Well ladies and gentlemen welcome to the exciting world of cichlids. Where to start? Well it depends on what you are after? Interaction with your fish, exciting breeding habits, terrific colours, fish with personality, perhaps a single wet pet you can hand feed like a dog. Cichlids provide all this and a lot more!
Dwarf ciclids are a very easy entry into the world of cichlids as they stay beow 3-4 inches in length and provide all the colours and same exquisite parental behaviour that marks cichlids for what they are. KRIBS- Pelvicachromis pulcher, A west african cichlid that mates monogomously and will breed happily in the community aquarium. Do be aware that other fish may be at risk from the protective parents. BLUE RAMS- Frequently available in most lfs though IMO do need extra specicial care. Absolutely stunning in colouration the male and female being quite different. To succeed with these fish i woukd advise soft acidic water. A great variation to this is the BOLIVIAN RAM though not as colourful a much hardier fish. APISTOGRAMMA- A genus that includes many fish: cocatoos and agassizi being the most commonly available. These fish are harem breeders prefering a ratio of 1 male - 2/3 females with adequate space being provided for all.
THERE are many more dwarf cichlids available regularly in most lfs I however hope to have given a brief overview of those most readily available. Dwarf cichlids are a great way to start of and most are happy in the community.
Africa has provided the fish keeping world with a literally unlimited host of cichlids ranging from the west african riverines to the rift valley fish which again fall into many categories. Not wanting to write an essay most people tend to keeep rift lake cichlids which therefore separate into 3 groups. VICTORIA - the youngest of the lakes only c.500,000 years old and containing some beautiful fish, which are very hard to come by in the trade. TANGANIKA - The oldest of the rift lakes est 10 - 20 million years old, this lake even more so than the others holds a very ph of 8.6-9.5. However the fish available from this water are both endless and as amazing, Snail shell dwelling varieties from the lamprologus genus that can be kept in a small tank (18-24") up to the larger tropheus varieties that are much more aggressive. A commonly sold tanganikan is the Frontosa that that quite happy while young will grow to c.12" in length. Be aware! MALAWI _ The most easily obtained fish tend to of the malawi mbuna (rockfish) variety. These fish although small at the lfs grow to an average of 4-5" and are extremely aggressive. This is due to their habitat of competition for food, homes and mates. A 3 and half foot tank is an absolute minimum for these fish as is a a high ph and a rocky decor. Among the more easily kept are ; labidochromis caeruleus and iodotropheus sperengae both being relatively peaceful however there are many many more species some of which are extremely aggressive (melanochromis) So please seek advice here or from a reliable lfs before stocking. Lake Malawi also offers Haplochromine cichlids which are open water swimmers and vary in size from 4" to well over a foot in length. Not advisable to be mixed with Mbuna and require a very very large aquarium. Malawi like Tanganika holds a high ph averaging 7.8 to 8.6
Central America provides us with a few groups of cichlids that number amongst my favourites. These fish on the whole prefer a neutral to slightly alkali ph and can be notorious diggers. As a result plant with caution or use well anchored hardy plants such as cryptocorynes and amazon swords. Renowned as amongst the most aggressive, these fish require large aquaria and careful selection of tank mates. When breeding a pair will easily take over a 3ft tank. The more popular Central Americans include Firemouths, Convicts, Rainbows and Sajica. Their larger more aggressive cousins include Jack dempseys, Red devils, Salvins, Jaguars and Texas cichlids.
South America plays host to huge number of different cichlid families. The majority of these fish will be happy in neutral water though there are many that do prefer a lower ph discus for example. Size varies in SA from the small 2" dwarf cichlids which mostly hail from this region to the down right huge such as some of the peacock basses which can reach 3ft in length. The more popular cichlids from SA include; Geophagus Genus (Eartheaters) which are in the medium large bracket and have some very colourful varieties. Acaras (Aequidens) Another wide ranging group of medium size including the Blue Acara, Port Acara and the more aggressive Green Terror. SA is also home to the Angel fish which although suitable for community aquarium still displays classic cichlid behaviour. Discus also come from the same area and require a low ph and high water temperatures and due their delicate nature are not recommended for the beginner. The Oscar is a very popular fish that comes from SA, due to its character and wonderful colouration oscars often find their way in to the home aquarium, but be aware this fish will grow big 12-13" being the norm, will require a large tank 3 and a half ft minimum and live for up to 15 years,"an oscar is for life not just for Christmas."
On the whole cichlids are not suited to the community aquarium and I cannot stress that enough. Most catfish species are big enough and hard enough to live in the cichlid environment but do watch for potential problems. Rainbow fish,large Barbs and Giant Danios are often used as dither fish to encourage shy cichlids into the open but remember they may have different water requirements.
Due to their aggressive nature cichlids have to picked very carefully to cohabit and it can quite often end in tears. If you wish to mix fish of different genus ensure they come from the same area ie don't mix Rift lake fish with those from CA. Try to add all fish at the same time and while young for best results.
THE BIGGER THE BETTER. Space is very important and territories will be set up and defended. Allow even more space for breeding pairs or the scales are likely to fly! Dwarf cichlid can happily live 18 to 24" tanks but as the fish get bigger so must the tanks . Due to the number of different varieties available I spend hours writing fish and tank sizes so please contact for more specific advise. Good filtration is an absolute must as with large often messy fish or high stocking levels of Malawi mbuna nirates can rise quickly, so ensure regular water changes and GOOD FILTRATION.
Review. Hopefully this will have given you a brief but informative overview of the world of cichlids Remember there are many many more fish in the Cichlidae family than those mentioned here. So please take the plunge and get your first cichlids, I guarantee you'll be glad you did it.
For any more info or questions please feel free to ask in the forum.