African Cichlids Tank Setup – The Ultimate Guide
Ideally, you should try to create a densely planted tank for your African Cichlids that has different levels of rocks and caves which will serve as their den and place of refuge. Sometimes they like to perch on top of high rocks where they can keep an eye on the entire tank and their territory (male cichlids).
You can also use floating plants like water lettuce or water hyacinth as these will also serve as good perches for your fish.
It is also recommended that you simulate the natural environment in your aquarium by creating an “open space” at one end of the aquarium where your fish can spawn without being disturbed by other fish or other cichlids that might be territorial.
African Cichlids are very aggressive fish and it is advised that you keep only one male per aquarium. Males are very territorial and if you have several males in the same tank, they will fight for territorial rights.
When keeping multiple male cichlids, make sure you have a large tank as these fish are very territorial and will need a lot of space to roam around. It is also advised that you should not keep different types of cichlids together as they tend to fight with other cichlids of different species.
Choose a Tank for African Cichlids
The African cichlid tank size is usually dependent on the number of fish you plan on keeping and their adult size. African cichlids can grow quite big (2-6 inches in size), so be sure that your tank is large enough for them.
The minimum tank requirement for African Cichlids is 30 gallons. This tank size is enough to keep 4-6 smaller species of African cichlids.
If you can, try to use a 55 gallon or larger aquarium as the smaller aquariums will not allow your fish to develop properly and can cause health problems.
If you are planning on breeding them, you will need to have a lot of space for your breeder aquarium.
Fish Tank Nitrogen Cycle
The nitrogen cycle is a natural process. It is the process of converting toxic ammonia and nitrites to nitrates which are much less toxic for your fish.
I have broken down the nitrogen cycle into three sections. The first section deals with the conversion of ammonia to nitrites, the second deals with the conversion of nitrites to nitrates, and the third deals with how to maintain a healthy nitrogen cycle.
1) Ammonia to Nitrites Conversion
The first stage in the nitrogen cycle deals with converting ammonia into nitrites. Your tank does not need an ammonia source for this to take place so you do not need fish in your tank for this stage of the process to occur. At high levels, ammonia is toxic to fish so it is important that you get your tank cycled before adding any fish.
- Ammonia -> Nitrite -> Nitrate -> Nitrogen Gas
Ammonia is created by fish, decaying plant material, and dead fish. It is the end result of the breakdown of all living things. Ammonia is highly toxic to fish at levels above 1 ppm.
However, ammonia is quite volatile and evaporates quickly in the presence of heat. Therefore, it must be dealt with quickly to ensure that your fish are not exposed to dangerous levels of ammonia.
Nitrite is created by the conversion of ammonia into nitrite via a biological process called nitrification. Nitrification occurs when ammonia-oxidizing bacteria convert ammonia into nitrite.
Nitrite is still toxic to fish at levels above 0 ppm but not as toxic as ammonia. However, it also evaporates fairly easily so it must be dealt with quickly once present in your tank. If left untreated, nitrites will continue to rise until they reach toxic levels for your fish. A healthy tank will have no detectable nitrites present at all or just a trace amount below 0 ppm.
Nitrates are created by the conversion of nitrites into nitrates via another biological process called denitrification. Nitrates are not toxic to fish at levels below 20 ppm. They usually do not become a problem until nitrates reach high levels.
At high levels, nitrates become toxic for your fish and algae will begin to grow rapidly in your tank. A healthy tank will have no detectable nitrates present at all or just a trace amount below 20 ppm.
The conversion of ammonia to nitrites is a two-step process that takes about 5 days to complete in most tanks with adequate biological filtration. If you have a cycled tank then you can add fish almost immediately after turning on your aquarium filter if you wish.
However, if your tank is not cycled it is best to wait until the cycle is complete before adding any fish, or else they will likely die from ammonia or nitrite poisoning within a few hours of being added to the tank.
It is very important that you do not add any fish until your tank has been fully cycled! I created a separate page on how to cycle an aquarium using the Fishless Cycle method if you need more information on this method.
2) Nitrites to Nitrates Conversion
The second stage in the nitrogen cycle deals with converting nitrites into nitrates. It is the final step in converting ammonia into less toxic nitrates. The end results of this process are that you will be left with nitrates instead of ammonia and/or nitrites.
- Nitrite -> Nitrate -> Nitrogen Gas
Nitrites are created by the conversion of ammonia into nitrite via a biological process called nitrification. Nitrification occurs when ammonia-oxidizing bacteria convert ammonia into nitrite.
As in the previous section, once this process begins it must be allowed to run its course to completion before you add fish to your tank. Otherwise, your fish will likely die from either ammonia or nitrite poisoning within a few hours of being added to the tank.
It is very important that you do not add any fish until your tank has been fully cycled! I created a separate page on how to cycle an aquarium using the Fishless Cycle method if you need more information on this method.
Once your tank is cycled and contains no detectable ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates, you can add fish.
The conversion of nitrites into nitrates is a two-step process that takes about 2 days to complete in most tanks with adequate biological filtration. Once the process begins it must be allowed to run its course to completion before you add fish to your tank.
Otherwise, your fish will likely die from either ammonia or nitrite poisoning within a few hours of being added to the tank. It is very important that you do not add any fish until your tank has been fully cycled!
3) Maintaining a Healthy Nitrogen Cycle
After your aquarium has been fully cycled (1) and (2) above), you can maintain your nitrogen cycle by performing regular water changes using an aquarium water conditioner such as Seachem Prime.
The water conditioner should contain either Amquel Plus or Aqua Plus which are both excellent products for removing ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates from your aquarium.
You can also use a product called Amquel or Aqua Safe which contains ammonia-removing enzymes, but I have found that these products do not work as well as the water conditioner products.
My recommendation is to use a water conditioner (not an enzyme) since they will remove ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates much more effectively than the enzyme products. The water conditioners contain ingredients that bind to the harmful toxins and prevent them from evaporating back into your tank.
The enzymes, on the other hand, convert toxic ammonia and nitrites into less toxic compounds (nitrates) that still need to be removed via regular water changes.
Adding Live Plants
If you are looking for plants that will grow well in an African cichlid tank then there are a few species that should work well. While we aren’t going to go over every single species of aquarium plant, we will list the ones that we feel will work best.
We should note that many of these plants will need to be trimmed and/or replanted every once and a while. This is because they can get out of control very quickly. They may also require more frequent water changes than other plants.
– Java Fern
Java ferns are very low-light plants and for that reason, they make a good plant for African cichlid tanks. These ferns grow well in planted tanks and do well with weekly water changes.
While these aquatic plants do not require much light, they still prefer medium lighting environments. That being said, they can tolerate low lighting environments as well if the other conditions are met.
– Water Sprite
Water sprite is one of the best aquarium plants for African cichlid tanks. It does great in planted tanks and can grow to be fairly large. The water sprite plant can get out of control very quickly though so it may need to be trimmed often. It also requires higher light levels than you might think so make sure to check on it often.
– Amazon Sword
Amazon swords are another very popular plant for African cichlid tanks. These plants do well in low lighting environments but they will need to be trimmed regularly in order to keep them from getting too big.
– Rotala Rotundifolia
Rotala rotundifolia is fast growing plant and does well with low lighting conditions and can handle high lighting environments as well. This plant has to be trimmed every 2 weeks because it can get out of control very quickly.
Although African cichlids will nibble on this plant, it is still a good choice, because grows very fast and remove a lot of chemicals from the water. Also, Rotala can recover very fast from the damages that your fish might cause.
– Dwarf Sag
Dwarf sag is another great plant for African cichlid tanks because it does well with low lighting conditions and will grow fairly slow. It also does well with high light levels if needed.
This plant will need to be maintained every 6 months or so in order to keep up with the growth rate, otherwise, it could overgrow your tank. African cichlids may dig up the roots of the dwarf sag, but that does not stop the plant from growing.
Plants are not required in an African cichlid tank but they do make the tank look a lot more natural and they also provide a hiding spot for your fish.
If you would like to learn about some other plants that you can use in your African cichlid aquarium then check out our other articles on aquarium plants.
Aquarium Equipment and Setup
African Cichlids are demanding pets and require a lot of attention and care. They are aggressive and require at least a 75-gallon tank with plenty of swimming room.
African Cichlids need to be kept in a large quantity of water and they like their water to be on the cooler side, around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. As you can see, this is not an easy fish to keep. Therefore, if you want to keep African Cichlids you need to do extensive research before getting started.
– Hiding Spot for African Cichlids
Hiding spots are necessary for your African Cichlids because they like to hide away from their tank mates in order to feel safe and secure. A suitable hiding spot can be made out of any sort of rock, driftwood or even a hollowed-out piece of cork bark or bamboo.
You can also buy a special fake rock that looks natural in your aquarium. This will help your fish feel more at ease when they go into their hiding spots because it will offer them some security when they feel threatened by other fish.
– Substrate for African Cichlids
The substrate you use in your aquarium will have a great deal of influence on the biological cycle in your tank. The millions of beneficial bacteria that live in the substrate helps to perform a number of important functions, such as helping to convert fish waste into less toxic forms.
You also want to choose a substrate that will not cloud up your water or harm your filter. In order to prevent this from happening, it is best to use an inert material like crushed coral, gravel or aragonite sand as your substrate. This type of material is safe for all types of aquariums and helps to improve the health of all the inhabitants in the tank.
If you are using an undergravel filter, it may be necessary for you to place either some sort of foam padding or aquarium gravel over the bottom plate of the filter before adding any substrate at all.
This is because undergravel filters can sometimes become clogged with large pieces of gravel, which can cause a backup in the water circulation system. The foam padding or aquarium gravel will help to prevent this from happening so your substrate will not clog up your filter.
– Water Conditioner for African Cichlids
In order to keep your fish healthy and thriving, you need to use a high-quality water conditioner that contains a mixture of beneficial minerals and trace elements. These minerals and trace elements are important because they help to support the growth of your fish’s fins, scales and other tissues. They also help to keep their gills healthy and promote good health in general.
In addition, using a good quality water conditioner will make sure that there is no chlorine or heavy metals in the water, which could lead to illness or even death for your fish. Therefore, it is important to always use a water conditioner when you first fill your aquarium.
– Lighting for African Cichlids
The lighting system you choose should work well with your particular fish. If you have other fish in the tank, it is important to have the right amount of light that will not disrupt the natural cycle of your fish.
At the same time, you want to make sure that you are not under or over-lighting your tank because this can lead to algae blooms and poor water quality. Therefore, you should select a lighting system that provides an even light distribution throughout your aquarium, yet does not disturb the natural cycle of your fish.
If you are using a fluorescent tube light make sure that it is not too close to the surface of the water because this can lead to excessive algae growth.
If the light is too far away from the surface of the water, it will be too dim and your plants will not grow as expected. Therefore, fluorescent lights should be placed about 3-5 inches above the surface of your aquarium for best results.
– Heater for African Cichlids
African Cichlids are used to living in waters that are in the 75-82 degree Fahrenheit (24-28 °C) range. It is important that you keep your aquarium temperature in this range because if it is too hot, your fish may develop disease and if it is too cold, they may not be able to metabolize their food properly.
Therefore, you should make sure that you are using a good quality external or submersible aquarium heater to keep the water temperature at an acceptable level.
– Filter for African Cichlids
Since African Cichlids are messy fish, you need to choose a good quality internal or external filtration system that will keep your aquarium water clean and healthy.
If you have a large aquarium, it is a good idea to have two filtering systems in order to keep up with all of the fish waste that they produce. You can use an undergravel filter combined with an external filter system for best results.
– Food for African Cichlids
In order for your African Cichlids to stay healthy and happy, you need to make sure that they are eating well. In addition to feeding them properly, you also need to make sure that they are getting all of the vitamins and nutrients they need from their food in order for them to be able to grow and reproduce properly.
Therefore, it is important for you feed your fish a diet that contains all of the vitamins and nutrients that they need in order to thrive in their environment. It is also important that the diet does not contain too much protein because this can lead to excessive growth in your fish which can cause other health problems.
– Tank Mates for African Cichlids
African Cichlids are aggressive fish that are not compatible with most other types of fish. You can keep them with other cichlids, but they will have to be in separate tanks. This is because two cichlids in the same tank will be extremely aggressive towards each other and could kill each other if left in the same tank for an extended period of time.
Therefore, you should only keep African Cichlids with their own species or if you have another kind of cichlid, they must be kept in a separate tank.
If you are keeping your African Cichlid with another type of fish, make sure that it is not too small to fit into your African Cichlid’s mouth. This is because they will eat anything that fits into their mouths and it could lead to death for your smaller fish.
– Tank Size for African Cichlids
African Cichlids should only be kept in aquariums that are at least 30 gallons in size, but 55-gallon or 75-gallon tanks would be best. If you have a larger tank, will provide more space for your fish and will keep water parameters stable.
A large tank will also help to keep your African Cichlids from becoming territorial over their territory, which can cause them to become aggressive towards each other.
When choosing your tank, it is important to remember that African Cichlids require a great deal of swimming room because they are very active fish that enjoy swimming back and forth all day long.
Therefore, if you have an aquarium that is too small for them, they will get bored easily and become aggressive towards each other because they will be looking for something else to do.
– Tank Location for African Cichlids
It is important to keep your African Cichlid tank out of direct sunlight and away from any hot spots in the house. This is because they need to live in temperatures that are around 75 degrees Fahrenheit and if they are kept in an area that is too hot, they will overheat and die.
It is also important to keep your African Cichlid tank out of direct sunlight because bright sunlight can cause algae blooms. This is because African Cichlids produce a lot of waste and the excess food and fish waste can easily turn into algae, especially if it is not cleaned regularly.
If you keep your tank in a location where it will constantly be exposed to direct sunlight, it will be harder for you to keep the water clear and clean.
– Tank Decoration for African Cichlids
African Cichlids are very territorial fish that require a lot of space in order to feel safe and secure. In order to provide your African Cichlid with their own territory, you should make sure that the tank you choose is large enough for them to have plenty of room to swim around.
This will help them stay away from each other and prevent them from fighting or becoming aggressive with each other. In addition, you should make sure that the decorations in your tank are not too sharp or pointed because they can hurt your fish if they bump into them. As a result, it is a good idea to keep your decorations as smooth as possible so that your fish will not become injured.
You should also be careful when placing any rocks into the aquarium because any small openings or holes in those rocks can give small fish an easy entrance into your tank and can lead to death for those smaller fish.
Adding Fish to Your Tank
When adding a new cichlid to a tank that already contains fish, the new fish should be put into a quarantine tank for 2-3 weeks to ensure it is healthy.
This will prevent your other fish from being infected with any diseases the new fish may have. If your new fish is very small (less than an inch) it will be even more important to quarantine it, as larger fish may eat it.
It is best to introduce only one cichlid at a time and make sure both are of the same species. You can keep them together for several days to see if they get along and if there are any problems (such as one of them picking on the other).
African Cichlids Tank Maintenance
The maintenance of your African Cichlids tank is one of the most important things for you to do. Without it, your tank will not be able to stand for too long. The maintenance of your tank is not only about cleaning its water regularly but also keeping it safe from any kind of disease or parasites.
Ensure that your filter works at full capacity and perform regular filter cleaning.
Whenever you clean the tank, make sure that you use a soft cloth or sponge to scrub it thoroughly without damaging its surface. If it is necessary, use a toothbrush to clean really hard areas which cannot be reached by your hands alone.
Keep changing the water in your tank regularly (every week or two weeks) and replace about 20% of the water every time you clean it thoroughly.
The African Cichlids tank maintenance also includes changing certain water parameters such as temperature, pH level or hardness. This is important for the health of your fish since they cannot handle drastic changes in these parameters. It may lead to different health problems if you change these too quickly without waiting for a certain period of time first.
Always remember that your tank must be able to accommodate all of the fish inside it, so it is important that you don’t overstock it with them.
In order to prevent diseases from attacking your fish, always treat them for any kind of disease as soon as possible or as soon as you realize that they have some kind of an infection or disease.
It is very important that you do this immediately since otherwise, the disease may spread and kill most or all of your fish.
Treating African Cichlid Diseases
African Cichlids can easily succumb to a wide variety of diseases and ailments due to their weak immune systems and their high metabolism. For this reason, you need to make sure that you are providing your fish with a diet that contains all of the vitamins and nutrients they need in order to stay healthy and strong.
The African Cichlids tank maintenance also includes treating your fish for any kind of disease or parasites. This is very important for you to do since, without these treatments, your fish will be in danger.
There are several medications available in the market today which can cure your African Cichlids. One of them is Melafix, a helpful medication that helps treat external bacterial and fungal infections on the skin and fins. It has a great track record among users and has been proven effective for a number of different diseases and infections caused by fungus and bacteria alike.
This medication can be used alone for treating your fish, but it is more effective when combined with other antibiotics such as Ampicillin or Metronidazole, depending on what kind of infection it has. Antibiotics are very useful when it comes to treating infections caused by bacteria.
This is one of the most effective medications available in the market today, and they are very easy to use. You do not have to worry about overdose or side effects since they can be taken with food and will not have any negative effect on your fish’s health. They also won’t affect the water quality in your tank at all, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Another medication that is good for treating diseases and infections in African Cichlids is Maracyn-Two. This medication treats bacterial diseases such as fin rot, fungus infection, mouth fungus and eye infection too.
It is also effective against columnaris disease caused by bacteria as well as some other internal parasitic infections caused by protozoa. The way it works is by killing the bacteria and eliminating the infection from your fish. This medication can be given to your fish with food as well without any damage to the water quality.
Remember that the African Cichlids tank maintenance is very important for you to do, so always remember to clean your tank regularly and treat your fish for any kind of disease or infection whenever you see that they are having problems.
Cichlids are fascinating and beautiful fish that offer endless enjoyment and excitement in the hobby of aquaria. They can be easily cared for as long as you provide them with the right environment and food.
Hopefully, this guide has given you enough information about cichlids to be able to get started, so you can enjoy this hobby.