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African Cichilid questions (Lake Malawi)?

I have just recently set up a 75 gall tank and would like to get African Cichlids (I have always had Jack Dempseys, so this will be something new!)

I admit I'm getting confiused doing my research, some sites say they are freshwater, others say brackish water, some mention "Cichlid Salt" as a requirement.

Anyways what are the basics for Malawi setups? What should I know?

And what are some hardy "beginner friendly" species to look for?

4 Answers

  • Gary C
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Lake Malawi, one of the world's largest lakes, is a freshwater lake, not brackish water.

    However, there are a lot of mineral salts in the water, resulting in water that is quite hard and alkaline (pH 7.8 to 8.5, depending on where it's measured).

    If I say there are a lot of salts in the water, why isn't it considered brackish or salt water?

    The salts in Lake Malawi are not sodium chloride (NaCl), the substance we know as "salt" from the ocean and from our dinner tables.

    Lake Malawi actually contains very little sodium. Instead, it has dissolved minerals that give it high contents of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and various trace elements.

    Commercial "Cichlid Salt" is a mix of mineral salts (not table salt or sea salt, both of which are sodium chloride) intended to imitate the mineral content of the lake.

    You can also buy "Cichlid Buffer" which, if it's designed for Lake Malawi fish, aims at setting the pH in the Malawi range, typically around 8.2. Marine buffers, used for Reef aquaria, might also work for this purpose, since the pH of the ocean is about 8.2 to 8.4.

    Some people to use salt mixes made for marine aquaria with fish from Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika. Since these mixes contain minerals (especially calcium) in addition to sodium chloride, they may benefit the cichlids, even though they include a lot of unnecessary (for cichlids) sodium.

    Most cichlids can tolerate a fair amount of salt (sodium chloride) in their water, but the Malawi cichlids don't need it, as there is (again) very little sodium in their native waters.

    Besides using "Cichlid Salt" and "Cichlid Buffer" products, there are other ways to modify your water to make it more like Lake Malawi. (You can also find do-it-yourself recipes for "cichlid salts" on the Internet.)

    Besides commercial supplements, the most popular way to buffer the water for a Malawi tank is to use calcareous minerals (those containing a lot of calcium carbonate) in the tank decor. Most of the more popular Malawi cichlids are rock-dwelling fishes (the ones most dependent on rock habitats are known as "Mbuna," a local term). So we put piles of rocks in the tanks, arranging them to provide lots of caves and nooks and crannies where the fish can shelter. If we use calcareous rocks for this purpose, the rocks will also buffer the water somewhat. Mainly, we are talking here about various forms of limestone.

    "Texas Holey Rock," also called "Honeycomb Limestone," is popular in my part of the country. Other popular types are "Lace Rock" and Tufa and Travertine. Fossil coral, sold in the marine aquarium hobby as "base rock" or "live rock" (in this case, though, we want "dead rock," since it won't be in a marine tank) and barnacle skeletons, often sold at shell souvenir shops at the beach, also work for this purpose. We can also choose calcareous materials for the substrate (the gravel or sand on the bottom). Crushed coral, calcite, aragonite, oolite, and agricultural "crushed limestone" are some of the choices available for buffering substrates.

    I hope the foregoing helps explain a rather technical subject about which there are a lot of misconceptions.

    What species should you start with?

    There are many, many choices here, so it's largely a question of taste. Most Malawi cichlids are not too difficult to keep. It's primarily a matter of managing their aggression. If you have kept Jack Dempseys, though (with more than one Jack per tank), you probably have some experience with this issue. Nearly all the Malawi cichlids are mouthbrooders, which will give you a different breeding experience from Central American cichlids like the Jack Dempsey.

    Based on the number of juveniles I see for sale at fish club auctions, I'd say that the Yellow Lab or Electric Yellow (Labidochromis caeruleus) is easy to breed and very productive. It also seems to have a steady market in the hobby, largely due to the fact that both sexes are colorful even at small sizes. If you want to try something a little more ambitious, the various Peacock Cichlid species (genus Aulonocara) also seem to be quite marketable. The various "Zebra" species (genus Metriaclima) such as the Red Zebra, OB Zebra, etc. are also easy to keep and breed, but maybe not as easy to sell or give away (I've been stuck with a lot of fry I can't get rid of before, so I think about demand when I think of potential breeders).

    Have fun!

  • Rocks, especially ones that will raise the hardness of your water, are a good natural addition that mimic Lake Malawi's environment (so I've been told, never been there, heh). You don't need salt or brackish, but you will need very good, possibly extra, filtration. What fish you start with will depend on if you want to set up a species tank or a community one, but I can tell you that lombardoi are massive buttfaces when they want to be. :)

  • 5 years ago

    five is correct approximately mbuna and aulonocara, the exceptions being the 2 varieties you have already got, as good because the rusty's, on account that they're a lot more docile then ordinary mbuna. With a institution of yellows, a institution of acei, and a unmarried male peacock, it is going to be extra vibrant you then detect. The difficulty with striking too many species in is that you will not be ready to hold them in suitable sized companies. If you cross with adversarial fish like demsoni and a few others recounted above, you then must fail to remember your entire present offerings and goal for a extra competitive tank altogether, after which pass your hands and wish for the nice. There's a motive they were not on my first record.

  • 1 decade ago

    ALL malawi cichlids are freshwater; they need very high pH, at least 8.

    Some easy ones are electric yellows and zebras. They will be happy in a 75g. Pm me if you need any more information.

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