Why Do African Cichlids Fight? How to Stop Them?

African cichlids will often fight with each other. Some of them are quite aggressive towards other males and towards other species, so you can expect them to show this aggressive behavior sometimes even in your tank, especially when they are forced to do so.

But why exactly does this happen? Knowing this can make it easier for you to prevent fights from happening in the future.

They will fight because of psychological reasons, mostly. As they will try to establish their dominance in the tank, males will fight against other males to prove their dominance. This happens with almost any species in the world, and it also happens with fish.

Other times, they just don’t have enough space, so they get territorial against other fish, or they will feel stressed and maybe intimidated by other fish, so they will use aggression as a form of defense.

Sometimes, you can prevent fights quite easily by taking action and by separating fish from each other. But what else can you do to stop?

When you understand why fish fight, it will be easier for you to stop the fighting and determine why fights happen. That’s what we’ll tell you in this article.

Why Do African Cichlids Fight?

So, why do they fight?

Most of the time, it’s because the males will try to establish themselves as the alpha in the tank. They will want to show their dominance over other fish, and they will become aggressive to do so if they can’t do it in another way.

However, there are also other reasons for aggression. Here are potential reasons for fights.

Territorial Behavior

This is the main reason for fights. Males will fight for dominance in the tank, and they will try to establish themselves as the alpha male in the tank.

If there’s not a lot of room in the tank, this can be an especially common behavior. That’s completely normal, especially if you have males in the tank. They will try to weaken and fight other males in other to establish their space in the tank.

Lack of Space

When there’s not enough space in the tank, African cichlids will try to fight other fish in order to fight for more space. They will try to push other fish out and will try to steal their living area by constantly showing aggression over them.

Some fish won’t be able to defend themselves, which is why stronger fish will normally win out in these situations, which will leave your weaker fish struggling to get enough space in the tank.


When fish are stressed, they start to become aggressive, and might fight with other fish. Your best way to avoid this is to make sure there are no major stress factors in the tank.

This might be fish living to close to each other, or it might be external stress factors. It also might be because you don’t feed the fish enough, so they start fighting for food. Evaluate what it is and eliminate it as soon as possible.

How to Stop African Cichlids from Fighting?

The good news is that you can stop this behavior by taking action and preventing it. How? Take a look here.

1. Separate Aggressive Fish

The best way to do this is to separate aggressive fish from each other. A good way of doing this is to provide them with a separate tank and place them there.

If you don’t have another tank, then you can buy a tank divider and make sure they are not close together. This will, hopefully, result in less fights, although it also means they will have less living space in the tank.

2. Keep multiple fish of different types together

There are several sub-types of African cichlids. And if you want to avoid aggression towards a specific type of cichlids, you will want to keep several fish of the same type in the tank.

This way, they won’t be scattered, and will feel stronger together, which means they won’t get attacked as often. The dominant fish like to pick on individual fish that can’t defend themselves properly, so making sure they have partners will make it easier for them to defend.

3. Buy a larger tank and provide hiding areas

Another good way of trying to stop aggression is to get a larger tank, and some more hiding areas for the vulnerable fish.

It might be extra plants in the tank, or you can simply add more rocks in order to stop the aggression and allow the weaker fish to hide.

Are African Cichlids Fighting or Mating?

This can be quite similar, although there are some key differences.

When they fight, they will both engage in fights, and will probably face each other. It will look much more vicious, and the fish will move around more when they fight.

When they mate, you’ll see a female and a male together, which normally doesn’t happen in fights. So if you can first identify the gender of the two fish involved, then you’ll be on a good way to knowing what’s happening with them.

Can African Cichlids Kill Each Other?

Yes, African cichlids can kill each other, especially if the fight is vicious and if you let them fight for too long.

So when they begin fighting, try to do something about it. You should split the fish, and take the actions we’ve mentioned above to stop this aggression.

Which are the Most Aggressive African Cichlids?

The most aggressive African cichlids include:

The truth is that most African cichlids are aggressive, or at least semi aggressive, so it’s hard to pick out specific species as the most aggressive ones.


African cichlids are aggressive fish, and they will often fight each other. You have the power to stop this, and you need to make sure you do everything you can do stop fighting or else they can potentially kill each other.

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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