What do cichlids eat?

Cichlids, in the opinion of many, are omnivorous fish, so there is no need to worry about the composition of the food. But this is a misconception, because the diet of cichlids varies depending on the species from exclusively vegetable to carnivores, only certain species eat protein foods and vegetation to the same extent.

This difference in the feeding of the Cichlids obliges aquarists to carefully select food for the cichlids.

Feeding features

Feeding features depend on the specific type of cichlid, or rather, on its habitat. Indeed, it is because of the external conditions that the taste preferences of these fish were formed.

Feeding cichlids differs from other fish in their ability to overeat. Pets become obese due to excessive nutrition, which leads to health problems.

How to identify obesity cichlids:

  • The fish starts to move less, is inactive in comparison with other inhabitants.
  • The abdomen is always round, even if the day is spent without feeding, although the swelling should subside. But do not confuse with females in the approach of spawning, in this case the roundness of the abdomen is natural.
  • When viewed from above, the fish looks more round than before.
  • Decrease or complete loss of interest in other inhabitants, changes in the aquarium.

If you keep different types of cichlids in the same aquarium, and they have a different diet (keeping herbivores and carnivores together), then it is better to plant them in different tanks. This will make it easier to achieve proper nutrition for all pets.

It is advisable to feed the fish at the same time. In this mode, the fish’s organism adapts to a certain time and, before eating, secretes special enzymes in the stomach that improve the functioning of the digestive system. Eating at a different time will not do much harm, but it will impair the digestibility of food.

Variety and uniformity of feeding

To maintain digestive balance, do not feed your fish with only one type of food. All fish require variety in feeding. This is especially true for artificial feed, because even the most highly valued feed is not completely balanced. And if you feed cichlids only with protein food, then this will lead to protein poisoning. An even higher protein content in food increases the level of nitrogenous compounds in the aquarium water. Only cyclops is considered to be a fairly universal protein food, because it does not cause protein poisoning. But you can’t feed them exclusively.

Every aquarist, when feeding cichlids in an aquarium, should have the main and auxiliary food:

  • The main food should be balanced and easily digestible for the body. They feed them fish every day.
  • Supplementary feed or feeding is used no more than a couple of times a week. These foods are usually more difficult to digest, so they often cannot be used.

Is it the right food?

It is necessary to monitor the appetite of the inhabitants. Some more active fish are able to quickly eat all the food intended for others, they are able to psychologically press on weaker representatives and take food away. In addition, appetite can decrease due to:

  • diseases;
  • the approach of spawning and reproduction;
  • problems with the gastrointestinal tract.

To understand whether you have chosen the right food for Cichlid fish, it is enough to monitor their excrement. With good stomach function and proper diet, excrement should look like a dense mass of dark color. Variations from black to greenish and brown are acceptable. But light excrement speaks of disturbances in the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, especially if the light color is complemented by turbid and threadlike excrement. This requires changes in the process and quality of feeding, and in advanced cases, the help of a veterinarian.


Types of food

The choice of fish food is important because the future health of the pet depends on it. Pay special attention to the selection of high quality basic feed. Usually it becomes artificial food in which nutrients and vitamins are balanced. It should not be cheap, otherwise the amount of useful components in them is too small. The most established cichlid feed producers are Sera and Tetra. They produce food for large cichlids, for medium representatives in the form of granules, flakes, chips, sticks. There are separate foods for dwarf cichlids and young animals.


Stick food refers to large food for large cichlids. Young animals and dwarf species will not eat it because of its size – the stick is 2 cm long. Most often it is fed to carnivorous fish, but some herbivores will also like it. The chopsticks have a fishy aroma that whets your appetite

Of the useful things they contain:

  • vegetable protein;
  • a fish;
  • minerals and algae.


Granulated food is suitable for carnivorous and herbivorous cichlids, but for each species you need to choose your food based on the composition of the product. To avoid confusion, the granules themselves still differ in color. The pellets are green for herbivores and red for carnivores. For omnivores, it is also better to purchase red granules to supplement the diet with proteins.


Frozen food is sold in the form of medium-sized squares, which contain frozen larvae, worms, crustaceans. Plankton, moina, daphnia, brine shrimp, bloodworms, cyclops, wolfia, gammarus, shrimp, streptocephalus are usually the most common.

The feeding dose depends on the number of fish in the aquarium. If there are few of them, then do not throw the whole cube into the aquarium, but break off the necessary part and heat it up a little under warm water. Do not defrost food twice or more, otherwise it will lose most of its beneficial properties.

Recognizing good frozen food is easy by looking at the maggot briquettes. If they are clearly visible, and do not look like a single porridge, mass, then the feed is suitable for feeding.


Flakes are suitable for all types of cichlids. They also differ in color depending on the composition:

  • green for herbivores;
  • yellow ones contain equally vegetation and proteins;
  • the red ones are for predators.

Usually a constituent part of plant flakes consists of spirulina algae. Other cereals include fish, vegetables.


Live food is intended for active predators that do not take stationary food. For cichlids, it is preferable to give bloodworms that are not difficult to feed and maintain. It is allowed to supplement the diet with earthworms, tubifex, daphnia, aulophorus, glassworm.


Some aquarists stick to homemade food, believing that this is the only way to achieve full saturation with all the necessary vitamins and microelements.

Several recipes for homemade cichlid food.

1 recipe (for large ones):

  • Take a pound of beef heart, grind it.
  • Mix a pound of squid with one pink salmon, chop.
  • Boil 2 carrots.
  • Mix chopped 2 carrots, 2 sweet peppers, 0.1 kg of lettuce leaves, 0.1 kg of cabbage leaves.
  • Mix with minced meat and rolled oats.
  • Freeze.

2 recipe:

  • Twist 0.6 kg of beef heart, 0.1 kg of squid (or shrimp, fish) and mix with 50 g of calf liver.
  • Mix with red cyclops.
  • Mix 25 g of lettuce and parsley with 30 ml of carrot juice.
  • Add 10 ml of vitamins.
  • Stir and freeze.

How to feed the fry

Fry and adult inhabitants, even parents, must exist separately due to different nutrition. For fry, live, frozen or dried food rich in protein is suitable. Protein will help the body grow and develop faster. For fry, small crustaceans or worms are required. For feeding from the first days of life, the arteries of the nauplii and their eggs, nematodes are suitable. After half a month, bloodworms, tubifex are introduced into the diet. Additionally, it is allowed to feed with boiled yolks and a small amount of minced meat.

Some large crustaceans are not suitable as live food for very small fry. They are capable of attacking them themselves. Therefore, it is better to buy not live crustaceans, but dried or frozen ones.

Feeding schedule

Cichlids should be fed depending on their age and size. For adult representatives it is about 2 times a day, for young animals – 3-4 times a day. Remember that the breaks between meals are at least 4.5-5 hours.

An approximate feeding schedule for young stock:

  • First feeding is 7 am.
  • The second is at noon, 12 o’clock.
  • Then feed at 5 pm.
  • Last meal at 10pm.

It is allowed to slightly change the diet depending on your personal daily regimen, but it is advisable to follow this regimen.

For adult fish, feed is sufficient once every 12 hours. That is, their approximate diet will be at 9 am and 9 pm.


Fasting day

Fasting day – complete or partial refusal of food for one day, once a week. It helps to bring the body back to normal and cleanse it of toxins. Even fasting days help to avoid obesity and overeating fish. It is recommended to carry out when overfeeding for a week, when feeding heavy and hard-to-digest food.

But if the feeding doses have already been studied in advance, the fish does not overeat, then fasting days are unnecessary.

Only adults need unloading days. Young fish from such starvation will only receive harm, because all nutrients are used for the growth and development of the body. For fry, fasting days can be fatal.

How often to feed

Overfeeding aquarium cichlids is a common mistake for novice aquarists, because it is during feeding that the fish are most active. But with this approach, the fish will become obese, which will end in illness or death.

Feeding frequency depends on fish age, body size, species.

When feeding young representatives of the species, the breaks between meals are at least 4 hours, optimally 5 hours. With less time, the food simply does not have time to completely digest, and the stomach is already clogged with a new portion of food.

Adults are advised to feed no more than 2 times a day. But some types of cichlids (Trofeus, Petrochromis, Callochromis, Xenotilapia) are recommended to be fed more often – 3-4 times a day in small doses.

If they don’t eat up

If the fish do not eat up the food during feeding, then there are two possible reasons:

  • Overfeeding of pets occurs, the dose of food is too large.
  • The disease is spreading in the aquarium. A common sign of problems with the gastrointestinal tract is complete or partial refusal to eat. It is required to check the fish and give medicine.

But in any case, the first step is to remove the remaining food particles. Otherwise, they will fall into the substrate and begin to rot and decompose. If it is a protein food, nitrogenous bases will be released, leading to poisoning of the inhabitants.

What not to give cichlids

Cichlids do not belong to the whimsical species of fish, but this does not mean that they are allowed to be fed with food from the human table. Usually such fish food is too salty, sweet, spicy. Such food will ruin the stomach of the fish and harm health.

Feeding and caring for cichlids is beyond the power of novice aquarists, so it is advisable to start them for people with experience. But if you follow all the described rules and features, then anyone can cope with cichlids.