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They aren't really brackish, but they do like very basic water that's hard enough to stay standing if the tank shatters around it. There are particular blends of chemicals that need to be added to the water to give it the right balance of ions to mimic the profile of one of the three major Rift Lakes. I don't know a whole lot about it, but, were I planning on setting up an African cichlid tank, I'd decide whether I wanted to keep Lake Tanagnyika or Lake Malawi cichlids, and then do some google searching on how to mimic that water. There are a lot of resources out there for cichlid keepers. It's like a cult or something :D
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