African Cichlids
How to select and integrate new cichlids

The first thing you want to consider when your buying your fish is where you are going to put them. You don't want to put your new fish into a new tank that hasn't been cycled. Make sure your tank has a firmly established biological filter before adding fish. You don't want to be buying a tank and putting fish in it on the same day.

Before you buy your fish you should think out what species of fish you want and how aggressive they are. you should not keep very aggressive fish with passive fish. It would lead to the passive fish getting beaten up or killed. One way to keep aggression down in your tank is to keep fish with different color patterns. Such as one kind with horizontal stripes, one with vertical stripes, one with solid colors, etc..

By having the different patterns the fish won't mistake one another for one of the same kind. This can be a big problem among your male fishes. If you plan on having more than one of the same species in a tank, you should try get all females or a ratio of 3-4 females to every male. In more docile cichlids, a smaller ratio is acceptable.

You should try to buy your fish from a well informed store. Big chain stores are not always the the best. Go where you know the staff is knowledgeable and can answer all your questions. Misinformed staff, while meaning well, can often do more harm than good. I personally buy most of my fish from a major chain store. I have a friend that works there who knows a lot about fish and helps in my selection.

When selecting your fish you want it of course to be healthy. Make sure it's actively swimming around and not sitting in a corner. Inspect your prospective fish to make sure it does not have any visible diseases or fungus on it.(It would be a good idea to put the fish into a quarantine tank before introducing the fish to your main tank. This would prevent the spread of diseases if the fish has one that is not readily apparent)

Ask the dealer to feed the fish to see if it/they are eating normally. Be sure the fish is healthy enough to survive the stress of capture and transport. Ask what kind of guarantee the store has on their fish, in case it dies, or you want to return it. Be sure to save your receipt, so you can take the fish back if needed.

When you are adding your fish to the tank, make sure you do it properly. The proper procedure is to place the fish still in the bag, into the aquarium. This will acclimate the fish to your tanks tempeture. At the same time add a bit of your tank water to the bag. This will help the fish get used to your tanks water. Wait about 10 minutes and then add some more water. After another 10 minutes it should now be safe to let the fish enter the tank. Doing all this will prevent unnecessary shock and stress, and further your chances of a successful transition.

If you are adding fish to an already populated aquarium here are a few hints to make the transition smoother. Rearrange all the rock work before you add the fish. This will keep all the other fish occupied with claiming territory, and will be more likely to ignore the addition. This will help with the "beat up the new guy" habit of africans.

Feed them at the time of entry of the new fish(s). They again ignore the new fish as they are too concerned about stuffing their faces.

Doing a water change just before/after you add the fish also subdues them as they usually hide from the gravel cleaner.

You could also introduce the new fish(s) at night time when their lights are turned out. They will be a lot less aggressive at night. You should also add some aquarium salt to the tank. This will help reduce the stress of the fish by making it easier for them to breath. Doing all these will help reduce the stress and aggression levels.