How to Care for Baby Jewel Cichlids

Unlike the majority of fish, who will happily eat their babies, male and female jewel cichlids team up to take care of their fry. However, it's not just as simple as leaving the parents to take care of the fry and hoping for the best. By helping them out a little, you can ensure that at least some of the fry survive.

Understanding the Parents' Bond

Male and female jewel cichlids usually aren't very good friends outside of breeding season. For the pair to team up and take care of their fry, they must feel like they're bonded together with a specific purpose. This purpose is to protect their fry against potential predators and defend their breeding territory. If you don't create the correct environment for them, it's likely that they won't bond and instead will just eat their fry.

Housing

Since jewel cichlids must have potential predators in their view so they feel like they have to protect their fry, it's not a good idea simply to remove them from a community aquarium into a tank of their own. If you have a large aquarium, of around 50 gallons or more, this should be big enough for your cichlids to stake out a territory and protect the majority of their fry from being eaten. Alternatively, you can put them into a directly adjacent tank, or divide their current aquarium with a net breeder or similar device, so they can see these potential predators, and think that they're protecting their babies from them, without actually sharing the same space.

Feeding

When the jewel cichlid fry are first hatched, they initially will gain sustenance from their yolk sacs. Once these have been eaten, you'll need to start feeding them. For the first few days, they'll need to eat newly hatched brine shrimp, or a specialized liquid or powdered fry food. After around a week, they should be fine eating mashed up pellet or flake food.

Moving Home

The jewel cichlid parents generally will look after their fry only until they reach around 1/2 inch in length. In the wild, they then would send them out to fend for themselves. In a community tank, these 1/2 inch fry are likely to be eaten by larger fish, so you should remove them from their parents and any other fish in their aquarium. Place them in a tank of their own until they approach adult size and are large enough not to get eaten by the other residents of your aquarium.