Some basic Cichlid questions

  • #1
Hello again all! I have searched the forums so hopefully this hasn't been asked before, although It is absolutely possible that I have missed it buried in some thread that I didn't see.

1. I'm interested in purchasing some more / different filtration systems. I currently have an emperor 400 which I do not mind too much but I'm not sure HotB filter is the way to go as I would like to build a canopy for my tank. Enough rambling... Question 1 is... what is a good filtration setup for 75 gallon cichlid tank? Type and how many GPH should I be aiming for?

2. Can someone recommend some cichlid food(s)? I don't mind buying a few of them and switching between them. I saw Ken's site and I thought of purchasing some of his foods... but I know very little about what is good / best for them and I thought I'd get advice from the pro's (Although in a previous thread I read that a spirulina based food is good)

3. I have 3 red zebras (I'm fairly certain) and 2 yellow labs. As they are currently quite young (Most are under or just barely 1'') It's difficult to tell the sex. Is this a bad mixture? Should I avoid these two types of fish? I have read they tend to be aggressive towards each other?

4. How many females should I attempt to keep, per species, to males? 1male 3female?

5. Can someone recommend a good test kit from Ken's or some other online source as the LFS's overprice things ridiculously.

6. (Sorry this list is so long!) Is buying from the younger "Assorted African Cichlid" tank an ok idea? They tend to be pretty obvious which species it's going to be but they are much cheaper and younger which I like so my family can watch them mature. (If this is a terrible idea please tell me as I understand multiple males may cause excess aggression and I may never see any little fry, which would be a plus but not required!)

Thank you and apologies if this is long and boring or has been answered or is in the wrong place! (I'm still learning )

  • #2
I would highly reccomend a canister filter. Something in the neighborhood of 400 GPH. You can find Aquatop and SunSun on Ebay for cheaper than the name brands. They seem to work nearly as well for less.

New Life Spectrum would the a great food to feed. Yellow Labs need more vegetables and less protein, if you feed too much protein they can get MalawI bloat. Also, a good frozen food to look in to is San Fransisco Bay Emerald Entree. Kens does have some great food that I've been feeding for a while now. Just avoid overdoing the protein.

Both fish are mbuna, should be ok. I'd up your Yellow Lab population!

1 male to 3 females is a good goal. They can be a little hard to sex at times.

I've seen Yellow Labs in the assorted tank for half the price as if I were to buy them from the Yellow Lab tank. Be careful when you're buying from the assorted tank though, you can get some strange hybrids Just make sure you know what you're buying.
  • #3
Hello, Brad.
** Warning: 'wall of text' **
Zebras (Pseudotropheus estherae) are part of the so-called Mbuna-group of Lake MalawI cichlids. This is the third largest lake in Africa, reaching a depth of 700m (more than 2000 feet)! Its a huge watermass, therefore also quite stable, chemichally.
Hardness: 6 - 10° dH
Ph: 7.7 - 8.6
Temp: 73 - 82°F (23 -28°C). Deepwater: 72°F (22°C) all year round.
Visibility is high, reaching 17m (ca.50 feet).

I don't know your filter, but even without knowing it, I will give you a few helpful hints, on your way to better enjoy Zebra cichlids.

All cichlids, Zebras included, are demanding fish, with respect to water quality. American cichlids, for the greater part, live in heavily planted rivers or lakes. Most are carnivorous, so they don't eat aquarium plants and their tanks can be planted. African Great-lakes cichlids are predominately algae and plant eaters - hence their tanks have little or no plants.
As you probably know, aquarium plants are one of the main agents in purifying the water (together with the filter, of course...), as they decompose nitrates into organic matter. Without plants, African-Lake aquaria rely solely on their filters for cleaning and on waterchanges for eliminating nitrates.
As cichlids, again, Zebras included, aren't speedswimmers, but adapted to larger rivers and lakes, with slow-moving water, a powerful pump with high water output, will create an unnatural environment for Zebras, unnecessarily stressing the fish, both mentally and physically.

How, you may ask, do I guarantee pristine water without making a heavy current with the filter?
IMO there is only one anwer (for which I have been criticized, locally - not fishlore...): oversize the filter! Remember the filter must accomplish what it traditionally does in a planted tank PLUS the increased work of the (nonexisting) plants... If your African-lake aquarium is 50 gallons, use a filter for a 100 gallon tank, if your tank is 100 gallons, use a filter for 200. Don't forget to use the filter with a low water-output - you will still have the benefit of the increased filtration capacity!
Another anwer exists, but it is not practical for tanks in the size-class you have: the sump-filter.
So: get an oversized filter with regulation for waterflow.

Zebra cichlids live in rocky habitats, hiding in the maze between coastal boulders and living off the rocks, rasping filamentous algae. With the tuffs of algae, small animals are ingested too. So, without being 'carnivorous', the Zebras need a little animal protein in their diet - a little! Please note. Too much protein and fat can lead to a deadly digestive disease, as mentioned 'MalawI bloat', typical of the Mbunas, that normally is NOT curable.

Some brands of aquarium lighting make fluorescent tubes for Lake-cichlid aquariums. If you can't find such a bulb, use 'Marine day' (or something corresponding, with peak output close to 9000K and spectral emission optimized for algae-growth) together with a 'full-spectrum' bulb made for showing fish' colours. Its important to get a bulb designed for algae-growth (normally for reef aquaria - needed for the corals), as the Mbunas live of algae, it stimulates a natural behaviour. Don't forget to supplement their diet. I suggest vegetarian cichlid pellets or granules. Search the net, it won't be hard to find. If you have a trustworthy supplyer of snails, or breed them (perhaps involuntarily) yourself, it can be the protein your Zebra nedds...

If you insist on populating your tank with more than one MalawI species, be careful. Make a thorough study of the compatibilities between the species, before joining species in a relatively small tank - 75 gallons is a lot of water, but for cichlids its like all living in the same house, with only one room for all...

I hope to have given you some ideas to make the best of your Zebras, alerted to some problems and helped you make better decisions.
If you have more or new questions don't hesitate to ask.

You were sorry for making such a long post, with a lot of questions. I'm sorry my answer couldn't be more simple and straight. I don't like answers telling me what to do, I like answers telling me my choices; the decision should still be yours.
  • #4
I do not agree that Cichlids are very demanding. Also, I don't think it's necessary for the algae. Now, I'm not saying algae would be bad by any means just not necessary. Many people keep Mbuna quite successfully without growing algae. It's easy to supplement their diet with vegetables.

I do agree with filtration, bigger is better
  • #5
No cichlid is a beginners fish. Compare cichlids with guppys, mollys, codydoras or neon tetras....
They are undemanding, yes. But they are for aquarists who have some years of experience on the backbone the use in the day-by-day routines.
You can have guppys in a tank for a year or two, without making a single waterchange - and they'll keep on making guppies. Go on for more than a month and no cichlid will spawn - two months and they'll start dying on you.
Cichlids are undemanding fish, if you know what they need.

Of course you can keep Mbunas without having algae in their tank...
But it is their natural diet so it will be beneficial for these fish to eat at least some algae and execute a natural behaviour.
That is good for the fish and good for who watches them (always nice to see the fish actually doing something, instead of just 'swimming around')
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Thank you everyone! That's some good reading I will be sure to refer back to regularly.
Siggi, yes I know they are not THE easiest fish to keep, but I didn't want something you leave in a bowl for years and don't have to care for. I already plan to do water changes every five days (or as needed) realize now and through reading other posts that they need a veggie diet (if no plants in the tank). I will certainly pick up another filter this weekend to supply the extra filtration. If there were some other "day to day" things I was unaware of, I'd appreciate a link to a page or some tips. I have read quite a few articles and have a decent understanding (I think) of what is required, then again.. that's why I joined a forum and try to read and ask questions!

Either way thanks to all of you again.

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