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Hello,

I'm new to the hobby of husbanding Malawi Cichlids in a 24 galllon aquarium that was started in early February. The water temp has been maintained at 78°F, the Ph has been between 7.2 and 8.5 (mainly above 8.0), the Gh has fluctuated between 7°-10°dH, the Kh has fluctuated between 7°-11°dH, nitrates are maintained below 30, no nitrites ever detected, but I have have two ammonia outbreaks that I quickly remedied with Stability and 50% water changes. Every two week I vacuum the gravel and change out 35 to 50% of the water.

The probelm is that I have lost one fish about two weeks (a female Metriaclima lombardoi) ago (about 1 week after a percieved but not confirmed ammonia outbreak or oxygen defficiency issue) and it appears a second (a Labidochromis caeruleus, Kakusa)is not doing well I have her in Isolation. Both fish seemed to stop eating at first and hang around the top of the aquarium near the filter entrance followed by hiding as if they were stressed. There is much activity in the tank by the other fish, chasing and playing but I've never seen bite marks on any of the fish (no missing fins).

The other fish are 1 Aulonocara jacobfreibergi (Otter Pt.), 2 melanochromis auratus, 1 more Krakusa, and 2 Pseudotropheus.

On the first fish I dind't see any type of external features that caused alarm. On the Krakusa I'm noticing that the bright yellow color on both are loosing their vibrancy, locations of paleness are showing up and on the one that does not look so good, the surface of the scales appear to have black speckles on them. I've read through several articles on diagnosing disease and I can't find anything that really makes sense. About one weeks ago the Krakus was found near the surface gasping for air but all the water tests showed nothing detrimental at this point it was still eating a small bit, soon after it made itself a home in the cave and started chasing all the other fish away and not coming out for feeding. Tonight I got home and thought it was dead but it was resting on the bottom breathing and not heavy or fast. None of my fish have been seen trying to rub against any rocks or gravel.

I'm hoping to find some guidance on an approach to take to avoid losing more fish. It's discouraging to the new hobbyist and my attention to the tank has been called obsessive. Some guidance for the novice would be greatly appreciated. I haven't found a good web site that pictorally documents fish disease and that could be very helpful.

Thanks for listening,
Ed
 

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Hi Ed,

welcome to cichlids and this site and sorry for the loss of your fish.

It's unclear exactly what killed the two fish but there's a number of things that likely led up to it.

First of all: unfortunately a 24 gallon tank is far too small for keeping most cichlids and especially for the ones you've listed. I would say there is no hope of this tank working out long term. Sorry.
I'm guessing you got these fish as juveniles and they probably got along fine up until now. But now that the fish are reaching sexual maturity they need to be able to get away from each other and also to claim territory--territory that far exceeds the demensions of a 24 gallon. Some species are more aggressive then others and unfortunately for you the Auratus is considered to be one of the most aggressive mbuna. Even in much larger tank this particular fish will be very challenging to keep.
So even though you haven't seen missing fins it's likely that one or both of your auratus are harrassing your other fish. Even if the fish don't die outright from being harrassed the stress will weaken them to the point where they fall victim to disease.

Its difficult to advise you what to do since even the less aggressive species of cichlids are going to be challenging in such a small tank. Some of the symptoms you describe point to bloat and you can treat for that but unfortunately unless you take care of the space and stocking problems you're going to have one problem after another.

As far as mbuna go the only species that have a chance in that tank would be yellow labs. So you might consider building your tank around the one yellow lab you have and returning the rest of the fish to the fish store. Another option is to get a much larger tank, (nothing less than a 55gallon), but I know that's not always possible.

On your tank maintenance. Weekly partial water changes are best but what you're doing is probably fine since your tank is lightly stocked. What kind of declorinator are you using and what products, if any, do you routinely add when doing water changes?

Your ph should not be fluctuating so much. You want to stay away from products that push the ph up or down. First you need to know what the ph and KH is out of your tap and then from there we can figure out why its fluctuating so much in your tank. Test the tap water after its been sitting overnight to get the most accurate reading.

Did you actually test the ammonia to confirm that there was an ammonia spike? Fish will gasp at the surface for a number of reasons--it's not always ammonia. Fish who are being harrassed can often be found hovering at the surface--usually trying to hide behind the filter tube.

Please post back with additional information and questions. Starting a cichlid tank can be very challenging but it sounds like you're up to that challenge and you've definitely come to the right place to get the help you're looking for.

Robin
 
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