How Often Do African Cichlids Breed?

How Often Do African Cichlids Breed

African cichlids are one of the most prominent members of the cichlid family. They help to add more colors and beauty to the aquarium. They are, however, more challenging to keep than most other tropical fish.  African cichlids breed uniquely and frequently.

Female African cichlids are ready to spawn every 5-6 weeks. They carry their fertilized egg around in their mouth until they hatch in about three weeks. They then look after their fry for about 2-3 weeks, and they are ready to breed again.

The breeding cycle of African cichlids is quite short, and you need a level of expertise to manage it. African cichlids are not livebearers, which means they do not give birth to their young ones alive. Instead, they carry fertilized eggs in their mouths until they are ready to hatch.

Mating Behavior Of African Cichlids

African cichlids show some apparent signs and noticeable changes in behavior during mating. These mating behaviors make it easy for aquarists to tell when their cichlids are ready to mate. You should also note that mating behavior is not restricted to females alone. Both male and female African cichlids show a change in behavior during mating.

One of the significant mating behaviors of cichlids is the increase in the level of their aggressiveness. They generally become more aggressive during mating, and they take it out on every other fish around them except a few. They also become increasingly defensive with their territory.

Likewise, dominant males chasing other males away from a female African cichlids can be an apparent mating behavior. At the same time, the color of the dominant male will become pale and not as bright as other cichlid males in the tank. The dominant male does this in a very aggressive manner.

This chase is to protect the female fish from other males. The male also prepares breeding by making use of pebbles or rocks to form nest at the base of the tank. This nest will provide a place for the female cichlids to deposit their eggs.

The male will then perform a mating dance in front of her, and the female follows closely. The male cichlids then fertilize the egg in her mouth, where she carries and guard them until they hatch.

Breeding African Cichlids

African cichlids are not livebearers because they don’t give birth to their young ones alive. Instead, they lay eggs that they carry around in their mouth. Also, are substrate spawners. This means they lay their eggs in safety on a cave that they form from available substrates, mainly pebbles.

Female African cichlids carry fertilized eggs in their mouth for up to 21 days, and they only release them when they are ready to hatch. This mode of carrying eggs accounts for why most African cichlids are called mouthbrooders.

African cichlids are part of the few species that show parental care and an excellent motherly instinct. They take care of their fry for about two months when the fry can now take care of themselves. The females carry out their parental protection in a very aggressive manner.

Nevertheless, parental instincts in African cichlids can sometimes be lost, and the parents will feed on their fry. To be on a safe side, separate the parents, and fry with the use of a breeding tank. You can also consider separating them in different containers until they get fully mature.

However, you have to ensure good tank and water parameters to encourage cichlids to breed. You should ensure the environmental conditions are not fluctuating. To avoid alteration of the environment, you should not carry out aqua-scaping, no change of the water parameters, and no addition of new fish.

African Cichlids Environment And Tank Conditions

Just like their counterparts that live in the wild, most aquarium cichlids are rock-dwellers. You should make provision for pebbles and small rocks in their tank to simulate the rock gaps and other hideaways in their natural habitat.

African cichlids love to dig; hence, it is best to use substrates, pebbles, and rocks that are smooth to ensure that it won’t damage their scale. The water in the tank of African cichlids should also be moving with little current. You can create this current with the use of a filter outlet.

Of optimum growth, development, and overall health, African cichlids thrive better when the temperature of their tank water is within the range of 75-85°F. To keep them healthy, you should also stabilize their pH to be around 7.8-8.6.

You might need a sizable heater to keep their tank at this temperature. Likewise, African cichlids do not like soft water, and they prefer moderate lighting. You should also include a filter that can process all the water in the tank about three times an hour.

Under gravel, filters might not be suitable for them because they usually require large gravel to cover them. Africa cichlids do not like large graves; they prefer fine gravels that they can dig through.

Also, if you want to include plants in the tanks of African cichlids, ensure that you only include plants that can withstand their nibbling behavior. Plants like Amazon swords, Anubias, as well as Java fern are suitable for African cichlids because they don’t quickly become damaged as a result of nibbling.


Even though African cichlids might not be suitable if you only intend to add peaceful fish to your tank, they can, however, still, add colors and activeness to your tank. African cichlids are aggressive but active fish with a lot of digging behavior.

African cichlid breeding is unique, and it can happen as often as 5-6 weeks. Handling African cichlids generally, particularly during breeding, might not be easy for beginners. But experienced aquarists should not have any problem keeping African cichlids in their tank.

Nevertheless, you should ensure that you limit changes in their environment and tank conditions to encourage breeding. You can also keep them in the company of other compatible cichlids and fish species.



Hello, I'm Jason. I'm the guy behind I volunteer at my local fish shop and I created this site to offer tips and advice on the fish I care for.