If you keep a cichlid community tank housing a mix of aggressive and passive species, then you surely have experienced the latter sometimes missing out during feeding. This can be especially true if you tend to feed in the same location all of the time.
In my 75g Tanganyikan community tank, I used to feed in the same spot all the time. That was until I noticed that one of my male Telmatochromis sp. "temporalis shell" had established a territory directly below where I dropped in the food. As the food sank, many of the larger, more aggressive species would congregate to eat, including the Telmat. However, his feeding exuberance, coupled with defending his territory, resulted in the more passive species being expeditiously re-directed as they attempted to eat. Ultimately, these fish would only be able to consume smaller food bits that reached areas outside the territory.
The best way to address such scenarios is to place food in an area that gets the most aggressive eaters away from their territories. Even the aggressive defenders will leave their territory to feed. When they do, they are distracted, as they scramble amidst the other fish to get their share. Once the frenzy begins, drop some food as far away from that area as possible. This will allow the more passive species an opportunity to avoid the feeding melee and grab some of the larger morsels rather than scrounging around to clean up the scraps,
Some might argue that dropping food all across the tank would serve the same purpose. For a heavily stocked African tank, I would agree. However, hearty eaters will generally congregate where the initial supply of food enters the water. This will reduce the effectiveness of the "full spread" strategy as more food reaches the rocks and substrate where it may remain uneaten, which could increase nitrates.
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