How Often do Cichlids Have Babies? (Here is The Answer)

Aquarists love having cichlids around because of their vibrant and diverse growing capabilities. However, breeding them can be tricky as they are noted for their distinctive mating process. Their unique characteristic goes beyond their colors, as they also have a unique breeding style that every owner should know.

Growing your cichlids may be different from breeding them. I have learned the rough way on my first attempts at breeding them. But, have you ever wondered how often do cichlids have babies? Let me shed some light on how cichlids breed, so you can nurture them the right way.

How often do cichlids have babies?

Breeding their line of aquatic life is one of the most appealing things an aquarist can witness. On average, they often spawn every 5 to 6 weeks.

There are a lot of factors for cichlids to breed. They have various ways of doing so. I have grown African cichlids, and the eggs from female ones hatch around 10-15 days after fertilization. They are held for another 2 to 4 weeks for their nourishment.

As they breed, cichlids get territorial over their eggs. Although not all cichlids have the same breeding techniques, they still treat breeding as a special process and protect their offspring at all costs.

Two cichlids breeding systems

Cichlids breed in a language that only they can fully understand. They practice monogamy and polygamy. Aside from that, they have two breeding systems that they live in –mouthbrooding and substrate spawning. As you might know, 95% of mouth-brooding species occur in Africa, while 70% percent of the substrate-guarding genera are found in New World.

Cichlids breed as fancy as they look. Courtship entails dancing, some shimmy, and color exhibition to attract the opposite sex. Finding the perfect spot to lay their eggs is also an exciting feat for the cichlids. In any of the cichlids’ breeding techniques, eggs hatch at almost the same time, which is around 10-15 days.


In this breeding system, the female naturally lays her eggs on her chosen spot. She then picks them up and scoops them in her mouth for safekeeping.

The male counterpart of the same genus has egg spots at the anal fin. Male cichlids often shimmy off the anal fins and drop the egg spots.

Female cichlids assume that she picks up her eggs and gets them right off the anal fins. Male cichlids release the egg spots at this point. This then effectively fertilizes the eggs.

Mouthbrooding cichlids take care of their eggs with a special pouch in their throat until the eggs hatch. After hatching, mothers continue to take care of their fry as they guard them around, feed them at times, and hide them from danger.

Substrate Spawning

How Often do Cichlids Have Babies
Photo: Martin Aldous (New Yellow Regal Peacock sifting sand)

Male cichlids court the female ones with their unique ways, which may include dancing and flaunting their colors around. Most of the male ones dig the right spot, and after courtship, female cichlids lay their eggs.

That’s why substrate spawning is sometimes called cave spawning. After laying the eggs, male cichlids immediately fertilize them.

Once their eggs are laid down, future parents both guard their fry against other fish and predators. 

Females usually fan their eggs, keep them comfortable, and make sure they’re healthy. 

Most of the male species are polygamous and actively fertilize other females’ eggs in other caves.

At what age do African Cichlids breed?

African cichlids breed easily compared to other species. Once they mature, they start to be wary of the other fish around them.

They start breeding once they mature at around 9 months. And once they have fully developed at around 2 years, they can start breeding regularly.

Some aquarists watch out for the size of fully-grown African cichlids before they start letting the male and female cichlids be acquainted with each other. Once their size reaches around 2 to 3 inches, they can be safe around each other for courtship and companionship.

How do I Encourage My Cichlids to Breed?

There are a lot of factors for cichlids to breed. Once they are mature enough, they communicate with the opposite sex and use their breeding strategies. It took me some time to naturally breed my African cichlids, but some tricks and tips helped me keep them healthy all these years.

Feed Nutritious Meals

Before you decide to breed your cichlids in your aquarium, it is pertinent for you to know the basic fish food that they like. The optimal cichlid diet before breeding must have around 40% of protein and 10% of fat.

Most of them like to feed on flat surfaces and rocks. It is best to avoid having plants around the aquarium, so they aren’t easily distracted. Do not overfeed your cichlids, as some female mouthbrooders fast until their eggs hatch. 

Create the Ideal Water Conditions

The courtship between male and female cichlids happens best with the best water conditions. When they like their living environment, it is easier for the females to lay eggs, and for males to leave their egg spots.

Stock the Ideal Ratio of Males to Females

Cichlids are known to have aggressive personalities, especially African ones. Overall, it is better to have more females than males when you want them to breed. I usually have one male around 4 females in my aquarium.

Provide Suitable Caves

Whether mouthbrooding or substrate spawning, cichlids like having crevices and rocky nooks around the aquarium. Provide your cichlids with enough caves they can hide through. It is also best to have gravel in the bottom as females tend to deposit their eggs in a depression.

Final Thoughts

Cichlids breed with their style and preference. Not all cichlids live in monogamy and wouldn’t mind having spawning inside caves. Some species, however, like having the eggs well taken care of inside their specialized throat pouch before hatching.

It is important to know the common breeding strategy that your cichlids like so you will know what to adjust in their environment and eating habits. Regardless of whether cichlids are breeding, they need to live a healthy lifestyle.

Breeding them would bring so much joy, not just for the cichlids themselves, but also for aquarists who are fascinated with the birth of new aquatic life. It takes patience and dedication to breed cichlids, and it is ultimately up to them to breed a line on their own.

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