Of all the tropical fishes kept in the aquarium, none of the species offer the level of diversity as the Cichlids. The body shapes vary from the disc shape of the Angelfish of the Amazon, to the cylindrical shaped Julidochromis from Africa.
Many are extremely colorful, particularly those from the African rift valley. Some Cichlids grow very large and needs an aquarium to themselves, whilst others may be kept in a community. Even breeding methods vary hugely.
What is Needed to Successfully Care for Cichlids?
In order to care for Cichlids successfully you need to replicate as closely as possible the conditions in which they live in their natural environment. So in setting up your aquarium you will need to consider in particular the pH value of the water and its temperature.
As with all aquarium tropical fish, you will need to make sure that your aquarium has a suitable filtration system and lighting. You will also need to ensure that you change at 10% of the water every week.
Maintaining the Correct pH for Cichlids
The water in the natural habitat of Cichlids is quite alkaline, so this is what you need to replicate in your aquarium. The ideal range on the pH scale is 7.5 to 8.5. If your water is outside this range then an inexpensive and and effective solution is common soda. Any sudden changes to the pH value of the water will adversely affect the health of your fish.
Substrates, such as gravel, crushed coral and limestone, also help to maintain the water at its optimum alkalinity.
Maintaining the Correct Temperature for Cichlids
The ideal temperature range for Cichlids is between 74F (23C) to 82F (28C) the optimum being 78F (26C). You will need to avoid keeping your aquarium in a sunny place or near to appliances that generate heat otherwise the temperature may increase above the desirable level.
For a tank of fry you can increase the temperature range to between 80F (27C) to 82F (28C). The increased temperature raises the metabolism of the fry causing them to eat more and grow rapidly.
If you have particularly aggressive fish, you may want to lower the temperature slightly as this slows down their metabolism.