Lot of variables contribute to ideal spawning conditions for cichlids in aquaria. Listing them all is a post for another day. Many aquarists try to identify and exploit certain variables that can increase not just the probability of spawning behavior but also the success of such behavior. Want to get your males more active in spawning? Check your substrate.
A recent study in the journal Animal Welfare found that the sexual behavior of male Oreochromis mossambicus increased in the presence of substrate. Does that translate to all species? No. However, it is food for thought for those who keep cichlids in bare bottom tanks and who have some trouble promoting spawning behavior in MF pairs. Many environmental factors influence spawning behavior, however the simple presence of a substrate (maybe even suitable substrate) can make a difference.
Reference: Galhardo, L., Correia, J., & Oliveira, R. F. (2008). The effect of substrate availability on behavioural and physiological indicators of welfare in the African cichlid (Oreochromis mossambicus). Animal Welfare, 239-254.