Cichlids Food: A Comprehensive Guide On Cichlid Fish Feeding

 Cichlids are very popular fish. They are excellent fish for most people to own due to their incredible hardiness. If you're new to the idea of keeping cichlids in your home, it's going to be wise to research them before purchasing them. This will allow you to achieve better results and keep them healthy. For example, it is important to learn how to properly feed these fish.

Cichlids Food: A Comprehensive Guide On Cichlid Fish Feeding
Cichlids Food: A Comprehensive Guide On Cichlid Fish Feeding

 Cichlids are great for aquarists because they are hardy and add color to an aquarium. However, just because they are resilient doesn't mean you can feed them just about anything. Like all aquarium fish, cichlids need a species-specific diet.

 Read on to learn everything you need to know about feeding cichlids. Once you learn everything, caring for your new cichlids will be much easier. And the information in this article is perhaps the most important you have ever read about these fantastic animals. Let's start!

This is an informative article. Nodisk One is not permitted to make a diagnosis or recommend any form of veterinary care. If your pet is in pain or ill, we recommend that you take him to the vet.

What Do Cichlids Eat In The Wild?

 Cichlids eat a number of different things in nature. You should be aware that cichlids can be herbivorous, carnivorous, or omnivorous. Some cichlids will eat mostly algae and plants because they are herbivores. Both omnivorous and carnivorous cichlids eat meaty foods such as shrimp, insects, and even smaller fish.

 Omnivores will eat just about anything they can and will enjoy a combination of plants and meaty foods. These fish love to eat and will eat whenever the opportunity arises. The food you give these fish in an aquarium won't be too different from what they eat in the wild. The flakes they eat are formulated to give them the right mix of nutrients.

 You will also feed some cichlids the same types of meat foods that they would eat in the wild. Specifically, it is common to feed cichlids brine shrimp and other similar foods.

The Best Foods For Cichlids

 The best cichlid foods vary slightly depending on the types of cichlids you are caring for. It is important to keep in mind that cichlids are a varied category of fish. For example, many popular aquarium fish such as angelfish, Oscars, discus, and African cichlids all fall under the broad category of "cichlid" fish.

 Some cichlids are herbivorous, and these fish cannot properly digest meat-based proteins. Other cichlids are omnivores capable of eating meat. The best thing to do is to research things based on the species you are feeding. This guarantees that you receive the most accurate data possible.

 There are common foods that cichlids seem to like. For the most part, nutritional flakes and pellets are going to be staple foods in the diet. You will feed the fish cichlid flakes most of the time. Then you'll supplement the diet with other foods that help give the fish the right nutrients.

 Some types of cichlids will need to be fed high-protein foods from time to time. Others will appreciate more vegetables. Later you will learn more about some specific foods and whether cichlids like them or not. This should help you make good choices for your fish.

What Vegetables Can Cichlids Eat?

Here is a list of vegetables that cichlids can safely eat:

  • Peas
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Boiled carrots


 Boil the frozen peas for a few minutes, so that they soften. I read somewhere to peel the pea and just fish out the inner flesh, but I fed the pea whole with no problem.

Romaine lettuce and spinach

 Wash lettuce and spinach thoroughly as they are often loaded with pesticides. Then, peel off a few sheets and stick them to the wall of the bin using a suction cup.


 Cichlids love to nibble on cucumbers. Cut them into thin slices and stick them directly in the glass. You can also tie them to a rock to keep them from drifting.


 My cichlids also like the taste of zucchini. Like cucumber, cut them into thin slices and tie them to a rock to keep them from floating.

Boiled carrots

 Your cichlids will also happily feast on carrots if they are mushy enough. Just make sure they are well boiled and have a very soft texture.

Tips for Feeding Your Cichlids Vegetables

 Cichlids can occasionally be overly picky eaters when kept in captivity. If they discourage vegetables at first, be sure to season them lightly with garlic powder. It is safe and quite commonly used as an additive in fish feed to encourage eating.

 Most vegetables should be boiled and softened first before being fed. And don't forget to remove any uneaten pieces as soon as they're done. Vegetables get soggy and watered down very quickly, making your water dirty in no time.

What fruits can cichlids eat?

Here is a list of vegetables that cichlids can safely eat:

  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • blueberries
  • Banana
  • Orange

 Not all cichlids taste like fruit, but there's nothing wrong with trying. If you give fruits containing seeds, be sure to deseed them first. Oranges and blueberries are two examples of fruits from which the skin can be removed.

 Most fruits are low in protein. So they won't really contribute to the buildup of nitrogen in the tank. But they could most definitely play with the acidity of the water. So anything they don't eat needs to be removed quickly.

What do baby cichlids eat?

 Baby cichlids are going to be quite small, and you still won't be able to feed them the same food you feed adult cichlids. It will take some time for these fish to grow large enough to eat standard types of food. Their mouths will be too small to eat many types of food that you might have for other fish. Instead, you will need to feed baby cichlids freshly hatched brine shrimp.

 These freshly hatched brine shrimp are quite small and can fit in the mouths of baby cichlids. Another option is to purchase specialty foods intended for cichlid fry. You can buy powdered foods or liquid foods that can be fed to baby cichlids. Either option will work just fine.

 After about a week, the cichlids should be big enough to start eating crushed fish flakes. You can also mash up nutritional pellets to feed baby fish if you like.

How much to give cichlids?

 You never want to give cichlids too much food. These fish can easily become constipated if you overdo it when feeding them. The proper time to stop eating may not always be understood by them. Fish cannot control themselves well enough to stop eating until they reach the limits of what they can handle. When feeding cichlids three or four times a day, it is important to give them only a limited amount of food. 

 The ideal amount to give them each time is as much as they can consume in 30 seconds. By doing this, the fish are kept from overeating. The fish will receive enough nutrients and they will remain very healthy. It should be emphasized that juvenile cichlids need to eat a little more often. However, these fish should always be fed approximately the same amount of food to avoid constipation problems.

Why is constipation so concerning?

 When cichlids become constipated, they eventually have problems with their swim bladder. Faulty swim bladders will make it nearly impossible for fish to swim normally. The swim bladder is the organ that controls buoyancy, and fish will often swim upside down when this organ malfunctions.

 You can relieve constipation problems by feeding cichlids boiled peas. It makes them poop a lot and helps them get back to normal. It's best not to let cichlids constipate in the first place, however. Stick to giving the fish as much food as they can eat in thirty seconds each time you feed them to avoid problems.

How often to feed cichlids?

 Feeding cichlids the right way is important to keeping them healthy. You want to make sure you give them enough food so they can stay strong. If you don't feed the cichlids often enough, it will make them stressed. Cichlids can survive for a while without food, but that doesn't mean it's good to forget to feed your fish.

 Adult cichlids need to eat three or four times a day. Juvenile cichlids need to eat a little more often than this. To make things easier for you, it's best to set alarms and feed your cichlids at the same times each day. This ensures they get enough food and stay healthy.

How often to feed cichlid fry?

 Cichlid fry should be fed 5-6 times a day. They depend on the yolk sac for their primary source of nutrition for the first few days. However, by the time the yolk sac is completely absorbed by their body, they are large enough to start eating independently.

How do you know when cichlids are hungry?

 Cichlids will always eat as if hungry. But suppose you find your cichlids digging around the substrate, poking around in unusual areas, or inspecting the top of the tank. If so, that probably means they're ready for their next meal.

 The problem with fish in captivity is that they will be hungry even if you miss feeding on one occasion. These Cichlid Fish in the wild, Eat whenever they find food. But since our pet fish are accustomed to a specific feeding schedule, it is better not to interfere.

How long can a cichlid live without food?

 What happens when you can't feed your cichlids for a while? Sometimes people can go on vacation and they won't be able to feed their fish for several days. Although this is not ideal, it does not necessarily mean that cichlids will die due to missing a few meals. If you're only away for a few days, the cichlids will almost surely be fine in your absence.

 Cichlids can live one week (seven days) to ten days without being fed. This assumes you are talking about a healthy adult cichlid. Baby fish will need to be fed much more often than this if you want to keep them alive. They are able to survive only for a few days without food.

 You should always taking on the side of caution, even with adult fish. Don't try to stretch things longer than necessary. The closer you get to the ten day mark, the more likely the fish will encounter problems. Ideally, you don't want to go more than a few days without feeding the fish.

 Cichlids will become stressed if they don't get enough food. This can make them more susceptible to illnesses and it can lead to a range of headache-inducing situations. If you plan to go on vacation, it is better to ask someone to come and feed your fish while you are away. If this is not possible in your situation, there are automatic fish feeders that you can purchase and install in the tank.

How long can cichlid fry live without food?

 For one to two days, cichlid fry may survive without without food. But that doesn't mean you have to test their limits. Since they are used to getting their meals on time, starving them could have serious health consequences. moreover, there is a good chance that they will drop dead from starvation.

Foods to Avoid for African Cichlids

Here is a list of foods to avoid for African cichlids:

  • beef heart
  • Tubifex
  • blood worms
  • Food for American Cichlids

beef heart

 Any food with even the slightest trace of beef heart is a big no-no. This is because cold-blooded cichlids cannot use the fat they obtain from warm-blooded animals for energy consumption. Thus, the accumulation of fat in the liver increases, which eventually degenerates the organ.


 The term "tubifex" describes the red worms that live in murky waterways. They usually come from polluted waterways. And you certainly don't want to expose your cichlids to the life-threatening diseases these worms carry.

Blood worms

 Bloodworms aren't downright toxic to cichlids. Most will love snacking on them. But bloodworms are often linked to Malawi bloat. So, better to avoid them.

Food for American Cichlids

 African cichlids have totally different dietary needs than American cichlids. The latter are carnivores - the food intended for them is often loaded with protein and fat - both of which are toxic to cichlids if eaten beyond the limits.

What to consider when feeding cichlids

Here is some tips to consider when feeding cichlids:

1. Some granules swell on contact with water. Before giving them to your cichlids, you should soak them. Otherwise, they will swell inside your fish's digestive tract, making it distended, irritated, or constipated.

2. Frozen foods like brine shrimp, krill, plankton, bloodworms, microworms and daphnia should be fed sparingly. For herbivorous species, you can ignore them altogether. Overeating these foods is an invitation to bloating.

3. Fish are cold blooded animals. The fat they gain by consuming animal matter has a considerably higher melting point. As a result, these fatty deposits build up on the liver, leading to cirrhosis.

4. If you have yellow, orange, or red cichlids, you should feed them a specially formulated color-enhancing diet. All the commercial foods mentioned above have this property.

5. Herbivorous cichlids have long intestinal tracts. Thus, they are more susceptible to digestive problems. For example, the intestines of cichlids are 4 times the length of their body!

6. In the wild, cichlids must continuously consume food to meet their metabolic needs because they feed mainly on algae and detritus. This behavior continues in captivity. But just because they seem hungry, don't overfeed them as that would be overkill.

Cichlid Food FAQs

Do cichlids eat other fish?

 Cichlids will eat other fish, but that doesn't mean they'll eat all the fish in your tank. Since many types of cichlids are omnivores, they will eat when given the chance. Smaller types of fish that fit in a cichlid's mouth can be eaten by them. This means that you cannot keep very small fish in the tank with most types of cichlids. Eating fish is not something cichlids do all the time. 

 Many cichlids consume a variety of foods, including algae, crustaceans, insects, plants, and biofilm. If you want to place cichlids in a community aquarium, you must first research compatibility. You need to make sure that the fish you put them in the community tank with are sufficiently compatible. This will prevent problems such as one fish eating the other. As long as you get the information you need, cichlids can be decent community tank fish.

Do cichlids eat algae?

 Some types of cichlids eat algae. It is common for many herbivorous cichlids to consume algae as part of their diet. Omnivorous cichlids can also consume algae. It just depends on what type of cichlids you're talking about.

 Many of these fish will even enjoy eating rounds of seaweed if you give it to them. Mbuna cichlids are a prime example of a fish that likes to eat algae. But can you rely on cichlids to keep your tank clean and eat all the algae? No, that wouldn't be reasonable. These fish do not eat enough algae to clean the tanks. However, they will eat seaweed as an addition to their diet.

Do cichlids eat shrimp?

 For many different kinds of cichlids, shrimp is a very popular food. Both omnivorous and carnivorous cichlids love to eat shrimp. If the type of cichlid you're caring for is carnivorous or omnivorous, chances are they'll love the shrimp. Brine shrimp are the most common type of shrimp people feed these fish. They will gladly accept Mysis shrimp, which you may also give them. It is recommended to occasionally feed cichlids that eat meat shrimp.

 Purchasing freeze-dried brine shrimp from pet stores is the simplest option. You can thaw the prawns and then feed them to the cichlids. Both carnivorous and omnivorous cichlids will need meat-based protein. Never feed shrimp to herbivorous cichlids as they will not be able to digest the food properly.

Can cichlids eat tropical fish?

 As mentioned earlier, cichlids can eat fish small enough to fit in their mouths. Omnivores and carnivores will eat small fish if given the chance. This is why you should avoid keeping undersized fish in the same tank with certain types of cichlids. They will easily make a meal out of it.

 It doesn't matter if the fish are tropical or not. Larger fish are capable of devouring little fish. Always research compatibility before choosing fish to put in a community tank with cichlids. It helps you avoid many problems.

Can cichlids eat tropical fish food?

 Yes, cichlids can eat tropical fish food. Many people give cichlids tropical fish flakes when they run low on their usual flakes. It's fine to give cichlids tropical fish flakes once in a while, but that doesn't mean it's the perfect type of food for them. It would be best to give them cichlid flakes that have been properly formulated for them.

 Giving the fish the right flakes will ensure they get the optimal nutrients. It will be nice to give the fish tropical flakes here and there if you need to feed the fish something before going out to collect more food. Otherwise, it is better to give them cichlid flakes. Now that you know this, it will be easy to go out and get the flakes that are suitable for cichlids.

Can cichlids eat goldfish food?

 Cichlids are very likely to eat goldfish flakes if you give them some. That doesn't mean it's the best food for them, though. Similar to the tropical flakes mentioned above, goldfish flakes are not the right food to feed cichlids. Cichlids need the right mix of nutrients and goldfish flakes simply won't meet all of their needs.

 Feeding goldfish flakes should not harm fish. You just don't want to give them goldfish flakes on a regular basis. Don't forget to go out and buy fish flakes formulated for cichlids. This is the best way to ensure your fish are getting the nutrients they need to thrive.

Can cichlids eat Koi food?

 This is another situation where cichlids will likely eat the food given to them. If you give cichlids koi food, chances are they will eat it quickly. Koi food probably won't be bad for cichlids. People often feed these fish what is called "pond pellets".

 It's not the ideal food for cichlids, but it shouldn't harm them either. However, it is really best to stick to recommended cichlid foods that are good for them. Otherwise, you run the risk of not giving cichlids the nutrients they need to survive. Do your best to avoid feeding cichlids food that does not meet their normal dietary recommendations.

Can cichlids eat bloodworms?

 Your cichlids will love eating bloodworms. It is actually quite common for aquarium owners to feed their cichlids bloodworms. They can be a good way to give cichlids a meaty treat that is high in protein. You just don't want to feed bloodworms to fish too often.

 Bloodworms should only be an occasional treat for cichlids. Also, you need to remember that meat foods are not suitable for herbivores. As long as you keep this in mind, it will be fine to feed your cichlids bloodworms. Carnivorous cichlids will take a real liking to receiving bloodworms as a snack.

Do cichlids eat snails?

 Cichlids don't normally eat snails, but that doesn't mean some cichlids won't eat them. Snails have occasionally been observed being consumed by some species of cichlids. For example, African cichlids have been observed eating snails. This does not mean that African cichlids generally eat a lot of snails in captivity.

 Snails probably won't be a great snack for your cichlids. You should stick to other meat foods such as shrimp and bloodworms when you want to give cichlids a meat treat. Some snails might even be compatible for living with certain types of cichlids. You will need to look into compatibility depending on the types of cichlids you are caring for. Snails are frequently kept in aquariums to keep the water clean. You might also think that having snails in the tank is aesthetically neat.

In conclusion

 Hope you feel much more confident about feeding cichlids the right way now. You learned about the foods that cichlids can eat as well as information on how to feed them. Adult cichlids generally need to eat three or four times a day. For best results, you want to feed them as much as they can eat in thirty seconds each time you feed them.

 This is the safest way to feed fish when you want to avoid overfeeding them. Overfeeding cichlids can be a real pain as they can become constipated. Constipation issues lead to swim bladder issues, and this will need to be addressed by feeding the cichlids boiled peas. Be careful not to feed the cichlids more than you should so you don't have to take care of them. Don't forget to check the dietary recommendations based on the type of fish you buy. The needs of various cichlid species will differ.

 Cichlids can be herbivores, carnivores or omnivores. You never want to accidentally feed herbivorous cichlid meat foods because they cannot digest protein properly. Do your best to follow the tips above and you will have a good experience with these fish. Cichlids are fantastic fish to own and you will definitely have options when researching which types to get.

Enjoy your cichlids and do your best to feed them regularly. Feeding fish high quality meals will keep them healthy and happy in your aquarium for a long time.

Only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, are used by Nodisk One to substantiate the information in our articles.