Let’s break down each of these factors one-by-one.

1. Good, Balanced Diet

When it comes to feeding your African cichlids, it is more important than anything to keep them on a healthy, balanced diet. The two most common issues among inexperienced fish keepers are buying low-quality fish foods and feeding them the same food every day.

The diet of your cichlids needs variety. You also need to be aware of their needs. Today, it is easier than ever to find out the exact diet your African cichlids need with the help of the Internet.

Keep them on a healthy diet and you will be surprised how beautiful and energetic they can be.

2. Regular Water Changes

Don’t be lazy to change 20 percent of the water every week. Miss it one time and ammonia levels are going to skyrocket. It can completely mess up the water parameters if you leave them in the same water for such a long time.

Dirty water can cause a lot of health problems and even serious diseases. Keep in mind that it’s much easier to change the water than to cure a sick cichlid and more cost-effective as well.

3. Regular Tank Maintenance

You also need to clean up the tank every now and then. It is not such a big deal for your African cichlids to spend time in a temporary container full of water.

Meanwhile, you can remove every accessory from the tank and thoroughly clean it, rinsing and washing every single piece.

A home aquarium is a closed environment so it will get dirty over time. Once you notice some dirt, set some time aside and remove leftover foods or clean the tank in its entirety.

4. Prevent and Combat Diseases Fast

The best ways to prevent diseases are buying healthy foods and keeping the aquarium clean. However, beginner fish keepers are often misinformed.

Or you might have been too lazy to do the necessary maintenance. In case your African cichlids got sick as a result, there are still things you can do.

Identify the disease as soon as possible and act upon it. Lots of the diseases are not that serious, especially if you treat them with antibiotics or proper diet in time.

5. Reduce Stress and Aggression

With African cichlids in the tank, there is really something to reduce when it comes to aggression. One way to reduce it is to keep many of them in the same tank.

The point is to leave enough space for them to swim around and thrive but not enough to establish territories.

This keeps the aggression at bay, thus the stress is going to be reduced as well.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, keeping your African cichlids healthy is not as complicated as you might have thought. If your cichlids keep dying, you can find all the solutions to the problem in this article.

Don’t worry, it takes some time to gain experience and become an all-round fish keeper.

Every fish owner had its own failures at the start. If you have read this article thoroughly, you are already on the right path. Now go ahead and make sure your cichlids won’t get sick ever again!

Written by Fabian

Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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