There are a lot of very good books and other websites that cover the aquaria hobby in detail, including required technology (filtration, heaters, lumination). I'm not going to reproduce any of this here. However, cichlids are a special issue, as most cichlids will grow big, are usually aggressive or have special diet requirements. If you are a newcomer to the cichlid world, wether or not you have been in the aquaria hobby before, this texts might be a nice read.
There are two main-questions that you should ask yourself before doing anything else:
- What type of fish and cichlids do I want to care? and
- What is the maximum size the tank I can afford?
These two questions are closely related: While a tank can't be too big for your cichlids, many cichlids, including the most colorful ones, can easily outgrow the classic community tanks you see at your friends' homes. Most beginners are attracted of lovely cichlids when a dealer has them in stock at sizes of a 1-2 inches. However, many of them, such as the well-known and beloved "Oscar", can reach sizes of 10 inches and more or are very aggressive. Those species require tank sizes of hundrets of gallons for proper care.
Because money and room is (usually) limited, most beginners will usually start with tank sizes of approx. 30-80 gallons, which is too small for the majority of cichlid species, including most riftlake cichlids. Nevertheless, there are a lot smaller and beginner friendly cichlid species that make a great addition to any tank. Therefore I recommend you take some time and browse the net (or our profiles pages) for cichlids you like and which meet the size requirements of a tank that you can afford.
Beside maximum size, there are three more things that you should pay attention to:
- Water. Cichlids from South America require soft water with a pH lower than 6.5. However, other cichlids, e.g. the riftlake cichlids from Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika, require very hard water and a pH higher than 8. Since the water conditions are vital for a healthy condition and beautiful colouring, don't mix cichlids with different water requirements.
- Nutrition. Some cichlids are herbivore, some are carnivore. You shouldn't keep carnivore and herbivore species together. Here is why.
- Some cichlids are extremely active "diggers", or their diet is herbivore, so most plants have few chances to survive in your tank. If you love plants, those species aren't the best addition to your new tank.
- Most cichlids are quite aggressive, either conspecific or towards any other fish, e.g. when maturing. If you don't want to end up with dead fish, pay attention to the tank size, hiding places and other species in the tank.
To get an idea, I can give you some hints on a good selection of cichlids. Once you made a decision about tank size and cichlids, it's time to start:
- Here are a few tips regarding filtration.
- If you are going for African riftlake cichlids, here is some information on the natural habitats in Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika.
- Most important before buying any fish: Cycling your fish tank
We have a large database of tank examples and tank pictures. See how other cichlid enthusiats all over the world keep their cichlids!
Considerations before starting with the hobby
This following paragraphs have been contributed to us by a visitor.
Before you actually purchase a fish you might want to try and do some research on the type of fish you intend to buy. This should be done even before buying the Fish Tank because often many people will end up with too many fish or fish that have needs that aren't met by the Aquariums size.
After you have found out how many and what types of fish you want to keep you need to know if they are compatible and their different care requirements. This is important because you don't want to end up with a Goldfish in a Cichlid tank because this is not only dangerous to both of the fish but also they have different care requirements.
Also when buying an Tank a good rule of thumb is one inch of a full grown fish to one gallon of water. Bigger is sometimes better especially if you intend to get fish that are more aggressive. No Aquarium is complete without the right equipment either so make sure you get the right sized filters, heaters, etc. for your tank and also for some species it is recommended you get equipment a little bit bigger in size than the average for your aquarium so that you get enough circulation and filtration.
Also remember this can get expensive so shop around and look at the prices before you buy it could be the difference in paying a $700 or only $500.
Good luck and remember it is best to bring your fish directly home after purchasing them, for their safety.