The Details You Need for the African Cichlids

The African Cichlids are mouth incubators. This means that the mother will keep the little ones in their mouths for a while until they manage on their own.

Concretely, how is it going?

The male and the female will make a display on the sand of the aquarium, during which, the female lays the eggs and the male fertilizes them, they will thus turn around one another for a few minutes:

Couple of Haplochromis CH44 during mating

The female gradually recovers the eggs in her mouth and will incubate them for 20 to 30 days depending on the species (until the young reach about 1cm). This is called incubation in jargon. So we do not say of a female cichlid that she incubates but that she incubates. We see that a female incubates with her swollen throat, and sometimes we can see the eggs by transparency in the mouth or when she frequently opens the mouth to ventilate the eggs.

Haplochromis CH44 female in incubation, eggs are visible

During this time, in general, the female will therefore no longer feed as she already has a clogged mouth. But don’t worry, it’s nature. She will lose a little weight but nothing serious.

The female will know herself when the fry are old enough to be spit out, so you don’t have to worry.

Several solutions are available to you from:

Keep the little ones in the bin

Nature will do its job, most will eat and the most resourceful will survive. (Note that some put fish on purpose in the tank, such as synodontis which are predators so as not to be overcrowded, just in case)

Collect the mother to place her in a single bin

If you want to keep the young, you can also recover the female after 18-20 days of incubation (until then, the young have a vitallin sack which allows them to feed in the mouth of the mother). By that time, the vitallin sac will be gone and the little ones can be fed. When you recover the mother (which is no small matter by the way, because she hides most of the time, you can place her in a 50-liter aquarium to let her spit out even her little ones when she wants.

The disadvantage of this method is that the female, being separated from the others for a certain time, will lose her hierarchical place within her group. She then risks being disputed and being kept away before returning to her place.


On aquarium forums, some also put their experience and their idea to spit the female.

Collect the mother to make her spit the little ones

Quite a delicate method, but one which makes it possible to recover the young and put the mother back in the tank fairly quickly without losing her hierarchy. The female can be recovered after 15-18 days of incubation. It is necessary to have spotted the very beginning of the incubation to be able to count the days.

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