Dealing with Aggression

The best way to prevent conflict between your aquatic pets is to make sure that you have lots of cichlids in the aquarium. When you have many fish in your aquarium and they don’t have enough empty space to establish a territory to protect, they will live more peacefully and be less aggressive towards others.

With that said, it’s very important to note that cichlids are very territorial and aggressive by nature you will often see them chase each other around. You may see them peck at each other’s fins or coming face to face with their mouths open in a sort of back and forward “dance”. They have many different behaviors and their aggressive showmanship can compose of a multitude of actions and behaviors.

Do not be alarmed at these kinds of behaviors because it’s very normal but if you find that one of the fish is being picked on constantly, there are a few things you can do to keep the peace in your aquarium and to prevent the fish from dying or getting sick, which can easily spread sickness and disease throughout your tank.

Here are 5 great tips that can help you solve or reduce aggression problems between your cichlids in your aquarium:

1.) Re-arrange the ornaments in your tank. Sometimes if a cichlid is constantly chasing away another from a specific spot, it means that they have established a territory in that area. If you move around the aquarium decorations, then they will have to re-establish their own space and it can reduce some fighting and aggression.

2.) Get more fish. This seems like it could be counter-productive but if you add another fish, it will divert the attention to the new fish. You can’t just dump a new cichlid in the tank first however, the other fish will notice and gang up on the new addition. Wait until you do a water change in the aquarium and then introduce the new fish because after the stress of the water change and the moving around of the ornaments, they other fish may not even notice that there is a new addition there. More fish bodies in the water means less space for territories which means peaceful cichlids.

3.) Often the fish that is picked on will be smaller then the aggressor. If you have a separate tank like a hospital tank set up, you can temporarily relocate smaller fish to grow him bigger by increasing feeding. Cichlids grow very fast and is you feed the fish 3 times a day and then feed your normal tank once every 2 days, the smaller fish should be able to catch up in growth very quickly.

4.) Another tip which is the opposite of the previous tip is to remove the aggressor and place him in another tank. If you don’t have another aquarium available, you can put him in a large cookie jar or something else of reasonable size. You won’t be keeping him in there for very long, only about 1 day so he will be fine. Don’t feed him while he’s in the separate container because he will defecate in the water which can cause an ammonia spike.

While he’s away from the main tank, the cichlid that was picked on can establish his own mini territory and then when you re-introduce the aggressor cichlid back into the tank, he will be the “new addition” so other fish may come to check him out, he will no longer be the dominant one. Cichlid are smart fish, but they do have short memories. Sometimes this trick works and sometimes it does not, but if you’re having aggression problems is it definitely is worth a try, it’s better then watching your aquatic friends beat each other up day after day!

5.) The final resort for a fish that is being picked on is either to give that fish away or to give away the aggressor. Sometimes fish will never come to a peace treaty with each other and you’ll have to remove one of them. If you look at this from an optimist point view, that’s the joy of cichlids – they really are a hobby that you can meddle with, always experimenting with trial and error until you have a specific formula for you that works.

No two aquarium hobbyists will have the same opinions in what works for them so you’ll have to experiment to see what works best for you. They are not just fish that you dump in the aquarium and forget about, they have little personalities and are very alive and interactive so they make a great hobby!