Cichlids are a group of over 2,000 species of freshwater fish. These fish are some of the most colorful species of fish in the world and also some of the most popular in the aquarium trade. What makes cichlids so special? Aside from their unique and vibrant coloration, cichlids are also a joy to keep in the home aquarium. Many species develop personalities and attachments to their owners. Many species are also very easy to breed. If you plan to breed your cichlids, you should first take the time to learn about the breeding habits of the particular species you have. Then, learn what you will need to do in order to raise the cichlid fry.
Basics of Cichlid Breeding
Cichlids lay eggs rather than giving birth to live fry – because of this, some species can lay hundreds of eggs in one clutch because they are much smaller than live-born fry. Certain species of cichlid lay their eggs on flat surfaces while others bury them in substrate – some even hold the eggs in their mouths, protecting them until they hatch. Before you breed your cichlids, take the time to research their breeding methods so you can prepare the breeding tank accordingly. You should also set up a nursery tank for your fry so the tank is ready as soon as your cichlids spawn.
The Early Stages
After your cichlids have spawned, many species will care for the eggs and fry until (and sometimes for several days after) they hatch. If you find that your cichlids are not caring for the eggs, it is best to remove them from the tank so they don’t eat the eggs. Cichlids that brood the eggs in their mouths should not be disturbed until the fry have been released. Once the eggs have hatched, you can remove the adults from the tank and begin rearing the fry on your own.
A nursery tank for cichlid fry does not need to be large at first. You may not even need to feed the fry for several days until their bodies absorb what is left of the yolk sac. Once this happens you will need to feed the fry very small foods such as infusoria several times a day. After a week or so, the fry should have grown sufficiently to accept newly hatched brine shrimp (called nauplii). At this time it may also be safe to begin performing water changes in the nursery tank to keep the water clean.
The Later Stages
Once your cichlid fry have grown large enough to accept brine shrimp you may want to think about separating them between different grow-out tanks. Dividing the fry between multiple tanks will provide them with adequate space to grow. A grow-out tank should be about 20 gallons in capacity and it should be sparsely decorated to facilitate easy cleaning. Maintain a stable water temperature in the tank and check the water quality on a regular basis. Continue to feed your cichlid fry protein-rich foods, eventually incorporating finely crushed flakes or granules into their diet as well.
After your cichlid fry have grown to be at least an inch long, you can start thinking about transferring them to a community tank or selling them to a pet store. Do not add the fry to an existing tank until they are too large to be considered prey by other fish. In order to make sure that your cichlid fry grow quickly, it is important to keep the tank environment clean. You may find it helpful to add an EcoBio-Stone S to your fry tank. EcoBio-Block Products are infused with live beneficial bacteria colonies as well as the nutrients they need to multiply and maintain the nitrogen cycle in your tank. Once the nitrogen cycle has been established, the beneficial bacteria will work with your aquarium filter to help keep your tank water clean and clear.