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Maintaining Cichlids from the Victorian Basin
by Kevin Bauman (StructureGuy)

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Large scale exportation of Victorians has never occurred, and no export occurred from 1998 through 2006. A few species of wild caught Victorian cichlids became available in limited quantities recently. These cichlids lived along the shoreline, either in the rocky zone or in the sandy bottom reed beds, where survival from predation was more likely. As a general rule, many Victorians from the shoreline (referred to as Mbipi) are very similar in temperament and tank maintenance to the Malawi mbuna except that many of them prefer a slightly meatier diet. Many hobbyists feel that all the Victorians are extremely aggressive, but that is simply not true. There is a wide variation in the temperament of the mbipi in Lake Victoria just as there is a great deal of variation in the temperament of the mbuna in Lake Malawi.

Fin Water Iris Fish Marine biology

So what does all this mean to the average Cichlid enthusiast? Since Lake Victoria is a very young lake, there has not been as long a period of time for the species to diversify. That not only means that it is difficult at times to identify what species we have, but it also means that these similar looking Victorians are much more likely to hybridize in your aquarium. If you are going to be a responsible breeder of Victorians, then you must be more willing to maintain a limited number of diverse looking Victorian species in any one tank, or better yet, maintain a single species tank. It is common for Victorian keepers to add mbuna to the tank since the diet, water conditions and temperament are all very similar. I myself have never heard of a Victorian cross-breeding with a mbuna, although we all know that anything is possible given the right circumstances. Fortunately, if you know how to maintain an mbuna tank, then you already know how to maintain a tank with mbipi. A sand substrate is preferred with lots of rocks for hiding places. Since many Victorians are insectivores/omnivores there are several species that will do quite well in planted tanks, especially Vallisneria. The water temperature should be between 72° F and 78° F with a PH preferably greater than 7.4. A minimum of three females is preferred; however (unlike mbuna) a second male in the tank seems to offer some advantages. A dominant male Victorian is often relentless in his pursuit of a female to breed with. The subdominant male will sometimes act as a target fish to partially divert the attention of the dominant male from the constant pursuit of the females. I've found that most of the Victorians I've kept have a lifespan of around six years.

Water Fin Organism Fish Underwater

A very high percentage of Victorians exhibit at least some red coloration. I would imagine that one of the main reasons that people buy Victorians is to "get the red" that is lacking in the mbuna. That often does not work out as well as one might hope. With only a few notable exceptions (Astatotilapia latifasciata and Paralabidochromis sauvagei) most of the Victorian females are a rather bland silver/gray or dull yellow/brown. If you ever mix the females of many species, you may never be able to reliably separate them again. If you don't maintain the dull looking females, then there is a good chance you may never see much color in your males. Many times, only the one dominant male in the tank will show good color and the subdominant males will look very similar to the dull colored females. And if your Victorians are housed with another more dominant species, then you might never see the full color potential of any of the Victorians in that tank. If you plan to keep Victorians, then you also need to carefully plan all the tank inhabitants, or you may be disappointed in the results. Your fish may never even remotely appear like the stunning pictures of dominant male Victorians in full breeding dress you find on the Internet.

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