For those of you who are thinking about starting up a tropical fish tank, you’re probably wondering what type of fish is a good “starter” fish. Something low-maintenance, very hearty, and displays well in your new tank.
African Cichlids represent over 1,200 species of fish, and many are very good “starter” fish for the beginner aquarium hobbyist. In this article, I’ll discuss a few of the most popular african cichlids, most of which are found thriving in the Malawai and Tanganyika Lakes of Central Africa. What makes African Cichlids so interesting to keep is that they all have very interesting social behaviors. They seem much more “intelligent” and “aware” of their surroundings compared to a typical goldfish or guppy.
Electric Yellow African Cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus)
The Electric Yellow African Cichlid is one of the more common cichlids available at your local fish stores. They are colored bright yellow, with a black fins. I have personal experience with this type of african cichlid because I am currently breeding them (Check out my blog on “Breeding African Cichlids“).
They are very resilient fish, and display a variety of social behaviors. If you plan on keeping Electric Yellows, be sure to include a sandy tank bottom (substrate), leafy plants (they don’t have to be real plants), and plenty of hiding places using rocks of various sizes.
Blue Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara nyassae)
The Blue Peacock Cichlid prefers a 50 gallon tank or bigger, with quite a bit of coverage from rocks and a sandy bottom. Male Blue Peacock cichlids are usually very territorial with other males of their same species, so you’d normally want to house one male for every 3-4 female Blue Peacock cichlids.
Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid (Pseudotropheus zebra)
The Cobalt Blue Zebra has about eight black/blue bars or stripes running from top to bottom. The bottom fin (usually called the “anal fin”) has usually four orange egg-shaped dots. The dots are used for breeding behaviors between the male and female. These cichlids are somewhat territorial, so you should be keeping them in a “cichlid-only” tank. Feed them foods high in vegetable content, such as seaweeds, or flake/pellet food rich in vegetable matter. You can also feed them frozen brine shrimp or blood worms.
There are many other cichlids out there, but most have similar tank needs. Make sure, if you are going to mix african cichlids, to check up on compatibility with these fish. Some cichlids can fight each other to death, and cause injuries to other fish which can’t be cured.