Lake Malawi cichlids themed aquariums are one of the most beautiful out there. Yet, it is never an easy task to keep a cichlid-themed aquarium. Lake Malawi cichlids prefer highly alkaline water and are aggressive to other fish species. Still, for those who have experience in fish keeping, a cichlid fish tank can be a crown of their hobby. So, let us dive into the world of these beautiful creatures.
A few facts about the Lake Malawi
First of all, Malawi lake is so big that it actually has three names. These are Lake Malawi (Malawi), Lake Nyasa (Tanzania) and Lago Niassa (Mozambique). It is the third largest lake in Africa, and also second by depth. It is the ninth largest lake in the world. The lake is almost 600 km long, 75 km wide and up to 700 m deep. It has more fish species than any other lake in the world.
Lake Malawi has another interesting characteristic – different layers of water don’t mix, and this feature is known as being meromictic. But, the mind-blowing fact that it contains somewhere around 800 fish species. Ninety percent of those are cichlids, and that is what makes Lake Malawi breathtaking and unique. Among 200 rivers, which flow into the lake, the river Ruhuhu is the biggest one. Water is very warm and super clear. You can easily look down to 20m in depth.
The homeland of cichlids
Cichlids live around the world, but Africa is the homeland of at least 1600 cichlid species. Lake Malawi is one the most famous waters which are a natural cichlid habitat. Since the quality of water differs not only among continents but in the lake itself, evolution led to such abundance in variety of fish species. Another thing that contributes greatly to such a variety of cichlid species is definitely their habit of mixed breeding. Subspecies representatives mingle and breed with other cichlid varieties.
Lake Malawi cichlids differ from those living in the waters of America and require slightly different fish tank conditions. Cichlids are not the best species for absolute beginners, but some subtypes are easier to keep than others. Mbuna are definitely a good solution for beginners. There are some rules to follow in order to keep your Lake Malawi fish tank setup.
Lake Malawi cichlids aquarium setup
When it comes to Lake Malawi cichlids themed aquarium setup, size does matter. Bigger is better, but the less is more. Lake Malawi has a high ph level, alkaline water, and aquarium cichlids thrive in the same conditions as well. High ph levels also lead to fewer algae and vegetation. Usually, Lake Malawi themed aquariums have zero plant decoration installed. That’s why it is crucial to have a decent aquarium background, in order to make your fish tank more appealing. It’s best to have 3d aquarium rock-like background installed, since cichlids live in that kind of a scenery, naturally. Mbuna actually means “rockfish”.
Water should have at least 7.8 pH level, and the temperature is best at 72F to 82F. Depending on the cichlid genera, ideal background and aquarium size can vary, but rocks with lots of hiding places and roomy tank are the best solutions.
Popular Lake Malawi Cichlids for aquarium keeping
The most famous is probably Mbuna cichlid, and for a reason. Namely, these Lake Malawi beauties are one the most colorful fish species. However, Mbuna is a common name for a whole lot of varieties, and the name itself simply means “rockfish”.
As already mentioned, cichlids are generally not the best fish for beginners in aquarium fish keeping. This is mostly because they are quite aggressive and prefer highly alkaline water. It is usually recommended to have a strictly themed aquarium if you are planning to keep cichlid. To keep aggressiveness to a minimum, it is best to not overcrowd the aquarium. Also, keep a few females per every male. Subtypes like bumblebee cichlid (Pseudotropheus crabro), golden cichlid (Melanochromis auratus), red zebra cichlid (Maylandia estherae) and blue zebra (Maylandia callainos) usually the best choice for Lake Malawi themed aquarium.
Utaka cichlids are another genus that is so-so popular among aquarists. However, this family of cichlids differs from mbuna in one important aspect. Utaka cichlids are plain and grey until they reach adulthood. This is strictly evolutionary thing – being plain is what keeps them less visible to predators while they are small and unable to defend. Still, once they reach adulthood, they become as beautiful as most cichlids are. Although keep in mind that there is a big difference between female and male coloration, males are the ones who are brighter and more vivid.