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FAQs on African Cichlid Behavior

Related Articles: African Cichlids, Malawian Cichlids: The Mbuna and their Allies By Neale Monks, The Blue Followers: the Placidochromis of Lake Malawi by Daniella Rizzo,  Cichlid Fishes

Related FAQs: African Cichlids, African Cichlid Identification, African Cichlid Selection, African Cichlid Compatibility, African Cichlid Systems, African Cichlid Feeding, African Cichlid Reproduction, African Cichlid Disease, Cichlids of the WorldCichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid Disease Cichlid Reproduction,

Red zebra cichlid
Odd Red Zebra Behavior     12/31/13

Hello. I have a male red zebra that is displaying some troubling behavior.
He is perfectly normal most of the time, patrolling the tank, sifting the substrate, begging for food, and every few months or so he has some kind of fit. He can't swim, he flips over and gets this glazed over look on his face, hardly breathing, laying in my hand literally from what I can tell two seconds away from death, and then he flips over, and bumbles around for a bit, takes about twenty minutes for him to get back to normal but he does, like nothing happened. I am also concerned about his size. He was around an inch when I bought him a year ago, and he is not even three inches yet. He just seems to hardly grow at all.
He is in a 55, with some juvenile geo's, the tank is way over filtered, and when this happened last the tank tested at
Am 0
Ni 0
Na under 5ppm
He has a good diet. He eats spiraling cichlid pellets, veggies, algae, Cyclops, daphnia, he gets the occasional blood worms from the Ropefish, but not often, and not a lot.
Have you ever seen anything like this? Any suggestions on how I might try and get the little guy to start growing, or any help on what may be wrong would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for all your help  Timbra Newbury
< Cichlids have a second set of "jaws" called the pharyngeal bone. I think your cichlid is having problems chewing and some food occasionally gets stuck in these jaws and your fish is actually choking. If your fish was able to chew properly then he would probably be much larger by now. The jaws may have been damaged by hard food or deformed at birth. Not much you can do at this time.-Chuck>

Question about breeding - aggressive behavior; African cichlids 10/20/12
Hi-
<Heather>
My  5 yr old son has a 29 gal tank with one 'firebelly' cichlid and one 'electric yellow' cichlid.
<Too small.  The electric yellow (Labidochromis caeruleus) needs 35 gallons and the firebelly, if I'm correctly identifying it as Haplochromis obliquidens, needs 45 minimum.>
I don't know anything much about these fish- we have them almost 2 years and they do fine with little care (except for cleaning tank and feeding).
Recently, the firebelly has gone crazy piling up all of the gravel on one side of the tank- to the extent that she buried the other fish inside the rocks. I dug him out and fixed the gravel, but she did it again and has now laid THOUSANDS of eggs all over the rocks. She is guarding the eggs, running other fish off
<I suspect the Hap has become very territorial and has claimed most of the tank, if not the entire tank as its territory while trying to spawn. It might also be a little frustrated with not finding a male.>
- can two different types of cichlids breed?
<These fish are from different genera, so no. Also, these fish evolved in different lakes, so they don't even come into contact in nature.>
Or is she going through some kind of hormonal false pregnancy thing and the eggs are infertile?
<It's not false pregnancy. She did spawn normally, but she has no male to fertilize the eggs, so they will spoil. Once they do, I suspect things will go back to the way they were. But, she might produce eggs fairly frequently and have repeats. In that small tank, the lab has nowhere to go.  You very well may have to move one fish, and I'd suggest moving out the firebelly as the tank is closer to the size that fish needs.  Or get a bigger tank. As I said, overall, the tank is too small for these fishes.>
If so, is it okay to go ahead and clean the tank and get rid of the eggs?
<Well, the eggs will never hatch without a male, but the fish will probably defend the eggs against your hand, also.>
 Thanks!
<Do please research the fishes you have. Not only will it be better for them, but you can use it as an opportunity to educate your son as to what's going on and why his fish are behaving the way they are.>
Thank You,
<Welcome>
Heather
<Rick>

Cichlids turning brown.     5/26/12
Hi team,
<Hello Jessica.>
It seems you have a very informative website here. (I somehow spent the last 2 hours reading and learning). But unfortunately I have not found exactly what I am looking for. I have a 200 litre tank, with a few cichlids, 2 loaches, 2 'upside down' cat fish, a silver shark and 2 silver dollars.
<The Shark and the Silver Dollars will soon outgrow the 200 litre aquarium, and the loaches may, depending on the species, Clown Loaches for example can get huge.>
I am not 100% sure what all my cichlid's are, but am almost 99% sure one is a 'butterfly cichlid' one
<Do you mean Mikrogeophagus ramirezi? Or Anomalochromis thomasi? Both need soft water, but the first species is very demanding and must have warm, very soft, very acidic water -- 1-3 degrees dH, pH 5-6. Anomalochromis thomasi is more adaptable and will do fine across the usual range for tropical fish, 2-15 degrees dH, pH 6.5-7.5.>
was called a 'princess cichlid'
<Do you mean Neolamprologus brichardi? From Lake Tanganyika, needs hard, alkaline water.>
and one that I am pretty sure is a blue peacock.
<Presumably you mean some sort of Aulonocara species. Were these sold as "mixed African cichlids" or some such? Or under these specific names?
Hybrids are extremely common in the hobby, and practically ubiquitous where cichlids are sold as "African cichlids" rather than under a specific Latin name. The price is a good clue, too. True species attract a premium price.>
Most of my cichlids would be between 3-5 inches long, (I have gathered from what I have read tonight that this is getting closer to maturity)
But I have found over the last month, (approx.) my blue peacock; (rough size a bit over 3 inches) has slowly changed from being electric blue, to brown over a blue tinged. Although his head is more blue that the rest of him (or her) I am not sure I have understood everything I have read on your website correctly, as I know very little about fish.
<Almost certainly a hybrid, and this colour change is entirely normal with hybrids, which rarely look that attractive when mature.>
I have been undecided whether this was a change due to maturity, or if it was fed hormones before I bought it etc., etc.
After reading through the website though, I have found myself worried it could be a bigger issue or disease.
None of the fish are showing any sign of distress or unusual behaviour.
<Good.>
(Although I did have a couple of days last week where my loach was lying in the corner, which I now know was a slightly to high PH level, but that has now been fixed)
<Rift Valley cichlids need hard, alkaline water; aim for 15+ degrees dH, pH 7.5-8.5. Obviously that's too hard and alkaline for loaches and Silver Sharks, which is why you can't keep them in the same aquarium. Silver Sharks and loaches need soft, slightly acidic to neutral water. Long term this collection of fish isn't going to work. The "Butterfly Cichlid" will
need similar, or even softer water, depending on the species you mean.>
I thank you for the time you have taken to read and advise me on this, as I hate that such a pretty fish could be lost to disease or lose his colour.
<Do read, understand the requirements of all your fish and act accordingly.
Your collection of species is all wrong and likely doomed to failure.>
Kind regards,
Jess
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Mbuna (Acei, specifically) question, beh. in a new sys. 2/20/12
I recently acquired some aceis and 5 electric yellow labs. The aceis seem to do nothing but swim along the front of the glass back and forth.
<Likely seeing their reflection... reacting to this. Try taping a piece of paper on one end of the aquarium>
The behavior seems odd to me as the labs and other fish are much calmer. The aceis are still eating, but it's somewhat half heartedly - they will take food as they swim past it but aren't aggressively seeking it out. They have
only been in the tank for about 24 hours now. Should I be concerned?

<No; not really... all should settle in w/in a few days. I do hope there is a good deal of room and decor here... as the Mbuna can prove quite territorial. Search WWM re these two species. Bob Fenner>

African Cichlids, eating... their own dead    3/18/11
Hello.
Just had a quick question. At the place that I work at has a tank full of African Cichlids and I <am> fairly familiar with this species. When I came into work this past Monday there was a fish skeleton on the bottom of the tank.
When I left on Friday there were no dead fish in the tank. Do these type of Cichlids eat on the dead carcass of the dead tank mate? As of right now there is no Pleco in the tank. There are however a couple of fish that are similar to the Pleco but are a different species. They are orange in color with some dark striation near the rear of the body, elongated bodies and they use their mouths to "scrub" the rocks. Could these two fish eat the carcass?
<Yes.>
Since Monday the skeletal remains are gone except for a few pieces of bone.
I am interested in knowing what is up.
Thanks,
Neal
<Nice and easy! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: African Cichlids, ID    3/18/11
Follow up question: "They are orange in color with some dark striation near the rear of the body, elongated bodies and they use their mouths to "scrub" the rocks."
Based upon the description I gave to you do you know the name of this species of fish?
<Not really. A photo would help, but crop/resize down to 500 KB please. In the meantime, look up Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps and the "golden" morph of Gyrinocheilus aymonieri. Both are quite widely traded, get very large, and are often bought by inexperienced aquarists as "cleaner fish" or "algae eaters" despite being fairly opportunistic omnivores. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: African Cichlids   3/18/11

Hey Neale,
<Hey!>
It is the "golden" morph of Gyrinocheilus aymonieri.
<Oh.>
I read a little bit about them. I believe the tank in my work place is a 200 gal tank.
<Okay; well, I have kept this species in a 200 gallon tank with Central American cichlids, and they were fine. Although very nasty in small tanks with community fish, large cichlids do seem to hold their own.>
One "golden" is bigger than the other and they are never around each given what I read about them being territorial.
<Yes, they are territorial, but in 200 gallons, you may be okay.>
Thank again for the help.
Neal
<Glad to help! Cheers, Neale.>

Interesting Cichlid Behavior (sent from work email, do not worry about the legal thingy attached) - 12/20/10
Cichlid Behavior
Hello all, I have been reading the WWM site and learning some very cool things about African Cichlids that I wish I'd known back when I first got some.
Anyway, the reason I'm writing to you is because I have noticed something very interesting, and I think unusual with mine. Let me give some brief background.
I have had many different types of fish over the years, and about 2 years ago I decided to get my first group of Cichlids. I bought them at Wal-mart so there wasn't a lot of explanation there about their behaviors, but I did some reading and set up my 48" tank with plenty of large rocks and decorations for them to stake out and hide among. I also have a filter with a strong waterfall for a good current. I bought a half a dozen cichlids (not sure what exact species) and put them in the tank, the only other resident being a (then) 1 year old Pleco.
Well in the weeks that followed one male cichlid quickly became dominant and began aggressively pursuing the other cichlids around the tank. He left the Pleco alone (indeed in the 2 years since then those fish have always stayed out of each other's way, and yes they're both still alive!) I understand that aggressive behavior is somewhat normal among cichlids, that's not the unusual part, and I found it fascinating to watch as the subservient fish would often tilt over onto their sides in a show of submission before the dominant one, the alpha fish as I call him. Well it came to pass that as he grew stronger and larger he would often chase the others away from food and eat it all, making the other fish grow weak. One day when he was being his usual dominant self I reached in and poked him in the head with my finger. No harm done, he's still alive and healthy 2 years later, but it had an interesting effect.
Now this may be coincidence, I don't know, but after that I noticed something very interesting start to happen...
Whenever I would approach the aquarium to sit down and watch the fish, the alpha would approach the glass and look directly at me, then he would tilt over on his side in the same manner the subservient cichlids would do with him, then he would turn and swim away. This behavior went on for many months, so I know it wasn't any sort of sickness, whenever I approached the tank he would see me, tilt over, then swim slowly away, almost like he recognized me as dominant. I must confess this behavior has fascinated me because I have had many different types of fish before and none of them ever did anything like that. Smaller prey-type fish would simply flee and hide, others like my (now gigantic) Pleco would simply ignore me. But this cichlid actually seemed to recognize me and show deference.
He hasn't done it recently, but then I haven't been very active with my fish recently. I usually now only go over to the tank when feeding or cleaning. But that behavior has always fascinated me, and I would love to learn more about that. Is there such a thing as fish psychology? Lol
Thank you for your time!
< Cichlids are actually quite intelligent and capable of learning. This is one of the things that makes them so popular with aquarists.-Chuck>

Sick auratus? auratus showing "male" colors? or auratus just stressed?    8/6/10
the auratus is about 1.5". the past few days she has been hiding and shaking her fin back and forth all while in the same spot (rarely moving) under this one rock. she has not come up for food like she used to and is not being active at all. since I got her she's been a tough fish. she was one of the first fish I got. I have a male albino zebra that runs the tank - the two of them have had a mutual respect though. the past few days she has been chased a lot by my male albino zebra. he has been vibrating his tail violently at her.
<Perhaps sexual...>
when I first got the auratus the colors were a bright yellow with white/black zebra stripe. I did research and I see they all look like that as juvies. I have attached a picture. notice her black now looks "dusty" and her yellow now looks "dark and dusty". my water is fine and all 14 other tank mates are fine. so I'm left thinking a few different things: 1. she is not a she - she is a he - the colors are only finally starting to show. this has made the albino consider her/him more of a threat? and that's why the albino has been more aggressive and thus stressing her/him out?
<I do think this is the case. Though this specimen is smallish for the change, it is becoming a male>
2. she is sick - no white spots or white poo, but she is dusty and faded and dark looking though.
<Maybe>
what do you think it is? what do you think I should do?
<Wait, make sure there's not too much overt aggressive damage going on in your system... In the meanwhile, redirect your energies/resources to study, reading re these organisms, their captive care. Bob Fenner>

Protomelas taeniolatus still flashing  7/22/10
Neale,
As I was working on the 55gal tank I was keeping a eye on my 72 with the Protomelas taeniolatus female that had been flashing and scratching her head on the gravel and I saw her doing it again, this time with a little more vigor. So I checked the water parameters again and found the following results nitrites and chlorine at zero and the nitrates at 10 ppm. The water for all my fish tanks come from the same source and none of my other cichlids are showing any signs of stress. Water conditions were my first thought but everything is within the desirable parameters for these fish.
My second thought would be ich but I haven't seen any white spots on her or the other fish. No labored breathing like it's in their gills. They have been in the tank for 2 months now which should of been more then enough time for a out break of ich to occur. I'm not going to start dumping chemicals in there just to see what might happen without knowing what is the most likely cause. What else could cause her to do this?
Thanks
Paul
<Hi Paul. It does sound like either Velvet or Ick might be an explanation, and a low-impact approach might be to use the old salt/heat method. This shouldn't bother cichlids at all in the short term -- though I'm sure you know about the possible connection between sustained use of salt and the appearance of Malawi Bloat. I do agree, the use of formalin, copper, etc. is generally best avoided where possible. Do also look to see if the water is silty, and check the sand you're using is "burrower friendly" -- some aren't, and these will irritate their gills if used in cichlid tanks. Carib Sea are good about stating which are safe to use in such tanks, and you can find the info on their web site, but other manufacturers are not so transparent. One reason I recommend smooth silica sand is precisely because it's always safe to use. The same can't be said about Tahitian Moon Sand and the like. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Protomelas taeniolatus still flashing   7/22/10
Neale,
Thanks for the quick response!
<No problems.>
The substrate in this tank is aquarium pebbles so the water is quite clear.
I'm going to try the heat salt method. The correct salt to use would be sea salt or kosher salt?
<Kosher or non-iodised "cooking" sea salt is fine. What you don't want is marine sea salt mix as that has added carbonate that will affect the pH and hardness. Actually, for the fish you're keeping it probably could matter
less! But I'd still use tonic, kosher, or non-iodised cooking salt.>
As I understand it the mixture is 2-3 tablespoons per gallon with elevated temp to about 84-86, leave heated over a period of three weeks correct?
<Pretty much. I prefer to make up a jug of water with the amount of salt required added to it, and then dribble this "brine" into the tank in stages across a couple of hours. Minimises any shock to your fish. Not that cichlids are much phased by salt, but some fish are. I'd bump up the aeration if possible, because higher temperatures means lower oxygen solubility.>
Then a 50% water change weekly, vacuuming the gravel well each time and adding the salt/water mix with the new water? Is there anything that I'm forgetting?
<Nope, sounds fine. I tend to do my usual water changes rather than extra-large ones, especially when salt-tolerant fish like cichlids and livebearers are concerned. But if you're sure you won't otherwise change the pH or hardness by doing a 50% water change, sure, do that instead.>
Paul
<Cheers, Neale.>

Slow Cichlid
Albino Peacock Cichlid Not Adjusting  3/31/10

First off let me tell you about my tank. I have a 67 gallon tank with a whisper ex70 power filter, a Aquaclear 110, under-gravel filtration with 2 power heads, and a 250 watt Marineland Visi-thermal submersible heater. The fish in the tank include: 1 electric yellow cichlid, 1 male and 2 female electric blue cichlid, 1 male and 2 female red zebra
cichlid, 1 male and 2 female red peacock cichlid, 1 male bumblebee, 1 African brown knife, and 1 male acei. For cleaners I have a Synodontis eupterus catfish and a Pleco. All around 3 inches. The electric blues are the only fish that have reached sexual maturity (I know this due to one of the females is prego). I have been searching high and low for a male albino strawberry peacock, my local mom and pop store have been trying to order one but they always run out. So I went to another store (bad idea) the stores only light was that of the fish tanks everything else was painted black. looked as if the tanks haven't been cleaned sense they opened, even there 600 gallon tank. I turn the corner and they were selling a 3 inch pair for 59.99 I was so thrilled I didn't think of all the bad stuff pointing at me. I HAD TO HAVE THOSE FISH! After we got in the car my friend who was with me said (which I didn't give a second thought at the time) they sure did catch those fish really easily..... Got home put the bag in the tank and started the wonderful process of draining the tank a bit and rearranging the 40 pounds of slate rock formation. Forgot that hey this isn't the store I've gotten all my fish from, I don't need to put them in my quarantine tank. So I cut the bag and let them go in with my wonderful fish as I put some food in. didn't take long for them to
take turns going after the two new fish and they took it didn't really try to swim away, So I turned off the light to see if that would help. By morning the female was missing most of her right fin and couldn't swim without flipping upside-down so I grabbed her and put her in my breeding net on the top of the tank she seemed to do somewhat ok in there. I then contemplated what to do with the male he wasn't eating and was just laying on the bottom of the tank a few tears in his fins nothing big though. I later decided to take them both and put them in my hospital tank, The male was easy to catch also very slow and stayed at the bottom of the tank. female seemed to be doing better and my friend told me just put her in the tank with the male. BAD mistake she got stuck in the corner and beat herself pretty bad the first night so I put her back in the net. Male still wasn't eating, 3rd day female died mid day and the male started to eat. He really was supermatic about eating though, a flake would hit him in the head and he would go for it he just kind of randomly grabs them or sucks off the bottom rock. He seems really slow and by slow I mean handicapped, he stays at the bottom doesn't seem to mind anything. I actually have him in with a dozen ghost shrimp that I've been breading. I guess I am just wondering is he sick, injured, or is he just a bad fish. is there
anything I should do? In about a week I'll be burping my female and was planning on putting the babies in the hospital tank but I have him in there. I've read that albino's tend to be not as hardy as other fish due to the amount of inbreeding that happens.
< Albinos are usually not a very strong fish. They are easily picked on unless they are much larger than the other fish. They probably weren't treated very well at the store and may have gotten an internal infection from this stress. Make sure the water is clean, hard and alkaline. Keep it around 75 F. Treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace.
These can be purchased online at Drsfostersmith.com. Once he starts to eat regularly then you can put him back in the main tank. When you put him back you may need to rearrange all the rocks so the fish need to reestablish their territories. The peacock may never be able to go in the mixed community Lake Malawi tank. In the wild peacocks like in the dark shadows and caves leaving the open water to the much more aggressive Mbuna.-Chuck>

Odd African Cichlid behavior -- 01/17/10
I've had the same 4 cichlids for about 2.5 years and after my last house move they have been acting rather strange. At first I chalked it up to stress of the move but they have continued to act the same way for a few weeks now.
There are 2 fish that have traded dominance over the years based on size it seems.
<Happens>
The current dominant male will seem to chase the other around more then the rest. The one that gets chased for the most part swims up and down one side of the tank for hours. The dominant male in fact will sometimes join this one in swimming up and down the side of the tank. They wont be chasing one another, just swimming.
There are also two others that I believe are females. They are smaller and dont eat as much. They also spend most their time hiding in the rocks or plants.
<Not a healthy situation...>
I watch them sometimes and I cant figure out what they are doing...
<Hiding, trying to avoid the others>
The will swim and then turn on their sides, followed by a single tail slap on the rocks (substrate). This is much different from the digging I've seen them do in the past. At first I though it was parasites but they aren't rubbing their bodies. It's simply a slap on the rocks with their tail All this might be normal, just wondering what you folks think
Thanks
-Brian
<Well... you first need to find, figure what species you're dealing with here... And if I knew more re the size, shape of the system I might be able to suggest some sort of possible arrangement, changes... But for now I'll refer you. Read here:
http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/afcichcompfaqs.htm
and the linked files above... Will grant you input re the sorts of data we're looking for. Bob Fenner>

Sick African cichlid
Change In Cichlid Attitude -- 10/31/09

I have a 36 gal tank. With 1 large male Red Top Ndumbi and 5 smaller red zebras and a med/Lg male Electric blue. Usually the red top is very aggressive toward the other fish and rules the tank and is the first to
eat. Last night when I got home the red top was acting funny. The tank has been established since Jan 08 but the red top has only been in it since August 09. He is staying to himself and not eating. He still swims around and the only noticeable change in his appearance is a split in his side fin and maybe his jaw looks bigger. All of the other fish look normal and healthy and are acting normal. What should I do? Jeremy Shively
< Being the dominant fish in the tank there could have been two things that could have happened. First, someone stood up to the bully and the bully got injured in the fight and is afraid to show his face. The victor may go after him again if he comes out again. The second possibility is he is sick. He could have eaten too much and does not feel well. If he does not eat for a few days then think about isolating him in a hospital tank for treatment with Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace.-Chuck>

Re: Red Empress 9/10/09
Hi and thanks once more. I just have one last question about my cichlid; what is the average lifespan? Just wondering because I know that Oscars live for a long time, I am hoping that my Haplochromis (Pundamilia)
nyererei will live a good long life as well! Lena
<These medium-sized cichlids should live between 5-10 years, possibly longer under good conditions. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: question about electricity and water... Af. cichlid beh.  5/17/09
hey thanks for taking the time to answer my question. I appreciate it.
<Happy to help. But please, the thing I like more than anything else is proper capitalization of sentences. I'm one of those people who's proud of the English language, and like to see people use it properly.>
got one more for ya! I have 5 African cichlids in 30 gallon tank. red-zebra, ice-blue rainbow, electric yellow, acei(acai), and some grey-colored one....the biggest is the red-zebra and I recently put him in his own 20 gallon tank so now I got four cichlids in the 30. My question is how I can get my electric yellow and ice-blue rainbow cichlids to swim around a little more.
<You can't; this tank is too small for these species, and the super-dominant fish will be attacking all the others. Do review the needs of Mbuna, in particular their need for space, and act accordingly. Even Dwarf Mbuna would cause problems in a small tank like yours, let alone standard Mbuna. Also, don't mix more than one species of Pseudotropheus (also known as Maylandia, Metriaclima) together; this invariably ends badly. Learn the Latin names of your fish, make sure you buy the real things and not cheap hybrids, select the right species for the right sized tank, and put together a community of Malawi cichlids that works.>
the sit in weird positions at the very top of the tank and don't move. I thought taking the red-zebra out(he is very aggressive and much larger than the others, which are all same size) would make them swim around more but they sit there all the time. I do water changes every week and move my decorations around every time. there is plenty of caves and hiding spots but that stuff doesn't seem to matter. any thoughts????
<Just the usual thought along the lines of "someone bought a random selection of Mbuna and now they don't understand why one's in charge, half of the rest are terrified and all the others are dead".
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_2/malawian_cichlids.htm
There are plenty of good books of Malawian cichlids -- most anything by Konings or Loiselle for example -- and I'd encourage you to buy one of these books, spend an evening or two reading it, and then think again about keeping these superb but difficult fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Melanochromis Cichlid Changing Colors
I have a yellow cichlid with black horizontal stripes. When we first got them they were beautiful and vibrant, they are African Melanochromis chipokee. I found that on your website, just so you know this fish only has
two stripes on body and one on his top fin. Anyway, we have had them for about two months, the one I am concerned with is about 2 to 2 1/2 inches.
This fish has changed to a really dark shade of what he was, you couldn't even see his stripes. He also became very, very aggressive toward all the cichlids in the tank, and was chasing all of them. It also looked like it was shaking or more like a vibrating motion. I never have seen this before.
We moved him out of the tank in fear it might hurt one and he started to change back to normal colors, except its still almost black around the mouth, like it has a beard. new to cichlids, please help! Thanks, Alanna
< When fry of Melanochromis are born they have colors that represent the female. At about 2 inches the males start to change into their male coloration. They are usually darker and become more aggressive defending territories to attract a female to spawn with. He attracts a female by shaking his body trying to attract her to a specific area to spawn.
Everything you have described is very normal for this species.-Chuck>

Melanochromis auratus, beh.    3/15/09
Hello everyone,
<Hi,>
I have a 55 gallon tank with two Venustus, one Auratus, an American Jewel, a 'Marmalade Cat,' Firemouth, Jack Dempsey, and a Pleco. They seem to be living together quite well, but my Auratus just recently reached about 2.5" and began to change from bright yellow to the darker black/brownish coloring, and he also seems to be eating less and scratching at the same time, his colour (Although he is changing sex at this time and the fade from yellow to dark brown is odd looking) seems to be a bit cloudy. The rest of the fish in the tank are just as active, and he is also still active and territorial as usual.
<Clearly the Melanochromis auratus here is a mature male; he will become increasingly aggressive with time, and frankly psychotic. The Firemouth at least is going to get creamed; this species has weak jaws that get
dislocated when forced to fight with more aggressive species.>
I'm just worried about the excessive scratching that he is doing. I assume that if he were somehow infected, the other fish would be showing signs as well, this has been going on for well over a week and before this particular behaviour the tank had ick two months back and we cured that and everyone did just fine.
<Well, if he's scratching, that could indicate a variety of things. Yes, Ick or Velvet infections are possible; but so too are changes in pH or drops in water quality.>
No one else is scratching or acting odd at all. We've been feeding them shrimp pellets and algae pellets and the occasional treat of minnows.
<What? None of these fish are obligate piscivores! Repeat after me: "If I want randomly sick and disease fish, I'll use feeder fish; if I want to keep fish properly, I won't use them.>
We always strain the water off of the feeder fish before we put them in our tank.
<Besides the by. The problems with feeder fish are multiple. Minnows and Goldfish both contain thiaminase, and over time this breaks down Vitamin B1, leading to vitamin deficiency problems. Secondly, Minnows and Goldfish are very high in fat, and again, over time, this causes damage in their internal organs. Finally, any fish cheap enough to be sold as food is going to maintained in squalid conditions; no exceptions! So feeding a feeder fish is right up their with anthrax sandwiches and botulism ice cream in terms of delivering disease into whatever eats them. You may well have done this, hence signs of disease. Certainly observe carefully, and perhaps treat for Ick/Velvet just in case. I have no idea why people use feeder fish for omnivorous fish that will eat all kinds of other stuff. But stop already!>
I've read in several places that the Auratus is a herbivore and also an omnivore, the shrimp pellets also have wheat germ and other herbal properties to it.
<Wild Melanochromis auratus feed primarily on algae; in addition, they take small quantities of invertebrates foods, such as insect larvae and snails.
A healthy diet would be 80% algae-based flake and pellets, 20% frozen bloodworms, mosquito larvae, etc.>
Is scratching part of the changing of sex?
<No.>
I've trieo look up about the process that they go through while changing and I've found absolutely no pictures or articles that say anything other than that it takes place, but not about how the fish actually changes biologically, and I've checked out many different articles about fish diseases as well and the only one that I could think that this even resembles is velvet, but as I said previously, none of the other fish are scratching at all.
<It isn't changing sex; all its doing is maturing. From our perspective, that includes increasing size, changes in colour, and massively, gigantically, enormously becoming more aggressive. Adult male Melanochromis auratus can dominate pretty much any aquarium.>
Any thoughts?
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Melanochromis Auratus 3/15/09

Hi Neale!
<Hello Andrea,>
Thank you ever so much for your prompt response, it is much appreciated. I do think i still have some Maracyn stuff laying around somewhere so i may hospitalize the auratus and treat him, depending on if his behaviour changes more.
<Cool.>
About the feeder fish...Me and my boyfriend (Being the sadistic people we are, of course) Really enjoy watching the whole feeding process with the fish.
<Try using river shrimp and earthworms instead. Safer, more nutritious, and elicit just the same hunting behaviours. Except of course, the terrified look of battered and half-eaten Goldfish. But that's not what you're after, surely? About 25 years ago I came across a pet store with an Oscar in a tank. Also in the tank was the front half, basically the head and gills, of a Goldfish. The gills were still beating, and the Goldfish was quite clearly alive. I'm no Animal Rights nutcase, but that absolutely did it for me: there's nothing humane about using feeder fish, and in virtually every case, it's about what the keeper wants to observe and not what their pet predator fish actually needs.>
And we had heard that Glofish multiply very easily and quickly, we've been considering setting up a Glofish tank to make a feeding tank for our cichlids, Any thoughts?
<Yes. Bad idea. Glofish are a type of Danio. Danios are cyprinids, so just like Minnows and Goldfish, they contain fat and thiaminase. It would be a really, really bad idea to use them as fish food. If you have obligate piscivores, then the only safe feeder fish species are killifish and livebearers. So by all means breed those. But none of your need fish as food, and frankly all you're doing is make life difficult. The use of live
food appears to increase aggression among fish. No idea why, but it does.
Been reported many times across many species. Since these cichlids are primarily herbivorous, put your effort into providing them what they need:
cooked peas, spinach, algae, etc. May not be "fun", but it's the safe, responsible thing to do.>
Also, considering what I've read about the poor Firemouth, its quite sad that it ended up in our tank. We were originally trying to buy a Convict and the LFS clerk assured us that she caught the exact fish we had asked for, and then we get it home and it brightens up all red...and well yeah.
For the moment anyway she's bigger than the auratus and seems to be left well enough alone. I do hope she survives, she is really quite pretty.
<Hmm... not a fan of "hoping" fish survive. By all means leave it there for now, but at the first sign of trouble, move it out. Just not fair to leave fish together when the odds are stacked against them. Many pet stores will
take in mature fish; the Maidenhead Aquatics chain in England for example will always take unwanted fish.>
Sincerely yours,
Andrea
<Cheers, Neale.>

Cichlid caretaker behavior(?) Female Mbuna Tank Peacekeeper 02/09/09 Hi, I am a bit hesitant to write in because I don't know how useful this would be to anyone, what category it would fit in, and it's really more of a curiosity than anything. However, this is something that has been fascinating me for years now and I don't know who else I could ask. About 4 or 5 years ago I got a 55 gal setup for free. The tank contained an Oscar and 2 Yellow Labs (ugh) that had been very neglected. After nursing the Cichlids back to health I eventually gave the Oscar away to someone with a much bigger tank and made it into a Cichlid tank (now mostly Johannis). After a while the male of the pair died - the female stopped showing off her colors (presumably because there is no longer any potential mate and because she's getting up in years) but she has taken on a new role ever since; that of a "caretaker" of sorts. Now any time that the others get too aggressive, she will try to keep him from picking on anyone too severely. Chasing is allowed, but if he starts biting or stalking then she will usually head him off in the chase. If a fight breaks out then she will stand by to chase off others that might get involved and she will break it up if it gets too intense. Most intriguingly if someone gets injured and needs time to heal then she will allow that fish into her nook or corner for a few days and fend off anyone that tries to go after it. I've never seen her bite or fight but even the most dominant male knows to get out of the way if she goes charging, and nobody ever challenges her for territory - once she picks her space it seems to be understood that it's non-negotiable; nobody even tries (except the catfish, her mortal foe, but that's another story). Unlike the dominant males, she is also much more gentle in chasing off youngsters, usually because they're hanging out in her nook or corner. So my question is simple: Is this normal in a Cichlid community? I don't know for sure, but she has to be at least 9 or 10 years old now. She adds a lot of life and energy to the community and this is one fish that I will actually miss when the time comes. So when she does pass, will another take her place or is she something special? Thanks for your time,-Adrian < Cichlids have both male and female sex organs. Males are dominated by male hormones and females are dominated by female hormones. Male cichlids get to be very aggressive and this aggression among the other cichlids keeps the females from developing male hormones. When the dominant male is removed then the dominant female in the tank loses some of her female hormones and the male hormones start to develop. You see this already in the change in the coloration. The temperament also changes. The female hormones she still has prevents her from becoming totally dominant like a true male. On the other hand, she has developed enough male hormones to recognize an aggressive intruder to her territory and she responds like a male. Years ago I separated a batch of African cichlids into males and females. There was always one female that "changed" and acted like a male. I spoke to the late Dr. George Barlow at that time and that is how he explained it to me.-Chuck>

African Cichlids Acting Strange (Pseudotropheus; social behaviour)   1/10/09 Hi first of all I would like to address that I am new with African Cichlids. <Hope you bought a book first! While wonderful fish, equal in colours and vivaciousness to anything on the marine side of the hobby, few species are "easy" and most are somewhere on the scale of "psychotic" so far as aggression goes. Very easy to end up with battered or dead fish!> I have a 29 Gal tank with 3 cichlids that I have just purchased a few day ago from a local fish store. One being a Red Zebra I believe ( Orange in color all over) and the other two which I'm not sure of both being blue with dark vertical stripes. <Very likely all colour varieties of Pseudotropheus zebra, or hybrids based largely on that species. Pseudotropheus zebra is a widely traded species, but fairly big and extremely aggressive. Despite its availability, it's actually one of the worst possible species to begin with. As a newcomer, I'd have recommended some of the smaller and/or less aggressive species first.> They are all about the same size ranging from 2.5"-3". <Will quickly grow, likely to around 10-15 cm/4-6 inches.> I have plenty of rock and plants for hiding, 2 air rocks, a undergravel filter, heater, temp gauge, and a Aquaclear filter system (supports 50 gal tank). <Do understand manufacturers rate their filters optimistically. Malawi cichlids require very strong water current, lots of oxygen, and absolutely perfect water quality. Your filter should be rated at a turnover of 6-10 times the volume of the tank per hour. So for a 30 gallon tank, the filter should be rated at 180-300 gallons per hour. Anything less is likely to result in poor conditions as the fish mature.> My water is kept at 77F, Nitrate is at 0, Nitrite is 0, it is hard, and the ph is at 8.2. my two blue fish keeping going up and down and up and down the edges of the tank. Is this Normal? <Under the circumstances, yes. They're terrified and likely being harassed by the territory holder. A single Pseudotropheus zebra male can easily dominate 55 gallon tank, let alone one as small as yours. This species simply has no business being kept in a tank this small. There's no workaround as such, though overstocking is often advocated as a solution. Yes, in overstocked tanks it is impossible for males to hold territories, so aggression levels diminish. But aggression doesn't go away completely, and overstocking assumes the tank is equipped with massive filtration (turnover 8-10 times the volume of the tank) and water changes are big and regular. Overstocked tanks are unstable and easily go wrong if you don't know what you're doing. I'd recommend returning all these fish since none belong in a tank this small. Instead, consider one of the dwarf Mbuna (such as Pseudotropheus saulosi) or else a relatively small, docile species like Labidochromis caeruleus. A single species group of, say, six specimens of either species named here would work in a tank your size, balancing aggression against water quality and space requirements. In fact in small tanks I usually recommend skipping Malawians altogether, and instead looking at some of the dwarf Tanganyikans such as Neolamprologus brichardi or even colonies of shell dwellers like Neolamprologus multifasciatus. Both the named species are widely traded and kept properly exhibit relatively little aggression. While Tanganyikans have a well-earned reputation for needing perfect water quality, I'd argue that is easily outweighed by their relatively easily managed social behaviour when compared to the admittedly hardier Malawians.> My other one just seems to stay in the caves I have made. They eat twice a day. Your help would be much appreciated. <Cheers, Neale.>

Question regarding cichlid behavior Angelfish and Cichlid Question 07/28/2008 I have two questions the first is about a angel fish I have had for about a year I was housing it in a 20 long with tetra a couple of cories and some other peaceful fish. The question is this recently it has done nothing but hid in the corners of the tank and lay on its side. The water quality is good AMMONIA =0 NITRATES =0 PH=7.4 NITRITE=0. I use CO2 on this system due to live plants a Marineland 100 hang on back power filter as well a Eheim canister filter rated for around 30 or so gallons. I would really like to make sure it is ok or if there is something that can be done for him also he still eats but not a lot. < Your angelfish may have an internal infection. It sounds like he is the dominant fish in the tank so no other fish are picking on him. I would recommend transferring him to a hospital tank and treating him with Metronidazole and see if he gets better.> The other question is this I have an African cichlid tank it is 37 gallons I was wondering if you know if cichlids can recognize the same fish if they attacked it previously. I took one out that was beat up, treated it in a hospital tank and when I put it back in the attacked it again and almost killed him or her again. <Cichlids are very smart and recognize colors and patterns. The fish that was beat up represents a threat to the meaner cichlid. The dominant fish does not like the other fish because it may look like another male and want to challenge him for territory or females.-Chuck>

Red Zebra acting strange Red Zebra Female Possibly Holding Eggs 6/1/08 I have a red zebra along with 6 other Lake Malawi cichlids in a 30 gallon tank. It is set up with limestone rock. For the past week my zebra has been acting like it is holding eggs (though I always thought it was a male because of its egg spots). It has refused to eat and has been keeping itself to the many holes in the rock. One day I was watching and I noticed a large bubble in its mouth and didn't notice any eggs. It has also been holding its head down towards the gravel and seems to struggle to swim down. I have been feeding all of my cichlids a strictly vegetarian floating pellet. Is this normal behavior for cichlids who may be holding? Is there something wrong? Any help would be greatly appreciated. < Eggs spots are not a reliable indicator of sex in Lake Malawi cichlids. You need to find out what is going on. I recommend that you catch this fish and pry her mouth open to see what is going on. Usually they are able to swim fine and even eat while holding eggs and fry. There may be something in her throat or else there may be damage to the mouth or pharyngeal bone.-Chuck>

Cichlid questions- Mbuna Growing At Different Rates 4/29/08 Hey there crew, A few months ago, I bought a 55 gallon tank, and in it live 5 Lake Malawi cichlids (I haven't definitively identified all of them yet, but for sure one is a bumblebee, one is a red zebra, one is a rusty cichlid, one looks *exactly* like the bumblebee but instead of gold with brown stripes, s/he is ice blue with black stripes, and finally one that's ice blue with black trim along his/her fins), a Pleco that's growing at what seems an impossible pace, and a Synodontis catfish (from what I can tell, it's of the Njasse/Malawi variety...its tail fin is spotted, not striped like the multipunctatus). They all live in relative harmony. I got the cichlids all at once, when they were about 1.5 inches. The bumblebee will chase the red zebra and the rusty cichlid from time to time, but never with much heart. I suspect it's because there are more than enough caves to go around, though I'm no expert. The Pleco sometimes shows a nipped tail fin, but on the whole seems alright. Some (the two bumblebee-looking ones in particular) have easily doubled in size, while the others are somewhere in the 2 inch range. I feed them a very varied diet (algae flakes; thawed frozen plankton; Spirulina-enriched brine shrimp; red bloodworms; something called "emerald entree" which is a mix of spinach, plankton, and other green looking yummies; cichlid gold baby pellets; and, whatever snails I manage to harvest from my guppy tank before I lose patience -- no worries about contaminants from the snails, they've lived their whole lives in that guppy tank). They eat twice a day, and I do a 10% water change weekly. I use a crushed coral substrate, cleaned river rocks plus various "ceramic" pots to form all sorts of caves and hiding spots, and artificial plants to create their biotope. The tank temp. is around 78 degrees, and I use a Marineland Penguin filter (designed for 90 gallon tanks, because I decided over-filtration never hurt anyone). Now that all of that is out of the way, I have two questions. The first is, how do I tell what gender my lovely fish are? Some have egg spots on their tails (developed since they came to live with me, for sure), but I've read that that's not dispositive on the matter. <Males usually have longer fins than the females. Without having both sexes to compare this may be difficult. Egg spots are not always a reliable indicator. One method of sexing cichlids is to vent them. The way this works is to take them out of the tank and observe their vent area, just before the anal fin. You will see two openings. In males the two openings are about the same size. In females one opening will be much larger than the other. You may be able to find some examples at Cichlid -Forum.com.> Second, why is it that they're all growing at such different rates? I thought it might be a gender issue, but the rusty cichlid definitely has egg spots, and s/he is one of the smaller ones. < Not all Mbuna get to be the same size. The bumblebee and zebra types are a couple of the larger ones. I have seen the bumblebee up to 8 inches long. The rest may get up to 4 inches over time.> Any insight? Nothing pressing...they seem to all be doing quite well, and I do try to rearrange their environment or add new caves every few weeks to keep them guessing, so all in all we're all content. Just curious. Thanks! Micah <The larger fish become more aggressive and get most of the food. As they establish a territory they get to eat the algae that grows in their territory. They get to eat when there is no other food around.-Chuck>

Aggressive mail red zebra 3/10/08 I bought a mail red zebra about 3 months ago. He is about 5in lng.I put him in my 3.5ft by 1ft by 1.5ft tank with a 4in yellow parrot,2 fire mouths, a Kribensis), and a 7in Plec. Now he is alone as he was very aggressive, the other fish i divided between my other 2 tanks. His tank is very clean and has 2 big caves and various plastic plants and is filtered by a Fluval 204.Any ideas what i could put with him? <Pseudotropheus zebra is an highly aggressive cichlid that can only be combined with other equally aggressive Mbuna. The tank you have him in is too small: as far as he's concerned, that's his territory, and he will eventually damage or kill any other fish that are unable to fight back. Pseudotropheus zebra should be maintained in a large (75 gallons+) aquarium, ideally overstocked with other Pseudotropheus zebra. Any book on Lake Malawi Cichlids will help here, and you will find many of them available. None of your existing fishes are acceptable tankmates, and nor is the aquarium you have. Hope that clarifies things. Cheers, Neale.>

African cichlids locking lips 3/6/08 Hi, <Ave!> I have three cichlids I believe that at least one is a female and possibly a Flowerhorn. <To me looks like a juvenile Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus, on the left) and some sort of Mbuna (Pseudotropheus sp., likely a hybrid, on the right). Bit difficult to tell from that photo. If my determinations are correct though, this combination is not going to work. For a start, an adult Oscar could eat a Pseudotropheus.> one of my other fish looked like he was kind of bloody in his mouth and he turned white (he is normally blue). I put him in a hospital tank because I figured he was stressed out about something and after three days in the little tank he got better. I put him in the main tank today and ever since he has been attached at the mouth to this Flowerhorn (see attachment). It looks like the inside of his mouth is rubbing off on her outside mouth. What is going on here? Am I going to have babies? <No, more likely dead fish. These fish are fighting, and the damage to the lips will become a route for secondary infections -- Finrot and Fungus. Treat with a combination Finrot/Fungus medication such as Maracyn or eSHa 2000. Because these two fish are quite clearly not the same species, they can't "talk" the same body language, and quite obviously their fights are very serious. They MUST be separated.> I have had my tank for about 6 months. Its 20 gallons now and I plan to get a larger one on the near future. <Whoa... Mbuna need tanks well over the 50 gallon mark if they aren't to go around killing one another. And they will. Oscars aren't normally aggressive, but they're big, and your tank is about one-fifth the size required for a single Oscar, let along one in a community setting!> I change a quarter of the water weekly and currently have no NO3, NO2 or NH3. I have the two fish in the picture along with a Pleco and blueberry marmalade cat I think its called (orange and white with purple splotches). <Hmm... At the moment I suspect you have a jumble of fish that can't live together for any length of time. Have you read any books before purchasing these fish? I'm slightly concerned that you aquarium shop might have "recommended" these fish and you didn't know better, because this really is a disaster waiting to happen. The Marmalade Cichlid is presumably Pseudotropheus zebra "Orange Blotch", an excellent but aggressive species that will eventually fight with the blue Pseudotropheus zebra you already have. Both need hard, alkaline water. The Plec is likely Pterygoplichthys sp., a catfish from South America that can, WILL get to 12-18"/30-45 cm in captivity, whether you'd like it to or not. And the Oscar, as mentioned, is another big BIG fish that gets to about the same size as the catfish, only it is round as well as long!> Thank You, Danielle <You're welcome, Neale.>
Re: African cichlids locking lips 3/6/08
I highly doubt I have an Oscar. <I agree; the new photos are a bit better. Still not obviously anything to me, but probably a Central American of some sort judging by the deep, laterally compressed body. Is that an eyespot at the base of the tail?> In fact the two pictured were bought from the same tank of assorted African cichlids (supposed to reach 4 or 5 in) from the pet store. <Ah, here's your first mistake. "Mixed African Cichlids" is how junk fish are sold to unsuspecting aquarists. These are likely hybrids and therefore impossible to identify. Worse, because they're hybrids you have ABSOLUTELY no idea how big they'll get, how aggressive they'll be or how much territory they will claim. Never, EVER buy cichlids from a tank labeled "MIXED".> The third one I bought from a local reputable fish store and I have attached a picture. <Hmm... if they were all that good, they'd not be selling "mixed" cichlids without clearly given Latin names!> The three have never been aggressive towards each other. <And Custer had never lost a battle. Yet. The problem with cichlids is most species are nice as pie when young, and only become hostile as they mature. Hence you plan ahead.> The one on the right of the previously sent picture I was told was an acei. <For the blue fish? Pseudotropheus acei is certainly possible. But let me make this crystal clear: virtually all the cichlids sold as "Mixed African Cichlids" are genetically very mixed indeed, and the Latin names that get applied to them should be taken with a tablespoon of salt. Seriously, this is one of the biggest problems in the hobby, and fishkeeping writers have been going on about it for yours. They're whistling in the wind frankly, because people mix these fish in their tanks all the time, and then offload the hybrid fry any which way they can. So while there's a small percentage chance you actually do have Pseudotropheus acei, the fact is that there are so many hybrid Pseudotropheus that are also blue with vertical bands it could honestly be anything.> No one really knew what the other was until I randomly found a picture online of almost the exact fish. It was on some Flowerhorn breeder site. I have attached a kind of blurry picture of him alone. <Certainly *could* be a juvenile Flowerhorn.> The lighting was very bad in the first picture I sent you since I took it from the side of a darker tank. <The reason I said "Oscar" was the round head, protruding jaws and goggly eyes.> The two fish weren't moving at all they just locking lips. <In the fishkeeping trade we call this fighting.> Now the two aren't near each other as usual and have retreated to their normal parts of the tank. <Fight over, for now.> All of these fish still have to be separated? <Oh gosh yes. And not a chance in hell of keeping them in a 20 gallon tank. Even a 20 gallon tank *each* isn't an option for the Flowerhorn and the Plec, and I'd personally not want to stick a couple of Mbuna in a 20 gallon tank either. Not unless I wanted dead fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: African cichlids locking lips 3/6/08 I think the third fish is an ob peacock. I remember the man at the store calling it a peacock now. <Aulonocara sp., several possible species, and in fact quite possibly a hybrid. In any case, gets to about 12-15 cm, moderately aggressive when mature (males more than females of course) and needs a mix of open water and hiding places. Primarily a zooplankton feeder. A nice fish.> How large of a tank do I need? <Difficult to say, but certainly not less than 55 US gallons given we don't know exactly what some of these fish are, and the Plec will certainly need a lot of space.> 100 gallons? <Even better!> Can I use tank dividers or will the fish somehow knock them down? <In a big enough tank with hiding places for everyone, tank dividers should not be necessary, and in any case yes, these cichlids could easily dig under them or jump over them. I'm not a fan of dividers anyway. Much better to collect species together than will coexist.> These fish will be happy alone, correct? <Or in a big enough tank. But your collection of fish isn't textbook stuff, and that makes it very difficult to predict. Mbuna and Aulonocara generally get along fine if they aren't overcrowded and the species chosen are compatible. Central Americans are aggressive, but not quite as aggressive as the worst of the Mbuna, so if you're unlucky, the Central American could get hammered. The Plec will be fine providing it has hiding places, but cichlids can still harm Plecs, e.g., by biting out their eyes.> I have treated the tank with an anti fungal/bacterial treatment. <Very good. I'd recommend against Melafix/Pimafix -- they're not terribly reliable.> <Cheers, Neale.>

"Fixing" my Cichlid Tank Malawi Cichlid Tank With Aggression Problems  10/26/07 I currently have two Zebras, three Yellow Labs , one Kenyi (small, and submissive), 1 Blue Hap, and an Upside Down Catfish. in a 29 gal tank. Realizing that the tank is too small, I'm considering moving them into a 55 gal. < Good idea.> Right now, the tank is very tense, and one zebra terrorizes all fish. There were actually more fish in there, but the problem zebra has reduced the numbers. I am considering moving everyone into a 55 gal. tank. I was also considering adding 5 more zebras, another Kenyi, and eventually 4 Yellow Lab fry, (now in a grow out tank), but they won't be ready for quite some time. The cichlid selection is not great at my LFS (only one in the area). So my choices are limited. I can get the zebras, Kenyis, Yellow Labs. (Also Auratus, Venustus, Convicts, and Jack Dempseys., which I'm assuming are not suitable). I'd like help with what species and what numbers I should add. I don't want to have a 55 gal problem tank!!! Also considered just using the cichlids that I have, and adding Tiger Barbs or Rainbows??? Can you make a suggestion, please? J Ken and Sharon J < Moving up to a 55 gallon tank is a very good idea. The zebra and Kenyi can get very big and are very aggressive. Considering what your local store is offering I would skip the convicts and Jack Dempseys. The Malawi cichlids have teeth, are heavily scaled and are too fast for the New World cichlids to defend themselves. I would recommend six of all the rest of the Malawi species. This will give you thirty fish in a 55 gallon tank. You need lots of rockwork and a couple inches of fine sand. Keep the water temp at 75-77 F. I recommend keeping these fish crowded to disperse the aggression from a single fish. This means a powerful filter that will turn the water over at least 5 tank volumes in an hour, and lots of water changes. As the fish get bigger you can remove some of the larger more aggressive males. In the end you will have about 20-24 fish that should get along fairly well. A very good book to consider would be "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings. There are 100's species of cichlids in Lake Malawi and this book may expose you to some of the other less aggressive species.-Chuck>

Yellow Lab or Humming Bird? African Cichlid beh.   10/26/07 Hi Neale, <Lisa,> Just a little behavioral trait I thought I'd share about my humming bird of a yellow lab Mbuna. "He" is really making me chuckle tonight. I am really intrigued by him - the book "Enjoying Cichlids" is definitely on my Christmas list. <Looks a fun book.> Tonight he was racing in and out of a small multi-opening tree trunk. He's dug a huge hole within the base of the trunk and frequently comes out spewing sand. He's built a sand pile about 2 1/2 inches tall outside the tree trunk. He is an absolute riot. Tonight he is flitting about - "kissing" the glass walls, spewing sand outside of his trunk and chasing nearby Mbuna throughout the length of the four foot tank. <Ah, he's doing some "aquascaping". It's what cichlids do. Mostly, it's to show off to the females and intimidate other males. To the females, it is a wasteful expenditure of energy. In Darwinian terms, that's a statement to the effect of "I have such good genes, I have this surplus energy I can waste doing stupid stuff". Since these fish are mouthbrooders, nest-building behaviour (which is presumably what this is derived from, relative to their ancestral cichlids) is pointless in itself. To other males, it's an honest advertisement of prowess, of good genes. You can't fake a huge pile of sand, so rival males can take this at face value and then decide whether or not to attempt to compete with the resident male. When teaching this sort of behaviour to students, I liken it to a man driving an expensive Italian sports car. No-one "needs" a sports car. By any practical standard, a sports car is pointless. It carries fewer people in less comfort than a regular car, it costs more to buy and it costs more to maintain. HOWEVER, what a sports car *does* do is advertise your wealth. It own one and put up with its expenses and limitations you must have a lot of wealth. You can't fake a sports car for this: everyone can immediately recognise a decrepit, broken down sports car. So potential mates will recognise your sports car as an honest symbol of your wealth (and by extension, your ability to out-compete rivals or provide resources for your potential offspring). So when you see a man driving an expensive car, he is doing exactly and precisely the same thing as a Mbuna cichlid building a pile of sand: ostentatiously showing off his ability to waste resources as a proxy for genetic fitness!> I imagine this behavior is a display of territoriality (?). He seems to go through periods of time when he is quiet and hidden and other times when he displays antics such as I described above. <No, the fish will express these behaviours even in a "vacuum", i.e., without seeing another member of its species. Indeed, it's advantageous to do so, because in the wild, the Labidochromis doesn't know when a potential mate will swim by, so he needs to be ready to impress her if she does.> This is normal behavior isn't it? <Yes.> I'd love to hear your insight. <Done! This is the reason people study cichlids. They show such a huge variety of social behaviours, and seemingly aren't fussed about humans watching them do those behaviours. Other animals are much more shy, or simply can't be handled in labs easily. If you read the fish behaviour literature, a vast proportion of it is based on cichlids, right back to work by people like Konrad Lorenz (if you get the chance, read his popular book, "King Solomon's Ring").> Hope you are well. <Yes indeed, and likewise you.> Lisa <Cheers, Neale>

Mbuna milk mustache? -- 10/18/07 Hi Neale, Quick question for you. One of my Mbuna has a perfectly symmetrical white triangle that has formed around his mouth and "chin." Unfortunately I don't have a digital camera and not able to send along a photo. The water quality is good (nitrites and ammonia - 0; nitrates below 20ppm; pH 8.0). Do you suppose this may be a fighting wound? I've never observed the Mbuna "mouth fighting." No other fish exhibit any fungus-looking attributes... Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you! Lisa. <Hmm... assuming that this isn't normal colouration (you never know with the more obscure Mbuna) then it could be simply dead skin following a fight. In which case, I'd personally use some mild antibacterial like Melafix just to be on the safe side. If things got worse, then Finrot medication would need to be used. Cichlids do indeed fight with their jaws, and what you describe is not uncommon. Presumably the teeth damage the skin. Anyway, keep an eye out for secondary infections, and if they occur, treat for Finrot. Good luck! Neale>
Re: Mbuna milk mustache?  10/19/07
Thanks Neale, shall I then move the injured fish to a separate tank to medicate? (sorry if this is an obvious question) Lisa <I'd treat it in the tank. If the problem is minor (which seems to be the case) you may as well avoid problems with stress and damage caused while capturing the fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Flashing in Mbunas 10/14/07 Hi Neale, <Lisa,> I was just reading through the website. I noticed many Mbuna owners spoke of their fish "flashing." In just about all accounts, the crew attributed this to a high nitrate or ammonia problem. <Or whitespot, or any number of other things that irritate the gills. Like dropsy, flashing is a symptom rather than a specific disease or syndrome. Think of it as a heads-up that not all is well i your aquarium.> I've noticed some of the Mbuna flashing however the nitrates are steady at 10-20 ppm, ammonia and nitrite levels are 0. I assumed their flashing was due to quirky Mbuna behavior. <It can be. Flashing as a mating behaviour is where the cichlid zooms in front of another, either as a threat or to display itself to a potential mate. Flashing as a result of disease or irritation is where the fish zooms against a rock or some sand, to scratch itself deliberately. In the wild, this behaviour presumably dislodges external parasites, and the fish is doing this in response to a similar stimulus, i.e., irritation.> The only water chemistry challenge I have is increasing the carbonate hardness (I'm adding cichlid salts to partial water changes as you recommended). I religiously change 25% of the water every other week and take a full set of readings every weekend (nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, pH, kH). <Very good. I'd personally do more water changes, at least 25% per week, but if your water quality is good, it's no big deal. But as a reminder to others reading this: the great advantage of buying fish that *prefer* your local water chemistry is you can do big, regular water changes without the expense of modifying the new water each time beyond adding dechlorinator.> Should I be concerned about the flashing Neale - it is not too frequent however I do notice the fish doing it from time to time. <Look to see what they're doing. If they're just darting about, then it's not a problem and likely behavioural. If they're scratching against objects (something fish otherwise avoid, for fear of damaging their scales and mucous coat) then you may have a problem.> Also regarding water chemistry - in both my livebearers and goldfish tanks (i.e. guppies, Plecos, Corys, variegated platys, tetras) despite incorporating crushed coral into the canister filters, the kH will not increase beyond 4 or 5 however the pH has gone up to 7.8-8.0. <I'd leave things be for now. While on the low side for guppies and goldfish, it's fine for tetras and cats. The main thing is that the crushed coral will inhibit any pH crashes. The pH will stay alkaline and probably very steadily around the 7.8-8.0 mark regardless of what happens.> Is there a buffer I can use that will slightly increase the hardness of the water without making the pH exceedingly alkaline? <Don't worry about it for now. Over the long term, see how your fish do. What I'd expect to see is that all the fish are happy, and the pH doesn't change much at all, implying the water chemistry is nice and stable. At the end of the day that's the important thing. At some point, it's a case of diminishing returns.> Looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you so much. Lisa. <Cheers, Neale>

Yellow Lab or Humming Bird? Mbuna beh.  8/29/07 Hi Neale, what do you make of this (not urgent)? <Hello Lisa.> My fiance and I have been observing "Bruiser" our Yellow Lab Mbuna this evening. Dennis is tasked with feeding the Mbuna Spirulina flakes when he arrives home from work. He assures me he did not "spike" the flakes. !! <OK.> The Yellow Lab is most frequently shy and "owns" an ornament in the tank that resembles a tree trunk. I realize he has staked this out as his territory. He is very coy and doesn't leave his nest often except to eat a couple times a day (I feed 3x per day) and shows himself by way of sticking his "face" out from one of the holes (this is his Linda Blair imitation as it appears as if he is floating horizontally). <Fairly normal Mbuna behaviour. Mbuna tend to stay close to rocks in the wild, feeding on them when it's safe, and diving into their holes when it's not. For whatever reason, your Yellow Lab doesn't feel safe.> Tonight he is racing back and forth across the back width of the 48" tank. Every now and then he flutters up to the front like a humming bird. This is very unusual behavior for this guy. He is not concerned with the other fish in terms of aggression. I found this info while conducting research on springerlink.com - a journal article referencing ecology and breeding behavior of cichlid fish - "...they return at dusk. The few males that remain on the arena switch their behavior from courting to foraging on zooplankton. Comparisons of this fish arena are made with bird leks and it is concluded that the mating system of this fish can be defined as a lek in the avian sense." <Indeed. This is one reason cichlids are so widely studied in labs: they perform bird-like behaviours while using up far less space.> I recently moved 11 Mbuna from a very crowded 30 gallon tank to the 55. Could the extra room, filtration and aeration suddenly escalated him through "fish adolescence?" :) All the cichlids in my tank are "one of a kind" except for a couple of red zebras. And since I'm quite a novice at "venting," I have no idea which out of the crowd is male or female. If he is indeed looking to mate and he has none, what happens next? What happens when fish are ready to spawn/breed and there's no option? <Nothing much happens. Mbuna have a set hierarchy in terms of behaviour and aggression. Yellow Labs are below Zebras, and if the Labs get pushy, the Zebras will put them in their place. I suspect this may be part of the reason why your Lab has been a bit reticent; they don't mix terribly well with Zebras. Provided you have enough space in the tank, the fish will all simply do their thing.> I am fascinated by this fishkeeping hobby and simply cannot get enough. <Hee! Keep reading and learning!> p.s. the nitrate level in the community tank has come down to 10ppm! I will follow your instructions and thank you! <Good-o. Well, hope this helps, Neale>

Care of suspected zebra cichlid, Blue Cichlid Problems 8/28/07 Hey there.. this is going to be a long one :) We used to have a lot of fish when I was growing up, guppies, mollies, gouramis and a lone goldfish, I think, but we gave them away eventually, along with our tank. I recently decided to get the aquarium going again and now have a small tank installed with smooth glass pebbles at the bottom and a couple of shells at each end serving as hiding spots. There is an aquarium shop close by, and since they didn't stock guppies, I asked about a tiny blue fish I spotted in one of the tanks along with Angels. The shop guy told me it was a 'Blue Mafe' (sic) and spelled the name out for me. He said that the only problem with the fish was that it would attack any other species of fish in the tank and should only be kept with its own kind. I went home and looked up 'Mafe' on Google and Wikipedia, but after a few days of searching I am now convinced that he actually meant "Blue Morph". I am fairly certain now that it's a cichlid, given its body shape and aggressiveness. The fish is just less than an inch long and a pale blue in colour, with dark vertical stripes that sometimes disappear entirely. (for reference, I found this picture that looks very much like it, except that the fins aren't yellowish like they appear here, they're white with iridescent blue http://badmanstropicalfish.com/mb_pictures/Pseudotropheus_zebra.jpg ) When I went back to the shop they gave me the one I pointed out as well as another just like it that was in the molly tank, and I was assured that the size of tank that I had should be sufficient for them, however on the day I brought the pair home, one eventually died in a few hours, I am guessing from the stress, since it was constantly bullied by the other one and not allowed into the lower levels of the tank. I found it lying at the bottom of the tank finally, so I took it out and changed the water. The other one seems to feel secure under its shells, where it darts the moment there is any sudden movement in the room. It was a bit disheartening to have one of the fish die, so I read up some more about cichlids and learn that they ought to be kept in groups as opposed to very small numbers in order to tone down the aggression. After my experience with these fish I also believe that I need a much larger tank even for these tiny fish, though I think they're supposed to grow to a few inches in length. However I doubt I will be able to get a bigger tank for a few weeks since an impending house-shift has been suddenly preponed. I would like your advice on whether I ought to return this fish to the aquarium and get new ones when we shift, or if I can maintain Morph in the temporary tank for a few weeks more, and what I can do to make it more comfortable where it is in the meanwhile. The tank I have right now will probably hold only half a gallon of water. I know this looks ridiculously tiny compared to the advised tank-sizes I've seen on the net, but so far there doesn't seem to be an oxygen deficiency problem (have had it a few days) since the tank is fairly shallow, as well as that I'm recycling about 1/3 of the water every couple of days. Is this too often? How do I make out if it's getting stressed? Also, will he/she get too lonely if kept alone for a while? (like I said, a few weeks before we're settled in) The tank bottom has a lot of different sized smooth glass pebbles and the two shells I mentioned, which the fish seems particularly to like. Should I put a few more large pebbles to provide cover, since Morph seems to be a bit timid all of a sudden, though if I sit motionless for about five minutes he/she comes out and gets very agitated, going up, down and side to side very rapidly along the tank wall and I get the impression it's probably trying to chase me off :P Also, as far as I can make out, it hasn't eaten any of the food pellets I put in. I finally removed them from the surface since I didn't want them decomposing. I tried powdering one of the pellets and sprinkling some (when Morph wasn't running for cover) but spat it out after sampling a bit. What does it eat?? I don't really want to keep the morph if I can't take care of it for the next few weeks, but if it is possible to keep it reasonably comfortable for a short while, given the current tank, I would like to do so, and would appreciate your advice. I'd also like to know.. what do the colour changes mean? Does the appearance of the stripes mean it's relaxed or stressed? And.. how do I tell if it's a he or a she? I don't see any egg spots but would they appear as the fish grows up? Thank you so much for reading through this. -Archana < It sounds like you have an Mbuna species from Lake Malawi. There are over a thousand species with geographic variants to add to the confusion. These fish are fast aggressive cichlids that feed on algae off the rocks. They like hard alkaline water. These fish are very territorial. In the wild the bigger the territory the more algae is available for them to feed on. Fish communicate by changing their color patterns and by displaying their fins. Bright bold colors with erect fins usually mean aggressive behaviour. A dull fish with clamped fins is trying to hide and not be seen. I would advise that you turn the fish back in and wait until you are set up for what ever fish you really want to get. If you do decide on cichlids then I would recommend a book by Ad Konings called "Enjoying Cichlid". It is a great book an covers most of the types you will find in stores.-Chuck>

African Cichlid Aggression   4/2/07 Hello! I've searched the web and your site for a possible explanation to this problem and can't seem to find an answer -- Maybe you guys can help. My African Cichlid shakes (shivers) and then charges and chases the other Cichlids in the tank. He's eating (if not stealing all the food -- I have to try to individually feed the other fish when he's on the other side of the tank), and I don't think it's a mating dance as my other fish are 'scared' of him. They are hiding and trying to stay away from him. I've tried changing the water, changing the décor in the tank in case it's a territorial thing and our fish guy told us to try to 'over-populate' the tank to keep aggression down, but that doesn't seem to have worked either'¦ The tank isn't new and we've had him for a few weeks now '¦ Any ideas? Thanks! Jade <Some species of Lake Malawi cichlids are very aggressive and will not change their habits no mater what you do. You need to realize that in the wild being aggressive is a very good thing. The more aggressive you are means the bigger territory you get to keep. A bigger territory means more food and a better chance to attract a female and mate. This is not a very good trait for an aquarium fish. Some fish take over an entire aquarium. Overcrowding the tank and rearranging the territories does work with some species. Sometimes you get a species or an individual that is hell bent on spawning and can be nothing but trouble. I would try to lower the water temp to 75 F and bring him out of his spawning mode. This may help a little, but depending on the species you may have to replace him.-Chuck>

Red Peacock Cichlid Hides In Cave  - 03/20/07   I have a beautiful Rubescens Peacock that I cannot figure out whether he may be ill or just acting differently than the other fish in my aquarium.  He is around 4 inches, he eats well, and has no visible signs of disease, But He spends 85% of his time hiding in the lowest cave in my rock pile.  He only seems to come out when it is time to eat. He has not attempted to breed with his harem of females that are in the tank with him.  At first I thought it may be bloat, but his feces is normal and he is still eating.  He has not lost any of his spunk when he does come out.  I was worried that maybe he was being bullied but he is by far the largest in the tank, other than the females I purchased with him in a group there is no one else near his size, most of the rest are not even showing color.  All of my water parameters are perfect, the nitrates usually run around 25ppm, but with them being so close I tend not to worry about it because that reading is normally the day before my regular water change.  Is it possible this is just his nature to be more shy and secluded?  Any help would be appreciated.  Thank You. < Peacock cichlids from Lake Malawi are normally found in caves in the wild. They cannot compete with other more aggressive cichlids so stay in caves or come out at night.-Chuck>

Blue peacock ? -- 03/18/07 Hi, I have a blue peacock cichlid, (so am told) he has a yellow stripe on the top, he is turning black (but then on another day doesn't look so black) I have been searching for information on this and have not been able to find anything, I was told that they can do that when they get mad is that true and if it is could this be a health issue? Thanks, Meg <Possibly... Search the Net, Library under the term "Aulonocara"... much written, available. Bob Fenner>

African Cichlid Is lethargic  2/28/07 Hi, we have a new African cichlid we bought 3 days ago. I'm not sure his genus yet, but he's metallic blue with longer fins and a long white stripe on his dorsal fin. He is about 4-5 inches. We have a 100gal set up with many rocks and about 7 other 4inch Af. Cichlids and 1 six inch pleco who doesn't do much. Anyway, yesterday we noticed 1 tiny baby fry peeking out from under a rock and a finally realized a mama fish was being protective of the area. The new fish hasn't seemed to settle in. We have 5 males and 1 or 2 females. H know today is very lethargic, floating sideways at top on sitting on bottom. His metallic blue is now simply dark blue. His flee reflex is very slow. He seems to be looking for somewhere to hang out on the bottom too, but the protective mama keeps nudging him away. So after research I'm thinking he has flagellae parasites, or something else. It doesn't seem to be swim bladder because no one else has it, and his abdomen is not distended and he is more lethargic than anything. My question is, do we treat with methylene blue or any other antibiotic , will the new baby fish survive the treatment? < Try Metronidazole and treat as per the directions on the package, the baby fish will be fine.-Chuck>> Secondly, were afraid to clean the bottom gravel, due to the new fish fry. Also we just cleaned it a week 1/2 ago, with a 40% water change. The nitrates are a tad high :10-20ppm.. the nitrite is: 0, the high range pH test value is : 8.0- 8.1 Arrgghhh, we really like this fish, but he is our second of his same kind that were having problems with, ( the last one abandoned ship oddly) Can u help? thanks so much. at and jack

Growth Rate For A Nimbochromis fuscotaeniatus   1/28/07 Hey Chuck, I wanted to ask you a question.  I just purchased a Nimbochromis fuscotaeniatus and was wondering how fast this fish grows. I couldn't find anything on the growth rate anywhere on the internet including this site.  I have a 75gal tank and I want to make him grow as quick as I can.  So, is this a slow growing cichlid like some of the mbuna and other haps, or is does it grow faster?  Thanks again Jason < Mbuna are usually found over rocks eating algae. Algae has very little protein in it so they grow rather slowly. Your fish is a fish eater. With a high protein diet, clean water and a water temp of around 80 F, you could have him full size(8-12") in about a year. Females are usually smaller than males. Ammonia , nitrites and nitrates restrict fish growth. The lower the waste levels in the water faster your fish will grow. Sounds like lots of water changes.-Chuck>

Malawi Cichlid beh., sys. Questions   1/23/07 Thanks again Chuck.  Do you think it would help prevent color loss in male African cichlids if I increased the amount of fish and/or overstocked my tank? <Almost all the cichlids on Lake Malawi are mouthbrooders. This usually means that the males will be brightly colored and need to establish a territory to breed. Dominant males look their best guarding their territories. As some fish grow and get stronger, others will get older and weaker and lose their territories. If you jam the tank with fish the males will always have some color, but they will never look as good as when they are breeding.>  I chose not to go the male/female route and as you told me before it all depends on water quality, dominance, food type/variety etc.  I notice that the pics and videos I look at over the internet of Malawi tanks (super-male) that are more heavily stocked, don't have loss of coloring.  Will their colors come back/improve if there are more fish in the tank to take the focus off of just a few fish? <The pictures on the internet are usually of dominant or breeding  males defending a territory. Their may be other fish in the tank but he is the most dominant one in the tank.> One more thing, what do the colors consist of with this CaribSea "Rift Lake Authentic" substrate? < Kind of a medium grey-brown color.> Thanks again for your help Chuck, I really don't know what I would've done without your knowledge/input.  Sometimes books just aren't as good as the feedback from someone with personal experience. Jason    < If you are really into Malawi Cichlids then you may want to check out the American Cichlid Association at cichlid.org. Their national convention will be in Sacramento Cal in mid July. Check it out and thank you for your kind words.-Chuck>

Cichlids Not Coloring Up   12/31/06 Hey Chuck, you always answer my questions and I greatly appreciate  it!  To be honest man, I'm getting real frustrated with cichlids.  I  refuse to spend money on dull females and having all males really doesn't do any  good.  I made sure I purchased males of all different species so I wouldn't  have a problem with color loss.  Well, that didn't work AT ALL!  Seems  as though all of my big cichlids (mostly peacocks) keep their color.  The  smaller haps and Mbuna on the other hand, all lost theirs.  I'm not sure if  it's a size thing or what but all my smaller fish lost their color.   What do you recommend I do regarding this color problem?  I can't keep  dishing out money for beautifully colored fish to soon find out that their going  to lose it in my tank.  I think I have asked you this before but never  received a clear enough response for me to understand.  Please tell me the  little hints and/or any tips you possibly can regarding avoidance of colors in  an "all male" African tank?  Thanks again Chuck Have a safe and Happy New Year!!! < Thanks for your kind words. Only dominate fish color up. Peacocks typically are not very aggressive towards each other so the color thing is not as big a deal as with the Mbuna or the Haps. Many Mbuna and Haps do not color up until they are full grown. Small BB zebra types usually don't get much color at all until they get close to three inches. Some Haps get up to 6 inches. These usually don't color up until they get close to that size. Keep the basics in mind. Hard alkaline clean water around 77 F is best. I use a combination of Spectrum Pellets from New Life, and some home made fish food from a pea/shrimp recipe in "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings. Recently I have been trying out some Can-O-Shrimp from ZooMed and have had really good luck with it. Genetics plays a key role. Many Fish bred in captivity are not selected for color. I buy my fish from breeders, only after I have seen the adults. Where you buy your fish is as important as how they are kept. Not all fish are equal. I can be more specific once I know the species you have.-Chuck>

Af. Cichlid Beh., Sel.   12/28/06 Hello Bob, me again..........Jason.  Hope the holidays were good for  you! <Thus far...> I have a question regarding the sex of a blue dolphin African cichlid.  I've read through the forums and all over the internet and the  literature says it's very hard to distinguish between male and female. <Mmm, Cyrtocara moorii is best sexed... by allowing a mix of individuals to "sort themselves out" in a large setting> I  have a blue dolphin that is rather aggressive against my other peacocks and  Mbuna, he/she chases constantly. <Not atypical beh.>   The anal fins are more rounded (but not  incredibly short) and the color is a nice sky blue. <Could/can describe either sex when small, perhaps in poor condition...> He/she is only  under 3.5" therefore there is no apparent hump on the head.  Between the  aggression and the light, yet vivid sky blue color, do you think this is a  male? <Possibly... but not able to tell decidedly here>   I am trying to create an "all male" African tank to avoid breeding  and dull coloring. <Mmm... where's that Chuck Rambo?! This can be an unrealistic goal... that is, your fishes will not show their "best" color, behavior w/o the presence of females... and may still be overly agonistic>   I think I might run into some trouble if this is the  ONLY female in the tank. Thanks again Happy New Year!!! <Again... I would keep a close eye on all your stock... for signs of too-overt aggression here... and remove the most damaging individual/s as these problems evidence themselves. Bob Fenner>

Coloring up African Cichlids in Captivity   11/26/07 Hi, what can I do to enable the color to come back on my African  cichlids?   <Mmm... a few direct things... species compatibility, numbers of genders selected, providing suitable water quality, frequent partial water changes, good nutrition> I purposely only purchased one cichlid in each genus so I  wouldn't run into this problem. <Mmm, this won't do it>   But it seems a lot of my cichlids are  losing color in my 80gal tank.  I thought only cichlids in the same genus  lose their color?  Any pointers? Thanks, Josie <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/afrcichlids.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: What can I do to enable the color to come back on my African  cichlids?   11/27/06 Ok, thanks Bob but I am doing everything you recommended.  The only  thing left is that I have smaller cichlids mixed with a few large cichlids,  could that be the problem? <Mmm, no... not generally> Also, am I better off with dark colored substrate? <Yes, by and large> I see in the forums that crushed coral is recommended for  cichlids and obviously I purchased the Florida (white).  Which is better to  show off the true colors of the fish, dark or light? <Something in-between... "natural gravel", that will get you both a boost in alkaline reserve, and less-bleaching light effect>   Some FAQ's say white  some say dark. Thanks <A "toss up" twixt chemical/physical improvement in water quality (and its beneficial effects) and less reflectivity, washing out effect on the appearance... Bob Fenner>

Cichlids Slowing Down At Higher temps.   11/24/06 Hey thanks Chuck.  Also, I tried the salt and high temp recommended by  you in the forums.  Do the Africans get less active when the temp is high  and the full dose of rock salt (2 tblspn per five gallons) is put into the  tank?   They were swimming all over, now they're sorta just staying put, not  much movement. Thanks < At high temps the water is not able to carry as much oxygen. Oxygen levels may be low so increase the aeration. Check the ammonia levels if the water smells are gets cloudy. The bacteria may be dying that do the biological filtration due to lack of oxygen too.

Dominant Cichlid Colorations  11/21/06 Hi Chuck.  I was reading the forums on your website and read that the Labidochromis Sp. Mbama was a good choice to go with other peacocks and  haps.  I just purchased him today and since I put him in, he is a totally  different color than he was in the store.  He was dark black with light  blue stripes.  Now he is completely light blue with no black at all.   I have him under a 50/50 actinic/daylight bulb.  Are these his true colors  now, or will he get the dark black bars and vivid colors back?  I also  purchased a Haplochromis zebra and I can barely see his black striping.  Is  this a stress issue or is this there permanent colors in the new tank with my  other fish? Best regards < Many cichlids are sexually dimorphic. This means the females look different then the males. In an aquarium one male will become dominant and pick on any other male that shows any other dominant colors. This is usually the best colored one and the one that is purchased at the store. If you go back to the store and look in the same tank you will now see another male has colored up and taken the place of the fish you just bought. Your fish is now in a new situation and has not yet established his place in the pecking order so takes on a submissive coloration. When your fish become dominant or get into a fight their dominant colors will return if they are healthy. This is a real problem for aquarists that buy Featherfins from Lake Tanganyika. Sometimes they only color up when breeding. The rest of the time they are a silvery fish with no color.-Chuck>

Malawian Cichlid Tank Fish Scratching 10/10/06 Hello.  I have a Malawian African cichlid tank and I noticed that they  are all scratching against the glass/rocks and breathing kind of fast.   They have no visible spots or white coating.  Could this just be  gill parasites and not Ich or Velvet?  Preferably I would like to use  a medication that will only stain the sealant in the corners and not every bit  of my decor.  Unfortunately I do not have the option to QT and move these  fish.  I need to do this in the tank.  What would you recommend?   I followed the forums and I increased the temperature to around 85 degrees and I  did a water change.  Which medication should I purchase? Thanks a lot, Jeff   <Check the nitrates and get them under 20 ppm. Change 50% of the water vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Add a tablespoon of rock salt per 10 gallons of water. The best cure for these protozoans are a combination of Malachite Green and Formalin. Clout works well on this too. You could try Formalin alone while increasing the water temp to 82 F and keeping up on the salt while doing your water changes.-Chuck>

ELECTRIC YELLOW CICHLID BEHAVIOR   10/1/06 I have a male electric yellow cichlid who is about 2 years old.  He lives all by himself in a 20-gallon tank -- he likes this life-style for he will kill whatever fish I  put in there for company.  For the past 5 days, he has been "hiding" out in his house. <Do this at times> He does come out to feed.  He has also been speeding all around the tank, smashing into things (doesn't appear to be hurting himself), breathing heavily, and then retreats back into his house.  He developed black horizontal stripes on his body and his face looked "unshaven". <Mmmm>   I tested his water for ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, Ph, etc. and his levels are fine.  I just did a partial water change and he appears to be "settling" down, his color appears to be changing back to normal including his "beard" that's disappearing, his breathing is normal.  This fish (his name is Coy) is normally a very playful fish and very social -- if I lightly tap on the glass, he will come to the glass and start talking to me.  When he wants to play, he hides behind this bush and waits until I tap on the glass and then he comes speeding over and we'll repeat this play for hours until I put him to bed by shutting off his light.  But this week, Coy just was not himself. Can you, please, tell me what could possibly be wrong, if anything, with Coy?   Thank U. <Maybe "just a phase"... could be nutritionally linked... environmental... You give no data re either... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/afcichdisfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> Debbie Harmon

New Zebra Cichlids Fading  9/27/06 Hello crew!  I'm very confused.  I have a 20 gallon tank that is fairly new (although fully cycled).  It contains one very small pleco and two blue zebra cichlids that I put in little over a week ago.  They are also very small.  I got them from Petsmart, which didn't thrill me, but it appeared to be the only option in my area.  For the first week they all did great.  The pleco still seems fine, but the two zebras took a nose dive about three days ago.  Here's what I've noticed in them: Zebra 1:  Abruptly stopped eating and is producing long, stringy white feces.  It became lethargic, lost color, has lost a pectoral fin and generally looks horrible - dull, ragged looking fins.  It was hiding a lot and going through periodic bouts of erratic swimming, mostly against the tank wall.  This morning it was still alive but doing nothing more than lying on the bottom on its side.   Zebra 2:  Also stopped eating, lost some color but looks way better than the first one, is more active than the first one but also seems lethargic and prone to hiding.  This one has developed a white, cottony-looking funk around its mouth.   This all occurred over about three days.  I've done quite a bit of reading on your site and based on the variety of symptoms (and my inexperience) I can't determine if they are suffering from the same problem, different/multiple problems or if I should treat, not treat, change water or what. Some stats and other info - I've been obsessively testing the water and pH is consistent at 8.4, ammonia and nitrite have stayed at 0 and nitrates have stayed at 20 ppm.  I noticed yesterday that the brand new heater had stopped working.  The light was on, but it wasn't heating. The tank temperature dropped to about 74, and I was able to slowly raise it to 78 with a small water change and a heating pad on low taped to the outside of the glass!  I'll be getting a new heater today.  I don't know how to proceed here - I keep reading about medications being toxic. Should I do more water changes even though my ammonia/nitrite/nitrate levels are good?  I'm also worried that all the "doing" will just stress them more and make things worse.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!  Tara < You Zebra cichlids are from Lake Malawi in Africa. They prefer hard alkaline water in the mid to upper 70's. They eat algae in nature. Many commercial tropical fish foods are too rich and high in protein for many Malawi cichlids. The food rots in their gut and causes bloat and then other diseases follow soon after. Do a 50% water change , vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Treat with Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. Check for ammonia spikes because these medications will probably affect the good bacteria that breaks down the fish waste.-Chuck>

Parasites, or just getting ready to breed? Labidochromis dis., beh.   7/28/06 Hello, <Hi there> Before I launch my question at you, I just wanted to say thanks for all the help that you guys provide; your site has been invaluable to   me as a beginning fishkeeper! <Welcome> For the past few days, my male yellow lab has been showing off for my two females (vibrating, chasing, typical boorish male behavior), <Heee! Typical for lacustrine African Cichlids in general> and this evening, I noticed that one female's breeding tube is visible.    At first, I thought that they were going to spawn soon, but a little while later, I noticed a little white string coming from her vent.    Now I know that white feces are a sign of parasites, <Mmm, not always, necessarily> and I have some Jungle Parasite Clear on hand, so should I treat the tank now, or wait and see?   <For me, the latter> The fish is eating and behaving normally, and I am reluctant to medicate if it's not necessary... <You are wise here> and to make matters worse, I won't be at home very much for the next week or so and don't want any huge problems to pop up while I am not around to take care of them!  I would really appreciate any input you could provide. Kate <I'd hold off for now... Bob Fenner>
Re: Parasites, or just getting ready to breed? Labidochromis dis., beh.   7/29/06
Thanks for the quick reply, Bob.  Just an update: the female is pooing normally now, so I think everything will be ok. <Yay! Me too... not pooing, but agreeing all will likely be okay> I came home from work today, just in time to see the female lay an egg... which the male promptly ate.  Not quite the response I had hoped for, but it's only their first time spawning... nobody's perfect! Kate <"Practice makes perfect"... Bob Fenner>

Please Advise: African Cichlid dis., beh....   7/22/06 Greetings from Wisconsin! <Howdy from HI> I would like to thank everyone at Wet Web for having such a great site dedicated to helping this hobby and for educating all of us! I have researched your web site and others and still feel that I have not found the answer to my situation though. I have a 90 gallon freshwater set up with 1 red empress, 1 hap ali, 1 Lemon Jake, a Mbuna Peacock, 1 blue peacock, and a mbamba.  The tank is planted with 5 Amazon swords and plastic plants with many caves and formations and 200 watts of compact fluorescence that run for 10 hours per day.  I keep the temp at 78F and run a 35 watt UV Sterilizer at all times. I am running a Fluval FX5 with a Marineland TidePool wet/dry. My ammonia is 0mg/l, nitrite is < 0.3mg|\l, <Should be zip> ph 8.5, and a general hardness of 8.5. Yesterday my Mbamba started gasping for air and was not eating.  He is swimming around the tank but hangs out in the corner mostly.   <Could be the nitrite... whatever its cause is> He comes to the surface with interest in eating but does not feed.  I am worried that he may have an internal parasite of some sort.  No other fish have these symptoms and his color looks fine.  I feed them a diet of spectrum pellets but the other night I put some left over krill that I was feeding my fire eel <Not compatible with these cichlids. Hopefully not in the same tank> and he was one of the fish that ate some.  Any suggestion on the cause and treatment.   Thank you in advance! Michael J. Bukosky <Mmm, suggest moving the one apparently mal-affected fish to separate quarters... for close observation, time to rest up... May be just being psychologically "harassed" by the other African Cichlids. You need to fix your biological filtration pronto, and in the meanwhile be very careful re feeding... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/afcichdisfaq2.htm and the linked files above, particularly on Disease and Behavior. Bob Fenner>
Re: Please Advise: African Cichlid dis., beh....  - 08/15/06
Thank you for the response Mr. Fenner. This e-mail was sent a while ago and the Red Empress is still not eating. I have re-read your response and believed all my water parameters were acceptable. In the prior e-mail I stated that my nitrite is < 0.3mg|\l and you stated it should be zip. My mistake, it is zip! <Mmm, sorry re... as in zero, nada, not measurable?> A dumb typo on my behalf.  I meant nitrate. <Oh... a few ppm of NO3 is not problematical> With this in mind does your helpful advice change? <Well... I would still be doing water changes...> The Red Empress has not been eating for 3 weeks or so.  He appears healthy and swims around and to the side of the tank when I come near. <Appears healthy? It must be eating something when you're not looking...> He goes to the food and takes it in and then spits it out.  I feed him Spectrum pellets and Aquatrol Spirulina flakes. <Good products> I know he could be eating algae in the tank like they do in the wild but I have never noticed this behavior with him. He is the dominant fish in the tank so I believe he is not being beat up. I am unsure what to do at this point. Any more advice would be appreciated. <I would try adding/soaking the pelleted food (Spectrum) in a vitamin/appetite enhancing product ahead of offering...> By the way.................  The fire eel mentioned in the last e-mail is in his own 150 gallon Rubbermaid tub and has been there for 2 years.  My basement is filled with these tubs and many wonderful aquatic friends! <Man! Wish we had a basement (they're scarce as hen's teeth in S. Cal. due to earthquakes. Bob Fenner>

African Cichlids Losing Color  6/20/06 Hello, I was searching the internet on information on African Cichlids and I came across your page which seems to have a lot of information! I recently bought some  and they are set up in my tank. I have two bright all yellow cichlids and a black and light blue stripped one. I then bought a bright orange one. (forgive me I do not know their proper names.) They are all the same size. The orange one has been in the tank for about 3 days now and seems to be doing fine with the other cichlids. One problem I can't figure out though. The orange one has seemed to loose alot of its color?! I cant seem to understand why and was wondering if you had any reasonable explanation. <Much of the color in fish reflects the diet that they are being fed. Certain colors like red can be brought up and intensified using foods high in beta carotene. Daphnia, brine shrimp, krill, and some pellet foods like Spectrum do a great job on bring out the red coloration.> Also the blue one, which I assume is the male has dug a little cave under the driftwood. Is this to impress the females? < Two reasons. Males establish  territories for gathering food and to attract a mate.> I do not know how to tell the females and males apart. But I assume that the one doing the digging is the male. Is that correct? < You probably have different species, although they will interbreed.> I am new to the African Cichlid Aquarium. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated!!!!Please email me back with any information you have. Thank you, Nicole < A great book to check out would be "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings. Lots of great photos with important info on keeping almost any kind of cichlid.-Chuck>

Cichlid Question/Poor Grammar   6/8/06 For the past 2 days my orange African cichlid has been making a nest almost my cichlid is a he and I'm not sure if the males make the nest or not. he stopped but I haven't fed him since this morning so he is probably tired. the nest is pretty long ( about 6 inches in a ten gallon). if I got him a female and a divider would the female lay eggs, or because she's new she wouldn't feel safe or something? he has new tank mates, they are not the type of cichlid he would live with naturally because the water is supposed to have a different PH. is he nervous or something? does he want to breed? sometimes other fish swim in the nest and near it, would he only be aggressive if there were eggs in there? thanks <With the lack of proper punctuation and grammar your question(s) are very difficult to understand. So I can you a simple overview about cichlids from Lake Malawi. These cichlids are territorial and do so by defending an area. Many times the area is defined by a pit in the substrate. Males are the usual one but females may dig pits to in the absence of males in the tank. A female that is ready to breed will be allowed in a male's territory in an attempt to breed with her. If she is not ready or unwilling then she is chased away or killed by the male. All other fish are kept out of the territory. You are going to have to learn to write and express yourself if you ever need specific answers to specific questions. You don't have to be perfect but you do need to be close to be properly understood.-Chuck>
Cichlid Question/Better But Not Perfect Grammar   6/9/06
OK I've fixed the last message. < Thank you very much.> For the past two days my orange African cichlid has been making, something like a nest. My cichlid is a male and I'm not sure if the males make the nest or the females do. < Most of the time it is the male. Females may dig a nest if there is no male present.> He stops every once in a while but he probably gets tired. The nest is pretty big ( about 6 inches long in a ten gallon). If I got him a female and a divider would the female lay eggs or, because she is new, she wouldn't feel safe and not lay eggs? <In a 10 gallon tank the male's territory would take up the entire tank and she would have no place to hide. Most likely she would be beat up and killed in no time at all. Many cichlid keepers do use a divider method in which the female is on one side and the male is on the other. It turns out that most of the eggs get fertilized without any threat to the female. The divider needs to designed so that they can see each other and the water current should go from the males side to the females side. Many times these dividers are home made out of light fixture panels.> to go if he has new tank mates, these cichlids are supposed to have a different PH then him (oops). Is he nervous or something because maybe they wouldn't meet in the wild? Does he want to breed? Or is it just instinct? Sometimes other fish swim in the nest and near it, would he only be aggressive if there were eggs in there? Thanks < Can't understand the questions. Need clarification.-Chuck> Veronica
Malawi Cichlid Questions? Writing Getting Better   6/9/06
I hope you can ignore that last message because I sent it when i wasn't ready. So let me fix that. So my cichlid isn't abnormal, that's good. I'm sure he isn't the only male. I have 7 cichlids (oops to overcrowding, hoping to get bigger tank), and no one in the tank is aggressive, maybe chasing but that's it. I thought dividers always looked that way, and what's a light fixture panel? <In industrial buildings with flat florescent lighting there are 2 foot by 4 foot panels that diffuse the light from these fixtures down to the floor below. They look light a white egg crate material. Go to the lighting section of your home improvement store an you may see what I mean.> Also, would he breed with a different, um, not orange cichlid? The only one I can really explain is the cichlid that has the pattern of a figure eight puffer almost, those two are so cute. <Malawi cichlids may interbreed with other cichlids. In the aquarium most of these fish will freely interbreed with each other depending on which fish is dominant.> OK let me try to rephrase these. Since nest making is normal for him I'm going to assume he's not nervous. < No he is fine.> Does he want to breed or is it just natural for him to want to make a nest? < Setting up a territory and wanting to spawn is normal.> Sometimes the other fish swim near and hover, I guess, over the nest. He isn't aggressive towards them, should he be? < If they look like a threat he will chase them away.> Or would he only be aggressive if there were eggs? < He really doesn't care about the eggs. He only cares about spawning.> But then you said something about his territory, would he mark his territory if there was no reason (no eggs)? <The territory is in preparation of spawning and nothing to do with eggs until the spawning act actually takes place.> I just don't understand why he isn't aggressive towards these other fish.  I hope I rephrased them better, I know what I want to say but I don't know how to word it properly <If they look like a threat then he will chased after them. If they look like a female that may spawn then he will leave them alone.-Chuck>
Re: Malawi Cichlid Nest   6/9/06
Thanks, I hear him moving gravel every night, when will he be done making his nest? < As long as he is in good shape and wanting to spawn , he will be looking for a mate and will continue with the nest. He may slow down but he will never be done.> He started Tuesday or Wednesday. The guy at the store I got my new fish at told me how to identify male and female, he talked about egg spots and a hump on the males forehead. With these new fish I can't see any egg spots and I know they're to young to have a hump if they're a male. How can I identify the dominant female if I can't see any egg spots? To me it looks like all the fish but him are females. <The egg spots on the anal fin are not reliable indicators of sex determination for these fish. The dominant female will be the first one he spawns with.-Chuck>
Re: Malawi Cichlid Building a Nest (Bower)   6/9/06
So at one point there could be something like a canyon, made by him, in my fish tank. Is it certain that some female in the tank will lay eggs, because I really don't know what to do with them after they hatch. What would he do if I filled in the nest? < Dig it back out.> Would he make another one? < AS soon as you put the top back on the tank he would start digging another one.> What would he do when I get them a bigger tank? < Continue to build a new nest or bower. This is really the correct term since no eggs actually stay in a bower.> I just have so many questions, and I'm glad you can answer them. < We will try.-Chuck>

Electric Blue Cichlid with Black Mouth  6/3/06 Hello I have an electric blue that we got about a month ago. He has been doing really good until my husband put a Pacu in there when I told him not to. The Pacu was given to him by a friend and I don't know where it has been. It has been in our take now for about 2 days and I noticed that my electric blue has black blotches around it's mouth. They aren't little spots really unless there is a lot of them and they look like a blotch b/c they are all clumped together. My fish seems to be fine expect I noticed that it is like digging on the bottom of my tank moving the rocks all off the bottom?? Do possibly know what is wrong with my blue and what I need to do!! I find him shrimp pellets, could this be causing the black stuff?? If you would like to see pictures please let me know. Thank you and I will be awaiting your reply! Christie < Your cichlid now has a companion and is setting up boundaries by placing piles of gravel around the tank to delineate where his territory starts and stops. The darkened areas around the mouth are probably from the gravel being too coarse and injuring his mouth. Try changing to a smaller/finer substrate.-Chuck>

Cichlids floating vertically - need your help!   6/2/06 Hello, Our office has 15 Cichlids in a 55 gallon tank. Two of the fish are floating vertically, with their head up and have been doing so for several days. However, when we feed them, they eat and swim normally. It does appear they are being picked on - they have chunks missing from their fins. <Sounds like submissive behavior... other fishes beating them up, their signaling that they "give"> The service that cleans the tank says they are probably dying and we might just want to flush them but we have trouble doing that when we don't even know what is wrong. It is sad to watch them "float" and we don't want them to suffer. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you! <I would move these servile fishes, but you need to carefully observe the others, remove the bully, bullies as well. Bob Fenner>

Lake Malawi Cichlid Mayhem   5/25/06 I'll lay out my question and then give some background details.    I have read your site extensively and am following the advice "it's  hard to give too much information".   Here's my question:  Why would a pair of Pseudotropheus yellowfins  suddenly both turn up with nasty wounds on their backs and mouths and  die in the same night when they had (seemingly) gotten along well with  all tankmates for months? I am a 6-month aquarist novice.  I have a 65 gallon cichlid tank  with a male and female (carrying fry) Pseudotropheus Kenyi, male and  female pseudo. albino red zebras, male Melanochromis johanni, male  melano. auratus, female yellow Labidochromis (just got done carrying  fry), a Pleco and a Synodontis multipunctatus.  The male yellow  lab got beat up and is in our 12 gallon hospital tank now.  There  are four pseudo. yellowfin fry growing up (they're about 1/2" long now)  in the adult tank.  Their parents are the source of my  question.     We used to have one male and two female pseudo. yellowfins (they're a  dark purple-gray color with bright yellow top and tail fins). < Sounds like Ps. aurora.> Six  weeks ago one female yellowfin disappeared and we never any sign of her  again.  Weeks of peace and harmony went by.  The remaining  pair of yellowfins did well, and their fry are scattered in safe  crevices of the main tank.  We resigned yourself to the notion that  when I had the tank lid open for several hours to catch the male yellow  lab on the sly and put him in the hospital tank, the female yellowfin  must have jumped out and gotten eaten by our dog or something (we were  at a loss for any other explanation of the instant and total  disappearance of a 2.5" long fish). < Could have easily died and been eaten by the Pleco.> Thinking all was now well, we  decided to buy the last fish we wanted:  a female johanni and  another female Kenyi.  My husband did the shopping ten days ago  and came home with a female Kenyi and a "female johanni".  The  moment I saw the "female johanni" my husband bought, I knew it was  actually a male Melanochromis of some other sort -- turns out it's an  auratus (good grief, if the cichlid expert is out for the day, don't  take the word of just anybody at the pet store!!). <Big difference between a yellow female johanni and a black and yellow auratus.> He's doing  great as the smallest non-fry fish in the tank, but the female Kenyi  died the night she got home from the pet store.  She had no  visible wounds upon her death.  Seven days went by without  incident, but two days ago I came home to find both our adult  yellowfins, one female and one male, with nasty wounds around their  mouths and what looked like one huge, circular wound right on top of  their back.  Both fish had the same kind of wound on the back  which spanned approximately 1/3 the length of their bodies and was  semicircular upon side view.  They both died that night.   When I (heartbroken) took their bodies to the "cichlid expert" at our  pet store, his opinion was that the male auratus, only a resident for  one week, was the primary suspect for such aggression.  The other  fish experts at the store offered two contradictory opinions:  one  said that since the male yellowfin normally shares a large synthetic  log with the Synodontis, perhaps the female yellowfin tried to move in  to spawn and the Synodontis aggressively kicked them both out.   The third theory was that we have some sort of bacterial infection  (this was espoused in part by the fact that the other fish hadn't been  as aggressive to feed that morning and the night before).  Ammonia  and nitrites are 0 and pH is 7.8.  (We'll be adding crushed coral  to the gravel during our next cleaning to help keep the pH a little  higher). Temp is 78 degrees F.  We bought the medication the store  recommended (PimaFix) but did not administer it yet because that  evening the fish ate voraciously again and we saw no other afflicted  fish.  The only other thing out of the ordinary now is one very  cloudy eye on the female albino zebra.  The male albino has been  excavating gravel, so perhaps she received a mating injury, but that's  just a guess.  Can you help me understand what might have so  suddenly killed my pair of parent yellowfins?  I'll admit I get  very emotional about our fish and this incident has made me question  whether I will be able to remain a cichlid keeper for long.  If  there's an eminent danger lurking in our tank, I want to know and  remedy it!! Sincerely, Kristy, Raleigh, NC < There are basically only a couple of things that really are a problem with Lake Malawi cichlids. One is aggression. Usually you see weaker fish being chased by more dominant fish and the tails of the loser are being slowly bitten off. These fish do have teeth and can do some damage but it is usually not overnight. It happens most often after a few days. Now a fish that is being aggressively chased can attempt to jump out of the tank and kill itself by striking the glass top and knocking itself out. This may explain the mouth damage that you observed. The second reason is internal infections. Your fish really need an all vegetarian diet. Fish that are fed too much protein have problems with internal blockages. These blockages feed the bacteria and protozoa in the gut and they start to fed on the food and not the fish. the microorganism grow and distend the belly area. The fish stops eating and usually hangs out in the corner until it dies. Other fish can eat the carcass of the dead fish and this can cause others to bloat up and die. The distressed fish is usually pretty well colored and is the prettiest , and easiest fish to catch at the store. This may explain the female Kenyi's death. The marks on the back are done by the Pleco eating the bodies of the dead fish.-Chuck>

Kenyi Changing Color  - 05/22/2006 Greetings from Nashville to the WWM Crew, I have a 75 gallon FW setup with 4 Kenyi and 3 hap. borleyi.  My question is about the kenyi's.  Several months ago, when purchasing, I chose what I thought to be 1 male and 3 females breeding purposes.  Just recently I noticed 1 of the fish that I thought was a female changing colors (more yellow than blue), so I assumed that it was a male and was getting its color late. Yesterday, I noticed it going through the mating process with the male (yellow) and seems to be carrying (not eating, etc).  My questions: Is this change in color normal for Kenyi when the females are ready to breed or do you have any other suggestions for me as to the color change?  Any info would help. I have successfully bred blue johani and red zebras, but am new to breeding Kenyi, so any help would be appreciated. Thanks. JHM <  Many Lake Malawi cichlids are usually sexually dimorphic but there are occasional females that take on male coloration. Normally it is the other way around. A male tries to look like a female for as long as he can so he will not get beat up by the dominant male.-Chuck>

Re: Hair Algae Keeps Reappearing on Java Fern Even After Bleach Dips - Has it Mutated the Plants? & Af. Cichlid Beh.   5/17/06 Bob, <Cindy> I cleaned the 2nd infected tank last night and I think you are right about Cyanobacteria being part of the culprit. <This is almost assuredly the case... can be confirmed through microscopic examination...> I had a couple of lace rocks in the tank. They had what appeared to be a reddish brown gunk, which upon closer examination was actually dark blue green, interspersed with the hair algae. <Color is not a sure indication... but "sliminess" can be telling> I've had Cyano outbreaks before and always removed the lace rock and soaked it in 3:1 bleach solution, followed by dechlorination and an hour or so boil on the stove. (Isn't it usually men who get in trouble for this? <Heeeeeeee! Watch that/this...>   In my house I'm the one who gets in trouble because part of the house looks like a lab and I'm the one who sneaks in new aquariums like some women do clothes!!!) <Mmm, I have a theory that folks/individuals are not entirely all fe/male... but a waving mix... Even that "real" people retain their child-like qualities of wonder, open-ness... I like it!> After reading your articles about how minerals in rocks feed Cyano I've decided to remove all rock from my tanks. Now the challenge will be finding suitable alternatives for Cichlid hiding places for 4 tanks - in one tank my largest Cichlid is a 6" Deep Water Hap (Placidochromis Electra) and the smallest is a 4" Lab (Labidochromis Caeruleus).  The others have cichlids from 2.5" - 4.5" Got any ideas? <All sorts... better to treat the whole tank, even all tanks at once if you're going the antibiotic chemical algicide route. Necessary to whack all the BGA to prevent, slow-down its recurrence> Cindy P.S.  Bob, I talked to you a few weeks ago and mentioned I was getting ready to introduce a young Astatotilapia latifasciata male into a tank with a large female of the same species.  She was alone at the time so I was worried she'd be extra territorial.  The male is all colored up, but only 1/6 her size. I set up a tank divider and moved him in with her.  I left the room for only a moment to find he had jumped the divider.  He was in her cave with her, no less!  She tolerated it, but I was nervous so I moved him back over and lowered the water level.  A few days later I found him with her again so I kept an eye on them and decided it was safe to remove the divider.  She still gets irritated and chases him, especially at feeding time, but it's obvious she's accepted him. This wasn't the first time a fish has jumped a divider on me. <Happens> A few months earlier I introduced 2 young Female Aulonocara Rubescens to a full grown male.  Same thing happened, I left the room only to come back and find one of the females with the male. I moved her back and the next morning I found her with him again!  Those two are still inseparable to this day.  She staked off turf right next to his cave and lip locked the other female whenever she approached.  For a while it appeared the male was going to be monogamous with her (I know, highly unlikely, but he showed no interest in the 2nd female and would chase her away, as well).  In fact, the 2nd female recently chased him for days until her ovipositor was bulging before she got him interested (either that or she laid sterile eggs) and finally began mouth brooding.  Not certain what happened here, she must have aborted because she began eating a week later. <First goes are often rough...> The first female is holding her 2nd brood (I have her 1st fry in a tank and they are 7 wks old). <Neat!> I sure hope you do decide write a book on freshwater husbandry.  I'd buy it in a heartbeat! <Am constantly adding to this work... and have good friends who are also building such... perhaps you will join us. Bob Fenner>

Strange Tunneling Cichlid Hello, This might be the strangest question you ever get. My cichlid, I believe it's a Pseudotropheus socolofi Cichlid.  Maybe? It's the one that looks the most like the one I have. The question is about his behavior. He hides all the time now. He use to swim around and play with the others. Now he just moves the rocks around to build up his hiding spots. It's neat, but he never use to do that. What's going on? Darrel King Sorry about the stupid question. I'm just starting out. < Your Lake Malawi cichlid is growing up and setting up a territory. The pits outline his turf and he will guard this area from other fish unless it is a breeding female.-Chuck>

African Cichlids That Change Color  - 04/11/2006 Just wondering.  Mine has gone from a light blue to a ruddy green.  Is this normal? < Depending on the species, many cichlids from Lake Malawi change color from a juvenile or female coloration to a male coloration.-Chuck>

Aggressive African Cichlids  3/20/06 Hey guys, I have a 55 gallon tank with 6 cichlids in it. I am not sure what kind they all are, but when I got them at the fish store they were labeled small African cichlids. 3 are orange, one is an electric yellow I believe, and 2 are   purple with black horizontal bands. One of the orange ones is larger than the other fish, and chases the rest of them around. One of the orange fish he chewed up pretty bad, almost his whole tail was bitten off, so he's in a hospital tank  for now. My question is, is there a way to keep the large one from being so  territorial all the time? The other fish just hide in the fake plants on one  side of the tank all the time, unless I am feeding them. I read that dither fish can be used to get the fish to come out from hiding, but will it work if  the larger cichlid is the culprit? I appreciate any help you can give me! Dave < Move the rocks around and lower the water temp to 75 F. Adding dither fish like giant danios or rainbows will help spread out some of the aggression.-Chuck>

Aggressive Neolamprologus brichardi   2/22/06 Thanks for all your help. I got 4 Brichardi a week ago. Two days ago we noticed three were ganging up on one and we looked closer and saw that the tail fin is partly gone (instead of looking like a crescent moon it is straight.)  It was also swimming straight up and gulping at the top. I separated it (still inside the tank but inside a bag that is partially mesh). It stopped going at the top and is swimming. I saw it eat today. I added some stress coat. I did a partial water change. It looks like its fins are shredded at the ends. Now I notice that all the fish have what looks like little white specks on them. What can I do? Thanks, Audrey <Sounds like a pair or trio has formed and the odd fish has been kicked out. Do not try to reintroduce the abused fish as it will only get beat up again until it is killed or it jumps out. The remaining group will probably spawn in a harem fashion. You can leave the fry in with the adults until they get about an inch. Raise the water temp to 82 F and increase the aeration in case you have ich.-Chuck>

Fish scratching not Ich  - 02/20/06   Hi    I have over a dozen Mbuna cichlids. About three or four weeks ago I noticed a P. demasoni flashing [scratching itself on the gravel]. I could find no sign of parasites on it or any of the other fish. I did a water change and treated the tank with Jungle Parasite Guard. <I encourage you to be conservative re the use of such "medicines"... almost all have their dire downsides... they're toxic to degrees> The fish still scratched itself. <Some such scratching is "normal", to be expected> The tank was treated again with Jungle Parasite Guard after a 50% water change. Still no change. Then I noticed another fish start to flash. I did a another 50% water change after treatment and waited several days. <... do you have water quality test kits? What are they telling you?> The two fish still scratched themselves on the gravel. I then treated the tank with Maracide as per instructions and after no change did it again to no avail. During this time I searched the internet for possible ideas. I thought they might have Ich on their gills and it was not showing up on their bodies, <No, not likely> I also thought of gill flukes. Now several of the fish scratch themselves. All fish eat normally and their colours are normal. They all look healthy but scratch. <... do this>    Any suggestions you might have would be appreciated. The fish are now in a 125 gallon tank with about 300 pounds or rock and plants so trying to catch them would be nearly impossible so the tank would have to be treated. The temperature is about 78 degrees Fahrenheit. By the way I did put some antibiotics in in case it was a bacterial problem but the next day put the fish into the 125 gallon tank. Ammonia is zero and nitrite is less than .1. Thank you for any help.   Brian <Nitrite should be zero, undetectable... Nitrates should be under twenty... I suspect if anything is "off" here it is a lack of complete ready biological cycling... I would add more bio-filtration. Bob Fenner>

Re: Fish scratching not Ich  - 02/20/06 Hi again    Sorry I forgot to mention in my last email that as I have a Synodontis catfish in the tank with about 160 dollars worth of plants I believe I cannot use Clout or Coppersafe. <Great to find you can keep plants with your Africans... and you don't want to become or remain a user of such "med.s"> I may be mistaken though. Also I put Cycle in the tank and Filstar 3 filter all the time. <Need more than this filter> A 25% water change is done while vacuuming the gravel every week. <I would only vacuum half the tanks bottom any given week... alternate left/right> Fresh water from our Sandpoint is replaced at the same temperature. Should I try erythamacin [sp?] <No> again but leave it in the tank for the required amount of time? I worry about the catfish whenever I use medication even though I read the instructions. Also i did not want to use any medication that will harm the plants or stain the silicone in the tank. Again thanks so much.   Brian <... Read my friend... and don't be so ready to treat your fishes, or yourself by "buying" things. Bob Fenner>

Cichlid(s)Causing Problems   2/13/06 Hi, I have a peacock cichlid store name). He has a blue face with yellow and black stripes and red fins all of them are red). Anyways, he has within the last 2 days been very vibrantly colored. Usually his black markings are more grey and lately (seemingly constant) he has been very bright and vibrant. We have no females in the tank but that seems to be fine when we are home there is absolutely very little aggression in the tank. Hardly ever do the males lock jaws or chase each other. <You said you have a male peacock. Who is he locking jaws with?> (plus on a side note we also have tiger barbs and Bala sharks in the same tank now for the last 4 months and have not lost a single one to the cichlids). < Cichlids? What other cichlids are in the tank?> On a side note my tanks water has become very cloudy. I have done a water test and all the levels seem to be in the ok ranges. < You should have zero ammonia and nitrites. The nitrates should be under 25 ppm. OK means nothing.> We changed the filter and have done water changes the water has been cloudy since just after the peacock has become bright. Any clue as to what this is and if the peacock is re-establishing dominance in the tank? < Dominance over who? It would simply just chase the other fish away.> Any idea as to how long he will take to be satisfied he is dominant? < Dominant cichlids stay dominant until something pushes them aside> There is no cloudy tuff or spots on any of the fish. Yesterday the peacock was jittery he would stop in one spot kind of shimmy his whole body and then he would swim off and today all the fish were at the top of the tank seeming to gasp for air. We have another air filter that we put in the tank besides the main tank filter and now they seem to be ok any clue? < I think that the peacock cichlid killed another fish and the body is stuck in a rock somewhere polluting the tank with high ammonia levels.> We have had the tank and all the fish for roughly 5 months with no problems whatsoever. We also just recently put some plants in( the plants were Cabomba). The store said it would be ok for cichlids and most other fish and also said that we could give the fish fresh vegetables or fruit. Any idea on which would be best other that peas? Thanks so much. < Pull all the rocks and ornaments out of the tank. Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Feed you fish once a day and only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes once each day. Get a food with Spirulina in it instead of wasting your money on plants that will get torn up and clog your filter. You letter was very difficult to understand because of the lack of punctuation and Grammar. If you want you questions answered in the future you will need to review you questions with proper punctuation or they will be deleted.-Chuck> <<Just returned. RMF>>

Mean Jewel Fish   1/30/06 Hello, I have a 55 gallon tank with 2 yellow labs, 2 clown loaches, a golden nugget pleco, a red jewel, and I just introduced a second blue jewel about a week ago. They are all pretty close in size, about 2.5 maybe 3 inches. Everything seemed to go smoothly until the new blue jewel became extremely aggressive, to the point that he has killed the clown loaches, damaged the fins on 2 of the yellow labs, and really did a number on the red jewel, bad enough that  I had to put it in a quarantine tank to recover. So that brings me to my 2 part question. # 1; How should I deal with the blue jewel being that aggressive, is that normal? < Fish from the genus Hemichromis are very aggressive as a group. Some more than others. Your description of the events sounds normal for a jewel cichlid.> 2; The red jewel looks real bad, with bite marks and really beat up and frayed fins. What is the best treatment to remedy that problem? < Keep the water clean and use Bio-Coat by Marineland. Add a teaspoon of rock salt per 5 gallons of water. If you see any infection of fungus then treat the tank with Nitrofurazone.> Any info is greatly appreciated, Thank you. And lastly, Really great Website! < Thanks for you kind words.-Chuck>

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Will Not Eat  12/2/05 Hi guys. I am writing because on Friday I got a Blue Dolphin and he has not been eating. We have tried everything. Shrimp pellets, Cichlid flakes, blood worms, Tubifex, and floating pellets. Nothing worked. So decided better go to the LFS to see what they were feeding. The were feeding frozen Cichlid delight. So we purchased that. He swims around and seems to be normal otherwise. He is in a 55 gallon with a small Frontosa and Blood parrot, which we got at the same time. Nitrates .5 ppm and Nitrites zero, ammonia low can remember exact reading but low. One thing I did notice he was doing was like a rapid mouth stretch. But he has absolutely shown no interest in food. I am afraid that he is going to die if he doesn't eat soon. Please any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Lori <These fish are actually sand sifters in the wild. If you see him picking up mouthfuls of sand then he is actually eating. If the fish is actually not picking at the food then it may have an internal bacterial infection and needs to be treated with Metronidazole.-Chuck> 

Fish Hides Too Much, Can't Train for Dissertation!  12/1/05 Hi I'm a little worried about my Cyrtocara moorii (I think that's how you spell it!).  <<It is, and color me surprised, as the last time I kept one of these guys they were called Haplochromis moorii (if I recollect correctly)!  Great fish (but then, I love African cichlids).  Marina>> I have a 3' tank with a Fluval 4 internal filter. I put him in there about 6 months ago, he's doing well. He's around 5 - 6". Recently I put another moorii in there - bear in mind that this one is only about an inch long. He's hiding under the filter, he was behind some rocks too (but I've moved them to the back wall and added some more to them) He was just sitting there and spitting gravel. Now I've moved the rocks out of the way, he's just sitting under the filter (sulking - well that's how it seems to me). The major problem is that I have to train him for my dissertation! And he just doesn't come out - well he does sometimes but as soon as he sees me  move he goes back under the filter. Prior to me putting the smaller one in there he was out all the time, seemed really happy. Any ideas why? Thanks Lyndsey < The new little fish has spooked the big fish into a flight response. While the bigger fish was accustomed to being out, the littler fish wasn't too sure. You can make them feel more comfortable with the use of dither fish like rainbows. The constant activity of the schooling fish should get them out and about.-Chuck>

African cichlids, Please help? 10/17/05 I have a 55 gal aquarium and 10 cichlids, a Pleco and a bottom feeder. First how many can I have in the tank? <Depends on the type/species... one Boulengerochromis would be too many...> Also some of them are rubbing in thing as to be itching. They look fine. But one of my electric yellows is like staying in one spot like swimming in place. <Do rub somewhat, even when healthy... and the one fish may be being bullied... hopefully you have plenty of hiding places for all> I go to the tank and he acts normal but then goes back to the corner and sort of hovers there. I put salt in the tank and I have been treating with Aquari-sol in case of a parasite. should I be to worried or is it in there character rub against stuff ? Laura <Mmm, not necessarily. Have you a good-sized public library nearby? Go and look for the small African Cichlid books by Paul Loiselle... and read them. Bob Fenner> 

African Cichlid Aggression Hi, I have 4 African cichlids. Two of the fish keep grabbing on to each others mouth. What does that mean?  One of the fish is getting his face chewed up. One is yellow and the other is more red underneath and a little bigger. He is the one that is getting killed. Please help me. Frank < African cichlids are very territorial. In the wild, these fish from Lake Malawi get their food from scraping algae off of rocks. The bigger their territory the more food they have. Unfortunately in the aquarium these teeth used to scrape the algae off of the rocks can do a great deal of damage on the other fish. When you see them going head to head they are fighting for territory. I would remove the wounded fish to a hospital tank and get him healed up. Before you put him back in I reduce the water temp to 75 degrees F and move all the rocks around to new locations so they have to find new territories.-Chuck>

Electric Yellow labido (libido?) Cichlid Acting Strange Hi, I have an electric yellow that always hid out in a barrel, he was not sociable at all. Just the other day I added 2 red zebra cichlids to my tank I also have 4 zebra tilapias. Being a beginner I rearranged the tank to make the introduction easier for the fish and break up any territories. Since adding the new fish, my yellow stands upright head up in the corner and sometimes appears to be slightly on his side I have researched this and find a lot of material on head stands but nothing on the opposite can you help? All of the other fish seem fine. Please help! < Your electric yellow is out of territories with nowhere else to go. The new fish have displaced the electric yellow. I would add more rocks or pipes to create new territories or add more fish so the aggression levels are more spread out to other fish.-Chuck> 

African Cichlid Problems I recently bought 2 cichlids, one is a Labidochromis caeruleus and the other is either the Melanochromis johannii or cyaneorhabdos (not sure which and the store didn't know).  It is a 5 gallon tank, which I now know is probably too small for them.  The Melanochromis is going after the Labidochromis, not too aggressively but enough to cause the yellow one to sit most of the time hiding in the plants.  He still comes out every now and then and is eating, but is starting to get dark rings around him and his face is looking dirty.  The pH level is 7.6, and the temperature is usually between 76-77 degrees.  I saw on this website that his "dirty" look might be caused by stress from the other fish picking on him? < Fish that are being picked on rarely color up.> I've only had them 2 weeks, is it too soon to move them up to a larger tank before they've gotten used to this one? <Over time the Melanochromis will kill the Labidochromis if things don't change.> I don't want to cause them additional stress.  If it's ok to move them, should I move the yellow one first so he can get comfortable and establish his own space and then move the blue one in, or will that matter?  I'm very happy with them, they are so much fun to watch (to the point I'm ignoring work I should be doing!) so I don't want to loose either one. Thanks! Christine < You fish will get up to three to four inches. They do best in a big tank with lots of rocks. They do need to be very crowded to disperse the aggression so lots of filtration and water changes are needed. They do best on a vegetarian diet. I would recommend that you get different fish that do better in a smaller tank until you are ready to move up to a bigger set up designed for African cichlids.-Chuck>

Aggressive Cichlids Hey what's up it's Miles. I am just wondering. which is the most aggressive African cichlid species, the ones in Malawi, Victoria, or Tanganyika?  <<Editor's note: Miles, please, use proper capitalization.>> < All three lake have cichlids with attitude problems because they are cichlids and are territorial. Overall I would probably say the ones from Lake Malawi, especially the Mbuna. They all eat algae so they need to defend a rock to allow the algae to grow on it so they will have something to eat. If they don't chase the other fish away then they will lose their source of food.-Chuck> 

Malawi Cichlids Hi I have about 24 assorted Malawi cichlids and about 4 loaches ( Had a snail prob ) For about a day now, quite a few of them have been swimming near the surface ( Looks like they are trying get some fresh air, lol ) Any idea why as they have not done it b4 ?? < Check the filter and make sure it is clean and running properly. Do a 30% water change. Check the water quality. Ammonia should be zero. Nitrites should be zero. Nitrates should be below 25 ppm. Check the pH it should be around 7.5. Check the water temp, it should be around 78 degrees F. Don't feed for a few days  until they start acting normal again.-Chuck> Thanks all An electric yellow gets dark It has been sometime since I have queried, which is a good thing because it means everything has been good in all my tanks. However, I now have a situation which causes me to wander. My bright electric yellow, who I have had for close to two years now, is no longer bright. He has taken on a rather dirty appearance; his face has grown dark as have the bands around his body. Otherwise, he seems healthy, as do his tankmates. I am wondering if this is a natural part of his aging or if I should be worried. Also, if Chuck is out there, I am happy to report that, about a month or so ago, my green terror suddenly started eating in the old manner. His growth had seemingly stopped, but he has gotten noticeably larger since returning to his strike and gobble routine. Bill ***Hey Bill, There are several things that come to mind. Water conditions - what are the params? Diet - What are you feeding him? He should be fed a diet of high quality cichlid preparations, as well as a fair amount of protein. Origin - is this an F1? F20? The further away you get from a wild caught fish, the more chromatically challenged they become, and sometimes it's not apparent right away. This particular species is a big problem in this department. They are easy to breed, and easy to sell so many hobbyists breed them without regard to the quality of fish they're producing. Dominance - is he being picked on? Stress will cause color shifts in fish. Genetics - he might just be genetically predisposed to this. Jim***

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