Cichlid Fish Forum banner
1 - 20 of 33 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

I'm not new to fish, but I am new to cichlids. I have a 55 gallon tank setup for a freshwater reef setup. My question is as a beginner, should I go the harem route or go with an all male tank? I've heard mixed opinions, but is either harder than the other? I'm obviously not trying to breed, so that isn't a problem. My concern with the female tank is that there would be crossbreeding that I don't want. As a cichlid noob, what are your suggestions?

Thanks everyone!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,747 Posts
IMO mbuna harems would work better in a 55g. You could pick 3 species and as long as they're not too similar, crossbreeding probably won't really be an issue. If/when they breed and you let them spit fry in the tank, the fry usually don't make it anyways. If you keep some synodontis with your mbuna you almost certainly won't have to worry about any fry.

I'm not sure I've ever actually heard of anyone actually trying an all-male mbuna tank. There is an article about it in the library here though. My first tank ever was a 55g mbuna harem setup. which species do you like?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That's the million dollar question. Currently I think I'm looking at yellow labs, either an mbamba or afra Jalo reef, and maybe rustys or some type of Hongi? Hoping for guidance on them, but being new to cichlids I've just been doing research, nothing selected for sure yet.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
179 Posts
I would do a harem, if it were me. I would also select smaller species with a reputation for being peaceful, and I'd then pack them in there.

Based on behavior I see, species I'd think about include:
- Rusties
- Chindongo Saulosi
- Labidichromis Joanjohnsonae
- Yellow Labs (no personal experience here - I've given them up because everyone has them and I've filled the yellow niche with fish having yellow females - Saulosi and Msobo deep to be specific)
- Cynotilapia Afra Cobue (Afra Eduardi)
- Cynotilapia Sp. Hara

Be careful about:
- Mbamba - these are a labidichromis and can be pretty aggressive. I mention they are labidichromis simply because we are discussing lots of them. You brought up Mbambas and Hongis, and I brought up Joanjohnsonae. Be careful mixing. I would not do these with Hongis. (No personal experience here, but when I repulled the description and looked at the picture, it just looked like a fish that would IMMEDIATELY be attacked by my other Hongis. See below.)
- Metriaclima. I think you could get away with Msobo deep in this tank if you did it carefully. They would probably be OK. I would just be really careful about metriaclima. They can get rowdy and territorial. This would be things like Red Zebras, Elongatus Chewere (and others like Chailosi), Green Mbweca, most things named "Zebra," but not all, so that's fun.

Don't. You'll be tempted, but don't.
- Labidichromis Hongi. I do not have regular Hongis but have no reason so suspect they'd be different. Indeed they are by far the most territorial and aggressive fish in my setup. Hard pass on them in a 55. No Freaking Way.
- Anything with horizontal bars. I don't believe that you could get any melanochromis species to be OK in a 55 (and be happy with it yourself)
- Crabro (bumblebees)

Also agree with Rhinox. I don't think crossbreeding will be that big of a deal, and let them spit in the tank, you should be fine.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,747 Posts
My first tank was a 55g mbuna with harems. First fish I bought were yellow labs and maingano. Then I added acei a few days later. I kept these with synodontis lucipinnis.

Yellow labs are fine. The maingano I ended up with a poor M:F ratio from the group of juvies and eventually rehomed them all. They're a non-melanochromis horizontal bar species, the only one I'd try (again) in a 55 tho my first experience did not go well. The acei eventually get too big for a 55g but I upgraded to a 125g before that happened.

I kept rusties after I upgraded to the 125. They're great and often recommended for a 55. I've never kept saulosi but they're one of my favorites to look at pictures of and would be perfect for a 55.

I agree with strum about metriaclima/maylandia. They might end up too aggressive for a 55. I've had my eye on msobo's as an option for the 125 I'm setting up if I decide on mbuna rather than haps/peacocks. If I were setting up a 55 and wanted blue/black males with yellow females, I'd skip msobo and find saulosi instead.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Great information. Thank you both very much! This helps narrow it down. I'm nit set on any species in particular other than yellow labs, just because they have always been on the list of fish I love and wanted to keep.

I only brought up the mbambas due to appearance and am fine with any species that somewhat fit that appearance. So far the big list of no's that I know to avoid are: Demasoni, johannis, bumblebees, auratus, there are more, but those were the main ones.

I live the saulosi because I get 2 color combos in one species.

I'll post my working list later today or tomorrow.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
So would I be able to have the Maingano and saulosi since the stripes are different? Or do you avoid fish of the same colors? Would yellow labs and saulosi females be ok together or should I not have both of those together? This is the hardest part so far! Thanks for the help!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
From everything I've been told or have read, Demasoni can destroy a tank quickly and have a tendency to do so. I've never kept cichlids, but I suppose this could be the case with all of them. I am still learning before I try to stock my tank. If you have experience with them I'd love to hear about it. I love the way they look.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
40,505 Posts
I also would skip the maingano in a 55G...some members over the years have had trouble with them in the smaller tank. 75G for them.

Demasoni are tricky and better after you have some experience and want to be bothered with the special stocking and work they involve. In a 55G with demasoni I would stock only 2 species ending up with 12 demasoni after removing extra males. They also get bloat easier than other Malawi IME.

The labs, plus rusties plus jalo reef would be a good 55G stocking for a first African tank.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
78 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I think iIve narrowed it down to these and have to decide from there.

Cynotilapia (cobue or jalo reef)
yellow labs
Rusties
Pseudo Saulosi (covers the blue and yellows for the tank in one shot)
Msobo deep (covers both colors)

Is there any reason why any of those won't work? I can't do 2 vertical striped males right? I just have to narrow it down a little further....
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,747 Posts
I've never kept Cynotilapia. From pictures, I like the males, but always found the females more drab. I prefer species with more colorful females. You'd probably only be able to have 1 male in a 55. That said, I've actually been thinking about Cynotiapia zebroides cobwe (blue/yellow black barred male with pale blue females) with Msobo (blue/black not-really-barred males with yellow females) as maybe a nice mix. You could probably add rusties and be fine. Not saulosi and likely not labs. Metriaclima readily cross with labs, I'd expect the msobo male to cross with lab females being similar enough looking to msobo females.

With Saulosi, you could likely have at least 3 males color up, but of your list I'd probably only add rusties

Trewavasae may be too large for a 55. I kept them for a while in a 125 and they didn't seem particularly aggressive when I kept them. Probably not relevant, but when I stepped away from the hobby 10 years ago, someone took a single trewavasae female from me I needed to rehome and I just found out it's still alive. They've apparently tried to keep other fish with it (not sure what, probably random community fish) and apparently it's killed whatever they try to put in the tank with it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
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!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,747 Posts
jn1981 said:
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.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
40,505 Posts
Rhinox said:
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
179 Posts
jn1981 said:
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.

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 said:
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/
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
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.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
40,505 Posts
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.
 
1 - 20 of 33 Posts
Top