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Help, fish getting beaten up

1537 Views 9 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  cichlidaholic
I have a 55 gallon mbuna tank, with 14 fish and my red zebra has been getting beaten up all day. I've had the tank up and running for four weeks with little to no aggression problems then all of a sudden today I look in the tank and he's getting chased around and his fins are all nipped up. I don't have a quarantine tank or a divider, my only real option would be to put him in my brother's oscar tank (the oscars are only 2.5 inches right now) but I'm weary of doing that because of the pH difference. Is there anything I can do to help my red zebra out or is he doomed?
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You can hang a length of 2" PVC pipe just under the surface, after a day he should figure out he can hide in there.

What are his tankmates? Why is he getting chased?
the male Melanochromis johannii I have is doing most of the chasing around. The red zebra I have is also a male, but since he's colored similar to female johanni's I assume that's why he's being attacked. I took the zebra out and I have him in a 5 gallon bucket filled with tank water right now, with an airstone in the bucket. I put some stress coat in there and he's swimming around and looks ok - I just don't know what to do as far as where to go from here. I have enough filtration to overstock my tank so I'm going to get a few more fish and see if the aggression gets dispersed a little, but I'm probably going to put him back in tomorrow and see how he fares.
Add more rocks, the PVC pipe section is a good idea too. More rocks. cover the tank with a dark sheet when you return him to the tank. Monitor closely.
Interestingly enough, I've questioned my species assortment in my tank. From what I've read on this website regarding mbunas, you should put a few females for every male in a tank, and shouldn't mix similar colored species. But when I went to buy my fish, I bought all of them from my LFS which specializes ONLY in african cichlids. The guy advertises that he has 20 years experience keeping, raising, and breeding africans. So I asked him tons of questions before buying my fish, and he assured me that since I was doing a mbuna tank, that all mbuna species are aggressive, and I can mix and match whatever I want as long as they're mbunas. He assured me numerous times that as long as I have enough hiding spaces (which I do) that the tank should be ok. So, I listened to him and bought my fish. Honestly though, I've never had a problem with any fish getting abused except my lone male red zebra. It always seemed like he would get chased a little, but today he was just getting beaten up. Everyone else is getting along though. Here's my stock list (as far as I can tell):

1M Cynotilapia Afra Cobue
2M Psuedotropheus Elongatus
1M Iodotropheus sprengerae
1M Melanochromis Auratus
1M Melanochromis Johannii

As far as the others, I'm not sure. I have 1 albino, 1 that is a light orange color with black splotches all over him/her, one is a deep blue color, one is orange with faint black stripes that I know is a female of the deep blue one, and one more is a light brown color with black fins and faint vertical stripes. I know pictures, would help but I have none.
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Ok I checked wikipedia to get some more names. And I also forgot I have 1 Female Maylandia lombardoi. The one thats light orange with black blotches might be a female Labeotropheus fuelleborni. The others I'm still unsure of...
Having a female in with mostly male fish can cause total chaos.

Just to clarify, what colour is your male red zebra? Is it the blue variant? (I'm wondering because you said it looked like a female kenyi...)

IMO, unless you are 100% certain that you have all males, that's a pretty volatile mix for a 55G tank.

My first objective would be to remove all females and see if things calm down somewhat, that is, if you're going for an all male tank. That's really the only way you are going to be able to keep this many species in a tank this small. :thumb:

I would remove one of the elongatus males, as well. With all male tanks, you don't want males that look similar to each other.

The auratus and johanni may not be able to get along in a tank this size long term. It can be hard to house two Melanochromis species together, and auratus and kenyi both need a 75G tank minimum.

Did you tell the LFS owner what size tank you had???
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Yeah... he recommended to overstock a tank and said to get adequate filtration and that I can have up to 25 - 30 fish. That seemed like a lot, I have a lot of filtration but I don't think I'd put more than 20 in there.
And the male red zebra is orange, I said I was guessing he looked like a female Johannii but I wasn't sure because I don't know what color they are. Besides this one fish though everyone else gets along fine, and the females that I know I have, never get chased around.

I've read on here of people overcrowding tanks, like putting around 20 - 25 fish in a 55g, just so you know i have adequate filtration in there (two AC110s) and I do weekly water changes. The tank looks crystal clear and besides this one red zebra getting picked on, I haven't seen anything else that would be a cause for concern. The fish are mostly all full grown too, everyone around the 3" to 5" mark. I'm thinking a few more guys in there will help ease the aggression a tad.
Sorry, I don't know where I came up with you comparing it to a female kenyi! :eek:

IMO, he's had you add fish to the tank that might not work out long term (the auratus and kenyi), so even by adding more fish, you may have problems.

If you were going with breeding groups rather than one of this and one of that, then you might get away with 20 fish in the tank.

If you plan to go all male (one of this and one of that) then remove any and all females - they are only going to add to the aggression, and try adding more males - but you really need to add more than one at a time to disperse the aggression towards the newcomers.

Some mbuna are just starting to sexually mature at 3 inches, so you may have more "personality changes" to deal with.
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