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Do African Cichlids Have Teeth?

Although there are literally hundreds of different African cichlids in lakes Tanganyika, Victoria and Malawi, they share one similarity for sure.

All of them do have teeth and they can definitely bite you. There are many beautiful colors and patterns to choose from when it comes to this huge family of species.

However, don’t let their beauty fool you. Most of them can be rather aggressive and territorial and if they are angry, they are going to bite.

The same applies when they are hungry. All you need to do is to put that piece of meat called your finger in the water and you will get bitten in an instant.

If African cichlids wouldn’t have teeth, they wouldn’t be able to eat the foods that make up their diet. Different species have different teeth structure in this family. Some of them are small, while others can look more dangerous.

Do African Cichlids Have Sharp Teeth?

There are indeed some African cichlids that have sharper teeth than the others. There are also the ones that not only have sharper teeth but are also bigger. If one of those bites you, it can result in a more serious injury but it’s nothing to really worry about.

A cichlid is certainly not going to bite off your finger or something serious like that. If it’s an herbivorous fish that mostly nibbles on plants and algae, it is not going to hurt even if the fish is large. Their teeth are rather developed for grinding than for actual biting.

Depending on its size, you are going to feel its teeth pressing against your finger with some force and that’s it. The ones that have especially sharp teeth are the carnivores or omnivores. You can expect them to draw some blood and it is going to hurt for a while.

An African cichlid can break your skin a little bit and it is pretty much how far things are going to get when a bite happens.

Can African Cichlids Bite You?

In general, the answer is yes but it depends on which one we are talking about. Some of them have the tendency to bite you, while others are never going to do it. If you are afraid that an African cichlid will bite you, then look for the ones that have no such interest.

This not only depends on the kind of teeth their have but on their aggression levels as well. The ones that are very aggressive obviously aren’t compatible with as many tank mates either. If they are particularly stressed or hungry, they might try to bite your finger.

Since this is very rare, it is not something you should be afraid about. Either way, they can’t do much harm to you so even if they bite you, it is not a big deal.

Can African Cichlids Injure Each Other?

African cichlids are well-known about their aggressive temperament and territorial behavior.

If you overcrowd the tank or put them together with the wrong tank mates, they are going to fight. There are many other fish species that they can not only injure but straight up eat or kill.

This usually happens when they are stressed or during breeding season. That is when they are particularly territorial and defensive, making sure their eggs are untouched. Keeping them together with non-African species or any smaller fish is a huge mistake.

If the fish they live together with is significantly smaller, they are going to eat it without mercy. In case they feel threatened after giving birth to cichlid babies, they are going to eat them. This is why you need to know how to treat them during the breeding process.

Do African Cichlids Chew Their Food?

African cichlids do chew their food but not with their frontal teeth. There is something that makes cichlids unique in the animal world.

They have developed additional jaws deep in their throat. Once they take a bite out of their food, it proceeds to these jaws which then chew the bite thoroughly.

These are simply called throat jaws and they are basically a set of gill bones surrounded with muscles. What makes these jaws highly effective is that they can pierce and crush food into tiny pieces. This greatly helps with digestion as a pre-processor of food.

This is what makes them able to process various types of food. Providing them a diverse diet is actually healthier than to just feed them the same 2-3 fish foods every day.

Can African Cichlids Regrow Their Teeth?

Cichlids have the incredible ability to regenerate their own teeth. They are one of the rare organisms out in nature that can do it. For them, it is not a concern if their teeth get damaged.

If we could do the same, we would never need to go to the dentist ever again.

There are many kinds of teeth when it comes to African cichlids that live in Lake Malawi.

Scientists have identified all of them and although they are different, they all come from the same ancestor. A cichlid can actually replace its own teeth with new ones in every 100 days.

Scientists are currently trying to figure out how can their incredible ability make our lives easier.

Wrapping Up

African cichlids not only have teeth but they have the most amazing teeth regeneration abilities as well.

There is no need to afraid of them, however, because they can’t do much harm to us humans. A little scratch or mild skin breakage is the biggest damage such a fish can do.

This applies to the bigger, carnivorous ones as well. We can conclude that not every African cichlid has sharp teeth.

The herbivorous ones, for example, have particularly harmless teeth. You should be more afraid of them doing harm to each other because they can be aggressive.

During breeding season, you need to be alert. If there are African cichlids in your aquarium, they might hurt or even kill each other.

This is why it’s important to pick compatible tank mates and to know how to handle them.

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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