Lake Malawi Species • Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby Rhinox » Wed May 12, 2021 9:49 am

jn1981 wrote:Hoping this mix will work! I will probably buy them all at the same time at the same size so that they can grow up together and hopefully be more peaceful. Fingers crossed!

Good luck! Adding all at once is a good strategy as long as the tank is adequately cycled beforehand. Since you're not new to fish and already have a tank set up sounds like you're all set there. I'd still maybe keep an eye on ammonia for a few days especially if you're going from a smaller bioload to a larger bioload. What do you use for filtration?

There are no guarantees with mbuna and even when buying juveniles to grow up together it's unlikely all of the individuals will remain compatible with each other once they do grow up. Most recommendations will say to shoot for 1 male of each species and at least 4 females. More females usually are even better with the only downside being the bioload. If(when) you do end up with additional males they will likely need to be pulled out and rehomed. Occasionally multiple males will coexist but except for the least aggressive species only the dominant male will show the best coloration. Sometimes a female will be too stressed out by pressure from the males and will need to be removed. If a fish is being bullied or stressed or not being accepted often the only sign will be the stressed fish hiding up top behind heaters or filter intakes. If you remove the stressed fish and additional fish become stressed and take their place, that's likely a sign the aggressor male needs to be removed to allow a (hopefully) less aggressive male to take over the dominant spot. If males are fighting you might notice their lips turn white, indicating they've been "lip-locking".

Anyways the point I'm trying to make is that it's recommended to purchase more juveniles than you intend to keep as adults in order to attempt to mold a stable colony out of them and have plans to rehome the fish that end up not fitting in. If you assume the juveniles to be likely 50/50 M:F then it follows you'd want to get at least twice as many juveniles as the number of females you hope to end up with. So if you want 4 females buy at least 8 juveniles - which statistically gives you a 50% chance at ending up with at least 4 females. I'd probably go 10-12 each of the cyno's and msobo because in my experience it's much worse to end up with too few females than too many, and it's easier to remove fish than it is to, say, add additional females later on once your fish are more grown up. Rusties maybe aren't quite as sensitive to ratio but as I said up top, no guarantees. Depending on where you're planning to get your fish from, you could probably request whoever is netting your fish to try to pick out mostly females. But, in my experience anyways I've found it's generally not hard to pick out at least 1 male in a juvie tank even when pretty small, but it's impossible to know which of the not obviously males are females vs. males yet exhibiting male characteristics.
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby DJRansome » Wed May 12, 2021 10:41 am

Rhinox wrote:There are no guarantees with mbuna and even when buying juveniles to grow up together it's unlikely all of the individuals will remain compatible with each other once they do grow up.
Plus one. Maybe this is a myth that needs to be busted...I also read as a beginner that if the fish grow up together they will have a better chance of getting along. I have not found this to be true. When the fish mature, they have the same behavior whether they grew up together or not.
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby SenorStrum » Wed May 12, 2021 11:26 am

jn1981 wrote:Thanks for the helping that! So I think I am going to give this combo a shot.

Cynotilapia zebroides Cobue/Cobwe
Msobo
Rusties
.......and 2 BN plecos!

Hoping this mix will work! I will probably buy them all at the same time at the same size so that they can grow up together and hopefully be more peaceful. Fingers crossed!


I have a very high level of confidence that this will work. I have all of these in my tank together, and they get along swimmingly. :)

Here are some thoughts on the fishes that I've noticed.
Afra Cobue are territorially aggressive. They'll stake out a place and hold it. "Drab" is the word people use for the females, but I don't agree. I prefer interesting. Most of the time, they are dark brown, but they can change their colors and put on and take off stripes faster than any other fish I've ever seen. They can do it right before your eyes, almost as fast as a cuttlefish. The following is not mine, but it's a female Afra Cobue, and it's a really good representation of what they will do in your tank. It's what they do in mine.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYQOk4It1fQ

Msobos are aggressive towards each other and tend to not really bother anyone else (in my set up). They are really pretty, but as Rhinox says, you may only get one to FULLY color up. By that I mean that the color seems to come out from the inside of the fish, like it's being electrically generated. Non dominant males will get the color but won't shine in the same way. Though they may not "Fully color" you may not need to pull any extra males. Rhinox gives really good advice about when that's necessary, but I contend that many times they'll figure it out and be just fine.

Rusties - Don't have much to say here. My mother saw the rusties and absolutely loves them. She describes them as looking like "velvet." She's decided they need to go in her 125. Along the lines of drab females and drab fish (rusties are arguably drab, eh?) I love them. I like the All-male, all-color tanks, but I really like a tank that can be stared at for a while, and more stuff keeps popping out. When people walk up to my tank (non-fish keepers), they immediately see the dominant males. Msobo, Chewere, Obliquidens, and female Saulosi and Msobo providing the yellow. But then I hear "Wait! What's that?" and "Is that fish Plaid? (Joanjohnsonae females. Love them!), and "Where did that guy come from?" Without some distinction, it becomes less obvious just HOW beautiful your pretty males are.

For many of my fish, I ordered them online and I got the "6 fish packs" where they give you one guaranteed male and "try" to get the rest females. Has actually worked out for me. I have not had to pull any excess males. I believe I have 4? male msobos and have not had to pull anybody though number 4 is still a strangish pink color.

Haplochromine guy wrote:I would do just about anything and like my tanks overstocked to about 18-25 fish in a 55 gallon, so... I would keep it sparsely decorated with about 2/6 of the tank rocks. If it were me, I would throw anything in there, and yea, when they're 2-3 inches long. I tried to add all of the most aggressive fish species I could find in the tank with a slightly bigger Jewel Cichlid should work out just fine. I wouldn't do any Demasoni though, those are species only fish in my eyes. If you were looking for peaceful species, I would include the following: Rusties, labidochromis usually does well, labeotropheus, Red Zebra, and perhaps you could do Cobalt Blue... I know of a bunch and if I were every doing a Mbuna tank, I just add all of the fish in at 2-3 inches long, then take out any super aggressive guys at 4 inches long. You shouldn't have too many problems. I could give you a whole list of peaceful fish after three days if you want. I have my own opinions, so don't agree with me about anybody? Go ahead, I think it depends on the personality or size of individuals to go together.


This echoes my thoughts on stocking more than anything else I've seen around here, and I agree with almost all of it (improper fractions notwithstanding :) ). More or less, out of all the reading and personal experience (mostly reading here to be completely honest. I have lots of fish but none in my house longer than 9 months at this point. It seems that it breaks down 1 of two ways on the stocking.
1. Super high energy, super high thought. Trying to replicate a cookie cutter that has worked out for other people in the past. Lots of extra fish, lots of pulling males, trying to give things away, to accomplish a balance that will go until some point.
2. Mess that thing up with fish. I mean, really crowd them in, most will get along well enough if they're too busy to fight. This requires really good filtration and lots of water changes.

Number 1 is almost always recommended around here. It's what you're talking about doing. There's value here. But understand this - even if you do everything right, the fish are still living creatures and may not cooperate with you. Also, the low stocking numbers that are often recommended in a cookie cutter setup are in and of themselves likely to increase aggression. I've seen this. Take fish that were otherwise getting along and reduce the population and the fights and the nipping and the hiding males came out.



Number 2 is an approach recommended by AquariumScience.org. I love this site mostly because it has recommendations of what to do, but also extensive discussion about the "why"? I'm an analytical person - it's a professional hazard - and I have a really hard time when I'm told things dogmatically. I want to know the whys of it. Here's discussion on the why in the stocking of a Malawi aquarium.
https://aquariumscience.org/index.php/1 ... -cichlids/
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby jn1981 » Thu May 13, 2021 10:53 am

I'm using a Fluval 407 canister for filtration.

In response to the overstocking idea, I had considered that as I see it recommended quite often for mbuna tanks. Not sure if I should add another species or just more females.
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby DJRansome » Thu May 13, 2021 4:23 pm

The level of overstocking is what is at issue.

The "balance" solution aims for something more like a slice of the lake and goes with minimum overstocking necessary to manage aggression but still provides for as much natural fish behavior as possible in a glass box.

Number 2 level of overstocking has lots of individuals to create lots of distraction.

So true: overstocking is recommended quite often, but the level of overstocking is different between the two approaches. Both are considered overstocked.
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby Rhinox » Thu May 13, 2021 4:38 pm

I'll also add that what our amigo senor strum can get away with in his 10' tank is not likely to scale down as nicely to a 55g tank. There's just not as much room to run and hide. But, I've never tried it to the number 2 level of overstocking so who knows?
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby jn1981 » Thu May 13, 2021 10:51 pm

I’ll just start with the 3 species to get my feet wet and go from there then.
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby SenorStrum » Fri May 14, 2021 11:00 am

Rhinox wrote:I'll also add that what our amigo senor strum can get away with in his 10' tank is not likely to scale down as nicely to a 55g tank. There's just not as much room to run and hide. But, I've never tried it to the number 2 level of overstocking so who knows?


Que verdad, amigo.

I've been unable to find anybody who's done a Mbuna tank on this scale. I am also really quite certain that most people don't have as many species mixed in their tanks. I broke lots of "rules" in stocking this tank hoping that overstocking and size limits issues and hiding males. I'm really hoping that decrease in aggression scales logarithmically with tank length. :)

I'm mostly doing this because I think it's fun, but I can also give folks an idea of how species interact with each other in a larger environment. There is a not-small fear in the back of my head that this thing will turn into the Thunderdome. Stand by and I'll let ya'll know how it's going.
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby jn1981 » Tue May 18, 2021 8:29 am

I have one last question. My tank is processing 1ppm ammonia in 8 hrs. My fish are in transit but says they won’t be here until Friday. How long should I continue to dose the tank to keep bacteria from dying off before my fish arrive? How long can bacteria live without food?

Thanks for all of your help here!
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby DJRansome » Tue May 18, 2021 8:39 am

What about nitrite? The beneficial organisms can live for months without food, but why not dose up until arrival day? You should be able to process 2ppm of ammonia in 24 hours and have nitrite=0.
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby jn1981 » Tue May 18, 2021 9:08 am

They're at zero also. I referred to processing as converting ammonia to nitrate, my fault. I haven't checked nitrites every time I check ammonia, but the last few times I did check them, I had zero. Will it only build more bacteria to continue dosing? I only asked because some guides I read for fishless cycling said to stop dosing 48-72 hours before adding fish.
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby DJRansome » Tue May 18, 2021 9:19 am

You can stop. If your ammonia and nitrite are zero every morning, not sure why you should stop 72 hours before, but it will not hurt.
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby Rhinox » Tue May 18, 2021 9:24 am

If the last dose is 48-72hrs before fish arrive, that gives a day or 2 for the last ammonia dose to be processed and then you can do "the big waterchange" the day of or the day before adding fish to bring nitrates back down low. Technically you could do your last dose 24hrs before fish arrive, let it process overnight, and do the big change right before adding fish. But it does no harm to get that done a day early either so you're not worrying about having too much to do when fish arrive. A couple days without ammonia isn't going to harm anything.

I'm not sure I'd go a month though. I think I remember that after about a week you'd start to have die off. Some amount of organisms might survive for up to a month but I think they're feeding off the dying organisms that are being converted back to ammonia. In an established aquarium, there's probably other filter wastes being broken down that can sustain the bacteria for a while.
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby jn1981 » Tue May 18, 2021 9:38 am

All of that makes sense. Thank you both. I'm going the route of water change the day before just so I'm not rushing to get fish in on the day of. Thanks for the help and I'll keep you guys updated on the tank!
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Re: Beginner 55 gallon mbuna tank

Postby Haplochromine guy » Wed May 19, 2021 4:29 pm

Each fish may or may not be compatible, but I like it. It usually depends on the personality of the fish. Make the Rusties bigger is you haven't already bought them. I agree with this setup.
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