Cichlids Not Eating: Cichlid on its way to eat some food

Cichlids Not Eating? 7 Reasons Why (+ Simple Solutions)

Ah yes, what a beautiful beast Cichlids are. They’ve got a temperament in parallel with their vibrant colors. Cichlids aren’t too hard to keep, but one thing you do need to ensure is that they’re well-fed. Oh… Cichlids not eating? Let’s see why. 

Cichlids not eating: The 7 Reasons Why: 

  1. Disease and Poor Health
  2. Stressful Environment
  3. Poor Water Parameters 
  4. Overfeeding 
  5. Picky Eaters 
  6. Wrong Food 
  7. The Circle of Life 

Oh, and of course the solutions on how you get your Cichlids to eat.

Cichlids Not Eating: A hungry Cichlid

How Do You Know When Cichlids Are Hungry?

Before we dig in… (Did you catch that?) Are you sure that your fish are actually hungry? Are your Cichlids not eating? How do you know that your Cichlids may be starving? 

You may notice your Cichlids digging around the substrate, foraging into unusual areas, or inspecting the top of the tank – in the search for food. It’s then time for their next meal. 

How Long Can Cichlids Go without Food? 

Now, let’s not test their limits… Since your Cichlids are used to routine feeding, starving them can have severe consequences on their health. 

But this is good to know information. So, how long can Cichlids go without food? For Cichlid fry, they can go without food for 1-2 days. On the other hand, adult cichlids can quite easily go without food for 7-10 days, and in some cases up to a few weeks. Female African Cichlids go 3-4 weeks without eating while incubating their fertilized eggs in their mouths.

Here’s a quick short video for you on this topic. 

You might also like this chart of various fish and the period they can safely live without food. 

Cichlids Not Eating: 7 Reasons Why

Let’s figure out exactly why the Cichlids not eating, shall we? Figuring out the cause is the first half of the battle. Once you know why, you can then remedy the situation. 

Disease and Poor Health

African Cichlids not eating… hmmm. Let’s start with a serious (and more possible) reason why – they may have a disease such as a parasite, bacteria, fungus, or they have general poor health. 

Now, we’re not going to list each and every disease your Cichlid may have – there are a lot of diseases out there. But what we can say is that as a fishkeeper, you need to frequently observe your fish in order to notice any early signs and symptoms. 

That being said, here are a few common diseases that could be causing your Cichlid to stop eating: Ich, Velvet, Hexamita, Cichlid bloat, and cotton wool disease.

When your Cichlid isn’t eating the most common internal parasite is the Hexamita parasite. Below is a great video on how to treat that by adding medication to the food. Getting them eating medicated food is your best bet.

Stressful Environment

A stressful environment and general unhappiness are other serious reasons why your Cichlid’s not eating. Stress on its own can be caused by numerous things: new fish, bad water parameters, poor nutrition, aggression/bullies, overcrowding and/or tank size. 

The thing about a stressful environment is that it can negatively impact your fish’s immune system. A damper on your fish’s immune system doesn’t help with their appetite and can lead to diseases. 

Again, observe your fish’s behavior frequently to immediately see early signs of stress. 

Poor Water Parameters 

Another reason why your Cichlid’s not eating is poor water parameters. High levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates are caused by increased fish waste, uneaten food, rotting plants, and other compounds and contaminants. 

Fluctuating pH levels and temperatures. Inconsistencies in the fish’s water may cause their lack of appetite. If you want to know the causes of high pH levels, we recommend you read this article

Cichlids are warm-water fish that require tropical conditions. If their water’s temperature is colder than usual, it can slow down their metabolisms. A slow metabolism may not stop your Cichlids from eating altogether, but it will definitely cause them to eat less. 

Whatever the case may be, a fish living in a tank with poor water parameters that do not suit their requirements can definitely cause a lack of appetite. At worst, poor water quality and poor water parameters can lead to illness and death. 


On a less gruesome note, you may be overfeeding your Cichlids. If you overfeed your Cichlids (and do it constantly) then they will not get enough time to become hungry. 

Well, overfeeding can actually cause more serious issues… such as severe constipation and maybe even ammonia spikes

Picky Eaters 

Okay yes, we had to mention this one, but it can be a probable reason why your Cichlid’s not eating. They’re just picky eaters. Some fish might just not enjoy the food you’re giving to them. 

Trying different textures of food, like freeze dried, frozen, or pellet form, may help in getting them to eat. We have to find what they prefer to eat first and then try to instill variations.

Wrong Food

Don’t feed your Cichlids Goldfish food…Cichlids need a certain type of food, and if you can’t provide them with their food, well, they’re not going to eat. This has nothing to do with pickiness – know your Cichlids’ nutritional requirements! 

The Circle of Life 

“It’s the circle of life…!” It’s sad, but yes, Cichlids get old and well, die. It’s a simple reason but a probable one – once fish get very old and near their time, they may stop eating. 

Cichlids Not Eating: Two Cichlids swimming in a tank

How Do You Get Cichlids To Eat? 

Okay, so you’ve figured out why your Cichlids not eating, now it’s time to figure out what the possible solutions are. 

Treat the Disease 

Straight off the ba(i)t! (Okay, I’ll stop.) Starting with the serious one first, treating the disease/s. We can’t possibly explain how you can treat each disease out there, but we do have an article for you that covers most aquarium medications, from mild to massive. 

Most diseases can be treated, especially if they’re caught early, with the help of aquarium medications and a clean and healthy tank. 

Stress Relief 

Let the stress flow away! Stress is most common in new fish being brought into a new home. Ensure that you follow the right procedures on how to quarantine a fish. We’ve got your back with this article on how to quarantine your fish

A quarantine tank is perfect not just for new fish but also for aggression. Cichlids are known for being aggressive beauties. Use a quarantine tank to keep the “tank boss” from throwing his weight around too much. You might find this article on aggression interesting as well. 

Alleviate the cramped conditions in your tank if it’s overcrowded due to your amount of fish or tank size. Opt for a new tank and split your fish up if the amount of Cichlids you have is a bit… much. Provide a calm and ideal environment for your Cichlids to live in. Make sure the fish are compatible with each other and that there are enough hiding spots. 

In the case of African Cichlids, they require an overstocked tank to help curb a lot of their aggression. So instead, we need to make sure we are properly OVER filtering an overstocked African Cichlid tank. Tons of African Cichlid info to read about here or watch about here.

Don’t Overfeed 

If your Cichlids only eat half of the time you feed it, stop feeding them too much. You can feed them 1-2 times a day (no more than they can eat in about 60 seconds). 

The Right Food and Proper Nutrition

Providing the right food that fits the nutritional requirements of the fish, then you’re already well on your way to helping them eat more. A healthy Cichlid has an appetite (even the picky eaters). 

Try various food types that fit your Cichlids’ needs: pellets, flakes, and even protein-rich snacks such as worms and brine shrimp. Cichlid requires a lot of protein. 

This is also where fish food supplements come in. Supplements such as Seachem Nourish, Vita Chem, Seachem Zooplankton, and you’ve guessed it Seachem Garlic Guard. Garlic Guard will be your best friend (and your picky eaters’). 

Optimal Water and Tank Conditions 

A good filter goes a long way. It’ll help ensure that your Cichlids’ tank has optimal water quality. Filters engage in mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. They need to be able to remove organic compounds, solid debris, and other water contaminants. 

This article on aquarium filters is perfect for anyone who wants to know more about filters. 

Of course, you do need to clean the tank to keep the water quality high. This means cleaning the tank around once a week or every 10 days. That includes vacuuming the substrate and cleaning the filter and decorations. Water changes too!  


Keeping African Cichlids Online Course

So, that was a mouthful (okay, now I’m really done with the horrible puns). There are a variety of reasons why your Cichlid’s not eating. Each of these problems has its own causes and solutions. 

You, as their owner, should always keep an eye out for their behaviors, health, and environment. It’s essential that you identify the cause as quickly as possible and take immediate steps to get your Cichlids to eat again. 

If you feel that you want more knowledge of African Cichlids, then our course: Keeping African Cichlids, will be perfect for you. 

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