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Cichlids of Lake Malawi

Boasting more than 250 known species of cichlids, Lake Malawi  in the African Rift Valley has unusual characteristics, beginning with the chemistry of the water.  The pH is strongly alkaline, in many areas having a pH of 7.7 to 8.6+, and extremely "hard" in mineral content.  DH and GH readings should be very high in most cichlid aquaria, a Malawi aquarium is no exception. 

Many of the species of cichlid in Lake Malawi are mouthbrooders, and the eggs are hatched and reared during early weeks within the mouth of the female.  There are four main distinctions of cichlids in Lake Malawi.  These are Haplochromis, Aulonocara, Trematocranus, and the Mbuna (rock dwellers). Malawi boasts over 100 species of Haplochromis.  These are cichlids that resemble the saltwater chromis family and have similar characteristics. 

The aquarium should have an abundance of hiding, which is usually mostly rock (especially for the mbuna).  Compatibility is one of the tricks to keeping a successful Malawi aquarium, and hiding helps with this.  Wood and plants can also be sparsely used. 

Most Malawi cichlids will eat a diverse diet, but do need a occasional feeding of plant material. 

As unusual and fascinating as this lake is, it is also sad to note that overfishing and increased economic activity are dramatically depleting the fish stock in Lake Malawi.  Between 1988 and 1992 alone, the commercial fish catch fell by over 20%.

Haplochromis Venustus

 

Haplochromis fuscotaeniatus

 

Aulonacara nyassae

 

Tropheus duboisi

 

Cyphotilapia frontosa

 

Juliodochromis marlieri

 

Cichlids of Lake Tanganyika

Another of the African Rift Valley lakes, Lake Tanganyika is home to over 175 species of cichlid, ranging from the largest species, Boulengerochromis microlepis, which grows to a maximum length of 90 cm, to the smallest species, which there are many, which often grow not larger than 3.5 cm.  A very popular breed among aquarists is the Tropheus moori, as well as the Cyphotilapia frontosa.  The largest genus in the lake is Lamprologus.  It has over 40 species, including the popular breeds such as L. brichardi, L. compressiceps, L. sexfasciatusJulidochromis is another small genus of under 10 species, yet all have been imported for the aquarium trade.

A Tanganyika tank is similar to a Malawi aquarium in many ways, but also different.  For example, Tanganyikans require even harder water than their sister Malawians, with a pH range of 8.6 to 9.2. PH buffers are required for most Tanganyikans.  The temperature of the aquarium should be nice and warm with a range of  77 to 85 F

The substrate is often sand and rock, as many of these cichlids are substrate spawners, in which the substrate is used as a medium for the eggs prior to hatching.

There are more open water swimming fish in Tanganyika than most of the African Rift Valley lakes, therefore these fish often require larger aquaria that are sparsely decorated.  Species compatibility is important because many of the fish come from different niches in the lake, and may fight.

Tanganyika and Malawi cichlids are the subjects of volumes of books, and there is a lot of in-depth information available on various subjects.  For a cichlid aquarist, this info is invaluble and highly recommended.


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