Best Rocks for African Cichlids – The Ultimate Guide

African Cichlids are very territorial fish, which is why it is particularly important for them to live among rocks and stones. It is therefore essential to provide them with caves and hiding places to maintain a suitable habitat and environment. Choosing the best rocks for African cichlids is important when setting up your aquarium.

best rocks african cichlids

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But which are the best rocks for African cichlids? Which types should we get for your fish? In this article, we’ve put together a list of the best rocks for African cichlids to consider for your aquarium.

Why do African Cichlids Need Rocks?

First and foremost, we need to know why stones are an essential part of tropical fish life.

African cichlids are highly territorial. They use stones to delimit and mark their territories. If there are no rocks to bind their territories to, they can easily claim the entire aquarium as their own. Their aggressive behavior is then heightened, and they find it difficult to tolerate other fish around them, especially their kind.

They also like to hide in crevices between rocks, caves and boulders, thanks to their cave-dwelling behavior. They consider these burrows their home and retreat to them as soon as they become a little stressed, want to be calm or are trying to escape from larger fish that may be a threat to them.

It is also important to bear in mind that African Cichlids can also attach their eggs to stones as well as plants, so it is particularly important to choose the right aquarium decorations carefully.

What Type of Rocks are Safe for African Cichlids?

In their natural habitat, cave-dwelling fish usually live-in rocks up to several feet in size, with a fine, soft forehead at the bottom. However, it is neither feasible nor practical to have such large rocks in your aquarium.

But what type of rocks should we get?

Although tufa used to be one of the most popular types for tropical fish, its popularity has declined. For this reason, you can also choose limestone and dolomite, which are particularly good for maintaining the right pH and hardness levels in the water.

However, if these do not appeal to you, don’t be put off, as any simple or even artificial stone will do, provided you know what to choose.

We recommend a maximum diameter of 11 inches and preferably dark-colored, rounded stones. Fortunately, most of these are not only available in aquarium shops, but also in garden shops.

Best Rocks for African Cichlids

So, let’s take a look at the types that more experienced aquarists recommend for keeping their fish.

– Voulosimi Natural Slate Rocks

These dark rocks come in different shapes and sizes and are a great choice for African cichlids tanks. With these rocks, you can create a natural environment for your fish and you can use them with confidence because do not alter the pH level.

Thanks to their different sizes, you can create caves and hiding places for your cichlids and you can glue these rocks together with aquarium glue.

These dark stones make a perfect choice for yellow lab tanks or other bright-colored cichlids, because with these rocks you can create a strong contrast between your ish and their environment.


– Aqualexs Aquarium Ohko Dragon Stone

Dragon stones are a very well-known and popular rock type among aquarists. It gets its name from its unique appearance and texture, which has a scale-like look. It is also available in shades of yellow, brown and red, making it a striking addition to your tank.

The Ohko Dragon Stone has a clay-like texture which makes it easy to break and mold. This makes it a beautiful addition to the style of your aquarium.

Available in different sizes, although the largest rocks are about 12 inches. Being hollow, it weighs considerably less than normal stones. This means they do not weigh down your aquarium and are not nearly as heavy.

However, this also means that we need to place them as safely and stably as possible to avoid your fish tipping them over.


– Texas Holey Rock

Texas holey rocks are another popular choice among African cichlid keepers. These stones provide a natural environment for your fish and also for beneficial bacteria. These rocks have lots of holes, caves and surface areas, where beneficial bacteria can settle.

The texas holey rock is a natural limestone rock, which affects the water pH level. One rock will not make significant changes in the water chemistry, however, 40-50 pounds of texas holey stones can raise the pH level quite a lot. So take this in consideration when picking this rock type.


Rocks You Should Avoid

The most important rule is to avoid any stone that is not properly secured. This mainly means stones that are too sharp or deformed.

Fish are not the smartest creatures. That’s why, as they love to rub against rocks and stones, they will do the same in our aquariums. And they are not deterred by the sharpness or sharpness of a rock. Especially if it is located near the entrance to their home.

By rubbing their bodies against it, we can see many pieces of scales and skin in the water, as well as many injuries on the bodies of our fish. Although they can heal relatively quickly, the wounds will not prevent them from continuing their previous activities in the same spot.

It is therefore advisable to dull these surfaces with a hand file or grinder.

In addition, try to avoid lava stones, which are rocks of cooled, solidified lava after volcanic eruptions. They can vary in color depending on their geographic location, but the best-known types are black, red and grey.

They have a very hard consistency, which makes them very good for construction and hanging plants. Their holey varieties can be a good hiding place for fish.

They are also very sharp and difficult to shape. Because of their porous nature, African Cichlids may even try to eat them.

Nevertheless, the hard elements that are released can harden the soft water of our fish, making it difficult for them to live.

african cichlid tank size

Why do African Cichlids Rub on Rocks?

This is one of the most common questions African Cichlids keepers have about why their pets rub up against rocks and other aquarium decorations. Sooner or later, you will notice this behavior in all your specimens.

However, however natural this may be, it is worth monitoring them to ensure that they are not harmed and to rule out the possibility of infection.

The unusual behavior is usually due to simple itching, which is quite natural in these fish. They rub against stones in an attempt to soothe the discomfort. This is why it is so important to decorate your aquarium with well-chosen items, as they are easily injured by a sharp object and, although they heal quickly, it is better to avoid any injuries.

Unfortunately, if rubbing becomes commonplace, we have to consider the other cause, which is much more serious but relatively rare in aquariums. This is a parasitic infestation. The best known is Ick, to which African Cichlids often fall victim.

Once the parasite has attacked the individuals, numerous cysts begin to appear on their bodies and fins. These cysts can be imagined as salt crystals beginning to cover the surface of the fish.

The cysts cause intense itching, which they try to fight by rubbing against rocks and stones in an attempt to get rid of unwanted parasites.

How to Set Up Rocks in a Cichlids Tank?

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 stones are removed 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 stones, 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.


These fish are not only beautiful but also somewhat demanding creatures. It is therefore essential that we do all we can to provide them with the right habitat.

Before we decorate our aquarium and buy our fish, we should carefully research all the information and make a plan of how we want our tropical world to look.

Most stones are inexpensive and easy to obtain. Let’s try to combine them in a variety of ways, with the best possible design. This will not only allow your fish to live a peaceful life but also help them to reproduce and maintain the chemical balance of the water.

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