African Cichlids -- Colors in Action II
More comments on fishes from the Rift Lakes

 
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Decorating
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How to Start
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Which Fish Get Along?
10 Questions to Ask
What is Ich?
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Preventing Disease
Feeding to the Max
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LA Pic
Young mooreis sport black blotches.  Mooreis brighten with age and lose their spots.

LA Pic
Borleyis (Hap?) add a nice touch to any African cichlid tank.

Optional Commercial.  You probably noticed by now all the new African cichlids in our 20Hs.  Many of our customers say we offer the best selection of Africans around.  Most fish stores dont have enough room to stock African cichlids.  Our African cichlids arrive weekly – not huge quantities of any one variety.  In fact, we stock very small quantities of the slow sellers.  The fast sellers we re-stock weekly.

LA Pic
Some African cichlids color up at a very young age.

Decorate Their Tanks.  Most of our young African tanks don’t look like the 90 full of flashy adults as you come in the front door.  We can’t catch Africans out of that labyrinth of rockwork.  We use simpler decorating techniques in our smaller African tanks – mainly to show that you can easily decorate an African cichlid tank.

Lava Rocks?  Note the absence of the lava rocks we recommend.  We couldn’t net Africans without scratching them, if we added lava rocks.  We still recommend using lots of the lava rocks in decorated African tanks.  Lava rocks make the fish display very well.  The 90 out front is Exhibit A.

LA Pic
As they grow, their aggressive tendencies also grow.

Expect Aggression.  African cichlids always act aggressive.  Expect it.  Plan for it.  That’s one reason they need a larger than average tank.  That’s why you give them nooks, crannies, crevices, and caves.  That’s why you add the plants.  And although some people mix African cichlids with other fishes, we seldom recommend such a mix.  Even the small ones beat the stuffing out of other fishes (including Central and South American cichlids).

 

Give them Space.  We house our juveniles in 20Hs.  Adults need 30 gallons at a minimum.  Better:  55 and up.  Remember, you want to put lots of them in the tank.  And they don’t stay two inches for very long.  They grow six to 10 inches long.  Definitely crowd them, but give them space to get away from each other when they need it.

LA Pic
Little guys especially adjust to crowding.  Many juveniles sport drab protective coloration.

LA Pic
Not all juvies look drab.

Crowd Africans.  Africans fare best when crowded.  With just a few in a tank, the bully has few victims to beat on.  Low man on the totem pole gets the snot and other bodily fluids beat out of him.   With lots of other victims to nip at, no particular fish gets bitten to death.  And mix the species.  Most Africans ignore other species.  You get your biggest arguments when two adult males fight over a female at spawning time.  Also, females carrying fry in their mouths will get picked on. Put them in a separate quarantine tank or they get skinned, ripped, and torn.  They cannot fight back with a mouthful of eggs.

LA Pic
Malawi "eye-biters" do not bite out fish eyeballs.

Rescue Victims.  Expect nipped fins and scraped scales.  They grow back.  But if you see a tail half-chewed off, rescue that fish fast.  Put it in isolation till it regrows its original equipment.  Ditto any fish lying on its side at the top of the tank.  He’s trying (unsuccessfully) to give up.  Someone in the tank refuses to quit (and won’t until he reduces the population by one).  Get that fish out now.  Once one gets worn down this far, it needs your assistance fast.  Wounded African cichlids are considered snack food.

LA Pic
Any old type of rocks, wood. or decor will add protection.

Provide Nooks and Crannies.  The more hiding places you provide, the better your Africans display.  They sulk and clamp their fins in bare tanks.  Driftwood and rocks give them security and make their tank look good.  Any plants you add make them feel just that much better.

LA Pic
Move their decor around when you add new African cichlids.

Re-Decorate when Adding New Ones.  Move the décor items when you add new specimens to an established tank.  Then everybody fights over the re-arranged territories instead of picking on the new guy.

How to Catch Africans.  Don’t swoop away with your net and destroy your display.  Use your left hand to chase the fish into your net.  Take a little extra time catching these wary guys.

LA Pic
Leporinus and anostomus seem to get along (survive) with African cichlids.

Select a Variety of Species.  You want the bright ones – the cobalts, electric yellows, and reds, of course.  But keep in mind that juvenile Africans develop their colors as they mature – especially the peacocks.  Adult male peacocks literally glow with color.  If you have limited space, we suggest picking just one of each variety.  The more species you select, the more you will enjoy the results.

LA Pic

Hit the Books.  Refer to some of the African cichlid books.  The adults look great.  We stock most of the Lake Malawi and many of the Lake Tanganyika species.

 

We Recommend the African Salts.  We stock the SeaChem African cichlid salts.  We don’t use them in our juvenile tanks because of the plants.  The salts have little effect on the juvenile’s colors anyway.  But they really help bring out the adult colors.  They also help encourage spawning activity.  They’re not required.  They just make your fish look better (for very little extra cash).

LA Pic
African cichlids REALLY like to eat.

Feed a Varied menu.  African cichlids eat whatever we give them, and they eat it voraciously.  However, they do better on certain foods:

·             Cichlid foods

·             Carnivore foods

·             Spirulina foods (algae)

·             Color foods

·             Frozen foods

We have a new moist, concentrated food ordered that they really love.  But then, they even eat TetraMin – our sixth choice for a fish food.  Make sure yours get a variety of foods.

LA Pic Even the leetle guys like to munch on anacharis.

Plant Their Tank.  Africans browse on algae in the wild.  That doesn’t mean they eat all plants.  They usually ignore these tough/bog plants:

·             Brazilian Swords

·             Java lance fern

·             Corn plants

·             Aponogetons

·             Java moss

And who cares if they eat the bunch plants anyway?  Anacharis and hornwort cost very little.

Use Plastic Plants.  Some people couldn’t grow plants if you held a gun to their heads.  Large aggressive fish (some of which munch on the greenery), extra salts, and deep tanks that “eat up” light are three strikes against all but the hardiest plants.  You need plastic plants.   (If you want them  to look more natural, take a brown marker and add some brown spots on some of the leaves.)  In essence, plastic plants were made for African cichlid tanks.

Choose the Right Gravel.  Avoid light colored gravels.  They bleach out many fishes and make them look pale.  Colored gravels cause some species to “disappear.”  Black and natural gravels show off most Africans best.  Use at least a two-inch layer on the bottom in case they decide they want to dig.

Provide Excellent Filtration.  We love under gravel filters for African cichlids.  But we also see the value in adding extra power filters – especially the canister high-flow rate models.  African cichlids eat a lot and therefore excrete a lot.  They need a more than adequate filtration system.

LA Pic
Mix up your colors.  Not too many of the same species or color.

LA Pic
And of course, add as many peacock as you can find.

Change Your Water often.  Larger fish and crowded fish especially appreciate frequent water changes.  You can’t change too much water on your African cichlids.  If you use a good water conditioner, you can make massive water changes.  Any time your Africans look a little droopy (clamped fins, sulking on the bottom, or hiding), make a water change.  Change at least 20 to 25% (we usually change 50% ) of their water on a weekly basis.  Clean water keeps your African cichlids healthy and colorful.  LA.

More on Mbunas?  Go to AFIII

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