Credits: Deanpemberton (Creative Commons license)
If you are serious about raising cichlid fry, you have to pull your socks up and set up a separate fry tank. There, I said it. But is there a teeny tiny chance that cichlid fry can make it in a community aquarium? Will cichlid fry survive in a community tank if you do things a certain way? Are there any tricks you can pull?
I’ll tell you all about it in this blog. So, buckle up!
Will Cichlid Fry Survive In A Community Tank?
No. With the exception of two or three fry, the rest will be quick midday or midnight snack for the rest of your fish. If you want to raise the fry into adulthood, you need to raise them separately in the breeding or fry tank. If you have some luck and really keen fry, they’ll hide and play safe until they reach a safe size. But this is seldom the case.
To research for this blog, I dug several forums and read many people’s experiences. Some reported that with proper hiding spots in place, they could save a couple of fry from a batch of hundreds.
So, if it’s really not possible for you to set up another tank, here are a few methods you can try.
Related: When To Separate Cichlid Fry From Parents?
5 Things You Can Do To Ensure Cichlid Fry Survival In A Community Tank
- Set Up A Breeding Box
- Set Up A Breeding Net
- Add Hiding Spots In The Tank
- Remove Fish With Predatory Instinct
- Feed Adult Fish Adequately ?
Set Up A Breeding Box
Setting up a breeding box is the best thing you can do if you want to raise your cichlid fry in the main tank. I’ve used a couple of them before with a good success rate. You just have to be vigilant of the water quality and cleanliness for most parts.
What I like about breeding boxes is that they offer maximum protection against predators, excellent visibility, and stable temperatures. However, the water circulation is somewhat limited. So, you need to occasionally remove water from the breeding box and add tank’s water as if performing a partial water change.
I’ll leave the links to two different breeding boxes by Fluval and Pets Island that I have used. The first one hangs outside the tank, whereas the second one should be placed inside the tank.
Fluval Multi-Chamber Holding And Breeding Box
What I Like About It:
- Water from the main tank continuously circulates through the breeding box
- Space-saving design
- 3 separate compartments
However, note that you have to buy the air pump separately. Here’s a link to a cheap yet effective air pump by Tetra.
Pets Island Breeding Box
What I Like About It:
- Fully enclosed and safe design
- Dust-proof design
- Slits on the box allow water to flow in and circulate continuously
Set Up A Breeding Net
If you’re not convinced with the boxes, you can use the breeding net. They ensure better water circulation and temperature stability comparatively. However, the visibility isn’t as clear as it is in the breeding boxes.
Also, if the fry in question are extremely small, they might swim out of the holes in the net. And sometimes, adult fish can grab the fish through the net.
Here’s a link to a reliable nylon mesh breeder box on Amazon:
How To Clean A Breeder Box?
Fish waste and leftover food will inevitably collect inside the breeder box. So, to easily remove them, you can use a turkey baster to suck out the debris. Using a siphon vacuum may be dangerous when dealing with small fry.
And if there’s algae buildup in the box, use an algae scrubber to wipe them down.
How Long Can You Keep Fry In The Breeder Box?
Your fry should be big enough to not fit into adult fish’s mouth before you remove them from the breeding box. This may take 4 weeks or more, depending on your cichlid’s species.
Add Hiding Spots In The Tank
If you add plenty of hiding spots in the tank that are inaccessible by big fish, your cichlid fry may have some chance of survival. Hobbyists recommended piling small rocks and pebbles on forums, so bigger fish don’t get in the crevices.
One user commented he uses Mexican bowl rocks to create the stone piles.
Another thing you can try is adding flat rockwork and layer it in a way that leaves small gaps for the fry to retreat in.
You can also add several plants. They can both hide your fry and provide them with subsistence meals – quite profusely increasing their survival rate.
Remove Fish With Predatory Instinct
There’s always that one troublemaker in the tank. Chasing, nipping, and bullying – these are their favorite timepasses. Sometimes, there is more than one fish that harass tankmates. So, if your female cichlids are expecting, it’s better to remove the troublemakers and put them in a separate tank until the babies get big enough to fend themselves.
However, if you have a cichlid community tank, chances are that all of its residents have strong predatory instincts. So, since removing every one of them is impossible, you can just use a breeding box/net to protect the fry.
Feed Adult Fish Adequately
Take this advice with a grain of salt. I’m not sure how well it works, but it made sense in my head. If you feed your adult fish adequately, chances are they might not go after your cichlid fry. Hungry fish will definitely try to eat the fry. But, on the other hand, a fish that full might leave the little fellows alone.
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Do African Cichlids Eat Their Fry?
Yes, African cichlids eat the young fry. They eat their own fry (with some exceptions) and will readily and greedily devour each other’s fry. So, it’s essential to raise the fry in a separate tank or use a breeding box.
As I said, there are some exceptions. For instance, jewel cichlids make excellent parents. Both mom and dad will team up to look after the eggs and young fry until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
Setting Up A Tank For Cichlid Fry
Once the fry arrive, it’s best to remove the mother from the breeding tank. If she’s gone from the main tank for too long, she would lose her rank in the pecking order and have a hard time fitting in. A 10-gallon tank would suffice for fry. Of course, if you can go bigger, please do so. Smaller the tank, the more temperamental it is.
Add a heater and maintain the temperature at around 78° F. Also, add a sponge filter and an air pump. Make sure it is a sponge filter, so it doesn’t suck in the fry.
Here are the links to the sponge filter and air pump I use for my cichlid nursery.
You can start performing water changes after a week or so. Start by 10%-20% of the water initially with fresh, dechlorinated water.
You don’t need to worry about adding decors at this point. Instead, a fine substrate will do. This way, you don’t have to use too much elbow grease to clean the tank.
Once the baby fry have tripled their original size, you can move them to the community tank. But this rule is not carved in stone. Before transferring, make sure babies can no more fit inside adult fish’s mouth.
Feeding Cichlid Fry
For the first couple of days, your fry will rely on their respective yolk sac for their nutrition needs. These sacs are super rich in protein – an indispensable nutrient for young fry. Then, you can fortify their diet with pulverized brine shrimp, daphnia, microworms, grindal worms, and flake food.
Feed them 3-4 times a day. And closely monitor their eating habits to ensure nobody is starving. Starvation and quickly prove fatal at this stage.
Final Words: Will Cichlid Fry Survive In A Community Tank?
No, not really. Your cichlid fry will have to be incredibly lucky to survive in a community tank. However, you can add plenty of hiding spots and plants as the bare minimum gestures, and you will be rewarded with 1-3 surviving fry.
If you are serious about raising fry into young adults, set up a separate tank. A 10-gallon tank will do. If that’s not possible, use a breeding box or net as I did. Although they come with certain caveats, they do the job just fine.
Happy Reading! 🙂
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