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FAQs on Malawi Cichlid Systems

Related Articles: Malawian Cichlids: The Mbuna and their Allies By Neale Monks, Stocking Lake Malawi Community Tanks by Mary Bailey, Malawi Peacocks, The Genus Aulonocara by Mary Bailey, Tanganyikan Cichlid Systems, African Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes


Related FAQs: African Cichlid Disease 1, Cichlid Disease, Cichlid Disease 2, Cichlid Disease 3, African Cichlids in General, African Cichlid Identification, African Cichlid Selection, African Cichlid Behavior, African Cichlid Compatibility, African Cichlid Systems, African Cichlid Feeding, African Cichlid Reproduction, Cichlids of the WorldCichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,


About to give up; Mbuna stkg., beh., disease f's        4/4/20
Hi there,
It was suggested that I forward you guys a post I put up on cichlid-forum.com today, in hopes you may offer some advice. Here it is. Thank you.
Hey guys, new here. Been keeping fish for about 20 years and am so frustrated the last year or so I’m about to abandon ship. I’ll try to give the full story. About a year and a half ago I had a thriving 75 gallon Mbuna setup. Beautiful tank with happy fish. Then, I got the bright idea to upgrade to a 125 gallon and have had problems ever since.
<Oh dear.>
During the move about a year and a half ago, a couple of the fish got stressed obviously but all made it until one came down with what I believed to be columnaris or fin/mouth rot.
<I am glad you've made the connection between stress and disease. What I'd further throw into the mix is social behaviour. Mbuna operate best when overstocked. That's because no one fish can actually secure a territory, and paradoxical as it might seem, the fish are more aggressive when they hold a territory than when they're trying to claim a territory. Net result, overstocking doesn't stop aggression, but it does dial it back. In the wild, the fish live in huge numbers and have the space for weaker fish to be pushed out into less desirable areas where aggression is less. For sure those fish won't be able to breed, but they aren't outright killed. In captivity, the weaker fish can't do that. Anyway, if your fish had been overstocked in 75 gallons, and you switched them to a new, bigger tank, two things would happen. First, all the territories would be disrupted, so they'd all be struggling to claim a patch. Secondly, with more space, it's easier for more aggressive individuals to claim and hold a territory. Their aggression would go up a notch now, because they'd switch from "house hunting" to "actively attracting a mate", and that means they'd be even more aggressive than before. At least, this is how I understand it!>
It quickly spread and I vigorously tried everything to cure my beloved Mbuna. After a long battle and numerous antibiotics and treatments, the majority died and the few remaining were horribly sick and I euthanized them. At that time I took down the entire tank and cleaned everything and drained it completely. It all sat in my garage completely empty in -30 degree weather as I live in Minnesota.
<Well, that should deal with any parasites, but bacteria are well able to go dormant through such cold, especially if dry.>
Now, a year and a half later I just set up the 125 gallon again and performed a fishless cycle using Dr. Tim’s ammonia. Cycled in about a month, and conditions were pristine. Nice hard water, ph around 8.5, no ammonia or nitrites obviously and very low nitrates. Temp is a steady 77 degrees. I introduced 20 Mbunas from <vendor name removed> on Tuesday this week. They all appeared healthy but took cover as expected. None would eat or come out and now it is day 3 and same story. However, upon closer inspection tonight it appears that several of the fish have symptoms of the columnaris or fin rot yet again. Could it be that the crap survived on my rock or tank walls with no water in sub zero temps for over a year?
<Bacteria? Yes. Bacteria are not killed by cold (hence why freezing food delays spoilage, but doesn't stop it). Furthermore, the bacteria involved in Finrot and Columnaris are opportunistic and latent in all aquaria. There's really nothing you can do to stop them getting into the tank. Even a course of antibiotics diminishes them, and allows the fish's immune system to clear them out of the fish's body -- but they will always be present in the aquarium. If nothing else, their spores get into the tank from our hands, from the air, likely even in new water unless we're sterilising buckets and pipes each time we use them.>
I just don’t believe that is possible. I’m so incredibly frustrated that I’m considering just giving up on the hobby. <vendor name removed> will refund my money but that’s not the point. I just don’t get it. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you
<When it comes to this sort of mass death, my gut reaction is to leave the tank running, fallow, for a couple of weeks. This will break the life cycle of many parasites. I'd carry on adding fish food, of course, to give the biological filter something to work on. A bit of fish fillet or a prawn works just as well, decaying away over the days, releasing ammonia for the filter bacteria (nitrifying bacteria) and keeping the good bacteria that start the decay process (ammonification bacteria) happy as well. If you have a tank where plants are suitable, and there are plants in Lake Malawi, these are really helpful too, because they bring in lots of good bacteria on their leaves and roots. They also help balance the tank a bit, removing waste and providing a bit more oxygen. Anyway, either way, let the tank sit for a while. Then sit down and be realistic about things like water chemistry, water quality, and the frequency of water changes. I don't often recommend carbon, but if you've had a mass die-off, the use of carbon (replaced every few days) is one way to remove dissolved organics that might have been toxic, such as paint fumes. Even better are the high-end chemical adsorbents like Purigen. Basically, treat the tank as if it had fish, but do your best to clean it without killing off the good bacteria. Now, after a couple of weeks, think about introducing a few fish. Obviously pick robust species, but the key things with Mbuna are to choose the least aggressive species first, working upwards through the pecking order. Juveniles often (always?) travel better than adults, but the flip side is sexing juveniles can be hard. Finally, and this can be a bit brutal, if you've utterly failed with one group of fish -- perhaps they aren't the right ones for your water chemistry, time/budget, etc. Maybe think if some other type of fish might not be easier. In a big tank, Aulonocara for example might well be a lot easier to keep than the more aggressive Mbuna, or there may be some Haplochromis-type fish that would work even better. Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>


Saltwater to freshwater conversion, Malawi sys.     1/4/19
Hi there,
I have a 110 gallon FOWLR tank that I would like to convert to freshwater and keep Lake Malawi cichlids.
Can I keep the live rock and sand and use it in the freshwater set up?
<Likely so; yes; unless the rock is very sharp>
If yes, would I have to remove it and clean, or could I just keep doing freshwater changes until salinity is zero?
<Were it mine, I'd very likely drain the tank down, remove to rinse the present substrate, air-dry and blast the rock with a hose... and re-set up....>
Thank you for providing such a brilliant site!
Paul W
<Certainly welcome. Bob Fenner>


Water quality question... Mbuna          5/7/15
Hello, a friend of mine referred me to y'all after I asked him a few questions about my tank.
I have a 6ft 125g Mbuna tank with about 15 fish in it. Over the past year, I've been slowly losing fish.
<Mmm; perhaps aggression alone here at play.... otherwise common are environmental issues (need hard, alkaline water, some salts addition beneficial depending on your source water>
Occasionally it might've been aggression, but rarely. I've noticed two ailments thus far. Parasitic (sunken belly),
<What do you use as feed for these fishes? Know that they need a large portion of their food to be low-protein (algal) based>
and most recently PopEye in one fish.
<One-sided? Likely just a physical trauma if so>

My PH:7.6 AMM:0 Nitrite:<.25
<Needs to be 0.0.... check your test kit; and see WWM re rendering zip>
<? Mysterious.... how is NO3 rendered thus here?>
My question is, what other water quality issues can I check that might cause these illnesses?
<Nothing jumps out here chem./physically>
have probably twice as much filtration as I need for a tank of this size.
I've never been one for consistent water changes, but Im guessing that would be the first place to start. I do clean the tank and get as much debris, poop and food out as I can. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.-Jason
<Again; my guess is on social issues... the more agonistic species harassing, killing off the less so. Do you have records of who died in what order? Could you send along a pic of the system, its inhabitants? Bob Fenner>

Water quality question /Neale       5/8/15
Hello, a friend of mine referred me to y'all after I asked him a few questions about my tank. I have a 6ft 125g Mbuna tank with about 15 fish in it. Over the past year, I've been slowly losing fish. Occasionally it might've been aggression, but rarely.
<With Mbuna, this aggression aspect is insidious. Not all Mbuna are compatible, and stronger sorts gradually wear down weaker sorts, resulting in eventual deaths, often for no obvious reason, but lack of body mass in the dead fish can be a clue that starvation was a factor. Classic scenario is where people keep an even number of male and female Mbuna, but end up with just the males because the females were harassed to death. Likewise combining relatively placid non-Mbuna (such as Aulonocara) with Mbuna, and you end up with just Mbuna because the poor old Aulonocara die the death of a thousand cuts. Do let me direct you to some relevant reading: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/StkgLkMalawiTksArtBailey.htm
For the most part, you can't really have a general Mbuna tank into which any old Malawian species goes. Just doesn't work that way.>
I've noticed two ailments thus far. Parasitic (sunken belly), and most recently PopEye in one fish. My PH:7.6
<A trifle low for Rift Valley cichlids.>
AMM:0 Nitrite:<.25
<This is enough to cause deaths over extended periods.
Nitrite must be zero. Review the amount of food going in, the amount of fish being kept, and the amount of filtration. Aquarium filters sold for fish tanks are wildly optimistic in their recommended tank sizes... usually where they say "suitable for 10-20 gallons" what they mean is "10-20 gallon tanks lightly
stocked with small fish such as Neons". What they don't mean is cichlids, Plecs, etc. Rift Valley cichlids especially are very sensitive to dissolved metabolites. Would always recommend water turnover rates at least 8-10 times the volume of the tank per hour, plus weekly water changes of 25% or more.>
<Are you sure the nitrate is this low?
Most municipal tap water has nitrate levels upwards of 20 mg/l, and in cities this can be much higher. A bunch of Mbuna will be pumping out nitrate. Since nitrate isn't used up in aquaria (unless you have so many plants you're cropping weekly) it only gets diluted at water changes, so most folks keeping freshwater tanks have
nitrate levels around 20-40 mg/l. Put another way, unless you have zero nitrate in your tap water (unlikely, but check), and/or export nitrate via massive amounts of plant growth, you can't possibly have zero nitrate in a freshwater aquarium.>
My question is, what other water quality issues can I check that might cause these illnesses? I have probably twice as much filtration as I need for a tank of this size. I've never been one for consistent water changes, but Im guessing that would be the first place to start. I do clean the tank and get as much debris, poop and food out as I can. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.-Jason
<At least three avenues for investigation here. Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Water quality question       /RMF again      5/8/15

Thanks for your reply. I just tested the water again and the Nitrates and nitrites are both zero.
<Strange that the Nitrate is zero>

As far as food, its a veggie based with a hint of protein that I get from my local shop. The fish that died from PopEye was the largest fish in the tank and a bumblebee or bumblebee hybrid. Both eyes were popped out and he was very bloated.
<Yikes; have you read re Malawi Bloat?>

As far as fish in the tank, I've forgotten a few, or just don't know because they might be hybrids. In addition to the pics, I have a few yellow labs, white labs, cobalt white, albino Bushynose Pleco, 4 small cats similar to an elongated cat and that's about it. As far as filtration, I have 3 Eheim 2217's
<A fave>
and an Eheim surface skimmer. My tap water is very hard naturally, but Im not certain of my waters alkalinity.
<Do you add any supplements?>

I know what the fish on the bottom right is, but do you know what the others are?
<Need bigger pix>
Again, thanks for your help. -Jason
<Cheers, BobF>

Re: Water quality question      5/8/15
Hey, thanks for your reply. I checked my water again today and both my Nitrates and Nitrites were zero. I live way out in the country, so that might be a reason for my water showing no nitrates. What can I Do to raise the PH a bit?
<The best, easiest and safest... additions of sodium bicarbonate. See Neale's piece on WWM re water hardness>

Are there any other things I should test for in my water? What is the purpose of the water changes if the WQ is testing fine?
<Dilution of whatever may be the trouble here. Tell me where these rocks are from. B>

Re: Water quality question. Mbuna IDs.... to ChuckR         5/9/15
This is the pic I was referring to. I enlarged it a bit. I know what the bottom right is, but Im uncertain of the others. I do not add any supplements to my tank. Any suggestions? Thanks again! -Jason
<Will send the pix along to Chuck Rambo (our cichlid expert). Bob Fenner>
Re: Water quality question        5/9/15

The majority are lace rocks.
<Mmm; some have issues w/ soluble (excess) phosphate>
The round ones are river rocks from a landscaping place. I've had them in 2 other tanks prior to this tank and this tank has been established for 3 years now.
<Good assay>
I use those round rocks mainly as dig protection. I layered the bottom of the tank with them, then covered them with substrate. When the Mbunas start digging, they wont go all the way to glass, but will have those rocks to dig in-between. -Jason
<Am/we're back to the general mis-stocking aggression issues of Mbunas as your source of mortality here. BobF>

Pseudotropheus saulosi tank; and stkg.      8/7/14
Hey Crew,
It's me again. :D I did a lot of research this time before coming, just hoping you can give me a little guidance and verify I am on the right track. I am looking to purchase a used, but cleaned Fluval Venezia 350 "corner" tank. The dimensions are 48x34x25.5 inches. Which according to your site is above the minimum for a cichlid tank. So that's a plus. My one worry is the tank is that it is pre-plumbed for the filter system to go into the cabinet. It comes with a Fluval 405. They claim it is a 1300 LPH filter, which is roughly 3.7 turnover. I read that these fish like roughly 6-8x turnover.
<Yes; or more... I'd like ten times plus... dirty fishes that require clean water, high and consistent DO>
I would add a powerhead to give them more water movement as suggested.
I am worried depending on stocking if this turnover would be suffice or do I need to look to add an additional filter?
<More; another would be better... A large hang on would be my choice>
I looked at the FX5 but all the tubing is different which would mean boring out the holes in the tank, which I do not want to do. Any suggestions here?
My idea for the tank is setting up rock structures from the sides to meet in the back point of the tank, with a crushed coral or coral sand substrate with no live plants. I read the crushed coral is good to keeping the pH up?
True statement?
Would adding some driftwood be a bad idea as I know it has a pH reducing effect?
<Yes; a poor idea. Look to adding rock/work that will also boost hardness and alkalinity (made up of CaCO3)>
Now to the big question which I need more help on is stocking amount or maybe adding another breed of fish besides Pseudotropheus saulosi which I like for the males in the strong blue and the females in the yellow. I know to kelp hostilities low I need to keep 1 male per 3-4 females. I want to to have a good active cichlid tank, as this tank will be a focal point in the room, but I want to try and stay true to the biotope. Also for a cleaner crew any suggestion with these fish?
<Yourself... You could add one, two tough species of Synodontis that might help... the Mbuna are too likely to beat up, kill Loricariids of size>
And any input is welcomed. Thanks again. Sorry for the long e-mail. :D
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Pseudotropheus saulosi tank; plus stkg.     8/7/14

Thanks for your speedy and helpful response Mr. Fenner!
I was looking at possibly using Texas Holey Rock, which is in ample amounts here (Germany) and not so bad on the wallet.
<A good choice>
I know that will also boost the pH which will help. I have never used it, but I am worried about possible algae growth, but the Mbuna should do a good job to keep it in check, no?
<Likely so; yes... there are more/less palatable species of algae for sure>
Any particular hang on you would suggest?
<I really like the Hagen product line here; but there are others>
I have been reading about powerheads for these set ups, and I see them ranging from 800 l/h to 4000 l/h. Thinking somewhere around the middle. I still cannot think of a good number of stocking. I have read with Mbuna you either understock or overstock, which I don't agree with, but this is my first cichlid tank. What would you suggest in a 350l for stocking, number wise?
<Ten smaller fish/specimens... two inches or so>
Is it better with these aggressive fish to stock at once or slowly stock in sets of 1 male 3 females?
<At once... single males per species are best in small volumes like this>
I can just see some fighting going on, when new tankmates come into the picture further down the line. I just know when I had my piranha tank, that when I added new tankmates later on, they got beat up for a little bit. Thanks!
Re: Pseudotropheus saulosi tank     8/7/14

Mr. Fenner,
Last time I'll bother you for awhile (hopefully). :) In your advice of using a hang-on, what is your opinion on internal filters?
<Not as big a fan... take up volume; harder to clean...>
Specifically the Eheim Power Line XL
(https://www.eheim.com/en_GB/products/technology/internal-filters/powerline )
? I think with the hang on, I would have to make hood adjustments, and want to try and keep it un-modified.
<Perhaps a canister then... more money; but can be situated to provide more complete circulation and air/discharge along the surface>
Thinking that if I was able to position behind the rocks to hide it, something to that effect. Also with your suggestion of Synodontis, long as its the same size, would an Upside-down Catfish work in this situation or
would a Synodontis Multipunctatus be better suited? Thanks again!
<Bigger is better... see WWM re Mochokid stocking/selection. B>

Acei Cichlid Compatibility      1/19/14
<Hello Lauren,>
Your site has been an invaluable resource for me as my husband and I try to set up our tanks. Currently we have a 55 gallon tank with: 1 Rainbow Shark (about 1.5 inches), 3 Electric Green Tiger Barbs (about 1 inch each), and 1 Acei Cichlid (about 1.5 inches at this point.
<I see.>
I'm trying to put fish in slowly so I don't overload our tank, so I plan on getting at least three more Tiger Barbs next week to calm them down.
<Indeed, the more Tiger Barbs, the less chance of them being nippy. They should work nicely with the Rainbow Shark because that species is bigger and quite brusque itself. But the cichlid is more of a gamble, and it's easy to confuse territoriality or predatory behaviour with being able to fight off a nippy tankmate.>
My husband wants Cichlids, but also wants lots of activity and color in his tank.
<As a broad, reliable rule -- don't mix Rift Valley cichlids (what are inaccurately called "African Cichlids" by some) with community tropical fish. Pick one option, and tailor the tank around that. Of the Rift Valley cichlids, there's a further subdivision between the Mbuna (which are always best kept amongst themselves) and the non-Mbuna things like Peacocks and "Haps" (which are all best kept *away* from Mbuna). Of course there are a few South American and even some West African cichlids that might be kept in a community tank, notably Angels and Kribs. But many casual hobbyists aren't aware that these are cichlids and tend to assume "cichlids" and "Rift Valley" cichlids are one and the same thing! In short, sit down with your spousal unit and ask him to explain what he means by "cichlids". You may well get lucky with a single Pseudotropheus acei in a community tank, but beyond that, mixing Rift Valley cichlids, especially Mbuna, with community fish is a bad idea, a VERY bad idea. Besides different personalities, they have different environmental requirements. Do bear in mind the Pseudotropheus acei will need hard, alkaline water, whereas the barbs and shark are more soft to middling hardness water fish.>
I've already seen some aggressive behavior with the Acei and the Barbs, but I don't know if rounding out the school by adding more barbs would help this or not.
<Adding more Tiger Barbs will reduce fin-nipping and fighting on the part of the barbs, but it's an incremental thing. Six is better than four, but not as reliable as ten, and a dozen is even safer.>
Obviously the Barbs aren't schooling half the time because there aren't enough of them and there's usually aggression when they split up and go it solo.
Any recommendations for this tank? What to add, what not to add?
<See above. The Pseudotropheus acei isn't a community tank fish by any sane standard, though by Mbuna standards its pretty mellow (which is just below "psychotic" by community tank standards, bear in mind, since all Mbuna need to be tough, pushy fish just to survive in their extremely competitive environment in the wild). Pseudotropheus acei would be a great choice for use in a quiet Mbuna system alongside Labidochromis caeruleus for example.
The two species are pretty much a classic combo, in fact! No need to add any other species because the two of them offer a nice contrast in terms of colours (blue vs. yellow) and occupy different levels of the tank much of the time.>
Any help would be appreciated, as I'm completely new to this.
<Much on WWM to help you, but do also look for modern books on cichlids at your local bookstore or library.>
Also we have a 15 gallon tank with an Angelfish and an Albino Rainbow Shark. (Both are fairly small, under 2 inches.) I know they will eventually outgrow this tank, and am planning to upgrade to a 35 gallon tank within the next 2-3 weeks.
We originally had a single Tiger Barb with the Angelfish (before we found your site), so the poor thing was nipped at quite a bit, but the next morning the Barb was swimming sideways and upside down and died by that afternoon.
We haven't had any problems with any of the fish in that tank since. Once I upgrade to the 35 gallon tank, I was thinking of adding another Angelfish and some schooling fish. What do you think about Cardinal Tetras?
<A good combo with Angels, but do need soft, or at least not hard water to do well. Easier choices can be found, such as Penguin Tetras, Emperor Tetras and especially X-Ray Tetras.>
Again any suggestions would be most welcome.
<See above.>
Thank you in advance for all of your help. I know for a fact that I would be lost without your site.
<And thanks for the kind words.>
- Lauren
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Acei Cichlid Compatibility      1/24/14

Hi again!
Thanks so much for your advice. We're watching the Acei carefully, and if any problems appear, we've resolved to rehome the barbs and shark.
I have one last question. Since my last email, we have added more tiger barbs (one more of the electric green, and two of the regular striped tiger barbs). Now that there's six of them, they're schooling beautifully.
However, the Acei is schooling with them! He's barely ever alone anymore.
Have you seen this before?
<It's quite common for fish to school with a different species, particularly when young. While I've not seen this specific combination, I wouldn't be too alarmed provided all the fish are happy and feeding well.>
Thanks again,
- Lauren
<Cheers, Neale.>

Biblio. of Malawi Fishes, over 1,700 citations      1/1/14


Haps/Peacock Stocking Options for 330 G tank
Stocking Options for a 330 G Malawi Cichlid Tank     – 11/20/12

Hello Crew: I`m new to this hobby - and I really love your site.  I have a new (for me) 330 G tank that I set up this fall (2` x 2` x 12`).  Currently, the water parameters are as follows:  pH @ 7.8, ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 60, water temp. @74.5F.  My water is naturally on the hard side.  I tried some live plants, but they did not survive the cichlids.  I have three live plants left, some plastic plants, lots of rock:  marble, limestone, river rock, and about 1/3 of the tank is covered in sand, no obstructions - for the peacocks.  I have a Rena XP3 filter with Purigen and Super Elite activated carbon in the filter trays, along with the other media, two
110 Aqua Clear HOB filters, 2 Aqua Clear 70 pumps, and 2 blue Poret filters with water lifters in them.  I have two large pieces of drift wood with many caves near the rocks.  I do about a 25% water change week 1, and about a 40% water change week 2.  I try to fast them one day a week, but its hard not to feed them, especially when they do their `little dances`.
I started myself off with a few mixed Mbuna in a 70G before I found this large, custom built tank that came with stock.  After it was set up, while I was away on holidays, my spouse moved all the fish into the large tank and disposed of the 70G.  :(   I now have the following stock in the big tank:
6-7 Labidochromis Caeruleus (aka "Yellow labs"; 2 @ 3'', the rest various sizes)
5  Iodotropheus sprengerae (aka "Rustys")
 *  Protomelas taelianautas (aka "Super Red Empress"; 1 dominant male beautifully coloured @ 51/2'' He is the second dominant tank boss, 2 subdominant males @ 5'' that have taken on the female colouring, numerous females)
2  Metriaclima Estherae (aka "Red Zebra";  1 @ 3'', 1@ 2'' )
1  Metriaclima Estherae OB -  1 ''
1  Pseudotropheus sp. Acei  (aka "Yellow Tail Acei")
 *  Otopharynx lithobates 'Mumbo Is.' - and I think there are a few 'Zimbabwe Rock' also - (aka ''Sulphur Head'') - 1 white blaze male  @5'' who is my tank boss, 2 subdominant males that take on the female colouring about the same size as the dominant male, numerous females)
*    Capadichormis chrysonotus 2 males, several females
2   Metriaclima Lombardoi (aka Kennys; both males @ 31/2'' each)
1   Labeotropheus OB fuelleborni (about 3'')
2   Aulonocara Jacobfreibergi 'Eureka' Peacocks (1@ 3'', 1 @ 2'')
2   Melanochromis Johanni (aka electric blue johanni, 2 males)
5   Hemichromis binnaculatus (Blood Red Jewel Cichlids - juveniles - 2 males, 3 females less than 2 '')
5   Aulonocara Peacocks - Rueben Reds - juveniles - too young to tell sexes yet @ 1 ''
1   Red Top Hongi (male about 3'')
1   Melanochromis hybrid ?   (Started out as silvery pink, now has coloured up similar to the electric blue johanni but is larger and is relatively peaceful @3 1/2'')
1   Giant Sailfin Pleco (@14'')
1   Medium size sail fin Pleco @ 7''
1  Cuckoo catfish @ 2 1/2'')
2  Bristlenose catfish @ 3'')
1  Freshwater crayfish - Procambarus Clarkii sp. orange
*The females are similar:  silver with three black splotches or silver with black line below lateral line, sometimes with or without blotches.  All together, there is about 16 of them in various sizes.
I have read many articles that state it is not wise to keep haps/peacocks together with Mbuna, including Mary Bailey`s on this site, except for the very peaceful species such as the yellow labs and Rustys. This is the reason why I am re-homing the other Mbuna. While the red zebra and kennys have not killed any fish, they are very territorial and will not let others near their claimed homes. The ones left are all peaceful - for now. Will have to wait and see about the other red zebra and OB red zebra which are still small, and no trouble at the moment. If that changes, I can re-home them later.
Along with the two kennys, and the large red zebra, I`m re-homing the medium sized sailfin Pleco.  I will keep the yellow labs, the Rustys and yellow tail acei with the haps and peacocks.  I know that the yellow tail acei is a schooling fish so I will likely get 4 more.  I`ve heard the same about the cuckoo cats.  Should I get another one?
< If your cuckoo cat is a Syn. multipunctatus then a few more will make them feel more at home.>
 My main concern is that I read conflicting info about peacocks/haps in terms of mixing species.  It is clear that it is not good to mix species with similar looking females due to cross breeding and hybridization.  However, an article I read suggested that you can keep 4 different species of Aulonocara if you pick one from each of the following sub-groups:  Chitande, Jacobfreibergi, Stuartgranti, and sand dwellers (like Gertrudae).  So far, from my reseach,
I discerned that the Otopharynx falls into the Chitande sub-group, correct?
< The genus Aulonocara is characterized by the cichlids having a series of pores along the bottom of the jaw that that pick up vibrations of food items living in the sand. Cichlids without this feature are not placed in the genus Aulonocara. The Otopharynx is not a peacock. In the hobby it is usually placed in the hap group.>
 The Eureka peacock falls into the Jacobfreibergi sub-group, correct?
< Correct >
  So I could then select a Stuartgranti species such as the Stuartgranti maleri or Ngara species?  As for the sand dwellers, I do not want any at the moment.  Was this article accurate?  Can I also get the Stuartgranti ("yellow Regal") or Ngara ("Flametail") with the other Aulonocara or is this inviting cross breeding?
< Generally, blue colored peacocks and the Jake groups do best in Malawi community cichlid tanks. Yellows do best in a species only tank. I would recommend  getting males only unless you are planning on breeding them.>
Afterwards, I am looking forward to adding some Copadichromis borleyi (Kandango) and Copadichromis .  Can I, or is it better to select only one from these two sub-groups?
<  Go with the borleyi since the females will have some color on the fins.>
 Or in other words, does the rule about
Aulonocara apply to the other species as well?
< Here is how it works. If you have this big tank full of blue fish, the females will breed with the dominant blue fish. This means your fish will cross breed and  your tank will have numerous little strange cichlids that don't look like anything.>
 I would also like to get one Crytocara Moorii (aka "dolphin head").  To this mix, can I add Protomelas sp. steveni Taiwan (Taiwan Reef) or Protomelas sp. spilonotus Tanzania (Liuli) or will this be inviting cross breeding?
< Yes>
  I also like the following fish:  Pundamillia nyererei, Cynotilapia Afra (Cobue), Haplochromis ''ruby green'', Pseudotropheus demasoni, Pseudotropheus Saulosi, and Pseudotropheus Socolofi and I have considered some Lethrinops.  I prefer to keep the fish smaller than the 6 inch length, a few bigger are OK but I don`t want to get too much into species larger than 10 inches.  I prefer more herbivores than carnivores.  My concern is that I would like to utilize all of the tank, not just the mid section or bottom.
I appreciate selecting stock is very individual, but I would be interested in hearing your suggestions on stocking this tank.
< Skip the Victorians. They will have a difficult time competing with the Malawi cichlids. In my Malawi tank all the fish have color or at the least an interesting pattern and get along.  I would recommend the following:
Yellow labs ( Good stock have a orange -yellow color with black fins) or Labidochromis chisumulae ( Blue male with white female).
Rustys ( Both sexes look alike)
Ps Saulosi ( Blue striped male with yellow orange female) or Ps demasoni (Both sexes are blue with black stripes).
Ps acei ( Both sexes look alike, feeds on algae on driftwood )
Ps lanistacola ( Malawi shell dweller)
Mel parallelus ( Black male with blue horizontal stripes, females are white with black horizontal stripes)
Red Fin ( Colorful male and females are silver grey with red fins)
Red Top L. trewavasae ( Blue male with red dorsal fin, females are a bright orange color.) or L fuelleborni Marmalade Cat ( beautiful mottled fish)
C. moorii ( both sexes look alike but get big humps on their foreheads)
You get the idea. Keep all the fish colorful unless you are interested in breeding. Then keep them in a species only tank.>
As for the high nitrates, have you heard of Maglife USA`s new substrate, Nitrastrate that is naturally buoyant and reduces nitrates?  Has anyone tried it?  Does it work?  Do the fish like it?  I am in the process of setting up a refugium to cycle the fish water through that will help reduce the nitrates
< Nitrates are converted to Nitrogen gas by anaerobic bacteria. I would increase the filter maintenance, occasionally vacuum  the gravel, and try a vegetable based fish food high in Spirulina to reduce the nitrates. Haven't heard of the product but have seen similar claims on products over the years that may work for awhile.-Chuck>
Re: Haps/Peacock Stocking Options for 330 G tank  11/22/12

Stocking a 330 Gallon Malawi Cichlid Tank II
Thanks for your insight and comments, Chuck!  Yes, my catfish is a Syn. multipunctatus so I will add two more.  Thanks for the clarification on the peacocks.  The species you recommend seem to be sufficiently different from one another so as to discourage cross breeding.  I'll do more research on the stock you suggested and then decide.  With your suggested stock list, does Mary Bailey's rule of thumb re:  inches of fish/square foot of tank still apply?
< Since most cichlids are territorial it is wise to be aware or there passion for their own area. Mary's rule is s good place to start but it is not species specific. I would give a little more space to some of the more aggressive species like Ps elongatus types and very little territory to the less aggressive species like the Ps. acei . When it comes right down to all fish are individuals and you will have to watch you fish to determine the limits of their territories.>
What  vegetable based fish food have you used with good results?
< When you look at the ingredients listed on the package for Spirulina food you will see fish meal as the first main ingredient. This is because fish will not eat pure Spirulina.  Spirulina should be lists close to the top as a list of ingredients. I feed Zoomed Spirulina 20, OSI also makes a very good food. Some brine shrimp flake and plankton flake fed sporadically will enhance the fishes colors. Stay away from any type of worm food. Lake Malawi cichlids don't do well on bloodworms, glassworms or earthworm flake.>
I live in a rural area, so my LFS is very limited in choices so I will likely have to order on line.
< Good luck.-Chuck> Cheers, AW.


African cichlid dying... Malawi bloat? Beaten      9/4/12
Hello there. I have a red zebra cichlid who is suffering from what I thought was Malawi bloat
<Mmm, no; don't thinks so>
but I am unsure and now think the treatment may have exacerbated the problem.
She is a female red zebra in a 55 gallon African Cichlid set up. I have had her for about two years since she was only about 3/4"! She is now about three inches long, has made it through two sets of offspring with the dominating male of the tank, has made it through multiple brutal attacks by the males in the tank
<Not this one though>
 where I thought she would dye <die>
because her fins were all gone.. ultimately, she is generally a very tough fish!! And my favorite fish in the tank! I currently have 8 fish in the tank. I want to increase the number to decrease aggression, but every time I add new fish, they are killed within a couple of days.
<Too late to add more here>
About two weeks ago I added three new fish. Two of the new ones were attacked to death and killed within the first week. I of course removed them immediately and followed with water changes. Yesterday morning, my red zebra wouldn't eat. I was thinking maybe she was holding fry again but I couldn't see into her mouth and her jaw didn't look extended, so I just kept an eye on her. By the afternoon her fins were all frayed and she had some white areas on her body that looked like scales had fallen off. She was hovering near the top of the tank, stiff looking, and smaller fish were swimming up to her and nibbling at her. She wasn't even fighting back or trying to swim away. I removed her, put her into a 5 gallon bucket filled about 2/3 with tank water and 1/3 new water, with a heater and bubbler. By the evening, the white patches were spreading, she was laying on her side at the bottom, breathing hard, and her chest area on her underside looked very swollen. I did some research and thought her symptoms sounded like Malawi bloat
<... no; this fish was beaten to death. A 55 gallon isn't enough room for what you have in mind, Mbuna need space, habitat to get away from each other>>

 so I ran out to the store to find some Metronidazole or Clout. Of course my LFS did not carry anything useful... all I could find was Tetra Parasite Guard which was the only product containing Metronidazole but unfortunately it doesn't say what the percentage or mg of the ingredients are. I put a half tablet into a cup of water, let it dissolve, and added it in. I also added 1 tsp Epsom salts as I read it is helpful to clean their bowels if it is truly Malawi bloat.
This morning when I left for work, she seemed okay. She was at least sitting up right instead of on her side, but the white patches were spreading more and were kind of slimy looking. By the time I got home from work this evening, the water was very cloudy, and she has some areas that almost look like blood blisters on her fins and body. I can even see some small vessels. She was also floating upside down.
I filled a clean 5 gallon bucket with new water, moved the heater and bubbler, added some more salts, no antibiotics this time, and once the water got to temp, moved her over. Within minutes she was back on her side instead of floating upside down. She looks terrible though.
I'm very upset because she is my favorite fish and I would be sad to see her pass. At this point I don't know if there is something else I can try in order to help save her or if it is better to just humanely euthanize her :(
Any insight would be great
<As stated, I don't see much promise here... maybe the removal of this one fish will "re-set" the social dynamic in this tank, allow all to live together for a while longer. Bob Fenner>


Re: Mbuna (Acei, specifically) question Mbuna (Acei, specifically) question II, repro./sexing /Chuck      3/14/12
<Chuck's take>
Thanks Bob. The tank is heavily planted and I've provided lots of caves using the cheap flower pots from home depot & sanding the edges down after cracking the sides off w/ a hammer and chisel.
You may (or may not) also be interested to know that the aceis were flashing quite a bit, without any signs of parasites, but when the flashing spread to other fish I pre-emptively treated with a form/malachite green Ich treatment and it appears to have cleared up the flashing.
As with anything I'm sure early treatment of parasites is the most effective.
Would you know of any way to gauge the sex without venting? I'm not sure  if egg spots are a reliable indicator - everything I've read says that aceis are difficult to sex.
< In the lake they are found in large schools feeding on algae attached to floating logs so they are not nearly as territorial as most Mbuna that scrape algae off of rocks. Both sexes look exactly alike. If you are not going to try and vent them then adult males may have longer fins and be slightly larger than the females.-Chuck>
Re: Mbuna (Acei, specifically) question /RMF     3/14/12

Thanks Bob.
<Hey Eddie>
The tank is heavily planted and I've provided lots of caves using the cheap
flower pots from home depot & sanding the edges down after cracking the sides off w/ a hammer and chisel.
<I see>
You may (or may not) also be interested to know that the aceis were flashing quite a bit, without any signs of parasites, but when the flashing spread to other fish I preemptively treated with a form/malachite green Ich treatment and it appears to have cleared up the flashing.
As with anything I'm sure early treatment of parasites is the most effective.
Would you know of any way to gauge the sex without venting?
<Behavioral clues are best, more prominent egg dummies... size (all else being relative)...>
I'm not sure if egg spots are a reliable indicator - everything I've read says that aceis are difficult to sex.
<Not when behaving "sexually". Cheers, BobF>


African cichlid mouth brooding    3/5/12
Hi there. I have a red zebra who is currently holding eggs. I have 8 different Malawi cichlids in a 55 gallon tank. I have had this set up for almost 2 years. I have never noticed any of the cichlids to hold eggs until
now. My question is do Malawi cichlids cross breed?
<Oh yes... a mess>

Or is she likely holding unfertilized eggs? I have no other zebras for her to breed with.
<Can will/ interbreed w/ most any Mbuna of the same genus, even other genera at times>
The species I have are as follows:
Labidochromis caeruleus (yellow lab) (MALE)
Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos (blue johanni) (MALE)
Metriaclima estherae (red zebra) (FEMALE)
Pseudotropheus socolofi (pindani/powder blue) (MALE)
Melanochromis auratus (auratus/ golden Mbuna) (FEMALE)
Pseudotropheus crabro (bumblebee) (SEX UNKNOWN)
Maylandia lombardoi (kenyi) x2 (1 MALE and 1 FEMALE)
Thanks for your help!
<Bob Fenner> 


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>


Stocking; Malawians (was: re: Whitespot on giraffe Catfish) 1/17/12
Hi, this does help a lot. Have already witnessed the benefits of the salt on the giraffe Catfish and have made provisions to relocate him.
<Good and good.>
Also the malawis, there is an abundance of takers for the Frontosa when he gets a bit larger.
<Uh, you do realise Frontosas are NOT Malawians? They cannot be kept with Malawian cichlids. The common Malawian cichlids kept by US fishkeepers will hammer these gentle giants, and any Malawians small enough not to cause harm will be viewed by the Frontosas as food. Please do learn the difference between Malawian cichlids in the general sense, Mbuna specifically, and Tanganyikan cichlids as something else again.>
I have seen some Neolamprologus brichardi which look lovely.
<Again, not Malawians but Tanganyikans. There's a real problem with many fish shops selling "African Cichlids" and giving the idea to less experienced hobbyists that all African cichlids are alike. Mbuna are
insanely aggressive hyper-territorial rock-dwelling fish very different to the Peacock cichlids of Malawi (Aulonocara) and different again to the "Utaka" cichlids of Malawi. All three of these groups are very different to Tanganyikan cichlids that (except perhaps for Tropheus spp.) tend to be much shyer and less overtly aggressive (though no less territorial in their way). Let me stress once again, you cannot keep Malawians and Tanganyikans together, and shouldn't even keep Mbuna with other types of Malawians
(though Labidochromis are somewhat peaceful by comparison and can be kept with Peacocks).>
And will keep the giant Plec. Thank you for your time and words here.
Although it was a given there was too much in the tank, it always helps to hear this from someone else and my tank will benefit from the wisdom.
Until next time.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Merging Tanks 9/19/11
Mixing Lake Malawi Cichlid Tanks Together

Hello. I'm seeking advice that perhaps you may be able to provide.
I currently have 2 Mbuna Cichlid tanks - a 36 gal and a 55 gal. The 36 gal has been up and running for about 2.5 years and currently has 1 male Red Zebra and 1 female Electric Yellow lab. The 55 gal has been running for a little under a year and has 5 fish: 2 Red Zebras (1 male, 1 female), 2 Blue Cobalt Zebras (1 male, 1 female), and 1 male Electric Yellow lab. The water conditions in both tanks are nearly identical (pH 8.2, KH ~12, GH ~10).
I've noticed lately that as the fish in the 55 gal tank mature, the aggression is starting to show, particularly, the males to the females - the female red zebra especially. I'd like to balance this aggression by adding more females to obtain the magic 2-3 females/male ratio. However I'm worried about moving the male Red Zebra to the 55 gal since it would then be 2:1 male:female.
So my questions are: 1. Would moving the 2 36 gal tank fish to the 55 gal tank be ok?
< When adding fish you need to do a few things. Lower the water temp to the mid to low 70's F. This will reduce the aggression. Then rearrange all the rocks and decorations. This will make the fish establish new territories.
Put the new fish in a night. Do in on a night in which you will be around the next day to referee the new set up. >
2. If I were to add more fish to the 55 gal so as to get the 2-3 females/male ratio, would a 55 gal tank with what would then be 9-12 fish succeed provided I added more filtration and maintained my current schedule of weekly 20% water changes (currently have a canister filter rated for 80 gal and a HOB filter rated for 25 - would probably add another HOB filter)?
< The water circulation should be 3 to 5 times the tank volume per hour.
Keep the nitrates under 20 ppm with water changes.>
3. Should I just not move the male red zebra from the 36 gal tank and restock with other compatible cichlids?
< Whenever you( add Lake Malawi cichlids together the fish will the same colors are going to have difficulty adjusting to the new territories. You can try it out but there are no sure things.-Chuck>This would ruin my plans for converting the 36 gal tank to a community freshwater tank).Thanks! - Aaron


Helping friend w/ African cichlids.
Stocking a 25 Gallon Lake Malawi Cichlid Tank   8/7/11

Hi crew! So my friend recently set up her 25 gallon aquarium and is dead set on keeping African cichlids. More specifically Lake Malawi Cichlids. I personally think the tank is too small to properly keep Africa cichlids but she's dead set on them. So long story short she has asked me to help her stock the tank as she feels my knowledge of fish is better(yet she won't listen to me on the tank size issue *sigh). So I was thinking maybe a trio of electric yellows, a trio of demasoni (maybe a couple more to spread out the aggression?), and a small school of upside-down catfish (the dwarf kind). I know Kribensis (also from Africa but not Malawian),or shell dwellers would probably work better, but I'm hoping the stock list I've come up with would work. I'd like your feedback on this and maybe some alternatives? Thanks so much, Hannah.
<In the wild most Lake Malawi Mbuna types rarely get over 3 inches. In the aquarium they grow much larger. I would go with a group of small , 1 inch individuals and let them grow up together. This will reduce the chance of breeding an hopefully reduce the aggression. Try to get a group of 12 fish that are not the same species or are even close in markings. Forget the catfish and the Kribs. they would be torn up very quickly. Look into getting the "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings to help you with the tank set up and maintenance.-Chuck>

My new 90 gal African Cichlid Tank Want to be 3/4/11
Malawi Tank Set Up

Hi WWM Crew! I have been reading your site for about 6 yrs and you all do a fantastic job!
Thank you :) Anyway, I get to start a 90 gal brand new from the box (sorry, I've only had used, so I am very excited) I know I will have to cycle it for a few weeks, but my hope is that I can get a Malawi set up going. Some specs on the tank are:
The tank is 48" x 18" x 24"
A Rena canister filter rated for 175 gals
1 or 2 Tetra deep water air pumps
A 300w heater
,(not sure which one, recommend any?)
< Heater reliability has become a problem, look for recommendation and check with return policy from a local retailer.>
3 LED bubble wands
2 LED Moonlight bubblers
Aragonite sand (not sure if I want 1" or 2" yet)
And either Holey rock or Lava rock (if I go lava, I want black. I'm trying to avoid a green or red coloring in my tank)
Lights will also be changed. It's a double strip and I am thinking of going metal halide. What do you think?
< Double strip will be fine.>
But, my main question is this. I want to pile my rock up in a bow shaped cove to the water line. I want Mega cave systems running through it. The kind of thing where you will only see sparse fish till feeding time. Make sense. I know and am prepared for the cleaning and extra work all these rocks take. What I can't find out is if this is possible and/or advisable as per weight restrictions on my glass floor. I know to put the rock in before the sand.
But how much rock will a 90 hold? I really want to build this up. Maybe 3/4 of the tank. Like a saltwater setup almost.
< Support the entire bottom of the glass with a piece of plywood. Maybe line the bottom of the glass tank with a piece of Plexiglas to protect the glass from falling rocks.>
And one minor question. I have a 55 gal SA cichlid tank that I am replacing with the 90 gal. I don't want the extra weight on my floor. Anyway, my dad is taking my JD's and my Pleco (5") is going into the 90 maybe. But I have 8 male black and pink convicts. 6 are about 5" and the rest are about 3" I also have 6 females that are about 2". I have been told that Africans will take up the entire tank and SA will only use the bottom. I have seen Convicts in African tanks before. So would it be ok to put my boys in there. They are so lovely and I don't want to part with them but I really can't have both tanks.
Thank you so much for your time Mandy
< Do not mix rift lake cichlids with South American cichlids. they will not go together over time.-Chuck>.
Re: My new 90 gal African Cichlid Tank Want to be Stand Support and Mirror Backgrounds
Thank you so much, Chuck!
I'm not sure if I will need the plywood as the stand that comes with it is a solid top, but it is a good idea for future reference. I have been reading about egg crate being a good cushion. Any truth to that?
< Never had any experience with egg crate. Just used plywood or Plexiglas.>
And one other thing, then I will leave you alone :) I want to paint the back with a silver or sepia colored mirror paint. I want to avoid the traditional backgrounds. My BF says that the fish will get confused and run into the glass. I'm not sure about that. Any thoughts?
< Cichlids will react to their reflection in the mirror background. if it is dull enough not to reflect their image then it should be fine.-Chuck>
Thank you again Mandy

Stocking A 150 Gallon Mbuna Tank  1/5/11
Hello WetWebMedia staff. I am contacting you from Iran. I have a 150 US gallons tank and its dimensions are 63 inches by 20 inches by 31 inches. I use neutral gravel and extensive rock works with many caves and tunnels for landscaping. The filter circulation is 750 gallons per hour and if it becomes necessary, I can upgrade the filtration to twice this much. The tap water's hardness is ten degrees and its pH 7.8. I plan to keep a community of Mbunas and the stocking list is as follows:
1. eighteen-twenty Ps demasoni
2. six or seven albino Ps. socolofi
3. five-six L. fuelleborni
4. eight Electric Yellow C. Labidochromis
5. five-six red Ps. Zebras
And now my questions. Is this a good stock list or I'll witness world war III? Is there remaining room to add more fishes to this list? If yes, should I add to the number of these fishes or I can add new groups of them?
In this list, who you guest to be the bully and who would be bullied?
< The fish you have chosen are different enough that the patterns will not confuse them into thinking that they are alike. The fuelleborni and zebras will be the largest and be the most territorial. The yellow labs and the albinos will be the ones kicked around the most. You can add more fish depending on your water changes. Keep the nitrates under 20 ppm. I would recommend getting all the fish at once as juveniles and let them grow up together. This way the pecking order will be established once they turn up as adults. Older males can be removed and leave you with one dominant male of each species. this will cut down on some of the aggression. Keep the water in the mid 70's F or else the fish will want to breed all the time. I
recommend getting "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings.-Chuck>


cichlid issues
Managing Mean Malawi Cichlids   12/6/10

I could spend all day reading through all your wonderful info! Thanks for all your hard work!
< Thank you for your kind words.>
I have a 55 gallon tank which used to house 5 cichlids, all measuring about 4-6 inches, and 1 Pleco. The aquarium shop I purchased them from had them labeled as "random cichlids", so I sent pictures to another shop to have them identified. The results: pearl zebra (male), OB peacock (female), zebra obliqueden (male), Labidochromis caeruleus (not sure of sex), Labeotropheus fuelleborni (female). The Labidochromis caeruleus would swim completely vertical in the corner of my tank. He/she did this from day one.
He/she ate just fine. Then out of the blue he/she started getting wounded by the tank bully. (I believe my bully was the pearl zebra, though I was told it was probably my zebra obliqueden.) I added lots more rocks for hiding, but nothing seemed to help. He/she would receive a wound... heal... repeat. Finally, I took the fish back to the shop I bought it from, and was told that the fish "had been ousted by the other fish", and that, "there is nothing I can do except remove him/her". I really loved that fish, but sold it for fear that he/she would just die otherwise. After my Labidochromis caeruleus was gone, my OB peacock became the target. (At least I think that was the problem.) She was always fine before. I saw no physical problems with her at all. Then she stopped eating, started losing weight, swimming vertical, then hanging out at the bottom of the tank. (It almost appeared as though she couldn't stay afloat. As soon as she would stop swimming she'd sink really fast. Even crashing on the tank floor, sometimes.) I looked for eggs and found none. Every other fish seemed just fine. Is this just due to stress?
<When fish are constantly being harassed they may develop internal infections that may not be noticeable on the surface.>
I did extra water changes upon noticing her strange behavior (I weekly change out 20 gallons anyhow.), rearranged the tank, and added more hiding spots, I also bought some egg crate and separated her from my suspected bully. Nothing helped. She eventually died. :( Was there anything else I should have tried?
<When a cichlid is being bullied the best thing to do is remove the fish until it recovers.>
I really want to avoid this sort of thing in the future. Are these particular fish not good tank mates?
< In the wild Lake Malawi cichlids are very territorial. The bigger the territory the larger the source of food reserves and an increased ability to attract a mate. When they are placed in an aquarium with a few other fish then the aggression is taken out on the lowest fish in the pecking order.>
No matter how many hiding spots I add to my tank, my pearl zebra seems to claim them all! Is it just going to be impossible to keep any other fish with this guy?
< The best way to put a Malawi cichlid tank together is to buy many small fish and let them grow up together. They will establish a pecking order when they are small and are less capable of inflicting damage on each other. Now that the fish are larger it becomes much more difficult to match up suitable tankmates with a fish that is an established bully.>
I've read that overcrowding my tank may help. With a greater female to male ratio. Is this accurate? Others say "never overcrowd your tank". I love these fish and want to make this work. However, there is so much conflicting information out there that I'm confused half the time!
< Overcrowding an Mbuna tank is a common way to keep these fish, but you need to be prepared first before trying this. Make sure that the filters turn the water over at least 5 times per hour. Keep the water temp around 75 F. Feed a food high in Spirulina algae content. You need many hiding places. Then when you add other Mbuna around the same size, you need to add them at night and rearrange the rock work the next day. This keeps them trying to establish territories. Adding 25-30 adult Mbuna can be expensive.
Females are less aggressive that males so that will help too.>
Another thing, my Labeotropheus fuelleborni currently has fry in her mouth. It has been about 16 days since I noticed the lump in her mouth. Is it OK to remove the fry now, or is it better to wait closer to 21 days?
< I would remove the fry after 7 days, after the egg sac is completely absorbed.>
I put her by herself in a 10 gallon tank, as she was being chased endlessly by my pearl zebra. This is the tank I'll keep the fry in until they are big enough to make it on their own in my large tank. Should I just
let her release them?
< No I would strip the female after a week. The longer you wait the thinner she will become.>
My fear is that she'll eat them before I get the chance to remove her.
< That is why I am recommending that you strip her after a week.>
Also, could her breeding be the reason for all the other tank aggression?
< No not really. the aggression is caused by the bully fish having a large enough territory to feed on the algae off the rocks. The bigger the territory the more food is available. The breeding female is a bonus to the area.>
If so, what more can I do in the future? I've done hours upon hours of web reading, but cannot seem to get this all quite figured out! Any advice, to my hopefully not overwhelming amount of questions, would be greatly appreciated! Thanks! -Lisa
< I would like to recommend a book. It is called Enjoying Cichlids by Ad Konings. It is written by many cichlid experts from around the world and can give you some very useful insights on managing cichlids. -Chuck> 

Aggressive female cichlid
Malawi Cichlid Pecking Order  8/19/10

Hi, Wonderful Crew, I have a 75 gallon tank with a variety of Malawi cichlids, most of which are Mbuna.
Among the mix are 3 Metriaclima zebras: a male greshakei, a female estherae, and a pearl (callainos).
I can't sex the pearl. I thought it was female. The greshakei and the estherae have mated a number of times and produced offspring.
The pearl is ignored by the otherwise aggressive greshakei and other male fish in the tank (which is why I assumed it was a female).
The pearl seems to be on a mission to kill the estherae. From what I can tell, it tries to get the estherae to let go of the fry in her mouth while the estherae is holding.
In addition, and especially after the estherae comes out after releasing her fry, the pearl chases her around the tank relentlessly. I have built a big reef of lava rock for the fish to hide in, but I am worried about the
estherae. I just introduced a female (from what I can tell) greshakei, so I'm hoping this will at least give the male another female to "bother" and also distract the pearl.
I have read through all of my books and searched the internet, and I've read maybe one account of a female cichlid trying to get fry from another female's mouth.
Have you heard of this kind of behavior with zebras? The fact that the pearl is ignored by the males but is so aggressive with the female doesn't make sense to me.
Any help or insight would be appreciated. Thanks, Laura
< In the wild , males are aggressive to defend territories. Since many cichlids eat algae, the bigger your territory the more algae=food you control. If you have excess food you can share with a female and entice her to spawn with you. When a male enters the territory they are chased away as competition. Within the male's territory there is also competition from the females. The most aggressive female will chase other females out of the territory. This means there is more food for her to eat and have a bigger spawn when she breeds. When she has bred she can no longer use her mouth to defend herself. Other females will then drive her off and the next most dominant female will then be able to spawn. In the aquarium the brooding
females have nowhere to go. They end up getting beat up by dominant males and non breeding females. This is usually why I recommend removing a female out of a community tank that has just spawned.-Chuck>

African reproduction woes
Malawi Cichlid Aggression  6/11/10 

Hello, I have set up an African cichlid tank with 3 Aulonocara Stuartgranti
(German Red) and 3 Yellow Labs. I just got the second German Red female yesterday and the original female has not stopped harassing her since.
She spends most of her time hiding under a shell or behind one of the plants.
Do you know why this would be?
< There is a pecking order among the males and the same for the females for breeding rights. This way only the best males get to pass on their genes with the best females.>
Before I added her the peacocks seemed to have no interest in spawning with one another and now she (original) stays on the heels of the new female any time she shows her face? Could the original now be interested in spawning?
<If she was interested in spawning the males would be the aggressive ones in the tank and both females would be hiding.>
Also, the 2 smaller Labs appear to be attempting to spawn (looks like they are chasing one another's tails in circles in the substrate) but every time they start the largest Lab comes and chases them apart. I believe the largest to be a male, if I got another female or 2 would he leave them to their thing or would he still interrupt them?
< Once again the fish are expressing a pecking order. The two smaller yellow labs already know who the main lab is. They are fighting for number two spot.>
There is plenty of rockwork and plants around the edges of the tank and the middle is all open swimming area so everyone should be happy. I have 2 Tetra whisper filters, both rated to filter the tank by themselves, and a powerhead in the tank so there is a lot of current as well. I really want one of these species to spawn but have never bred fish before so I don't know if I'm missing something. Thank you for your time.-Joshua
< In the wild their territories are larger than most aquariums. When adding new fish you should re-aquascape the tank to provide all new territories.-Chuck>
Re African reproduction woes
Peacock Cichlid Breeding   7/10/10

After I have watched these fish more I have noticed that the original "female" has egg spots on it's anal and caudal fin, a dull yellow sheen to it's body and a purple sheen to the head, but is still grey over it's whole body. I believe that this fish is male. My question is this; are Aulonocara females capable of coloring themselves as a male in order to remain dominant? I have read that many species of African Cichlid can do this and that by removing a false male (dominant female) smaller specimens will come to color and spawn. The fish I think would be the dominant
female is about 4 inches and has no egg spots and seems to have absolutely no interest in mating but it is yellow and purple like the males should be. Does this sound possible? If not what could I do?
<In a breeding group, there is usually only one dominant male. Other males in the group try to mimic females so the dominant male doesn't beat them up. In an aquarium the nondominant males have nowhere to go to escape. So
they try to fool the dominant male and sometimes fool their owners too by resembling females. I recall a young friend with a group of 17 fish that would not breed. We took out the dominant male and a couple days later
another male colored up out of the group. Eventually we had 14 males and three females. The best looking male was left to spawn with the remaining three females. If there are no males in the group than a dominant female
can take on some male characteristics and she then dominates the group. These shemales usually don't color up as well as the males but may end up being able to spawn with females when they are very old.-Chuck>

Mbuna tank
Stocking a New Lake Malawi Cichlid Tank 6/10/2010

Hi, How are you?
< So far so good.>
I currently have a 29 gallon tank with 7 Mbuna. I'm not sure what type they are. I have 3 yellow labs (I think), 2 that are orange, one blue with black on his fins, and another that was blue with vertical black stripes that is
turning yellow now. They range in size from slightly over an inch to 2.5 inches. I plan on moving them into a 75 gallon tank. My concern is, the people at the pet store told me these fish need to be kept over stocked and
that 7 was a good amount for 29 gallons. I realize people at pet stores aren't usually right but I just wanted to make sure. :) Should I buy some new ones for the 75 gallon tank? Can I even do that or will the old ones kill the new ones? Or is 7 really a good amount for a 75 gallon tank? Thank you in advance for your time! Lindsay
< You have a pet store that is right on the money. Mbuna are territorial.
They have teeth that they use to scrape algae off of the rocks and can inflict lots of damage on another fish. When one fish sets up a territory it will defend it against all other fish. The idea is the more fish you have the aggression will be spread out and single fish will not get picked on too much. This will require lots of water changes and a large filter that will need to pump at least 300 gph. Keep the water at around 73-77 F.
Too warm and they will want to be breeding all the time and really be a handful.-Chuck>

Mbuna Cichlid Compatability   5/26/10
Thanks for the work you do with the website; it has been very informative for me.
I have kept simple community fish for several years and am now planning on setting up a 55-75 gallon Mbuna tank with a sand substrate and a lot of rocks to provide as much of a natural environment as possible.
<OK. But this aquarium is small for Mbuna. I'd think VERY carefully before doing this. By all means look at Malawians, but avoid Mbuna.>
I intend to use two Marineland Penguin 350 filters and do weekly 30-40% water changes. My target pH and temperature are 8.0 and 78*F respectively.
I would like to put several different species in the tank with one male and three females of each (if possible; I know sexing is difficult at the juvenile stage) and need to know if I should expect problems with hybridization or too much aggression.
<Yes and yes.>
The fish I'm considering are Labidochromis Caeruleus,
<An excellent species, and along with Iodotropheus spp., Labidochromis spp. make good additions to Malawian communities. They mix okay with Dwarf Mbuna, in particular Pseudotropheus demasoni and Pseudotropheus saulosi, but shouldn't be mixed with the non-dwarf Pseudotropheus or any of the Melanochromis or Labeotropheus.>
Melanochromis Johanni,
<Not quite as psychotic as M. auratus, and a single male should ignore dissimilar fish kept with it. But be sure not to add any cichlids with similar colouration.
Metriaclima lombardoi, and Maylandia greshakei.
<These are both what I loosely call Pseudotropheus, and can/will hybridise.
(Many Pseudotropheus species were cleaved off into the genus Maylandia, but for reasons too tedious to discuss here, a minority of ichthyologists prefer the name Metriaclima rather than Maylandia for those species. The main thing for aquarists to understand is that Pseudotropheus, Metriaclima and Maylandia are all the same thing as far as Mother Nature is concerned, and all will interbreed given the chance, with a high probability of producing hybrid offspring. So for long term success, do not mix Pseudotropheus, Metriaclima and/or Maylandia. Anyway, as for aggression, Pseudotropheus lombardoi is aggressive, about the same as Pseudotropheus zebra, so wouldn't be my choice for a peaceful community. Pseudotropheus greshakei is perhaps a touch less aggressive, but not enough to make a difference here. Do look at Pseudotropheus demasoni and Pseudotropheus saulosi instead. Cynotilapia spp. can be worthwhile too, though getting good quality Cynotilapia afra is difficult thanks to chronic mixing and
careless breeding of the different regional forms. At least some Aulonocara would work in this tank too, if there was adequate open water for them.>
All would be added to the tank as juveniles at as close to the same size as possible. My main concern is for the aggression level of the male Johanni.
<This will depend on the availability of caves and the colouration of the other fish. Melanochromis johanni isn't a peaceful fish by any definition, but it is towards the lower end of the Mbuna aggression scale, unlikely virtually all other Melanochromis.>
Also, should any of these species be expected to breed and/or hybridize when kept together in a tank of this size?
<Yes and yes.>
Very Respectfully,
D. DeWald
<Do spend a little time reading books by Konings and Loiselle before buying these fish. It's easy to make a random Mbuna tank that ends up with hyperdominant male and a bunch of hybrid offspring. But it's quite difficult to create a stable, attractive Malawian community that offers a range of colours and behaviours you can observe at leisure. Cheers, Neale.> 

Re: Mbuna Cichlid Compatibility [Chuck?] 5/26/2010
Thanks for the quick response and advice.
<Most welcome.>
I've purchased a 75 gallon aquarium and am planning on pursuing the Mbuna setup with some modifications.
How many species can/should I put in a tank of this size while maintaining proper male/female ratios and what species would you recommend?
<I think two or three carefully chosen, dwarf or near-dwarf species would work well here, preferably in harem situations of one male with two or three females. Labidochromis are sufficiently mild that 2 males, 3 females
would be fine. But male Pseudotropheus and Melanochromis tend to be much more aggressive towards each other and unresponsive females, so you really don't want more than one male within each group of these species.>
I have a group of Labidochromis caeruleus already in another tank and would like them included in the setup.
<They are an excellent species and highly recommended. It's a shame the other Labidochromis species aren't more widely traded, as on the whole they're quite mild, trustworthy fish, if a bit too nippy for hard water community tanks. Do also be sure to introduce the Labidochromis before anything more aggressive, e.g., the Pseudotropheus demasoni or Melanochromis johanni.>
I read up on Pseudotropheus demasoni as you advised and am worried about the aggression they show toward their own kind.
Is it true they must be kept in groups of 12 or more?
<All territory-holding male Pseudotropheus are aggressive towards each other and unresponsive females, so to some extent it's true that overstocking tanks reduces aggression by making it impossible for any one male to claim a territory. On the other hand, it's male/male aggression that usually ends up with physical damage or death. Given space, and especially if the females are introduced before the male, a single male Pseudotropheus demasoni with 3-4 females should do okay. There are no guarantees, but it's an approach that works more often than not. Of course, you also keep just female Pseudotropheus demasoni!>
Thanks again, D. DeWald
<I've cc'ed our cichlid guru Chuck here, so if he has any ideas on this, I'm sure he'll chime in. In the meantime, do track down the Konings or Loiselle book of your choice, and have a good read. Cichlid communities do need to be planned if they're to work in the long term. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mbuna Cichlid Compatibility [Chuck?]
Subject: Re: Mbuna Cichlid Compatability
<Unfortunately most of the Lake Malawi cichlids in the hobby belong to the Mbuna group. These cichlids make a living by defending a large rocky area. This area is guarded to keep other cichlids away so all the algae will be
consumed by the dominant cichlid. He can then allow a potential mate to enter his territory if she is willing to spawn. In most aquariums there is not enough room to establish a territory so then the entire tank becomes the territory. All fish are then subjected to attacks by the dominant fish.
When that fish is removed then another moves up the ladder and starts the process all other again. Cichlids like Labidochromis do not eat much algae so develop weak territories to attract potential mates. Here are a few
guidelines that I use when I recommend fish for a Lake Malawi community tank. Get all colorful fish. In many cases the females are rather drab and silvery. Many cichlid species have females with just as much color as the males. Get at least six of each species. Assuming a sex ratio of 50/50, this will leave you with three of each sex. Pick the best male and get rid of the other two. This will leave you with a small harem of each species.
Put all the fish together in the tank when they are under two inches. All of these fish will be immature and can then peacefully group up and establish a pecking order. Keep the water temp below 77 F. Many aquarist's keep the water too warm. This creates a breeding frenzy and the males will be "on" all the time. Don't pick cichlid species with the same colors and markings. Many times they will be mistaken for conspecifics and treated as such. Cichlids that are colorful and not too aggressive would be Mel. parrallelus, Labidochromis sp. Ps saulosi, Ps acei, Ps
lanistacola/livingstoni, In a lager tank I would try a small group of red zebras and a small group of a Labeotropheus species.-Chuck>

Re: Mbuna Cichlid Compatibility [Chuck?] 6/10/2010
Continuing with the 75g Mbuna setup... I've decided to get Labidochromis caeruleus and Pseudotropheus acei (extremely clichéd beginner setup, I know)
<With good reason. It's a combo that works. Nice contrast in their colours and behaviour. Also eminently compatible with some sort of Synodontis!>
with a black background and black sand to emphasize their colors. I'm looking for one to two more reasonably mild mannered Mbuna species to put with them that will add some color.
<I wouldn't another Mbuna, but rather a midwater cichlid that won't compete for space. Remember, the Mbuna are merely a subset of Malawian cichlids;
there are lots of others!>
I love the look of Pseudotropheus demasoni, but I think they're out because of the danger of hybridization with the aceis (aggression also being a factor).
<Certainly a risk. Besides, that's more of the same. You want a different shape and a different colour.>
Any suggestions?
<Iodotropheus is always an option, and very mild mannered, but the specimens widely sold really aren't all that colourful. Most of the haplochromines should work too, for example Nimbocromis livingstoni, the smaller Aulonocara (e.g., Aulonocara baenschi), and the "Utaka" cichlids (e.g., Protomelas and Copadichromis spp.). Your tank is unfortunately too small for Cyrtocara moorii, one of the nicest of the big but peaceful Malawians. Also, don't discount the idea of a school of dither fish. A school of Swordtails or Australian Rainbowfish would not only add colour, but would also encourage good behaviour from the cichlids. I wouldn't add these alongside midwater cichlids, but if all you had were rock-dwelling species, they'd work well.>
Very Respectfully,
D. DeWald
<Cheers, Neale.>

Malawi cichlid water chemistry  12/20/09
Hello crew, I have a question in regard to general water hardness. I am planning a Malawi Mbuna tank. It is to be a 125 gallon with a wet/dry sump system. My tap water has nitrate issues in the order of 25 ppm. The plan is to use RO water and add the needed minerals to obtain the correct GH and KH. Baking soda will be used to maintain KH. Could you tell me just how much of what I should add to the RO water to achieve Proper GH. Lots of sites/folks suggest using Epsom salts. This takes care of the Mag but what about Calcium?
Can I use calcium Chloride? What should I shoot for in ppm for both components?
<Use a Rift Valley salt mix, either prepackaged or put together yourself using the recipe given here:
The precisely values don't matter all that much (that page includes the recommended ranges for Malawian cichlids) provided you're consistent from
week to week.
Cheers, Neale.>


African cichlid setup - fluidized bed?
Fluidized Filter Bed on a Lake Malawi Mbuna Tank 9/16/09

Hello Crew, First, thank you for offering such a wonderful resource to hobbyists such as myself. I've learned more from this site over my past few years in the hobby than from any other sources combined.
After successfully running a freshwater fish-only system for about 5 years now, I've decided to move onto a new challenge: African cichlids. I'm in the process of setting up an Mbuna biotope. The following is my setup as it currently stands (no fish yet): 46 gallon bowfront, Eco-Complete African Cichlid Sand, eheim 2217 with EhfiMech/course pad/Ehfisubstrat pro/fine pad.
I plan to add rock as the next step, but prior to adding any fish I had a few questions: As I understand it, aggression can be managed by "overstocking" the tank. By doing this I would have a considerable bioload
in the tank and I'm concerned about the 2217's ability to handle this alone (even if not overstocked, I heard cichlids are messy regardless). I'm also concerned that performing maintenance on the 2217 will overly disrupt my bio filter (as you probably know, the 2217, while a workhorse, isn't exactly user-friendly as far as maintenance is concerned). I've been researching additional bio-filtration methods and one that has caught my eye is the fluidized bed. I'm considering adding a fluidized bed to handle my biological filtration, and changing out the 2217 media to handle primarily mechanical, and as necessary, chemical filtration. I would be performing a 25% water change weekly as I did with the freshwater setup. Does this sound
like a viable alternative, or do you think I would likely encounter a nitrate problem? Could you suggest an alternative method? Again, thank you for your time. Billy in Boston
< Many of your ideas are right on the money. Fluidized beds are great as long as the power stays on. When the power goes off for any time period the bed collapses and the bacteria can die in a short time when the oxygen is depleted. They do handle a lot of bioload in the tank. Look into a power backup for the filter if interrupted power is a problem..-Chuck>


Can the tank hold it? 7/27/09
Thanks for the earlier reply. I just have one more question, with it being a lake Malawi biotype I am going to be placing 88 pounds of rock and of 88 pounds sand, will the aquarium be able to support this weight? Its 180 gallon tank.
<No problem, any commercially available tank and stand will hold this without any trouble. Scott V.>


Stocking a Malawi Cichlid Tank - 7/16/09
Hi WWM crew. I am setting up a Lake Malawi themed tank with the following key details, the main aquarium is 130 gallons and will be filled with rock and sand, then the sump is a further 50 gallons and will have sintered glass, filter wool and gravel. I am planning to keep 36 fish in this tank set up would you say that this is overstocking this aquarium?
<Depending on the size and the species you plan on stocking with, if you go with medium sized cichlids you will be fine if you watch the water changes and keep the nitrates under 20 ppm.-Chuck>


Stocking A Malawi Cichlid Tank   6/26/09
Hi WWM crew, I am setting up a 130 to a 150 gallon Lake Malawi tank setup, and was wondering what sort of population density I could have in an aquarium like this, and if I am using a sump whether this would mean I could keep more fish because of the increased volume of the tank? I will also be using an external canister filter for additional filtration. I have also read that pool filtration sand is a good substrate for a Lake Malawi aquarium is this true? Peter thanks a lot for your help
<The pumps in the filter and the sump need to move at least 450 GPH, with more circulation being better. There are many variables in your question.
The answer lies in the nitrate levels reached prior to doing your water changes. The nitrate levels should not exceed 20 ppm. If you cannot maintain these nitrate levels then you need to do more water changes or change more water when you do get around to doing a water change. If these nitrate levels cannot be maintained with water changes then you need to decrease the bioload by reducing the number of fish. Lake Malawi has lots of different cichlids ranging from a few inches long to over a foot. You can keep more smaller cichlids and fewer big cichlids in the same volume of water. If you were considering stocking the tank with Mbuna then I would say that about 30+ fish would be just fine.-Chuck>

Stocking A Malawi Cichlid Tank II 6/27/09
Thanks for the quick response Chuck. Yes I am only going to be stocking Mbuna species and was hoping to keep 6 species with 5 specimens from each.
My local fish store told me that in this size tank (150 gallon) that I can choose pretty much any Mbuna species as aggression won't be as much of a factor in a tank of this size, is this correct?
<Get all the fish at he same time. Hopefully they will be small and will grow up together with a pecking order already established.>
I will be doing 25% water changes weekly.
< Check the nitrates often. This should work for a while but check later on when the fish get older.-Chuck>


Mixing additives for a Malawi tank   4/26/09
Dear Web Crew
I'm setting up a Malawi aquarium, which will have its water changes coming from 2 x 200 L containers. These are elevated to enable a gravity-feed to the system. Every week or two, I'll have to fill the drums with tap water and treat for chlorine etc., plus additives to adjust pH, GH and KH. To make things easier for myself--and because I'll be having a neighbour come in from time to time when I'm away to do the top-ups for me--I thought I might make up batches of additives for the containers so they don't have to be measured out each time I fill up.
<Good idea.>
For each 20 L, I'll be using one teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate, one tablespoon of Epsom salts, and one teaspoon of marine aquarium salt mix.
I have a couple of questions about this batching.
1.. Is it OK to mix these ingredients together and store them in a dry form for later use?
2.. Is it OK to mix these ingredients together and dissolve them in dechlorinated water in a plastic bottle so the solution can be poured into the containers when I fill them with tap water?
<No; I'd keep them dry, to prevent reactions between the chemicals, water, and dissolved CO2.>
3.. If it's OK to do one or both of these routines, is there a shelf-life for the mixtures?
<For the dry salts, mixed together, they should be stable for weeks, likely months, especially if kept cool and dry (e.g., in a Tupperware container in the fridge). I don't think anyone has actually done any tests here, but none of these chemicals is terribly reactive when dry. But still, do check the water chemistry of the water you make, just to be sure.>
Many thanks for your help on this occasion and for past very informative replies.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mixing additives for a Malawi tank (RMF, would you agree about the shelf life of alkalinity mix?)<<I do>>
Thanks, Neale, for your prompt reply and for info I can always rely on.
<Let's see if Bob agrees first! But I can't think of any reason why mixing your own salts wouldn't work; after all, you can buy pre-packaged cichlid salt mixes very similar in composition. Cheers, Neale.>


Oscars V Mbuna Cichlids  4/1/09
I just converted my 100g saltwater tank to freshwater. Been running for a week now, cycling all over again (no patience) fishless and will remain so for about another 2-3 weeks.
Changed the lights to two t-12 fluorescent (not wanting any live plants).
<Depending on light intensity, algae can be a problem in cichlid tanks.
Under dim lighting, diatoms are usually the thing. If the water movement isn't strong, blue-green algae is common as well. Hair algae tends to crop up in tanks with high levels of nitrate/phosphate. Unfortunately, the pretty green algae that looks so nice on rocks (and is eaten by the Mbuna) requires very strong lighting. In other words, lighting may be more important than you think.>
Love Oscars but did not know if I had the space to keep two and if anything else would be able to go in this size tank with two Oscars.
<Best to keep Oscars singly, to be honest. Males are feisty, and because you can't sex Oscars unless they're spawning, getting two at random has a 25% chance of ending up with two males. If you get a boy and a girl, a 50% chance, then the problem is that they will spawn, and you're suddenly lumbered with hundreds of unwanted baby Oscars. Much better to get one Oscar, and then fill out the tank with some large dither fish (big barbs for example) plus a suitable Loricariid Catfish and perhaps a Bichir for the bottom, if you like oddballs.>
I am running the Fluval fx5 and will be getting a surface skimmer as well.
<Sounds good. With big tanks and big fish, I recommend 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, and ideally more. The Fluval FX-5 should be ideal. Do keep the receipt though, or buy from somewhere with a good returns policy (e.g., a local store rather than mail order) because while Fluval filters are generally good, and I've often used them, the odd lemon does seem to come off the production line.>
I have also been looking at the Mbuna Cichlids but not sure how many would work to stop aggression and how many I could get away with in this size tank ( I would want the most fish possible if i went this route).
<Some personal thoughts are here:
Follow the links to other articles and FAQs. I'd HIGHLY recommend spending some time tracking down any of the Konings or Loiselle books listed here:
You can pick some of these up secondhand for very little money. People make
huge mistakes with Mbuna all the time, and instead of the colourful "freshwater reef tank" they were expecting, they end up with a bunch of muddy-looking hybrids that batter the heck out of each other. Among other things, social behaviour and hybridisation should be considered. For beginners, there's a lot to be said for choosing the smaller ("dwarf") Mbuna alongside relatively peaceful species such as Yellow Labs. Whatever you do, don't scrimp on the rocks, since the more cover you have, the better the fish will behave. Overstocking is an option, but it has costs in terms of water quality, and like all cichlids, Mbuna (and Malawians generally) are sensitive to nitrate. The all-too-common approach of adding "one of everything" tends to result in [a] the dominant fish killing the weaker species; and [b] lots of hybridisation. Hybrids are a bane on the hobby, and have really helped ruin this particular niche. Spend money on quality fish. Choose fish from different genera to avoid hybridisation, i.e., only one species of Pseudotropheus (including what are sometimes called Maylandia and Metriaclima), one species of Melanochromis, one species of Aulonocara, etc. Decide if you want just random colour or interesting behaviours; if the latter, then creating a proper harem makes sense, with one male and multiple (not just one!) female. Quite possibly,
concentrating on a single species would work well, as here with Placidochromis:
You could mix these with Labidochromis and Aulonocara quite easily, resulting in a mix of blue, yellow, and red fish without any risk of
(serious) aggression or hybridisation.>
The ups and downs of the two choices would be appreciated and any information you could give me on doing a 100g Mbuna Cichlid tank would be greatly appreciated as well.
<Cheers, Neale.>


pH effect on nitrifying bacteria 3/28/09
I'm setting up a Malawi cichlid aquarium.
<Very nice!>
I intend to inoculate the tank with sponge filter media from a friend's aquarium to begin the cycling process.
<Excellent idea.>
My friend keeps South American cichlids, and his aquarium pH is about 7. My aquarium water (tap water) is about 7.8 and is hard.
<Nothing to worry about.>
I've read that the bacteria may not survive substantial changes in pH when transferred from one system to another.
<Yes, this is true, but if you acclimate the media just as you'd acclimate fish, you'll be fine. In other words, put the media in a bucket and just-cover with water from the South American aquarium. Over the next, say, 30-40 minutes, add a cup or two of water every 5-10 minutes until the bucket is filled. When it's done, that's it! Move the media into your filter, and off you go. As ever though, do take care to check nitrite or ammonia in the days thereafter, and stock the tank slowly, taking care not to overfeed.>
Should this be a concern for me? If so, can you suggest how I could handle the transition? (I don't know anyone with an African tank who could help me.)
Many thanks.
<Good luck, Neale.>


Vallisneria, plants in the cichlid tank (Malawi, Tanganyika) 2/16/09 Hey Crew, First and foremost today I would like to congratulate you all on a very well put together and extremely informative website!!! I read your stuff till my eyes hurt almost every night. Anyways, on to business. Here's my setup 100 Gal.(60"x24"x16"), Fluval 305(3 trays sintered glass, 2 trays API ammocarb, 1 tray nitra-zorb), Penguin 350 running standard cartridges and bio-wheels, H.O.T. Magnum 250 running micron cartridge, 2 Hydor Koralia 3's, Hydor inline 300 watt heater, 60" Hamilton HO lighting canopy with 1 each 10,000K day and actinic(room for two more T5 bulbs) on for 10hrs per day. 80 lbs pea gravel mixed with 20 lbs aragonite base cichlid mix, 80 lbs Utah lace rock, and 1 large piece African driftwood. Water parameters are PH 8.2, KH 9 degrees, GH 12 degrees, NH3/4 0ppm, NO2 0ppm, NO3 10ppm, temp 78 degrees. I use baking soda, Epsom salt, instant ocean marine mix, and Kent trace elements for cichlids. All water mixed, aerated, and heated the night before, of course. Maintenance includes gravel vacuum, 75% water change(stocking density is heavy), filter maintenance, and water testing, all weekly. Fish include various Malawi and Tanganyika cichlids, all of which are thriving, two pair breed all the time. I know they shouldn't be mixed, but all is well for over a year now. Not much aggression as I rearrange rockwork weekly. If problems arise I'll have a good excuse to buy another tank!!! Phew. Okay, here's my questions. Will plants(Vallisneria, Java moss, Anubias, etc.)thrive under my lighting? Should I add more bulbs to my hood? If so what K temp? Can I plants these in small clay pots with fertilized pond soil and then bury in my gravel? If so what would a good soil/fertilizer combo be? What other plants will thrive in my water? As well any recommendations for growing plant in a cichlid tank you could throw my way will greatly appreciated. I know my beloved cichlids will mow these like grass, but that's half the idea. Sorry if the tank description was long, just wanted to be as descriptive as possible. I would also like to thank the crew in advance for all the great pointers I am sure to receive. Yours Truly, Victor <Hello Victor. Vallisneria is very adaptable, and while it prefers really bright light, grows reasonably well even under moderate levels. So provided you have at least 2 watts per gallon, I'd fully expect Vallisneria to do very well in your tank. Since Vallisneria species are native to both Malawi and Tanganyika, they are one of the most appropriate plants to keep with Rift Valley cichlids. Nimbochromis livingstonii for example is a species that specifically inhabits Vallisneria thickets. Colour temperature largely doesn't matter for plants because they are much more adaptable in this regard than corals. But the ideal is around 5500-6500 K. Vallisneria can be planted in pots, but quickly grow out of them as they expand across the tank. If you want just a small clump of them in one corner, then those plastic pots with rock wool will work fine, provided you remember to put iron-rich fertiliser tablets in among their roots once a month. Alternatively, if you're growing lots of Vallisneria, then using a plant-friendly substrate will make sense, even if it's just one half (of whatever) of the tank. I find a mix of pond soil and gravel to about an inch works great. Put a gravel tidy (or any fish-safe plastic mesh) on top, and then cover with another couple inches of gravel or sand. The gravel tidy will keep the cichlids from making a mess if they dig. Putting large stones around the first few clumps of Vallisneria will help prevent them being uprooted. Epiphytes (Java moss/fern, Anubias, etc.) and floating plants obviously couldn't care less about the substrate and rely solely on fertiliser added to the water. Epiphytes tend to grow slowly, so a half-dose per month should be ample. Floating plants are nutrient greedy, so use a full dose for them. Floating plants are superb for removing nitrate, which is useful in cichlid tanks, and also provide the shade cichlids prefer. But do bear in mind most cichlids are partially herbivorous, and will view many species as food. Hard water is not a problem if you choose the right plant species, and in fact things like Java fern and Vallisneria actually prefer it since the bicarbonate salts are a prime source of the carbon they use for photosynthesis (which can cause issues with KH and pH stability through the light/dark cycle of the day, so once plant growth becomes rampant, keep a check on water chemistry). Hope this helps, Neale.>


HOW TO CATCH A PREGNANT MBUNA <Read/hum to the tune of "What do you do with a drunken sailor">  12/11/08 Hi Crew! I have a 550 litre Malawi tank with holey rock décor. The tank is quite deep (30 inches) so reaching the bottom with a net requires my whole arm going into the tank. I have several females that are carrying eggs/fry and I would like to separate them into my nursery tank to release them when the time is right. This is not an easy task!! As soon as I put my arm or the net in they dash under a hole in the rock and I can't get at them. The big rocks have been siliconed to the bottom of the tank to prevent them falling onto the sides of the glass so I can't take them out. There are a couple of fry that have survived and are hiding in tiny holes where the rock meets the sand. Can you recommend a method of either catching the pregnant fish or the fry?? The pregnant females don't come up for food of course which is when it would be easier to catch them. Many thanks Brian <There isn't any easy way to do this! The usual approach is a two-man operation, one with a net to catch the fish, and the other moving rocks and trying to drive the fish into the net. Choose a big net, the bigger the better, though obviously a big net easily gets tangled up in the rocks, which is why the other person pushes the fish into the net rather than you trying to net the fish directly. Ultimately, this is why I recommend people only combine specimens that either [a] won't breed or [b] won't hybridise. That way, you'll either have no baby fish to worry about or else whatever juveniles survive will be pure-bred species not hybrids, so you can take your time removing them as/when they get big enough to catch. You could of course try a baited trap (e.g., and empty clear soda bottle) with some food in its that the fry could get to but the adults can't. Do take care that traps aren't "borderline" in size, such that adults can get wedged into them. Turkey basters are also very good for sucking up baby fish. Cheers, Neale.>


Hi Crew,
I was hoping you could advise on some bottom feeders for my 125 gallon Malawi tank set up. The fish I intend to stock are Iodotropheus Sprengerae, Labidochromis Caeruleus, Pseudotropheus Saulosi and
Copadichromis 'Midnight Mloto' which I will be adding in that order.
<All great fish and well chosen.>
I would like a few bottom feeders for this tank. Synodontis are nice fish but I would like a species that doesn't grow too big, say under 9 inches maximum and isn't a cuckoo fish that will lay eggs in the cichlids batch where the cichlid eggs are likely to get eaten.
<I wouldn't bother. Cichlids "sift" the sand great themselves, and if they can't keep the substrate clean, then you're overfeeding/under-cleaning. About the only thing you might add are some Malayan livebearing snails to keep the sand turned over.>
They will need to enjoy a majority herbivore diet with the occasional treat of brine shrimp or
daphnia to fit in with the Cichlids. Can you please recommend a few options??
<The only _bona fide_ benthic fish traded that would fit a Malawi system would be Synodontis catfish and a few Mastacembelus spiny eels. Mastacembelus can be great, but they're predatory, with at least species being major predators on juvenile cichlids. Mastacembelus spp. also suffer from being a bit delicate in some ways, and certainly very prone to escaping. Synodontis are egg-eaters even if they aren't brood parasites, and because they forage at night, when cichlids are at their weakest (in terms of brood care) they just aren't an option in tanks where you'd like fish to breed.>
I understand that common and bristlenose Plecos are often used in these tanks. My PH is 8.3. Will this be within their tolerance range??
<Yes, they can survive, just, but they do tend to get hammered by territorial cichlids. Consequently they hide a lot, and you may as well not keep them because you won't see them much. That said, at around pH 8, I have kept both Ancistrus and Panaque species in Malawi tanks. If the pH wasn't higher than 8.0, the Horseface Loach (Acantopsis choirorhynchos) might have been an option in a tank with a sandy substrate. These fish are so fast moving they tend to avoid problems with cichlids by burrowing into smooth (silica, not coral) sand. They aren't especially predatory, despite their large size. The same might be said for Garra spp., which also seem to thrive in moderately hard (to 20 degrees dH) water.>
I would rather add fish that will thrive in this PH as opposed to just survive. When should I add these fish relative to the Cichlids? I have plenty of ocean rock for all residents to establish territory in so this may not matter hugely.
<Honestly, I wouldn't bother. Apart from maybe Nerite snails, nothing much will thrive under these conditions AND be harmless towards eggs/fry.>
Any guidance you can give will be greatly appreciated.
<Sorry can't make any better suggestions. Cheers, Neale.>


Hi Crew,
I am about to set up my first Malawi cichlid tank and I was hoping you could advise on a couple of issues with regards to PH and one related to adding rocks.
The first one involves bacteria and PH. I have 2 existing tropical tanks that I was intending to pinch some filter media from to kick of the cycling of the tank. These tropical tanks contain hard water at a PH of 7.2 (London tap). As the Malawi tank will need a PH over 8 and will contain sand and rock to raise/buffer the PH, will the bacteria adapt OK to the new PH conditions? I suppose my concern is that the bacteria would suffer an equivalent of PH shock and die off as fish would in this situation.
<This should be fine.>
The second query involves establishing the right PH in the first place. If I had e.g. 40lbs of sand/rock in the tank and the PH was buffered to e.g. 8.0, would adding more sand raise the pH more and more or does it max out at some point?? I have seen a product called PH Up made by API
which is a liquid that can be added to set PH at 8.3 (I am intending to add this to new water during water changes to raise from the PH7.2 tap water to PH8.3) but I would like to have the right amount of sand/rock to buffer the PH to the same level to ensure it didn't alter up or down between water changes as the sand rock leaches into the water. I am assuming that just adding 7.2 water to 8.3 water will lower the overall PH until the sand/rock buffers it up which is not desirable. Are there any other ways to raise the PH of tap water before adding it to the
<Don't rely on rocks or coral sand to buffer the pH; once these are covered with algae and bacteria they're effectively isolated from the water, so can't dissolve. Instead concentrate on adding stuff to the water. There are commercial Malawi salts available, or you can mix your own very cheaply. Once common recipe is this, per 5 gallons/20 litres:
* 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
* 1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)
* 1 teaspoon marine salt mix (sodium chloride + trace elements)>
I also have some large pieces of holey rock for this tank, all about 18 inches by 9 inches. These are pretty heavy. I am concerned about the rocks slowly sinking through the sand and hitting glass at the bottom of the tank and cracking it. I have looked this up on the web and seen that some people recommend egg crate. I was wondering if there was some sort of plastic mat that I could place on the bottom of the tank before adding the sand to protect the bottom. The plastic would need to contain no chemicals that might poison the fish. Are there any other ways to protect the tank floor??
<Here's the best approach. Cover the bottom of the tank with a layer of gravel or coral sand to around 2-3 cm depth. Place a plastic gravel tidy on top. You can buy these ready made to various sizes from your aquarium shop. You can also use plastic mesh from the garden centre, though you'll need to pick a plastic that's sold as pond safe and is fine enough to not let gravel fall through it. Put the gravel tidy on the first layer of sand/gravel. Now put your rocks onto the gravel tidy. Silicone the rocks together if you're building a significant height. Once you're done, use the remaining coral sand or gravel to fill in the gaps on top of the gravel tidy. You'll now have the mesh preventing the cichlids from undermining the rockwork and also preventing the rocks from falling onto the glass at the bottom of the tank as well.>
Any advise you may have is greatly appreciated
<Cheers, Neale.>


Mbuna and Ammonia Problems  7/7/08 Hi there. Wondering if you may make a couple of suggestions regarding filtration, etc. <Sure thing!> A number of months ago, I read Ad Koning's book on African Cichlids. Since I was experiencing ammonia levels in my 55 Mbuna tank, I followed his advice and fed the fish once every other day (vs. 2-3 times per day). This brought on a great deal of aggression and I lost a lot of fish. So I went back to feeding them twice per day - an amount they can consume within 30 seconds. <I have to say I agree with your experience. Whilst in theory feeding fish less than once per day may have distinct advantages, on balance I'm in favour of the "multiple small meals" approach. All my day-active fish get two meals per day, but small ones. One in the morning, another in the evening. The catfish get their pellets or wafers at night, after lights are out. This way you spread out the ammonia and problems with uneaten food.> I then commenced doing 10% water changes every other day which did nothing to abate the ammonia levels. <Ah; well, if you're getting ammonia present "in real time", then there's three things to consider -- overfeeding, under-filtering, or overstocking.> I am back to conducting 30-40% water changes on Saturdays. Despite taking ammonia tests, which show no trace of ammonia, a few of the fish still flash. I've been treating the water with Amquel which neutralizes ammonia and I have found this effective. I also have a canister and a large hang on filter equipped with ammo chips. I change the filter media once per month (not at the same time intervals). <Chemical ammonia removers only work up to a point, and once a dose has been used up, any new ammonia produced by the fish is left untreated. Amquel is of no value at all in this context; it is exclusively for removing ammonia from tap water prior to adding fish.> I understand bio media aid in the nitrification process. Both filters are loaded with the stuff. What to do? I must be doing something wrong? <As outlined above. Given the tendency for Mbuna tanks to be overstocked, filtration has to be profound. I'd reckon on a big canister filter at least 6 times and ideally somewhere between 8-10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. So adding a second big canister might be just the ticket.> Look forward to hearing from you. Lisa Mae <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Mbuna and Ammonia Problems  7/9/08 Hi Neale, thanks so much. With both filters (canister and hang on) I'm turning over an equivalent of 685 gph which meets the needs of the 55 gallon tank. The canister is only filtering 185 gph which is rather weak. Looks like I need to seriously upgrade the canister. What about media Neale? Is zeolite effective if changed/recharged once per month? What do you use to combat ammonia levels and spikes? Thank you very much! Lisa. <Hi Lisa. The problem with combining multiple "weak" filters on a single big aquarium is that unless you position their inlets and outlets carefully, it is very easy to end up with corners of the tank with minimal water movement. Adding powerheads can help, as will an undergravel filter. But in all honesty, with fish are big and messy as Mbuna, filtration needs to be robust. If you are detecting ammonia, then you clearly don't have enough biological filtration. I wouldn't bother with zeolite -- realistically this will be very expensive, and removing some biological filtration media from one filter to replace it with zeolite makes no practical sense at all. So, what I'd look at is something like a couple of Eheim 2217 'classic' filters. These aren't expensive, have lots of capacity for biological media, and are extremely reliable. At about 260 gallons per hour turnover, two of them would give you well over 10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. You could of course simply add one and use that alongside what you already have, or combine one filter with a reverse-flow undergravel filter that would take care of carbonate hardness as well as ammonia. While old school, reverse-flow undergravel filters are inexpensive to set up and extremely effective at dealing with ammonia and solid waste. Either way, fill with good quality ceramic media or sponge for biological filtration. That should take care of your ammonia. In properly maintained, mature aquaria with suitably sized filters, you shouldn't get ammonia spikes or problems. It's as simple as this: if you detect ammonia, you either have too many fish for your filtration system; put too much food in the system for the filter to deal with; or just don't have enough filtration for the overall bioload. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mbuna and Ammonia Problems  7/9/08 This is great info - thank you so much! My problem has to be poor filtration - I only have about a dozen Mbuna in the 55 gallon so I'm not overstocked. I'll swap my current canister for the Eheim 2217. Thank you! <Hi Lisa. The concept of "being overstocked" is a practical rather than theoretical one, which is why I am leery of these inches-per-gallon rules. If you have a system where ammonia never gets to zero, you're overstocked. As you say, on paper at least a dozen 10-15 cm Mbuna should comfortably fit into a 55 gallon system. But in practise these fish are so active and have such high growth rates that it is very easy to find the otherwise reasonably sized filter being overwhelmed. I have a 40 gallon system in which I keep a few smallish tetras and glassfish along with a 15 cm Panaque nigrolineatus. Although water quality is perfect, the tank itself gets dirty very quickly simply because the catfish eats wood and produces masses of brown faeces. So it has two canister filters offering water turnover of almost 10 times per hour. Seems ridiculously over-filtered on paper, but actually the least I can get away with! In other words, one should go by empirical data -- ammonia tests for example -- rather than what is stated on the box the filter came in. Cheers, Neale.>

210 Gallon setup - Malawis Setting Up a Big Lake Malawi Cichlid Tank  4/16/08 Hi Bob and crew, I thought I would run a few questions by you all. I've been more into the marine side of aquaria for the last 10 years or so but I'm quitting that side of the world and migrating my 210 gallon tank (7ft x 2ft x 2ft) into a Malawi cichlid tank in the next couple of weeks. I've found a new owner for all of my angels and big 12" Niger trigger, so they will be well taken care of in the future :-) Main questions are focused and geared toward Nitrates (NO3) before I even get started. My main filtration on this tank on the marine side for over 4 successful years was 80% all skimmer (no carbon, nothing, nada) and 20% refugium (macro algae in Mud filters) because I learned the hard way that canisters were not for saltwater because they were nitrate factories, and I saw that first hand. Is this different in the freshwater world? < As organics accumulate the nitrates always have the potential to increase. The best filter is one that is able to be regularly cleaned.> I'll be using most of my existing equipment I have been running, and some stored in closets for years. (2) Amiracle Mud Filters (Medium sized), basically one for each overflow and both connected via 1" PVC bulkhead for equal water levels. I had bought 2 of these 4 years ago because I got them on clearance for about $70 each with everything included, lol. They work great, and I'll be replacing the live sand in there of course, with Eco-Complete plant substrate to grow freshwater grass-type plants and other stuff that will not grow high. Some idea of nitrate export anyway.... With a huge ASM G5 skimmer, that's about all I needed, but now with the skimmer gone, I'm scratching my head as to what to really filter this tank with. From previous years (back in my Mega-NO3 days) I have a Eheim 2229 wet/dry canister that's full of Eheim's pro-substrate media, Fluval 404 canister, and I think I even have a couple of Emperor 400 filters some where lying around. The more reading I've done though today it seems as long as I keep the pre-filter sponge clean (3x a week) the Eheim should not be that dirty inside and should only need cleaning about once a month, and shouldn't become a NO3 factory??? But then again, I've read conflicting information stating that my Eheim wet/dry canister filters were the only ones that were NO3 prone? I have a shower stall in my basement, so water changes are not a problem, but would love to have a plan for 30% - 40% water change every 2 weeks and maintain a nice "easy street" NO3 level for my Malawis? (10ppm, maybe, experts weigh in ?? < Nitrate levels will depend on the volume of fish and the activity of the fish selected. Less than 20 PPM nitrate will be just fine.> I currently do about 50%-60% water change weekly in my 46-gallon bowfront that has my baby Malawis in there right now. and that tank stays about 2-5 ppm now, but only has a Emperor 280 hang-on filter on the tank and a sponge on a powerhead..more info on those guys later..... Water circulation...whoa boy...my marine side of life for the tank is Tunze Turbelle stream pumps at each end of the 7-foot tank. I'm definitely pulling one out since I don't want my Malawis feeling like they are in a hurricane, lol. Even though Tunze's are not forceful and provide gentle currents Smile The return pump on the marine system currently is an Iwaki MD-55RLT, and I'm debating keeping that, or putting my original Mag7 pumps back in each of the AMiracle sumps for each return overflow connection. Lighting...well the 6-foot, 3x250w 14k halides are definitely coming off to save money on my electric bill, lol. Probably will go back to old-school, all-glass triple tube lights...gearing towards the 50/50 and 420 actinics since they make my existing Malawis in my 46 gallon look so pretty. The substrate in the tank will be Eco-Complete Cichlid gravel and maybe a little bit of natural gravel...probably about 75/25 ratio of the live Eco stuff. The tank will be 'cycled' initially with a Red Empress adult male (about 5 inches) and 2 beautiful male peacocks (about 3.5 inches, think they are called H-stripes???) < Never heard of H-Stripes before.> that my local LFS is holding for me. I chose these because they are supposedly a little more laid back, and they shouldn't just 'attack' my smaller guys that are waiting in the 46-gallon bowfront once the big tank is cycled and ready. Ok..now for those existing Malawis in that 46g tank. A 3.5 inch male Borleyai? (definitely the Alpha boss right now), a 3 inch electric blue (2nd in command), 2 red zebras, and a 2.5 inch Venustus Nimbo (definitely want another one of him. pretty guy) Also have a 10 gallon tank with smaller guys: a 1.5 inch OB peacock, and (3) 1-inch golden labs. I keep all water in those cichlid tanks at 78F, pH 8.3 with SeaChem's Malawi buffer. Ok guys...give me some pointers on the filtrations...you kinda see what animals will be growing in there...and I have a lot of space. Kinda leaning towards using the Eheim as major bio filter, and using something S-I-M-P-L-E for mechanical like hang-ons; since I will be letting refugium work do some filtering as well with whatever plants I can grow in those Amiracle filters, and using either carbon or Purigen in the filter pads on the AMiracle...Just don't want to fight NO3 anymore since I'm leaving saltwater, I should have an easier life??? < Go with the two Emperor 400 filters. Easy and quick to clean. Add the canister if extra circulation is needed. Gently vacuum the mulm from the gravel when you do your water changes. Nitrifying bacteria will live on the Bio-Wheels so you don't have to worry about new tank syndrome.> Is the Venustus Nimbo that I have pretty safe for temperament as far as cichlids go? < Your Nimbochromis venustus will get about 8 inches long and will prey on smaller cichlids that will fit into its mouth. Not very territorial unless it is getting ready to breed. Then it will stake out a territory and chase all other fish away.> I've seen pics of Nimbo Fusco...that no one ever has in stock. but I figure that might be for a reason? Meaning the Fusco is a pretty mean #%$& when he grows up? < The Nimbochromis fuscotaneatus is a very beautiful fish that also gets very big. Once again a fish eater that will catch and eat other cichlids up to 25% of its body size.> Thanks for any helpful info, I've tried this same text on cichlid-forum.com, and malawimayhem.com and just get reads and no replies. Larry <The genus Nimbochromis is not very popular with other aquarists since they get too big for most commonly maintained tanks.-Chuck>


Lake Malawi cichlid questions, comp. mostly   3/23/08 Hey crew, <Micah> A few questions, on varying subjects. I've got a recently established (no ammonia or nitrites as of yesterday, woo!) 55 gallon freshwater tank in which I keep 5 similarly-sized (about 2.5 inches each) Lake Malawi cichlids. I haven't identified them all yet, though I'm decently sure that one of them is a Pseudotropheus crabro, and one is a red zebra -- they're all some variety of Pseudotropheus from what my research has told me. Unfortunately, the only label on their tank was "assorted African cichlids." <Mmm, too often a bunch of hybrid junk> I've had these guys in my tank for about 3 weeks, though this weekend, I added many cleaned river rocks that my boyfriend picked out while he was camping in the mountains, and built some cave structures out of them to add some variety. They've already starting making the caves larger by re-landscaping the substrate (a crushed coral aragonite type deal), and seem to be enjoying themselves. I feed them a few different foods, and I try to limit myself to feeding them once per day. <Twice would be better> Depending on the day, they get Spirulina-enriched brine shrimp, red bloodworms, pellets, algae wafers, or something called emerald entree, which is a frozen combination of krill, spinach, lettuce, and many other things. They seem to be doing well, and I've been watching them carefully since adding the rocks, and testing the pH regularly to make sure the addition didn't throw anything off kilter. If possible, they seem to be more active and more hungry. I'm wondering if it's okay for me to be considering adding 3 more "assorted African cichlids." That would bring the total to 8 in a 55 gallon tank... I'm not sure whether I'm just being greedy or not, as there are no real aggression problems now since there's territory to claim galore (between the fake and real plants, various decor, and rock caves), but they're so fascinating to watch that I'm itching to add more. Insight? <Should be done sooner rather than... as these fishes can become fiercely territorial... You'll read re the benefit of crowding or not...> Second, I'm considering adding an algae eater...any recommendations? <An armored South American... Loricariid... "Pleco"... of size, toughness. See WWM re> Third, I'm disassembling a small aquarium which contains a few mollies and 3 ghost shrimp of varying sizes. The person that's adopting my mollies isn't interested in the ghost shrimp (they freak him out, apparently), and I'm trying to figure out which of my 3 established tanks to add the ghost shrimp to, in the hopes of keeping them not only from getting eaten, but from eating their companions. I have the cichlid tank, as described above, and I have a 20 gallon tank (also freshwater) with 5 dwarf Gouramis, 3 balloon body mollies, 3 Danios, and 1 lonely Otocinclus. I also have a 10 gallon freshwater tank with 3 male guppies, 2 Hatchetfish, and 1-2 Otocinclus plus a seemingly infinite number of common pond snails that I've given up on eliminating. Which of the three tanks would you recommend as a compatible home for 3 ghost shrimp of varying sizes? <Not the cichlid...> Finally, one of the cichlids has utterly stumped me in terms of identification. S/he started off a rich, chocolate brown, but some time in the last week, has started to show distinctly purple-looking vertical stripes. Any ideas? I haven't been able to get a good picture. Thanks so much for all your help! Micah <A few choices... Need a good pic. Bob Fenner>

Re: lake Malawi cichlid questions  3/26/08 Oh, and one more question. Would my mbunas be interested in the little pond snails that are attempting to hijack my smallest community tank? I'm more than happy to scrape a few off and offer them up, I just want to make sure that no harm can come of feeding small mbuna common pond snails. Thanks again! Micah <Snails are a fine food for many cichlids, either whole or squished. HOWEVER, you do need to take care they don't transmit diseases. Obviously if the tank donating the snails has whitespot or whatever, don't use them. But more seriously, you want snails that have been in captivity for a long period of time (many months, if not years) and haven't been collected from a pond that contained goldfish or similar. Snails are notorious parasite carriers, even for humans. In aquaria, the parasites can't finish their life cycles so quickly die out, but it is certainly possible for snails in goldfish ponds to carry viable parasites. Unlikely, but possible. But with this caveat mentioned, snails can be used safely if the snails have lived their entire lives in aquaria. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: lake Malawi cichlid questions  3/26/08 Thanks so much, Bob! <Uhh, Neale... RMF> I think I'm going to put the ghost shrimp in the dwarf Gourami tank...the fish in there are big enough/fast enough that I'm not terribly worried that either one will bully the other, and from what I've read the lone Oto in there would be happier back in my smallest tank with his friends, anyway. <Otocinclus certainly are schooling fish.> As for the brown cichlid, I've done more research and have more or less positively identified him/her as a rusty cichlid (a/k/a Iodotropheus sprengerae). <A lovely fish. Generally peaceful and non-territorial. Often called the best Malawi cichlid for beginners being hardy and easy to keep. Take care not to mix with Mbuna (tends to get pulverised by them). Gets on well with Yellow Labs though, as well as open water things like Aulonocara.> Apparently the variety in diet has encouraged the little guy to show off his true colors. Only 2 more to go, identification-wise. Then on to gender! Heh. <Good luck.> Your site and assistance has been invaluable, as always. -Micah <Cheers, Neale.>


Mbuna aggression. -03/17/08 Hello there. <Lisa,> Just a quick question. I experienced a horrible encounter with introducing an Mbuna to an established tank yesterday. Despite rearranging décor and shutting off the lights, about a half a dozen Mbuna went after the new guy. They ripped him to shreds. <Happens with Mbuna, unfortunately. Why you need to select species super-carefully, and ideally introduce them all when young, and the most aggressive last.> Poor guy. I immediately isolated him to a 10 gallon hospital tank and added Melafix (I also see you made this recommendation for an individual with the same problem). <Not I said the Little Red Hen. Melafix is not something I'd personally recommend/use for this sort of damage.> Is there anything else I can do for his damaged fins and open wounds? <Industrial-strength anti-Finrot/Fungus medication of your choice. Maracyn for example.> I cannot see any gashes but I know the mbunas' teeth are sharp... <Indeed so, for scraping rocks.> Should I raise the temp to high seventies? <I assume this is degrees-F! Yes, Mbuna should be maintained at 25C/77F regardless.> I have plenty of filtration and using an established sponge filter for bio and aeration purposes. <Good stuff.> Thank you. Lisa. <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mbuna aggression. 03/19/2008 Thanks Neale. I have Maracyn-2 on hand. I have about 1 tsp of Melafix in the tank. Is it okay to add the Maracyn to the Melafix? Shall I do a 25% water change first? Thank you. Lisa <Hi Lisa. Water changes are always good when finish one course of medication and before starting a new course of medication. Melafix and Maracyn can be used together without problems. Cheers, Neale.>


Ngara cichlid, repro. of Aulonocaras  -- 03/10/08 Hi all, I have a trio of NGARA peacock cichlid which I would like to breed. I have them in a 90 gallon aquarium. Is it possible to add additional cichlids to add life and color. I do worry about hybridization so I know other peacocks are out. If the answer is no, could I add additional NGARA to the tank? What cichlids would be appropriate based on the low aggression level of the NGARA's? Thank you in advance for your help. <Greetings. Hybridisation should always be considered when stocking cichlids, and I am very pleased that you are doing so! Aulonocara stuartgranti "Ngara" is only at risk of cross-breeding with other Aulonocara spp., so provided the other fish in the tank were from other genera, you'd be fine. Obvious choices for tankmates would be yellow Labidochromis caeruleus and Iodotropheus sprengerae, both peaceful and hardy Malawi cichlids. Avoid mixing Aulonocara with Mbuna; Aulonocara are simply not aggressive enough to do well. One possible exception might be Pseudotropheus 'acei', a reliably docile member of the Mbuna group. To some extent this would depend on the design of the tank -- the Pseudotropheus 'acei' like to hover above piles of rocks, whereas Aulonocara will utilise open sand areas. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ngara cichlid, sys.   3-11-08 One additional question if I may. I have eheim 2026 canister filter and still noticing particles in the water column. Do you suggest additional filter or am I just being overly critical?. Thank you and have a great day. Phil <Yes, you likely need additional filtration. For cichlids, anything less than 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour is likely to be disappointing, and there's no harm in going up to as much as 10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. Malawian and Tanganyikan cichlids both love strong water currents. It's a good idea to have a pair of filters, one optimised for biological filtration (sponges, ceramic noodles) and the other for mechanical/chemical filtration (filter wool, fine sponges, crushed coral). That way you can regularly clean or replace the mechanical/chemical media without worrying that you're losing biological filtration. Cheers, Neale.>

Filtration For A 90G Malawi Cichlid Tank 9/6/07 I have a 90g freshwater cichlid tank (mostly Malawi with a large Pleco) with 28 fish of small to med size. The tank is 4 months old now and seems to have properly cycled. I have one 250W heater, a Fluval 405 with the recommended media (Foam screen, bio rings and carbon pouches) and two bubble stones. pH is good (7.5 to 8+), no nitrites, the LFS says my phosphates are somewhat high but not to worry about it unless I have a big algae problem, which I don't. Plus I do 33% water changes once a week (I don't always take all the decs out of the tank, but still agitate and python much of the exposed gravel. I am wringing my hands as to whether I should get an additional filter (It would have to be a canister because I have no room behind the tank for a hang-on) which would likely be the Eheim 2126 for the following reasons: 1) I have never achieved what I would characterize as crystal clear water (only briefly after doing a diatom filter of the water) 2)These are dirty fish 3)I have a tendency to overfeed (albeit they only get fed very other day) 4) It might be appropriate anyway given the size of the tank and type of fish 5) We will start to travel weekends in the winter, so the redundancy of the filtration and heater might make sense 6) It might reduce on going maintenance 7) When I have changed the carbon, or rinsed out the foam (but not the rings) I get cloudy water for 3 or 4 days which I think is a bacteria bloom. What are your thoughts? Thanks in advance for your help. Thomas < For a 90G tank I would recommend that the filter turn the tank volume over at least 5 times per hour (450gph). Your 405 is rated at 340 gph without any of the media being clogged. The 2126 is rated at 275 gph. When running unclogged both your filters will run 615 gph. A little overkill but well worth the investment in keeping your fish healthy. You still need to service the filters on a regular basis. Just because the waste is out of the tank it is not out of the system. That only happens when you clean the filters. I would recommend that you alternate cleaning the filters so you don't lose the biological filtration.-Chuck>

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