Diet is important. Cichlids can be broken down into four dietary groups
- Predators, often piscivorous (fish eaters)
- Micro-predators, feeding on small invertebrates or plankton
- Grazers (herbivores)
Fish which are carnivorous do need some vegetable matter in their diet, and the reverse is true for herbivores. Overall, most Cichlids will subsist well on prepared commercial foods such as flakes, pellets, freeze-dried, and frozen foods. With African Cichlids, it’s usually unnecessary to feed live foods, although many hobbyists will tell you that live foods in general may help these fish spawn, and may increase activity and coloration. The usual time you may find it necessary to offer live foods (such as brine shrimp) is when acclimating wild-caught adults of predatory or micro-predatory species.
A few basic rules to follow when feeding your Cichlids:
- First, feed an appropriate diet. If a fish is primarily herbivorous, its staple diet should consist of vegetable based foods, such as spirulina flakes or pellets.
- Second, variety is important. Feeding any fish only one type of food can be compared to eating only pizza for your whole life. Sure, pizza has all four basic food groups, but really, would you be healthy or happy eating just pizza?
- Third, feeding foods high in pigments will help maintain vibrant coloration. This is especially important with fish which have yellow, orange, or red in their coloration. The pigments derived from food are the same pigments which are redeposited in the skin of the fish, hence, a food lacking in carotene and the like will only get you fish which either exhibit faded coloration or are entirely lacking the yellows, reds, and oranges they should have.
- Finally, although brine shrimp does not contain much nutritional value (it is not “nutrient dense”), it makes an excellent first food, especially for fish which are not showing interest in prepared foods