How Long Do African Cichlids Live? Don’t Be Surprised!

Nov 23, 2021

How long do african cichlids live

Image credits: Allison Martell (Creative Commons license)

Frankly, there’s no one common answer to how long do African cichlids live. There are hundreds of different species! So I can only give you a ballpark figure. But I can surely share some tricks to help extend their lifespan!

So let’s get on to it without further ado.

How Long Do African Cichlids Live?

African cichlids can live for anywhere between 6-10 years. In captivity, factors like their environment, diet, and exercise play a pivotal role in determining how long they will live. 

Female red top zebra
Credits: BW (Creative Commons license)

How Long Do African Cichlids Live In Captivity? 

African cichlids live for around 6-10 years in captivity, depending on the species. New studies have shown that captive animals live comparatively longer than their wild cousins as they mature slowly. This could be true for cichlids, too. 

How Long Do Mbuna Cichlids Live?

Mbuna cichlids enjoy a pretty decent lifespan. They can live for 8-10 years on average in captivity. If provided with the right care, they apparently can even make it to their teens. Impressive! 

How Long Do Peacock Cichlids Live?

There are dozens of different peacock cichlid species, and their lifespan varies from 8 to 10 years on average. But they often die at the tender age of 5-6 because of factors like polluted environment, malnourishment, and stress. 

How Long Do Electric Yellow Cichlids Live?

Electric yellow cichlids live for anywhere between 6-8 years. However, when provided the proper care, they often make it to their 10th birthday! 

How Long Do South American Cichlids Live?

South American cichlids enjoy a comparatively longer lifespan than their African counterparts. Depending on the species, they live for anywhere between 10-20 years. They can easily outlive your furry pets!

How Long Do Convict Cichlids Live?

Convict cichlids live for 10 years on average. However, there have been plenty of instances where these fish have surpassed this range. So, with proper care, your convicts might just be able to make it to the teenage years. 

How Long Do Oscar Cichlids Live?

Oscar cichlids live for anywhere between 10-20 years. I know, that’s a broad range. But it all boils down to how you care for them. It’s not unusual for oscars to complete 2 decades in a favorable environment. 

How Long Do Angelfish Live?

Like most South American cichlids, angelfish enjoy a pretty long lifespan. They can easily live past 10 years if you raise them the right way. For instance, these fish need a tall aquarium to accommodate their long, upright fins. 

Recommended Readings!

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How To Extend Cichlid’s Lifespan?

There’s no way you can go against nature to extend your beloved pet’s lifespan. But there are a few tricks you can pull to ensure they live their life to the fullest and longest possible. Maintaining the correct parameters, providing the right diet, and creating a stress-free life go a long way in extending a cichlid’s lifespan. 

Feed A Healthy Diet 

Cichlids are greedy eaters. They’ll continue eating even when they’re full. Therefore, as a fish parent, you should know where to draw the line. Sorry if that sounded dramatic! 

Instead of giving one or two big meals a day, provide 3-4 small meals. Feed them an amount they will finish within 30-40 seconds or so. This feeding style helps to manage a cichlid’s aggression over resources. 

We often advocate strongly to watch out for the amount we give our cichlids to prevent overfeeding and maintain water quality for the longest. 

But sometimes, unknowingly, we underfeed our fish and expose them to malnourishment. 

For example, if your fish doesn’t get enough vitamin A, it can lead to dropsy, anemia, fin-base hemorrhage, impaired growth, and vision problems. 

Similarly, vitamin C deficiency can cause over pigmentation, eye bleeding, deformed spine, and fragile blood vessels. 

Besides pellets and flakes, supplement your cichlid’s diet with nutritious blanched veggies and treats like frozen mealworms and live fish.

Refrain from giving food like beefheart and tubifex. 

Also, don’t give African cichlids food meant for American cichlids and vice versa. The former are inclined mainly towards a herbivore diet. In contrast, the latter need more protein and fat to satiate their carnivorous appetite. 

For more in-depth knowledge on the do’s and don’ts of feeding cichlids, check out this article. 

Watch The Temperature 

Cichlids, irrespective of what continent they come from, despise one thing in common. They hate cold water. Why? Because they’re tropical fish! 

Here’s what the water parameters should look like:

African Cichlids74-82°F23-38°F
Central American Cichlids74-82° F23-28°F
South American Cichlids74-82°F23-28°F
Asian Cichlids68-84° F20-29°F

If the water temperature drops lower than stated above, it will slow down your cichlids’ metabolism. As a result, they will become sluggish, and their immune system will be compromised. As a result, they will succumb to a secondary illness. 

On the contrary, the higher temperature has its own set of disadvantages, too. For instance, the fish will become hyperactive. Next, it cannot intake oxygen from water and eventually suffocate. 

If you ever see your fish laying at the bottom quietly, it’s most probably the water’s too hot. That’s why the fish has resorted to the base, where the water will be relatively cooler and more oxygenated. 

Maintain The Water Parameters 

Maintaining suitable water parameters is indispensable. Polluted water is the number one reason cichlids die young. In addition, cichlids are messy eaters that produce a considerable amount of bioload every day. Therefore, you should always be on top of water changes and maintain the quality. 

For a cichlid tank, strive to keep the ammonia and nitrite levels at 0 and nitrate levels below 20 ppm. 

If there’s an ammonia spike in the tank, your cichlid will show signs like lethargy, appetite loss, panting, jagged fins, clamped fins, reddish (bleeding gills), and red streaks on the body. 

Similarly, if your fish suffers from nitrite poisoning, it will exhibit the following signs: listlessness, brown gills, rapid gill movement, heavy breathing, and hanging near the water outlets. 

So, you see how important it is to get the water parameters right. 

The general practice is to perform about 25% water change every week. But there’s no rule set in stone. It all depends upon your tank’s size and stocking number. 

Also, don’t forget to change the filter media as required. For example, chemical filtration should usually be changed after 1-2 months of use, while sponges can be cleaned once every 3 months and used again. 

Don’t go overboard with cleanliness as well. If you get rid of the good bacteria from the tank, that will invite another set of problems. 

Create A Stress-Free Environment 

When stressed, a fish produces an excess amount of cortisol hormone. This chemical suppresses your fish’s appetite and inhibits the process of converting food into energy. 

So, if your fish gets stressed too often, this surely will lead to irreparable damage to the fish’s health and wellbeing. It will compromise your cichlid’s immunity and make it prone to a plethora of diseases, and cut its life short. 

Although cichlids are hardy species, they can get stressed quite easily. The most common reasons behind stress are poor water conditions, overcrowding, wrong diet, inappropriate decor, aggression from tankmates, lack of hiding places, etc. 

Some palpable signs of stress in cichlids are:

  • Increased hiding behavior
  • Darting around the tank
  • Erratic swimming patterns
  • Gasping for air
  • Scraping against rock or gravel

If your fish shows any of these signs, you have to be on your toes immediately. Experiment until you can zero down on what’s causing the stress and address it. 

If you want to read up on the top reasons why cichlids die untimely, you might want to check out this article

Frequently Asked Questions

Credits: Matt Frahm (Creative Commons license)

How Long Can Cichlids Survive Without Food? 

Healthy adult cichlids can easily go without food for 7-10 days. Some claim they can go even as long as 2 weeks, but I wouldn’t experiment. As for baby cichlids, they can only live for about 2 days without food. 

How Long Can Cichlids Live Without An Air Pump?

There’s no one definitive answer to how long cichlids can live without an air pump. If the water’s completely still, they may live for a couple of weeks before their health begins to succumb. However, if your tank has plenty of plants or your filter produces a good amount of current, an air pump may not be necessary at all. 

How Long Can Cichlids Live Without A Heater?

Cichlids can live without a heater for only about 2 days. This is because they are tropical fish that need water to be on the warmer side. If the tank’s temperature is too cold, their metabolism will slow down, they’ll become sluggish, and eventually succumb to cold or a secondary condition. 

Final Words: How Long Do African Cichlids Live?

African cichlids live for around 6-10 years in captivity. However, they can quite easily live on for more than a decade when given the proper care. 

South American and Central American cichlids, on the other hand, enjoy a super long lifespan. They can live for anywhere between 10-20 years. 

Feeding the right diet, creating the best possible environment, and eliminating stress go a long way in extending your cichlid’s lifespan.

Recommended Readings!

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.