Lake Malawi Mbuna stocking, décor and hardware

Lake Malawi Mbuna stocking, décor and hardware

My plan to write these articles is to help all newcomers coming into African Cichlids as much as I can. When I first started out I was so lost and confused from the lack of in depth information available, I also felt that there should be more facts over opinions. Here today I am trying to do what I can and share all that I can about them. I do not believe that I went into enough detail on my previous article and want to cover as much as I can and answer a lot of the questions I’ve been seeing on the cichlid forum here on AA. So here we go for some more in depth information to the other article called Lake Malawi and Aquarium stocking cichlids. I must say if you haven’t already, you should read the other article first as there is some stuff that might be helpful in that article too. .

As far as décor goes for African Cichlid tanks you can do whatever your heart desires, as long as you create hiding spots. Most of us try and mimic the home of these cichlids so I’m going to break it all down easily so you can skip to whatever it is you want. I’m only listing things that are commonly used amongst us all. For further info about the natural decor i listed below click here: Introduction to Adding Natural Decor to an Aquarium.

There are many types of sand that can be used in the aquarium such as play sand, all-purpose sand, pool filter sand, blasting sand or types sold at aquarium shops. There are different qualities to each type of sand such as; play sand is dirty and very fine. With it being so fine it makes it a little harder to clean in the aquarium without sucking it up.

Gravel can be used if that’s what you prefer; I personally believe it to be a big nitrate factory as it’s not as easy to clean as sand.

In their natural habitat Cichlids have all different sizes of rock. There are many types of rocks out on the market but what type you chose is totally based on your preference. Stores also sell Cichlid stones that are light weight and hollowed out to create hiding spots or homes. So look around when making a decision on what you would like. Some people even build their own the same way you would make a 3D background.

There are many backgrounds out in the world or ideas people have come up with over time. Some more popular ideas are of course, the ones sold in pet stores. There are many types of these going from solid colors to designs printed on them. Once again, it’s all up to you on what you like. Some other things that can be done for your background are painting the back glass, using black trash bags and 3D backgrounds or the combo of two. With 3D backgrounds there are a ton of DIY ones on the web including aquarium advice article section and even the forum threads.

Most African Cichlids don’t get along to well with plants; I have tried live plants and fake plants. There are many members here on AA that has tried keeping plants in their tanks and some haven’t had problems or else problems didn’t occur till the fish became more mature. Cichlids love to dig in sand and because of that they up roots plants, plus most will eat the plants.

There are many types of lighting from the standard fluorescent lights, T8, T5 and LED’s. It really doesn’t make a difference in a Cichlid tank. I like the use of the saltwater bulbs on mine; I’ve seen some nice tanks that run day, blues and purple lights though.

With African Cichlids it is recommended to filter 4-10 times your water mass, I go by that plus going by how stocked I am. I will also bump up the filters to gain more flow in the tank and also adding power heads or wave makers. I like to recommend the Rena canister filters, but you can make that choice for yourself going off of the information I provided.

    Rena canisters                                 Fluvial canister                              Aqua clear
Xp1 250 GPH 45 gallon               207 206 GPH 45 gallon            ac30 150 GPH 30 gallon
Xp2 300 GPH 75 gallon              212 300 GPH 70 gallon             ac50 200 GPH 50 gallon
Xp3 350 GPH 175 gallon             406 380 GPH 100 gallon          ac70 300 GPH 70 gallon
Xp4 450 GPH 260 gallon            Fx5 900 GPH 400 gallon          ac110 500 GPH 110 gallons

     Power head GPH
30-50 gallon 550 GPH
40-80 gallon 750 GPH
70- 125 gallon 1050 GPH
90-210 gallon 1400 GPH

Where to buy cichlids online

These are the places that I prefer and have worked well for me in the past.

It is very important to match the same aggression, feeding habits and size when making the selection of your new cichlids. In the guide below I went off of staying at 6 inches of fish or below unless otherwise noted. If doing bigger fish then you’ll need to drop the stocking numbers. I gave some examples of different sized tanks below. The biggest key is to try and not overstock and only keep a selected few species in each setup. Some species should only be kept as a single from their family and some are even quite the opposite, so be careful at what you choose.

List of some Cichlid rules
DO NOT MIX any two species of:
Pseudotropeus saulosi with other pseudotropeus

*Filtered at least is at 6x
*filter recommendation is at 8x

20 Gallon long / 75.7 litters
Stocking #s:
See 29 gallon both are 30” tanks
GPH filtered at the least: 120 GPH
Filter recommendation: ac30
*Heater watts: 150
*Power heads GPH: 500

-29 gallon / 109.7 litters
This is hard to give numbers on but should be limited to a couple of the smallest members of the family’s. Staying under three inches would work as long as you match the temperament and only do something along these lines:
5-8 Malawi shell dwellers Metriaclima lanisticola with a small pleco
5-8 afra cobue (afra Edwardi) and a small pleco
GPH filtered at the least: 174
Filter recommendation: Fluval 202 and ac 20
*Heater watts: 150
*Power heads GPH: 500

-40 Gallon Long / 151.4 litters
Stocking #s:
* Only choose 2 species
6.5-7 inch cichlids only stock 6 or under
5-6.5 inch cichlids only stock 8 or under
These bellow numbers are at 5 inches or less
5-8 lightly stocked
6-9 medium stocked
8-11 heavily stocked
GPH filtered at the least: 240 GPH
Filter recommendation: xp1 and ac 20
*Heater watts: 150
*Power head GPH: 550

-55 Gallon 208.1 Litters
For an example of a great beginner tank would be:
2 males 6 females – Labidochromis Caeruleus
1 male 4 females – Cynotilapia Afra
1 male 4 females – Pseudotropheus Saulosi
Stocking #s:
12-15 lightly stocked
16-18 medium
19-22 heavily stocked
GPH filtered at the least: 330
Filter recommendation: ac70 and xp2
*Heater watts: 200
*Power head GPH: 750

75 Gallon 283.9 Litters
Stocking numbers:
14-17 lightly stocked
18-20 medium
21-24 heavily stocked
GPH filtered at least: 450+
Filter recommendation: xp2 and ac70
* Heater watt: 300
* Power heads GPH: 1050

-90 Gallon 340.6 Litters
Stocking #s:
16-19 lightly stocked
20-22 medium stocked
23-26 heavily stocked
GPH Filtered at least: 540
Filter recommendation: xp3 times 2
* Heater watts: 350
* Power head GPH: 1050

120gallon 454 Litters
Stocking #s:
18-21 lightly stocked
22-24 medium
25-28 heavily stocked
GPH filtered at least: 720
Filter recommendation: xp3 times 2, ac70
* Heater watt: 450
* Power head GPH: 1050

-125 Gallon 473 Litters
Stocking #s:
25-28 lightly stocked
29-32 medium
33-36 heavily stocked
GPH filtered at least: 750
Filter recommendation: xp3, xp4 and ac50
* Heater watt: 500+
* Power head GPH: 1400

-150 Gallon 567.8 Litters
Stocking #s:
27-30 lightly stocked
31-34 medium 35-38 heavily stocked
GPH filtered at least: 900
Filter recommendation: xp4 times 2, ac70
* Heater watt: 600
* Power head GPH: 1400+

-180 gallon 681.3 litters
Stocking #s:
28-31 lightly stocked
32-35 medium stocked
36-39 heavily stocked
GPH filtered at least: 1080
Filter recommendation: fx5, xp3, ac70
* Heater watt: 600
* Power head GPH: 1400+

-210 Gallon 794.9 Litters
Stocking #s:
30-33 lightly stocked
34-37 medium stocked
38-41 heavily stocked
GPH filtered at least: 1260
Filter recommendation: fx5, xp4, ac 110
* Heater watt: 800
* Power head GPH: 1400+