The mating ritual, brooding technique, and parental care in cichlids are nothing short of miracles. It’s even more true in the case of mouthbrooders – they scoop entire batches of eggs into their mouths and keep them warm and fuzzy until they hatch into free-swimming fry.
And there are 1,650 identified species to this day – with estimates of actual numbers clocking somewhere between 2000-3000. So, do they all share the same brooding length?
How Long Do Cichlids Hold Eggs?
Cichlids hold eggs in their mouths for around 3-5 weeks (21-36 days). The time taken to hatch these eggs is positively related to the egg’s size. Bigger the egg, the longer the incubation period.
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During the holding period, the female will fast so she doesn’t accidentally swallow her eggs. Maternal instincts are quite strong in cichlids. Even when the fry are free-swimming, she will occasionally hide them inside her mouth if there’s danger nearby.
On the other hand, eggs of substrate-brooding cichlids take around 1-2 weeks (5-15) days to hatch.
How Long Do African Cichlids Hold Eggs?
Most African cichlids are mouthbrooders. They will hold eggs and fry in their buccal cavities for around 21-36 days. The fry will remain in the mother’s mouth for a brief period even after they’ve hatched.
How Long Do Peacock Cichlids Hold Eggs?
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You’ll also need something sharp enough to prise open the mother’s lips but blunt enough not to hurt her. Of course, the best tool is your thumb, but you can also use a q-tip or the blunt end of a toothpick.
Step 2: Transfer The Holding Female
First, fill a mid-sized container halfway with the tank’s water. Next, gently net the holding female and place her in the container. Make sure that you are at your gentlest self – a stressed female may swallow or spit out the eggs in the tank.
If you’re having trouble identifying the holding female, look for one with an unusually swollen mouth and an underbite. She’ll usually keep to herself and remain aloof in the tank.
Step 3: Strip The Eggs
Gently hold the female and bring her to the surface, but ensure the mouth is still in the water. Be careful not to injure her while holding or suffocating her. You may wrap the fish in a wet net while holding her for easy grip without using force.
Next, open her mouth with the tool of your choice and slowly tilt her. The fry or eggs should swim out by now. If some stubborn ones resist, tickle the mother’s chin, and they should come out.
Step 4: Transfer The Eggs To Tumbler
Carefully transfer the eggs or young fry to the tumbler with an air stone. Incubating them in a tumbler set on the medium is important, so they don’t develop fungus, to which they’re very prone.
Transfer the mother back into the main tank. As for fry, once they become free swimming, place them in a separate fry tank or the breeding box, so other fish don’t snack on them.
Final Words: How Long Do Cichlids Hold Eggs?
Mouthbrooding cichlids hold their eggs for 21-35 days tentatively. It depends largely on the species, the tank’s environment, and the matriarch’s health. Usually, the bigger the eggs, the longer it will take for eggs to hatch.
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