Giving your cichlids plenty of places to stake their territory makes for a happier tank environment. Most cichlid keepers give up on keeping plants in the tank since cichlids are such voracious plant nibblers. That’s why cichlid tank decor is an essential part of a cichlid tank.
Not all tank decorations are equal when it comes to cichlids. If you choose the wrong one (like one that is completely enclosed), you may never see your cichlids again. I once added a neat-looking sunken house to my tank only to have every one of my peacock cichlids and my catfish hide inside constantly. Finally, I completely removed it from the tank because I wanted to see my fish.
If you’ve come across issues like mine, you may be wondering what types of tank decorations do work well in a cichlid tank. Thus, I want to introduce you to five aquarium decorations that I’ve found to keep me and all my cichlids happy.
Top 5 Cichlid Aquarium Decorations to Choose From
Keep in mind when choosing decorations that cichlids like to shelter in places long enough for their entire body to hide. So, providing an ornament that’s too small might be pretty, but it doesn’t serve much purpose in a cichlid tank.
Here are some excellent cichlid tank decoration options to consider for your cichlid tank.
Stackable Rock Caves
There are two advantages to stackable rock caves. First of all, they provide a hiding place for your fish to feel safe while giving you a clear view of your beautiful fish. The second advantage is that they’re stackable, which allows you to make a little village out of them.
Because the rock caves have two openings, a quick getaway is possible if one fish invades another’s hiding place. Having two entrances also makes for a tank with more movement as your cichlids switch up their hideouts.
I like that there are two styles available:
- Oval style
- Mountain style
You can get them in either small or medium sizes. Choose just one type and size, or use multiple for variety.
The small caves are 3.27”x2.64”x2.16”, so they’re best for young or dwarf cichlids. If you have older or larger cichlids, the medium cave will be better at 4.33”x3.15”x2.16”.
Cichlids Rock with Artificial Moss
Moss balls are all the rage in fish tanks these days, but cichlids have a tendency to tear them up, and the pieces end up clogging your filter. However, choosing a cichlid rock with artificial moss can add color to your tank and give your little guys places to hide or spawn.
I like that the moss looks realistic. I also like that these come pre-stacked so that I don’t have to worry about my precarious stacking causing an avalanche and killing one of my favorite fish (they’re all my favorite). They also have two holes, which allows quick getaways from territory invaders.
The whole structure measures 3.1”x7.5”x6.1”. Thus, there’s room in the caves for small and medium cichlids, but your largest ones are going to be too big.
A ceramic cichlid cave is an exciting idea for your tank. This cave provides a place to hide with an entrance and exit like the other rock caves above. However, it has a more natural shape than the rounder ones.
The cave looks a lot more realistic when submerged in water than outside the water. I like that the color matches my cichlid substrate better than some other cave options. They also make a more haphazard and realistic-looking stack than the round caves.
The cichlid cave is 4.6”x3.3”x2.8”. Thus, the hiding space may be too small for some of your older or larger cichlids, but it’s okay for younger ones or dwarf cichlids.
The look you’re going for in your tank is a personal choice. However, I think the boulder stone is the most realistic-looking of all the caving options on this list.
Unlike the sunken house that I tried with my cichlids, the openings of this boulder stone are pretty large. So, even if the whole gang decides to stake out territory here, you can still see them.
There are several different ways you can orient this cave. You could add several to your tank, and they would all look different, depending on how you orient or place the stones.
The boulder stone measures 5.7”x4.7”x4.13”, which will accommodate small and medium-sized cichlids.
Natural Slate Rocks
If you want a natural landscaping option for your tank, natural slate is your best choice. Creating a hidey-hole for your cichlids can allow you to accommodate their size as they grow. Cichlids feel safest when they can fit their entire body under a hiding spot, so having rearrangeable rocks is the perfect option.
I made the mistake of buying several pounds of random rocks from the aquarium shop when I started my cichlid tank, and it wasn’t long before I wished I had gotten slate instead to make long, flat roofs for tunnels that my fish would enjoy and use.
You can buy 3.5-12 pounds of 3”-5” slate pieces or 5”-7” slate pieces. According to the species, African cichlids grow 4”-10” long as adults. South American cichlids can grow up to 24” long.
Keep the adult size of your cichlids in mind when you order slate, and get enough pieces and pieces that are long enough to make an effective hiding place for your adults.
Video: Natural Slate Cave
My top recommendation for cichlid tank decor is natural slate rocks since you can more easily build structures to accommodate the size of your fish as they max out in length. You can also rearrange the tank in a way that makes more tankmates happy if you notice problems with your fish getting too territorial or fighting over a cave area.
However, all the pre-made cave options are also lovely, especially if you’d rather not spend your time rearranging (and tormenting) your cichlids.
In the end, the decision for what will work best in your tank is up to you. If you want to spiff up your tank with more than rocks and caves, you should consider DIY fish tank decorations as well.