Do Mbuna Need Caves? Thoughts On A Bare, Cave-less Tank?

  1. l

    lol Member Member

    I'm planning my final tank, it's been a long ride with deciding what I want... I was going to get saltwater but it was just too expensive for what I wanted to achieve. I've settled on African cichlids again. I would like more Tropheus cichlids but my family doesn't want any more of those, even if it's a different variant. Luckily I also like mbuna.

    This tank will be in a room where it will be seen by more people, and will be seen more often. So, I want to make sure it looks good. Of course, I also want my fish to thrive.

    This brings me to a dilemma, because most people say mbuna need tons of caves... so many, in fact, that there should be at least one cave per fish, and then some more caves after that. I don't know if I can fit that many caves without dumping rocks up to the top of the tank. In my opinion, tanks with too many rocks/caves just aren't as nice looking, and are certainly much more difficult to clean than, say, a tank with few caves, or no caves at all.

    So, I am here to ask for Fishlore's opinions on mbuna tanks with no caves.

    The idea behind a mbuna tank with no caves is that there are no physical boundaries or areas for a single fish to establish a territory. If a fish tries to make a territory, it won't be able to defend it because the tank is too open. This approach also makes the tank much, much easier to clean and, in my opinion, looks nicer, provided you have a 3D background (which I am going to get) to provide the 'atmosphere' for the tank. This setup allows you to focus on the beauty of the fish rather than see them sitting in one spot defending a rock or hiding in a cave all day.

    Is this a bad idea for the wellbeing of the fish? I've seen a few mbuna tanks on youtube where they have few rocks and lots of fish. I don't know how well this worked in the long run though.

    What do you guys think? Bad idea? Good idea?

    Thanks in advance
  2. DHIWZ

    DHIWZ Member Member

    Hiding spots for fish are generally welcome--that being said, the idea that you need one cave per fish is borderline ludicrous. Yes, Lake Malawi is pretty rocky and there are tons of caves to hide in, but if you're getting your fish captive bred/tank raised then they won't know the difference.

    Ever African cichlid setup I've seen has overstocked fish, because this tends to lower the aggression levels within the tank. A more "natural" setup would actually be worse, because as you said it would bring out territorial issues and aggression. This usually doesn't end well in a tank where space is finite and there isn't any space to run away.
  3. fissh

    fissh Well Known Member Member

    you need some rocks in a mbuna tank to keep the fish happy. You don't need a cave per fish. Even if you have rocks they spend most of they're time out swimming around. the rocks cut back on aggression and mortality because it gives a hiding place for fish that are being chased. My tank in the picture has 150 to 160 fish, it's 360 gallon and I lose 4 or 5 fish a year do to aggression. DSCN5149.JPG DSCN5151.JPG