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Tang/Malawi incompatability

964 Views 11 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Darkside
Recently a post showed an N. sexfasciatus that was clearly distressed. It was, as I understand, being kept in a tank with a number of mbuna. Which leads to this question :-? .

I often hear advice not to keep Tanganyikan rockdwelling species with Mbuna. Since water parameters would not be the problem, what is? Is it method of spawning, dietary, feeding behavior---all of the above---?

The closest I ever came to mixing them was many years ago with A. burtoni in a large, basically unstructured tank with mbuna. The Tanganyikan outspawned everything else in the tank. Of course they were all mouth-brooders and I moved carrying fish to their own tanks.
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I think there is a general goal among many hobbyists to create the most natural setup possible in their tanks. This dictates that one would not mix fish from different lakes. If one does not care about this then the restrictions seem to come from general experiences with size, aggression, and decor choice. By decor I mainly mean that many Tangs seem to enjoy sand/fine substrate, while many Mbuna don't seem to mind a larger sized substrate.

My father used to keep Julies with Sunshine peacocks in 29 gallon tanks. He had great success breeding the julies in these tanks and they were healthy fish. Granted he did this about 15 years ago and looking back at what he did I have no interest in trying to repeat it.

Though I think there could be some very cool tanks of mixed Tangs and Malawi. But there is a great unknown and that unknown is too expensive for my taste.
It is the great unknown that I am asking about, since clearly I have, and intend to keep doing, kept my tanks as natural a biotope as possible.

On the side, I wonder if whomever designs these little smiley faces could do one with a bald head being scratched on top by a finger. :thumb:
I know that my dad chose the sunshine peacocks with the julies because the peacocks tended to stay toward the top of the tank and the julies took the bottom. I think in order to mix the two groups together you would have to look at your tank in a similar way, i.e. who will most likely go where.

Recently I have been trying to decide if it would be possible to create a tank of multies and yellow labs. I think that with a solid colony of multies they could hold their own against the bigger yellow labs and with clearly defined areas there would not be much competition for the same space. I think there is a lot of room for success by mixing the two but I personally do not have enough experience or the capital to invest in this project yet.
Since water parameters would not be the problem, what is?
I don't think the problem is any different than it is when mixing species that are all from the same lake. Many tanganyikan tanks have mixes that would not occur in the lake. They work because certain conditions are met. You consider territories, aggression, etc. The aggression and territory requirements of mbuna may make them incompatible with many tanganyikans, but not because they're tanganyikans.
Well then the question is what compatibilities can we think of? What fish combination, at least on paper, could work when we look at aggression, territory, and other aspects?
So it might seem there is no specific reasons for a general rule not to mix Tanganyikans and Malawians.
OK - that would answer my question. It would also explain the reason I have asked the question in the first place: that I could not "finger" a reason for the "general rule" that I have heard alledged often.

I could also have added to the bottom of my posts: "I have not met a cichlid that I didn't like; I just need to understand them." How do I do this?
What you do is forget about what lake they're from and consider diet, water parameter requirements, aggression, territory. It's really not more complicated than that. Hard for me to give examples because I'm not a malawi guy. But, here goes, and be kind if I'm off base. Take the yellow labs. From what I've read they're not super aggressive and seem sort of on the order of tropheus in regards to activity and territory. So, I'd think they'd do ok with something like the smaller juli's. Maybe you could mix them with a tougher shellie like l. hecqui? You might be able to mix them with a tropheus colony just like you'd mix two tropheus colonies. I'm not saying I'd do any of this as it's not my thing, I'm just suggesting the line of thinking for someone considering it. It's the same line of thinking when putting together a mixed tang tank. It's no different really.
The couple of times I tried mixing (accidental or temporary) I did not like the result.

In the 72" tank I had some Malawi fry I was unable to catch when I switched to Tang. They grew up in there for a while. They certainly did not look like they belonged in the tank and they seemed intimidated and hid all the time. Tables may have turned when the Malawi matured, but I removed them as juveniles.

In the 48" all male tank I tried a group of leleupi and a single calvus and a single tret. All have been removed. Not only did they not look like they belonged, but they just sort of hovered in one section. They would defend if approached but they did not swim throughout the tank like they did in the Tang tank. Survival, but not thriving.
IMO one of the things we like about cichlids is that they seem more intelligent than a lot of other families, and we enjoy watching them communicate with each other. Back in my youth I watched for hours over my new world pairs as they moved wigglers from the spawning site to s new site at opposite ends of the tank. It happened faster than MY eves could detect. At one end of the tank a parent watched over the transplanted fry while at the other end the second parent was picking up a mouthful to be moved. Then in a flash both parents changed places with no time for a pred to sneak a snack.

One or the other had to communicate that it was time to go.

Do you think this well developed form of communication might be the cause of discomfort between the Malawi mouthbrooders and Tanganyika substrate brooders?

Does a similar infamiliarty exist between mouthbrooders and substrate brooders in Tanganyika? They do seem to be seperated into different biotopes.
I have successfully kept peaceful Tang, Mal, and Centrals in a tank together.

Cyp Leptosoma. Peacocks. Yellow Labs. Calvus. Geophagus. Neolamprologus Tretocephalus. Lelupi. and some more i can' think if off the top of my head.
All in one tank. And with some community fish as well.
As long as your mindful of the fish and decor choices there's no reason to not mix lakes, or even continents. As to whether or no people do it, I find that its more subjective reasoning at work as opposed to basic incompatibility.
For 3 years now I've kept a single Etroplus maculatus with a variety of Tangs and he's always been in good shape and is a great little fish. I'm currently keeping him in a 75 gallon with Trophs, you can see an image of him in my avatar. :thumb:
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