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Getting Your Cichlids To Breed
by Marc Elieson

Cichlids in general are prolific spawners, but they don't always cooperate. Below, I've prepared some comments about breeding cichlids and included some tips for getting your cichlids to spawn. These are some methods I've used and that seem to work pretty well for me. I hope they help!

Breeding Tips

Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give you to get your Cichlids to breed is to keep them healthy. A good filtering system, with regular water changes, with the water chemistry matching their requirements, will keep them in good spirits. Only healthy fish will be interested in mating. Because females will be required to incubate the eggs for up to four weeks, she will need to be strong and healthy before she will be able to go without eating for that period of time.

Photograph Organism Water Grass Adaptation

It is also a good idea to have several females to one male of each species you keep. This way, not just one female takes the aggression of the male. Having at least 2 females will spread the damage an aggressive male will dish out. And, if he is not ripping their fins too often, they will be stronger and healthier, and hence more likely to mate.

Diet is also important. I raise my Victorians and Malawi Cichlids on spirulina flake, with supplements of brine shrimp, blood worms, krill, and plankton. It is important to go light on the latter in order to prevent them from getting "Malawi Bloat."

Photograph Water Organism Adaptation Grass

But feeding them frozen food once a week (and only what they can consume in about 30 seconds) seems to get them in the mood. I have noticed that most of my Cichlids have spawned within a few hours after I feed them one of these frozen foods. The most plausible explanation for this is that when a fish is going to breed, it has a certain amount of energy and materials (e.g., proteins, fats, etc.) that it can spare from the resources it needs to survive and grow. These materials will be put into the eggs. And so by feeding your Cichlids protein-rich foods they then have more resources to put into making eggs. The more resources they have available, the more eggs they'll make.

The last thing that I know has helped me and many others in getting their fish to spawn are caves. I use holey rock (limestone) with its many tunnels and caves. I know some people use clay pots. What's important is that they have a place they can hide, and call their own. This is especially important for mouthbrooders because they will need extra protection from enemies while they are holding because they can get pretty thin and weak.

Photograph Organism Adaptation Terrestrial plant Natural material

Just a word of encouragement for any first-timers: The first time mating for a female is the biggest milestone. Once she has reached maturity and learned how to mate, she will continue to spawn with surprising regularity. Also note, I have noticed that the first time a female gets pregnant is often unsuccessful. They tend to be finicky and don't carry the eggs full term (either swallowing or spitting them out after a week). All of my females have had some sort of trouble the first time they conceived. But by the second time, they usually figure it out.

Still Can't get them to spawn, huh?

One problem people often experience is that their fish are overfed. What you can do, if they are sexually mature, is to separate mating pairs (you could do this with dividers, separate tanks, etc.) and starve them for a week. It is important to separate them because Cichlids get more aggressive with hunger. You should notice males digging a lot, making nests, and preparing to spawn. After a day or two of this behavior, reintroduce the females and wha-la! -- they should spawn.

Some supposedly easy-to-breed species can often be finicky. Make sure they have personal nooks, males have ample female selection (ratios of at least 2 females to one male), and keep water temps around 76ºF or 78ºF, with alkaline, hard water.

I would just encourage you to be patient. Some species, like Auloncara and nyererei are very slow to reach reproductive levels.
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