Providing your cichlids with the best possible nutrition is essential for their guaranteed longevity, vibrancy, and active, healthy lives. However, each species of cichlid requires its own nuances in diet.
In their natural environments, cichlids are often opportunistic feeders. This means that even though each species has its own requirements in diet, each species also has a varied diet with a variety of nutritional needs.
Cichlids can be carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores, and knowing which you have is the first step in knowing what kind of feed you should provide them.
Carnivores require proteins from other fish, crustaceans, or insects; herbivores feast on aquatic algae, plants, and biofilm; while omnivores need a little bit of everything. Your cichlid feed should reflect the dietary needs of your fish.
Xtreme Aquatic Foods 2137-G Cichlid Pee-Wee Fish Food
Xtreme Aquatics Cichlid Pee-Wee Fish Food is 100 percent made in the USA with ingredients source from North America. This ensures the highest quality products at the biggest bang for your buck – and your fish.
Xtreme Aquatics is formulated to provide all the nutrients and ingredients your cichlids need to be vibrant, health, and strong. Pee-Wee can even promote active breeding behaviors to produce more gorgeous little fishes.
Xtreme Aquatics comes as 1.5mm slow-sinking pellets in a 5-pound (2268 gram) container. Each pellet is chock-full of marine and vegetable proteins and completely hormone-free to provide ultimate nutritional value.
Each pellet is guaranteed to contain at least 38% proteins from vegetable sources, such as blue-green algae dried grains. Marine sources of protein include shrimp, herring, and squid meals to produce healthy, natural colors.
- Made in the USA
- Formulated with all the ingredients needed for healthy, colorful cichlids
- At least 38 percent proteins from vegetable and marine sources
- Good for needier cichlids, including African cichlids
- Formula is not an all-natural formula, as some chemical preservatives are used
- Not for larger tropical fish
NorthFin Cichlid fish food is formulated to be free of animal by-products, fillers, and artificial pigments, as well as to have no added hormones. NorthFin Cichlid provides only high-quality whole fish meal for the health and growth of your cichlids.
NorthFin Cichlid is guaranteed to contain at least 40 percent protein. Marine sources of proteins used include krill, sardine, and herring, as well as vegetable proteins from kelp and blue-green algae for omnivorous cichlids.
The marine-centered diet provided by NorthFin Cichlid is designed to allow your fish easy digestion and absorption of ingredients to produce healthy fish (and less fish waste).
Each pellet is made in North America to ensure the highest possible quality. They come in 1mm, 2 mm, and 3mm sizes in a 250 gram or 1-kilogram bag options.
- No animal by-products, added fillers, added hormones, or artificial pigments
- Marine protein diet provides easy digestion and absorption
- 1mm, 2mm, and 3mm pellet sizes to provide options for all sizes of fish
- Made in Canada, not the USA
- Pellets may cause some clouding in aquariums if not pre-soaked
Fluval Bug Bites Pellets for Cichlids
Fluval Bug Bites Pellets are a natural choice for feeding cichlids. Up to 40 percent of every bag contains black soldier fly larvae as the first ingredient, which have no exoskeletons, making them ideal for cichlids.
Other sources of protein include whole salmon, which is rich with Omega 3 and 6 oils. This promotes healthy scales, skin, fins, and immune system processes. Omega 3 and 6 can even promote cichlid growth.
Fluval Bug Bites are formulated with a rich blend of essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to provide your cichlids with the best possible balanced diet. Bug bites are good for omnivorous and carnivorous cichlids.
Fluval uses sustainable, small-batch practices to encourage maximum freshness, quality control, and environmental impact. All Fluval fish food is made in Canada with no artificial additives.
- Made in North America using sustainable business and production practices
- Formulated with essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids for the most balanced diet
- Each bag’s number one ingredient is black soldier fly larvae
- Some aquariums may smell funky due to the natural ingredients
- Some pickier cichlids may spit out bug bites
New Life Spectrum Freshwater Cichlid Food
New Life Spectrum Freshwater Cichlid food is made in the USA from only the most natural, high quality ingredients to promote the brightest, most colorful cichlids. All marine proteins are sourced from Antarctic seas.
Marine protein sources include Antarctic krill, New Zealand mussel, squid, and herring. This provides a varied, balanced diet that both enhances your cichlid’s true colors and boosts their immune system.
Vegetable protein sources include blue-green algae and micro algae, kelp, seaweed. Several fruit and vegetable extracts are blended into the formula as well, such as cabbage, mango, and papaya to enhance color and vibrancy.
Added garlic and natural, anti-parasitic ingredients will work with your cichlid’s immune system to promote full, healthy lives. Added all-natural ingredients also work to enhance natural, vibrant colors.
- Made in the USA from only natural, high quality ingredients
- Garlic and a natural anti-parasitic added to produce bright, healthy fish
- Marine sources of protein include krill, mussels, squid, and herring
- Not formulated for cichlids exceeding 3 to 4 inches in length
- Some pickier cichlids may not like the all-natural formula
Cobalt Aquatics Tropical Fish Food
Cobalt Aquatics Tropical fish flakes are made in the USA with ingredients sourced only from the United States and Canada. This ensures your cichlids receive only the highest quality foods.
Cobalt Aquatics is formulated with a minimum protein guarantee of 45 percent and a fat content of 10 percent to make sure your fish get all of the nutrients they need to be healthy and vibrant.
Added probiotics of the bacillus family will promote and improve digestion and nutrient absorption. Less waste produced as a result leads to a cleaner, clearer, healthier aquarium for all your aquatic life.
Cobalt Aquatics is designed with all tropical fish in mind to enhance natural, vibrant colors, growth, and appetite in even the pickiest of picky pescatarians.
- Made in the USA with only ingredients sourced from the United States and Canada
- A minimum guarantee of 45 percent protein and 10 percent fat ensures the best digestion and colors for your cichlids
- Designed with all sizes and breeds of tropical fish in mind
- Fish flake formula can cloud an aquarium’s waters
- Soggy flakes can sink to the bottom of the tank or clog the filters
Omega One Super Color Floating Cichlid Pellets
Omega One Super Color pellets are floating fish food pellets formulated to address and indulge the natural, opportunity feeding and dietary needs for your cichlids. Your cichlids can come to the surface instead of chasing pellets.
Floating cichlid pellets are naturally designed with less starch for healthier fish and less fish waste. They are also naturally insoluble to reduce your aquarium’s water pollution through proper fiber intake.
Omega One Super Color fish pellets are formulated with no digests, hydrolysates, meals, or other process proteins. Each pellet contains a minimum guarantee of 42 percent protein for your cichlid’s health.
Omega One fish foods are made from fresh-caught, wild Alaskan marine life such as herring, salmon, and shrimp. They provide a rich, natural diet for your cichlid’s digestion and pigment vibrancy.
- Formulated naturally with your cichlid’s wild, opportunistic feeding habits in mind
- Naturally insoluble to reduce aquarium pollution and increase clarity after feeding
- Minimum 42 percent protein for ultimate health
- Floating pellets are more likely to get caught in your aquarium’s filters
- Not for cichlids larger than 3 to 4 inches
Hikari Fish Food
Hikari fish food is a pellet formulated as a non-cloudy, sinking super meal especially designed to bring out the brightest, most vibrant colors possible in your cichlids.
The Hikari brand infuses its pellets with a high level of astaxanthin, a naturally-occurring carotenoid found in some seafoods that support bright pigments and colors. This is guaranteed to produce brilliant orange hues.
Hikari fish food pellets are also designed with your cichlids’ best health in mind, formulated to support your fish’s immune system as well as their colors. Hikari can reduce inflammation and increase digestive processes.
Due to their unique pellet formula, Hikari fish food is also appropriate for larger tropical fish. It comes in 7 sizes to give cichlid owners the greatest possible variety for their needs.
- Seven available sizes
- Great for cichlids large and small, as well as larger tropical fish
- Non-clouding, sinking pellets to attract your fish and keep your tank attractive
- High in astaxanthin
- Formula has been known to cause allergies in some sensitive human owners
- Not well-formulated for herbivorous or African cichlids
Seachem NutriDiet Cichlid Fish Flakes
Seachem NutriDiet Cichlid fish flakes are specially formulated with garlic to stimulate the appetite of any picky pescatarians. Chlorella algae provides essential amino acids, vitamins, and other nutrients.
A probiotic, high-algae content formula allows your cichlids to easily digest all available nutrients while promoting appetite, nutrient uptake, immune system support, and waste reduction.
High vitamin C content promotes immune function, which in turn promotes collagen production and tissue growth. It can even help address issues such as holes in the lateral line and head and aggression between cichlids.
Each Seachem bucket comes in a 50 gram, 100 gram, or 500 gram option and is formulated for all sizes and shapes of herbivore and omnivore species of cichlid.
- Formulated with garlic to stimulate the appetite of picky cichlids
- Chlorella algae and probiotics promote easy digestion and immune support
- 50-gram, 100-gram, and 500-gram options
- Not hormone or additive free
- Fish flake formula produces very fine, dusty flakes
TetraMin Crisps Select-A-Food
TetraMin Crisps Select-A-Food are formulated for ultimate nutrition in a cichlid’s daily diet. Their nutrition formula is also suited for feeding some medium-sized tropical fish.
TetraMin Crisps Select-A-Food contains 3 foods in one can: Tropical Crisps, Baby Shrimp, and Tropical Granules. They can be used for primary dietary needs or as a supplementary nutritional source.
TetraMin Crisps are designed to be slow-sinking and bite-sized for all cichlids and smaller tropical fish of all shapes and colors. The triple-feed offering allows you to feed all your fish from a single can.
This formula is also formulated with sun-dried ingredients to encourage clear water in your aquarium after feedings. The slow-sinking design means that your cichlids will have a chance to grab every bite before it clutters your aquarium floor.
- Suitable for small cichlids and larger tropical fish
- Can be used for primary diet or supplemental nutrition
- Three foods in one can allow for aquarium feeding from a central source
- Not all-natural or all-organic
- Not designed for large tropical fish
API Tropical Fish Food Pellets
API Tropical Fish Food pellets are designed in three sizes and multiple options: bottom feeder, tropical, and goldfish pellets – all formulated as sinking pellets. Cichlid and cichlid large floating pellets are also available.
API Tropical contain all the nutrients your cichlids – and other tropical fish – need to maintain a balanced diet. This formula is meant to be fed twice daily to meet your cichlids’ nutritional requirements.
Protein sources include marine life such as squid and shrimp meal, as well as vegetable sources such as pea proteins and banana flour. Added vitamins and garlic powder ensures your cichlids grow healthy and vibrant.
The cichlid options are designed as floating pellets to encourage their natural feeding patterns. They are also designed to keep your aquarium cloud-free and crystal clear.
- Comes in three sizes and five formulas to cover all the tropical bases
- Includes squid and shrimp meal for wholesome protein sources
- Added vitamins and garlic ensures healthy, vibrant fish
- Formula is not all natural
- Additives may deter some all-natural enthusiasts
How to Select Cichlid Food: Dietary Requirements
Cichlids are opportunistic feeders in the wild, but each species of cichlid has its own nutritional requirements that must be met. To select the correct feed, you must be aware of the nutritional diets of your fish.
Choosing the correct feed is responsible for promoting healthy, brightly-colored fish, as well as a healthy aquarium. The incorrect fish feed can cloud your aquarium water, clog your filters, and create sludge at the bottom of your tank.
There are three types of cichlid diets: carnivorous, herbivorous, and omnivorous. Each type of diet has its own needs in terms of protein, fat, and carbohydrate percentage, as well as the original sources of each category.
Carnivorous cichlids include the jaguar, Oscar, and Jack Dempsey species. They often have short digestive tracks built to absorb large amounts of fats and proteins. Original sources of protein include other fish, crustaceans, and insects.
Herbivorous cichlids have longer intestinal tracts to absorb the most nutrients out of their lower fat, lower protein content sources. African cichlids such as Mbuna and Tropheus cichlids are herbivorous. These feeds will have protein sources such as algae, kelp, and seaweed.
Omnivorous cichlids have the midway physiology between omnivores and herbivores to absorb the most possible nutrients from a widely varied diet. These include peacock, angelfish, and firemouth cichlids. Omnivorous cichlids need protein from sources such as other fish, insects, and algae all.
Types of Cichlid Feed
The feed you provide your cichlids determines the original sources of nutrition, which is vitally important for your fish’s health. Whether or not your cichlid’s feed also has any added preservatives, nutrients, or artificial colors can also impact their health.
Major Sources of Nutrients: One of the first things to look for is what the major sources of nutrients are. Feed with a lot of terrestrial sources, such as beef or gluten, can actually cause your fish to get sick or even die.
Insect Feeds: For cichlids that would eat a lot of insects in the wild, there are feeds composed primarily of black soldier fly larvae, dried and ground crickets, or other insects that contain complex and complete proteins.
Herbivorous Feeds: Many herbivorous species require feeds with high algae content, such as spirulina. This provides them with the vitamins, minerals, and natural plant proteins needed. Kelp and seaweed are good secondary sources of plant-based proteins.
Carnivorous Feeds: Carnivorous species need more protein and fats in their diet, which are best sourced from marine animals such as fish meal or shrimp meal. Some feeds may source only Antarctic krill, Alaskan herring and crustaceans, or squid.
Omnivorous Feeds: Omnivores require feed balanced between animal and plant sources. This includes the proper balance between proteins and fats, dependent on the species. One thing to watch out for is the difference between whole fish meal and fish meal cut with grains.
Advantages of Having the Right Cichlid Feed: Nutrients
The right cichlid feed is not only important for your fish’s longevity, but for cichlids especially, the right nutrition is directly linked to their coloration and other aspects of physiology:
- Feeds high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 can reduce inflammation, aid brain development and physical growth, and give your fish more energy
- Feeds high in fiber can help slow down your cichlid’s digestion, which gives the intestinal tract more time to pull out all essential nutrients
- Feed with higher levels of salt, for both fresh and saltwater cichlids, can increase your fish’s growth rate
- Large amounts of carotenoids – pigmented compounds – in your cichlid’s feed can enhance the colors of their scales dramatically, making them look healthier and more vibrant:
- Red pigment comes astaxanthin, a carotenoid found in red algae, whole shrimp meal, whole krill meal, and red bell peppers
- Yellow pigment comes from zeaxanthin and lutein, carotenoids found in turmeric, egg yolk, yellow snap beans, and yellow bell peppers
- Orange pigment comes from beta carotene, a carotenoid found in paprika and carrots
- Phycocyanin is a compound found in cyanobacteria, which produces blue and green pigments – the best sources for aquarium cichlids is spirulina algae
It’s important to make sure your fish have multiple sources of food, as wild cichlids are opportunistic feeders. Providing your fish with two appropriate – and different – sources of proteins and fats per day will greatly enhance their lives and vibrancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can cichlids eat feed made with whole mealworms? Mealworms are not recommended to be included in your cichlid’s diet, or the diet of any small fish. This is due to their chitin-based exoskeletons, which are difficult for cichlids to digest. Worms without exoskeletons can be appropriate substitutes.
How do I change the diet of a stubborn cichlid? When cichlids get hooked on one specific feed and refuse to eat a varied diet, it’s okay to not feed them for three days, then reintroduce other feeds.
Will my cichlid’s dietary needs change over their lives? In short, yes. Some species require more protein in their feed when they are younger and more fiber when they are older. It’s important to know what your species’ requirements are based on their age to switch their feed appropriately.
Does it matter if I feed my cichlids pellets versus flakes? Medium to large size cichlids require such a large number of flakes that it’s hard for them to fill up during mealtimes. Many species of cichlids do best with slow-sinking pellets.
How do I introduce new feed to my cichlids? New feed should be introduced slowly, either alone or mixed with their normal feed. This allows their guts to adjust to the new food. If they refuse the new food, stop feeding for three days, then reintroduce the new feed alone.
Cichlids require precise nutrition to suit their opportunistic lives and feeding patterns, as well as their overall health and longevity. Many have special dietary needs according to whether they are omnivores, carnivores, or herbivores.
Selecting the correct feed can impact the overall health of your aquarium. It is important to weigh all of your options before making a choice for the betterment of your system and your scale babies.
The type of feed you provide your fish is critically important in raising happy, healthy, brightly-colored cichlids. The nutritional values of their feed are also impacted by the type and brand.