65gal Malawi Mbuna Biotope

  • #1
First off, if the tank & stand look familiar to some of you, they are in fact the tank & stand from my 65gal planted aquarium which has had the fish removed to 3 existing tanks & the bulk of the plants moved to the 25gal I posted pics of the other day. Basically I worked out a way for me to have more fish without having to have more tanks. ;D

I've tweaked the stock I intend to have in this tank a little from when I first had the idea a week or two ago & have ended up with this as my final stocking list:

2 x Brown Julie (Julidochromis Dickfeldi) -if available
2 x Black & White Julie (Julidochromis Transcriptus)

1 x Calvus (Altolamprologus Calvus)
2 x Lemon Cichlid (Neolamprologus Leleupi)
8 x Black-Finned Cichlid (Paracyprichromis Nigripinnis)
4 x Pearly Ocellatus (Lamprologus StappersI OR Meleagris)
4 x Cuckoo Catfish (Synodontis Multipunctatus)
1 x Bristlenose (Ancistrus sp.)

1 x Daffodil Cichlid (Neolamprologus Pulcher) - if available
1 x Fairy Cichlid (Neolamprologus Brichardi)

The rock I've used is Granite with a single piece of Limestone. The substrate will be sand containing shell grit & argonite. There will be a few large shells scattered around the fore-midground when I pick them up. A few bunches of Vallisneria Spiralis will be scattered around the back & sides.

I've still got to pull the rockwork apart again to silicone it in place but I've taken lots of close-up photos so that I know exactly where what piece goes.
There will be more updates over the coming weeks but here's what I've done so far:


  • 002.JPG
    111.5 KB · Views: 566
  • 012.JPG
    51.7 KB · Views: 461
  • 014.JPG
    53.7 KB · Views: 809
  • #2
It's looking great, Nutter! Can't wait to see it with the sand and the happy inhabitants.
  • #3
Congrats!.. I might suggest one thing for a tank with many rocks in it. You may want to put egg crate under the sand to spread the weight out better. I generally do to any tank with a lot of heavy decor.

Good luck!
  • #4
I really love that tank! I've never seen one with such pretty wood work on it.
Putting squiggles of silicone on the rocks(let it cure before putting in the tank) where they contact the glass will protect the glass as well as keep the from sliding as easily.
Can't wait for completed pics. Not rushing you or anything...
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Thank you.

The stand & hood are custom built by me. There is a full floor supporting the entire tanks bottom glass so there is no risk of the glass breaking. The only way the glass could be damaged is by adding enough rock to actually crush the glass. The base rocks were also ground flat where they contact the tank so the weight is spread out & fish cannot undermine them. I would need over 1000lb of rock on a single point for the glass to be at risk of actualy being crushed. So it's pretty safe. I've had way more rock than that in the tank before anyway.

Here's a pic of how the tank looks right now. There will be Vallis added this week & perhaps a couple of fish. The internal filter that's in there is from another matured tank & is only to help with the cycling. Not that I'll be getting the 2213's for another month or two yet.


  • lights off.JPG
    lights off.JPG
    76.4 KB · Views: 401
  • lights on.JPG
    lights on.JPG
    44.2 KB · Views: 461
  • #7
It's a very pretty cabinet.
  • #8
Very nice and great planning!!!!!!! Cant wait to see it all done!!!!
  • #9
Nutter ... love the color of the wood on the tank & stand.

Rock work looks really nice as well. Can't wait to see it finished/stocked.
  • #10
Extremely nice cabinet! You do good work Nutter!! How long did it take you to build/stain ect?
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
The stand & hood took me about 6hrs to build & another day to stain (allowing for varnish to dry between coats). I only used a drill, handsaw, spirit level, screwdriver & paint brush to build & finish it. The stand is made of an old pine bed & the hood is made of pine floorboards. Varnish is just a rose or mahogony tint, I don't remember which. There are 4 posts supporting the hood & it is attached to the stand rather than sitting on the tank. The hood & supports can be removed in under 3 mins. The entire hood is hinged so that hood, light etc swing up out of the way allowing full unimpeded access to the top of the tank. There's room for 6 x T8 4ft single tube fixtures inside the hood (only using 2), as well as a couple of PC fans to help keep things cool.
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
Just an update on what I've done over the last few days. Today I just planted the bits of Vallis around the back & sides of the tank. It's not the exact species I was after but I guess that doesn't really matter, I had already veered away from the biotope when I added the Bristlenose for algae duty. The Vallis is pretty ratty at the moment but that's fairly typical for Vallis in Perth. It should pick up over the next few weeks & start to fill in properly. It won't go all the way along the back of the tank. There are a few spots that will remain bare to give contrast against the black background. I added a few more rocks to the middle area of the tank the day before yesterday to create an extra couple of caves & moved the piece of wood for the Bristlenose to the right side of the tank to act as a bit of a divider between two of the caves.

Yesterday I managed to track down what is a pretty rare fish in Perth, a Neolamprologus Pulcher, so against my better judgement I bought it. I wasn't going to add any fish yet as I don't have the canister filters to hook up but I couldn't resist given that it is hard to find these guys & that it's a lovely coloured male. There's established media in the little internal filter & I havn't recorded any ammonia as yet with 0-5 nitrates so I don't think things will get too bad for this guy.

I also rigged up my water change system today. It's just a 60lt plastic bin with a heater & 500lt/hr pond pump for circulation & pumping the water over to the tank. I've just tried it out today & it works really well. For under $30aus you can't go wrong.

Here's a couple of pics of the tank & the water changing rig. Sorry about the poor picture quality. I'm not a great photographer & it's a new camera that I'm still learning how to use.


  • 022.JPG
    112.5 KB · Views: 220
  • 021.JPG
    98 KB · Views: 236
  • 025.JPG
    47.1 KB · Views: 201
  • 010.JPG
    45.1 KB · Views: 293
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
And here's the best pictures I could get of the Neolamprologus Pulcher. He's till pretty shy which is to be expected so the pics arn't great but they do show a little of his colour.


  • 023.JPG
    116.3 KB · Views: 235
  • 029.JPG
    106.7 KB · Views: 210
  • 030.JPG
    113.6 KB · Views: 192
  • #14
Cool little fish
  • #15
I dig the stand and hood you have. Nice work!

That's pretty much the same water changing set up I have, except my bin is on rollers so I can keep it in the closet out of site until needed.
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
Thanks Mike. This tank is in one of my garages where I go to escape the noise of my 4 kids so I'm not too worried about appearances. If it ever comes inside the house though the water change system will definitely get hidden. I'd probably build a cabinet with the same finish as the stand & use it to store all the other bits & pieces in as well.
  • #17
It's about 900 degrees in my garage.
  • Thread Starter
  • #18
It's about 900 degrees in my garage.

Same in mine for most of the year but I've made up some mesh lids that I use when it's hot & there's room inside the hood for me to install a a few fans so I can keep it under control fairly easily. If it gets too bad I just cycle some frozen water bottles through the tank. This tank was planted with 5 lights running over last summer & I never got above 30c. It will only stay cooler now with only two lights in there.
  • #19
It's about 900 degrees in my garage.

Same here. Supposed to get up to 103F Saturday. Think my fish would boil.
  • Thread Starter
  • #20
Just a little progress update. The Vallis mostly died back but it's making a good come back over the last week so that's making me happy. I added another couple of rocks to create more caves so the rock work is finally completed & I added in a few shells today to provide a couple of other types of hiding spots. I've still got to put a few more small shells scattered around though as it looks a bit odd at the moment. I was supposed to pick up my Eheim today but the shipment has been delayed & now it's not going to arrive at the LFS until next week. That's a pain because I just got 3 new additions to the tank today, 2 x LeleupI & 1 x Calvus. Now that the bioload has increased & my filter didn't show I've put a well established air driven filter in temporarily. That will take care of any extra waste for the next week or so. Anyway, here's a couple of pics of the tank & the new inhabitants. As usual, sorry aobut the fuzzy pics.


  • 005.JPG
    45.5 KB · Views: 240
  • 006.JPG
    109.9 KB · Views: 336
  • 008.JPG
    120.3 KB · Views: 251
  • Thread Starter
  • #21
And a couple of other pics. That's the best I could get of the Calvus & doesn't do the markings any justice at all.


  • 018.JPG
    142.9 KB · Views: 181
  • 015.JPG
    112.1 KB · Views: 195
  • 009.JPG
    119.3 KB · Views: 219
  • #22
It's looking awesome Nutter!
  • #23
Nice find on the pulcher. How much did that calvus cost?? My LFS has one under an inch with the same pattern and it cost 65 dollars!!!!!! When you add the stappersi's/mealegris you might want to watch the leleupi's because they often dive bomb the shellies, (same with pulcher). Beautiful setup though. Makes me want to get my Tang tanks up and running all that faster.

P.S. Were are the shells for the shellies?? I see the conch/big ones/whatever they are, but those are to big for the little mealigris to move around?????
  • Thread Starter
  • #24
Just havn't got the shells for them yet. There are 3 or 4 smaller shells in there but I still need to grab more to scatter around. I'll be putting them mostly where that corner filter is & along that side of the tank. So long as they decide to hang out in that region they should be safe from most of the other fish. The rocks on that side form a more or less solid wall without cave entrances & there is a bit of a 'bay' area in there to give the shellies plenty of room to do some rearranging.

The Calvus cost me $32 & is a fraction over 1". For $65 I can get Calvus at about 2". They are fairly common over here so the prices arn't too bad.
  • #25
nice tank diggin the larger rocks thanks for sharing
  • #26
I love the rock work Nutter. I always assumed that rocks would need to be exactly the same type to look natural but your granites go really well together. They are mostly granite aren't they? Although that brilliant arched one looks like sandstone.
  • Thread Starter
  • #27
Yes it's all granite from my garden except for that one arched rock which is limestone. That arched rock only has one way in & out so it makes for a good divider along with the very large piece of granite behind it to make a territory for my future shellies to inhabit.
  • #28
That's a really nice setup! The fish you have so far look excellent. I'll be following along here, can't wait for more updates! ;D
  • #29
Wow, fun seeing and reading the progress. Amazing tank!
  • #30
looking forward to seeing it when completed
  • Thread Starter
  • #31
Worked out the camera settings so here are a few new pics. I've hooked up the 2 x Eheims & I've added a few new fish to. 3 x Synodontis Multipunctatus & what was sold as Julidochromis DickfeldI but I think is actually Julidochromis Regani. I'll put a separate post in the ID section about that.


  • 003.JPG
    140.6 KB · Views: 222
  • 009.JPG
    138.4 KB · Views: 153
  • 020.JPG
    141.3 KB · Views: 163
  • 016.JPG
    140.2 KB · Views: 170
  • 017.JPG
    120.1 KB · Views: 151
  • Thread Starter
  • #32
A few more pics.


  • 018.JPG
    123.5 KB · Views: 280
  • 007.JPG
    163.9 KB · Views: 197
  • 014.JPG
    143.2 KB · Views: 212
  • 021.JPG
    122.1 KB · Views: 161
  • Thread Starter
  • #33
A full tank shot & a couple of better pics of the Lemon & Synodontis.


  • 030.JPG
    65.9 KB · Views: 151
  • 001.JPG
    135.2 KB · Views: 142
  • 013.JPG
    138.7 KB · Views: 153
  • 005.JPG
    124.7 KB · Views: 135
  • #34
Looks awesome...love the fairy I think it is,(is that a brichardi?post 31 pic 4 and 5?)
  • Thread Starter
  • #35
Thanks BD. Close relative. Neolamprologus Pulcher. Much the same size & behaviour as N. BrichardI but much more colourfull.
  • #36
Good to see juvenile Synodontis. I have only ever seen mature, ie horrendously expensive, ones. Your tank is looking great. I can see why you are so taken with the Tanganyikans. The variety is amazing.
  • Thread Starter
  • #37
Thanks Claudicles. I was lucky to find the Synos at that size. They are usually double that size & three times the price I paid. I wasn't looking forward to parting with $250 for 3 of them at the usual size so I'm pretty happy to have gotten away with it for as little cost as I have. Now all I need is to find some Cyprichromis at a good price.
  • Thread Starter
  • #38
Been awhile since I put a pic of the tank up so here's one I took today. It's not the greatest photo & I've been neglecting the maintenance abit as I've been busy with work & house hunting, hence the green algae on the sand.

Unfortunately it all has to come apart this weekend as I'm moving into a new house. When I put it back together I'll be leaving the Vallis out & adding a bit more rock. I'll also be topping the limesand substrate with a natural sand/gravel mix that came from a river a bit of a way from here. Very natural looking stuff. I'll post pics when I've got the tank all sorted out in the new house.
I also found my Cyprichromis but I've got to wait for them to be shipped to me from Sydney in a few weeks.


  • 011.JPG
    69.2 KB · Views: 184
  • #39
Nice to see you Nutter!

Have fun with the move. I'll be looking forward to more updates.

  • Thread Starter
  • #40
Thanks Ken. I'm not at all looking forward to the move. It's going to take me 1-2 weeks all up by the time I've built new sheds for my cars & moved all our stuff. A big dissapointment is that I'm having to cut back to just two tanks (the 65gal & 180gal) as there isn't enough room in the house for teh seven I have now. I might squeeze a 5gal Betta tank in somewhere if I'm lucky.
Top Bottom