How Long Do Cichlids Live? (SA & CA)

how long do cichlids live

Cichlids are the most popular and beautiful freshwater tropical fishes ever to grace an aquarium, they are the fascinating fish of your dreams. They have been found to be highly intelligent, very interesting personalities with evolved parental skills, making them a very attractive choice. 

If you’re looking to add cichlids to an aquarium, there are a couple of things to know. Your first question should be, “how long do cichlids live?”

Here’s all you need to know about their life span. 

How Long Do African Cichlids Live in Captivity?

Though we know of 1,600 species of cichlids in the wild, mainly in Africa and South America, there are still hundreds more that have yet to be discovered. 

Provided the ideal water condition, proper care, balanced diet, and big tank, most of the African Cichlids that you’ll find in personal aquariums can live for around 8 years on average in captivity. 

As mentioned above, African cichlid is a pretty broad term and contains hundreds of types. The maximum lifespan will vary from species to species. As you might know, some genus, such as Oscars or Flower Horns, can live up to 15 years in captivity.

Are African Cichlids Hard to Keep Alive in Captivity?

African cichlids are known as tough and aggressive fish. Sometimes, African Cichlids, or to be more specific, species from Mbuna and Malawi cichlids, get a bad reputation for being difficult to keep alive in captivity because of their compatibility and behavior. 

Some of them are quite cute and peaceful when young. The hard part is you never know if it is a monster that kills off other fish when they get older, especially you don’t have fish to disperse its aggression. 

African Cichlids ARE not beginner-level fish. 

How Long Can Cichlids Go Without Food (Eating)?

While most beginners assume that tropical fish are constantly hungry and need to be fed every day, this is not always the case.

Fishermen in South American waters have a saying, “Fish will bite when they want,” which means that sometimes fish can go for days without biting anything at all.

In reality, most tropical fish naturally can go for several days without eating. A large, healthy and mature cichlid can easily go at least 7 days without food, while baby cichlids will need to be fed after a day or two. 

If you’re going to be on vacation for 2-4 days, the best way to make sure your Cichlid Babies are fed is by getting someone to feed them with following your instructions strictly. 

How Long Can Cichlids Live Without A Heater?

One of the fun and challenging aspects of keeping African Cichlids is learning how to set up a proper environment your fish can thrive. The water temperature is an important thing for a successful African cichlid tank.  

Most Cichlid species originate from giant lakes. The ideal water temperatures fall in the balmy range of 76°F – 82°. 

Do cichlids need a heater? Yes, like most tropical fish, you will need a heater in your cichlid tank to maintain a consistent temperature even when your house cools off at night. 

Expect some cold-water species, mainly from the genus Gymnogeophagus and Australoheros, that can tolerate a fairly lengthy amount of time in cold water (as low as 50 degrees). Cichlids should be capable of surviving for 3-6 days without a heater. 

Almost all Central American cichlids can handle temperatures about 70 degrees or lower if the temperature drops gradually. Many aquarists prefer to house them in unheated tanks. In comparison, South Americans species have a narrower temperature band and can’t withstand low water temperatures except for cichlids from Argentinian and Uruguayan. 

How Long Can Cichlids Live Without an Air Pump?

It is easy to see why new Cichlids keepers often install an air pump inside the tank- the powerful Air Pump can add oxygen to the water. Well, this is one of the most common misconceptions about fish keeping. 

The truth is just the opposite. It will add a little oxygen, and you don’t need an air pump in the cichlid tanks as long as your tank is well-cycled. For the most part, using an air pump to create bubbles or waves is just for visual effect, depends on personal preference. A strong filter is enough to provide all the oxygen the Cichlids require.

Cichlids are gill-breathing fish, and they get oxygen directly from the water. When you notice the fish gasping at the surface or hang out back by the filter output, test your water condition first, especially the levels of ammonia and nitrites. One of the reasons may be the aquarium water temperature if you live in a cold area. 

So, how long can cichlids live without an air pump? It is not nearly as much of a concern as long as your filter is working. An air pump can be a tank saver if something goes wrong, such as the filter stops working randomly or the beneficial bacteria start to die for no reason (They can only survive for a couple of hours without oxygen). 

How Long Do Cichlids Live Without a Filter? 

Unlike an air pump, a decent filter plays a key role in your cichlid tank. Of course, you probably know that the most important duty of a filter is removing waste debris such as uneaten fish food and waste from your water. Moreover, like goldfish and guppies, cichlids are considered to be one of the most waste-producing fish.  

Getting the waste out of there is vital. There are two other reasons that you’re going to need a robust filter in your cichlid tank. First, your filter is the central place where the beneficial bacteria thrive. Second, the filter will adequately aerate your tank. They add oxygen by moving the bottom water to the top surface so it can increase its oxygen concentration. Without oxygen, both fish and microbes would perish.

How long do cichlid live without a filter? It depends on certain conditions, like how stocked your tank is, the type of fish, preparation, etc. According to my personal experience, cichlids can survive without a filter for 3 days by dropping the water temperature, manually removing ammonia and providing oxygenation, as well as continuous water tests and changes. 

Final Words

A healthy cichlid is active and will come with loads of personality. Good care, proper tank mates, and a balanced diet can increase their lifespan. Do right by them, and they can provide years of enjoyment.

Cichlids have a diverse habitat, and so they require different care. Check out the rest of this site for all you need to know about caring for these beautiful fish in your home!

Happy fish keeping!

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Richard Rowlands
Richard Rowlands

Hello fellow aquatics enthusiasts! My name is Richard Rowlands. I’m an aquarium keeper and enthusiast and have been for about 25 years or so. While I won’t claim to be the end-all expert on aquatic life, I will say that I know my way around a tank.

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