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Rocks for a Malawi tank

333 Views 24 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  djr955
OK, since my substrate question has been answered, thanks guys, I will move onto rocks.

So, what kind of rock are you using in your Malawi tank, why that choice and how much?

Pics would be nice for comparison
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Rocks are a bit subjective, and can originate from a variety of sources. The bigger question is, APPLICATION.
That is, what sort of African Lake Malawi Cichlids do you intend to stock this aquarium with?
For African Mbuna, that will entail a higher, more substantial rock pile in the tank to replicate their natural living conditions in the lake. Plus, the larger amount of rock helps to mitigate aggression problems by breaking up sight lines inside the water column and provides chased/harried Cichlids a means of escape from the more aggressive, dominant ones in the aquarium.
Organism Wood Art Trunk Rock

150 Gallon African Mbuna Tank, ca. 2004. Almost 300 pounds worth of very large pieces of Mountain Lace Rock were furnished in this aquarium.
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Reptile Display device Signage Advertising Wood

36 Gallon African Mbuna Tank, ca. 2005 (stocked species-specific, w/Chindongo saulosi only). Landscaping rocks were furnished in this one from a local garden center. The diagonal 'bogwood' piece in the middle is actually a large piece of cast resin.
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For an African Haps Tank, a lower, less dominant rock pile in the aquarium is preferred with more open sandy areas of the tank to swim over. That effect is shown pretty well by the rather nice Lake Malawi video posted up by @dstuer of the sandy bottom areas in the lake, for your earlier thread about substrate choices for this new aquarium.
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It鈥檚 probably going to be mbuna.
Typical beginner species, but not settled yet, like acei yellow tail, pseudotropheus socolofi or calanois cobalt, yellow labs, maybe maingano, rusties, syndontis petricola (dwarf?) for fry control
That should be Callainos Cobalt
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Granite, smooth river rocks and about 150 pounds. I do like the look of naturally rounded rocks and it helps avoid injuries.
Granite, smooth river rocks and about 150 pounds. I do like the look of naturally rounded rocks and it helps avoid injuries.
How high do you have them stacked? I saw some nice naturally rounded stones at a LFS but thought they might be a nightmare to stack securely. (I don't want to stack against side glass when I set up and was hoping to avoid sticking rocks together in case of needing to move stuff around for whatever reason).
Okay then....
How high do you have them stacked? I saw some nice naturally rounded stones at a LFS but thought they might be a nightmare to stack securely.
It helps in building the stack, if you can find stones with a rounded profile that have a more coarse, rougher texture on the surface.
Don't get too hung up on getting only the 'best' rocks, or other things. The right rocks should be reasonably cheap. Fairly smooth in edges and surface texture, but not so smooth that they will tend to slide on or over each other when in a pile.
For my own African Mbuna tanks, the rock pile was built up almost the entire way up to the surface. This image from a Central American (Riverine) biotope aquarium I recently built, may help to explain that concept,
Reptile Art Display device Display case Wood

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And no... the large bog wood pieces in that setting, DO NOT apply to your African Rift Lake build! But, you can see the visible effect of building structure up to the water's surface (and even beyond) in the aquarium. The visible rocks used in building 'the stack' are just rounded, landscape stones purchased out cheap at a local plant nursery supply store.
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I know not to put wood in there, even though some parts of Malawi apparently have roots etc in the lake. I know it will release tannins and lower ph. My small community tank has wood and plants. The wood initially stained everything heavily, though the fish liked it.
One of the things I like about Malawi set ups is the 鈥渃lean鈥 look of not having it like a jungle stream.

I am definitely going to have to visit some landscape/garden centres to see what they can provide. Most I have found online are selling rock by the cubic meter (they put them in wire cages here to make walls etc in the garden) rather than per kg but maybe if I visit they could do a deal for me - also might let me pick out some bigger feature rocks.

If I stack a lot of rock in the tank, is that reducing the number of fish I can keep as its displacing a lot of water volume?
Hmmmm....
If I stack a lot of rock in the tank, is that reducing the number of fish I can keep as its displacing a lot of water volume?
Well, not necessarily. Meaning? Those two things aren't exactly interchangeable.
  • With a lot of rocks, the length and width (esp. the length) of the aquarium are still in play. Factors that really do decide the stocking numbers for the tank. And, having more rocks/structure furnishing an aquarium, can actually ENABLE more stocking numbers as aggressive (bully) fish can't see their victims as easily with those sight lines broken up, and harried/bullied fish can more easily escape with things to hide and swim into out of sight.
  • But yes, a lot of rocks WILL displace water out of the aquarium. This can reduce volume, making water quality harder to maintain in heavily stocked tanks.
So, done right the rock thing is kind of a balancing act. Possibly the 'best' rocks I used for building out my early African Mbuna tanks was that Mountain Lace Rock. That stuff is thin in profile, has a coarse/rough surface texture and comes in some pretty big sizes. That enabled me to safely stand those big rocks up on end, building these high 'walls' of rock in the tank.
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EDIT: Oh, and if your water is pretty hard (strongly buffered), it is doubtful you will get much PH reducing effects out of any bog wood placed in it, beyond simply tinting the water. The water acidifying effect of bog wood in aquariums has been greatly exaggerated over the years, and has become almost an aquarium myth at this point. So, if you do have reasonably hard water and would like to furnish your African Mbuna tank with an interesting piece of bog wood or two? Do it! The stuff will probably do almost NOTHING to affect your water chemistry.
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Agree with Auballagh about bogwood changing numbers. I had 2 fat-10ft pieces of bogwood, along with several branches in my 1000g Southy tank. It made for a few years of slowly declining tannins, however I didnt notice any substantial pH drop.
Agree with Auballagh about bogwood changing numbers. I had 2 fat-10ft pieces of bogwood, along with several branches in my 1000g Southy tank. It made for a few years of slowly declining tannins, however I didnt notice any substantial pH drop.
Perhaps the telling thing there is a couple of branches in 1000 gallons o_O

I dont think I could afford the water bill for 1000 gallon tank never mind the fish for one, lol.

Any thoughts on rock choices?
Perhaps the telling thing there is a couple of branches in 1000 gallons o_O

I dont think I could afford the water bill for 1000 gallon tank never mind the fish for one, lol.

Any thoughts on rock choices?
The 2-10ft logs I mentioned were about 80Lbs each.. They were soaking wet and I had to carry on shoulder 1/2 a mile down trail to truck. The asst branches were for finishing details. The costs were obvious after 5 years of running, so I downsized the tank to 450g.. I preferred granite rocks in African tanks and River rock in South/Central tanks. Just my thing.
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10 ft logs! Jeez, that鈥檚 not an aquarium - its an indoor lake!

Why granite? Just a preference for the look or鈥.?
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I like the look whether fractured or smoothed by ancient waterfalls and it is inert. No cracks/crevices to hold dirt/algae stains.
10 ft logs! Jeez, that鈥檚 not an aquarium - its an indoor lake!

Why granite? Just a preference for the look or鈥.?
I like the look and ability for placement of granite in African scapes. Im a River rock guy in my South and Central scapes. Malawi Minute - 28 - YouTube
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Nice vid, the fish look really calm. Is it always like that?

Two like the look of granite, hmmn.
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Nice vid, the fish look really calm. Is it always like that?

Two like the look of granite, hmmn.
Thanks. Yes, I kept the population heavy.. They were always distracted... That was my 1st plywood build. It was 360g, about 8 years ago. I had built them a 540g home a year later. Then 2 more years and they all moved on to fellow fishkeeper. *** since been back into South and Centrals and have built 3 more tanks since.. Im addicted ?
That tank in the vid I could have spent a lot of time watching and just de-stressing - there is a lot to be said for a tank of fish just cruising! (y)
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I went with Marco rock, because I wanted to create bigger and far more "caves" than holey rock offered. I've been very happy with my choice. The cheapest I was able to find was a bunch through Pet Smart. I broke it apart and mortered pieces back together to create all kinds of hiding spots for my mbuna. I've been able to keep everyone happy the last year and a half, and so it was worth it.
Marco rock is? Reef rock?
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