For the beginner to raising fish the simple answer is, “whatever comes in the can I bought at the pet store”. Your fish will probably survive if you approach from this simplistic view, but will they thrive?
African Cichlids do not all have the same dietary requirements. I always thought basic worms were good for all fish. I thought all fish were meat eaters. This is not true.
African Cichlids fall into one of four groups.
1. Carnivorous prey on other fish, especially the fry of other species.
2. Herbivorous are grazers and will eat the algae off of rocks.
3. Omnivorous eat plants , invertebrates, and small fish.
4. Micro-predators eat small invertebrates such as plankton.
Even though each species may primarily be meat eaters or plant eaters it is still important that each receive from the other food group. The concern is when you feed too much meat to the herbivore group you will cause the fish to become sick or die usually from bloat. This works vice-versa for carnivores. You will want to know which group your cichlid fits into and feed accordingly.
Cichlid flake food is usually safe for both, but you will need to read the ingredients before feeding. You want to be careful about foods that have lots of fish meal and are high in fat. Avoid anything that may have beef heart or any products from warm-blooded animals.
You may want to feed frozen fish products or live fish to your cichlids, but I would not recommend this for their main diet. Look for a good quality flake food that is high in vegetation and fish meal for your herbivorous cichlids. For your carnivorous cichlids pick a flake food with vegetation and supplemented with brine shrimp and krill.
For your fish with yellow, orange, and reddish coloration you will want to look for food with lots of pigment. You will know if you current food is lacking because the fishes coloring will appear faded without enough pigment in their diet.
Overfeeding fish is common for beginners and children. Your fish do not need that much to live and thrive. It is very easy to overfeed and your cichlids will become sick and possibly die. Feed them 2 or 3 times per day and only as much as they can consume in about 30 seconds. Anymore and you are probably overfeeding. If your fish do not appear to be hungry, they could possibly be overfed or sick. Healthy cichlids will always appear to be starving and waiting for you to feed them.