African Cichlids Breeding – The Complete Guide

Since there are so many varieties when it comes to Cichlids, people can set up beautiful aquariums just by cherry-picking a few of them.

There are more than 2000 colorful, unusual and interesting fish to choose from that all fall under the Cichlid family.

They are not only decorative but it’s also easy to breed them. This, of course, applies to African Cichlids as well that are all mouth brooders.

If you are a beginner fish keeper, we are here to tell you that breeding them will require little to no effort from you.

The breeding process of a mouthbrooder is interesting to watch, especially if you haven’t seen it before.

There are lots of mouth-brooders that come from Lake Victoria, Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika as well. Although breeding them is simple, there are still a few things you need to know before you get to it.

In this article, we are going to explain the whole mouth brooding process and also share a few additional tips on taking care of the fry.

Breeding Process of African Cichlids

The whole process starts when the male decides to dig out a cave where the eggs can be safely placed.

Once it is done, the male tries to attract the female by performing the dance for her. After the whole ritual, the female goes ahead and lays down the eggs in the nest made by the male.

Then, it is the male’s job to fertilize the eggs. The female gulps up all the fertilized eggs and carries them in her mouth until they hatch.

Meanwhile, she doesn’t eat a single bite of food. The hatching period takes about 10-15 days. Even when the babies are out, they can still stay in their mother’s mouth.

You will occasionally see them out in the tank when it’s feeding time. The main purpose of this is to guard the juveniles since there is nothing that can hurt them in their mother’s mouth.

It takes about two weeks for the female to finally let the juveniles go.

Now the adults will eventually find ways to eat the juveniles so it’s always a better idea to separate them. They are not going to need the support of their parents once they are free swimming.

You can keep them in a separate tank with clean water and feed them regularly so that they can grow.

It is also a great idea to keep only one male while the rest are females.

How to Care for African Cichlids Fry?

Once the African Cichlid fry are free-swimming, you can start to feed them. The goal here is to give them highly nutritious food that can help them grow.

This will guarantee that they are going to grow up healthy and thriving. You have a few options when it comes to their diet.

When they are so little, it is important to monitor them day by day. You need to make sure they are eating enough each time you feed them.

For example, taking a look at them with a magnifying glass is a great idea.

The foods that help them grow the most are microwrms, brine shrimp, daphnia and grindal worms. Some recommendations might include infusoria but that’s really not good for them.

They are usually developed to the point where infusoria is simply too tiny for them.

How Often do African Cichlids Breed?

Given that you feed the female African Cichlid healthy and nutritious food throughout the day, they will spawn every 6 weeks. Sometimes it takes less time, sometimes more for them to be ready again depending on the circumstances.

Your female breeders are pretty much the most precious fish in your aquarium if your goal is to breed a particular species. You always need to make sure that they eat high-quality foods in order to keep them in condition for spawning.

Properly feeding your fish can also prevent them from eating their fry, since there is no need for them to look for food. African Cichlids typically spawn more than 30 eggs so you should expect about 60 fry every 2 months from a single female.

At What Age do African Cichlids Start Breeding?

It takes about 9 months until African Cichlids become mature and fertile. It will help you a lot if you start distinguishing the males from the females.

This can be done with the following method. Get your African Cichlids out of the tank for a couple of minutes and hold each of them upside down.

Make sure to do this quickly because keeping them out in the air for a long time is not good for them. While the male cichlid has a bigger and a smaller hole near his anal fin, the female has two equally sized holes.

Now as you judged their sex, all you need to do is keep them healthy and they are eventually going to start to breed.

Males also have brighter anal fin spots than females and they are also more aggressive. Not to mention that you will see the male dig holes in the substrate more than the female.

How Long do African Cichlids Hold Eggs?

You can notice by the square like face of the female that her mouth is full of eggs. After they are done mating, the female requires lots of rest.

It takes some time for the eggs to develop as the fertilization takes effect. This resting period lasts about 5 days. In the meantime, you need to make sure she is not disturbed.

Don’t be surprised if she won’t eat anything in these 5 days, it is all normal. It takes approximately another 10 days for the female to release the fry.

From then on, she is going to guard the fry by releasing them in the different hiding spots she can find in the tank or by keeping them in her mouth.

How do You Know if African Cichlids are Mating?

A series of actions will occur before an African Cichlid pair starts to mate. First, the male will start to prepare a place for the eggs by digging a cave.

When this happens, it is a sign that he might be ready to breed. They prefer creating nests next to hiding spots or in the substrate.

While the male engages in this activity, it is time to check the female as well. In case she is ready to breed, she will become a bit plumper than her usual shape.

It means that she is ready to lay her eggs. If he male wants to mate, he will show off some dancing moves to get the female interested.

The female will follow him to the cave he dug out if the attraction was successful. This is where the mating process begins.

If the female chooses to swim away from the situation, then the male will probably pick the next one until he succeeds.

As the pair gets to the spot designated by the male, they will start to dance with each other in circular motion. The male fertilizes the eggs that are laid down while the female collects them alternately.

Are African Cichlids Easy to Breed?

Simply by being mouth brooders, African Cichlids are pretty much set for success every time they breed.

As long as you keep them healthy and provide plenty of hiding places for them, it is eventually going to happen. Keeping them healthy includes feeding them a nutritious diet and keeping the required water conditions consistent.

During the breeding process, there are only a couple of things that can go wrong.

Firstly, you need to make sure that the female is not bothered by anyone or anything after she has swallowed the fertilized eggs. Otherwise, she can become stressful and swallow or spit out the eggs as a result.

The other thing to look out for is the behavior of the male. It is best to separate the female while she takes care of the fry.

The male doesn’t care about them at all and he might even eat them. After all, they are really small and he can consider them as food.


Once you do it, you will realize how much fun it actually is to watch African Cichlids breed and manage the whole process.

Every single species in this huge family has interesting behaviors and fantastic colors. In this article, we have explained how easy it is to breed these beautiful fish.

Really the only things you need to do is to feed them properly and to keep the water clean and the parameters consistent.

If the conditions are given, the males are eventually going to attract the females and the mating is going to happen.

The females are outstanding parents, you only need to separate the male and let the mother take care of her fry.

Once the little cichlids are free swimming, you can start to feed them and it is going to be all fine. You will end up with plenty of African Cichlids with very little effort.

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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