CZAAWE Resource Article

Aggression and Welfare in a Common Aquarium Fish, the Midas Cichlid
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Many species of fishes are aggressive when placed in small aquaria. Aggression can negatively affect the welfare of those individuals toward whom it is directed. Animals may behave aggressively in order to defend resources such as food, shelter, mates, and offspring. The decision to defend depends on the distribution of resources and on ecological factors such as number of competitors, amount of available space, and amount of habitat complexity. This study tested the effects of these factors on aggression in a common aquarium fish, the Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus). The study found that time spent behaving aggressively was not associated with small-scale differences in group size or available space. Aggression was significantly lower in a large aquarium with a complex habitat. Aquaria of sizes typically used in the companion animal (pet) hobby did not provide optimal welfare for cichlids housed with aggressive conspecifics. The public should be aware that this and similar species require larger aquaria with complex habitat, which elicit more natural behavior.