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What to Feed Cichlids (The Best Food Options)

What to Feed Cichlids (The Best Food Options)

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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 very popular fish. They’re great fish to own for most people due to being incredibly hardy.

If you’re new to the idea of keeping cichlids in your home, it’s going to be wise to learn about them before buying them. This will allow you to get better results and keep them healthy.

For instance, it’s important to learn how to feed these fish properly. You want to keep cichlids in good health and feeding them a healthy diet is an important part of doing that.

What are you supposed to feed cichlids? How often are you supposed to feed them?

Read on to learn everything that you need to know about feeding cichlids. Once you’ve learned everything, it’ll be that much easier to care for your new cichlids.

Best Foods for Cichlids

The best foods for cichlids will vary slightly depending on which types of cichlids you’re caring for. It’s important to keep in mind that cichlids are a varied category of fish.

For instance, many popular aquarium fish such as angelfish, Oscars, discus fish, and African cichlids all fall under the broad category of “cichlid” fish.

There are some cichlids that are herbivores and these fish cannot properly digest meat-based proteins. Other cichlids are omnivores that are capable of eating meat.

The best thing to do involves looking things up based on the species that you’re feeding. This ensures that you get the most accurate information possible.

You can find general foods that cichlids seem to like. For the most part, flakes and nutritional pellets are going to be staples of the diet.

You’ll feed the fish cichlid flakes much of the time. Then you’ll supplement the diet with other foods that help to give the fish the right nutrients.

Some types of cichlids will need to be fed meaty foods that have a lot of protein from time to time. Others will appreciate more veggies.

Later, you’ll learn more about some specific foods and whether cichlids like them or not. This should help you to make good choices for your fish.

How Often to Feed Cichlids

Feeding cichlids the right way is important to keep them healthy. You want to make sure that you’re giving them enough food that they can stay strong.

If you don’t feed the cichlids often enough, it’s going to make them stressed. Cichlids can survive for a while without food, but that doesn’t mean that it’s good to forget to feed your fish.

Adult cichlids need to eat three or four times per day. Juvenile cichlids need to eat a bit more often than that.

To make things easy for yourself, it’s best to set alarms and feed your cichlids at the same times each day. This ensures that they’re getting enough food and will stay healthy.

How Much to Feed Cichlids

You never want to feed cichlids too much food. These fish can easily become constipated if you go overboard when feeding them.

They don’t necessarily understand when it’s time to stop eating. The fish can’t control themselves well enough to stop eating before they’ve reached the limits of what they can handle.

When you feed the cichlids three or four times per day, it’s important to only give them so much food. Ideally, you want to give them as much as they can eat in thirty seconds each time.

This prevents the fish from eating more than they should. The fish will get enough nutrients and they’ll remain very healthy.

It should be pointed out that juvenile cichlids need to eat a bit more often. However, these fish should still be fed roughly the same amount of food to avoid issues with constipation.

Why is constipation such a concern? When cichlids become constipated they wind up having problems with their swim bladders.

Malfunctioning swim bladders will make it nearly impossible for the fish to swim normally. The swim bladder is the organ that controls buoyancy, and fish will often swim upside down when this organ is malfunctioning.

You can alleviate constipation issues by feeding cichlids boiled peas. This makes them poop a lot and helps them to get back to normal.

It’s best not to let the cichlids get constipated in the first place, though. Stick to feeding the fish as much food as they can eat in thirty seconds each time that you feed them to avoid issues.

Do Cichlids Eat Other Fish?

Cichlids will eat other fish, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to devour all of the fish in your tank. Since many types of cichlids are omnivores, they will eat when they get a chance to.

Smaller types of fish that will fit in a cichlid’s mouth might be consumed by them. This means that you can’t keep very small fish in the fish tank with most types of cichlids.

Eating fish isn’t something that cichlids do all the time. Many cichlids eat various things such as plants, biofilm, algae, crustaceans, and insects.

If you want to put cichlids in a community fish tank, you simply must research compatibility first. You need to ensure that the fish that you’re putting them in the community tank with are compatible enough.

This will prevent issues such as one fish devouring the other. So long as you get the information that you need, cichlids can be decent community tank fish.

Do Cichlids Eat Algae?

Some types of cichlids eat algae. It’s common for many herbivorous cichlids to consume algae as a regular part of their diets.

Omnivorous cichlids might also consume algae. It simply depends on the type of cichlid that you’re talking about.

Many of these fish will even enjoy eating algae rounds if you give them to them. Mbuna cichlids are a great example of fish that love to eat algae.

Can you count on cichlids to keep your tank clean and eat all of the algae? No, this wouldn’t be reasonable.

These fish don’t eat algae enough to clean tanks. They will eat algae as a supplement to their diets, though.

Do Cichlids Eat Shrimp?

Shrimp is a very common food for many types of cichlids. Omnivorous and carnivorous cichlids love to eat shrimp.

If the type of cichlid that you’re caring for is carnivorous or omnivorous, it’s likely that they’re going to love shrimp. Brine shrimp are the most common type of shrimp that people give to these fish.

You can also feed them Mysis shrimp and they will happily take it. It’s recommended to give cichlids that eat meat shrimp occasionally.

The easiest thing to do is buy freeze-dried brine shrimp from pet stores. You can thaw the shrimp out and then give it to the cichlids.

Both carnivorous and omnivorous cichlids will need the meat-based proteins. Never feed shrimp to herbivorous cichlids because they won’t be able to digest the food properly.

Can Cichlids Eat Tropical Fish?

As mentioned earlier, cichlids might eat fish that are small enough to fit in their mouths. Omnivores and carnivores will eat small fish if they have a chance to do so.

This is why you want to avoid keeping fish that are too small in the same tank with certain types of cichlids. They’ll easily make a meal out of them.

It doesn’t matter whether the fish are tropical or not. Small fish can be eaten by fish that are larger.

Always research compatibility before choosing which fish to put in a community tank with cichlids. It helps you to avoid many problems.

Can Cichlids Eat Tropical Fish Food?

Yes, cichlids can eat tropical fish food. Many people give cichlids tropical fish flakes when they run out of their regular flakes.

It’s fine to give cichlids tropical fish flakes from time to time, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect type of food for them. It’d be best to give them cichlid flakes that have been properly formulated for them.

Giving the fish the right flakes will ensure that they’re getting optimal nutrients. It’ll be okay to give the fish tropical flakes here and there if you need to feed the fish something before going out to pick up more food.

Otherwise, it’s better to give them cichlid flakes. Now that you know this, it’ll be easy to go out and get the flakes that are suited for cichlids.

Can Cichlids Eat Goldfish Food?

It’s very likely that cichlids will eat goldfish flakes if you give them some. That doesn’t mean that it’s the best food for them, though.

Similar to the tropical flakes mentioned above, goldfish flakes aren’t the right food to give to cichlids. Cichlids require the right blend of nutrients and goldfish flakes simply won’t meet all of their needs.

It shouldn’t harm the fish to give them goldfish flakes. You just don’t want to give them goldfish flakes regularly.

Remember to go out and buy fish flakes that are formulated for cichlids. This is the best way to ensure that your fish are getting the nutrients that they need to thrive.

Can Cichlids Eat Koi Food?

This is another situation where the cichlids will likely eat the food being given to them. If you give the cichlids koi food, there’s a good chance they’ll eat it up fast.

Koi food likely isn’t going to be bad for cichlids. People often give these fish what is referred to as “pond pellets.”

This isn’t the ideal food for cichlids, but it shouldn’t harm them either. However, it’s really best to stick to feeding cichlids recommended foods that are good for them.

Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of not giving the cichlids the proper nutrients that they need to survive. Do your best to avoid feeding cichlids things that are outside of their normal diet recommendations.

Can Cichlids Eat Bloodworms?

Your cichlids will love eating bloodworms. It’s actually quite common for fish tank owners to feed bloodworms to their cichlids.

They can be a good way to give the cichlids a meaty treat that contains a lot of protein. You simply don’t want to give bloodworms to the fish too often.

Bloodworms should only be an occasional treat for the cichlids. Also, you must remember that meat-based foods aren’t appropriate for herbivores.

So long as you keep this in mind, it’ll be fine to feed bloodworms to your cichlids. Carnivorous cichlids are going to take a real liking to being given bloodworms as a snack.

Do Cichlids Eat Snails?

Cichlids don’t normally eat snails, but that doesn’t mean that some cichlids won’t eat them. Certain types of cichlids have been known to eat snails from time to time.

For instance, African cichlids have been observed eating snails. This doesn’t mean that African cichlids will typically eat snails a lot in captivity.

Snails likely won’t be a great snack for your cichlids. You should stick to other meaty foods such as shrimp and bloodworms when you want to give the cichlids a meaty treat.

Some snails might even be compatible to live with certain types of cichlids. You’ll have to look into compatibility based on the types of cichlids you’re caring for.

Many people keep snails in tanks to help keep the tank clean. You might also think that having snails in the tank is neat from an aesthetic perspective.

Best Vegetables for Cichlids

Veggies are a common thing to give to many types of African cichlids. Some veggies are better to feed to cichlids than others, though.

To get the best results, it’s wise to stick with vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, and peas. These types of green vegetables can be a direct replacement for the algae that many herbivorous cichlids eat in the wild.

You can feed veggies to cichlids in several different ways, too. Many people choose to chop the vegetables up and wash them before giving them to the fish.

Of course, there are other vegetables that can work as cichlid food, too. You could give them raw spinach, raw zucchini, circular slices of squash, and more.

What Do Cichlids Eat in the Wild?

Cichlids will eat a number of different things in the wild. Keep in mind that cichlids can be herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores.

Some cichlids are going to eat mostly algae and plants due to being herbivorous. Omnivorous and carnivorous cichlids will eat meaty foods such as shrimp, insects, and even smaller fish.

Omnivores pretty much eat whatever they can and will enjoy a combination of plants and meaty foods. These fish love to eat and will eat whenever an opportunity presents itself.

The food that you give these fish in a fish tank setting won’t be overly different from what they eat in the wild. The flakes that they eat are formulated to give them the right blend of nutrients.

You’ll also be feeding some cichlids the same types of meat-based foods that they would eat in the wild. Specifically, it’s common to feed cichlids brine shrimp and other such foods.

What Do Baby Cichlids Eat?

Baby cichlids are going to be rather small and you won’t be able to feed them the same food that you give to adult cichlids yet. It’ll take these fish a while to grow large enough to eat standard types of food.

Their mouths will be too small to eat many types of food that you might have for the other fish. Instead, you’ll need to give baby cichlids freshly hatched brine shrimp.

These freshly hatched brine shrimp are rather small and they can fit in the mouths of the baby cichlids. Another option is to buy specialized food that’s meant for cichlid fry.

You can purchase powder-based food or liquid food that can be given to baby cichlids. Either option will work just fine.

After a week or so has passed, the cichlids should be large enough to start eating crushed fish flakes. You can also crush up nutritional pellets to give to the baby fish if you’d like to do that.

How Long Can Cichlids Go Without Food?

What happens when you’re not able to feed your cichlids for a while? Sometimes people might go on vacation and they won’t be able to feed their fish for several days.

While this isn’t ideal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the cichlids will die due to missing a few meals. If you’re only going to be gone a few days, the cichlids will almost surely be okay in your absence.

Cichlids can go seven to ten days without being fed. This is assuming that you’re talking about a healthy adult cichlid.

Baby fish will need to be fed a lot more often than that if you want to keep them alive. They can only go a few days without food.

Even with adult fish, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Don’t try to stretch things out any longer than you have to.

The closer you go to the ten-day mark, the more likely it’ll be that the fish will encounter issues. Ideally, you don’t want to go longer than a few days without feeding the fish.

Cichlids will become stressed if they aren’t receiving enough food. This can make them more susceptible to illnesses and that can lead to a string of headache-inducing situations.

If you plan to go on vacation, it’d be better to ask someone to come and feed your fish while you’re away. Should that not be a possibility in your situation, there are automatic fish feeders that you can purchase and set up in the tank.

Research Cichlids Before Buying Them

Since there are hundreds of different types of cichlids out there, it’s best to research the type that you’re interested in before buying them. This will give you a good idea of what types of food are perfect for the fish.

Oscars are likely going to have slightly different preferences than Mbuna cichlids. Doing your best to tailor things to the types of cichlids that you wish to buy will be for the best.

Remember that some cichlids are going to be more aggressive than others, too. Most cichlids are at least semi-aggressive fish.

Sometimes these fish will get aggressive during feeding. They might fight a bit over food, but this won’t be as much of a problem if the fish are properly fed.

You can reduce instances of aggression by feeding fish less food at once but feeding them more often. It might be beneficial to spread the food out a bit across the surface so the fish can feed at different locations.

Overall, feeding cichlids won’t be too difficult when you approach things the right way. You just want to know what to expect for the specific cichlids that you own.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you feel much more confident about feeding cichlids the right way now. You’ve learned about foods that cichlids can eat as well as information about how to feed them.

Adult cichlids generally need to eat three or four times per day. To get the best results, you want to feed them as much as they can eat in thirty seconds each time that you feed them.

This is the safest way to feed the fish when you want to avoid overfeeding them. Feeding cichlids too much can be a real pain because they can become constipated.

Constipation issues lead to swim bladder problems, and that will have to be fixed by feeding the cichlids boiled peas. Be careful not to feed the cichlids more than you should so that you won’t have to deal with this.

Remember to look up dietary recommendations based on the type of fish that you buy. Different types of cichlids will have different requirements.

Cichlids can be herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores. You never want to accidentally feed an herbivorous cichlid meat-based foods since they can’t digest the protein properly.

Do your best to follow the advice above and you’ll have a good experience with these fish. Cichlids are fantastic fish to own and you’ll certainly have options when looking into which types to get.

Enjoy your cichlids and do your best to feed them consistently. Feeding the fish high-quality meals will keep them healthy and happy in your fish tank for a long time to come.

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