Frequently Asked Questions


Right now all our fish are shipped UPS Priority Overnight to your front door for a $55 flat rate. This is for shipments that arrive on a weekday and are inside the continental US. This will mean the more fish you order the better the shipping value as even if you order a hundred fish or more the rate will remain $55.

There is a calendar at checkout that allows you to select the arrival date for your schedule. Saturday arrival is available for an extra fee. Fish are prepped and packed the night before the selected arrival date when you will receive an email with tracking information and acclimation instructions. We can ship in hot or cold weather and we monitor severe storms.

If the weather in your area is experiencing a severe storm we may have to reschedule. The fish are all packaged individually in sealed pouches with pure oxygen. We believe priority overnight is the safest way to ship live fish. We realize there are a few different companies experimenting with longer shipments but in our view we want the fish to experience the fastest shipping available as they certainly don’t want to be stuck in a box longer than one night! We want our fish to not only just arrive alive but arrive healthy happy and active.

Whenever you order “Unsexed” Cichlids, we will attempt to determine gender on them anyway. We can do a pretty good job at making educated guesses. If you order one unsexed of any species of cichlid, we will grab what we think is a male. Usually, they are showing just a slight hint of color.

Other times you can tell by their size relative to the rest of the batch. What we find is that males will grow faster than females so if we start picking the largest out of a group of fish born at the same time we can be 90% sure they are male. So while their gender may not be apparent when you see them, we still try to catch them in these ratios.

  • If you order 1 unsexed, we will try to get you 1 Male.
  • If you order 2 unsexed of the same species and size we will try to get you 1 Male and 1 Female
  • 3 Unsexed = 1 Male and 2 Females
  • 4 Unsexed = 2 Males and 2 Females
  • 5 Unsexed = 2 Males and 3 Females

You get the idea. While we can’t guarantee their sex at this size we will certainly do our best to try and aim for these ratios. If you would like a different ratio for a group of unsexed cichlids just leave a note in the notes box at checkout and we will do our best to accommodate the request.

At LiveFishDirect We want you to be successful as a hobbyist. Our only goal is that no matter the circumstance you will remain excited about discovering our company and will want to use us as your trusted fish supplier for the long run. We ship several hundred orders a week and maintain above a 99% long-term success rate for all our fish shipped. That said if there are any fish not up to par including of course “Dead On Arrival”, quickly snap a picture of the fish in a bag and email it to us.

Store credit for shipping cost is based on a percentage of the overall shipment. For example, if 2 out of 10 fish shipped are lost during transit or within fourteen days of arrival, we would refund/credit the value of the fish and 20% of the shipping cost.

For all other issues, we will be happy to take care of your needs to the best of our ability. If your fish die within 14 days, send us an email with a picture, and we will work out a credit or refund with you. Special judgment will be used to give a fair credit/refund in all circumstances that merit concern.

Lastly, never forget our goal is for you to remain excited about our company so if you have experienced any issue not covered in our guarantee please send us an email and we will still go far out of our way to make sure you are taken care of!

1. Stocking Levels vs. How Big the Tank is in Gallons:

a. These notes explain how many fish African Cichlids can fit into an aquarium. For example, the first line is explaining that in a 30 gallon, 8 fish would be lightly stocked, 12 would be average stocked, and 15 would be densely stocked.

     i. 30 gallon = 8, 12, 15

     ii. 50 gallon = 15, 20, 25

     iii. 75 gallon = 25, 30, 35

     iv. 90 gallon = 30, 35, 40

     v. 125 gallon = 35 , 45, 50

     vi. 150 gallon = 40, 50, 60

     vii. 250 gallon = 60, 80, 100

     viii. 500 gallon = 100, 130, 175

b. Stocking levels determine a balance between water quality and aggression.

i. The lighter you stock, the less you will have to change the water, but the more the fish can damage each other due to aggression.

ii. The heavier you stock the tank, the less likely your fish are to damage one another due to aggression. They will still chase each other around all day.  However, in a densly-stocked tank, there are enough distractions to prevent fish from doing any real damage to one another.  This method of dense stocking we have deemed “chaos theory”.

3. Compatibility:

a. Mbuna and Victorian Cichlids are more colorful at a small size. They are the heartiest, cheapest, and most colorful.  For this reason, They are some of our favorites. However, they are also the most aggressive. They can be kept with Peacocks and Haps with no problems as long as they are introduced at a size disadvantage to the less aggressive species. A really nice look for a cichlid tank is having a bunch of smaller mbuna and Victorian cichlids      running around with some of the bigger, showier male Peacocks and Haps. Generally, Peacocks and Haps get along fine. Males will develop color, all females are brown or silver in color.

b. Cichlids are more compatible if they are all added when young and raised together. If you have a larger tank, we recommend going in 6-packs of small fish to reduce costs and increase the chance of getting a nice cherry male of the group. By starting all the fish off young and raising them together, we have seen fish tanks thrive that would otherwise be considered incompatible.

c. Cichlids will get along better in larger sizes if there are smaller more aggressive fish around to distract them from picking on one another. You can keep a batch of aggressive male Haps and Peacocks from hurting each other by adding some small and colorful, yet aggressive mbuna cichlids We call these “dither” cichlids as they help demonstrate the “chaos theory” mentioned earlier.

d. Males that look similar to one another will quarrel the most. This will bring out their best color(s), but may be stressful to watch as they go at it. As long as you use the tricks mentioned earlier, such as stocking densely and using dither fish, similar males should not do any real damage to each other. However, the aspect of male dominance must be accepted when keeping African Cichlids.

a. Most Mbuna cichlids will have colorful males and females.

i. Female mbuna can be mixed with more mild species. Larger female mbuna can help add color to a tank by enticing the males to show their breeding coloration and will technically keep the peace.

b. For the best color, aim for an all male tank. There is nothing wrong with going for an all male tank if you have no desire to breed fish.

c. If you want to breed fish, you will need at least two females for every one male.  There is nothing wrong with a 6 female to 1 male ratio. If you really want to breed fish, this has proven better results.

Water Chemistry:

a. pH … We are at 7.8 here. It is easy on cichlids to be dropped into water as high as 8.6, Tanganyikans can be as high as 9.2.

i. A sudden pH adjustment is much easier on a fish dropped into a higher pH than if they are suddenly dropped into a lower pH.

b. Temperature:

i. 78 degrees is optimal.

ii. 78-72 degrees will progressively lessen cichlid aggression, but it will dull the fish activity and metabolism leaving them a little more susceptible to parasites. If taken down slowly, the fish should be fine. Doing this will reduce fish waste as it will slow down their metabolism causing them to eat less, grow slower, live longer, reduce aggression and cause fish that ordinarily would not be compatible to live together. Also, a lower temperature can be effective in preventing bacterial blooms often caused by uneaten fish food. For example, if you are letting your children feed the fish and you don’t trust they will refrain from overfeeding, you may want to consider lowering the temperature.

iii. 78-84 degrees will progressively increase their metabolism and cause the fish to be more active and colorful. They will breed with better results. They will be more aggressive. The increased feeding will cause quicker shifts in water quality and can only be balanced by bigger and more frequent water changes. 84 degree water can kill parasites quickly, but can cause quicker blooms of bacteria if they are overfed and if there is any leftover fish food that is uneaten.

  • We are a breeder of Tropical Fish, primarily African Cichlids. We have been breeding fish from our facilities for over 27 years
  • We own a 40,000 sq foot fish hatchery in the Salt Lake Valley as well as Idaho. Making us one of the largest tropical fish farms outside of Florida.
  • Our hatchery is fed by constant stream of Geothermal water. 12,000 gallons per hour flow into our tanks. This is like giving our fish 4-6 complete water changes per day! The pure, warm, nutrient rich, water keeps the quality and colors of our fish excellent.
  • We have been packing and supplying our fish to major distributors, wholesalers, and major retail chains across the United States for over 27 years.
  • We have been selling fish online for 7 years now using various methods and have been very successful with all of our shipments.
  • We have established good feedback on Cichlid-Forum. Click here to view our established positive feedback.
  • Live Arrival is guaranteed or your money back for the cost of fish and a percentage of shipping. (Details)
  • We can ship in any kind of weather hot or cold!

We have been hesitant to post this guide on how to set up a cichlid tank as we don’t want others to think this a definitive guide. Keeping cichlids is a hobby after all, and there is a ton of information out there, so we recommend you consult a few sources for information and then make your own decisions.

A 120-gallon tank is our favorite size as it has 6 feet of swimming length, is very stable (chemistry), and seems excellent for making cichlids happy.

-First thing on a new tank put plastic egg crate down at the bottom of your tank

– Make sure to rinse the gravel …else cloudy tank forever … dump it on a towel and pour water over it then scoop it up and put in your new tank. 1/2″ to 1″ of gravel is just fine but try not to go too deep.

– As your adding water be sure to add Seachem prime (Use this every time you add water to your tank )

– For a heater, we recommend a nice digital outside the tank temperature controller with a Titanium heat probe and a separate temperature probe. Don’t skimp on the heater if you want your fish to live. see Temperature Controller

– Lighting at the front of the tank is how to make your fish sparkle. If you have a lid keep it clean else, the light can’t pierce it, and your tank won’t look nearly as crisp

– Add tank decor… (Watch out for made in China decor with paint as it may put toxins in the water)

-Add an air pump with a long diffuser across the back… your fish will thank you later. Make sure you add a check valve to the airlines so in the event the airline comes off water doesn’t just siphon into your house

-Get a light timer. Yep do it now and spare yourself, also don’t plug the filter or air into the timer, that needs to run like all the time!

– On a tank filter consider that your filter is a garden in which you will be growing good nitrifying bacteria. Please research the nitrogen cycle in fish tanks right now if you don’t know what this means. So whenever you rinse the pads for captured particulates the best way to do it is with old tank water that you are draining. By using tank water only to rinse the pads, you won’t kill your bacteria!

– Consider a surge protector with a built-in battery backup for the air pump and tank filter water pump. Usually in the case of power outage the only thing your fish need is air, and they would be ok

– Now the tank water should be heated (80 degrees is best for this example until you know more about temp effects on your tank), oxygenated, and treated with Prime. Check your PH. 7.8 is good … all the way to 8.6 for cichlids. If you don’t understand PH in aquariums, please do some more research there until you feel comfortable with the concept.

In general, we feel that you are best off acclimating your fish to your tap water chemistry as long as its anywhere close to an acceptable range. Don’t use water from a water softener. For African cichlids google the water chemistry of Lake Malawi for an idea of their ideal range. Keep in mind with most chemistry parameters that stability is more important than the perfect number. So please be very wary of adding buffers, or salts and only do it if necessary.

Now add your fish. All at once is ok. (a few people are going to cringe reading this)

– Anytime you add new fish you should highly consider treating with melafix.

– Now you have a new and pretty tank with a bunch of fish and absolutely no biofilter so get ready to do some significant water changes for the next two weeks.

– Make sure you don’t use carbon but its ok to have around for emergencies. Carbon will not allow your tank to cycle. Feed your fish like usual twice a day is best. Make sure you have an excellent way to make water changes simple like a python water changer.

– Do substantial water changes for the first two weeks. 50% water changes are good. Half on the 3rd day … half on the 7th day and half on the 14th day. After that once a month should be good but some people choose every two weeks. You can decide just by watching the color and behavior of your fish.

– Have an army of help for cleaning your tank … for a 120 gallon add a dozen snails, 4 -6 plecos and 4-6 catfish they will make your life much easier.

– Feed your fish our flake foods which are very nutrient dense foods. These are locally manufactured foods that promote growth and color better than any other food. Dip your fingers when you feed and just let it go everywhere. Every day will be an easter egg hunt for your fish as finding little flakes all over will give your fish something to do all day. Also, searching for flakes will keep your bottom feeders happy. Its ok if flakes go into your filter it will just feed your bio bacteria as well. If your fish are looking too fat, or you’re seeing uneaten flakes hours after feeding ease up a bit as flakes left uneaten time after time can cause some problems for sure.

– We Recommend a meatier diet in the morning like our tropical mix, plankton gold, brine shrimp, Mysis or other flakes of that kind and spirulina and kelp flake in the evening. If your tank has tropheus feed a little spirulina first on both feedings and ensure they eat some of it before feeding the other types of foods.

– If your tank develops a crazy fish … aka bully … aka bad king, there is really only a few options if it gets really out of hand. (A) get rid of the bully or (B) solve it with a bully buster. A bully buster is a fish at least twice the size/bulk of the bully. Something so obviously intimidating it feels it has nothing to prove and no one dares to make a move on him as his presence as tank king is obvious to all … aka Good King!

Shipping Shipping Shipping We have been shipping fish for 20 years. Right now we can ship mostly inside the USA. Alaska and Hawaii customers please email me after you order as there may be an additional $20 charge depending on how rural your area is. We can ship in any kind of weather.

We stay up to date with overnight temperatures all over the country. We use insulated boxes and adjust with heat packs and cold packs as necessary. We ship everything with no signature required. The fish will arrive between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. You are going to select a date from a shipping calendar as you go to check out so that you can confirm the date you can receive the fish.

If you are not able to be there during the day consider leaving a fairly large insulated container on your porch or a heat blanket with a note to your driver to place the fish inside the container. The fish usually have enough oxygen in the bags to last 48 hours so as long as their temperature stays between 60 to 80 degrees they should be ok. Most orders are shipped UPS Priority Overnight to your door. We have set up a great business account with UPS, and are constantly working with the various shipping providers to negotiate affordable shipping rates.

Also, if you prefer, I have accounts with all major airlines for same day shipping to your local airport. This can be a very safe and reasonable way to ship fish if you can see yourself taking the time to drive to your local airport. It can become much more cost-effective for larger orders as well which we will pass on to you if you see your order getting over $400 and don’t mind driving to the airport give us an email. To view our current shipping rates click here, or you can view them on our homepage.

Well you shouldn’t be if you are buying African Cichlids or other tropical fish from us. Most of the fish you see in local pet stores have been packed and shipped almost six times before they reach your tank. When you buy from us they are only packed and shipped once. Ever wonder where a lot of the fish that are stuffed into retailers tanks actually come from. I know for a fact the average life of a pet shop fish goes something like this:

This can be very hard on the fish, each time they have to be caught, hand counted, bagged, boxed, shipped, unpacked, hand counted, and the process starts all over again. Rarely are they given more than a few days to adjust before they go on another tedious journey. Now I know that there are pet stores that might find a way to skip one or two of these middle men but no one can offer you the same health and quality that we can. WE ARE THE BREEDER! Our diagram is much simpler:

5. Adding New Fish to Your Tank:

a. Fish tend to do better when added in waves of larger groups.

i. If you add fish one at a time to an aquarium, you will get “pick-on-the-new-guy syndrome”.

ii. Adding cichlids in larger groups will reduce the chance of aggression between them. This will cause a two-week time period which will be critical to the water quality while your biological filter catches up that will be addressed below. It is best to allow a two-week time period between groups. This will allow your biological filter to catch up with the extra ammonia produced by the newer fish and preserve water quality.

b. It is a good idea to add a dose of preventative medication to a tank when adding new fish from any source.

i. Similar to humans, fish tend to contract sickness when they are stressed. Moving fish from one tank to another, whether by shipping them or simply picking them up from a local pet store, can cause stress on the fish.  This can in turn allow a disease that would normally not be able to pierce the immune system (e.g., Ich) to suddenly show up out of nowhere.

ii. Anything that treats a tank for parasites will work when receiving large batches of fish. Even something very mild, like Melafix, is a great idea to treat for a few days after receiving new fish.

c. Water changes help when adding a group of fish to an already established fish tank.

i. Hopefully, you have decided to add fish in larger groups instead of one at a time. As it is good practice to do water changes shortly after adding new fish, an added benefit of introducing fish to your tank in a group is the reduction of these water changes. With this practice, you will only have to perform this extra water change with the addition of each group instead of with every individual fish.

ii. Whether you are adding fish to a brand new tank or a group of fish to an established tank, I recommend the following water change schedule.  Your fish will love you for it!

      1. Change 40% of the water 3 days after adding the new wave of fish
      2. Change 40% of the water 7 days after adding the new wave of fish
      3. Change 40% of the water 14 days after adding the new wave of fish
      4. Change 40% of the water in two week intervals after that.

iii. That is a lot of water, but this step will truly insure you have a healthy fish tank forever. No amount of technology I feel is adequate to the effectiveness of a good, old-fashion water change.

1. Ways you can become more efficient at this process:

a.   Consider using sterile garbage cans, hoses, and pumps. I will usually siphon the water out of the tank into a large, plastic garbage can placed next to it. I will then drop a power head connected to a hose into the garbage can to pump it to a drain or outside (great for your garden). After I have removed as much water as I want from the tank, I will hook the hose up to my faucet to get warmer tap water to fill the garbage can and pump warm water from the garbage can back into the tank.  The benefit of this process is you don’t have to carry buckets of water to and from your tank, and the chance of a major spill is lessened.

b. Python Water Changers are nice as they hook right to your sink. However, they can be slower than the method above.

d. Acclimating your fish purchase from LiveFishDirect:

        i. First, float the bags in the tank until the temperature stabilizes, this normally takes around 15 minutes.

        ii. Don’t release the fish until the temperature is stable.

        iii. Cut open the bags and strain the fish water in the bag through a net into a bucket or bowl.

        iv. Place the fish right in the tank.

6. Troubleshooting Fish Disease:

a. Fish disease can be complicated. In fact, they can be just as complicated as the diseases that affect us.

b. Look for excessive scratching, this may mean you have a parasite.

i. A fish scraping its side on the bottom might just be a way for it to stir up some fish food. However, if they are doing it excessively or many of them are doing it, you have may have an outbreak of parasites. The good news is if you treat it early, it is easy to fix. The bad news is if you wait until everything is covered in white spots (sores), it will be tricky to cure.

1. To treat cichlids with parasites, we recommend: salt, copper, malachite green, Quinine sulfate, or any special combination of those.

c. Open sores, wounds or bloody veining can be a sign of a bacterial infection. If they will eat, consider medicated fish food. If they won’t eat and the situation is looking bad, then you need some more serious bacterial meds. We recommend as they are very knowledgeable. Give them a call if you if you feel your fish would benefit from stronger medication.

This guide is a work in progress. Thank you for your time and consideration of some of these tips and tricks we have discovered while keeping African Cichlids. Please let us know if you feel we have missed the mark on any of these generalizations, or if you just want to help with wording.

Thanks – Live Fish Direct Crew