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The Tanganyikan Community Tank: Part I
by Brad Newton

When considering a Tanganyikan community tank there a several things one must keep in mind.

  1. Tanganyikan fish require a more stable environment than most freshwater fishes, and the water should be kept very clean. Not the easiest tank for a beginner to attempt.
  2. Tanganyikan Cichlids can be tricky to mix, so a fair amount of research is required to get the right tank mates.
  3. Different species have quite varied requirements such as tank space, substrates, rockwork, etc. So again, do your homework when trying to find the perfect community.

One of the most common tank sizes is a 55-gallon aquarium, so Ill base this article on that particular tank.

Addressing the above considerations, here are a few ideas that should help in your Tanganyikan Community Tank endeavor.

1) Lake Tanganyika has some fairly specific water parameters. Its best to come as close to these as possible without creating a major chore on your part.

PH is important, and should be at least 7.8 and preferably 8.0 - 8.6

KH or Carbonate Hardness should be kept between 7 17dH (degrees hardness).

GH or General Hardness should be over 7dH, and is not as critical as KH, but the water should most definitely not be soft. *** heard from hobbyists that have success w/ GH values as high as 40dH. So its pretty variable, just as long as the water has some hardness to it youre doing fine.

Temp should be kept between 77-81°F

The key here is STABILITY. If your tap water has a PH of 7.5 and has a GH & KH over 7dH, then youll be able to easily adjust the PH up a little to get in the preferred range. If, on the other hand, your tap water is soft & acidic (PH under 7) then youll have some serious work to keep your water within the acceptable ranges. Basically, if you have hard tap water you should have a fairly easy time keeping your water to your Tanganyikans liking. If not, there are some other articles that will help to explain the steps required to prepare your water. (See Rift Lake Buffer Recipe.)

As far as temperature goes, that needs to be stable as well. A fluctuating temperature of even 2 degrees on a daily basis can cause health problems and needs to be avoided. Be sure to buy an adequate size heater or heaters to keep the temperature stable.

Water changes need to be a regular routine. 25% every 2 weeks would be the minimum for these fishes and 25% weekly is even better. When changing water, its important to match the incoming waters temperature and PH. Again, there are other articles explaining these details. (See Water Changes.)

2) Try keeping fish of similar temperament and dietary requirements. One should not mix overly aggressive fishes with docile ones and plant-eaters with carnivores. Also, selecting fishes of similar sizes should be a consideration, as some fish get too large and cannot be trusted with smaller varieties. In a 55-gallon tank you can have a nice variety and still meet the above recommendations. Part 2 of this article will address the various communities that can be kept in a Lake Tanganyika aquarium. I try to get fish in groups of 3 or more, youre chances of getting a pair are better this way and most fishes do better in groups. Once a pair does become established, its sometimes necessary to remove the remaining odd fish. Most fish shops will take a fish back if youre a regular customer.

A sample community for a 55 gallon could be as follows:
  • 3 Neolamprologus cylindricus
  • 3 Julidichromis regani
  • 3-5 Lamprologus ocellatus
  • 3 Telmatochromis vittatus
  • 5 Synodonits petricola (catfish)

This might not sound like many fish for a 55-gallon but this allows room for the fish to have their individual territories, and will be an easy tank for the new Tanganyikan hobbyist to maintain.

3) The 55-gallon tank allows enough room to provide some nice rockwork to divide territories and provide retreats for your fish. Recommended rock would be: Holey Limestone (heavy, but very smooth), Lava (try to avoid rocks w/ very sharp edges), Lace/Bowl rock, Slate, Petrified Wood, and Granite. Be careful when stacking rock, be sure theres absolutely no rocking or instability. Most of the rock-dwelling cichlids stay on the lower levels of the tank so stacking rock too high really wont be of much benefit for them anyway.

Substrate should consist of fine gravel or sand, and some fish, such as shell-dwellers and sandsifters, exhibit more natural behavior when sand is their substrate. There are other articles explaining substrates in more detail. (See Aquarium Substrates and Sand, Sand, Sand.)

Plants are completely optional, and a tank without any plants is not unnatural at all for a Tanganyikan tank.

Hopefully this article peaks your interest in starting a Tanganyikan Community tank, they can be a very interesting and challenging part of your fish hobby.
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