Confusion on cichlid tankmates

lemonbean

Hi all! I’m new here and i’m excited to learn more about African Cichlids :)
I recently become the owner of some cichlids and their tank mates due to a friend not being able to give them a proper size tank. Right now, I have a 55 Gal tank with 4 african cichlids, 1 red tail shark, and 2 synodontis catfish.They are all still juvenile and small, and while there is a clear tank boss, everyone seems to get along very well and everyone seems very healthy and lively! I’ve attached pictures of all of them as well!

Picture 1: my Kenyi, i was told they are too young to sex
picture 2: my yellow lab, male
picture 3: my red tail shark, male
picture 4: my tank boss, but i am unsure of what kind of cichlid he is, any help
would be great :) i know he is a male
and picture 5: my demasoni, who i also believe is too young to sex

Between going to a few aquarium stores and reading things online, i am beyond confused about Cichlid tankmates. I’ve read that you should never keep demasoni’s with kenyi’s, but i’ve also read they make great tankmates. Same with the red tail sharks and cichlids. I even had one guy tell me my tank was “sure to end in chaos” with the types of cichlids and tankmates i have in there, but another say i had good tankmates. Since there is only 4 of them, i definitely will be adding more in the future, but when researching which african cichlids can live with each other, all i get is conflicting answers from the internet, other people, and aquarium stores. Basically, I’m wondering which other cichlid species I can put in here with these guys? Some ones my fiancé had mentioned were the Elongated jewel spot, bumblebee, and an acei, are any of those okay tankmates? Any other kinds of Mbuna that will fit well?

Thanks for all help in advance!! :)
 

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CHJ

When I did Africans long ago I did them by lake. I like Malawians. Occasionally I toyed with the idea of a Tanginikian tank. I wouldn't mix lakes.
After that I went for similar size. so a bunch of pseudotrophs, Labeotropheus, such are fine. A b. microlepis with some n. brichardi and n. leleupi ain't going to work out well. If you are willing to sell/trade fish that grow too much you have even more options like a venustus or compressiceps.
As a kid the LFS got some Perissodus microlepis in, I'd avoid those. They also got some saltwater "if they sting you you will die" fish so they may have been making bad life choices.
The big thing that was a constant rule is keep the population up and run appropriate overkill
filtering.
When I was 15-17 I had 20-30 Africans in a 15 gal (dumb kid!). Big HOB on the back. It ran great for a long time then in the summer when I was 17 I went away for the summer I showed my mom how much to feed them and emphasized how important it was to feed them that much I covered this several times as I had a bad feeling. I came back to a tank with 3 fish in it. Mom said "You should only feed them a pinch of food is what I read". 1 of those fish was soon killed by the other 2 and then the 2 had a highlander moment the next day. The final fish dug down to the under gravel and died.
When I went to college the Africans in my 55 suffered a similar fate. "Mom if that one will eat 2 pinches of food and want more, you can't give the whole tank 1 pinch.".

I like to make sure that no fish can chase another more than say 6-8" before getting distracted by another fish to chase.

Shark might be fine or might be food. The question is does it look enough like a synodonis? I never understood how synodonis live so happily in African tanks. I guess they just do not register as murder targets.
 
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lemonbean

When I did Africans long ago I did them by lake. I like Malawians. Occasionally I toyed with the idea of a Tanginikian tank. I wouldn't mix lakes.
After that I went for similar size. so a bunch of pseudotrophs, Labeotropheus, such are fine. A b. microlepis with some n. brichardi and n. leleupi ain't going to work out well. If you are willing to sell/trade fish that grow too much you have even more options like a venustus or compressiceps.
As a kid the LFS got some Perissodus microlepis in, I'd avoid those. They also got some saltwater "if they sting you you will die" fish so they may have been making bad life choices.
The big thing that was a constant rule is keep the population up and run appropriate overkill
filtering.
When I was 15-17 I had 20-30 Africans in a 15 gal (dumb kid!). Big HOB on the back. It ran great for a long time then in the summer when I was 17 I went away for the summer I showed my mom how much to feed them and emphasized how important it was to feed them that much I covered this several times as I had a bad feeling. I came back to a tank with 3 fish in it. Mom said "You should only feed them a pinch of food is what I read". 1 of those fish was soon killed by the other 2 and then the 2 had a highlander moment the next day. The final fish dug down to the under gravel and died.
When I went to college the Africans in my 55 suffered a similar fate. "Mom if that one will eat 2 pinches of food and want more, you can't give the whole tank 1 pinch.".

I like to make sure that no fish can chase another more than say 6-8" before getting distracted by another fish to chase.

Shark might be fine or might be food. The question is does it look enough like a synodonis? I never understood how synodonis live so happily in African tanks. I guess they just do not register as murder targets.
Wow thank you for this answer!! This gives me a much better idea of tankmates that will work.

As far as the red tail shark goes, they seem to get along with him pretty well actually. They swim together and don’t seem to want to chase or be aggressive towards each other. I was told that cichlids get more aggressive as they mature, so could that lead to issues in the future with this shark? I definitely want to keep all my fish safe and healthy.
 
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CHJ

Ah I'm not sure if your reading has covered it but include lots of cover and décor that makes chases more difficult. Also plants are not going to have a good day in a cichlid tank so stick with hardscape.

Caves can anchor a few cichlids in certain locations but they will be more aggressive near those caves.

You will have a very low survival rate on spawns due to tank stocking density. I think the only babies I ever had grow up were some crabbos.

There are other fun options to you can go for a mass of yellow female johannii with a nice blue male. That tank would have less drama.

Popular tanginikians tend to be smaller than their malawian counterparts so a tanginikian tank may seem bigger and have less drama.

Shell dwellers are charming and low drama if you wanted to go with a shelly tank.
 
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Lvmyfsh

Mbuna chiclids....basically if they all come from That same lake your good to go. I have mine with loaches of 3 diff kinds I even hade in 3 green tiger barbs and they did just fine although I was also told that would end badly the barbs were full grown and the chiclids were new.. add enough cover space they will do fine you can rearrange the tank when adding new fish to help detour the bullies from picking on the new guy they wont know there way around equally giving the newbies chance to find the pecking order they usually calm down if not then you know it's a bad combo I've seen gold fish in chiclid tanks like wow so I think its depends on tank size along with all the rest...the more space they have to call there own the less they pick on the first fish they see or the weakest
 
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BigBeardDaHuZi

One of the biggest reasons African cichlids are only kept with other African cichlids is because of the water chemistry. Africans like a pH around 8, with hard, hard water. Most aquarium fish take much softer water. The aggression of African cichlids - especially mbuna like you have - also make it generally unwise to mix in normal community fish. Even if the Africans don't kill the community fish off, somebody is going to be pretty unhappy with the water parameters. Goldfish get too big, require cooler water and are too dirty for a good rift lake tank. People may put them in, but it is in no way great.

Your red tail shark prefers a pH around 6.5 - 7.0, although, temperamentally he should be ok in the tank. Red tails are pretty boisterous themselves.
Your synodontis catfish, depending on the species, may be a great tankmate. Several species of synodontis catfish come from the African Rift lakes and also like the hard, alkaline water your cichlids need to thrive. These catfish are often put in African cichlid tanks.

For your tank, I would strongly recommend sticking with more mbunas. They all "speak the same language", so to speak, have the same water requirements and the same diet requirements (they are herbivores). Also, a tank full of mbunas is a beautiful sight to behold.

I would not add any peacocks or haps to your tank. A 55 gallon is too small for most of the big africans and the ones that stay small are way too wimpy for a mbuna tank. Focus on the mbunas, you will have plenty of variety to choose from.

For the tank scape, you want a Lot of rockwork. Big piles of rocks with lots of caves where the fish can claim their territories and hiding holes. Depending on what your water chemistry is like coming out of the tap, you may want to add crushed coral or limestone rocks to the tank to put in a natural pH/hardness buffer. In my big 150, I have all crushed coral in the sump for my tank media and it works pretty well.
For stocking, you want to crowd the tank a bit. Overstock. If there are a lot of fish in the tank, it is hard for a bully (you will definitely have bullies) to pick on just one fish and harass it to death. Maybe 15 fish for a 55? Something around there. It is usually advised to get 1 male to 3-4 females of each species as well. African cichlids are all harem breeders. Even if you are not trying to get fry, they work best in natural groups.
 
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