A Guide to Cichlids: the beginner


Ok, it has been about a month since you first started your setting up your cichlid tank now it is time to purchase your cichlid. if you have a cichlid picked out all ready good, otherwise you should do some research to find out what cichlid fits you best, here’s some things to consider when purchasing your cichlid.
1. Eventual size
2. Behavior
3. Recommended tank size
4. color/physical appearance
5. Compatibility (with other cichlids and tank mates)
6. Level of difficulty

The eventual size of your cichlid will determine your tank size or vice versa.
The behavior of your cichlid will determine if you like aggressive or peaceful cichlid
You may like colorful or dull cichlids (good luck finding a dull one)
The cichlid you choose may not be compatible with the same kind (if you want two or three)
And finally the most important if you are a beginner don’t get a discus. Make sure you ask your lfs or email me at wolfcry.blake@cox.net to find the level of difficulty, or check out www.cichlid-forum.com

I’ve said this before but I will say it again, research your cichlid, and make sure you know everything about it. There are 2 major things you must do 1 week previous of buying your cichlid
1. Check temperature
2. Check PH
Make sure you know the proper tempter for your cichlid (most likely 78-80 degrees)
Make sure you know the proper PH of your cichlid (south American- 6.5-6.8, central American- 7.0-7.6, African -7.6-9.0) in order to alter your Ph to the right levels you can get a ph buffer at your lfs

After you choose what cichlid you want you must now acquire said cichlid. Here are some ways to do this
1. Check lfs (local fish store)
2. Special order lfs
3. Order online
4. Find a local breeder or friend

whether you are getting your cichlid from the lfs through checking frequently or special order, or if you are getting it through a friend there are some things you must check for while observing the cichlid minutes before buying it.
1. Swimming upright
2. Swimming smoothly (not jittery or moving in short jolts)
3. Fins out and not clamped
4. No external ailments (fungus, parasites, ich, or worms)

Ok bag and take him home, no, no not so fast. With the cichlid you take home with you here is a list of the supplies you should already have or buy the same day you get your cichlid.

1. Ph test kit
2. Aquarium salt (more for Africans)
3. Ph buffer (should have to alter ph to begin with)
4. Net
5. Siphon
6. Food (pellet, AND frozen bloodworms, or brine shrimp)

before your guy gets your cichlid out of the tank so you can take him home if it is a SHORT distance to your cichlids new home then ask the guy to feed him so he’ll be full (explained later) if you live a long way ask for a little bit of what the guy gives him so you can feed him later.

Ok when you have this stuff and your cichlid it is time to acclimate

The acclimation period takes about 30-45 minutes. First take your cichlid in the bag he came in. if he did not come in a bag simply transfer him into one keeping the same water he came with the cichlid. Take the bag and float it in the aquarium for 20 minutes with the bag sealed. Then open the bag and put in 1 cup of your aquarium water into the bag then after 15 minutes poor in another cup. after 15 more minutes take a net and insert it into the bag scoop up your cichlid and plop it into the aquarium (gently) DO NOT poor the bag into the aquarium because the bag’s water is full of bad ammonia your fish gave off on the trip over.

Ok, depending on what type of cichlid you got your cichlid may either swim out of the net or attack it in hunger or it may go and hide its cave. Either way the first rule of moving animals in general, when you change an animal’s environment you don’t start throwing things at it. I.e. food.

If you asked your guy at the lfs to feed the cichlid before you got him than he can survive 2-3 days without food. This time will give your cichlid time to get his bearings before any more stimuli are introduced.

Now the most important part of the next couple of weeks is to BE PATIENT cichlids will pull your hair out so don’t stress.

Ok, here is a trouble shooting guide to what problems may occur during the next few days
1. Shyness. – Common, gives more hiding areas, not a problem if the fish is eating after the 3rd day. Be sure to feed frozen food often as feeding incentives.

2. aggression- more hiding spots

3. Not eating- feed garlic (all cichlids) earthworms (medium cichlids) frozen brine shrimp (all cichlids)

If you have any more questions about the initial behavior please consult your
1. Lfs
2. wolfcry.blake@cox.net
3. Fishgeeks http://www.sale10via.com
4. cichlid-forum

General facts about cichlids
1. Feed 2-3 time daily
2. Behavior can differ greatly depending on, lighting, temp, ph, external tank stimuli
3. Require 2-4 weeks to fully get used to tank
4. ALL cichlids develop huge powerful personalities which often reflect your own.
5. 12-14 hours of light for these guys
6. All cichlids are different. If your buddy bob has the same cichlids as you do don’t except them to act alike.
7. Vary the diet

For the first few days you need to check temp, ph, ammonia, and nitrites. If you don’t have test kits for these your lfs should have free or cheap testing. After the first week ph, temp and ammonia/nitrites testing could be reduced to every other day or every 3 days then once a week then once a month.

Next we will discuss mainline of your cichlid tank.

There are 3 things you need to do to maintain your cichlid tank
1. Partial water changes
2. Gravel cleanings
3. Filter change/cleaning

Partial water change: use a siphon to drain 25% of the water in your tank. Contrary to popular belief do not drain 50% or more of the water because this will shock your fish. After draining 25% of the water replace it. Make sure it is luke warm, and don’t forget to rebuffer the ph. partial water changes should be done once a weeks AT LEAST.

Gravel cleanings: Gravel cleaning is the same thing as a partial water change except instead of just sticking the siphon head into the water insert it into the gravel the water pressure will suck up the junk in the gravel but not the gravel. These should be done once a month.

Filter change/cleaning: once a month it is necessary to replace or clean the filter cartridge. You do this because all the junk gets caught in the floss plus once the carbon (black stuff) hits the water it only takes a month before it loses its chemical filtrating ability. Also it is always a good idea to wipe down the intake tube of your filter.

Wrapping it up here:
So… you have required your new cichlid it has been a couple of weeks you have been doing regular water changes, and testing and everything is a ok.

As your cichlid experience progresses you might consider upgrading or getting more cichlids, if you want to do this then consult my GUIDE TO CICHLDS: INTERMEDIATE article later to be written.

Good luck

Any questions please consult the following:
1. Lfs
2. wolfcry.blake@cox.net
3. Fishgeeks http://www.sale10via.com
4. cichlid-forum.com