Help setting up my first mbuna tank

iamV1shnu

Hi everyone,

I’m extending my house so planning to add a new tank to my 50 and 10 gal planted tanks. I wanted to have African Cichlids (Mbunas in particular, I like to have groups). Decided to get a 48*18*18 tank. For filtration sunsun 304 and 302.
My Ph is high in low range and low in high range API test kit (7.4 ?), haven’t checked on hardness but i get white deposits in taps and bathroom floors ( assuming it’s a bit hard ), I can use seachem buffers but rather not. My temperature stays at 31C during hot days.
Now I would like to have 4 species

8 - Labidochromis caeruleus (Yellow lab)
12 - Pseudotropheus Demasoni
4 - Iodotropheus sprengerae (Rusties)
4 - Pseudotropheus socolofi “Albino” (Snow White)
The last two species might be subject to availability. If it’s not available i can replace them with any species you guys suggest.

I will be able to do water changes weekly once , about 25-30%.

My questions are :

1. Will my parameters and temperature work ?
2. How is my stocking list and will it be okay for my setup ?

Thanks
 

MacZ

Decided to get a 48*18*18 tank.

Definitely on the smaller side for Malawi cichlids. Any chance to get something bigger? Volume is about 200l, right?

My Ph is high in low range and low in high range API test kit (7.4 ?), haven’t checked on hardness but i get white deposits in taps and bathroom floors ( assuming it’s a bit hard ), I can use seachem buffers but rather not.

Please check your actual GH and KH. GH should be 10-20°, KH ~10°, pH should not drop below 7.5. If you have to buffer use limestone and crushed coral, those get you where you want to be steadily and safely.

My temperature stays at 31C during hot days.

What is the temperature range? A max number is good to know, but what is the minimum you expect?

8 - Labidochromis caeruleus (Yellow lab)
12 - Pseudotropheus Demasoni
4 - Iodotropheus sprengerae (Rusties)
4 - Pseudotropheus socolofi “Albino” (Snow White)
The last two species might be subject to availability. If it’s not available i can replace them with any species you guys suggest.

Too many. In a tank that size better stick to two species. Yellow Labs are usually of bad health due to massproduction diluting the gene pool, so I'd stay clear of them. The socolofi and the Iodotropheus grow too large.
Of the Chindongo demasoni a group of 10 should be possible, 2-4 males, rest females.
IF you go with any of the others, rather go for the Iodotropheus, they are relatively docile, in a 2:4 ratio.

I will be able to do water changes weekly once , about 25-30%.

As plants are impossible in an Mbuna tank, you will have to arrange for 50% per week.
 
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iamV1shnu

It would be around 250L , I can go to a 90 Gallon (340L) if my filtration will be okay , the two filters I mention has 2000 and 1000 Lph capacity. I am really worried about the 24 inch height in a 90G tank when it comes to maintenance. But if I can have the 4 species in that size tank I can make the upgrade. What about 75G will that work too ?

Yes I will definitely check my GH and KH when the kit comes, I thought the same too about my PH being low too. I heard limestone and crushed coral will act very slowly and will loose its ability over time, so I thought with Seachem's Malawi buffers I have more control over the buffering.

31 on a hot day yes, Temperature range would be 26C to 31C depending on the time of the year. Now its around 30-31C through out the day.

For yellow labs and demasoni I know a quality breeder who breeds from F1 parents so that should be fine. If I can add them four species and the numbers for each will they be okay compatibility wise ?

If I can't get Snow White or Rusties what other species would you suggest alongside labs and dems ?. I like Perlmutt and Hongi's , but feel I will have a lot of similar striped fishes.
 
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MacZ

It would be around 250L , I can go to a 90 Gallon (340L) if my filtration will be okay , the two filters I mention has 2000 and 1000 Lph capacity. I am really worried about the 24 inch height in a 90G tank when it comes to maintenance. But if I can have the 4 species in that size tank I can make the upgrade. What about 75G will that work too ?

With about 300l you are closer to the volume I'd recommend. Look out for tanks with that volume that are longer. It's mostly about the footprint, not the water volume, so a longer than standard 75 would be optimal.

I heard limestone and crushed coral will act very slowly and will loose its ability over time, so I thought with sachems Malawi buffers I have more control over the buffering.

They do, but cost a fraction of the buffers and it takes months until you have to replace anything, while the buffers have to be added with every waterchange. Limestone rocks take years to be leached out. Also that way the water only accumulates carbonates and minerals up to saturation, so you can't overdose them.
If you are willing to flush money into Seachems pockets, you can, but I think it's money you might want to invest into other things.

31 on a hot day yes, Temperature range would be 26C to 31C depending on the time of the year. Now its around 30-31C through out the day.

At 31°C the oxygen saturation is very low. Though, the bigger the volume the less likely the tank actually reaches that temperature. I'd look into cooling fans. It's enough if you can keep it below 30°C.

For yellow labs and demasoni I know a quality breeder who breeds from F1 parents so that should be fine. If I can add them four species and the numbers for each will they be okay compatibility wise ?

Getting labs as F1 is luxury. In that case no problem. You know about the dietary differences between the species? Labidochromis are insectivores, Chindongo, Iodotropheus and Pseudotropheus limnivores. At the least avoid feeding red mosquito larvae (aka blood worms), that stuff can kill Mbuna.

The behavioural compatibility is always a gamble with Mbuna. Structure is important, so if you can provide the necessary amounts of rocks and build an extensive rockwork, you should be fine. No guarantees, though.
 
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A201

I'd go with Hongi. I kept a few of them several years ago. Quite colorful & relatively peaceful as African Cichlids go.
You really need a substantial & elevated hardscape. One constructed of limestone should alleviate any water chemistry problems.
Rusties are one of my favorites & I currently keep a few. They are usually readily available. Hope you're able to find them.
 
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iamV1shnu

Well I really don't have space for anything over 48inches so that's the maximum I can go . So for a 75G or a 90G what would be ur recommended stocking list other than 8labs and 12dems ?.
Will my filters be ok with that tank sizes ?

I would prefer crushed corals in substrate too , way cheaper in the long run. If I go this route will my PH be stable during water changes ? heard stories about Ph fluctuations. Is there a amount of corals I should use to reach a certain PH ?

I currently have DIY fans over my planted tank , which keeps my temperature at 28 -29 C , I can do the same setup too.

I thought they mostly prefer herbivores diet. I plan on feeding Hikari sinking cichlid excel.

I wanted black background and black hardscape with white substrate, so shortlisted black lava rock(less weight and can make caves easily). Will Holey rocks work (can act as a buffer too right ?)
 
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MacZ

Well I really don't have space for anything over 48inches so that's the maximum I can go . So for a 75G or a 90G what would be ur recommended stocking list other than 8labs and 12dems ?.

I'd probably stick to those two species and instead up the numbers. Try to get a sex-ratio of 2-3m:4-6f.

Will my filters be ok with that tank sizes ?
Yes.

If I go this route will my PH be stable during water changes ?
Yes.

heard stories about Ph fluctuations. Is there a amount of corals I should use to reach a certain PH ?
Fluctuations are a problem of low hardness and low pH setups. Corals are a natural material so you can't really predict the amount needed. Though if you use it as subtrate you are definitely safe.

I currently have DIY fans over my planted tank , which keeps my temperature at 28 -29 C , I can do the same setup too.
Perfect!

I thought they mostly prefer herbivores diet. I plan on feeding Hikari sinking cichlid excel.
Limnivores are technically herbivores. Labidochromis are not, though. Look at their respective mouths. Thick lips - Limnivore, grazing on the algae and aufwuchs, thin lips and pointy mouth insectivores, picking inbetween the algae.
I'm not familiar with the food you mentioned. Hikari isn't widely sold in my country. Supplement with fresh veggies (cucumber, lettuce, zucchini).

I wanted black background and black hardscape with white substrate, so shortlisted black lava rock(less weight and can make caves easily). Will Holey rocks work (can act as a buffer too right ?)

I personally would use basalt or granite, as porous lava rock can be extremely abrasive when fish scratch or run in it while being chased. Holey rock works great for the water parameters, but make sure the fish can't get stuck in it. In general a darker environment is preferrable and makes the colours pop more than a bright one.
 
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A201

Holey rocks work very well in locking in an appropriate PH for African Cichlids.
I use small grain rounded river gravel in my African rift tank.
Here's a pic of my Holey rock & substrate.

20210527_094248.jpg
 
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iamV1shnu

I'd go with Hongi. I kept a few of them several years ago. Quite colorful & relatively peaceful as African Cichlids go.
You really need a substantial & elevated hardscape. One constructed of limestone should alleviate any water chemistry problems.
Rusties are one of my favorites & I currently keep a few. They are usually readily available. Hope you're able to find them.

For hardscape what rock would u prefer black lava rock , seiryu rock or holey rock considering its look and buffer capability ?
 
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A201

Holey rock is far less abrasive than lava rock, plus it should up your PH in a more favorable range for the Mbuna.
 
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MacZ

Seiryu, provided it's real Seiryu (there are a lot of fakes on the market), would be the middle way. It's a type of limestone (buffers) and looks closer to basalt and granite.
 
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iamV1shnu

Holey rocks work very well in locking in an appropriate PH for African Cichlids.
I use small grain rounded river gravel in my African rift tank.
Here's a pic of my Holey rock & substrate.

20210527_094248.jpg
This looks good , how good are they in making caves ?
I really like the darker theme too , I might go with some crushed corals as substrate and some darker stones. I like to do something similar to these. Will that work ?

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/32/9d/91/329d9119b8914d493a0a467d212b7e5a.jpg
 
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A201

IMO, The decor in both pictured setups are really good. I prefer the natural stone over the synthetic rock panel background.
 
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iamV1shnu

IMO, The decor in both pictured setups are really good. I prefer the natural stone over the synthetic rock panel background.
I would have a black background, not a fan of 3D ones myself
 
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A201

I use black foam board taped to the back of my tank. Very inexpensive & works very well.
 
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iamV1shnu

Definitely on the smaller side for Malawi cichlids. Any chance to get something bigger? Volume is about 200l, right?



Please check your actual GH and KH. GH should be 10-20°, KH ~10°, pH should not drop below 7.5. If you have to buffer use limestone and crushed coral, those get you where you want to be steadily and safely.



What is the temperature range? A max number is good to know, but what is the minimum you expect?



Too many. In a tank that size better stick to two species. Yellow Labs are usually of bad health due to massproduction diluting the gene pool, so I'd stay clear of them. The socolofi and the Iodotropheus grow too large.
Of the Chindongo demasoni a group of 10 should be possible, 2-4 males, rest females.
IF you go with any of the others, rather go for the Iodotropheus, they are relatively docile, in a 2:4 ratio.



As plants are impossible in an Mbuna tank, you will have to arrange for 50% per week.
MacZ , My GH is 16 and my KH is 16 , how is my PH only at around 7.4 - 7.6 ?
 
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MacZ

Possible reasons: Measuring error (always repeat the test when numbers seem to not add up), test kit range (wide range can give lower results), high Nitrate levels (as nitrates are solved in water as nitric acid) or driftwood leaching (invisible) humic acids.
 
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iamV1shnu

MacZ , I retested my tap water again and here are the readings from API test kits ,
GH - 16
KH - 16
Nitrate - 0
Ph - 7.6 in low range and 7.4 in high range

With this reading do I need to use any buffers (Aragonite sand) ? .
 
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MacZ

The numbers fit if you go by the reading of the low range, though 0.2 - 0.4 is always within error margin, so it could be almost 8 pH without showing in the tests. Adding anything will not really help. Your GH and KH tell me, even if you add more limestone ore crushed coral, the readings won't go up much more as they are both high enough to be full saturation.

Nitrates at zero would be concerning if the tank was already cycled, but I guess it is still cycling going by the timeline of this thread.
 
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iamV1shnu

The numbers fit if you go by the reading of the low range, though 0.2 - 0.4 is always within error margin, so it could be almost 8 pH without showing in the tests. Adding anything will not really help. Your GH and KH tell me, even if you add more limestone ore crushed coral, the readings won't go up much more as they are both high enough to be full saturation.

Nitrates at zero would be concerning if the tank was already cycled, but I guess it is still cycling going by the timeline of this thread.
All the tests are done in my tap water , and im yet to set up the tank . Wanted everything to get right before I set it up.

With my readings I’ll probably go with pool filter sand and seiryu rock or some basalt rock ( whichever is more more black ). Thanks for all the help .
 
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MacZ

Sounds like a plan! Good luck! :)
 
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