African cichlids belong to the Cichlidae family of fishes.
The most popular species of these perennially popular aquarium fish come from Lake Malawi. Since all Malawi cichlids need similar water conditions, many hobbyists create a mini Lake Malawi biotope for these fish.
Thanks to their popularity, you can generally find some of these beautiful fishes in your local fish store. However, if you want to find some of the more unusual African cichlid species, you’ll need to look further afield.
Keep reading to find out the best places to buy African cichlids online!
What Are African Cichlids?
Cichlids belong to a huge and incredibly diverse tropical fish family that is found in many countries.
There are around 1,600 known species of African cichlids. However, most of the species that are kept in the home aquarium originate from Lake Malawi in East Africa. There are also a few varieties that come from Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika. All these African cichlids are also commonly referred to as Rift Lake cichlids, as the bodies of water in which the fish live are all found in East Africa’s Great Rift Valley.
Each kind of African cichlid has a slightly different temperament, some being aggressive and territorial, while others are peaceful and can live in a community tank. African cichlids are popular among hobbyists because of their dazzling colors and active behavior.
Rift Lake cichlids are found in a wide range of waters, including boulder fields, open water bodies and lakes, weed beds, and sand flats. Some of the African cichlid species found in Lake Tanganyika even live and breed in empty snail shells!
So, before you choose your cichlids, you must do plenty of research to ensure that the habitat you create for them is suitable.
The water in the Rift Lakes generally has an alkalinity of 10 to 25 dKH and a pH range of between 8.0 and 9.0.
The temperature in these habitats varies from 74° to 80° F.
Aquarium Habitat For African Cichlids
Most African cichlids tend to grow quite large, so a 55-gallon tank is recommended. Dwarf African cichlid species from Lake Tanganyika can live in community setups in 30 to 50-gallon tanks. If you want to keep single-species tanks of dwarf cichlids, you can get away with a 15 to 20-gallon tank.
A wide tank is better than a tall, narrow one, as that provides more space at the bottom of the water column for the fish to occupy. Decorate the tank with caves, rocks, overhangs, and grottos to prevent territorial behavior. Although you can use driftwood in the cichlid tank, be aware that some types of wood can change the alkalinity and pH in the tank.
Although you can include plants in your setup, be aware that many cichlids love to dig, so make sure that your plants are very well anchored!
What Kind Of Fish Can I Put With African Cichlids?
Although the males of some species of African cichlids are known to be aggressive, there are some tank mates that are suitable for life in a cichlid community setup, including:
- Clown loaches
- Leopard Bushfish
- Red Tail shark
- Giant danios
- African Red-Eyed tetra
- Synodontis catfish
When creating any community of fish, it’s essential that you research all the species thoroughly to make sure that they all share the same water and habitat requirements and will get along together.
It’s also helpful if all your fish need the same diet, as that can save you money and hassle in the long run.
What Are The Most Colorful African Cichlids?
Almost all African cichlids are dazzlingly colored fish. However, the Aulonocara or Peacock cichlids are perhaps the most beautiful of all.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi, the Malawi Butterfly Peacock cichlid, is one of the most gorgeous freshwater fish in the hobby, rivaling even the most vibrantly colored marine fish species. There are multiple color varieties to choose from, too. Check out this video of a spectacular sunshine yellow color morph!
What Is The Rarest African Cichlid?
There are quite a few rare African cichlids. However, the Cichlasoma beani, Sonoran cichlid, or Green Guapote is one of the most desirable and hardest to obtain cichlids in the hobby.
How Much Is An African Cichlid?
The cost of an African cichlid varies, depending on the species. Most common, popular species cost between $5 and $20, but you can pay around $100 or even more for a rare specimen.
What’s The Most Expensive Cichlid?
The most expensive cichlid ever sold to a hobbyist was a Golden Monkey Flowerhorn cichlid that sold in Malaysia in 2009 for a whopping $600,000!
Is It Safe To Buy African Cichlids Online?
Yes, these days, it’s very common for hobbyists to buy their stock online, especially during the Covid pandemic when many local fish stores were closed.
As you would when shopping at any online store, carry out due diligence to make sure that the vendor’s website payment platform is secure.
Professional aquarium fish breeders are accustomed to packaging and shipping fish throughout the US and even across the world. So, generally, the fish arrive alive and healthy. In the event that your fish doesn’t make it and dies in transit, a good online vendor will refund your money or replace the fish.
7 Best Places To Buy African Cichlids Online
Here are our seven favorite online places to buy beautiful and unusual African cichlids.
- Monthly offers
- Online and local store network
Petco is a well-known pet store that also sells freshwater tropical aquarium fish. The company has lots of terrestrial branches across the US, and they also have a very efficient online ordering facility.
There’s a nice selection of African and South American cichlids on offer, including the ever-popular Peacock and Flowerhorn cichlid. You can have next-day delivery, and Petco will replace any fish that don’t arrive in excellent condition.
2. Live Fish Direct
- Huge selection of cichlids
- Based in Utah, US
- Online and terrestrial store
Live Fish Direct ships all fish overnight for next-day delivery and the fish are guaranteed for a generous 14 days.
This is a highly experienced fish breeder that focuses on producing African cichlids, especially Lake Malawi species. They also offer Victorian and Tanganyikan cichlids.
3. Imperial Tropicals
- Beautiful African cichlid species
- Based in Florida, US
- Online only
Imperial Tropicals is a commercial hatchery that sells its products online. However, if you want to visit the breeder, you can make an appointment to do so.
This supplier sells pretty much every type of cichlid, including Lake Malawi, Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Madagascar, West Africa, and other Old World cichlid species. They also supply tetras, barbs, plecos, and rainbowfish, so you could buy your whole new community from this one store.
Prices for African cichlids appear reasonable, starting at around $5.
4. The Cichlid Shack
- Impressive selection
- Based in Arizona
- Online store
The Cichlid Shack is a small home breeding operation that’s been around since 2013. They have a storefront in Sunny Tempe, Arizona, as well as an online presence.
Here, you’ll find an impressive selection of African cichlids that are all reasonably priced. Many are home-bred, while others are brought in from renowned specialist breeders. Occasionally, you can buy rare fish from this supplier, including large freshwater puffers.
- Buy and sell African cichlids on this auction platform
- Online auction site
For an exciting fish buying experience, you might want to consider checking out Aquabid.com. This site is the equivalent of eBay for hobbyists, and you can buy and sell African cichlids of all species by auction.
The site is very easy to use, and buying and selling are very straightforward. However, you need to know that some of the specialist breeders on this website are Asia-based. That can cause issues with shipping and even quarantine requirements, depending on where you live in the US. So, be careful to check the rules of importing livestock for your region before you get into a bidding war!
6. Cichlid Express
- Huge selection of species
- Based in Florida, US
- Online and terrestrial store
The guys at Cichlid Express have over 30 years of experience in breeding, raising, and selling tropical fish, especially cichlids. You can call into the store or shop online with confidence.
The supplier offers a huge range of African, South American, and Central American cichlids, as well as an impressive range of other tropical fish species. The prices are very reasonable, and the choice is amazing.
7. Tampa Bay Cichlids
- Freshwater, tropical, marine
- Based in Tampa Bay, US
- Online store
Tampa Bay Cichlids have been breeding beautiful fish for over 12 years.
This is a big commercial breeding operation that specializes in producing high-quality fish in a huge array of species, forms, and color morphs. Fish are shipped overnight via FedEx so that your fish arrive in perfect condition. In the unlikely event that your fish arrives in less than perfect condition, the supplier will replace it for you, free of charge.
I hope you enjoyed our guide to buying African cichlid fish online. Please share this article if you loved it and found the information helpful.
These days, you can safely buy many beautiful fish species online from any of the suppliers we’ve featured in this article.
If you bought your African cichlids online, especially if you used any of the stores we’ve featured in this article, please share with us in the comments box below.