How To Manage Angry Aggressive Cichlid Fish
One of the problems faced by the new fish keeper is the discovery that most of his or her fish would like to eat each other alive. This is often the case with cichlids, popular aquarium fish, but notorious killers of tank mates. There are, of course, as many different species of cichlids as there are flavors of ice cream, some of them are more aggressive than others, but all require you to do your homework before you go buying fish 'because they are pretty.'
Rule Number One
Don't buy a large-ish cichlid for a tank that has mellow little fish like guppies etc in it. If a cichlid can fit a fish in its mouth, it is probably going to eat it. Remember that rule well. Much like cheerleaders, cichlid fish have no qualms about eating their friends alive.
Rule Number Two
I will now assume that you are keeping a cichlid only, or cichlid compatable tank. There are some other types of fish that work with cichlids, synodontic and plecostamus both usually do okay because they focus their attention on the floors and walls of the tank. Red tail sharks do well with the larger cichlids.
So, what is rule number two? Cover. Make sure your fish have plenty of places to hide. Rock caves, store bought ornaments, ceramic flower pots, whatever. Cichlids need places to hide. Many of them are highly territorial and also quite shy. Giving them places to hide encourages them to come out more, not less. If you can, cover the sides of your tank, not just the back. Covering the tank on three sides makes the fish feel more secure.
Plenty of places to hide and a secure tank make your fish less likely to fight over prime spots. It also allows fish who lose fights to retreat gracefully.
Rule Number Three
Cover your tank. Do cichlids jump? Oh yes, yes they do. Cover your tank. Seriously. Cover it. Even if you've never seen your fish so much as break the surface of the water, cover your tank. It is all too easy to come home to a dead, dried up fish on the floor and then it is all too late. If fighting breaks out, fish can sometimes leap out of the tank to avoid it.
Rule Number Four
Give 'em space. Don't overstock your tank with a bunch of fish with a tendency to agression. Give them enough space to swim without running into each other's tails and you will find that agression decreases. If your tank is over stocked, find new homes for some fish. The remainder of the fish will be happier and you'll spend less time crying over dead or disfigured fishies.