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Lake Malawi Cichlids 2, Choosing the Tank/Aquarium - Size, Requirements and Location

Updated on February 27, 2012
Tank Positioning within the Home
Tank Positioning within the Home

Before you go out and purchase your Lake Malawi Cichlids or Mbuna as they are sometimes known, you should be aware of the huge amount of space that they require. In many aquariums it isn’t uncommon for the fish to reach greater sizes than they would in the wild. This is due to factors such as good care and nutrition, unlike the wild where it is a constant struggle for food, so wild Cichlids will remain significantly smaller. Therefore you should give your fish the advantage of the largest possible tank. The minimum size for the community tank should be 120cm (48in) long by 50cm (20in) and 50cm (20in) deep. However this is the smallest size tank you should opt for. The best size is 150-200cm (60-80in) long by 60cm (24in) back/deep and 60cm (24in) deep. An aquarium this size can be very impressive and will make keeping these fish very enjoyable. It also has the space to accommodate large amounts of rock, stones and other decorations, and this is particularly important when keeping Cichlids due to their need for concealment.

For them to thrive in your aquarium they will need to be able to mark out their territories, and having plenty of rocks makes this easier for the fish and prevents injury due to aggression. If you do not have space for a large aquarium then you unfortunately won’t have as much choice with what you can put in the aquarium. Even the smallest Mbuna can potentially get to 10cm in length and it will want to defend a territory at least three times the length of its own body.

The Aquarium Location

Select a location where your aquarium will not be exposed to direct sunlight, partly because this is not good for the fish, but it will also lead to a rapid infestation of algae. You should make sure the floor that you are placing the aquarium will be able to hold the weight of a full aquarium. Giant tanks should for obvious reasons be kept on the ground floor, preferably with a solid concrete base.

Aquarium fish are generally more easily startled due to a relative lack of shelter, and to allow for this, the aquarium should be placed in a quiet place if possible. Fish are not frightened of people and will become accustomed to their owners, and will eventually wait in anticipation for you to feed them. Nevertheless, sudden movements in front of the tank should be avoided. The back and sides of the aquarium should be covered with a coloured plastic will help with this. The most appropriate colours are mid-green, deep blue and reddish brown. Excessively dark backgrounds absorb too much light.

Aquariums should be insulated.

When installing your aquarium, you must make sure that that the surface that it stands on is completely flat, since any unevenness will cause stress on the glass which may lead to cracks. It is important to place a layer of cushioning material beneath the aquarium. This matting will compensate for any unevenness and can help to reduce major stress to the glass.

You need to ensure that if you place the tank on a piece of furniture, that it can take the extreme weight. The advantage of placing the aquarium on a cabinet is that you can install the filter and store accessories. Lake Malawi Cichlid tanks must also be fitted with a top cover as it helps prevent the fish from jumping out and helps with insulation as the warm water in these aquariums will easily evaporate.

Purchasing Your Aquarium

Standard modern aquariums are made entirely of glass, as the need for a metal frame having disappeared by the introduction of silicone sealants which bonds the glass sheets directly. These tanks have the advantage of having an all round view and are simply more attractive. These tanks though are mass produced and considerably cheaper so you should check the tank for quality, in particular, check for gaps or bubbles in the surface of the silicone seal. Tanks that are designed to keep African cichlids should be reinforced with an additional central support.

There is no need for concern about the strength or stability of the aquarium if you are purchasing from a reputable manufacturer. If you have the choice between two tanks that are exactly the same size, it is best to go for the one with the thicker glass, as it will give you a greater safety margin. It will cost more initially but could save you a lot in the long run.

The Other Parts of the Keeping Malawi Cichlids Guides

Part 1 - Introduction

Part 3 - Aquarium Technology

Part 4 - Aquarium Decoration

Part 5 - Choosing The Right Fish

Part 6 - Cichlid Nutrition

Part 7 - Cichlid Breeding

Part 8 - Causes Of Diseases

See also -


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