Lake Malawi Species • 120 gallon - what would you do?

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120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby Wills » Thu Mar 11, 2021 9:00 am

Hi I'm brand new to the African side but been keeping Americans for about 15 years. In the process of setting up a fish room and I want one of my feature 4x2x2 120 gallons to be an African tank. Initially I was interested in Tangs (still am) but think it might not be what I want right now. Really interested in an all male peacock and hap tank or a mixed peacock tank if people think this is better? I'd potentially like to add some Mbunas that have a reputation of being easy to keep such as Yellow Labs or Rustys?

I was wondering if people could give me some ideas of species to look out, how best to mix them so they dont fight too much and numbers. I've kept these questions purposefully vague as I am wanting to learn as much as possible and get a bit of variety of species to research and read up on. I know all the good shops and not afriad to travel or spend money on the right fish so should hopefully be able to track down some nice rarities if people suggest them too :)

Many thanks
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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby DJRansome » Thu Mar 11, 2021 9:16 am

Did you read the all-male article in the Cichlid-forum Library?

I would not add rusties to a peacock tank. Some have had success with yellow labs and acei.

My only hint that is not in the article is to decide whether you want a tank with timid haps and peacocks or more assertive ones. If you mix them the timid haps and peacocks will have less of a chance to color up.

I think the article mentions that you will have to swap out fish over the first year or two so having a fish room with lots of spare tanks is ideal.
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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby Wills » Thu Mar 11, 2021 10:00 am

Hi yes read through the article it’s where I got the idea for the rustys as it mentions them on the mixed species list - I may have scientific names mixed up. Just interested to learn which species people mix with some success and what sort of numbers to aim for.

The room should have the two 120s and hoping for some 2 foot cubes and a couple of three foots. The 2 foots will basically be holding and QT tanks to start with.
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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby DJRansome » Thu Mar 11, 2021 3:53 pm

When I did a 48" tank for all male I liked 12 individuals best and I like the wimpy haps and peacocks so stuartgranti as opposed to jacobfreibergi and haps like Otopharynx tetrastigma.

What hap or peacock made you choose this type of fish?
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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby sir_keith » Thu Mar 11, 2021 4:26 pm

What were you keeping when you were into Neotropicals, and what did you like about them? Single, large specimens? Breeding pairs? Mixed communities? Many people who keep Africans do so because of their interesting behaviour- which is the distinguishing feature of cichlids as aquarium fishes- but another large contingent is mainly concerned with having colorful fishes. An all-male tank can be colorful, but offers little else except nonspecific aggression. If that's your thing, by all means, but if you're interested in the species-typical behaviours that these fishes display in the wild, then you need both sexes, and preferably tankmates from a similar biotope. That would be my preference, and I would never, ever keep anything as abiotic and artificial as an all-male tank. Good luck! :thumb:
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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby Wills » Thu Mar 11, 2021 4:48 pm

Those are really interesting questions. I supose the main thing is that I'm returning to the hobby after a break of a few years and I want to try new areas of the hobby, going to do some of my favourite Americans but want to do a few new things so got into planted tanks and I'm setting up a small Shell Dweller tank. The African side of the tank has always been a bit mysterious to me, I've never known anyone that keeps them and the shops locally to me dont strike me as the highest quality.

At the moment I want to achieve an active, colourful tank, the type of tank you cant get with American cichlids (oooo now theres a controversial statement!!). I enjoy putting together biotopes and I enjoy researching fish and understanding their natural environments and this is the fascinating thing for me with Africans learning about Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika for really the first time in my years of keeping fish. I'm quite snobbish when it comes to fish, I don't love line bred fish and I specifically wouldnt want to keep hybrids (sorry OB fans!). I think I find haps and peacocks interesting as a starting point because there are two different types of behaviour - haps in the open water, peacocks closer to the rocks and maybe some mbuna in the rocks? Correct me if I'm wrong :)

I supose I left the question for this thread so broad because I want people to throw names and ideas at me, tell me the aggressive ones, the ones that are too timid to go out when you are in the room. I'm enjoying sifiting through profiles and shops and lists and other forum posts just gradually but sort of want to find the species that I like.

I'm still weighing up if I want to do a Tang sand sifter tank, initially based around the cookie cutter here but was worried I wouldnt find the species but found a site/shop that have most of them so it is on the cards.

Its not going to be until at least August that I'm ready to get the tanks in the room but just want the ideas to research from so I can understand what it is that I want to keep.

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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby sir_keith » Thu Mar 11, 2021 5:14 pm

Just a couple of quick thoughts about your response-

(i) I share your feelings about line-bred fishes and hybrids. It would be a shame to lose all the beautiful, natural species from the hobby because everyone suddenly wants the latest ultra-super-premium-fluorescent red variant that has just been released from a big fish farm in Florida or Thailand.

(ii) Good luck finding Peacocks that are not derived as outlined in (i), above. For both Peacocks and Haps, reputable online sources are the best place to obtain real species.

(iii) A mixed Hap, Peacock, and Mbuna tank is not really an option for a home aquarium.

(iv) Tanganyikan sand-sifters are wonderful fishes, but very challenging. Probably not the best place to start.

(v) It seems to me that if you want an active, colorful tank, your best bet is Mbuna. Even with a 120, you will only be able to keep a relatively small number of species, and you will get numerous suggestions on how to do that from this Forum.

Good luck. :fish:
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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby DJRansome » Thu Mar 11, 2021 9:50 pm

This is a list I had at one time:
Astatotilapia latifasciata Lake Kyoga 'Zebra'
Protomelas marginatus 'Turquoise'
Otopharynx tetrastigma
Copadichromis trewavasae Likoma 'Ivoryhead Mloto'
Copadichromis borleyi Kandango
Aulonocara stuartgranti Mdoka (Flametail)
Aulonocara stuartgranti Maleri
Aulonocara Ruby Red
Aulonocara turkis
Placidochromis electra Likoma 'Deep Water'
Copadichromis chrysonotus Mumbo 'White Blaze'
Lethrinops sp. Mbasi
Aulonocara stuartgranti Usisya

The borleyi was too big, the latifasciata was too aggressive and the mbasi was too timid. The mbasi was great in a species tank however. And I like the borleyi in the 72" tank with the latifasciata.
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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby Wills » Fri Mar 12, 2021 7:23 am

Ah this is perfect thankyou! Just what I was after, did you have just one of each in there? Was it a 72” 180 these were in?
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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby DJRansome » Fri Mar 12, 2021 9:35 am

I like 12 that mature <= six inches in a 48" tank...this was in a 48" tank. One of each all male and no look-alikes.

There are a couple of other fish that I tried like Nyererei (fail) and flameback (fail) and yellow lab (OK but better elsewhwere) and acei (same).

Mylochromis was just a LITTLE too aggressive but some have success with them in all-male. Same with Taiwan Reef...a little too aggressive and too big.

Also tried cavlus (fail) and leleupi (fail) and Neolamprologus tretocephalus (fail). No more Tangs with Malawi for me.

I still had trouble getting some of my favorites to color well and eventually abandoned the all-male concept in favor of mixed gender so I could see the best color the fish could display. I don't think I will ever go back, I would rather keep one/two species in multiple separate tanks with females. I have four 33G tanks that I have not set up since I moved to the Jersey shore waiting for occupants.
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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby Wills » Fri Mar 12, 2021 12:00 pm

That’s interesting thanks - is depth front to back a bit wasted here? Like is there much difference between 12 or 24 inches? Is it more about length? Wondering if I’d be better with something like a 5 foot?
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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby DJRansome » Fri Mar 12, 2021 2:02 pm

What is your goal with going longer or wider? More fish?

To get an idea of what it buys you, I like 18 males that mature <= six inches in a 72" tank. So a 60" maybe only 3 more?

And if you move to fish that mature <= 8 inches so you can put back the borleyi and taiwan reef and their ilk...well they would be OK in 60" but bigger fish, lower headcount so it depends on your goal.

You said 48x24 so I did not think you would be doing less than 48x18. I don't think an extra six inches in depth buys you a whole lot more fish if any, but some like the additional water volume.
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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby sir_keith » Fri Mar 12, 2021 2:59 pm

Wills wrote: ...is depth front to back a bit wasted here? Like is there much difference between 12 or 24 inches? Is it more about length? Wondering if I’d be better with something like a 5 foot?...


It's not just about length; it's the total area of the footprint that's important. That said, longer tanks tend to be more aesthetically pleasing, but not at the expense of making them too narrow. For example, I'd much prefer a 72 x 18" tank to a 48 x 24" tank. But you can get too narrow, which limits your possibilities. To wit, I'm currently in the process of converting all the 55s in my fish room to 75s, which is no small feat, but it will open up lots of possibilities without increasing the total number of tanks. :thumb:
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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby Wills » Fri Mar 12, 2021 6:14 pm

Thanks guys :)

The space I have is 10 foot across almost exactly so I think 2 4 foots would look good next to each other in that space and it gives me enough space around each tank to get in and maintain them, as much as its a fish room I want it to be a bit of a luxury fish room so it will be a nice space to spend time in so want it to look good around the tank as well as in it. But the tanks are going to be custom made so I could make one 5 foot and keep the other at 4 and just have less space around them.

From what you were saying I was starting to guess that the depth does not add too much past a certain point though so just interesting to learn. Even though I'd have 120 gallons of water I basically need to see it as a 4 foot tank worth of space and stock according to that.

When you mentioned about having fewer species in there - definitely open to that too but would like to focus on species that have colourful females as well as males in that instance. Which I think would take me down the Mbuna route? Any recommendations on how you would put that tank together? I do like rarer harder to track down species so for example wouldnt feel too content with a tank of yellow labs. I like Saulosi for this reason so could be a definite contender?

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Re: 120 gallon - what would you do?

Postby DJRansome » Fri Mar 12, 2021 8:14 pm

IME the popular ones are the ones with colorful females. IDK if I would think of saulosi as rare or hard to track down. Yes saulosi would be great with 4m:15f. Or you could sub them for the Metriaclima below.

1m:4f Cynotilapia sp hara?
1m:4f Labidochromis caeruleus Nkhata?
1m:4f Metriaclima Membe Deep?
1m:7f Pseudotropheus Cyaneorhabdos Maingano
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