Helpful tips for Beginners
Tank Requirments & Setup
For a community aquarium, a 4ft tank is about the minimun size, with the wider 70 or 90 gallon tank being preferable to the narrow 55 gallon. It is important for the spacing of their territories. Learn More...
In & External parasites
Cichlids like many other fish suffer from diseases like Fish Lice Argulus, Gill Worms Dactylogyrus, Velvet hole-in-the-head Disease Hexamita, Anchor Worm Lernia. Learn More...
Breeding tips
In order to breed Cichlids you need to make sure you frequently maintenance the tank be sure to have proper water conditions, good food, adequate tank space, and frequent water changes. Learn More...
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Helpful Tips for Breeding
Author: Bethany L. Dorr © 2008
The difficulty in breeding cichlids varies from one species to another. Maintaining a clean and well conditioned aquarium customized to that particular species of cichlid is imperative. This will provide healthy cichlids with an environment that will encourage mating. It is also important that you get to know the species you are planning to breed. The more you know the better you will understand their needs.

To better understand the nesting process you should know there are several different ways in which cichlids brood their eggs.

  • Open Brooders spawn on flat surfaces like rocks or the floor of the aquarium.
  • Shelter Brooders there are two different types of shelter brooding.
    • Cavity Brooders deposit their eggs inside caves or dark depressions.
    • Mouth Brooders collect and carry their eggs and fry in their mouth.

During the nesting period your cichlids will be burrowing to the aquarium floor and relentlessly claim and protect this territory. Your tank will now be under construction as your cichlids remodel the tank to their specifications and they create cavities in which the females may brood their eggs. There will be a lot of chasing around and it might concern you. However, all this activity is a sign that mating preparations are under way. At this point you must let nature take its course and not interfere by segregating females. Interference could cause stress in the tank and if there is stress there will more than likely not be any successful breeding.

The word spawn means to produce or deposit. Cichlids produce and deposit or spawn eggs it is difficult to know when the spawning occurs. There are several different spawning methods. In some cases the female will lay her eggs and place them in her mouth (mouth brooding) and will then stimulate the male who in turn will fertilize the eggs in her mouth. After the eggs are fertilized the new mother will hide away as she will need more than usual protection. During this process you will notice she will eat much less if at all. It has been said that in the wild the females will swallow some of their eggs or fry because it is too dangerous to hunt for food. Of course these threats are less of a problem in an aquarium but still these behaviors are natural.

In other instances the female will lay her eggs and after the male has passed over and fertilized the eggs she will pick them up and relocate them to a safe place such as a cave (cavity brooder) in which both parents will protect fiercely.

Community Spawning
Any healthy community tank is also a breeding tank. Many fry will be eaten and you may never have known they were there, but these cichlids are natural survivors. They are born with the instinct to survive in a high populated environment with lots of predators. From time to time you will notice a little guy darting in and out of the rocks and caves as they rush out to get food and rush back to safety.

Our first successful experience with breeding in our community tank took place without us ever having knowledge it was going on. We have always maintained our tanks conditions and supplied our cichlids with numerous caves, rocks, drift wood and countless hiding places. We were entertained watching the cichlids claim their individual territories and it was always interesting to see the remodeling going on in our tank from day to day. The cichlids in our community tank worked day and night burrowing and moving the rocks from one side to another. To our surprise we discovered several little guys sneaking out of their hiding places to feed and then they would disappear again. It was really exiting. This meant that all the work put into that community tank maintaining the water conditions paid off.

Remember the less you interfere the more you let nature take its course resulting in successful breeding results.

Whether they are mouth brooders or cavity brooders when the fry are released or become independent from their mothers you may begin feeding them baby brine shrimp, powdered flake food, micro worms, and tiny pellets. Most species of cichlids grow pretty rapidly especially if they are fed properly and if the water is consistently changed maintaining the tanks conditions.

Some species of cichlids will start breeding at a young age. Some babies will develop their colors and begin spawning long before they reach their parents or full size.

During the incubation period the female usually hides with her eggs or fry in order to protect them. Some females will often go the entire process without eating. This is why it is so important that the conditions of the tank be just right for only a healthy cichlid could endure such a fasting period. Some females will rush up at feeding time and go back to her eggs or fry. In this instance if the female is a mouth brooder it has been found that the fry will eat the excess particles of food left in their mother’s mouth. This has brought upon the conclusion as to why when released there are often different sizes of fry.

If you are able to detect that your female is in the incubation period it is wise to move her to a separate tank by herself. As she finds that there are no threats she will often release her fry and will either protect them, eat them or simply ignore them. If you notice that she is done caring for her fry you want to remove the female from the now “nursery” tank. The fry will begin eating flakes or brine shrimp once they have absorbed their eggs sacs. In this scenario the fry are almost guaranteed to survive. After the mother has been moved back into the tank with her mate she will eat to replenish herself and will be ready to breed again.

Often in community tanks you will not be aware of any cavity brooding that is going on. You will notice the female “hibernating” in her space but it will be difficult to see any eggs or fry being as is they will be very small and tucked away in a dark safe place. In this situation you will want to maintain the tanks conditions and let nature take its course. If you are too invasive you will cause stress on the new parents which could cause the breeding process to be unsuccessful.

Some species of cichlids both the mother and father will watch over and protect their eggs, fry and each other fiercely. This is why cichlids are often perceived to be aggressive fish. In reality they are protecting their territories and often their families.

Keep in mind that often when young inexperienced females breed for the first few times they may not care for or carry their eggs for the necessary amount of time. Eventually they will catch on and have successful breeding. Breeding cichlids requires patience.

It is important not to over feed your cichlids. Not just for breeding purposes but to insure they live their full life expectancies. Hungry cichlids become more aggressive and most likely will begin mating. Properly feeding your cichlids will duplicate their natural habitat and natural behaviors such as mating.

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