Cichlid Care Made Easy
Just before we get onto the topic of cichlid care here is some info about their locality. All the cichlid fish variants you see in pet shops come from only one scientific family: Cichlidae. This family of fish come from large marine areas around the continent of Africa and the United States. Some species, notably the tilapia has found its way to several parts of Asia.
Cichlid species now exist in continents where they did not originally thrive, either through accidental introduction or intentionally, through aquaculture practices. To date, there are two thousand identified species of cichlids and many more are being discovered, year by year.
The Oscar fish, discus fish and the marbled angelfish come from one family. Many fish keepers take care of these species without realizing that they are in fact, scientifically related to each other.
There’s also a chance that you may have already met a species belonging to the Cichlidae family in a restaurant or even at home. The larger species in this family of fishes are caught or even bred for food.
Caring For Cichlids Is Easy..
Like other animals kept in captivity, there is a minimum amount of care that must be given to cichlids. This section of the article will cover the basics of taking care of cichlids. First, the aquarium or tank should have the right amount of water and the right, consistent temperature.
The goal is to produce an aquatic environment that is close to what the cichlids may find in nature. Many of the commonly available pet cichlids are warm-water fish and prefer a consistent temperature of eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit.
The temperature of the tank has a direct bearing on the activity and metabolism of cichlids, especially the fries. If you have cichlid fries in a warm tank, expect the little fishes to grow twice as fast and be twice as hungry for fry food.
Inversely, a low temperature tank produces less active and less aggressive cichlids. As a cichlid keeper, it’s your job to keep the tank’s temperature ideal – not too hot or not too cold. Do not place the tank outdoors or in a spot in the house where hot sunlight is streaming in unabated throughout the day. An electronic or digital heater would be ideal for a cichlid tank.
As for the pH level of the tank, cichlids love alkaline water (unlike goldfish and other fish species who prefer neutral to slighly acidic water). Use a pH kit to measure the alkalinity of the water (8.5 is a good pH level for cichlids). If you are going to do any adjustments, take some water from the tank and keep the cichlids in a separate tank before you add any chemicals to the water.
Do not add any chemicals to the tank while the fish are still in it, as this may cause shock or even death. Any sudden changes to the immediate environment of the fish should be considered a bad move. If you’re having trouble with acidic water, then you can use soda to adjust the alkalinity of the water easily (and cheaply, too!)
Installing A Filter System..
Water filtration is also important for healthy cichlids. Between sponge filters and under-gravel filters, we highly recommend that you use sponge filters. If a sponge filter is installed correctly in a tank and cleaned regularly, it can be used for your cichlid tank for years. How about under-gravel filters? Under-gravel filters are not as effective and cichlids have a tendency of digging out the tank substrate (which is necessary for effective filtration).
Feeding Your Cichlids..
Cichlids must be fed a variety of fresh, frozen and dry foods. The first step is to identify whether the cichlid is herbivore, carnivore or omnivore. If it’s a meat-eater, then pellets and flakes made with fish meal should be given.
If the cichlid is a herbivore, then avoid giving fishmeal-based foods as this can lead to bloating and eventually, death. Omnivores can be given a combination of plant-based and fishmeal-based commercial foods. Live or frozen food can also be given; just make sure that the live prey/food is disease-free.
Did you know that you can provide cichlids with a natural food source in their tank? All you have to do is to place some rocks in the tank and allow algae to grow on the tanks. Cichlids (even the carnivores) will feed on the algae.
This will ensure that even if you fail to feed them regularly enough, they will not starve. Ideal care always begins in the tank – so avoid overcrowding the aquarium with too many cichlids and always check whether the heater and filter is working.
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