Keeping African Cichlids: Lake Malawi Species
A colorful underwater world can brighten up a room when Lake Malawi Cichlids are in the tank. These small fish are native to Lake Malawi, which is one of the African Great Lakes in the African Rift. More than 1000 species of African Cichlids reside in the lake, making it a hot-spot for aquarium enthusiasts everywhere. In fact, the lake holds more fish than any other freshwater body of water on the planet. Cichlids are rather easy fish to transfer from the lake to aquarium living, as long as the environment mimics the habitat they were used to living in at the lake.
Choosing Cichlids for the Aquarium
When keeping African Cichlids in a tank the selection of fish should be the first consideration. There are two main groups to select from: Mbuna Cichlids and the Peacock Cichlids. Since both groups live in different niches in the lake, it is not advisable to place both groups in the same aquarium. However, Peacocks are generally peaceful and may be combined in a tank with other small groups of fish. In nature Peacock Cichlids will be found swimming in the open water of Lake Malawi. Mbuna cichlids, on the other hand, are the rock-fish. They make their home among the rocks in the shallow water near the beach. Mbunas do not tolerate other fish well, and only one male should be placed in a tank with multiple females.
Setting Up the Aquarium
A suitable habitat should be similar to the environment that the fish were used to in the lake. The aquarium should hold at least 45 - 55 gallons of water to provide ample space for the fish to swim. All African Malawi Cichlids prefer hard water with a pH between 7.5 - 9.0. The temperature should stay at 75 - 81 degrees Fahrenheit for Peacocks and between 77 - 82 degrees for Mbunas. Coral sand makes a good bottom layer for both groups of Cichlids and helps to keep the water alkaline. Live thick skinned plants that can grow in hard water can be used for either group of fish. However, Mbuna like the popular Zebra Cichlid, will eat the plants, so tough plastic ones may make a better choice for these Cichlids. Lava rocks or limestone that provides caves and crevices is ideal for both groups, but make sure that a Mbuna tank is more densely filled with taller rocky formations for the fish to hide in.
Feeding Malawi Cichlids
Food for Lake Malawi Cichlids differs between the two groups. Mbunas eat Aufwuch, which is a combination of many tiny critters and algae that live on the rocks. In an aquarium they will eat anything that is fed to them. Always include roughage in their diet. Peacocks are omnivores, meaning that they eat both plants and animals. Any pellet foods, flakes and fresh or frozen varieties of food can be fed to aquarium peacock cichlids. They also like mosquito larvae, snails and bloodworms too.