Substrate can affect spawning behaviors

Various aquarium substrates. Image from

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.

Sand substrate for cichlids

Mystic White sand in a bucket. Photo by author.

If you’re looking for a good all purpose sand for your cichlids, I recommend Mystic White II. This is a pool filter sand that you can pick up at your local pool supply store. You can also purchase it at Walmart and several online stores. My pool supply store sells this for WAY less than I can get it online or even at Walmart. Nonetheless, what makes this sand so good?

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My tank vacuum and water change process

The complete set-up for my tank cleaning process. Photo by the author.

I have posted a few times about how I do water changes. All of my cichlid tanks, except my quarantine and hospital tanks, contain sand substrates. As a result, I use a system I created using Python water changers that easily minimizes loss of source water, cichlid fry, and sand. My process utilizes two Python brand water changing hoses and a few other components.

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