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What’s the easiest Cichlid to start off with?

Cichlids are justifiably popular and they've got everything you could wish for in a wet pet, including personality. These fishes have brains and generally speaking, it's the more aggressive species that have the most character. Much as many fishkeepers love the big heavyweights that plot the demise of competitors such as the household cat, they're not for everyone!

Most people arrive at cichlids by keeping one or two alongside their community fish and as this is the usual route, it's worth looking at some of the classic community species. Angelfish are possibly the most well-known of these and they highlight the difference by causing inexperienced owners problems linked to their higher intelligence compared to tetras, catfishes and livebearers. Keeping these fish properly means a large tank and a group - even a male and female angel won't get on as immature fish and one will just bully the other unless housed as a small group where aggression is spread between individuals. Buy a mix of sizes, as females grow more slowly than males the same age and you should end up with compatible pairs which can be housed separately should you not have the room to keep adults together.

An alternative approach is to set up a small tank just for cichlids and here is where it's best to go for some of the most compressed cichlid packages there are, the Tanganyikan shell-dwellers. These little marvels are all small, full of character, very entertaining and need hard water. Some of them are colonial (Neolamprologus multifasciatus and similis) and others (N. brevisand Lamprologus ocellatus) live in pairs or harems.

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