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Do African Cichlids Need Air Bubbles?

African Cichlids actually don’t need an air stone, but they definitely need oxygen to thrive. Air bubbles in home aquariums are usually generated using air pumps, which are cheap filters. There are sponge-based filters and undergravel filters.

We only recommend buying these if you need more circulation in your aquarium, but you need to provide proper filtration for your fish as well. The reason why African Cichlids and many other fish species do not need air bubbles is that they don’t get oxygen in their system by breathing in air.

They do so by breathing the water in through their gills, which provides them with oxygen. African cichlids do this the same way out in nature and there is no such thing as an air bubble generator out there.

However, there are certainly ways to increase the water’s oxygen concentration and one way to do it is by producing bubbles. Then, your African cichlids are going to benefit from it when that oxygenated water gets in their gills.

How Oxygen Gets into Water?

There is something that we call surface agitation which allows oxygen molecules to enter the water. You can facilitate surface agitation by using air stones or the outflow of your filter. What an air stone does is it generates tiny bubbles in the water so that it becomes softer and more able to take oxygen in.

It is a way to increase the oxygen concentration in your aquarium. Another great thing about air stones is that they don’t make annoying bubbling noises so you won’t hear anything. But how does fresh oxygen enter the water?

Oxygen enters the water from the air around the tank. It gets absorbed, and this absorption is facilitated by turbulence. Pretty much every kind of water movement makes this process faster because it always causes aeration.

Do African Cichlids Need Filter?

Like most fish species that people like to keep at home, African Cichlids also need a filter. Some might think that putting an air stone in the tank is enough to keep the water clean but it is actually not. Although it indeed does oxygenate the water, it will not make it cleaner.

When you turn the filter on, what happens is oxygen enters the water while contaminants stay in the filter media. In the end, what you get is a constant flow of clean water that is well-oxygenated. In order for the oxygen to enter, you only need to disturb the water and a filter does this pretty well.

For African cichlids, you either need to get a good external canister as filter. What you should avoid, on the other hand, is buying an undergravel filter because then there will not be much water flow going on. We would also recommend you to place some plants in the aquarium.

Without plants, you would need to buy an aerator or a pretty strong filter. Now, aerators are not filters and filters are not aerators so if either of them is broken, you need to replace it. Aerators and live plants can be a substitute for each other because they both oxygenate the water.

Can You Use Live Plants in Cichlid Tank?

Although an aerator and a filter are enough in a home aquarium when it comes to oxygenation, you can definitely use live plants as well. After all, there are lots of live plants in the natural environment of African cichlids. But even if you have plants in the tank, you need to ensure a strong enough current in order for the fish to thrive.

Plants are not only good for decoration but also to guarantee some fresh, oxygen-rich water for your fish. Using live plants is also much better than going for those artificial ones that might look great but have no other function.

If you want to guarantee that your African cichlids live in good health, it is best to use a filter, an aerator and live plants as well. It is better to be safe than sorry, as those live plants can come in handy when your filter or aerator breaks down.

Symptoms of Low Oxygen Level in Cichlid Tank

If there is not enough oxygen in the fish tank, then your African cichlids are going to suffer from oxygen deprivation. This will cause your fish to spend a lot of time resting near the substrate. They will not only feel tired most of the time but also won’t eat because of their lack of appetite.

Despite being mostly inactive, their gills are moving faster because they try to get more oxygen. Then, the prolonged lack of oxygen will turn on their survival instinct and they are going to swim up to the surface, gasping for air. When you see this, you know it is an emergency situation.

When the oxygen level goes down in an aquarium that has live plants in it, these symptoms are prolonged. Then you have more time to fix the aerator or buy a new filter. If neither the filter nor the aerator is working, however, then you are in big trouble.

Then, your fish are not going to be able to stay alive for more than a few hours before suffocating so you need to hurry.

Wrap up

African cichlids can do well with air bubbles in the tank, but they are not essential. It is true that an aerator can make life easier for your fish because it provides more water flow and ensures that the water is well-oxygenated.

There are other ways to do that such as buying a strong filter or using live plants in the aquarium. If you decorate your tank with live plants, then you are still going to need something that generates water flow. Just as when you open the windows in your house, you need to guarantee the oxygen flow in the aquarium as well.

That’s all you need to know about creating a well-oxygenated environment for your precious African cichlids.

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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