SERIOUS CICHLIDS' FISH TIPS & MORE
Serious Cichlids has decided to put together a list of cichlid secrets and tips that we would like to share with you! Some of these tips have worked for us in the past, and some of these tips we continue to use today. If some of these tips work for you, than we are glad we could help. Feel free to print them off and use them as often as you like. Just highlight the section you want to print, click the print button below, and when the print window opens, choose "SELECTION" and your printer will print only the words/pics you have higlighted!!
Should you have any tips or suggestions that you would like to share with others, please email us and we would be happy to post them for all fish hobbyists to enjoy! Email us at FishTips@SeriousCichlids.com
· During the breeding process, it is best to keep 1 male to at least 3-5 females. During this time you will want to keep a fast swimming “dummy” fish in the tank to keep the male away from attacking the fertile females. In this case sometimes it is a good idea to use two males, a dominant male and a sub-dominant male. You can also use floating plants; the male will use up his energy attacking the plant vs. taking out his aggression out on your females.
· A good sign that your group is about to breed, the males tend to get in to a “breeding dress”. Their colors will become more vibrant, they will start to build or move pebbles around for a breeding cave, and will seem to be protective of 1 or more of the females. You will also see them doing what we call the “BOOGIE DANCE”. This is when the male and females start to shake, kind of like they got something wrong with them. This is a signal to each other to lets get in on. The females on the other hand will start to get bigger bellies, almost as if they have the early stages of “Malawi Bloat”. Keep an eye on the females once they have laid their eggs, their bellies will shrink back to normal size. For the maternal mouth brooders, her mouth and throat will be larger from holding all those eggs. Keep in mind for some species the female and male both hold the eggs, or switch off holding the eggs. This usually occurs with Lake Tanganyikan fish. For substrate spawners, the eggs will be lying somewhere on a flat service in the tank with the female protecting them. Usually inside some type of cave.
· If you are having trouble getting your group of fish to breed, try changing the temperature. For this fish tip, you will change the temperature according to where your temperature is at that point. Make sure you are not changing the temperature too drastically. Try lowering your temperature to about 78-79°, keep it at this temperature for about 2 weeks. If your fish have not yet shown signs of breeding, then increase the temperature to about 80-82° The sudden increase in temperature will make the fish think the weather has changed from winter to spring, as if they are back in the wild!
· Another suggestion to help get your fish to breed, during a water change, you will need to take out all the decorations, ensure a deep clean of all the gravel, and re-arrange the decorations to make it look like a totally new environment. Cichlids can be similar to humans in the respect that they have to have their home be the way “they” want it. Sometimes they may not like a certain setup, but with a simple move of a rock, they will love it! Usually they will want to breed with just a new water change without moving any rocks or putting the rocks right back where they were.
· During the breeding process a majority of the males and a few females will start to move gravel with their mouths. This creates a breeding ground, mostly needed by the substrate spawners. To help get the breeding process on the move, we suggest scraping the gravel out of the way, to clear out a small space in the tank. By starting this process of the building, you will see the fish rush to the building surface and prepare for breeding.
FEMALE CICHLIDS HOLDING:
- Telling when the female is holding: you will see that the female tends not to eat, the under part of her mouth is full, she will move her mouth around, which is her incubating the fry. When you notice this happening to your female, you will want to make note of the date. It usually takes about 14 days for the fry to fully mature and become free swimming. Some people wait a little longer, or until the female releases the fry on her own. This is fine, but we have had some females hold onto the fry so long that they get pinch belly, which is something they can die of. You may see this in females that are consistently holding.
- There are a couple steps to take when you notice a female holding: 1) Leave her in the tank, mark the date on the outside of the tank. Usually this way, the female tends never to let go of the fry in fear that they will be eaten. 2) Catch the mom, place in one of those plastic holders, she may or may not let go of the fry, but if she does at least they will be all together in one holder. 3) You can catch the mom, place in a holding tank, we recommend a 10 gallon tank, which can be divided into 2 for an additional female. Either step will work, it just depends on your tank space, aggression of the male and other fish, and how bad you want the fry to survive.
- Now once the 14 days have passed and she has still not released the fry, you can do a couple things to help get the fry out. 1) Wait a couple more days (this is not recommended - as pinch belly can occur) 2) Catch the female, hold in your palm over another tank, a net, or a plastic holder. As you can see in the photo, you will squeeze GENTLY open her mouth using your thumb and pointer. Sometimes you can even give a little shake as that may help the fry exit the mouth. 3) Holding female the same method as step 2, use a pen to hold open her mouth and let the fry swim out. 4) Holding the female the same method as in step 2, you can use a eye dropper filled with water, stick in the females mouth and squeeze the water into her mouth. This will flush out all the fry.
- Keep in mind you are basically stealing the babies from the mother, so most of the time they put up a fight. If you try steps 2 & 3 above and they are really hard to get out, wait a couple of days as the fry may not be ready. If you strip them and you see that their bellies still have a ball on them (which is the yolk sac) then leave them alone and let the female pick them back up. (This is why it is good to keep her alone in a holder or a tank of her own, so she can quickly find and catch them to re-incubate)
- Having trouble getting the fry out?? If you got a couple fry out, and they are free swimming with no sacs, and you still feel there should be more (average for peacocks 20-30, some of the more common species can have upwards 200-1,000) Here are some tips to help: 1)When you originally strip the female, she may spit a few out and then shut her mouth tight. We try to pull her out of the water, while still squeezing over the tank/holder and when you place her back under, more will come out. 2) While some fry are in the separate tank/holder, take the female out of your hand and place in a net while resting in the tank water. Give her about 30-60 seconds, this will allow her to "re-adjust" her babies, as now she has less in her mouth. After waiting for a little while, squeeze again, using any of the techniques above. 3) You can use your nails to pull some of the stubborn fry out, as this only works for those last couple that refuse to come out! Once you feel you have gotten all of the fry, keep the female in the net, and keep an eye on her for a second. By doing so you allow her to "re-adjust" in case there are more, some species can hold 1,000 fry, that is a lot of fry in a little mouth. Sometimes you can actually see shadows in her throat swimming around since her mouth has stretched and there are no more fry. You can throw in a pellet and see if she eats, 50% won't eat for a day or so as they will swim around still looking for fry and the other 50% will eat right away, as 2 weeks is a long time without eating.
Cynotilapia Green Mbweca - Female - Holding - Fry ready to hatch
After a couple more squeezes, and letting the female re-adjust, finally the fry all started coming out. This mom successfully had 20 fry in her first batch on location and another female is holding as of yesterday! Check back in about 14 days for more pics!
BREEDING/CARE FOR FRY
· If you are breeding, and you get a successful batch of fry (baby cichlids) you will want to place them in their own holding tank. Due to the fact that they are so small in size, usually hatching at less than ¼”, you will want to make sure there are no pebbles or decorations in the tank. This will make it a lot easier to see the fry in the tank.
· Serious Cichlids recommends using a glass tank 20 gallons or smaller. If a tank is not available, you can also use the small plastic breeding holders. You can place this plastic holder in the tank with the parents until they are too big to be in that holder, as long as the cover is secure. This cover will protect the fry from swimming out of the holder into the tank with the other fish. DO NOT use the small netted fry holders. We have run into problems in the past with these. For example, the fry would get stuck in the corners of the net, resulting in death to the fry. We have also experienced the bigger cichlids actually sucking and nipping at the nets to get some dinner. If you choose to use the plastic holders for the fry, they will only be able to remain in the holder for a month or so. The fry will grow fairly fast and if they are confined to a small area, you may run into them killing each other for dominancy, and more room. So keep in mind that the holder is a temporary fix, until you can get a sufficient sized tank.
· When you get the chance to place the fry in their own tank, it is also a good idea to use a sponge filter. This is a device that will filter the water, but not with a section for the fry to be sucked up into the filter, like the standard Marineland filters. The air pump is hooked up to the sponge and causes a sucking motion to filter the water through the sponge itself.
- The best way to make the fry grow fast in a short time is: 1) Daily water changes, at least 25%, it is best to get all feces and uneaten food out of the tank 10 minutes after each feeding. 2) Mass feeding, 6-8 times a day. 3) Feed fry (under 1") protein all day every day. This will make them double in size in no time. We suggest: live baby brine shrimp, cyclops, frozen baby brine cubes. Once they reach 1" it is good to switch up their diet, at this size they can get Malawi Bloat, which is a deadly disease.
· With a fry tank it is recommended to feed the fry at least 6 times a day. When the fry are incredibly small, under ¾” you will want to feed them baby brine shrimp. You can buy these in frozen cubes, or you can make them live. Serious Cichlids suggests making Live Baby Brine by hatching Baby Brine Eggs. This is a simple process that takes at least 24hrs for them to hatch. Once they are hatched, you siphon the live baby brine out, and feed them to the fry.
· When your fry have grown to be over ¾” the best source of protein to help them grow besides the baby brine shrimp would be live black worms, blood worms, mainly protein rich foods. Your fry will grow to juvenile size in no time! You may be asking yourself, how can Malawi fry handle all that protein without getting a case of Malawi Bloat. The reason is, when fry are that small their intestines are built to digest all the protein in order to help them grow faster. But once they reach 1" in size, they no longer can have the constant diet of protein. This is what we have learned and experienced throughout our breeding process.
· For fish foods, our first choice is pellets! There are several things to pay attention to when you purchase pellet foods. Remember all pellets will vary in size and their ability to sink or float. Cichlids come from all over the world, from different lakes, with different food for them to eat. So based on their location and diet you will have to determine which type of pellet is best for them. A majority of the cichlids feed off the bottom and in mid-water; you must use a pellet that sinks well to accommodate these fish. We suggest staying clear of the pellets that float, as they are injected with air to make them float. As a result the air is pasted on your fish, which will cause lots of problems in the future. Most cichlids do not like swimming towards the top of the water, to avoid getting too much air in their mouths.
· What’s in the food? When purchasing food, check the contents to make sure the food has only 10% or less of a fat content. Fat is not a necessary part of a cichlids diet. Protein needs to take up only 35% of their diet. High amounts of protein are not needed if you are feeding your fish once a day. Protein is mostly important for fry. Feeding too much protein can cause “Malawi Bloat”, which can kill you fish. The most important thing to remember is DO NOT OVER FEED your fish with pellet foods. Pellets should be alternated with flakes, freeze-dried items, or vegetable substances. No fish can survive on one specific food, they are constantly eating something different when in the wild
· Choosing the pellet size. Most pellets are a 2.0 mm, small enough to be consumed by all cichlids, even some fry. Since feeding with sinking pellets, cichlids will begin eating the pellet when it softens in the water.
· Cichlids have a wide variety of feeding habits, but Serious Cichlids has found that to ensure vibrant colors and great health, Ken’s Flake Foods are the best! In addition, switch up the feed with some sort of spirulina and krill. These two items will amplify all the natural colors of your fish in a matter a few days!
· Serious Cichlids believes in the “perfect diet” for all of our cichlids. Just like humans need vitamins, so do cichlids. To keep their colors vibrant and their health at a maximum level, we add vitamins and garlic to their frozen foods. As a once a week treat, they eat it up so fast, you would think that they have never eaten in their life! What an amazing site to see them gobble up each particle of the food.
Spurlina Super Soft & Moist Sinking Pellets The best flake food money can buy
Email us or check our site for fish food information, prices and details
· Water changes are recommend to a 25% water change bi-weekly, and a 50% water change monthly. On the other hand, with a fry tank, you will want to siphon the un-eaten food and feces every time they are fed. Constant water changes, with the addition of clean water, will also aid in the growth of fry. Remember there’s no such thing as to much water changing. With our fry tanks they are done about 4-5 times a day and our other tanks are done weekly, sometimes more depending on the amount of waste.
· As you are well aware, cichlids love caves. To create caves, you can use lace rock, limestone, Texas holey rock, and slate. Slate is best to be used for substrate spawners, the flat service is perfect for laying their eggs in a safe place.
· Another less expensive way to create a cave is too use a clay flowerpot. You can purchase these at any craft store for minimal dollars. You can either place the pot on its side to have cave entrance or purchasing a ceramic wholesaw you can drill a hole in the side of the pot for the cichlids to enter. You can put one or several holes, your choice. You can place the pot upside down building up the gravel around the pot to help hide the clay pot in a way to make the cichlids think the pot is a natural built cave.
· If you are keeping any Apistogramma species, they require a very low pH, ranging from 5-7pH. Most freshwater has a pH of 7.8-8.0, in order to help lower the pH we suggest using live plants, driftwood, and peat moss. You will want to make sure to fill the tank up completely with these items to help lower the pH quite quickly. They will have no problem breeding as long as the pH is just right. It is good to keep the water from 72-75°.
· Another way to keep the water soft is using an RO system (Reverse Osmosis). These things can get pretty expensive depending on which kind you are looking to purchase. Serious Cichlids suggests looking on Ebay, Craigslist, or even asking a petstore if they may have a used RO System for sale. It works the same and you can save a lot of money.
To summarize, the best advice that Serious Cichlids can give is to feed your fish a variety for their diet to aid in breeding, health, and growth; and they need it cautiously to reduce the chances of getting Malawi Bloat.