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African Cichlid Water Temperature Guide: Ideal Conditions Explained

Sarah Psaradelis

By Sarah Psaradelis

African cichlid in fish tank with rocks

African Cichlids are a diverse group of colorful and semi-aggressive fish that in the wild inhabit warm African Lakes. These fish are commonly kept in aquariums, with some of the most popular types being the Jewel, Zebra, and Frontosa Cichlid.

African Cichlids primarily experience tropical conditions in their natural habitat, and you will need to replicate these conditions in captivity. As tropical fish, African Cichlids should have a heater in the aquarium to maintain a comfortable temperature. An overall warmer water temperature (between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit) will allow your Cichlids to function normally and minimize their stress levels.

This guide will discuss their ideal temperature ranges and how you can achieve a good temperature range for these fish in a home aquarium.

African Cichlid Water Temperatures

Ideal temperature range: 72°F to 80°F (22°C to 26°C)
Minimum temperature: 55°F (12°C)
Maximum temperature: 90°F (32°C)

African Cichlids can tolerate a range of temperatures, although their ideal temperature range is between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. African Cichlids can tolerate a minimum temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit and a maximum temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, although the temperature in their aquarium should be within their ideal temperature range.

You shouldn’t let your African cichlid’s tank fall below their minimum temperature or exceed the maximum one since these temperatures are only tolerable for a short time. Water temperatures that are too cold may increase your African Cichlid’s risk of developing a disease while causing them unnecessary stress. Alternatively, water that is too hot significantly lowers the aquarium’s oxygen levels and makes it difficult for your African Cichlids to breathe.

Remember, the minimum and maximum temperatures are the ones that they can survive in, but their ideal temperature range allows them to thrive. You should aim to keep your African Cichlid’s water temperature within the ideal range by using an aquarium heater.

Do African Cichlids Need a Heater?

African cichlids in a fish tank
_Image Credit: Ana Baars, Shutterstock

A heater is necessary for African Cichlids, especially if the water temperature is too cold. This means that when you set up your African Cichlid’s aquarium, you need to ensure that it is equipped with an aquarium heater. The heater will not only keep the water warm, but it will also maintain a stable water temperature and prevent any fluctuations.

Any sudden or prolonged temperature fluctuations aren’t good for your African Cichlids and may cause them unnecessary stress. While a temperature fluctuation of 1–3 degrees over a couple of hours isn’t a concern, constant drastic temperature fluctuations can be.

The majority of African Cichlids will experience temperature fluctuation in the wild, usually during the night as the ambient temperature drops. However, in an aquarium, these temperature changes are going to be sudden and more significant than in the African lakes they originate from.

Heating An African Cichlid’s Aquarium

Temperature fluctuations can be prevented by using an aquarium heater with an adjustable temperature range. So, if you want the temperature to remain at a constant 75 degrees Fahrenheit, then that is the temperature you need to set it to. The heater will only turn on when the temperature falls below the set temperature and turn off once the desired temperature is reached.

Most aquarium heaters are available in different wattages, so be sure to choose the right wattage for the size of your African cichlid’s tank. Since heaters don’t constantly run unless the ambient temperature is extremely cold, most aquarium heaters are easy on the electric bill.

Since an African Cichlid’s standard aquarium size is usually around 40 to 75 gallons, a 100 W to 250 W heater will suffice. You don’t want a wattage that is too low, as the heater will take longer to heat the water. In some cases, heaters that are too small may struggle to maintain the tropical conditions an African cichlid needs. Whereas if the heater is a higher wattage than the tank size can handle, you can risk overheating the aquarium and damaging the heater.

Once you have chosen a heater and set it up to run in your African cichlid’s tank, there is no reason to unplug it. The heater should be plugged in both day and night since it will only turn on when necessary.

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Why Do African Cichlids Need Warm Water Temperatures?

beautiful African cichlid swimming in aquarium with plants
Image Credit: planet5D LLC, Shutterstock

African Cichlids need to live in warm water because they are tropical fish. This means that they have adapted to living in tropical conditions in the wild. The majority of African Cichlids originate from three African lakes, including Lake Malawi, Lake, Tanganyika, and Lake Victoria.

Lake Victoria in particular is the world’s largest tropical lake, typically maintaining a temperature above 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This is similar to both Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi, all of which are naturally warm depending on the season.

Breeding Temperatures for African Cichlids

While tropical conditions allow African Cichlids to function normally, it also affects their breeding habits. When it comes to breeding African Cichlids, their optimal breeding temperature may exceed their ideal range. Some African Cichlids prefer a slight increase in temperature for breeding. However, a slight drop in temperature may trigger spawning behavior in certain African Cichlids.

The ideal breeding temperature will depend on the species of African Cichlid you are keeping. This is because each species has their own temperature and water quality preferences for spawning. When adjusting the temperature to breed your African Cichlids, be sure to do it over a few days rather than suddenly. Any sudden temperature changes can be stressful for your African Cichlid.


While there are hundreds of different species of African Cichlids with their own preferably living conditions, their water temperature requirements are similar. It is important to ensure that your African Cichlid’s water is kept warm by an aquarium heater. If you do use a heater in their aquarium, using an aquarium thermometer will help you monitor the temperature.

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Featured Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

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