How to decorate a cichlid tank

Written by melanie l. marten
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How to decorate a cichlid tank
This cichlid needs lots of rocks in its fish tank. (Wtbar at

Cichlids are fish from South America or Africa who need specific parameters for their habitat that differ from other commonly found pet fish for the aquarium. Take into account the territorial demeanour of most cichlids when adding decorations, as well as their love of digging and rearranging in the tank.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Rocks
  • Aquarium grade silicone sealant
  • Small gravel or coarse sand
  • Plastic or live plants

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  1. 1

    Create a 1- to 2-inch layer of small-size gravel or coarse sand at the bottom of the cichlid tank. The substrate should be slightly higher at the back and sides. Cichlids like to dig in the substrate, so the material you use should be small and relatively smooth. Sand is ideal as long as it is not so fine-grained as to form clouds in the water when the fish move it around, as that will clog the filter and irritate the fish.

  2. 2

    Select different sized rocks that will fit in your cichlid tank. Be sure the rocks you use do not contain copper as this can be injurious to fish. Cichlids can tolerate rocks such as limestone in limited quantities since they prefer a higher pH. A mixture of long, flat rocks and chunkier rocks is ideal.

  3. 3

    Use the aquarium grade silicone sealant to attach the well-washed rocks to each other to form caves and cubby holes. Since cichlids are generally territorial, many caves and outcroppings in their rock tank decoration will make them feel more comfortable and less stressed in the aquarium.

  4. 4

    Construct a rock cave backdrop for your cichlid tank that is large enough to fill in most of the background of the tank. Allow this to dry and then set it on the substrate near the back of the aquarium. Attaching the rocks to each other prevents them from falling and damaging the tank or injuring fish. This is especially important in cichlid tanks since these fish move things around a lot.

  5. 5

    Attach plastic plant bases to the backs of rocks or the aquarium tank itself with silicone sealant. This prevents the fish from upsetting your design. Live plants should be planted in pots with a gravel top for a cichlid tank. Set the pots behind rocks for a more natural look.

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