Cichlids have been some of the most well-loved aquarium fish for quite some time. These fish are great for beginners and they also appeal to those who have been keeping fish tanks in their homes for a long time.
You might wind up liking these fish so much that you’ll want to have more of them. One way to get more cichlids is to breed the ones that you have.
What do you need to know about breeding cichlids? Is it easy to breed these fish or is it something that beginners shouldn’t attempt?
Continue reading this cichlid breeding guide to get all of the necessary information. This will ensure that you know how to approach breeding cichlids.
You’ll get the answers to many common questions. It should make it simpler than ever to breed these fish even if it’s your first time.
Do Cichlids Lay Eggs?
Yes, cichlids lay eggs. These fish are going to lay eggs when they reproduce.
Most types of cichlids will lay eggs in caves or somewhere on top of rocks. Others might dig a little nest in the sand and lay their eggs there.
The cichlids will then defend the eggs from other fish that might try to eat them. After the eggs hatch, the parents will continue to protect the fry for a period of time.
Even though cichlids lay eggs, some of the fish have different ways of caring for the eggs. You’ll learn a bit more about that later.
How Often Do Cichlids Have Babies?
African cichlids have the potential to breed every six weeks. Other types of cichlids might breed a bit more often than that.
For example, kribensis cichlids usually breed every two or three weeks. Depending on the type of cichlid fish that you’re discussing, it might breed more or less often.
Look up specific information based on the type of cichlid that you’re caring for. This will ensure that you’ll know how often the fish can potentially breed.
Keep in mind that the fish might not breed even though it has been long enough between breeding sessions. If the conditions aren’t ideal, it could take longer to coax the cichlids into breeding once again.
How Long Do Cichlid Eggs Take to Hatch?
How long the cichlid eggs will take to hatch is something that will differ by species as well. You see, some cichlid eggs take quite a bit longer to hatch than others.
Convict cichlid eggs are only going to take three to five days to hatch. Some types of African cichlids might have eggs that will take up to 15 days to hatch.
The best way to figure out how long the eggs will take to hatch will be to look up information about the cichlid species that you own. If you own angelfish, then you can expect the eggs to hatch in around 60 hours if the tank is set to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Oscar eggs will only take 72 hours to hatch. So you can see that there is quite a bit of variation in the egg hatching time when looking at different types of cichlids.
Are Cichlids Livebearers?
No, cichlids are not livebearers. They lay eggs to reproduce.
Are Cichlids Mouth Brooders?
Yes, there are African cichlids that are mouth brooders. A mouth brooder is a fish that holds its eggs in its mouth.
For a certain period of time, the fish will hold the eggs in its mouth. During the entire time, the female fish doesn’t eat.
This means that there won’t be a chance for the eggs to escape or get lost. Not all African cichlids are mouth brooders.
Some of the most common mouth brooders include red zebra cichlids, yellow labs, and many other cichlids that fall under the Lake Malawi category.
How Long Do Cichlids Hold Eggs in Their Mouth?
It’s said that female mouth brooders will hold eggs in their mouths for a rather long time. This process goes on for many days.
Between 21 and 36 days is the average length of time that the female cichlid holds the eggs in its mouth. As mentioned above, the female fish doesn’t eat during this period of time.
How Many Babies Do Cichlids Have?
How many babies cichlids will have is largely dependent on how many eggs they lay. Not all of the eggs will hatch, but each egg presumably has the potential to hatch so long as it has been fertilized by a male cichlid.
Some types of cichlids lay more eggs at once than others. Some might lay several dozen eggs at once while others can potentially lay hundreds of eggs.
Thus, this is another situation where you’ll need specific details about the species that you want to know about. There are hundreds of cichlids out there and it would be impossible to give you the details about each of them.
Convict cichlids will commonly lay two hundred or more eggs. A female angelfish can lay anywhere from a hundred to one thousand eggs at once.
Unfertilized Cichlid Eggs
It’s important to be able to tell if cichlid eggs have been fertilized or not. This way, you’ll know if you can separate the parents from the eggs safely.
Fertilized eggs will generally have a cream-colored appearance. Unfertilized cichlid eggs are likely going to turn white.
Unfertilized cichlid eggs aren’t viable and they might even have fungus growing on them. Often, cichlids will eat unfertilized eggs because they know that they aren’t viable.
Cichlid Eggs Turning White
What does it mean when cichlid eggs are turning white? It likely means that the eggs weren’t fertilized properly.
You’ve learned that cichlids can potentially lay hundreds of eggs at once. Sometimes the male cichlid won’t fertilize all of the eggs completely.
Perhaps it missed certain eggs and those eggs that didn’t get fertilized aren’t viable. In this situation, the eggs are eventually going to turn white.
If all of the eggs in the aquarium are white, none of them are going to hatch. They’re all bad and they can be discarded as you see fit.
Cichlid Breeding Behavior
Commonly, cichlids will act more aggressive when it’s time to breed. Male cichlids will fight over the right to breed with females.
Females will become more aggressive as well. This is because they have an instinct to protect their eggs from threats in the tank.
To have a smooth experience, it’s best to put a breeding pair of cichlids in a separate tank. This prevents the parent fish from encountering issues.
When Do Cichlids Breed?
Cichlids won’t be able to breed until they have reached maturity. When the fish will be old enough to breed will depend on the type of fish you’re talking about.
Many cichlids will be fully developed once they have reached three months old. Others might take closer to a year to be old enough to breed.
When you want to breed these fish, it’s wise to look up specific information so you can know when the cichlids will be ready to breed. This ensures that you’ll know what to expect and you can plan ahead that way.
Cichlid Breeding Setup
A cichlid breeding setup is going to involve getting a separate tank where you can place a breeding pair of cichlids. Put the breeding pair in a separate tank from the main tank.
This ensures that they won’t be bothered by other types of cichlids. The fish can breed and then they will be able to look after their eggs in peace.
Depending on the types of cichlids you have, they might lay eggs in different spots. You might need to place rocks or caves in the breeding tank so the cichlids will lay their eggs.
Some cichlids are mouth brooders and others will dig into the sand and place eggs there. Angelfish are known for sticking their eggs to the sides of big leaves.
Ensure that the fish have everything that they need in the breeding tank. You might need to set the temperature to a specific number to encourage the fish to breed, too.
How Do Cichlids Mate?
Cichlids mate the same way that most types of fish do. Male fish try to court the female fish and then they form a type of mating connection.
A female cichlid will lay its eggs and the male will then fertilize them. The parent fish will look after the eggs and protect them until they hatch.
They will then be able to do the same thing again after a certain amount of time has passed. Some cichlids do things slightly differently, though.
Mouth brooding cichlids store the eggs in their mouths. The female cichlid will keep the eggs in its mouth for at least 21 days.
How to Breed Cichlids
To breed cichlids, buy at least one male cichlid and one female cichlid. Place them in the same tank and encourage them to breed by giving them the right environment.
Some cichlids will be more likely to breed when the water is a particular temperature. Knowing this, it’s important to look up the specific environment that each cichlid type needs to stimulate a breeding response.
It’s always best to breed cichlids in a breeding tank. This protects the fish and makes it easier for them to focus on breeding rather than having to worry about other fish in the main tank.
So long as you’re doing this, it should be simple to get good results. It also helps if you pick fish that are relatively easy to breed.
Some cichlids are harder to breed in captivity. Many are simple enough that even beginners will get good results.
Easiest Cichlids to Breed
As you might expect, some cichlids are going to be easier to breed than others. If you want to have a simple time as a beginner, it’s best to pick one of the easy cichlid breeds that will breed in captivity regularly.
Convict cichlids are some of the best that you can buy for breeding purposes. These are hardy fish that are easy to care for and it doesn’t take much effort to get them to breed in a fish tank.
Fairy cichlids are another excellent choice that won’t be too difficult. These fish lay eggs in caves and it’s easy to do what you need to do to protect the eggs.
Jewel cichlids are a popular choice that many people will enjoy breeding. If you want to breed them, put them in a large breeding tank away from other fish.
Kribensis cichlids are good because they’re small and easy to handle. Red zebras are another option that you’ll really like if you decide to breed them.
How to Keep Baby Cichlids Alive
Keeping baby cichlids alive will be easier if you’re able to separate them from the main tank. The ideal choice is to take the eggs after they’ve been fertilized and keep them in a separate tank.
It’ll actually be easier to move the parents than it will be to move the eggs, though. You can put the parent fish in a breeding tank and then let the female lay the eggs.
After the male has fertilized the eggs, you might wish to separate the parents from the eggs. You can put the parent fish back in the main tank.
It’s also fine to let the parent fish care for the eggs. Some of the eggs might get eaten, but most cichlids do a pretty good job of caring for the eggs.
Once the eggs hatch, that’s when you definitely want to put the parent fish back in the main tank. Keep the cichlid fry in the breeding tank and continue to look after them.
You’ll need to feed the baby cichlids appropriate types of food that they can eat. Continue to look after the babies carefully until they’ve grown large enough and can be put in the main tank.
It’s also fine to get a new tank for these baby cichlids and keep them in there. Sometimes it’s better not to add too many cichlids to one tank.
This is especially true because male cichlids often wind up fighting each other. Simply look after the baby fish to the best of your ability.
How to Tell if Cichlids Are Pregnant
Technically, cichlids don’t get pregnant. They aren’t livebearers and pregnancy isn’t the right term for fish that carry eggs.
Female fish might look a little swollen around the belly area when they’re getting ready to lay eggs. So you might be able to tell that a female cichlid is preparing to breed based on its appearance.
You can also look out for other mating signs. It’s common to see cichlids circle each other and chase each other when they’re forming a mating bond.
As you get used to breeding cichlids, you’ll be able to easily recognize such signs. Then you’ll know when it’s time to look out for the cichlid eggs.
What to Feed Cichlid Fry
Cichlid fry will have rather small mouths and they won’t be able to eat normal fish food. The standard fish food that you give to adult cichlids won’t work for them.
Since their mouths aren’t big enough yet, you’ll need to feed them smaller types of food. The most common thing that people feed cichlid fry is freshly hatched brine shrimp.
This will work well for omnivorous and carnivorous types of cichlids. Not all cichlids will be able to eat freshly hatched brine shrimp.
You can buy powder-based food or liquid food that is specifically meant for cichlid fry. This is very easy to feed to baby cichlids and will do a good job of giving them the nutrients that they need.
It should take a week or two for the cichlids to grow larger enough to start eating more normal types of food. Once they’ve grown a bit, you’ll be able to feed them crushed fish flakes or crushed nutritional pellets.
Can Cichlids Crossbreed?
Yes, cichlids can crossbreed. This happens all the time and it could happen by accident if you keep two different types of cichlids in the same tank.
Of course, not all cichlids are capable of crossbreeding. Not all types of cichlids get along with each other either.
If you’re curious about crossbreeding, it’s best to look up detailed information about specific types of fish. Some African cichlids can crossbreed with each other.
This is often done to make new fish that look different. Sometimes new color variations and fish with intriguing patterns emerge from the hybridization of two species.
Cichlid Mating Dance
Different types of cichlids have different mating rituals. Some cichlids are going to circle each other and nip at each other.
You could say that this is a form of flirting before the mating begins. It’s common for fish to chase each other a bit and the male fish might shake in a way that resembles dancing.
Many mouth brooding African cichlids will do a mating dance. Males do a type of dance to try to attract females.
When the male is successful, the female will immediately lay the eggs so the male can fertilize them. The dance is simply a part of the courtship process.
When to Strip Cichlid Fry
Stripping is a term that refers to separating the cichlid fry from the mouth brooding mother. You don’t want to do this too early.
Some people choose to strip cichlid fry as early as twelve days. However, this isn’t ideal because the fry will still have egg sacs at this point.
It’s best to wait until around twenty or twenty-one days to do this. The fry will be ready to be stripped and won’t be tethered to egg sacs any longer.
At this point, you can completely separate the fry from the mother. You’ll then need to care for the fry yourself and feed them properly.
Can Different Cichlids Breed?
It is indeed possible for different types of cichlids to breed. The fish that result from two different cichlids breeding will be known as hybrids.
Often, hobbyists will attempt to breed cichlids very selectively. They do this to try to create cichlids with desirable traits such as interesting colors and markings.
There are a lot of different cichlids that can hybridize with each other. It’s common for various types of African species to crossbreed.
There are so many types of African cichlids that can crossbreed that it would be difficult to list them all. If you’re curious, you can look up specific information about the two types of cichlids that you’re interested in crossbreeding.
Do Cichlids Eat Their Own Eggs?
Have you noticed one of the cichlids eating some of the eggs? This isn’t too unusual and it’s something that many types of cichlids do.
Angelfish are commonly found snacking on their own eggs. Sometimes this will happen when the fish become stressed and they will panic and decide to eat all of the eggs.
This can also be done for practical reasons. For instance, a fish might choose to eat eggs that aren’t viable any longer.
Some eggs might have fungus growing on them and the parent fish will choose to eat that egg as a way to protect the other eggs in the clutch. So eating eggs won’t always be a bad thing.
There might be times where parent fish will eat eggs out of necessity, too. If the parent fish needs energy to keep going, it might have to eat a few of the eggs.
Do Cichlids Eat Their Babies?
Many types of cichlids will eat their babies. It’s a common thing that happens in the wild and in captivity.
This can be a real annoyance when you’re trying to breed cichlids in your tank. The parents will generally do a good job of protecting the eggs, but then they might eat the fry once they have hatched.
It’s normal to be frustrated by this situation. If you want to ensure the survival of the fry, it’s best to separate the parent fish from the babies after they’ve hatched.
Some go so far as separating the parents from the eggs once they’ve been fertilized. This helps to give the babies the best chance of survival when they’re placed in a separate tank.
You will then be responsible for ensuring that the fish get what they need. It can be a lot harder to do things this way, but it’s also the best path to take when you want as many baby cichlids to survive as possible.
Jeff has always enjoyed having pets, but as a child, he was drawn to his family’s fish tank. Being able to maintain a small ecosystem and observe the behaviors and interactions in the underwater world peaked his interest early on and has kept him hooked until this day. On Avid Aquarist, Jeff shares everything he’s learned about helping aquatic life survive and thrive in a home aquarium.