55 Gallon Tank Cichlids not hiding!

Rockfella

Hi all,

Not hiding.jpg

My guess is my tank is small for these 15 3/4" mbunas. They don't seem to hide. The "caves" that I have are not rocks but a DIY I did with slates and silicon. Maybe they don't like it. They are otherwise okay. There is one bully that likes to chase everyone. I took this photo when the lights were off (I only keep the lights on while feeding and admiring) Tank has good aeration so they don't gasp for air but they behave like haps.
Any thoughts.. please share. Posting this as I thought they like to hide all the time. When I got them they were very sacred of any movement around the tank and specially any light. Now they seem to be not afraid of anything. Eating well growing fast but why not hiding?
TIA.
Regards.
Vivek.
 

A201

Just give it time. Once a mated pair becomes established you'll likely see the Mbuna utilize cracks, crevasses & caves. They also will dig tunnels under the hardscape.
Enjoy your time of relative peace. Things will change. Lol.
 

A201

I generalized a bit. Maybe better stated, which ever male & female Mbuna happen to make a breeding connection. Lol.
 

Ouse

My guess is my tank is small for these 15 3/4" mbunas.
What’s the length and width of the tank?
They don't seem to hide. The "caves" that I have are not rocks but a DIY I did with slates and silicon. Maybe they don't like it.
The caves pictured don’t offer any hiding anyway. The fish can still see each other with ease. Slate is an inert rock, meaning if you have a below ideal pH for these fish, making a big rock structure out of limestone rather than inert rock would be better in this tank.

While on the topic of rocks, the big pebbles capping the substrate would be better off not there; the fish would much prefer access to the finer substrate underneath, especially for feeding purposes.
They are otherwise okay. There is one bully that likes to chase everyone.
In the photo, I see a lot of the fish swimming in the middle-top region of the water column, despite them naturally being bottom-dwellers. The “bully” (bullying is completely different to the territorial behaviour seen in these fish) could be bothering these fish, to the point where swimming out of their comfort zone is their last option of escape.
 

Rockfella

In Mbuna? Never seen that in all the years with Malawi cichlids.
I wonder why.. the web is bloated with info ... Mbunas are easy to breed... The male prefers a harem and what not lol.
What’s the length and width of the tank?
36"x20"x16" LxHxW. I will soon DIY a 36x24x21 soon. Can't go any loner or taller or deep.
Waiting for UGF plates to be delivered.
The caves pictured don’t offer any hiding anyway. The fish can still see each other with ease. Slate is an inert rock, meaning if you have a below ideal pH for these fish, making a big rock structure out of limestone rather than inert rock would be better in this tank.

While on the topic of rocks, the big pebbles capping the substrate would be better off not there; the fish would much prefer access to the finer substrate underneath, especially for feeding purposes.

In the photo, I see a lot of the fish swimming in the middle-top region of the water column, despite them naturally being bottom-dwellers. The “bully” (bullying is completely different to the territorial behaviour seen in these fish) could be bothering these fish, to the point where swimming out of their comfort zone is their last option of escape.
That's what I was thinking. The "caves" can be modded to so they can fully hide. The substrate is coral and the PH is 8.2. Those pebbles devoid them of any digging and I know not digging is something they don't like. Before getting them I knew they dig but a yellow lab thought he/she owns the tank and almost reached the ugf/bottom glass and I had 3/4" substrate. So I had to take action. Suggest what to do. One yellow one (I am not sure if it is a lab) seems to be ex-employee of an excavation company and misses work! Digs all day! I know if I remove the pebbles they will reach the bottom.
 

Rockfella

OK. I took the "caves" out to be modded and they are suddenly behaving the same way they used to when they were introduced in the tank. Getting scared with lights are on! I guess the caves gave them some sense of security. PFA image.
 

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A201

Maybe construct a true limestone hardscape. Rockyard & landscape companies sell limestone pretty cheap. Just mixing in six or seven rocks will make a big difference.
The Mbuna will dig under it, making their own caves, or reside in the cracks & crevasses.
Here's a pic of an African Cichlid rock hardscape I designed.
 

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MacZ

I would also be scared in a corner in a much too bright, barren tank.

Didn't have the time to say something earlier, but please listen:

Do a proper rockwork with granite or basalt. Also remove those white pebbles. These fish should be able to reach the sand!
For stability reasons you will have to scoop the sand aside to place some of the rocks directly on the bottom, so the fish can't undermine the rocks and make them crash down.

Here's some inspiration for how a Malawi cichlid tank should look.

Footage from the Lake itself:

And some pictures, only as links due to copyright.
https://i.ytimg.com/vi/4fAVU8WMmFo/maxresdefault.jpg
https://i.ytimg.com/vi/n5WZQCv6ox0/maxresdefault.jpg
https://www.top-aquariums.com/tamainimage22104.jpg
http://biotope-aquarium.info/wp-con..._Reef_near_Chizumulu_Island_Lake_Malawi_1.jpg
 

Rockfella

My bad. They were just stressed due to LWC and gravel cleaning. Fine now. Thanks for the inputs A201 and MacZ. Will do what I can. I don't want them to dig too much as the gravel has a plenum. I am hoping for anoxic conditions in it hence the thick gravel and slow moving water/UGF. Will add more gravel above the pebbles so that they can still dig but won't disturb the plenum.
 

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MacZ

I don't want them to dig as the gravel has a plenum. I am hoping for anoxic conditions in it hence the thick gravel and slow moving water/UGF.
In my opinion one of the least fitting set ups for that technique.
 

Rockfella

In my opinion one of the least fitting set ups for that technique.
Why?
 

A201

I'm a little confused, (not unusual for me). I'm gathering that the OP is trying to establish anaerobic denitrification using a thick, strategic gravel layering & low water circulation.
Speaking from experience, a 4"+ deep gravel substrate bed & rather strong water aeration achieves the desired denitrification. Digging Cichlids have little to no effect on the anaerobic bacteria embedded in the substrate.
 

Rockfella

I'm a little confused, (not unusual for me). I'm gathering that the OP is trying to establish anaerobic denitrification using a thick, strategic gravel layering & low water circulation.
Speaking from experience, a 4"+ deep gravel substrate bed & rather strong water aeration achieves the desired denitrification. Digging Cichlids have little to no effect on the anaerobic bacteria embedded in the substrate.
You are right I guess. I am trying to do what Dr. Kevin Novak recommends. 2-4" thick substrate with plenum and very slow moving water beneath it.
 

MacZ

Undergravel filtration is (at least to me) an outdated technique that may have worked in Goldfish tanks in the 70s but gets in the way of species appropriate conditions, especially with species that tend to dig. I would definitely offer the fish a tank that fits their requirements and choose filtration after these requirements.
 

Rockfella

Undergravel filtration is (at least to me) an outdated technique that may have worked in Goldfish tanks in the 70s but gets in the way of species appropriate conditions, especially with species that tend to dig. I would definitely offer the fish a tank that fits their requirements and choose filtration after these requirements.
Typical UGF with tall lift tubes are outdated. I will provide them digging pleasure soon with the gravel intact.
 

MacZ

Good luck then.
 

A201

My tanks have at least four inches of small grain rounded river gravel.
No undergravel plate.
I haven't gravel vacuumed the substrate in several years. The fish remain healthy & the tank environment clean. It's quite apparent that anaerobic denitrification exists.
IMO, an abundance of water circulation is a must. The benificial aerobic bacteria, which actually grows on the decor & on top of the substrate need the aeration that water circulation provides.
Your fish might suffocate without a sufficient amount of water agitation.
 

Rockfella

My tanks have at least four inches of small grain rounded river gravel.
No undergravel plate.
I haven't gravel vacuumed the substrate in several years. The fish remain healthy & the tank environment clean. It's quite apparent that anaerobic denitrification exists.
IMO, an abundance of water circulation is a must. The benificial aerobic bacteria, which actually grows on the decor & on top of the substrate need the aeration that water circulation provides.
Your fish might suffocate without a sufficient amount of water agitation.
Got it. There is sufficient aeration/water movement and surface agitation. I have a wave maker plugged into a smart plug that switches it on/off for a few minutes multiple times a day for water movement not surface agitation (I know it works best for agitation but this one is too strong for 24x7 usage in my tank) for surface agitation I have a bubbler and powerhead that also bubbles lol.
My bad. They were just stressed due to LWC and gravel cleaning. Fine now. Thanks for the inputs A201 and MacZ. Will do what I can. I don't want them to dig too much as the gravel has a plenum. I am hoping for anoxic conditions in it hence the thick gravel and slow moving water/UGF. Will add more gravel above the pebbles so that they can still dig but won't disturb the plenum.
I was wrong. They still get spooked when I turn the lights on. Without caves they don't feel good. Better caves with true hiding spots in the works now.
 

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Rockfella

Removed pebbles added ugf plates on top of substrate and added more substrate on top. Win win for everyone. They do dig a bit but they can't dig very deep. They seem to like it now. No longer hanging in the corners. Will add the caves soon too. The pebbles repulsed them I guess. No much difference in their behavior just removing pebbles even without hiding spots. The "caves" are being modded more. Will add it soon.
 

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Rockfella

Weird problem.
When I add those caves one lab instantly becomes aggressive, active and starts chasing everyone else. I removed it now. No caves. Without hiding spots whole tank appears calm. Just one fish gets mental with caves. I can't see any way to fix this.
 

A201

Welcome to one of the most common stress points of keeping African Cichlids, "Aggression".
Chances are the dominant Yellow Lab is the strongest, most colorful male. The constant chasing is normal Mbuna behavior. Unless the tankmates are exhibiting injuries, no real need to remove the dominant male.
Typical ways of dealing with this situation is to rearrange the hardscape, build it bigger & higher, or add more Mbuna. Some keepers will temporarily remove the offending fish for a few weeks, then reintroduce it. The theory being, a new dominant fish will take over the offending fish's top spot in the hierarchy, bumping the offending fish somewhere torwards the bottom. It's been my experience that this method is only a temporary fix.
Keeping African Cichlids is very challenging & often frustrating. Hang in there, the knowledge you attain & skills you develope will raise you to the highest level of fishkeeping.
 

Rockfella

Welcome to one of the most common stress points of keeping African Cichlids, "Aggression".
Chances are the dominant Yellow Lab is the strongest, most colorful male. The constant chasing is normal Mbuna behavior. Unless the tankmates are exhibiting injuries, no real need to remove the dominant male.
Typical ways of dealing with this situation is to rearrange the hardscape, build it bigger & higher, or add more Mbuna. Some keepers will temporarily remove the offending fish for a few weeks, then reintroduce it. The theory being, a new dominant fish will take over the offending fish's top spot in the hierarchy, bumping the offending fish somewhere torwards the bottom. It's been my experience that this method is only a temporary fix.
Keeping African Cichlids is very challenging & often frustrating. Hang in there, the knowledge you attain & skills you develope will raise you to the highest level of fishkeeping.
You are right. It's the most gorgeous of the bunch! Few tweaks I can think of is to just keep one of the caves (I have 2) Or keep no caves. No-one is injured but they all look exhausted when the tank boss makes them do HIIT. It's 55G and I have 15 3-4" mbunas with 10 giant Danios. I don't think I can add more. Idk. Thanks for the encouragement ☺️
 

A201

IMO, constructing an elevated, complex rock hardscape is the best way to handle African Cichlid aggression.
A point to remember, there is never permanent peace in an African Cichlid community, only a temporary stalemate. Changes in the fish hierarchy will always require adjustments.
 

Rockfella

IMO, constructing an elevated, complex rock hardscape is the best way to handle African Cichlid aggression.
A point to remember, there is never permanent peace in an African Cichlid community, only a temporary stalemate. Changes in the fish hierarchy will always require adjustments.
Something to keep a single man busy during weekends lol. For now no caves. This weekend I will mod the canopy and keep one in the other side or center and observe. The Don Juan gets too active if I keep it on the left side. Thx again. I regret building a small tank despite having space on the base! It is my first DIY build. Size and big water changes intimidated me lol.
Removed pebbles added ugf plates on top of substrate and added more substrate on top. Win win for everyone. They do dig a bit but they can't dig very deep. They seem to like it now. No longer hanging in the corners. Will add the caves soon too. The pebbles repulsed them I guess. SO MUCH DIFFERENCE in their behavior just removing pebbles even without hiding spots. The "caves" are being modded more. Will add it soon.
 

Rockfella

The aggression part seems to have been solved for now. I only have one "cave" in the middle of the aquarium. Some of them use it occasionally but no more crazy aggression/chasing. They do get to dig a bit/throw substrate around lol.
 

FishDin

IMO, an abundance of water circulation is a must. The benificial aerobic bacteria, which actually grows on the decor & on top of the substrate need the aeration that water circulation provides.
Your fish might suffocate without a sufficient amount of water agitation.
A canister filter (or other) usually takes care of that. The approach that the OP is using does not call for no filter. You still use your normal filter for the usual reasons, mechanical and biological (aerobic) filtration. The idea of the plenum, as I understand it, is to promote anaerobic denitrification under the substrate. The slow water flow is through the substrate, into the plenum and up the lift tube. The lift tube is short in order to slow the flow through the substrate and plenum. The slow flow prevents the movement of debris into and through the substrate. The aim is to pull the nitrate laden water through the substrate, but not the debris. This is not a mechanical filter like a traditional undergravel filter.

Having said that, the OP does not appear to use a filter, which I would think would be a problem. Don't know what is being done for mechanical filtration.
 

Rockfella

A canister filter (or other) usually takes care of that. The approach that the OP is using does not call for no filter. You still use your normal filter for the usual reasons, mechanical and biological (aerobic) filtration. The idea of the plenum, as I understand it, is to promote anaerobic denitrification under the substrate. The slow water flow is through the substrate, into the plenum and up the lift tube. The lift tube is short in order to slow the flow through the substrate and plenum. The slow flow prevents the movement of debris into and through the substrate. The aim is to pull the nitrate laden water through the substrate, but not the debris. This is not a mechanical filter like a traditional undergravel filter.

Having said that, the OP does not appear to use a filter, which I would think would be a problem. Don't know what is being done for mechanical filtration.
You are right. Mec/bio is also done in the top SUMP with 2 BCBs and 2 DoPhin P808 top filters. I have around x6 turnover of water.
 

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