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All-Male Malawi Tank
by Joe Alary (aka Joea)
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We all keep fish for one reason or another, they’re pretty, they have personality or they have interesting breeding habits. Unfortunately, there is a by-product of keeping these fish that some aquarists would rather not have; an overwhelming number of fry from our finned friends. So what are the options when we’ve had all the fry we can handle? We can’t tell them to stop and many species will breed in even the most unusual of set ups, so trying to disrupt them with unconventional mixes is usually a waste of time. Adding a type of piscivore like catfish or a predator can help keep numbers down but there’s always a few survivors here and there and let’s face it, once you see those little fish swimming around your tank, who has the heart to let them get eaten?

The All-Male Malawi Tank

For those interested in displaying some of the beautiful fish available without the burden of being inundated with groups of babies or if you’re just interested in keeping a larger variety of fish without having lesser coloured females, there is another option. The All-Male Tank!

It is possible to house several different species of colourful males in a single tank without experiencing World War Three. Whether it be mbuna, haps, peacocks or a combination of all three, it can be done and it can make for a very colourful and active tank.

As rewarding as an All-Male tank can be, it can be a very long and arduous process, which will include the addition and removal of varying fish. During this process, it’s important not to get attached to any of your fish as it’s possible that any fish you add may end up leaving the tank just as quickly. Shut off your emotions and look at the bigger picture until you get the balance and colour that you’re seeking.

First and foremost, I cannot stress how important it is to start with juvenile fish. This process simply will not work if you start adding adult fish. Juveniles are tolerant and immature and can handle being grouped together with tank mates of varying species. That said, the second thing to do is to decide what species you intend to keep. It’s best to keep only one of each of the species you’re interested in. Two or more males of the same species will lead to battles, lack of colour and possible deaths.

A large tank is best for this type of set up not only for aesthetics but also to allow the males that will eventually become dominant to have enough space to do so. A second tank is a must as well. You will constantly be removing fish (apparent females and sub-dominant males) and you’ll need a second tank to house them in until you can return them to your local fish store or sell them.

The All-Male Mbuna Tank

Anyone who has kept mbuna, knows that the words All-Male Mbuna Tank can send shivers down their spine, however, it is possible. Monomorphic mbuna are difficult to sex accurately so honing up on venting skills may be necessary for future removal of females.

Start by choosing mbuna that do not closely resemble one another. The greater the difference in appearance, the easier it will be to keep the fish together as adults. A single male Pseudotropheus saulosi and a single male Pseudotropheus demasoni will not play nice together once they reach maturity. Buy your fish in groups to better your chance at getting at least one male. Don’t worry about overcrowding at this stage, remember these fish are juveniles, produce little waste and their conspecific behaviour is not going to be overly aggressive. Raise the fish as you would any mbuna and keep water conditions pristine and regularly feed a high quality food. As the fish mature, a dominant male will begin to show, that’s the one you want! Once he’s established his position, you can remove the others and return them.

The All-Male Hap Tank

An all male hap tank can be a spectacular sight, particularly if it’s a large tank with a variety of large fish. Again, try not to add species that closely resemble one another. This rule is not as important as it is with mbuna but to keep your experience as pleasurable as possible, it’s a good rule to follow. Add your groups of fish and wait for the males to start to colour up. Once the dominant male is obvious, the rest can be returned. Without the presence of females, some males may not colour to their “breeding dress” which in itself, can be quite spectacular but with a healthy diet and excellent water conditions, each male can display wonderful colours that, when mixed with other males of equal intensity, can create a tank of unparalleled beauty.

The All-Male Peacock Tank

There is much debate over the All-Male Peacock tank. It just seems too easy to add a bunch of male peacocks to a tank, have them all colour up and sit back and enjoy them. If it were that easy, we’d all have All-Male peacock tanks!

The same rules apply here for the addition and removal of fish. Different colours are best but in the case of peacocks, some similar coloured males will usually get along ok. For example, an Aulonocara sp. “Stuartgranti Maleri” and an Aulonocara baenschi can be housed together, usually without any issues, as can a Aulonocara koningsi and an Aulonocara stuartgranti “Red Shoulder”. Peacocks can colour up to their fullest without the presence of females but will dramatically lose colour when they are the sub-dominant male, so keeping only one of each species is best. It’s also likely that you may have one or even a few that just don’t want to colour to their fullest potential. It’s your decision as to whether you want to keep replacing these fish but in most cases the task is usually more trouble than it’s worth.

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