Get to Know the African Shell DwellersChad Marquez
African shell dwellers aka “shellies” are actually other terms for a cichlid fish. They use the abandoned shells for shelter and breeding. African shell dwellers are often kept in aquariums and are the favorite of many aquarium enthusiasts.
African shell dwelling cichlids make great aquarium fish because they are small in size so they don’t need a large tank like other larger species such as several of the more popular Malawi Haps. Their sociable in nature allows larger numbers of them to be kept together in a smaller-sized tank.
Keeping African Cichlids
There are several species of cichlids. The basic care requirements of African cichlids regardless of their species is very similar. Let’s look at the basics of setting up an aquarium to accommodate a cichlid.
• Smaller species (1 pair) need a 45 x 30 cm/18 x 12 of living space.
• Larger species will need a slightly larger area.
• Consider a large tank if you want to see the interactions of a social group.
• Always use a fine sand bottom, these little guys are diggers.
• Carefully research other fish if placed with them, if their territories overlap there may be a duel to the death.
Since shells are such a huge part of these tiny fighter’s lives, it’s important to have the right type of shell for them. Some shells that work well are escargot shells, turbo shells, whale eye shells, or any shells similar in size and shape.
Other considerations for keeping the African cichlid include the following:
• pH should be between 8.0 and 8.3
• Hardness between 10.0 and 20.0 dH
• Feed twice a day: flakes & meats such as blood worms or brine shrimp
Cichlids are relatively easy keepers. In a community setting, you will enjoy watching them act like warrior tyrants, stealing women and shells from their neighbors and their quests for aquarium domination.