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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm planning on getting a 55 gallon tank in the near future. I wanted to plan it to be a cichlid tank with Mbuna as my core, if that would work. Apart from Bolivian rams, I've never kept cichlids before. Though, it so happens that my tap water naturally has a PH of about 7.8 and very hard water. I was just wanting some advice on what direction to take it: substrate, decor, tank-mates.

I've read that they don't work well with plants, but I would really like to try some. If so, I'd like an idea on what kind, how hard they are, and what sort of substrate they'd need. I'd like to go with sand, but I've never used it before (not even really sure how to gravel vac it.)

I'm also wondering about what kinds of Mbuna go together and what sort of tank mates to go with. I was wanting a good contrast of color, but particularly strong in blues and perhaps greens (if there are any). I'm also wondering about other cichlids and non-cichlids that could go with it. I've heard some catfish work with them. Would a Pictus work? If not, I'm open to other suggestions. Just wanting an idea. Also, do ANY invertebrates work with them? I dearly love shrimp.

I've also heard they're fond of very rocky tanks, I was wondering what sorts I could get, how I should arrange them and whether I could obtain them locally. I live in Kansas (lots of limestone) and have access to rural areas.

Sorry for how long this is and the number of question. I just wanna plan this out well.
 

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cool to see that you have a 55g tank with african cichlids soon going in it. in fact, i just set up a 55g mbuna cichlid tank myself about 2 months ago or so.

first off, lake malawi cichlids need a steady pH around 8.0, so ur in luck with ur tap water. i also keep my tank around 82-84 degrees. Africans are most likely to appear vibrant and colorful in aquariums with a general hardness ranging from 160 – 320 ppm or 9-18 DH. exactly how hard is ur tap?

to help keep the pH steady around the 8.0 mark, many mbuna cichlid experts use crushed coral as a substrate. it really is great stuff to put in this kind of setup. using crushed coral not only keeps the pH around 8.0, but will slowly release calcium, so keep an eye on the hardness of the water.


as for plants, i have no plants except one amazon sword. the amazon sword was such a beautifull peace, that i couldnt throw it away or put it in another tank. i just put it in there and hoped for the best. well soon after, they started uprooting it. :( they really like to arange the tank to their liking, so if you put plants in there, (which i strongly do not reccomend,) be prepared to do a lot of replanting and what not...

onto decoration. they NEED caves. they absolutly NEED caves and hollowed out crevices. the more crevices, the better. you can not have too many knoocks and crannies in an african cichlid tank. remember, a lot of the males are extreamly terratorial and sex-a-holics, so they will chase the pool females around constantly. a 1-1 male/female ratio wont work at all, and will result in the female dying of stress and/or injury from the male. i work with a 1:3 male/female ratio. and i keep one male per species of fish.

so you like the blues? tons of blues. lets see, you can get some johannis, the males have a slender blue body, with a black stripe running horizontally. you could also try some kenyi's. theyre not as slender, but are just as stunning IMO. females are a pastel-deep blue with black stripes running vertically. males are yellow with gray to black stripes. demasonis are amazing. now i never have experience with them, but males and females are pretty much identical for the most part. but they are of the most beautifull of the blues as far as lake malawi cichlids are concerned IMO. heres what i keep just for sh*ts and giggles:

4 yellow labs; 1 male, 3 female.
4 kenyi cichlids; 1 male, 3 female.
4 red zebras cichlids; 1 male, 3 female.
4 johanni cichlids; 1 male, 3 female.
2 leopard cories...

if you arent familiar with the yellow labs, theyre compeatly yellow, (duhh) with black on the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins. males and females are nearly identical, however males have more black on their fins than females, and females tend to have a lighter shade of yellow on their underbellies.

unlike most mbunas, the red zebra females often tend to have the more stunning colors than the males do. female red zebras are a deep orange and show 0-3 yellow "egg spots" on their anal fin. males are a pastel blue and tend to show more "egg spots" on their anal fin. (4-7.) however, in rare cases, there are orange males, but this is pretty rare.

as for catfish, people say that you shouldnt keep cories with them, but i put them in there and theyre doing great. as for the pictus, im sorry to say but thats a deff no way. they need much more acidic and softer water than the african cichlids. however, its common for people to put plecos and synodontis catfish with them..

as for shrimp, good luck trying to find them after the first hour or two... THIS IS A BAD IDEA. not only will the shrimp be destroyed, but mbunas cant tollerate fats and proteins like most fish do. for the most part, they are strict vegitarians, so feed them a vareity of algae based flakes, and blanched vegatables. if you dont feed them their proper diet, and introce too much fats and proteins, then they will enevitably get the "malawi bloat." they'll balloon up and get all off balance, and its a mess, trust me, they can even die from it.

however, ur not totally out of luck in the crustacian department. ive seen some african cichlid setups with a crayfish in them. looks really cool actually. plus, they look like a huge shrimp or a mini-lobster IMO. lol. but remember, like shrimp, crayfish cant tollerate a lot of copper in the water, so you might have to stop using certain chemicals...

well that was deffently more than i intended to write! lol. hope i helped, and if you have anymore questions, please ask us! let us know what you end up doing, and post pictures! tank builds with pictures are awesome! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Wow, thanks very much for that reply! It was very helpful.

As for my water hardness, it seems to be around 150 ppm. Also, copper isn't a problem. I keep cherry, Amano, and ghost shrimp with my tap water. Also, will the limestone work? I can get a bunch of that easy.

Also, anyone know any other sorts of potentially compatible fish that can tolerate a high PH?

One other question I forget to ask, how do you introduce mbunas to the tank once its cycled? Do you still introduce them gradually like with normal fish? I sorta got the impression that you might need to add them in larger numbers.
 

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ok as for the limestone, a lot of people actually use it to set up a rift tank. crushed coral sand, shells, limestone, and other rocks such as slate are good at pushing the pH of the water up into the alkaline range by adding phosphates and calcium to the water, it also makes the water really hard, but like u said, ur water is barely hard enough, so its fine.

why i love mbunas so much is that yeah, theyre agressive, which i like, and really terratorial, wich i love, but they dont go good with other fish EXCEPT other mbunas. so technically, you can have a community tank of african cichlids! :) the colors are simply stunning when put together...

as for cycling, i just cycled like i normally do with my other tanks. i added the old cories that i have had for years. hehe i love them. :p got my 3 female yellow labs, then got the male. then, my dad messed up the cycling process compleatly. he was out running some errand and he said that he was at the fish place. i asked him to get 4 demasonis, but he came home with no demasonis, but instead with 4 johannis, 3 red zebras, and 4 kenyis. he just doesnt understand the cycling process... :/ so i guess he threw the cycling out the window, and ive REALLY been on top of the water quality. been doing a lot of water changes and what not. but theyre doing great.
 

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as in blue lobsters you mean the blue crayfish, then yeah. ive seen a 150g or so tank with some 70 mixed african cichlids. everything from kenyis, yellow labs, red zebras, demasonis, johannis, you name it. the tank even had a nice sized blue crayfish in it. so yeah, i was actually thinking about getting one cuz i never worked with freshwater crustacions before. so GO FOR IT! :)
 

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Just my $ .02 about suggested fish stocking:

try not to keep kenyi in <75g tank and not < 1M: 6F ratios. They are very mean and fight a lot when reach adulthood.

yellow lab and red zebra will definitely crossbreed, so will not be able to keep fries from either of em (if you wanna sale/ give away fries to LFS).
 

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Discussion Starter #9
One problem, sort of. My local pet store has almost no mbunas to choose from, and all the places I know online ship them too small to sex. Are there any reliable online stores that can ship them with the male to female ratio I would need?
 

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got just the thing you need my man.

aquabid.com

its pretty much ebay but with only fish stuff. its really cool. i personally never bought from them but a lot of the people who sell livestock there have quality gaurantees and there are a lot of breeders who sell their stuff on that site. check it out, i think that is what ur looking for...
 

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Born-Again Freshwater
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I have a similar question concerning a Rift Lake Cichlid tank setup, involving converting a marine tank. To avoid multithreading the same question, the original thread for it may be found here.
 
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