Lake Malawi Species • Mbuna Dominance vs. Aggression

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Mbuna Dominance vs. Aggression

Postby gillmanjr » Wed Mar 08, 2017 12:19 pm

I am new to cichlids and have recently built and stocked a Mbuna tank. For the last few days I have spent a lot of time watching their behavior which I thoroughly enjoy :popcorn:

Anyway, I have a question about how their dominance or "rank" in the tank relates to their aggression level. In your experience do the dominant males in the tank get MORE aggressive when they become the dominant, or is that an individual trait that doesn't really change?

In other words, here is a hypothetical scenario and question: Say you have a dominant male who is relatively aggressive and a second male of the same species (#2 in the tank) who is much less aggressive. If you were to remove the dominant and assuming the #2 then becomes the #1, will he also become more aggressive towards others because he is now the #1 rank in the tank?
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Re: Mbuna Dominance vs. Aggression

Postby SportDog » Wed Mar 08, 2017 12:29 pm

I think aggression is a characteristic that is different in each fish. Just because a fish is the tank boss doesnt make him more aggressive.

IME, I have had tank bosses that were fair and balanced and I have had some that were just complete bullies. I have also had 2nd in commands who show way more aggression towards other fish than the tank boss shows to any fish(when the tank boss wants to break up, they do)

Going back to my opening statement. Each fish is different and will show a different level of aggression, which is not based on tank stature IME.
100 Gallon (60x18x20)
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Re: Mbuna Dominance vs. Aggression

Postby tanker3 » Wed Mar 08, 2017 1:48 pm

SportDog wrote:I think aggression is a characteristic that is different in each fish. Just because a fish is the tank boss doesnt make him more aggressive.

IME, I have had tank bosses that were fair and balanced and I have had some that were just complete bullies. I have also had 2nd in commands who show way more aggression towards other fish than the tank boss shows to any fish(when the tank boss wants to break up, they do)

Going back to my opening statement. Each fish is different and will show a different level of aggression, which is not based on tank stature IME.


Ditto.
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58gal Tank Ps. Saulosi , Lab. Perlmutt
30gal Tank Juvie tank
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Re: Mbuna Dominance vs. Aggression

Postby Melanddave6571 » Wed Mar 08, 2017 1:53 pm

SportDog wrote:I think aggression is a characteristic that is different in each fish. Just because a fish is the tank boss doesnt make him more aggressive.

IME, I have had tank bosses that were fair and balanced and I have had some that were just complete bullies. I have also had 2nd in commands who show way more aggression towards other fish than the tank boss shows to any fish(when the tank boss wants to break up, they do)

Going back to my opening statement. Each fish is different and will show a different level of aggression, which is not based on tank stature IME.


I'll ditto this too.

I have several males all different species. Some I can't sex at all. No idea. But the two dominants are my Auratus and Johanni and they don't even bug each other. Bu I only have 12 fish in a 75 gallon....and a few babies that have lived. All my Mbuna are mellow.
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75 Gallon tank
1 auratus
2 Yellow Acei
1 Johanni
2 Kenyi
1 Yellow lab
2 Pseudotropheus Socolofi
1 Red Top Zebra albino
1 Electric Blue Johanni
1 Red Top orange
2 Feather Fin
and so far last I counted 6 babies
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Re: Mbuna Dominance vs. Aggression

Postby gillmanjr » Wed Mar 08, 2017 3:50 pm

Great, glad to hear this. I was hoping this was the case. My "hypothetical" scenario is one which may end up happening in my tank with my Socolofis. Right now they are only juvies but one has clearly asserted himself as dominant and is being a bully. At any given moment I can look over and see him darting from one side of the tank to the other like a maniac :x . He hasn't hurt anyone but there is a lot of chasing going on and I'm getting the feeling he may have to be removed when he gets older. All my other fish are pretty mellow.
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Re: Mbuna Dominance vs. Aggression

Postby Iggy Newcastle » Wed Mar 08, 2017 5:06 pm

Welcome to mbuna! Pretty typical behavior. Just keep monitoring as you have and make changes when necessary.

On Socolofi...
I found them to be more aggressive than they are generally characterized.
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Re: Mbuna Dominance vs. Aggression

Postby DJRansome » Wed Mar 08, 2017 5:20 pm

I think it is a mix. The most dominant fish is braver and has confidence so he does tend to act more aggressive or certainly stay in control of the herd.

And a sub-dom will get more aggressive if he becomes dominant. But I also think that some individuals are just more aggressive than others. So if you have a hyper dominant fish...he is likely to be that way regardless of his environment...time outs, etc.

And there is a good chance that if you remove him, the new dominant fish will be more benevolent.

Of course you are doing an experiment with a small tank stocked like a larger tank...so even just the same mix in 48x18 will behave differently.
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Re: Mbuna Dominance vs. Aggression

Postby CraGunner » Thu Mar 09, 2017 6:44 pm

In my experience the dominance heirarchy is a crapshoot, and can be upset by the addition or removal of a single fish. In my tank the top two spots were Mbenji. I pulled the sub-dom male and gave him away, so the third guy, the biggest Rusty, was promoted to #2, and the power trip went straight to his head. He now fights with the new #3 constantly, another male Rusty (whom I probably need to get rid of). The tank boss, the Mbenji, is a pretty benevolent dictator, and the vast majority of his chasing is done to break up #2 and #3 when they start fighting.

It's frickin' fascinating to watch. Cichlids are so cool.
75g Mbuna/ Afra Blaze, Lime Nkhomo Mbenji, Rusties, Saulosi, Green Dragon Pleco, Acei, OB Peacock, Cobue, Perlmutt, Maingano
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Re: Mbuna Dominance vs. Aggression

Postby DJRansome » Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:12 pm

Agree. Even a rearrangement of the landscape can reset pecking order. I did it once to decrease aggression and WWIII broke out. Lost half of my fish to bloat before I got it under control.
125G Borleyi, Maleri, Astatotilapia, Multipunctata
75G Demasoni, Maingano, Msobo, Lucipinnis
75G Calvus, Caudopunctatus, Petricola
55G Chrysonotus; 38G Demasoni
33G Hara; 33G Kwanga; 33G Maingano; 33G Cobue
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