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African cichlids are active, colorful fish. They require a balanced diet to maintain their vibrancy and energy levels. Depending on the type of cichlid, these requirements may vary.

Some African cichlids are are natural herbivores, while others are natural carnivores, and others yet are omnivorous. If you search for your particular cichlid, you will find their suggested diet.

In my cichlid tank, I have a mix of herbivores and omnivores. As a result, I purchased food for both types, and fed them accordingly. To my surprise, however, I found that all the cichlids in my tank generally preferred the same type of food, no matter what their natural tendency. In fact, my supposed herbivore cichlids fought more aggressively over brine shrimp and bloodworm.

I believe the lesson in this is that most cichlids will eat anything, even if it isn’t good for them, or maybe if they had too much already.

A common mistake is to overfeed cichlids. Overfeeding leads to a variety of problems, including ammonia spikes and a spectrum of diseases. Malawi Bloat is a common disease in overfed African Cichlids; it pays to recognize the symptoms.

I find the best method for feeding is three small meals, providing only what they can eat within a couple of minutes. The key is to minimize any uneaten food sinking to the bottom and rotting. This promotes ammonia spikes and disease. If they seem picky or uninterested in eating, I simply cut back a feeding or feedings until they are hungry again.

I have found success with the following products, as they contain quality ingredients, balanced nutrition, and promote color. The cichlids also enjoy them.

Hikari Algae Wafers: $6.57 (2.89oz)

Hikari Algae Wafers

These sinking algae wafers are about the size of a penny. I break the wafers into four pieces, scattering them throughout the tank for breakfast. I find the cichlids a little touchy in the morning, and pick at things on their own time. The wafers give them a reason to scavenge the bottom. Generally, the weaker fish get a good shot at eating. You can find these wafers at your local pet shop or on Amazon

Hikari Algae Wafers

Ingredients: fish meal, wheat flour, wheat germ meal, starch, dried seaweed meal, dried bakery product, alfalfa nutrient concentrate dehydrated, dehydrated alfalfa meal, brewers dried yeast, soybean meal, fish oil, krill meal, spirulina, garlic, DL-methionine, chlorella, astaxanthin, choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (stabilized vitamin C), inositol, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin, vitamin A oil, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, niacin, menadione sodium bisulfate complex (sourse of vitamin K), folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin, disodium phosphate, ferrous sulfate, magnesium sulfate, zinc sulfate, manganese sulfate, cobalt sulfate, calcium iodate.

Zoo Med Spirulina 20 Flake Fish Food: $12.67 (4oz)

Zoo Med Spirulina 20 Flake Fish Food

Spirulina is cited frequently as an ideal nutritional source for African cichlids. These flakes contain a high quantity of spirulina. Also, they are large, and are easy for the cichlids to locate, unlike other more common flakes that tend to pulverize into finer particles and sink to the bottom. I use these flakes for lunch feeding. I recommend these flakes as a supplement or replacement in non-cichlid aquariums as well. Amazon sells the 4 oz jar, which lasts quite some time.

Spirulina 20 fish food flakes, 4oz

Ingredients: Salmon Fish Meal, Spirulina Algae Meal, Soy Flour, Wheat Flour, Brewers Dried Yeast, Corn Starch, Dried Krill Meal, Shrimp Meal, Plankton Meal, Lecithin, Vegetable Oil, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (stabilized Vitamin C).

New Life Spectrum Cichlid Formula – 300 g: $11.99

New Life Spectrum Cichlid Formula

I frequently read favorable reviews on these pellets, so I decided to give them a try. I am only able to find them online. I order from Amazon. At first, I was disappointed by the pellet size: 1mm. I found that my cichlids were having trouble getting to them before they sank. they ended up rotting on the bottom.

In order to accommodate this shortcoming, I only dropped in a small portion at a time, staggering the feeding over the course of a minute, careful only to give them what they ate immediately. After a few dinner feedings, they have grown very fond of the pellets, and don’t provide much of an opportunity for them to drop.

New Life Spectrum Cichlid sinking pellets, 1mm. These pellets may be too small for larger cichlids, requiring larger pellets by New Life Spectrum.

The ingredient listing is impressive; I can smell the garlic and seafood: Whole Antarctic Krill Meal, Whole Herring Meal, Wheat Flour, Whole Squid Meal, Algae Meal, Soybean Isolate, Beta Carotene, Spirulina, Garlic, Vegetable and Fruit Extract (Spinach, Broccoli, Red Pepper, Zucchini, Tomato, Pea, Red and Green Cabbage, Apple, Apricot, Mango, Kiwi, Papaya, Peach, Pear), Vitamin A Acetate, D-Activated Animal-Sterol (D3), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine, DL Alphatocophero ( E ), Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Niacin, Biotin, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, L-Ascorby-2-Polyphosphate (Stable C), Ethylenediamine dihydroiodide, Cobalt Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Choline Chloride.

New Life Spectrum Large Fish Formula – 300g: $17.33

New Life Spectrum Large Fish Formula

If you find the 1mm cichlid formula pellets too small for your feeding habits, consider the New Life Spectrum Large Fish Formula. It contains the same ingredients, only the pellets are 3mm. This formula can be found on Amazon as well.

New Life Spectrum Large Fish Formula

Ingredients: Whole Antarctic Krill Meal, Whole Herring Meal, Wheat Flour, Whole Squid Meal, Algae Meal, Soybean Isolate, Beta Carotene, Spirulina, Garlic, Vegetable and Fruit Extract (Spinach, Broccoli, Red Pepper, Zucchini, Tomato, Pea, Red and Green Cabbage, Apple, Apricot, Mango, Kiwi, Papaya, Peach, Pear), Vitamin A Acetate, D-Activated Animal-Sterol (D3), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine, DL Alphatocophero ( E ), Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Niacin, Biotin, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, L-Ascorby-2-Polyphosphate (Stable C), Ethylenediamine dihydroiodide, Cobalt Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Choline Chloride.

The Occasional Treat

There is some debate as to whether frozen brine shrimp or bloodworm are harmful to herbivore African Cichlids. I feed my cichlids a small amount of frozen brine shrimp or bloodworm once a week as a treat. I think the problem is when a tank is not properly maintained or the fish are overfed. Essentially, these frozen treats are an extra load on the tank and the cichlids, and should only be considered as a safe treat when good feeding and tank maintenance practices are observed.

Also, you may want to experiment with various vegetables such as peas and other greens. Again, the target is not to leave excess food in the tank to rot.

Other articles in this series:

  1. How to Clean Aquarium
  2. How many African cichlids in a 55 gallon aquarium?
  3. 55 Gallon African Cichlid Aquarium: Supplies
  4. 55 Gallon African Cichlid Tank: Setup, Maintenance
  5. 55 Gallon African Cichlid Tank: General Observations
  6. Fluval 305 external canister filter review
  7. AquaClear 50 powerhead review

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