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Why do African Cichlids Hide All the Time?

For African cichlids, you need to set up an aquarium with enough rocks and hiding spaces. In their natural habitat, there are plenty of rocks where they can hide.

It can happen to beginner fish keepers that despite doing their best, their cichlids constantly hide behind the rocks.

You might have tried to re-arrange the tank or lure them out with some food. However, once they finish eating, they go right back and continue hiding.

In this article, we are going to talk about this problem a bit and share some tips on what you can do about it.

Reasons Why African Cichlids Hide

There can be various reasons why your African cichlids choose to hide all the time. Normally, they wander around doing cichlid stuff, interacting with each other and swimming around. Things would look better even if they would chase each other.

But they don’t. Instead, they just stay behind the rocks waiting for feeding time. What can be the reasons behind their behavior? Let’s start with the number one common reason:

1. New Environment

Once you are done setting up your new aquarium, the time has come to introduce your African cichlids to it.

Unfortunately, this is not going to be a pleasant experience for them at first. It is going to be rather stressful for them to explore a completely unfamiliar environment.

Since it takes some time for them to get used to your aquarium, they are probably going to just hide for a while. After all, they don’t know whether there are any threats lurking behind those rocks and plants.

2. Aggressive Mates

Beginner fish keepers often fall into the mistake to pick the wrong tank mates. The overwhelming majority of African cichlids are aggressive and territorial. Once they see fish that are smaller and weaker than them and can’t defend themselves, they are going to bully.

This can cause a lot of stress to the victim, who will then choose to hide all the time. In a home aquarium, there are really not many places to go.

3. Human Activity

African cichlids not only need to get used to the aquarium; they need to get used to you as well. Your presence can feel threatening for them at first. This is something that will change over time as you feed them and do stuff around the tank every day.

Meanwhile, it is important not to pick them out of the tank or scare them by going near the aquarium glass. They are slowly going to feel comfortable in the tank, which is when they will start to leave their hiding places.

4. Natural Behavior

Keep in mind that there are African cichlids that simply tend to hide more. It is one of their natural instincts to hide if it makes them feel more comfortable. If your fish doesn’t hide literally all the time, then maybe it is not even a problem.

In these cases, providing a few more hiding places can help your fish feel more comfortable. It can make them more confident to explore the more open areas of the tank.

5. Too Much Light

With African cichlids, you have the responsibility to give them the sense as to when they need to sleep. Once it is nighttime, you need to turn the lights off. Otherwise, they are not only going to hide but will also become sleep deprived since they were not able to sleep.

Out in the wild, they become active as the sun comes up and go to sleep once it gets dark. They function just like us, which is why you need to buy lighting with a timer or use it manually.

How to Make Your Cichlids Not Hide?

At first, you just need to be patient and give them some time to accommodate to the environment. Make sure not to scare them with sudden movements near the tank.

Whenever you feed them, you should try to interact with them a bit so that they get used to your presence.

Even when the lights are on, they shouldn’t be too bright because it will only make your cichlids stressful. Also, make sure to choose ideal tank mates and provide them enough space so that they don’t bully each other.

Do African Cichlids Need Hiding Places?

They most certainly do. African cichlids don’t feel safe at all if there are no hiding places around them. In their natural habitat, there can be a lot of threats lurking around them.

When they are afraid, they can just hide behind a rock and wait until the danger is done.

In a home aquarium, you need to provide them the same. Rocks, driftwood and caves are really good hiding spots for cichlids.

Do African Cichlids Like to Hide in Caves?

Putting a cage in a home aquarium is a great idea if you keep African cichlids in it. Since they prefer to hide behind rocks, it needs to be a rocky cave. Once a dominant cichlid finds the cave, he will consider it as a great place to defend.

It is ideal for establishing their own territory where they can be around, separating themselves from their tank mates.

The more African cichlids you keep in the tank, the more caves you are going to need. After all, you don’t want to see them constantly having territorial debates.

Wrapping Up

We can conclude that African cichlids naturally need hiding places. Setting up an aquarium without hiding places would result in a lot of stress for them, since they would feel threatened all the time. Having a place to retreat to provides them a sense of security.

If your cichlids keep hiding all the time, there is a simple solution that usually works. As we mentioned above, you often just need to provide them with more hiding places.

Over time, this will make them more confident to just go out, explore and spend time with their tank mates.

avatar I’m Julia, and I used to work in a fish store for over 5 years. On this blog I help beginners care for their cichlids and share my experience and research on various fishkeeping related topics.

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