You want all of the fish in your aquarium to get along properly. Sadly, not all fish are going to have peaceful temperaments.
When you keep cichlids in your tank, you should expect a little bit of aggression. Cichlids are semi-aggressive fish, after all.
Are your cichlids fighting pretty regularly? You might be worried that the fish are going to seriously harm each other if you don’t do something.
Why do cichlids fight each other? Is there something you can do to keep this from happening?
Keep reading to learn more about cichlids and fighting in the fish tank. You’ll have a better understanding of the situation and will be able to make good choices to protect your fish.
Cichlids Mating or Fighting
It can be tough sometimes to tell whether cichlids are mating or fighting. The mating behaviors of cichlids will often resemble fighting.
To tell the difference, you’re going to need to observe the fish and pay close attention. Below, you’ll learn a bit more about the mating behaviors of cichlids.
It’ll help you to know when the fish are just flirting with each other and getting ready to mate. When the fish are merely trying to form a mating bond, it’s not going to be anything to worry about.
Fighting is a problem that you should pay attention to. You’ll learn more about that later.
Cichlid Mating Rituals
Cichlids do many different things that look like fighting when they’re getting ready to mate. Male and female cichlids will commonly circle each other when they’re getting ready to spawn.
Circling can also be seen as an aggressive behavior that’s meant to intimidate. When done as part of a mating ritual, it’s more like flirting.
It’s common for cichlids to chase each other in circles when they’re forming a mating bond. You’ll also usually notice the fish shaking their tails and shimmying.
If you see the fish nipping at each other’s fins, it’s nothing to worry about. This is just another thing that cichlids do during mating.
Eventually, you might notice the cichlids lock lips. This can look rather aggressive, but it’s also a mating thing and not something that is being done to fight.
Of course, cichlids will sometimes do this when they’re fighting. You just have to pay attention to the other signs to see if the fish are mating or if they’re fighting.
Certain types of cichlids will press their lips together as part of the mating process. In some cichlids, locking lips is something that must be done for two fish to form a mating bond.
Not all cichlids will do this, though. Also, it’s worth noting that this behavior isn’t that commonly seen in fish.
Some fish lock lips when fighting with each other. It’s not usually a sign of affection or something that has to do with mating.
You could notice the cichlids kissing when they’re not trying to mate. For example, two males could lock lips in the fish tank.
This will occur when they’re trying to wrestle and determine who is stronger. Males are known to fight with each other quite a bit.
How to Keep Cichlids From Fighting
Keeping cichlids from fighting is about ensuring that they have enough space to live. You need to keep the fish in a fish tank that is more than big enough.
Cichlids are semi-aggressive fish and some are more aggressive than others. They will become territorial when they’re kept in tanks that are way too small.
Keeping cichlids in cramped fish tanks will cause them to suffer in multiple ways. It can make the water quality in the fish tank a lot worse.
The overcrowded tank will also make it tougher for the fish to live normally. They might feel as if they have to fight for territory or they won’t be able to live.
This can cause many issues with fighting in the tank. Avoiding this situation is often as simple as buying a bigger tank.
Look up the tank size requirements for the type of fish that you have. Your cichlids should have a specific tank size that they prefer.
Remember that it’s generally better to go with a bigger tank than it is to go with a smaller one. You’d have a better time getting one that’s bigger than what you need so long as you have enough room in your home.
Males Fight Each Other
Most types of cichlids have males that won’t get along with each other. Males are known to fight each other so much that they won’t stop.
In some cases, male cichlids will even fight to the death. For this reason, it’s a poor idea to keep multiple male cichlids in the tank.
You can only keep more than one male cichlid in the tank under certain conditions. Look up specific information for the cichlid species that you own.
Occasionally, enthusiasts will get things to work out by keeping cichlids in a very large tank. If you have a large aquarium with lots of hiding spots, the males might be less likely to confront each other.
When caring for some cichlid species, it’s recommended to keep one male for every three females. So this ratio might work out fine depending on the type of fish that you’re buying.
No matter what, you should remember that the male fish are the ones that are the most aggressive. Keep this in mind so you can try to avoid issues.
Feed Your Fish Carefully
Try to spread the food out a bit so that all of the fish can get food. Make it so the fish don’t feel they have to fight over the food.
You don’t want to overfeed the fish, but it’d be better to feed them a bit more so they won’t fight. To avoid issues, many people feed cichlids three to four times per day.
Feed the cichlids as much as they can eat in thirty seconds each time. That should keep the fish very healthy.
Try Buying Non-Aggressive Cichlids
Not all cichlids are so annoyingly aggressive. There are peaceful cichlids out there that you can look into.
One of the most popular types of cichlids is the keyhole cichlid. It’s a beautiful fish that is going to get along very well in your aquarium.
Other options include Lake Tanganyika cichlids and electric yellow labs. If you buy peaceful cichlids, you won’t need to be as concerned with fighting.
Fighting will be a rare problem if you pick the right fish. Avoid very aggressive cichlids such as Oscars.
Why Are My Cichlids Killing Each Other?
What if your cichlids are killing each other despite your best efforts? Why in the world is this happening?
There are many reasons why cichlids might kill their own kind. Below, you’ll see several reasons why cichlids might kill other cichlids.
Having a better understanding of why cichlids kill might help you. You can try to set things up better to avoid such situations.
Fighting Over Territory and Food
The most common reason why cichlids will fight has to do with territory and food. Sometimes the fighting will get so bad that cichlids will kill each other.
You learned that keeping cichlids in tanks that are too small is bad. Now you know that issues such as this can lead to fish getting killed.
If the cichlids are kept in small environments, they might fight each other more over territory. The larger and stronger cichlids might wind up killing the weaker cichlids.
The alpha fish of the group of cichlids will want to get food before the others, too. A cichlid might just feel that it’s defending its territory from another fish.
Males Kill Each Other
As mentioned earlier, males are known to kill each other. Male cichlids often don’t get along well at all.
The males feel as if they’re constantly in competition with each other. They might fight for the right to do many things.
It’s common for male cichlids to fight over the right to breed with female fish. They’ll also fight over food and territory.
The fighting can be so bad that one fish might wind up getting killed. This is why most enthusiasts recommend not keeping two male cichlids together in the same thing.
Of course, there are many types of cichlids out there. For example, keyhole cichlids are very peaceful fish that will only ever become a bit aggressive during mating.
Not Enough Cichlids in the Tank
Sometimes having more cichlids will help to spread the aggression out. If there are too few fish in the tank, the aggression will be focused on just one or two fish.
Certain types of cichlids will be better kept in small groups. Look up recommended group sizes for the specific types of cichlids that you’re interested in.
Introducing New Cichlids to the Tank
If you already have some adult cichlids in the tank, it’s likely not a good idea to put new cichlids in the tank. You see, the current cichlids are going to see the new cichlids as an invading force.
You’ll likely notice a lot of fighting over territory. The bigger and stronger cichlids will wind up killing the weaker ones.
It’s certainly not good to allow this to happen. Never introduce new adult cichlids to a tank that already has cichlids.
When you want to buy more cichlids, it’s best to put them in a separate tank. If some of the cichlids breed in your tank, they might accept the young fry if they survive long enough.
Cichlids Target Weak Fish
Sadly, cichlids are cruel fish in certain ways. When one of the cichlids gets sick, it’s likely that it’ll be targeted by the stronger cichlids.
The same thing happens when some of the cichlids start to get too old. They might be picked off by younger and healthier cichlids.
There isn’t really anything you can do to prevent this. It’s simply something that happens when caring for these types of fish.
As usual, this is going to be more likely to happen when caring for more aggressive types of cichlids. If you buy cichlids that have more peaceful temperaments, it’s not likely that this will be a problem.
General Stress Issues
If cichlids become stressed, they might start acting erratically. Sometimes the stress will get so bad that the cichlids might kill each other.
There are many things that can cause these fish to feel stressed. Overcrowding in the fish tank is one of the most significant stressors to worry about.
Poor water quality will also negatively impact these fish. That’s why it’s so important to take care of the fish tank properly.
When the water is too dirty, the fish might lash out. It could lead to more fighting and potentially more fish dying.
Keeping cichlids in loud rooms can also cause them to feel stressed. They don’t like loud noises and this is why you shouldn’t put the fish tank near your TV or your stereo system.
You should feel a lot more informed about cichlid aggression now. Most types of cichlids are at least semi-aggressive.
Many of them are very aggressive and some will even kill each other. Typically, males are going to fight each other more often.
Cichlids fight each other over territory and they also fight over food. They’ll fight over the right to mate with females as well.
To avoid problems, it’s best to keep cichlids in big fish tanks. It’s also wise to keep males away from each other in most situations.
When caring for some cichlids, it’s best not to keep two males in the same tank. There are peaceful cichlids that you can look into purchasing as well, though.
Keep all of the information above in mind. Make informed decisions about what to do to keep the cichlids in your tank safe.
Despite the aggression of some cichlids, they can be a lot of fun to own. You just have to approach things in the right way.
Care for the cichlids properly and keep them healthy. You should be able to keep issues with fighting to a minimum.
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.