07-07-2010, 11:19 AM
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African cichlids have very interesting behaviors. Most are what’s called “maternal mouth brooders,” that is, the mothers carry eggs and young in their mouths. Once a male has fertilized the eggs, the female will pick them up, and incubate them in her mouth for a period of 3 weeks to 31 days, depending upon the species. Even after the young have been released, the mother will frequently take them back up into her mouth when they are threatened.
In general, African cichlids are more aggressive than their New World counterparts. African cichlids are highly predatory and extremely territorial. In the wild, they often live together in groups or schools of like species. Mature cichlids guard their territory and they are not hospitable and may even behave aggressively to other fish, including cichlids of different species.
Cichlids often express timidity and dominance through their coloration: a pale fish could be a stressed or submissive fish, and a bright fish is usually an aggressive or dominant fish. Sometimes when a male loses his territory, he also loses his bright coloring. However, some may go into hiding and retain their colors of dominance to pretend that they are still dominant in hopes of attracting potential mates.
In the aquarium, the largest cichlid is usually the dominant one and will behave aggressively towards all of the other fish. Sometimes the smallest cichlid in the aquarium is attacked and killed by the larger, more dominant fish. This occurrence can be dealt with or minimized through crowding or overstocking, which generally works well when done properly. When kept in this kind of environment, aggressive and dominant fish tend to lose their victims in the crowd. Crowding is actually a condition that is found in the wild, as cichlids are often found in densities as high as 10-18 fish per square meter.