Do African Cichlids Shed Their Scales?

Perhaps you may have already seen other fish when they start to shed their scales. This is especially common during the breeding season, as they wish to attract other fish in the tank. This causes them to lose a lot of scales which can, potentially, hurt their skin.

However, African cichlids do not normally shed their scales. They may do so, but in a few very rare cases, which is quite uncommon to see.

Sometimes, they may shed their scales on their own, although this may be a sign that something’s not quite right with your fish.

Firstly, it may be a sign that your fish are fighting too much, and they might be losing their scales because of fights. As they cause physical damage to themselves and to other fish, they will start to lose scales, which is not a great thing, because their skin will get exposed.

It might also be a sign of disease. If that’s the case, you should recognize other symptoms and take your fish to your vet immediately.

So, it is not normal for African cichlids to shed their scales, although it might happen on its own in a few cases.

Why Are African Cichlid Scales Falling Off?

So, it might be for a variety of different reasons. As we’ve already mentioned, cichlids will normally not shed their scales on their own, but it might be due to a few different reasons.

The most common reason is because of fights with other fish. As they get aggressive towards other fish, they might start to fight, causing them to harm other fish, and they might also get harmed in the process themselves.

And because of that, they might start to lose their scales in the process, and they will become more susceptible to various skin problems.

The best way to avoid this from happening is to prevent fish fights in the first place. This can be a hard thing to do, but it’s possible.

Males are especially prone to fights, so you might want to separate males from each other. You might also go for tank dividers that will prevent the males from fighting.

Secondly, African cichlids might start to lose scales because of various diseases. It might be a serious disease that might be incurable, or it might be a more manageable disease.

A common disease that cause fish to lose scales is the scale shedding disease.

Scale Shedding Disease

The scale shedding disease is quite an unfortunate disease, caused by the Aeromonas punctata bacteria, and by the Pseudomonas fluorescens bacteria.

They might get carried into your tank from other aquariums and from natural reservoirs, and is quite common if the fish is new to the tank.

The unfortunate news is that the disease can often be fatal, if not treated quickly enough. Fish will start to lose scales. The key with this disease is to spot it as early as possible and then treat it, which will give your fish a good chance of survival.

To spot the disease, you need to observe the scales of the fish. Even though it’s hard to do so at times. At the start, the fish will look ok in terms of health, but some scales might start to protrude.

As the disease starts to worsen, more and more scales will start to protrude, as fluids might start to collect under the scales, causing them to appear as bubbles.

And because these bubbles will form where the scales are attached to the body, the scales will start to fall off.

Again, you need to spot this disease as early as possible, or else, there will be no solution for your fish, sadly. But it’s possible to spot the disease by protruding scales, although this might also be a sign of another disease.

When or if you notice this with your fish, however, do not hesitate to contact your vet, who will then try to treat your fish.

Can African Cichlids Regrow their Scales?

Yes, African cichlids might regrow their scales, although if the damage is severe enough and if it has happened during a fight, then they might also lose their scales forever.

It might take some time for the scales to regrow, though. If it’s the scale shedding disease or another disease, then they won’t start growing again until the underlying disease has been treated effectively.

Can African Cichlids Die Due to Shedding Scales?

If the fish only loses a couple of scales, they should be fine. However, the real problem is the infection that might be causing them to lose scales. In that case, they might die because of the underlying infection, and they might not survive on their own.

So scale shedding might only be a symptom of a much larger problem, which is an infection, or the scale shedding disease. This should be treated quickly in order to give the fish a chance of survival.

How to Reduce Aggression Between African Cichlids?

You should reduce aggression between cichlids in order to avoid them losing scales in fights. There are a few things you can do to reduce the aggression between the fish:

  • Make sure they have enough space in the tank for themselves
  • Separate African cichlid males from other cichlid males, and also from other aggressive fish
  • Put aggressive fish into a separate tank
  • Place tank dividers into the tank to avoid the fish coming together
  • Place a lot of plants in the tank so that fish will have enough space to hide


If you are noticing your African cichlids are losing scales, then it might be a sign of a disease, or it might be because the fish fight too much with other fish. If so, you need to reduce the aggression between fish.

If you notice symptoms of a scale shedding disease, act as quickly as possible. Hopefully, the problem can get solved with minimal consequences for your fish.

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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