I'm on travel again. As such it occurred to me how many aquarists fret about feeding their fish while their away or, upon their return, lament how something has gone awry with their tank because of overfeeding, etc. So this reminds me of my post almost a year ago to the day about feeding my fish while I'm away.
There are many ways to ensure your fish are fed while you're gone. On the other hand, your fish can go several days without food and suffer no ill effects. However, if you're going to be gone for an extended period (e.g., a week or longer), I would recommend that you have a plan for making sure they get fed.
For the Gymnogeophagus lovers out there, a species previously never found in Argentina has been discovered in the río Uruguay basin in Misiones. This beautiful little eartheater, G. lipokarenos, possesses some striking yellow color on the ventral half that complements a brilliant blue on the body and red/orange on the caudal and dorsal fins. For some great photos, see the short paper "First record of Gymnogeophagus lipokarenos Malabarba, Malabarba & Reis, 2015 (Teleostei: Cichliformes) from Argentina".
All cichlidophiles know how amazing the cichlidae family of fish is just from the incredible diversity of behavioral displays - from aggression to breeding to brood care. There are even studies that suggest quite a range of cognitive abilities, including the one I posted on nearly a year ago that concluded cichlids have the capacity for long term memory. Adding to the cognitive function discoveries of cichlids is another recent study that found male Pelvicachromis taeniatus demonstrate olfactory self recognition. Basically the study found that, given two caves to choose from, one pre-scented with their own chemical odor and one pre-scented with the odor of another male, P. taeniatus gravitated toward their "own" cave versus the cave of a non-family member or even a sibling.
Most of you have probably heard of Greg Steeves, as he is no stranger to the cichlid hobby. A life-time aquarist, Greg has written three books, authored many articles in a dozen languages, and speaks on cichlids internationally. He is the founding member of the Hill Country Cichlid Club, president of the Federation of Texas Aquarium Societies, and coordinator of the Lake Victorian cichlid species for the CARES Preservation Program. In addition, he is a fellow of the Haplochromis Society based in France and has contributed to the Cichlidroom Companion nearly since its inception.
If you're setting up a new tank or redoing an existing one and you've decided to use egg crate under your substrate, here's a tip to save you some hassle down the road; for medium to large tanks, don't use a single piece. Consider cutting your crate into sections, depending on the length of the tank. Why? If you decide to change your substrate, but you want to see how it will look before you do the whole tank OR you want to change the substrate in only part of the tank, having a single piece of egg crate will require you to remove everything from the tank. If you cut your crate into two sections or more, you only need to take out the section(s) that you want to redo.
Whether you prefer large or small cichlids, I've found that knowing what behavior you're looking for in new fish doesn't confine you to one category or the other. In other words, cichlid personalities don't differ a whole lot based on the maximum size of the fish. Some dwarf species are just as aggressive and pugnacious as their larger cousins, such as the largest Cichla (peacock bass) or Crenicichla (pikes) species. There are also some very large but reasonably docile species.
Your first decision on what to keep shouldn't center around what behavior you're looking for. What cichlids you keep should be based primarily on one criteria - the size of the tank rather than the personality or behavior of the fish. Large cichlids, aggressive or not, don't belong in small tanks and neither do a handful of small, aggressive cichlids. Even if you want to employ the density method to mitigate aggression among medium sized cichlids, the size of the tank should still dictate how many fish you put in it. Also, if you buy juveniles, know their maximum size so you can factor that in. Therefore, based on your available space and your budget, decide on the size of your tank(s) and then determine what you can put in them. Knowledgeable, experienced, and conscientious cichlid keepers will tell you the same thing.
Normal thought about cichlid fry are that they are cared for by the mother, sometimes the father, or both parents. And such thought would be accurate, but that's not necessarily the complete story.
Did you know an aunt, a cousin, or a next door neighbor might also be involved? Such "parenting" is called alloparental care, or more specifically "any form of parental care, which is directed towards non-descendent young." The phenomena is not unique to cichlids, or even fish, and may not be easily observed. Nor is it restricted to conspecifics. So why does it occur? In his article titled "Allparental care in fishes" from Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, Brian Wisenden provides six scenarios (as summarized below by Hyuk Je Lee, Valentin Helm, and Axel Meyer in this article from Ecology and Evolution):
(1) brood farming out (Yanagisawa 1985) where parents ‘deliberately’ transfer their offspring to be cared for by other parents; (2) kidnapping (McKaye and McKaye 1977) where foster parents kidnap free‐swimming young of other parents; (3) independent offspring inclusion (Taborsky 1994) where deserted or stray juveniles join neighboring broods; (4) brood amalgamation (Eadie et al. 1988) where adjacent broods merge for cooperative care by more than one set of biological parents; (5) philopatric offspring (Taborsky and Limberger 1981) where offspring from previous breeding events stay at their natal territory and help their parents to nurse subsequent broods and (6) extension of alloparental care of eggs (Taborsky 1994). Still, the ultimate evolutionary origins and explanations as to the adaptive or nonadaptive, or maladaptive, natures as well as proximate mechanisms of alloparental care appear to vary at inter and, sometimes, even intraspecific levels (Sefc et al. 2009; Coleman and Jones 2011).
So if you ever notice something weird happening in your tank involving the non-parent cichlids of your fry (besides predation), you could be witnessing some form of alloparental care.
I've posted about this before but I'm going to mention it again. Feed your cichlids a variety of foods. I am convinced that one of the most significant factors contributing to the health and color of my cichlids is the variety of high quality foods that I provide. In nature, cichlids are opportunistic eaters, just like most fish. They feed on what is available, and that can vary. However, only provide foods that are suited to the species that you keep. Mbuna, for example, should be fed a primarily vegetable diet.
There are myriad commercial foods for cichlids, and you can even make your own. You can feed flakes, pellets, frozen, etc. In fact, I would encourage you to try them all. Your fish will tell you what they like.
I never feed my fish the same thing on consecutive days. In fact, you can read more about my dry feeding strategy in the previous post I mentioned earlier. The point is to mix it up.
If you've been keeping fish for a long time and you have used online resources since the late 1990s, then you'll remember The Krib. I post about this because I can't begin to explain how much this site meant to my early development as a cichlid keeper. Chock full of all kinds of information about the hobby, but specializing in plants and dwarf cichlids, this resource was a mainstay in my library of information.
While the site is no longer active and much of the content is quite dated (the last update was in 2002!), there are still nuggets of gold to be found there. I would encourage you to visit the site for two reasons - 1) you may well find something useful and interesting that you haven't seen before and 2) you can get a good feel for how the hobby has evolved over the years, from aquarium products to processes.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub