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A Cichlids Article on: Zebra Cichlid
Zebra Cichlids are one of the most popular cichlids for aquarium enthusiasts. Although, there are many species of Zebra cichlids found in 12 different genera and various colors, the most common has a blue body ranging from pale to vibrant. In addition, seven or eight, vertical bands that can be either dark blue or black.
Zebra's temperaments can range from calm, semi-aggressive to aggressive. They are best kept in community tanks with fish of their same size. Tensions between the fish will often be reduced if they are kept in aquariums that provide them lots of hiding spaces and territorial areas.
These cave dwelling fish need lots of rocks and caves, Zebras like many places to hide. However, they will also rearrange the tank to suit their needs. Plants can be used, but the fish will usually uproot them. Small, smooth gravels should be added so they can pick them up in their mouths and move them around.
While very popular with experienced hobbyists, the Zebra is perfect for anyone setting up their first tank. A hardy fish generally adapts well to most types of water conditions. However, optimal pH levels should range from between 7 and 9 and temperatures should be kept from 70 to 80 degrees.
Diets should consist of lots of foods that are rich in vegetable matter such as cichlid flakes and pellets. Leafy seaweeds, worms, and brine shrimp are excellent to add variety. However, live food should be kept at a minimum as it can cause various problems such as swelling and bloating.
Zebras are easy to breed; males should be kept with several females. During the breeding period, the male's colors will become more vibrant and they will try to impress the females, often performing movements that resemble a dance.
Once the female is ready to spawn, the two will interact aggressively, usually shaking their heads at each other. Then she will lay some eggs either on the flat surface of a rock, or in a small gravel pit made by the male. She will then scoop the eggs up into her mouth.
The male will display egg spots on the anal fin, these spots are the same color and size as the eggs. The female will follow behind him, nipping at the egg spots stimulating the release of sperm. As the sperm enters the female's mouth, the eggs are fertilized. This process will be repeated several times until all of the eggs are fertilized.
She will keep the eggs in her mouth until they have hatched, which can take from a week to ten days. But, even after they have hatched, the female will allow the young fry back into her mouth to protect them for as long as a month. Once they have become large enough to take care of themselves, she stops letting them back in her mouth.
Once, the young fry are released, they can be given a diet of crushed pellets and flakes, or small brine shrimp. Spawning is a stressful time for the female; she gets very little rest and generally, very rarely eats. It is recommended that she be kept in a separate tank during this process to reduce as much stress as possible.
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