Most cichlids are omnivorous, eating a mixture of vegetation and other fish. Certain species eat more plant matter then other species, but if you feed all your cichlids a mix of pellets and supplement with spirulina or frozen food, you’ll have all your bases covered and your fish can get nice big and healthy with full coloration.
If you purchase a commercial brand of cichlid pellet, this has all the required nutrients that your cichlid require. Do not use tropical fish food or goldfish food, get an actual cichlid food. This specially designed flake or pellet has the dietary requirements for these types of fish and it will be easy to keep them healthy of you have food that is made for them. There are some brands of cichlid pellet that enhance color and these do work.
I recommend a sinking cichlid pellet instead of a flake because when the fish gulps at the top of the water, they can inhale and swallow air and get bloated which can cause digestion problem and even death. Sinking pellets are best because cichlids like to hunt and when he pellets are slowly sinking, it’s very enjoyable as the hobbyist to sit back and watch them in a feeding frenzy devouring the food.
If you want to supplement a treat of seaweed every now and them they fish will enjoy it. A quality brand of food will cost more but the ingredients are better quality and you really do get what you pay for. Cichlids eat very fast and they can eat a large quantity.
The optimal feeding is twice per day, feed what they can eat before it sinks to the ground. Do this a few times. If you feed slowly so that all the food is consumed before it sinks to the bottom, there will be less rotting food which means less ammonia. If you only want to feed your fish once per day that is fine but they will grow faster if fed twice per day. For fully grown cichlids it’s best to allow 1 day of fasting per week, this helps to regulate the metabolism and it’s also recommended for many reptiles another tropical fish species.
Be careful not to overfeed the fish. If too much food is falling to the bottom or getting sucked into the filter this can create water quality problems. Less food is better then too much food. Also if you are away for a few days, your fish will be fine not being fed for many days in a row even up to a week so don’t worry, they won’t starve!
There is a debate that live food is very poor quality, and it does make sense if you look at it from this perspective. Commercially bred minnows or goldfish are raised in cramped conditions. These fish are not happy fish, often stressed which means that they can have parasites or be sick. You don’t want your cichlids eating a sick fish. I do not recommend live food but if you choose to do so, you can feed them live since some species do eat other smaller fish in the wild. As a seasoned aquarium hobbyist, I strongly disagree with feeding feeder fish like minnows and goldfish to cichlids.