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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm not new to fish but I am new to cichlids and specifically mbuna. I've had a Green spotted puffer, a 75 gallon full reef and a 20 gallon with some live plants and a single angle fish. Long story short the angle died last week (10 years old) and my now 3 year old got to pick the new fish. He picked out some yellow lab cichlids all about 1" long, which I found out are one of the more peaceful mbuna species. Right now they are in the angles old 20 gallon tank but I know they will outgrow it so I'm planning an upgrade (hehe I get a new tank cause of my son!)

I'd like to do a free standing "walk around" cube tank, something about 2 - 3 feet on a side and 24" tall, and combine the yellow labs with some acei, for a total of 10 - 15 fish. The plan would be for the tank to be drilled in the center with an overflow down to a sump so all 4 sides would be free of cords and clear views. I'd build up the rock pile around this center overflow along with some smaller piles out near the corners and then add the live plants from the 20 gallon tank I've got now. I designed my 75 gallon reef and would likely replicate most of that design as far as sump etc, so I'm aware of most of the sump/return/noise issues. I also realize that I could likely go shallower then 24" but I've read the at Acei will occupy the upper water column and I may turn this into another reef in the future and the extra height is nice for a reef tank.

After all that I'm finally getting to my question....
I've not found any good examples of mbuna, or any cichlids in "cube" type aquariums, and one article I read went so far as to suggest that a cube was the worst possible shape for keeping cichlids. Does any one have input or experience why this is the case?
Seems to me with the sight lines be broken by the center pile of rocks it should help reduce aggression as fish on one side can't see the fish on the other, and unless I'm mistaken mbuna don't need a "long" tank for swimming space like an open water fish would right? So why isn't a cube the "perfect" tank?
 

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I would not do a cube tank for mbuna. The length of the tank is more important than the width and even three feet doesn't give a lot of swimming room. I would definitely not get acei because they mature at six plus inches. The labs would probably work if the cube was a three footer. In my opinion four feet is the minimum length for mbuna.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'm not trying to start an argument, I really want to learn and I freely admit I'm new to these fish.
you say that length is important, is it that the fish like to swim? Everything I've read seems to suggest that they tend to hang out in a relatively small space near their "territory" which seems contradictory to what your saying. I guess what I'm trying to get at is why the length is important. If each fish is going to tend to stay in its own 12 to 16 inch territory then why do they have to be side by side, rather then front to back?

Is there some other fish you might suggest instead of the acei to put in with the labs that would be better suited to a 3ft tank, and would dwell higher in the water column?

EDIT:
ok I just re-read this and obviously fish like to swim, they are fish after all, but in my salt tank
I had a flame angel, only about 3" but it would constantly be swimming back and forth the full 4' of tank - and "sprinting" around - it really liked a lot of length to swim.
I also had some clown fish - they can be quite aggressive but really tended to hang by their anemone - about 1 cubic foot of space in the tank, they couldn't have cared less if the tank was a 15" square or 18" by 100 feet long.

Maybe not a fair comparison but in my mind and what I've read it seems like the mbuna tend to be more like the clowns and less like the flame angel.
 

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In a nutshell, length in mbuna tanks is important so that the chased has a chance to escape the chaser. Quite simply, a dominant fish may not give up the chase after one or two feet, but will often do so after three or four feet of swimming. Having caves, tunnels and sightline breaks can accomplish the same thing - but the more length one has the less one needs to worry about the other decorations performing the same job.

If you put mbuna in a tank where they can't escape aggression, they suffer from said aggression. At least that's my understanding!

Milder mbuna (like Labidochromis caeruleus) can sometimes be non-territorial, which is often why they are suggested for smaller tanks. Fewer territorial fish means fewer chases. Pseudotropheus sp. "acei" are also (there are always exceptions) somewhat non-territorial, but they sure ain't small.

If your tank is 2 feet square I would caution against mbuna. If it's closer to 3 feet square then in my opinion you can stock some species.

Others may disagree, but in a 3 foot square tank with ample rock work I would be willing to do a single-species tank with about 5 of any of the following:
Cynotilapia afra
Iodotropheus sprengerae
Labidochromis caeruleus
Labidochromis sp. "perlmutt"
Pseudotropheus demasoni (at least 12 of these - they're very hard on each other - the other day at the LFS I saw a juvenile tank where one had his whole tail bitten off - by another juvenile!)
Pseudotropheus saulosi
I myself keep saulosi in a 3' tank since the males are blue and the females are yellow - it's like two species in one.

If you wanted to mix species you could try 5 labs and a peacock or perhaps 5 labs and 12 demasoni.

As for having cichlids high in the water column; stack your rocks high and your cichlids will swim high!

Hope that helps,

kevin
 

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It's comparatively easy to decorate a four foot long tank for mbuna - just stack up rocks along the back wall or built some sort of background, and you basically can't go wrong. A square is much more difficult to work with, but what you are planning sounds very good indeed - overflow in the middle and big rock pile around it to break sightlines. From my experience I'd say that should work very well indeed :thumb:

However with a 2 foot square tank you won't have much space left around the outside once the overflow and the rock pile are in the tank. Mbuna do need quite a lot of swimming space. They are very active fish, and I think you'll find them a lot closer in behavior to the flame angel than to the clown. Only that mbuna live in groups, and there isn't just one fish swimming the length of the tank, but the whole group is darting about. Individuals are constantly chasing each other around the tank in an effort to confirm the hacking order in the group. There are lots of cichlids that chose a spot and guard it like the clown, but not mbuna.

So a 2 foot square tank would not work at all. I'd say with a 3 foot square we should be in business. With 4 foot you no longer need to worry about the size of the Acei, and you could stock A LOT of mbuna in a tank that size. Heck, I knew a guy who kept a pair of Boulengochromis microlepsis in a 4' square tank - but he skipped the whole rock pile thing :lol:
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
thanks all, I haven't built a tank yet so its all up in the air, I was already leaning towards closer to 3' square, I'd love 4' square but our house doesn't really have the floor space to make a "walk around" 4' tank and not have it completely dominate the room. I don't know why but I've always been attracted to the symmetry of a cube...

on the other hand I've found a local guy selling an 8x2x2 tank, its cheap (relatively) and if he doesn't sell it before I get my tax return I may buy it instead of building a cube, for what he's asking it may actually be cheaper by the time I build the tank, sump, and stand for the cube. Its the standard against the wall type with overflows on the back but its a huge tank for a great price.
 

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Then you could stock the Boulengerochromis microlepis!

Kevin
 

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8x2x2 is actually the same volume as 4x4x2 - 240G long and 240G square, respectively. The B. microlepsis would do better in the square, because they won't be able to turn in a tank only 2 foot deep!

That aside a 8x2x2 is an awesome size. If you can get hold of one at a good price, don't pass it up! Here are some details on how I set up mine.

Best of luck!
 

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My opinion - if you can get your cube to 3x3x2 and you're willing to stick with dwarf or smaller mbuna, and you're willing to stick with species that will work in smaller ranges, then you should be fine. Personally, I've been thinking about whether I could make a 4x4x2 walk-around work in my new house but it's just too big an area.

Along with your labs I would suggest demasoni. They'd take over the rock column in the middle but have a great visual and physical break between the sub-colonies. The labs would be relatively happy swimming on the outer edge of the tank if you gave them a few plants, rocks, etc to make it interesting for them.

Please be sure to do a build thread if you move forward with this project! :popcorn:
 

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Great Lakes Aquariums(Warren,MI) makes several cube tanks and many other odd sizes, pretty cheap I might ad also!! I've bought several from them.. :thumb: :thumb:
 

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wilpir said:
Great Lakes Aquariums(Warren,MI) makes several cube tanks and many other odd sizes, pretty cheap I might ad also!! I've bought several from them.. :thumb: :thumb:
I haven’t bought anything from them yet. But the dimensions on some of the standard tanks caught my eye when I ran across their website. Did you drive out there to get the tanks, or did you have them delivered? It looks like it’s about a 6 hour drive from our corner of the world.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
fmueller - beautiful tank, I hope when I get mine it looks as nice as yours. I really like the real rock and the way you've got plants in the cracks. As for the anubias you don't have any luck with, I had a friend give me a small 2" piece that had no leaves - it was just dieing in his tank. It was my first ever live aquarium plant and I just dropped it into my 20g (didn't even get my hands wet) with a single strip light and its been growing well. I'm no expert but I've found with mine that when it gets to much light is when the algae seems to take over its leaves, I reduce the photo period and the algae goes away. Maybe try a shadier corner... I'll have to take a picture to show how much its grown in the last 3 years.

Larry - I know what you mean about a 4x4x2 - I had the tape measure out last night and there is no way I could go that big as a walk around - and if I'm going to have it against a wall I might as well go with a standard rectangle. I once had a fiend that had the perfect space in their entry, a coat closet with 1 wall in the entry, 1 in the living room, 1 in the master bedroom, and 1 in the master bath (above the tub).

About the demasoni, if I were to go with a 3' square or the 4x4x2, could I put in 8 labs and then 12 demasoni, or would that be way overstocked? With the sump I can have massive filtration, but 20 fish seems like a ton for that size tank (the 3' cube). I'd really like 2 male and 6 female labs, and then ridley said minimum 12 if I go with demasoni, and other sites seems to say at least 15.

One other thing, how do you all go about getting the right m/f ratios, I mean I've got 3 labs but at this size (1") its impossible to tell what sex they are, and from reading even when they get larger its still difficult, If I find I've got 3 males what do I do with them, is there someplace I can order and specify I want Female or male? Do you all trade or something?
 

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Psycoreefer - you are right on the money with your Anubias advice. Less light will give the Anubias an advantage over algae. I actually wrote an article about that. Some day I might even get around to updating my web site.

Regarding sexing, some breeders will claim they can sex young fish like yellow lab fry, but it a good guess at best. What works out best for me is buying a larger group, and selling excess males as need be. Joining a local fish club can be invaluable in helping with this task.

Here is another innovative use for a (nearly) square tank. Not my pictures, not my tank - unfortunately! Taken from this thread. :drooling:





 

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psycoreefer said:
One other thing, how do you all go about getting the right m/f ratios, I mean I've got 3 labs but at this size (1") its impossible to tell what sex they are, and from reading even when they get larger its still difficult, If I find I've got 3 males what do I do with them, is there someplace I can order and specify I want Female or male? Do you all trade or something?
Some online vendors will sell you sexed fish, but they're more expensive because a) they're adults b) they hand pick and sex them. In addition to the higher cost, it's harder to get adult cichlids to accept each other - fish that grow up together generally tolerate each other better.

Labs are popular because as a cichlid that is often non-territorial in the wild, they tend to be less aggressive in the aquarium. So one can often (not always!) get away with 'incorrect' male/female ratios.

One of the reason demasoni are recommended in numbers of 12-15 or greater is to avoid having to sex them at all. When a demasoni killing spree begins one can assume with some certainty that much of the violence is caused by males (again, not always). Once you have the magic number of 12-15 your are spreading out the aggression; a hostile male will be distracted from chasing a conspecific by another conspecific - this is classic overstocking practiced within a species - no one individual is overly affected because all are affected.

The most common method of building a peaceful tank is to buy more juveniles than you plan to keep. As the fish age, some will hold - obvious females. Some will always stay at the top of the tank (subdominant) and some will be obviously dominant. The trick is removing the extremely subdominant and dominant fish until an equilibrium is reached. You want to have a relationship with other hobbyists or LFS in order to sell/trade/give away your fish. This is a way to find peace without definitively sexing. In fact, you may have multiple males without knowing it - but if they get along, they get along. I bought 16 saulosi juveniles to reach the 3m/8f ratio I have now.

But if you're trying to reach certain ratios, the best way is to vent. Never done it myself: http://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/gender.php

kevin
 

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I'm going to disagree that a 3' square tank would be problematic for acei/labs. On the diagonal, that's over 4', which is plenty of room for acei. Given that both those species are on the calmer side for mbuna, as well, I think you'd be fine. Though, it seems the conversation has moved on from that whole topic ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks for the input, the conversation hasn't really moved on its just that each time someone makes a suggestion it raises new questions.
 

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JRF..I bought mine from a distributer in Naperville, but he no longer gets them.. :(..He used to go p/u a truckload every other month, and you'd p/u them from his house, I think I paid $90 for a 30xl with glass tops and 2 strip lights!!... I bought there 30xl and 50 L..they fit best with the area and rack I was building..right now I have 5 of the 30xl..their one of my favorite size tanks!!!! :D
 

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Hmmm Warren Mi is only 1/2 hour from me in fact I grew up there. I think I will check it out tomorrow as I am in the market for a 20 hex for some neons. :fish:
 
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