Cichlid Newbie Needs Advice Please

TropicsGirl

Member
Hi,

This is my first time to post in a forum of any kind. I hope I have my post in the correct section.

Here is my little fish story:

About 3 months ago I purchased 3 Cichlids and some Tiger Barbs from the local Wal Mart (yeah, I know, bad idea) for my 80 gal aquarium which already contained 3 Barbs and 1 Plecostamus (I had a massive fish die-out from lack of care during my absence). The tank in the store simply said "Assorted Cichlids." I thought I was getting 3 different kinds of Cichlid since they were all different colors (1 orange, 1 blue, and 1 white). Upon getting them settled in the 80 gal I decided to research what kinds I had gotten. I believe, from what I have seen on various sites that they are ALL Zebras. Bummer, I didn't want fighting or breeding. The Blue one was the biggest, then Orange, with White being the smallest. Blue immediately became the top fish in the tank and bossed everyone around (no vicious fighting). Orange was next in line, with White at the bottom of the totem pole.
Then, about a month ago, Blue and White became VERY aggressive with one another and fought all day and night for several days getting into mouth locks many times. Concurrently, White was attacking EVERYTHING in the tank quite viciously, killing some Barbs and injuring others; including the Plecostomus, damaging it on its fins and tail. I was worried they would kill one another, so I removed White to a 40 gal tank that just has a juvenile Perch in it from the local pond. White and Perch are getting along famously.
Total peace occurred in the 80 gal tank immediately upon removing White from the tank. Blue and Orange are almost friendly, with no fighting. About a week ago Blue has STOPPED eating, will not open its mouth for anything, and stays in a cave most of the time; whereas previously to this was all over the tank all day. It does come out when I feed them, but does not eat, just looks at the food very closely. It will also chase Orange some, just to get it away from the cave. Otherwise, it is hiding in the cave all the time.

1. Are these all Zebras? (sorry for poor quality s)
2. Which are male and which are female?
3. Are they having babies?
4. If they are having babies...what do I do?!
5 If they are not having babies...what is wrong with Blue?


Thanks for any suggestions or advice.
 

Demeter

Member
1: Those are not all zebras IMO but they are all mbuna (rock dwelling) Africans and therefore they will interbreed. Mbuna do not have to be the same species to breed. They are pretty much like different breeds of dogs. Because you bought these fish from an assorted tank there is a high possibility they are all "mutts" so I can't really say for sure which species they are. The orange could be a red zebra, the blue with the orangeish dorsal could be a hongI and the whiteish one could be an ice blue zebra. All are closely related.

2. The lovely pale blue/white one looks to be male judging from the bright finage and obvious egg spots on the analfin.
I would also say the orange is male but I am a little iffy on that one. Blue looks to be a holding female.

3. If you have mixed genders of mbuna they will likley breed. Yours look to of spawned judging by the holding blue female.

4. Do you want to keep the fry? If you do you can separate the blue female who is holding into a separate tank and let her spit the fry naturally. A female will hold eggs/fry for 3 weeks and then care for the fry for another week or so after spitting them. Females can spawn pretty much every month with 30+ fry per batch. A growout tank of preferably 29+ is needed for fry. Note that crossbred fry are seen as undesirable so getting rid of fry will be difficult. If you do not want to raise the fry then that is totally fine. Let the female spit in the tank and most if not all the fry will be eaten. That's nature.

5. Blue is holding. I would like to say that there is always the possibility that the eggs were not fertilized as sometimes happens when the female refuses to spawn with a male. In which case, most females will spit or eat the rotting eggs in about 10 days.

You have obviously learned a valuable lesson about stocking African cichlids. They should never be kept with non Africans. End of story. This is even more true for mbuna, which happen to be the most aggressive group of the Africans. If there are any barbs left I would move them ASAP.

Another thing to take note of, Africans should be over-crowed to spread aggression, meaning that one fish will not get targeted and bullied to death but can escape in the crowd. In an 80gal I would aI'm for 30 mbuna. You should do some more researching on keeping Africans on your own. There no way I can say all that needs to be said in a single post. The general rules are as follows

1. Don't keep Africans w/ non Africans
2. At least 2-3 females per male
3. Over crowd to spread aggression
4. LOTS of rock work, especially for mbunas. Hiding places are vital to allow bullied fish to hide and allow males to claI'm territories.
5. Remove overly aggressive fish or critically injured fish. Weakened fish make easy targets.
 
  • Thread Starter

TropicsGirl

Member
Demeter,
Thank you so much for the prompt and thorough response.
I am seriously considering keeping 1 batch of fry and raising them. This way I can overstock my tank with them once they get big enough. And just let nature take its course if they breed again, not trying to save the fry after 1 batch. I will research fry care and get more rocks for my tank which currently has enough rocks for about 7 caves.
How big should they be to put them back with the adults?
 

Demeter

Member
How big are the adults? I find that 1.5 inches is a good length to add the fry back in. Some might get killed/eaten at this size but I doubt very many will.
 
  • Thread Starter

TropicsGirl

Member
The adults are currently about 4.5" - 5". Approximately how many caves should I aI'm for in the tank? I looked online and I see a wide variety of setups from bare tank to so full you can barely see anything. This is my current setup: large holey rocks, cave stump, lots of dense plants (fake), marble substrate with under tank lighting (this grows loads of algae for the Plecostomus, the Mbuna graze on it too), and a 120 gal filter as well. 15 of the Barbs are still in the tank with no problems between them and the 2 Mbuna (Blue and Orange).
 

Demeter

Member
I like the idea of a rock pile on either end of the tank and possibly a little "bridge" of rocks in the middle. Right now I'm trying a end-to-end "bridge" of rocks in my tank and it seems to work well enough. I just grabbed large rocks from around my house and used those. The different shapes created plenty of differently sized hides. The only downside is the extra weight the tank has to hold. I worry about your tank being able to hold extra weight as it appears to not have a solid base to sit on but rather a frame of sorts.

Your tank has decent cover but the only thing I would change is size of the hiding spots. The fry will need to hide pretty much 24/7 upon returning to the main tank. They will stay hidden until they feel safe enough to come out (usually around 2in in my experience)
 
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TropicsGirl

Member
Thank you.

The stand is very sturdy. We built it using pressure treated 4x4's, 2x4's, 3/4" plywood, and multiple cross-braces and extra supports. As you can see I use the bottom for my daughter's 5 gal and my printer. We have an assortment of interesting rocks in the backyard that I'm going to clean thoroughly and redecorate the tank with.

Should I take out the plants to make more room for rocks? or strategically place them as line-of-sight blockers? Most Mbuna tanks I see online have no plants at all.
 

Demeter

Member
In the lakes they come from there aren't very many plants so it's better to remove them. Be careful with the rocks and try to spread them evenly on either end or along the middle of the tank. Uneven weight might end up causing the bottom panel of glass to crack.
 
  • Thread Starter

TropicsGirl

Member
Thank you very much!

I will send an update photo once I've redecorated.
 
  • Thread Starter

TropicsGirl

Member
OK. So I rearranged a bit and added a rock heap on one end that has loads of nooks n cranies that the adults cannot fit in. I also took out about half of the plants. There was a little quarreling yesterday right after I finished, but now, as you can see, Blue and Orange are friendly again.
 

Demeter

Member
Good to hear things are going well. Are you keeping track of how long the blue has been holding? You might want to think about moving her soon or you can wait till just about the 3 week mark to strip the fry at an age where they don’t need their mom anymore.

With the clearer picture your blue is looking more and more like my own mbuna.

This is when he was younger


This is him now.


The orange tinted fins and vertical stripes are quite similar.
 
  • Thread Starter

TropicsGirl

Member
Yes, they do look very similar, she even has the same black and white stripes on the bottom fins. I love watching mine change her colors from pale to bold depending on her mood and interaction with Orange. It's so neat to watch them together.
I don't have an empty tank to move her to. I could move the Perch and White (which I believe is an albino since he has pink eyes) into the 80 gal and Blue into their 40 gal, but I am concerned that White will kill them all like he was doing before.
 
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TropicsGirl

Member
She spit her babies for the first time today. Too cute! It's hard to count them, but I think there are about 20. There are white/yellow ones and blue ones. I will post a picture as soon as I am able. She snatches them back up if I come near the tank. I fed the fish and she grabbed a lot of discs in her mouth (like a dog carrying a stack of frizbies), then spit out babies and food in a pile in one corner. So neat to watch her care for them.
 
  • Thread Starter

TropicsGirl

Member
Finally! I was able to get a few pictures of the babies. This morning when she spit them out again I was able to count at least 9 dark ones and 9 light ones, so there are at least 18. They have taken over the rock heap and are super hard to find now. One even swam all the way from one end of the tank and back (4 feet each way), what a journey for such a little guy! I'm really impressed with them. They almost immediately separated themselves into a light group and a dark group, the lights are all at the top of the heap in a crevice between 2 rocks and the dark ones have all but vanished (I assume into the heap somewhere).
 
  • Thread Starter

TropicsGirl

Member
Today she seems to have abandoned them. I can only find 5, and she spends most of her time on the opposite end of the tank. I'm taking out the barbs since they seem to spend most of their time trying to get the remaining 5.
 
  • Thread Starter

TropicsGirl

Member
Update: I have moved the fry to their own small tank. There is still a total of 18 (9 dark and 9 albino). They are all growing well except for one albino which only has 1 eye and is growing at about half the rate as the others. The mother is holding again, as of yesterday. If I decide to keep batch 2, will they be OK to put in with batch 1, or should I keep them separate?
 

Demeter

Member
Good to hear some are still doing well. If you want to keep batch two with batch one I'd wait a couple weeks after the second batch is spit so they can grow some and defend themselves. I like to keep fresh batches in breeder basket until they are able to defend themselves.


One thing to keep in mind is the more fry you put in a smaller tank, the slower they will grow. Any runts will likely be picked at by the larger fry and bullied to death.
 

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