Are African Cichlids Good for Beginners?

Are you about to set up your first home aquarium? Then buying African cichlids is probably not the best idea for you.

There are some amazing colorful fish to choose from in this family of species indeed. However, they require the kind of special care you might not be ready for.

As a beginner fish keeper, you should start with a couple of species that are easy to take care of. Then, as you gain experience, you can try to keep some African cichlids as well.

In this article, we are going to explain why cichlids from lake Malawi, Tanganyika and Victoria require a higher level of care.

5 Reasons Why African Cichlids are Not Beginner Fish

There are indeed many species to choose from when it comes to African cichlids, but are all of them hard to take care of? Well, some of them are less demanding for sure.

The thing about these cichlids is that they share certain traits and characteristics that require you to be an advanced fish keeper.

When keeping African cichlids, the rule of thumb is to try to recreate their natural environment in your home aquarium.

Most cichlids are very territorial, aggressive and predatory as well. Therefore, keeping them together in a community tank can be quite challenging.

Without further ado, let’s delve into the 5 reasons that make them hard to keep.

1. They Get Big

African cichlids are in a completely different category than most of the other little species that people usually keep at home. They are bigger, stronger and more aggressive.

Keeping them is like joining a game and instantly setting the difficulty to hard.

This is partly why we don’t recommend them for beginner fish keepers. Most of the cichlids from lake Malawi, Tanganyika and Victoria are big, while some of them are rather huge.

This is also why they are so eye-catchy. They are not only colorful but those colors and patterns spread over their large bodies.

2. Need a Bigger Tank

African Cichlids are bigger than many of the other fish that people commonly keep at home. Even the smallest ones will require you to buy at least a 30-gallon fish tank.

There are many bigger species that can only live comfortably if the tank is 50 gallons of size or bigger.

They are territorial and like to swim around a lot. Not to mention that pretty much all African cichlid species generate a lot of waste.

This is something that is easier to manage if you have a bigger tank. It will require fewer water changes throughout the week.

Also, it will be easier to maintain the ideal water parameters for your precious pets.

3. Expensive Fish

There are hundreds of different colors and patterns to choose from when it comes to African cichlids. These beauties are jewelry besides having interesting personalities. And, as we all know, jewels are quite expensive.

African cichlids are no exception to this rule. If you buy one, you will not only need to take proper care of them as an experienced fish keeper.

You also have to pay a significant amount of cash compared to many of the other popular species in the shop.

As a result, you get a beautiful specimen that you are going to be proud to show to your friends.

4. Water Parameters

African cichlids are not forgiving at all when it comes to water parameters. They are sensitive to changes in pH, temperature, water hardness and pollution as well.

You also need to buy a heater for them because they are tropical species that require the water to be significantly warmer than room temperature.

Sudden changes in these conditions can cause stress, which then makes them more vulnerable to diseases.

Since they generate a lot of waste, you are going to need to change at least 30% of the water 3 times every week. Keeping African cichlids definitely requires day-by-day monitoring in order to keep the water parameters ideal.

5. Not Good Tank Mates

In general, African cichlids can only be kept with other cichlids from lake Malawi, Tanganyika or Victoria.

Even then, you can have some difficulties by them being territorial and aggressive towards each other. They need a lot of space to establish territory and if anyone invades, they are going to attack.

Smaller, peaceful species are not good tank mates for them at all. Not to mention that their needs are so specific that you are not going to be able to keep them with species that inhabit other areas out in the wild.

A great way to treat their aggression is to set up a community tank in a way so that they don’t have enough space to establish territory.

Best African Cichlids to Start With as Beginner

If you feel like you want to start keeping African cichlids at home, then we can recommend you the Electric Yellow cichlid.

People often call this one as Yellow Lab as well. Taking care of this species is not demanding and they are not aggressive either.

It is a perfect choice if you want to gain some experience with African cichlids before delving deeper.

Then, you can continue by gradually adding species that are more and more difficult to take care of. For the Yellow Lab, you are going to need a 30-gallon tank, but a 50-gallon one is even better.

If you want to add some more in the future, then it is better to buy a bigger tank anyway.


Although keeping African cichlids in a home aquarium is a difficult task, it is certainly worth it. You just need to become familiar with their needs.

This can be done by reading about them a lot and gaining experience by buying an Electric Yellow cichlid at first.

Once you get a hang on it, you are going to love it. African cichlids can flourish in a wide range of beautiful colors and they have interesting personalities as well.

Fish keeping is fun in general and it is certainly worth it to start at the beginning.

Ask any other fish keeper about the difficulties of keeping their first few fish.

They might have some big and colorful cichlids at home now but that’s surely not how they all started. Anyway, hopefully you are going to get ready for your first African cichlid in a short while!

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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