When your beloved Cichlids start chasing each other, it can be unnerving, to say the least. Many people question whether this chasing behavior is normal, or even natural.
It is normal behavior for Cichlids to chase other members of their species. Cichlids chase fish of the same gender because of territorial and aggressive behavior; whereas the chasing of the opposite gender is a coupling/mating behavior.
Now you can rest easy knowing that the chasing is normal and natural. However, Cichlids chasing each other is not always the best thing to have to happen in your tank.
Why Do Cichlids Chase Each Other?
There are a number of reasons for Cichlids to be chasing. Cichlids are fairly social fish, and can even recognize the person that feeds them. There is also a multitude of breeds of Cichlids in various sizes, shapes, and colors. All of these factors together give room to a complex behavioral system.
However, Cichlid chasing that you witness can be whittled down to four main reasons:
- Coupling behaviors
- Food competition
- Incompatible personality types
- Territorial behaviors
Luckily, each of these reasons is fairly simple to understand and solve. Simply learn the tell-tale signs and you should be able to remedy any problem that needs to be solved.
When a male Cichlid and a female Cichlid love each other very much…the male may start chasing the female around to demonstrate his interest in her as a mate. This chasing is different from the others, as this will normally be playful and in a circular motion, rather than aggressive and seemingly faster than cars in a Fast and Furious movie.
In fact, there may be other signs of affection and flirting as well, including, but not limited to:
- Shimmying or shaking of the fins
- Nipping (not biting)
- Kissing! Yes, fish can kiss! (Source)
It’s important to keep in mind that this kind of playful and flirtatious chasing will always only be between males and females, and never between fish of the same gender. If you see male fish chasing male fish, it will not be for this reason, but for one of the other reasons.
Believe it or not, fish can get “hangry” just like us humans do.
Each Cichlid eats a different amount of food; this is true of breeds and individual fish. When the fish don’t get quite enough to eat, they often will start chasing each other around and start acting slightly aggressively.
Should you notice your fish start to chase each other around but not attack each other, this may be a sign that they need a little more food throughout the day. Try giving them an extra meal or adding more to their existing meals if this problem arises.
Incompatible Personality Types
It may sound strange, but Cichlids do indeed have personalities. Cichlids also have social memory, being able to recognize the person feeding them. Some species will even hide from people they don’t know.
Just as we humans sometimes don’t get along with other people because of their personalities, Cichlids are the same way.
Dominant and aggressive Cichlids paired with calmer, more docile fish may often pick on and bully the calmer fish. Likewise, two very aggressive fish can clash with each other and fight often.
Obviously, no one wants to have to deal with their fish acting like it’s fight night every single day. Before putting Cichlids in a tank together, or even with other fish, it’s best to do research on the breeds you want to get. By putting in the time to do some research, it is possible to do some pairing and put compatible fish in with each other to minimize unnecessary aggression and fighting.
Many species of Cichlids are or can become territorial. The territorial behaviors increase in frequency and magnitude the smaller the tank. If a tank doesn’t have enough hides or places where the fish can hide like plants, caves, or rocks, they can also become territorial of areas in the tank.
This territorial behavior is one of the more common reasons for many Cichlid owners seeing their precious fish chase and fights each other. Many breeds of Cichlids can grow to be quite large and are often kept in tanks that are too small for their adult size, leading to territorial behaviors.
Thus, when other fish enter their “domain”, they get frisky and chase the intruder off of their land.
Cichlids also get territorial with members of the same breed. Cichlids can see color, albeit at a fairly short distance, and tend to see members of the same breed as competition. Therefore, it is important to keep Cichlids in a tank with other breeds of Cichlids to prevent too much infighting.
When is Cichlid Chasing Dangerous?
Cichlid chasing is normally fairly tame and normal. Most of the time, chasing is merely a sign of a need not being met.
However, sometimes the chasing can lead to fighting and injury for the fish.
When you start to see misplaced scales, damaged fins, or other signs of injury, that’s when you know that the chasing is dangerous and really needs something to be done about it to prevent further injury, or worse, to your fish.
Can You Prevent Cichlid Aggression?
Fortunately, Cichlid aggression is very preventable. Many of the preventative measures are even quite simple.
One of the best measures of prevention is researching your specific Cichlid breeds to know more about their general behavioral tendencies. Some Cichlids tend to be more aggressive, and some tend to be calmer.
By researching the breeds you have, or the breeds you want, you can properly set up your tank to best handle the fish. Having a big enough tank, not overcrowding the tank, and having plenty of hides will drastically lower the chances of fights and aggression.
Cichlids are wonderful fish that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Give them what they need and they will be amazing fish in new or existing aquariums.
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