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Why Is My Cichlid Not Eating? 8 Reasons & Suggestions

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

Red devil cichlid

Cichlids are beautiful fish. Sure, they can be temperamental, but they are gorgeous. Caring for Cichlids is not overly hard, but one thing you do need to ensure is that they are well-fed, but oh no, your Cichlid is not eating.

So, why is my Cichlid not eating? Let’s discuss.

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The 8 Reasons Why Your Cichlid Is Not Eating

Alright, so now it is time to figure out exactly why your Cichlid is not eating. There are a few reasons why this might be happening. Figuring out the cause is the first half of the battle. Once you figure out why your Cichlid is not eating, you can then remedy the situation.

1. Disease & Poor Health

The first reason why your Cichlid is not eating may be due to diseases, bacteria, parasites, or generally bad health. No, we are not about to start listing off every type of bacteria, parasite, and disease that your Cichlid could be suffering from, as there are a whole lot.

However, what we can say is that you should look for signs of common illnesses that can affect Cichlids. Common illnesses that affect Cichlids include swim bladder disease, hole in the head, Cichlid bloat, cotton wool disease, Ich, and even tuberculosis. Therefore, being able to recognize what illness your fish is suffering from is vital.

2. Poor Water Quality

Something else that can cause your Cichlid to not eat is generally poor water quality. Dirty water that is full of fish waste, uneaten food, rotting plants, ammonia, and other compounds and contaminants doesn’t make for a nice place to live. More often than not, poor water quality is a direct result of a fault of the owner. Maybe you are overfeeding your fish, maybe you don’t have a good filter, or maybe you just aren’t cleaning the tank well.

Whatever the case may be, at the very least, dirty water is no fun to live in and can definitely ruin an appetite. At worst, poor water quality can lead to illness and death, which of course means that there is no eating going on.

green algae aquarium
Image Credit: vincenzo palma, Shutterstock

3. Water Temperature Too Low

Something important to take into account here is water temperature. Cichlids are warm-water fish, and yes, they require tropical conditions. When a fish that needs warm water is forced to live in cool conditions, it can slow down the metabolism of the fish, which then makes it stop eating.

A fish with a slow metabolic rate may not stop eating altogether, but it will definitely eat less. Eating less is not the only problem that arises from Cichlids living in cold water. Simply put, if you have a Cichlid in cold water for too long, it will eventually die.

4. Stress & Unhappiness

A very unhappy and stressed fish may struggle to eat. Stress in fish can be caused by numerous things including being in a tank that is too small, poor water quality, living with fish that are not compatible, being placed in a new tank, and not having the proper living conditions. Whatever the cause, you need to research the proper conditions, tank mates, and other factors that will make Cichlids happy and stress-free.

two male cichlids fighting
Image Credit: Kraipitch Supyuenyong, Shutterstock

5. Overfeeding

If you overfeed your Cichlid, and you do it constantly, your fish might just not be hungry sometimes. Overfeeding can actually cause more serious issues, such as severe constipation, which will stop them from eating.

6. The Wrong Food

Cichlids need a certain type of food, and if you aren’t providing it for them, they may simply not eat. This has nothing to do with being picky. All fish need a nutritious diet to be happy and healthy.

yellow peacock cichlids in aquarium
Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

7. A Picky Fish

Yes, this is a short entry indeed. Some fish are picky and might just not enjoy the food you are providing.

8. Old Age

It’s sad to say, but yes, Cichlids get old and die. Fish, once they are getting very old and nearing death, may stop eating. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about this.

Tanganyika cichlids
Image Credit: Christy Hammer, Pixabay

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The 6 Tips to Get Your Cichlid to Eat

Now that you have figured out the possible reasons behind your Cichlid not eating, it’s time to figure out what the possible solutions are.

1. Treat Disease & Illness

As we stated above, seeing as there are so many parasites and illnesses that may be preventing your Cichlid from eating, we cannot possibly list the proper treatment for each disease. It is up to you to figure out which disease or illness your Cichlid has, and then go from there. Most illnesses can be treated and cured if caught early, usually with medicine and plenty of water changes.

Flowerhorn cichlid fish
Image Credit: NERYXCOM, Shutterstock

2. Do Not Overfeed

If your Cichlid only eats half the time you feed it, stop feeding it as much. Cichlids should be fed three times a day, and no more than they can eat in about 90 seconds.

3. Find the Right Food

If you have a picky fish or you just are not providing your Cichlid with the proper diet, you need to start finding the right food for it. For one, Cichlids usually prefer pellet food over flake food, so that may be one solution. Your Cichlid will also benefit from some protein-rich snacks, such as frozen, freeze-dried, or live Tubifex worms, daphnia, brine shrimp, and other such foods. Cichlids do require a lot of protein.

blood parrot cichlids
Image Credit: Piqsels

4. Relieve Stress

There are various factors that can cause stress in a fish. If you just brought the fish home, make sure you follow the right procedures to quarantine the fish and add it to the tank. If the Cichlid is already in the new tank, it might take a couple of days for the fish to adjust to its new surroundings. Next, you also need to ensure that your Cichlid has the right size tank. Cramped conditions can cause stress as well. Next, you do also want to ensure that you have the right kinds of plants, substrate, rocks, and other tank items to make a Cichlid feel at home.

Another thing to do is to ensure that if your Cichlid is living with other fish, that they are compatible, and that they get along reasonably well. The bottom line is that you need to provide a calm and ideal environment for your Cichlid to live in.

5. Ensure Optimal Water & Tank Conditions

To help ensure that your Cichlid tank has optimal water quality, remember that you need a good filter. This means having an aquarium filter that can easily process around 3 times the amount of water in the tank per hour. Moreover, this means having a filter that engages in mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. A filter needs to be able to remove organic compounds, solid debris, and other contaminants from the water. Make sure your filter is working properly.

Next, to ensure high water quality, you do need to clean the tank around once per week or every 10 days. This means vacuuming the substrate, cleaning the filter, and cleaning decorations too. Something else that can help improve water quality is doing weekly water changes of 30%. Finally, going back to the temperature, unless you live in a very tropical climate, you will need a nice little aquarium heater.

Remember that a Cichlid tank needs to be between 73 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit (23–28 Celsius).

aquarium with cichlids
Image Credit: Frantisek Czanner, Shutterstock

6. Wait

If all else fails, simply wait for a couple of days to see what happens. Fish can survive for a few days without eating no problem. If the issue persists, it might be time to consult a vet or a Cichlid expert.

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Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are several reasons why your Cichlid may not be eating. Each of these problems or causes comes with a specific solution. If your Cichlid is not eating, it is essential that you identify the cause as quickly as possible, and then take immediate steps to get your Cichlid to eat.

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Feature Image Credit: Mircea Costina, Shutterstock

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