A basic set of rules

PictureImage from http://www.maytaghvac.com/.

Everyone begins their cichlid keeping journey somewhere. Maybe you grew up around fish tanks, your friends kept fish, or you were mesmerized when you first encountered that tank with a big Oscar in it. Regardless, you weren’t born knowing how to be a good fish keeper. You’ve had to learn like everyone else. How you learned, however, may vary from another cichlid keeper.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a pretty solid list of do’s and dont’s for any cichlidophile, novice or otherwise, which should serve as a guide to being both  successful and responsible with these amazing fish. I have re-posted it here with permission from the author.

I’m pretty onboard with each of these, except for #8. I’d be more inclined to have a quarantine tank over a hospital tank, especially if you regularly acquire new cichlids from multiple sources. If you need a hospital tank all of the time, you’re either not doing something right or you’re getting bad fish. I don’t consider quarantine and hospital tanks one in the same, but some folks do.

CORRECTION (4/05/17): The author of the tips contacted me after posting this and indicated he had a typo in #8 below. The second sentence in #8 originally began “You need one set up permanently,..” What it should have said is “You don’t need one set up permanently,…” I corrected it below, but that edit necessitates a change in my paragraph above to simply say, “I’m onboard with each of these.”


1. Nothing to do with keeping Cichlids should be about what you can get away with.

2. The size of your tank dictates what species of cichlids are an option for you.

3. Buy the biggest tank you can afford, you’ll never wish you had less space for fish.

4. It’s not a good idea to buy a fish that will grow too large for the tank you have thinking “I’ll upgrade later”. Wait and buy it when you have upgraded.

5. Research the fish you want before you get it. It’s adult size, diet, water requirements and where they are found in the wild. You can research using the internet, books, or ask some of the experienced members of the group.

6.Do not mix your fish. Keep South American Cichlids with other South Americans, keep Central Americans with other Central Americans, Lake Victorians with Lake Victorians, Tanganyikans with other Tanganyikans, Mbuna (Malawi) only with other Mbuna, Haps (Malawi) kept haps only or with Peacocks (Aulonocara). As previously mentioned research as some species such as Lerthrinops Sp Red Caps, Frontosa and Tropheus, are best kept in same species only tanks.

7. Never buy a fish that you don’t know the ID of. It may be hybrid or not compatible with your current stock. How can you care for a fish and know it’s care requirements if you don’t know what it is. Identify it, research it, then buy it.

8. Hospital tanks are a must have. You don’t need one set up permanently, just keep a spare filter (sponge or mechanical) in one of your other tanks to stay cycled, then when you need a hospital tank just fill your tank and move the mature filter into it. Once your fish is better, empty the tank, store it, change the sponges of the filter and put it back in your mature tank again.

9. When stocking your tank or wondering if you can add another fish, let your nitrates be your guide. Before your weekly water change, test your water for the nitrate level. If the nitrates are well within safe levels then you can add another fish but if you’re close to those limits then you can’t afford to add any more bioload and should not get another fish.

10. You do not need a clean up crew, they just add to your bioload. Clean up yourself with your maintenance routine. When you saved on buying that’s pleco that is gonna hide sloths time, you can treat yourself to a new beautiful cichlid.

11. Pleco, any sort of ‘shark’ and or loaches have no place in an African cichlid tank, they all require softer, lower Ph water than Africans do. Again it’s down to research.

12. Just because a fish is tankbred, it does not change its biological make up, their organs etc are still geared the same as the fish in their natural wild habitat. They will still be better off in the correct water conditions. They may acclimatise to the wrong water conditions but it isn’t what is best for them. It can be likened to humans who live at extreme altitudes such as high in the mountains, they become accustom to lack of oxygen but they suffer health problems long term as often die at a younger age because really they need more oxygen.

13. You can never over filter, get the biggest and best filter you can afford.

14. Water changes are a must, the water column has next to no nitrifying bacteria in it. Change as much as you like (I do 40-50% weekly), old water is just old dirty water. Changing it will do nothing but good for your fish.

By Paul Butler (owner of PB Cichlid Photography), originally posted on 4/1/2017 on the Cichlid Keepers group Facebook page.

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