40 Gallon Tank 40G breeder, 36", would like Yellow Labs. Questions.


I made a lot of posts on a lot of forums (well here and one another, but I also looked at hundreds of posts all around the net too) , I also asked a lot of question in a lot of other existing posts, in order to find the best stocking possible for my 36" long 40 gallon tank. More importantly: in a way that would be pleasing to me and humane to my fish. I got a lot of answers, and I'm very grateful for all the people who took the time to answer my questions. I asked about A LOT of different species, and/or different combinations, but in the end I can only choose one – So please don't be offended if I didn't end up choosing the species you helped me with. I'm in love with this hobby, and this will not be my last tank — I keep in mind all the info I gathered through you you guys and will definitely use it for my future tanks.

Wow, that was a long intro. That being said, I decided I'd go with the Labidochromis Caeruleus. But I still have a few questions!

It will most probably be a species only tank – unless I get a positive answer to questions #3 and #4 (and #5 lol).

Here I go :

1. In a species-only tank, how many Yellow Lab should I get ?
2. I was about to ask for the M/F ratio, but I believe I'll get unsexed juveniles. So how many should I buy in order to get the perfect amount/ratio once I rehomed bullies and/or bullieds ?
3. Could y put some Synondontis Lucipinnis with them ? I know they're Tangs, but I've seen them suggested very often. If I can, how many, and should I decrease the amount of Labs if I put some ?
4. I'm pretty sure the answer will be no, but : Could I put a smaller group of Yellow Labs, and then add a single peaceful Peacock ? (*)
5. I've read that "mbunas best dithers are more mbunas" but I'll ask anyway : Could dither and/or schooling fish be added, and if so which ones ? Are there any schooling non-mbunas in Lake Malawi ?
6. If I can either mix the Labs with the Synos, the Peacock, or the dithers, in what order should I add them ? My guess is that the labs should be last.
7. If they produce fry, should I do something specific with them ? If there's a peacock will they get more aggressive towards him, and how bad can it be ?
8. Will Synos eat the fry, and how will the Labs react to this ?
9. If kept alone in their tank (no synos, no peacock, no dither), do they take care of their fry by themselves ? Should I remove carrying/gravid female ? Should I remove the fry at some point ?
10. If they breed, will the couple go berserk against other labs ? And how bad can it get ?

I'll make sure to keep an hospital tank. I've been suggested a 20G + some dividers when asking about Victorian's hap. Would the hospital/gestating tank would need the same size with Labs ?

(*) I've read a post from an experienced user on a cichlid forum, and he said he's "had success in a smaller tank with Labs and Aulonocara Maulana for years". (I guess it was Aulonocara stuartgranti 'Maulana Bi-Color') I'm not sure what tank size it was nor how many Maulana and Labs he had, but it was in a post about someone wanting to stock a 36" pretty much like mine. I've also gathered a list of some other Peacock described as being more peaceful than the others, but I'd really like the contrast with a A. Maulana.

That's pretty much what I'd need to know for now I think. As for proper filtration, substrate, water parameters, decor/caves, etc — I think I can find those online

If you feel I'm missing something, or if you want to correct me on something, if you have extra tips for me, extra warning, or if you want to comment the other suggestions I've received and quoted above, feel free to chime in !

Again, a very big thank you to everyone who took the time to answer my millions questions! It's so appreciated!


1. If you're doing just yellow labs. I would say about 12-15 mature labs in the 40G breeder.
2. If you are buying them unsexed. I say go with 25 and slim the herd as necessary to get the amount of each you want.
3. Synondontis Lucipinnis are a great choice and require very similar parameters to mbuna. You can definitely do this. It depends on the size you are getting the Synondontis Lucipinnis at. But I dont think it is necessary if you are going with 3-4 bottom feeders to lower the amount of mbuna. Maybe just a bit to 20-22 for bioload purposes. But I am assuming you are over filtrating this tank as recommended with mbuna.
4. No, don't mix peacocks with labs. Yeah, they are peaceful but require a different diet. Either your mbuna will get bloat from eating the high protein diet of the peacock or the peacock won't be getting the proper nutrition it needs from the high vegetation level.
5. Dont try dithers with mbuna ex. neons or something. they will just get eaten off by the catfish, plus a lot of non-aggressive community fish don't have the same parameters. Even labs that arent very aggressive are still a lunatic compared to most potential dithers. I think you would just be wasting your money.
6. As explained above, no dithers or peacock. As for the Synondontis Lucipinnis and mbuna. They work out well with each other because they don't see each other as competition; and they inhabit different parts of the tank. Therefore, I don't think any specific order is necessary, but for arguments sake lets go with the Synondontis Lucipinnis first just because mbunas are projected to be more aggressive and territorial. So yes, you are correct, labs last.
7. They will reproduce... labs reproduce like rabbits. I still disagree with taking on the peacock.
8. Yes, the Synondontis Lucipinnis will eat fry. The dominant labs would eventually try and kill off their competition so to speak anyway, so the won't really feel anyway certain way about it.
9. Mbuna will eat their fry. The best way of getting them to adulthood is isolating them until they are around the same size as the fish you have and they can fend for themself.
10. Breeding males will get a bit more aggressive over his mating spot in the tank. He will defend it with his life. Look for shimmying and him chasing some females prior to mating.

Other questions:
I keep a spare standard 10 gallons as a hospital and I find that is more than enough for my mbuna as needed. As for the Aulonocara stuartgranti, yeah I guess anything is possible, but that fish cant be living his best life in a small tank. Just because someone on the internet said they did something that most would advise against, doesn't mean it is a good reason to follow that advice haha.

My opinions on hardware:
I love fluval m series heaters. They have never let me down. As for filtration, I go with two marineland 350 HOBs for my 40 gallon. I try and turn the tank over 10 times an hour. Definitely go with sand over gravel for the Synondontis Lucipinnis. Plants are just expensive meals for mbuna, stick to rocks! haha

I hope I answered all of your questions. Reach out to me if you need anything. Thanks for numbering the questions, made it a lot easier to comment! Best of luck
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Thanks for the reply! I'm happy that you answered all my questions all by one

I was prepared to reply to each answers, but everything you said makes sense! I will not mix them with a Peacock and will not add dithers. Just the Labs and the Lucipinnis.

( Edit : In fact even though my next questions aren't listed, I numbered them too because you liked it on the first post lol But the numbers of these questions are not related to those of the first post! Thanks again! )

About over filtration, what I currently have is one Aquaclear 50 (200 gph) and a "Powkoo Large Sponge Filter" (I couldn't find the GPH, and when I google the name it's only showing me Amazon links (which is where I bought it). It is advertised for up to 53 gallon tanks. 1) Do you think both filters would be enough for my 40 gallons ?

To get 10x my size tank I would need 400 gph, so after my Aquaclear 50 I'm down to a remaining 200 gph. 1.5 ) Do you think a sponge filter described as being for 50 gallons could be 200 gph ? (Aquaclear 50 is described as being for tanks 20 to 50 gallons). It's a shame really that I cant find the GPH nowhere for that one.

Maybe you'll get more luck that me ? Here's the link, I bought the large one :


Also, I already have the sand too ! I bought crushed coral as well (been suggested to put in filter instead of on the ground - to increase PH : Tap water PH is 7.8 here) and also some Tanganyka's Lake Buffer for when I tought about getting Tangs instead. 2) I think Malawis are not requiring a water as hard as the Tangs, so I guess the buffer shouldn't be needed ?

Oh, and one other question. I also follow Facebook Groups on cichlids and Africans, and I asked pretty much the same questions. Most people said that 36" was too small for Yellow Labs, and that theirs got up to 6 inches big. 3) I know 48" would be best, but I feel like Labs getting 6 inches long would be very rare, no ? 4) Do you think I should be concerned that a big majority tells me I shouldn't do it ?

Also, another one gave me an advice to reduce agression : To make sure there is absolutely no cave or hiding spot, so that none of the lab could find a territory to defend. He said to only put big base rocks as decoration, but no caves or anything. 5) While I understand the logic behind his suggestion, I think it would be a little sad for the fish ? They'd be only swimming around in circles no ? Do you think I should follow this suggestion, or I should do the opposite and get as many caves and hidings as possible ? His argument was that my tank was too small to have enough hiding spots for everyone, and that no hiding spot at all was better than not enough.

6) Finally, when I place my rocks at first, should I already take in consideration the adult size they'll reach when I create caves, and make them bigger, or I should make smaller caves at first and move rocks and redo the rock-scaping as they grow bigger ?

I thought about maybe sticking some rocks together in order to solidify them (and maybe make a kind of arch of rocks), but I also read it's good to move the rocks around from time to time to lower agression. I also thought about creating fake rocks using styrofam coated with cement (then treated and cured for a while), and make a styrofoam back wall looking like rocks with implemented caves built in, however it would be harder to rescape my tank if I do so. What would you suggest ?

Thanks again!
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EDIT : About my question about the GPH of my sponge filter, I did a little more searching and found out that the sponge filter itself does not determine the GPH, what does is the air pump or the power head that goes with it. Makes perfect sense.

So yeah, I forgot about the power head that I also ordered a while ago to go with it lol. I just found the box and it's an Aquar Jajale JA-600. It is described as being 800L/H so that'd be around 211 gph. It is also written it has a "H.Max" of 1.0M – Not sure what it is though. That being said, if the information is correct I think I should be okay with those two, getting me 411 gph
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1. Very unpopular opinion here so take this advice with a grain of salt: I hate sponge filters. IMO they are very loud, do nothing to remove debris, and are an eyesore in the tank. I only use sponges in fry tanks so they don't get sucked up by the filter. Depending on how small you go with your fry, you might wanna throw some mesh inside the intake tube of the HOB so you dont scoop up any of your new little friends. Check this link out. For less than $50 you can get yourself two **** filters:

Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin Aquarium Power Filter, 75-gal - Chewy.com

2. Yep don't worry about the buffer at all 7.8 is perfect and that's what my tap comes out to as well. What is more important than having the exact PH is having consistent PH. Buffers throw the water parameters up and down too quickly to keep consistency. I have never heard about putting crushed coral in the filter before interesting, but since your PH is already fine, I think it is unnecessary and could cause damage to your filter haha.

3. I don't believe a 40-gallon is too small for labs, I think it is the minimum amount that they can live happily though. I have them in 40-gallon breeders all the time and so do alot of people on here. 6-inch labs sound a little too large. In my experience, I have/had about 20 labs in my tank, and theyre always around 4 inches. Some dominant males around 5 inches. 6 seems a bit much, but who knows!

4. Definitely take everyone's advice with a grain of salt, including my own. At the end of the day, it's your money. The great thing, but sometimes the annoying thing about the hobby is that everyone has their own experiences (therefore their own opinions) with fishkeeping and will tell you what they think is best because it worked for them.

5. I totally understand the logic/advice of not having hiding spots so no fish can claim a spot as their own. The problem is with cichlids, they are smart. They will just claim the entire tank haha. So I disagree, fish, especially cichlids need places to hide, especially abused fish to escape their enemies. Mbuna means 'rockfish' for crying out loud.

6. I wouldn't worry about this too much. Scape the tank according to the type of fish. You will eventually change it up to suit them as needed. I don't suggest doing a rock wall simply because then you are losing serious retail space in your tank, your 30 gallons just became a 20 gallon. I dont think you should make fake rocks with cement either. Cement will throw your PH into the stratosphere and require a lot more work than already, prior to getting your fish. You are definitely going to want to rescape the tank to lower aggression. In another post I am going to try and share an article with you that I wrote on here to reduce mbuna aggression.

Also, I am going to tag some fish people here, so they can weigh in on this conversation. The people I am tagging, post good content on here.

A201 mattgirl chromedome52
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EDIT : About my question about the GPH of my sponge filter, I did a little more searching and found out that the sponge filter itself does not determine the GPH, what does is the air pump or the power head that goes with it. Makes perfect sense.

So yeah, I forgot about the power head that I also ordered a while ago to go with it lol. I just found the box and it's an Aquar Jajale JA-600. It is described as being 800L/H so that'd be around 211 gph. It is also written it has a "H.Max" of 1.0M – Not sure what it is though. That being said, if the information is correct I think I should be okay with those two, getting me 411 gph
Yeah, these numbers are just a rough estimate and not something to be taken super literally. The GPH listed is the MAX and usually not what you're actually getting with filter and media etc. Still a good frame of reference though.
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How to lower mbuna aggression:

Tank size
A lot of the problems I hear about keeping cichlids it goes something like this … “My cichlids are trying to kill each other! My water parameters are perfect in my 20 gallon high! What is the problem?!”” The problem is 20 gallons is 35 gallons short of what is required for a successful cichlid tank. Emphasis on successful here people. 40 Gallons can also work for certain types such as labs etc. Sure, you can put a juvenile cichlid in a 2-gallon bowl, but will it live long and be happy? No. Make sure you have an adequate tank size for your fish. This will set you up for success and not a recipe for disaster.

Not enough fish
The second problem I often hear goes something like this … “My 3-5 cichlids are aggressively chasing each other! HELP!” Having 3-5 cichlids in a suitable tank is another recipe for disaster. The aggression isn’t spread out, and they will quickly create a hierarchy amongst themselves. More fish will disperse aggression. I am reluctant to say, “GO BUY MORE FISH!”.” Make sure you have adequate filtration, oxygen, a large enough tank, and routine water changes first. Lastly, make sure your tank is cycled. I find ‘Seachem Stability” to be most useful in preventing your tank from crashing.

Lower the temperature
Lower the temperature into the lower end of cichlid needs. This will slow the fish down, make them metabolize food slower, making them less willing to breed, and chase. Slowly decrease the tank to 76 degrees so they can adjust and see how that helps. Remember that since their metabolism is slowed down, you might need to feed less. Yay for saving money on fish food!

Rescape the tank
Another option is to take all your fish out, put them in a hospital tank or a suitable temporary home, and rescape your aquarium. Make sure you have adequate hiding spots with lots of rocks such as Texas Holey Rock or Slate. Polyresin rocks work as well. Break up the direct line of sight. Make it harder for an aggressive fish to not B-line it to a sitting duck on the other side of the tank. Changing the tank will disorient the fish and make them have to work together to reclaim territories.

Less light
Another effective method is keeping the light off more often than not. Fish needs periods of darkness and light like all creatures. It is vital to have consistency here when trying this. Having a nighttime light on more often then a sharp white light will help lower cichlid aggression.

Buy compatible cichlids
Buying compatible cichlids is sometimes the luck of the draw, but staying within a specific species such as all Labidochromis will help. Also, try and pick fish that don’t look like each other. Commonly, cichlids view similar fish to them as a threat. It is less likely that an aggressive yellow lab would see a blue fish as a threat. Of course, this is trial and error. Certain types of cichlids have been known for lower aggression, but it is sometimes the luck of the draw. When you go to the fish store, find the fish you like and watch him. Is he chasing everything around to death? That is the bully and avoid him no matter how pretty because he will do the same thing in your tank.

Add multiple fish at one time
Remember when I said fish are too smart for their own good? Well, cichlids will immediately notice a new friend or foe in the tank. At first, they will be interested and maybe follow them around. They may even try and push their buttons to see where they fall in the line of hierarchy. Adding multiple fish will disperse the older fish’s curiosity and, therefore, aggression at the same time.

Isolating fish
Now these two next options, I personally had no luck with. But I always say consistency is key and try everything at least twice. Isolate aggressive fish, put them in a plastic jail cell inside the tank. They will be furious, but maybe, the aggressive fish will chill out from his time out. You can try and isolate the aggressive fish into an entirely separate tank. (I understand a lot of people might not have this option.) You can also try and isolate the abused fish and heal his fins with proper doses of melafix. Putting them back in the tank will put them at the bottom of the hierarchy, but at least the fish will be up to full health.

Now, remember that none of these methods will work entirely on their own. Do as many of these options as possible, pray to your god, be consistent, and try everything twice! It is sad, but the best things I have ever done for my tanks were to donate my bullies to good homes or healthy local pet stores.
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Great job SinisterCichlids providing helpful information for the OP. That's the best part about being a fish forum member.
My advice would be to use the 40B as a grow out tank. Learn the ropes about raising a group of Mbuna, then upgrade to 75 Gal. tank or larger.
A group of Yellow Labs would look nice, but don't expect all of them to be peaceful. I've raised several Yellow Labs males & they do grow to five inches. They aren't particularly docile either.
Instead of starting a Yellow Lab breeding colony, consider an all male mbuna community starting with juveniles; suggestions, Yellow Lab, Rusty, Afra, Kenyi, Likoma Elongatus, Zebra Chilumba & Blue Zebra.
Stay away from Auratus, Bumble
bee & Red Zebras.
You're likely to be over run with unwanted fry keeping a breeding colony.
Your Synodontis selection is fine. The Synodontis Multipunctatus is also a real good fit with African Cichlids.
Without a sufficient hardscape, the most dominant Mbuna will likely have the rest of the population pinned against the glass.
A limestone hardscape works well in an African Rift Lake community.
Shop your local rockyard or landscape company. Much cheaper than petshop rocks.
If you plan to use Marineland power filters, The Emperor 400's are the way to go.
Great job researching your project.
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Thanks A201 for your advices

I would've love to do an all male community, but on a forum on cichlids, they always said to people with tanks lower than 55G or 48" to stay away from those, and then suggested Saulosis as first choice (36" and lower), then Yellow Labs or Demasonis (both at 36" min) as their second.

1. You really think an all male colony would work in a 36" ?
2. How many different species should I get ?
3. If I go with one of each of the species you suggested, I'd be at 6 total, but I believe I should overstock in order to get the all males tank to work. What amount should I reach ?
4. Since they'd be all different species, how to know which ones besides those you named ? Should I get any of them, as long as they're not Auratus, Bumble Bee or Red Zebra, as well as avoiding species similar to one of my species, either in color or in pattern ?
4.I checked all the mbunas you suggested me for an all male community. They all seems very similar in terms of patterns and colors — All have vertical stripes, two (Jalo Reef, Afra) have both b&w vertical stripes and a yellow dorsal, two others seem to be on the blueish striped (Elongatus and Chilumba) with the Kenyi somewhere in the middle. From what I've heard about avoiding males that look alike in an all males tank, I would only feel safe with the lab, the rusty, the zebra blue and one of the striped ones only (ore maybe one of the blue/white and of the the black/white ? But even there I think they could think it's one of their own and fight) What do you think ?

Thanks for the tips about hardscaping company for the rocks. I called a few and they only had small to big gravels for driveway and such, but not actual rocks. I might need to call in the subburbs, as they don't seem to hold lots of big rocks in my area of Montreal

Synodontis Multipunctatus are really nice fish But they're described as being 12 to 20 cm, that'd be 4.7" to 7.8", wouldn't that be too big for my tank ? I was aiming at the Lucipinnis for their dwarf size. Would they be as good ?

Thanks again !

A thanks SinisterCichlids on the detailed information on the agression!
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You might add a male Yellow or White Tail Acei & Saulosi.
I've never seen Synodontis Multipunctatus over four inches long.
You'll need to construct an elevated hardscape complete with crevasses & caves. Rocks big enough to break lines of sight.
No need to cramp 22 Mbuna in a 40B.
Use this time to learn cichlid management & adjustment skills with 8 - 10 Mbuna.
Here's an example of a complex elevated hardscape. It's one I built many years ago, while transitioning from a Central American Cichlid tank to a African Cichlid community. Notice the male Yellow Lab swimming with a full grown Red Terror Cichlid. Like I implied, Yellow Labs aren't really peaceful Mbuna.

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Alright, I'll try to find 8-10 different types of mbunas that would have different enough colors/patterns to not see each others as rivals from the same species. Besides Auratus, Red Zebra and Bumblebees, do you have other you'd advise me against ?

By the way your rock work is very nice and I see what you mean by broken lines of sight. And your Red Terror is completely gorgeous.

Also, since you've mentioned having CA cichlids at some point, I could be interested in them too. If you have suggestions, I'm all ears. I really like the Firemouth, the Dwarf Yellow Convicts (regular convicts too, but I believe they're too agressive to share a 40g tank with others) and also like other Thorichthys (but with the CA I'd prefer a male-only tank if that's something that exists and is doable, instead of a colony/couple/species-only tank).
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I forgot to mention, Powder Blue or Albino Socolofi as a possible tankmate.
The pictured Red Terror is female. I kept her for several years. Wish I had her back.
If you ever try Central Americans, look at the Salvini Cichlid. Both male & female are very colorful. They go well with Firemouths & Jack Dempseys.
IMO, not a good idea to keep a mated pair of Convicts. They are prolific breeders & there is no market for their offspring.
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Yellow Labs in your title caught my eye. Just starting my journey with Africans, not Mbuna but all juvenile Peacocka/Haps with Synondontis Lucipinnis.
"Great" questions. Based on my research, you have gotten some sound advice.
Wow! Very Informative! Following.

Great job @SinisterCichlids providing helpful information for the OP. That's the best part about being a fish forum member.
Agree! Without this forum and guidance from A201 and MacZ and a couple of others, I am sure I would have made some inappropriate stocking choices.
Thanks! A201 you have been so helpful and your pics are absolutely "Stunning"

Good Luck! OuiBonjour

Will be watching!
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OuiBonjour : I'm a bit dumbfounded reading you asking for the dither/schooling fish thing again.

Otherwise nothing to add. Good job, everybody!
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Yeah but this time I also specified regular schooling fish, not just dithers haha

But seriously, Yellow Labs are different than Thorichthys, and I don't know enough about them to assume what you told me about the Thoris will apply to the Labidos. I think it was still better to ask no ? Before I asked, I didn't know if the Labs would tolerate schooling fish, and I'm glad I did because now I know they don't lol

Maybe for an experienced cichlid hobbyist the difference between both species are obvious enough to know which ones can go with schoolers and which ones can't, but I'm not there yet. Sorry if my questions can seem redundant to some aquarists. I just don't want to extrapolate incorrectly the information I got about a species onto another one and get bad surprises.
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But I also said Malawi cichlids and schooling fish don't mix. That was all. It's totally fine to ask to make sure. I was just a bit surprised.
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I agree with MacZ African Cichlids don't need dither fish. Those are used to entice a reclusive fish to become relaxed & more active.
Tropical schooling fish aren't typically seen with African Cichlids. I've read where Tiger Barbs, Giant Danio & big Rainbows are sometimes teamed up with them.
Be a good idea to first get experience keeping your African Cichlids before venturing out into uncharted territory.
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But I also said Malawi cichlids and schooling fish don't mix. That was all. It's totally fine to ask to make sure. I was just a bit surprised.

Oops, you're right. I forgot about that one! Okay, you're right to be dumbfounded then
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