First of all, welcome to the forum. Many good folks here and we are growing.
African cichlids, first of all, are my first love among aquarium fish. They are pugnacious, surly, very territorial and sometomes downright vicious, but at the same time many show off brilliant colors, ala saltwater fish. Many are very easy to breed, given the proper conditions and room.
Africans, by nature, prefer a higher pH than most aquarium fish. The pH can, sometimes, be as high as 8.0+. They are very adaptable to down around 7.0pH, although I try to keep my tanks in the mid- to upper 7 range. I accomplish this by using a calcium based substrate and filtering over crushed coral. There are also additives that one may use to raise the pH. I have never used any.
Filtration is humungus. In my 125g, for example, I use (4) Marineland 660R powerheads (rated @ 170gph orunning a under gravel filter which has a layer of gravel covered by a cheesecloth type of material, (2) Penguin 350 power filters (rated @ 350gph), (2) Fluval 4 internal power filters (rated @ 260gph), and (2) Marineland 350 canister filters. I am filtering somewhere around 2600gph. This filtration allows me to turn the tank over 20+ times per hour. I stock my tanks a little on the heavy side also. In other words, I do not abide by the 1" of fish per gallon of water rule. I have found that in my 40+ years in the hobby that by stocking cichlids heavy, I do not have the territorial behavior to the degree of a lower ratio of stocking. I really don't know how many fish I have in the tank, but I would imagine the number is near 75 or so fish.
As far as lighting, I use (4) 3' T5 double bulb light fixtures. This provides more than ample lighting for both the fish and for my pleasure. You will not be having plants in the aquarium since the fish will DESTROY them either by eating them or by constantly digging them up. I decorated the tank with lace rock, which is stacked so that the fish have caves, nooks and crannies in which to hide and spawn. These may be silicone together if you wish and are not intending to remodel the tank with any regularity. I rescape my tanks about every 3 months or so for my pleasure, since I get bored with the layout at times. Plastic plants can be used, but these, too, will get dug up. Wood can also be used as a decoration and makes a nice addition to the layout.
Suitable tank mates would include synodotis' and dwarf African giraffe catfish ( if you want to keep your tank African), and plecostomus' as scavengers. I have heard of some using a dither or "target" fish in cichlid tanks, although I never have. These fish give the cichlids something to chase other than each other. Not really fair to those fish, but.......
I am very new to serious fish keeping. I am reading everything about cichlids that I can get my hands on but still feel that there is so much to learn. All and all my fish are "easy keepers." I started out with a 20 gallon tank and 5 Malawi Cichlids. I was not prepared for how big they would get and upgraded recently to a 55 gallon tank. Already I am wishing I got a bigger tank! I am hooked. I stock my tank with males as I am not interested in breeding at this time. I like the loud colors and they are such characters. They are very territorial and each has a different personality. I am still looking for a couple more fish but they are hard to find in a suitable size (my fish are about 5 inches right now). I have a yellow lab, a giraffe hap, bumble bee, electic blue something or other, and my newest addition is a blotch parrot. I would love more blues, purples and red stock (I know that sounds crazy but I love the colors-the louder the better-which is why I went with males). I also have a couple of plecos and they are a lot of fun to watch. I have hard water and my stats are always in check. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! Deefish
Talking about substrate, what do you guys recommend for a Malawi tank? Eco-complete cichlid sand can't possibly be worth the price, can it? I initially liked the idea of black sand, but I'm not really liking the sand substrate in my other tank. Thoughts?
It does a pretty good job of keeping the pH nice and high (it also looks really good as it ages).
I personally don't overcrowd my tank at all. I only have about 9 fish in the 72G tank (that's between me taking batches of babies down to the local pet store, they breed like rabbits). Every fish has his personal cave that he may or may not allow the opposite sex to enter into. My Plecos pretty much hide out all day until the aquarium light has been off for an hour or so, they are so efficient at hiding that I thought one was dead and eaten for months till I caught him swimming across the tank late one night...
I really enjoy African cichlids, they are by far my favorite freshwater fish. I think its difficult to come close to the wonderful array of colors that you get with cichlids without going salty...
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