Practical Information About Keeping, Breeding and Buying Dwarf Cichlids

Fish Profiles & Photos
South American  
    sp. "Abacaxis"
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Good Food

      Most dwarf cichlids are omnivores and consume a variety of foods in nature. In the aquarium they will eat many different foods and a diet that provides them a variety of healthful foods is fairly easy to provide.  Many dwarfs have a reputation of needing live food for survival. The truth is that almost every fish will learn to eat the foods that are available. However, live food is always relished and the frequent feeding of live food helps to insure success.

     Wild fish are often more demanding of live food that tank raised. However, many dwarf cichlid breeders exclusively feed live foods and the fish they produce are often slow to convert to prepared foods. These fish will generally convert to high quality frozen food if they go a period of time without receiving live. Once they are accustomed to feeding on frozen food the conversion to prepared is usually a matter of patience.

    It is important that your fish receive an adequate supply of food that has good nutritional value. In most situations your fish will thrive on two feedings a day, morning and evening. Initially it may be hard to determine the right amount of food to feed and you should err on the side of too little until you know your fish and their consumption. Do not think that you must feed your fish on a precise schedule. In nature they tend to go through periods of plentiful food when feeding is easy, and periods of scarce food when they might go weeks without feeding. In fact, mature fish that are slow to breed can often be triggered by a fasting period of one to two weeks followed by massive water changes and good food.

Live Foods

     If you want to have happy dwarfs you should offer them live food as often as possible and for successful fry rearing live food is critical. There are a number of different types of live foods that are fairly easy to procure or produce for feeding to your fish.

Brine Shrimp - The staple live food for many aquarists is brine shrimp. Adults of this small crustacean can be purchased in many pet stores and the newly hatched nauplii are excellent food for fry and small fish. As previously mentioned, it is possible to buy adult brine shrimp in many pet stores. As I have little experience in keeping and feeding adults I will leave you on your own for additional information. Hatching brine shrimp eggs is an activity that you should at least attempt if you want long term success with dwarfs.

White Worms - White worms are an easily cultured food source. They can be raised quite easily and large quantities can quickly be produced. However, it is best to be careful about feeding these worms. Your fish will love them and greedily stuff themselves on them. However, white worms are fatty and too rich for many fish. I always have white worms around but rarely feed them to my fish more than once every other week.

Micro Worms - These tiny worms are smaller than newly hatched brine shrimp. They are easy to culture and make a great food for newly hatched fry. They live in fresh water for hours so a little overfeeding will generally not be a problem. Although adult fish will feed some on  white worms, they are a very small food and adults cannot make them a staple of their diet.

Black Worms (Tubifex Worms) - Black worms and the closely related tubifex worms are found in a variety of water types around the world. Although they inhabit all water types, some species thrive in water that is full of harmful bacteria. When fish eat the worms from these sites they will often develop significant diseases. Fortunately, today most of the black worms on the market are clean and a good food source. Some pet stores carry them and they can be a great food for your dwarfs. However, I recommend that you ask the shop to make sure that the worms come from a reliable supplier As with white worms, I do not recommend a steady diet of these worms. However, they can be a good supplement.

     There are many additional live foods that make good food for dwarfs in certain situations. Many different live food cultures can be purchased from specialized sources. In addition, depending on where  you live, you might be able to collect live foods locally. However, I will leave that discussion for another time.
Frozen Foods
     There are a variety of frozen foods that offer high quality nutrition and are easy to store and handle. Most of the frozen foods available will be eagerly accepted by your fish. I usually put frozen foods directly into the tank and let the fish feed on them as they thaw. Others recommend thawing the foods and even rinsing them before serving but my method works for me. I do find that there are foods I prefer and first on the list is blood worms. These are not actually worms but the larval stage of a fairly large midge-like insect. They are the shape of a tiny red worm and their wiggle in the water is rather worm like.. As a frozen food I find that they are usually of high quality and provide good nutrition for my fish. Blood worms maintain their shape and size after freezing and make a good mouthful; for most dwarfs. By contrast, I find frozen brine shrimp to be less satisfactory. Live shrimp are mostly water and have a rather thin shell. When frozen they tend to crush and after thawing there is often little but water and shell - with all of the nutrition in the water.

     Most pet stores carry a variety of frozen foods. They have a good storage life if you take care of them. Many foods are now available in prepacked servings which can be very convenient if you can feed an entire portion to a single tank. This can be a problem is a tank with just a pair of small dwarfs. Always try to inspect the frozen food at the store if possible. It is important that the food remain frozen. I have seen frozen foods that have thawed in shipment that have been refrozen and sold. You might not be able to tell for sure but generally you can tell if the food looks like it has been around too long.

Prepared Foods

    Prepared foods are the flakes, pellets and other types of packaged foods that are commonly sold at all pet stores. They have been a standard in the aquarium hobby for many years but todays products are far different from the flakes that I fed my first fish many years ago. Good quality prepared foods are nutritious and can make a staple diet for most dwarfs. By good quality I mean food that is fresh and produced by a reliable source. As with most things there are prepared foods available at various prices and in many different formulations. It
    Recently I have been using a food from Tetra called Micro Crabs.  My fish seem to love it and it is very high in pigments that bring out the reds in fish.    
    One of the  ingrediants of micro crabs a is cyclop-eeze which is a tiny crustaceon that is known as a great nutrition source for fish.  
     I have been feeding this to my fish two to three times a week and I believe it is a great supplement to their diet.  I have really noticed improved colors in some of my fish since I started using it.
     I order my MicroCrabs  online here:
is always best if you feed a variety of different prepared foods and rotate their feeding to your fish. I recommend that you purchase small sizes of  prepared foods. These foods last a long time if you are rotating and the food in a large container will be very stale before it is all fed.

Flake Food - Flake food has been the standard fish food for many years. Today's flakes are nutritious, hold together well in thewater and are convenient to store and serve. There are many different formulations for flake food with everything from vegetarian to earthworm flakesavailable. I personally do not feed flake food. Most of my tanks are chocked with plants and house bottom feeding fish so floating flakes are of little use.

Pellet Foods - Pellets come in all shapes and sizes. Some float while others sink and there are many, many different formulations. I feed a lot of different sinking pellets to my dwarf cichlids, especially brines shrimp and spirulina pellets. I like that pellets will hold their shape, allowing fish to pick at them for extended feeding.

Other Prepared Foods - Some of the other types of prepared foods are very similar to flakes and pellets. Algae wafers, color bits and the like are very similar. Freeze dried foods provide a good source of nutrition. However, I find these difficult to feed as they float and as described above, I do not like floating foods. There are prepared foods that are preserved natural insects. One new type is a gel that you drip into the water and other new foods are sure to appear. All of the foods offer good choices for feeding your fish. Be sure to have several choices for your fish and they will do well on prepared foods.

      Live frozen or prepared foods are all good choices for dwarf cichlids. Provide quality food fed once or twice a day and your fish should do very well. We've looked at water and food, two of the basics that must be addressed for successful husbandry. In part three you will learn about good habitat.

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