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Why do African Cichlids Change Their Color?

One day, you might notice that your African cichlids look somewhat different. They are suddenly not as colorful as before.

This can happen to cichlids at any given day and there can be various reasons behind it. We are here to tell you that fortunately, this situation can be changed in most cases.

Color changes are usually caused by stress, and there can be many stressors in a home aquarium. The reason behind your African cichlid fading is usually in front of your eyes, maybe you are just not aware of it yet. This is why we decided to write a complete article on the subject.

Here, we are going to explain all the environmental factors that can cause your cichlid’s colors to fade. We can already tell you that at the end, it almost always comes down to certain stressors that are present in the tank and diet.

Why are the Colors of My African Cichlids Fading?

Every experienced fish keeper can tell you that African cichlids are notorious aggressors. Put them in an aquarium with the wrong teammates and they are either going to bully everyone or get bullied. This is all about hierarchy and if they feel like they are at the bottom, it is going to be really stressful.

In the presence of more dominant cichlids, the submissive ones are going to fade. Stress is the main thing that is going to cause your African cichlids to fade. Dirty water or suboptimal water conditions also cause a lot of stress, thus fading.

There are also certain hormones that fish dealers use to make their cichlids look better. Once you buy your fish, you might notice its colors fade away. It is usually not the customer’s fault, they were simply fed with food that contained these hormones.

How to Improve the Colors of My African Cichlids?

The colors of your African cichlids are largely going to depend on their eating habits. You really need to do the research and find out which are the best foods for the species you keep at home. Buying some processed cichlid food at the pet shop is not always the best idea.

If you do so, you should buy the high-quality one which is also more expensive. Either way, you need to keep your African cichlids on a diverse diet.

There is no other way around it because there has to be something in their diet that brings out those pigments.

For example, feeding them foods that contain beta-carotene are going to bring out their beautiful red colors. You either need to buy processed foods that contain it or feed them crustaceans.

There are also herbivores that can’t eat crustaceans. Prepare some shredded carrots for them instead.

Why Did My Yellow Cichlid Turn Black?

Your poor Yellow cichlid is most likely suffering from Malawi bloat. The causes behind this condition are bad water quality, inappropriate diet and salt concentration.

This happens when fish keepers start to feed their herbivorous fish with foods that contain a lot of fat and proteins.

Their digestive system and tract are simply not designed for that. They need a lot of fiber, vitamins and greens instead in order to thrive.

Moreover, they are especially sensitive to water quality. If the water gets dirty or the parameters change, health issues are going to develop.

Before you know it, your Yellow cichlid is going to get Malawi bloat and gradually turn black.

How Long it Takes for African Cichlids Fry to Get Their Color?

Obviously, your African cichlid is not going to flourish in its most beautiful colors right away. They are completely different when they are born. It takes some time for them until they grow up and develop those colors that you can see on the photos online.

You need to be patient here because it takes approximately one year for a typical African cichlid to show its true colors. That is when they reach maturity and reach their full potential.

However, this varies greatly depending on which species you keep at home.

Still, keep in mind that they show their vivid colors only if you keep them on a healthy diet. Also, it is important to keep the aquarium as stress-free as possible. If they are constantly exposed to stress, their colors are going to fade no matter how many years old they are.

Do African Cichlids Change Color When Breeding?

African cichlids change colors a bit when it’s breeding time. The most dominant male is going to flourish in the brightest colors to attract the female.

Part of the courting process is that the female is going to find the best mating partner she can based on how healthy the males are.

A good display of their health and mating potential is how colorful the male is. This is something that is already established in the tank, as the weaker males get bullied or suppressed.

As a result, their colors are going to fade a bit and the one on the top of the hierarchy is going to shine.

If you notice that a male has particularly bright colors in your aquarium, then that is the alpha male.

Wrapping Up

We can conclude that most of the factors that cause your African cichlids to change colors are under your control.

Their colors mostly depend on your capability to take proper care of them. This is why it’s important to study their needs and provide the diet and water parameters they need.

With African cichlids, this can be challenging for beginner fish keepers. There is also the concern that these cichlid species are rather aggressive in territorial in general.

Their aggression has to be controlled by picking compatible tank mates and providing them enough space.

This will reduce stress and thus prevents their colors from fading. Try to feed them foods that enhance their colors and make sure the water is clean.

Water parameters such as pH, temperature and water hardness should also be on point.

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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