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Why Are My Cichlids Circling Each Other?

Why Are My Cichlids Circling Each Other?

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This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addition, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Cichlids are neat fish to own that will look great in your fish tank. They can be good fish to buy since they’re relatively simple to care for.

You can encounter problems when keeping these fish, though. For example, cichlids are known to be semi-aggressive fish.

This can make it tough to keep them in some community tank settings. Also, they might act strangely toward one another sometimes.

If your cichlids appear to be circling each other, is this something you should worry about? Read on to learn about this topic so you can understand what to do.

Cichlids Swimming in Circles

There’s a good chance that what you’re noticing is the fish fighting. Sometimes when cichlids are fighting each other they will start circling each other in the water.

The act of circling is meant to act as a threat. Two cichlids might be circling each other trying to get the other to back down.

If you observe the fish long enough, you might notice that the circling will escalate. Eventually, the fish might start nipping at each other and otherwise begin to fight.

It’s actually pretty normal for cichlids to fight with each other. There could be several different reasons why this is happening.

If you’re worried about the fish hurting each other, it’ll be best to figure out why the fighting is happening. Below, you’ll see some of the reasons why cichlids fight.

Territorial Instincts

As you might expect, cichlids have territorial instincts. Some types of cichlids are more territorial than others, too.

It might be worth looking into the aggression levels of the specific type of cichlids that you’re keeping in your tank. You should also remember that cichlids generally become territorial when they feel the need to fight over territory.

You’ll be far more likely to have issues with cichlids fighting if you keep them in a fish tank that’s too small. It might be that you’ve put the fish in a tank where they don’t have enough room.

Either the tank itself is too small or it has become too crowded. You might need to buy a larger tank to alleviate issues with territorial fighting.

If you’ve been cramming too many fish in the tank, that’s something that you need to stop doing. Never put more fish than you should inside of a fish tank.

Cichlids will fight each other if they feel that they don’t have enough room. The fighting can get pretty bad if you aren’t careful.

Be mindful of this and make good decisions. You can always make changes and set up a second fish tank if necessary.

Male Cichlids Often Fight Each Other

Male cichlids are known to fight each other. For instance, if you have two male angelfish in the same aquarium, they’re just going to keep fighting.

Many types of cichlids are the same way. When you put two males in the tank, it’s likely going to lead to problems.

You might see the two circling each other and threatening each other often. In some cases, the fighting will get really bad.

Putting two male cichlids together in a small tank will lead to severe fighting. It’s even possible that one fish might kill the other.

This is why you should avoid putting two male cichlids in the same tank. It’s simply better to keep females together with one male.

Sometimes it might be okay to have multiple male cichlids if you have a very large tank. If you have hiding spots, plenty of aquatic plants, and other decorations it might be okay.

Even so, it’s easier to just not put two male cichlids in the same aquarium. Remember this when buying fish for your tank.


It could be that the fish are circling each other for mating purposes. Many cichlids chase each other when they’re getting ready to spawn.

You might see the fish circling each other and even nipping at each other during this time. It’s all part of the normal mating rituals of cichlids.

Have you seen two of the cichlids “lock lips” as if they’re kissing? Sometimes the fish will lock lips and shake each other as a sign that a mating bond has formed.

Other signs of mating rituals include fin shaking and shimmying. If you’re new to raising cichlids, you might not have learned to notice these signs as of yet.

If the fish are going through mating rituals, there’s no reason to worry about anything. It just means that two of the cichlids are going to mate soon.

How to Stop Fighting

Stopping issues with fighting will really be about giving the fish enough room. You might need to look into whether your current fish tank is big enough for all of the fish that you have.

Check into the recommended tank size for the type of cichlids that you have. Perhaps you’re keeping them in a tank that is a bit too small.

Being kept in a cramped environment will make it more likely for fish to become territorial. Avoid issues like this by giving the fish more than enough space to live.

It might be good to put hiding spots in the tank as well. Having hiding spots will give fish a chance to get away from each other instead of fighting.

You can put live plants at the bottom of the fish tank. It’s very likely that your fish will appreciate this.

Final Thoughts

Now you know that cichlids circling each other means one of two things. It could be that two fish are trying to threaten each other and are about to fight.

It might also be that the fish are simply flirting. Cichlids that are preparing to mate will often circle each other and nip at each other.

Differentiating between mating rituals and fighting might not always be easy. If you see the fish wagging fins or shimmying, it’s likely that they’re flirting.

Mating rituals are nothing to worry about. Fighting can be problematic since the fish can hurt each other, though.

Simply try to make it less likely that the cichlids will fight. Don’t give them reasons to become territorial.

Keep the fish in fish tanks that are more than big enough. If you give them an ideal environment, it’s likely things will be fine.

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