Lifestyles for Better Living

Cichlid as Loving Parents

Just examine how the various species of cichlids provide "parental care" for their young. The successful cichlid owner understands how his fish not only mate, but care for their young following the hatching of the eggs.

That's right! For the most part, most species of fish provide no care once their babies are born. If can find a species that does, then it's usually the male who performs these duties. In the cichlids, you'll discover that it's just as likely to be the female as the male. And in many cases, it could very well be a combination of the two.

Some of the species of cichlids are called substrate spawners. They lay their eggs either on the ground or other hard surfaces. This alternative could be the leaf of a plant or even a log. And yes, they guard these eggs. The parents actually perform a task that's called fanning them. This provides them with oxygenated water.

Once the eggs hatch (at this point the hatchlings are called wrigglers) the parents still continue to watch over them. Eventually the wrigglers grow into fry. Fry are free-swimming babies.

The care with which the parents show their babies again depends on the species. But it's not unusual for such care to last from several weeks to even several months.

For the most part, if the cichlid species is a substrate spawner, you can almost be certain that the method of parenting is "biparental". This means that the male and female share the duties. Their exact roles in the fry care may vary.

Interestingly, you'll also discover species of this fish in which the males are extremely territorial when it involves the females. The males, it seems, collect a "harem" of females. Each female lays claim - as well as her eggs - to her own cave within the male's natural territory. The male then protects the entire territory, including all the different females.

Once the eggs hatch, each female then provides care for her own young. The male continues to protect them from any other males as well as potential predators.

The care with which the parents show their babies depends on the species. But it's not unusual for such care to last from several weeks to several months.

An interesting variation of this can be observed in the shell dwellers of Lake Tanganyika. The females lay their eggs within an unused snail shell (see why they're called shell dwellers?). While this provides a wonderful protective device for the eggs, it doesn't give mom and dad a lot of maneuvering room. In many cases, the female is the only adult that can actually enter the shell. This means that dad stays outside patrolling the area.

It's not unusual in this case to discover that the male is quite a bit larger than the female. He may also have more than one female within his territory as well, with each female living in her own shell.

A female lays her eggs. But, whereas in other species she would attach them to the substrate, in this particular instance she picks them up in her mouth, where the male fertilizes them. And this is where the eggs remain. Depending on the species the eggs may actually stay in mom's mouth until they hatch. Sometimes even beyond that point.

And it's not always mom who gently takes the eggs in her mouth. In some species it's dad who's assigned this task. And there are even types of cichlids where parents share the duties.

Delayed Mouthbrooders

These types of fish use a combination of the substrate spawning method and mouth brooding. The eggs begin on the bottom of the body of water, where the parents guard them for a specific period of time. Then they place them in their mouths.

If the species should pick up their eggs right after they've been laid, then the species is called an "immediate mouthbrooder" (another clever name, don't you think?).

It's a tremendous diversity of traits, characteristics, colors and habits when you visit the world of cichlids. But, you're ready to adopt one yourself. Where do you go? How do you choose?

The Kindle Book or Nook Book, "Cichlid Care Secrets: For Keeping Healthy Happy Fish" will help you find the cichlid of your dreams!

To learn more about this topic and more about caring cichlid fish, you can purchase one of these books.