Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

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Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by jmcfive on Thu Sep 02, 2010 8:32 pm

I recently inherited a 20 gallon tank from a neighbor that moved. I do not know the type of Cichlids that I have, nor do I know much about the species. I am familair with fish in general, as I have had tanks with 'easy' fish for years... I understand these are different.

What type of foods are right for them? How many can I keep in the tank, do I need to 'split' them up? Tankmates? Tank 'set up'?

Anything you can do to help me out will be MUCH appreciated, as I am getting conflicting information from other sources, including the local pet store. Honestly, I don't know anything about these fish, but am willing to do whatever it takes to keep them healthy and happy! These little buggers are full of personality, and have hooked me already after 3 days!

If someone tells me how to upluad pictures to this site, I will be more than happy to show you the fish so you can better help me.


Last edited by jmcfive on Thu Sep 02, 2010 8:35 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : I do not know how to upload pictures to this site...)
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by jmcfive on Thu Sep 02, 2010 8:54 pm

OK... So I figured out from pics on the internet, that I have 2 female Melanochromis Auratus, 1 Altolamprocogus Compressiceps (unknown sex), 2 Labidochromus Hungi (unknown sex) and 1 'Red Zebra' (unknown sex). There are also 2 Albino Catfish (I know what these are since I have had them before/still in an existing tank.

HELP!!!
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by theswede on Thu Sep 02, 2010 8:59 pm

Hi and welcome to the forum!
Sorry to have to say this, but there are very few species of riftlake cichlids that you can hold as adults in a 20 gallon setup. There are some Tanganyikan shell dwellers that would work. To be able to post pics on the forum you need to upload them first on a photo site, like photobucket or imageshack. After that you copy the image code and paste it here on the forum
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by jmcfive on Thu Sep 02, 2010 9:05 pm

Unfortunately, this is what I am finding out... I will try to get pics available, but I seem to be racing the clock. I'm not really concerned about what I can put in a 20; my focus is what I need to do to keep these little guys alive. If I need to get another tank going, this is not a problem. What would you recommend for the fish that I have now? I've already grown attached to them and would hate to lose them, andf am willing to do whatever it takes to keep them happy and thriving.
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by Rift_Lakes_Rule on Thu Sep 02, 2010 9:24 pm

Hi and welcome to RLC!!! I would recommend a four foot tank with plenty of rocks piled up like a reef. The length of the tank gives them more space to get away from each other. 55g tanks work and are easy to come by. Adding more fish would help to spread aggression, It makes it harder for one fish to be singled out and bullied to death. Once you get the proper setup these fish aren't hard to keep but they are more entertaining than your usual aquarium fish Wink keep the questions coming, many of us started out with these fish asking the same questions. We still ask each other for advice when getting a certain species that we haven't kept before.

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So Many Rift Lakes Cichlids... So Little Tank Space...
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by theswede on Thu Sep 02, 2010 9:27 pm

jmcfive wrote:Unfortunately, this is what I am finding out... I will try to get pics available, but I seem to be racing the clock. I'm not really concerned about what I can put in a 20; my focus is what I need to do to keep these little guys alive. If I need to get another tank going, this is not a problem. What would you recommend for the fish that I have now? I've already grown attached to them and would hate to lose them, andf am willing to do whatever it takes to keep them happy and thriving.

That´s the spirit . Most of the fish you have are mbuna from lake Malawi, and they need atleast a 55 gallon tank. If you have the room for it a 70-80 gallon would be even better. Auratus is a very aggressiv fish that needs to be keept in larger groups and a tank with alot of hiding places (rocks). The compressiceps is a Tanganyika cichlid and I don´t think they will work very well in a mbuna setup.
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by iceblue on Thu Sep 02, 2010 9:37 pm

First off, I have kept all those fish except the Comp. The Auratus as Hakan said, are highly aggressive. If they are still juveniles you really can't tell if their male or female without venting. Auratus fry all start out with female coloring and the males will start to turn black w/ the silver-blue stripes as they get older/larger. Beware, they are the psychos of the Mbuna world. Both the Red Zebra and Hongi are also on the aggressive side which is a good thing if they are to be housed with Auratus. I would also highly recommend you find a good home for the Comp. He'll not do well with the Mbuna.

This brings us to tank size. I would recommend nothing less than a 75g tank with a large footprint. Being wider and deeper is more important with Mbuna than having a tall tank. They need a lot of rock-work and area to claim as territory.

Along with the much larger tank you will have to stock it with more Mbuna. Good filtration is a must as I have found the ugly "rule of thumb" with these fish is an 1 1/2" of fish per gallon if they are in the 5-6" adult size. Mbuna tanks usually have to be what a lot of aquariests would consider overstocked. It is one of the ways you can control aggression. No one fish takes all the abuse.

I could go on for pages about these beauties but it might be better if you asked more questions. Most of us here have kept these Malawi cichlids and if you hadn't noticed we love to help people along. Very Happy
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by jmcfive on Thu Sep 02, 2010 10:01 pm

ok. The Compressiceps needs to go to another tank. got it! The rest will be alright in a 55 minimum, but 70 - 80 gal is recommended, as long as i get more mbnuna. got it!

How many more for a 55 / 80 gallon tank? 10 - 15?

ok. The Compressiceps... Will it be happy by itself in, say a 10 / 20? if so, cool! if not, what will be its ideal tankmates? im sure you are going to say more of its distant relatives.

All of these guys are about 1 - 1 1/2 inches right now, so I should have some time to cycle another tank... right? or am I racing the clock on this?

I removed the 2 albino catfish and put them in an existing tank that has another albino in it with some danios and a red gourami (it should be fine).

I wil attach some pics of the tank and I ask that you pick it apart Very Happy .

I did add some rock adn coral rocky things, but after this, I'm sure this isnt enough. The tank is about 75/25 plastic/planted... I already know what you are going to tell me... remember: I didnt start this tank, it was given to me by a neighbor that moved, and if I didnt take it, he was going to flush them...

Thanks all for your advice. PLease keep it coming!

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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by jmcfive on Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:55 pm

Another question as you ponder the others... Where do I find the necessary rocks for these? The local shop only has goldfish tank stuff... will a construction supply shop suffice? How do you keep them from tumbling down in the tank?
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by larry.beck on Fri Sep 03, 2010 3:11 am

Rock quarries have proven to the best source for rock in my experience. Large selection, variety of sizes, and INEXPENSIVE! Smile

As for tumbling, you can work with stacking them outside of the tank to get a feel for how they stack. Be sure to keep your stacks stable and solid so you don't ever have to face that tumble situation.
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by theswede on Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:04 am

In a 55G you could keep around 18 mbunas total if you are sticking to the species you already have. In a 80G around 28 mbunas. If they are 1-1 1/2 inches you have loads of time to cycle a new tank.
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by iceblue on Fri Sep 03, 2010 3:44 pm

The last picture you posted looks a lot like a Metriaclima lombardoi AKA Kenyi and in your second to last pic it looks like a transitioning male Kenyi. These fish are also highly aggressive and like to claim a lot of territory.

Transitioning male kenyis fighting for dominance.



Just as with the auratus the fry all start out with female coloring. The males will turn a golden yellow as they mature. More than one male in a tank of anything less than a 100g will be detrimental for one of them.

Her is a pic of my aggressive Mbuna. They were housed in an 84g long tank and eventually it came down to just one male of each species. I kept a lot of hybrids to act as target fish so my true species would leave each other alone.




As you can see I also had a lot of rock-work.



I would not house what you have in a 55g tank. Not to discourage you but you have some highly aggressive fish and they will be more comfortable in something like a 100g. Even in my 84g I had aggression problems with my auratus and Kenyi.

I love these fish but they do have certain requirements to keep aggression to a minimum. A large footprint tank and overcrowding being among the top ones. If you keep your present species you may want to cull (culling does not mean kill ) them down to one male for each of the aggressive species and provide them with a minimum of four females for each species. Kenyi especially will run females ragged and they need a large harem so no single female takes all the abuse. I would recommend a minimum of five.

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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by iceblue on Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:31 pm

I should add that all my rocks were collected from nature.

http://www.riftlakecichlids.com/members-articles-f12/rocks-rockdon-t-let-them-roll-t234.htm
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by jmcfive on Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:41 pm

OK... Just so I understand: I can only have one male in any tank less than 100gal regardless of species? How large/old will they be before I will know if they are male vs female? I will try to post better pictures of all 6 of them for identification purposes. Thanks for your assistance!

One thng that I have been noticing is a ton of rocks in tanks, but I an not really seeing caves or tunnels of sort (unless it is just the angle of the pictures). Will adding these things to the tank (inside and between the rocks) help the lesser aggressive ones escape the more agressive ones?

I am getting the feeling that, no mater what I do, some of these guys will eventually end up dead from agression. Am I right to assume that? I'm not giving up on them, don't get me wrong... I just like to know what to expect. I bought some books today (as well as a new 80gal tank, tons of calcium and slate rocks, pump... the rest of the trimmings) so I'm going to try to learn something about these guys.

I just have to ask - is it possible to have a large enough tank with the 6 that I have, and they will live their lives out in harmony??? jocolor Just thought I'd ask...
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by jmcfive on Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:44 pm

Oh. one more question. If there are ways to 'sex' these fish at a young age, does anyone know of a breeder near Orlando, FL that I could get some females to match the species of males that I already have? I'll take that answer in a personal message Very Happy
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by iceblue on Fri Sep 03, 2010 7:19 pm

Even the best of hobbyists have losses when it comes to Mbuna. When I say they are highly aggressive these are generally considered to be the real brutes of the Mbuna clan. There are plenty of other Mbuna that are fairly mild and lots that fit in between these descriptions. Unfortunately, some of the more aggressive ones are also some of the most common you can buy.

Most behavior descriptions of species are generalizations compiled over years of peoples experience with them but keep in mind that these fish are also individuals and their behavior can vary. Most of us have kept really nasty Auratus but, I believe at least one of our members (Aura) has one that is fairly mild. Careful observation will help you determine who the bully's are. Sometimes all it takes is to catch them and put them in a time-out tank for a week or two to diffuse the situation.

There are a lot of adult size caves in my stacked structure but the camera really doesn't show them. Sometimes when the fish would spook it looked like I didn't have any fish at all.



When it comes to maturity it varies from a couple months to over a year. Some sub-dominate males will retain female coloring to avoid a confrontation with the dominant one. Kenyi are famous for this. I had one very large what I thought was a female Kenyi saddle up to another female and right before my eyes went from that beautiful blue to golden yellow in almost the blink of an eye. He obviously wanted to breed her but the dominant male showed up and the sub-dominant hid in a cave and came out later dressed back in the blue female colors. I named him Rue-paul after that. Laughing

Other species where you can have more than one male would be Pseudotropheus sp. "Acei" , rusties, and quite a few others. Normally it's the highly aggressive that don't tolerate a male of the same species.

We all try for harmony in our tanks, but most of us have had losses. Sometimes from the destruction comes harmony. Youmay have to take some out and add others in. As I said earlier carefull observation will help. A couple of other things you can do is frequent feedings and keep the temperature at the low end of comfortable.
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by Aura on Sat Sep 04, 2010 10:37 am

It sounds like you've gotten good advice so far, so I'll just say, welcome to the forum. Smile

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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by jmcfive on Sat Sep 04, 2010 11:00 am

In the few days since I have adopted these guys, I have spent enough to feeld a family of 4 four in Africa for 2 years (according to Sally...) but I think it will be worth it! Again, thank you all for your advice. I was up until 5am working on getting this new tank set up, and I am still not done with it! Just when I thought I had enough rocks (I should have read iceblue's link on rock hunting before I went to get some) I realized that I don't have near enough, not even half... Back to the store that sells buig rocks!
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by Aura on Wed Sep 15, 2010 8:00 pm

So is it all working out okay for you and the fish?
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by jmcfive on Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:03 pm

SO far, so good! Thanks for asking! They seem to be a little livelier now that they are in a larger tank. I got them a few friends, but unfortunately, lost one of them.

Since it is difficult to tell which sex they are, I'm hoping that I have enough females in there, and not all males. I guess the term "attrition" comes to mind, for lack of anything better...

I plan to post more pics and ask for suggestions/comments. Thanks all again for your advice!
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by jmcfive on Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:01 pm

Sorry that it took me so long to post something new, but the proberbial, "I've been busy" is an understatement!

I've added a few more fish. I have 6 Auratus, 4 Kenyi, 3 'bumblebee'... They were all about the same size when I added them... One of the Aurutus (Brutus) is about 3 inches, as is my nearly tan kenyi... The little guy featured in the third pic that I posted has barely grown a millimeter, but he owns the largest cave... I don't know how that happened, and the 3" Kenyi is the most skittish...

Here are some recent pics - oh, I found out that I got duped at the LPS... The tank that had am '80gal' sticker on it is only a 40... That's what I get for buying at the $1 per gallon sale.

Here are some 'newer' pics, the latter ones taken tonight.[img][/img][url][/url][url][/url][img][/img][img][/img][img][/img][img][/img][img][/img][img][/img]
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by Aura on Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:18 am

They sold you a 40 gallon tank for the price of an 80? Mad What are the dimensions of the tank? The kenyi, auratus and crabro will most likely need a much bigger tank as they mature.

I've had some fish like the one you described as not growing -- runts of their brood. I've never been able to figure it out. After watching, I see that they are usually shyer in their eating habits, but they should still grow a little bit.

Nice looking crabro.
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by Super Turtleman on Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:13 pm

I'd demand some money back for them ripping you off on that tank!!! That's crazy. If not I'd let them know I'm finding another LFS.
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by jmcfive on Thu Oct 28, 2010 9:35 pm

The tank is 36" x 18" x 15"... I'm not happy about it, but it could have been worse, I guess... I paid $80 for it, but am already planning to get a 'real' 80 gal tank... They had a $1 per gallon sale on their tanks, which is why I got it there. 'no returns, all sales are final' was the sign... Already filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, but I doubt that will get me my $40 back... I had words with these clowns when I went to a different store and 'just happened to wlalk past their tank section' and saw that I had, indeed, bought a 40gal...

I think I have the time to get another tank cycled. They seem to get along, for now... I keep the water temp at 76 degrees, and feed them small amounts 4 times a day. I havent lost any to aggression yet, so... I'm hoping they will all make it long enough to transfer them to the 80 gal. (fingers crossed).

2 of the Aurutus are males (turnig black) and I think 3 of the 4 kenyi are changing color too... Kinda worried anout that. The Crabro are very interesting. I have one that goes from stripes to light tan almost instantly as it chases the other 2 around!

I've also found the 'pecking order' in the tank. Brutus rules it, and the Aurutus are the leaders, followed by the Kenyi, then the crabro... Funny thing though; every fish but Brutus rubns from the 'runt' Kenyi. I haven't yet figured out why, but such is their society! They are sooo fun to watch, I'd rather watch them instead fof TV!
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Re: Rift Lake Cichlid questions (MANY, as i am new to the species).

Post by jmcfive on Thu Oct 28, 2010 9:38 pm

Here is the enlarged pic of the same piuc I posted earlier.

I don't know if you were able to see the male Aurutus in the earlier pics. They are in 2 of them (I bet the black gravel doesn't help...)

[url=][/url]
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