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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, (it might be a bit long, please bear with me :)

It's been 3 years since I started my first malawi cichlid tank where 20 yellow lab fries and 6 star sapphire fries happily lived together for almost 2 years. They all grew really well (not even 1 death in 2 years!!!) and got me so fascinated by the behavior and coloration of these amazing creatures. Then I upgraded to this 180G and started collecting of all kind of non-predator haps/peacocks. Certainly there were lessons learned and price to pay on the journey, but I think I did pretty well, most fish are healthy over this 1.5 years period and some of them displayed really stunning colors.

But I can totally see myself getting bored after a few years. I've managed to mitigate the aggression at least for the most part and treated several sick fish and successfully bred some too. It doesn't feel challenging anymore to keep them happy. But besides watching the fish begging for food, sifting the sand, chasing each other, building nest, I want something even more natural and interesting.

I can't stop wondering if it's possible to create an environment so natural that some of the most interesting natural behavior could be observed in a tank, not a gigantic fish pond. Some of the behaviors I'm thinking of from my learnings are:
  • peacocks staying still over the substrate and eat the invertebrates hidden in the sand
  • predator fish hunting smaller fish from their hide (N. linni, mbj thick lips sucking the mbuna fries from their hides)
  • borleyi mating above a rock instead of in a sand pit
  • livingstoni play dead and ambushing small fish (this probably is just impossible)
  • moori, star sapphire following big sand sifter for food
The most natural behavior I've seen in my tank is my WC Hemitilapia oxyrhynchus sucking the leaves of my plastic plant in an upside down position.

I might be thinking too much, why not just enjoy the color and stay put right? I hope some of you already pioneered this route and was sharing the same concern before. Any suggestions, recommendations which could making keeping African Cichlid more fun are very much appreciated!!!

thank you in advance! and pictures of my fish for attention.
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You would have to let your sand grow a bunch of organisms (not keep it too clean) to see the first. Sometimes when I disturb the sand in a spot that has been still for a while I see this.

I have read about fishkeepers who have seen their Nimbochromis play dead, but more when hiding during a water change than for the hunt.

I think you would want a large tank (6-8 feet), and one or two harems. Then customize it to the particular behavior you want to see. Morii and the sand sifter in your last bullet for example.
 

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I think people branch out into Tanganyikans for these reasons. Besides that I find a harem of mbuna behaves more naturally than my male haps & peacocks do. I also think that the typical overstocking of Malawi tanks is probably the main reason we don't see the natural behaviors as much.

I've seen several of my peacocks hover over the sand, even though i keep it very clean. It doesn't happen often though.
 

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You may want to consider some South American Earth Eaters to enjoy a "more natural" behavioral environment. My 125 has a breeding harem of Gymno balzanii with some swordtails. It is more or less a species specific tank. While the swords do not herald from the balzanii's region it represents more of what it sounds like you desire. The male balzanii spawns with all the females at different times. Watching them sift through the sand with the swords picking through their 'leftovers" and cleaning up the algae in the tank provides a lot of interesting behavior to observe. The balzanii are relatively peaceful. The male will occasionally chase females but inflicts no damage and females behaviorally feign /spar to settle their territorial disputes. A very peaceful and interesting tank to just sit and watch. There are many earth eater species to choose from and you could strive to make it more geographically correct than I did. I just like the swords as dithers as they are continually reproducing which provides free food for the community. The ones that survive and grow out can be used as dithers in other tanks or replace those that die off from old age.
I think what you are looking for while not impossible may be a lot more difficult to reproduce in Rift Lake Haps & Peacocks without getting into a much larger tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You would have to let your sand grow a bunch of organisms (not keep it too clean) to see the first. Sometimes when I disturb the sand in a spot that has been still for a while I see this.

I have read about fishkeepers who have seen their Nimbochromis play dead, but more when hiding during a water change than for the hunt.

I think you would want a large tank (6-8 feet), and one or two harems. Then customize it to the particular behavior you want to see. Morii and the sand sifter in your last bullet for example.

Even if the fish play dead just to hide is still quite fascinating! My tank is a standard 180g, 6'x2'x2'. Converting to a tank with only a few harems sounds like the way to go. I've been thinking about it for a little while, but don't know what to do with all my current fish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I think people branch out into Tanganyikans for these reasons. Besides that I find a harem of mbuna behaves more naturally than my male haps & peacocks do. I also think that the typical overstocking of Malawi tanks is probably the main reason we don't see the natural behaviors as much.

I've seen several of my peacocks hover over the sand, even though i keep it very clean. It doesn't happen often though.
Totally agree with ya. My tank is not even that over stocked, 30 fish in a 6x2x2. but still I find most of the fish doesn't have enough space to do their own things. Mbuna harems is definitely something I want to try. What mbuna would you recommend? I've only kept yellow lab in mbuna.
 

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Mbuna do not have the behaviors you have described that you want to observe. A species tank of yellow labs (25 max) would give you some natural behavior.

IMO 30 is overstocked for a 72" all male tank...I like 18 individuals in that size. But definitely no natural behavior here.
 

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I've mixed Acei and Yellow Labs with my all male Haps/Peacocks, and I always ended up selling or re homing them over time. I had problems with them growing faster than my other stock and sort of taking over.

Recently I was fortunate enough to be able to buy an established breeding group of Chindongo Saulosi for a reasonable price. I'm trying one male to six females with my non predator haps & peacocks with a fall back plan to move them to a 55 or 40B if it doesn't work out. They're fully grown at 4.5 inches, and so far it's going ok. I've always kept large rocks in the tank, so it feels like a natural fit, and it's definitely added some interest to the tank. Two females are already holding 😁
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You may want to consider some South American Earth Eaters to enjoy a "more natural" behavioral environment. My 125 has a breeding harem of Gymno balzanii with some swordtails. It is more or less a species specific tank. While the swords do not herald from the balzanii's region it represents more of what it sounds like you desire. The male balzanii spawns with all the females at different times. Watching them sift through the sand with the swords picking through their 'leftovers" and cleaning up the algae in the tank provides a lot of interesting behavior to observe. The balzanii are relatively peaceful. The male will occasionally chase females but inflicts no damage and females behaviorally feign /spar to settle their territorial disputes. A very peaceful and interesting tank to just sit and watch. There are many earth eater species to choose from and you could strive to make it more geographically correct than I did. I just like the swords as dithers as they are continually reproducing which provides free food for the community. The ones that survive and grow out can be used as dithers in other tanks or replace those that die off from old age.
I think what you are looking for while not impossible may be a lot more difficult to reproduce in Rift Lake Haps & Peacocks without getting into a much larger tank.
I really like your 125 setup. That's close to what I'm looking for, group of fish live in the same enclosure but play different roles in the food chain. I spent some time yesterday looking into the American cichlid and found them interesting. I will probably do a similar tank to yours in my next setup. thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Mbuna do not have the behaviors you have described that you want to observe. A species tank of yellow labs (25 max) would give you some natural behavior.

IMO 30 is overstocked for a 72" all male tank...I like 18 individuals in that size. But definitely no natural behavior here.
When my fish gets to their full size I will start rehome some of them. Hopefully with a reduced number I will be able to see more natural behavior. The other thing I've been thinking of is maybe start creating 2 layers in the tank, i.e. adding a shelf which covers probably half of the tank and add rocks on top of it. So it break the space into two parts, one rocky upper layer and one sandy lower layer with less rocks. Hopefully that gives the fish different terrain to explore.
 

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hi
Hi all, (it might be a bit long, please bear with me :)

It's been 3 years since I started my first malawi cichlid tank where 20 yellow lab fries and 6 star sapphire fries happily lived together for almost 2 years. They all grew really well (not even 1 death in 2 years!!!) and got me so fascinated by the behavior and coloration of these amazing creatures. Then I upgraded to this 180G and started collecting of all kind of non-predator haps/peacocks. Certainly there were lessons learned and price to pay on the journey, but I think I did pretty well, most fish are healthy over this 1.5 years period and some of them displayed really stunning colors.

But I can totally see myself getting bored after a few years. I've managed to mitigate the aggression at least for the most part and treated several sick fish and successfully bred some too. It doesn't feel challenging anymore to keep them happy. But besides watching the fish begging for food, sifting the sand, chasing each other, building nest, I want something even more natural and interesting.

I can't stop wondering if it's possible to create an environment so natural that some of the most interesting natural behavior could be observed in a tank, not a gigantic fish pond. Some of the behaviors I'm thinking of from my learnings are:
  • peacocks staying still over the substrate and eat the invertebrates hidden in the sand
  • predator fish hunting smaller fish from their hide (N. linni, mbj thick lips sucking the mbuna fries from their hides)
  • borleyi mating above a rock instead of in a sand pit
  • livingstoni play dead and ambushing small fish (this probably is just impossible)
  • moori, star sapphire following big sand sifter for food
The most natural behavior I've seen in my tank is my WC Hemitilapia oxyrhynchus sucking the leaves of my plastic plant in an upside down position.

I might be thinking too much, why not just enjoy the color and stay put right? I hope some of you already pioneered this route and was sharing the same concern before. Any suggestions, recommendations which could making keeping African Cichlid more fun are very much appreciated!!!

thank you in advance! and pictures of my fish for attention. View attachment 143035
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View attachment 143038
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!😃
You have some beautiful babies there! Wow!😃 you can actually see the healthiness off them, I'm definitely impressed and I love the idea of you wanting to be "natural" for this is what we strive for as well!😃
I know of a dealer that deals in different cichlids and I order from him allll the time. 1 time we purchased our harem of Blue Mooris. They are healthy and have been growing out sooo beautifully!😃 but I tried turning some other fish buddy onto him and they blocked me. If you could tell me a way to get ahold of you, I'd be happy to share this info with you.
Message me 😃
 

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@The Fish Lady , you can message members using the Message icon when you click on their profile pic rather than posting your phone number. This is the method recommended for suggesting vendors for fish or products that you have used in the past.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
hi

!😃
You have some beautiful babies there! Wow!😃 you can actually see the healthiness off them, I'm definitely impressed and I love the idea of you wanting to be "natural" for this is what we strive for as well!😃
I know of a dealer that deals in different cichlids and I order from him allll the time. 1 time we purchased our harem of Blue Mooris. They are healthy and have been growing out sooo beautifully!😃 but I tried turning some other fish buddy onto him and they blocked me. If you could tell me a way to get ahold of you, I'd be happy to share this info with you.
Message me 😃
Thanks for the info! I will definitely look into them. I also have a couple breeder that I always go to. But for now I guess I will stop adding new fish but focus on moving them around in all my tanks and hopefully achieve something unique in the main tank.
 

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Thanks for the info! I will definitely look into them. I also have a couple breeder that I always go to. But for now I guess I will stop adding new fish but focus on moving them around in all my tanks and hopefully achieve something unique in the main tank.
Hi!😃
Okay, I hope I wasn't bothering you!😀 I just found that what you wanted to do very interesting, that's all. I just love this hobby; you know?😃
How many tanks do you own? We have 8 at this moment but will soon be adding another 2 here soon though! Our babies are "growing out" of their habitats, actually.
 
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