Basic information on caring for 'Africans'

  • Nina_W
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Nina_W created the topic: Basic information on caring for 'Africans'

It seems there's an erroneous idea that once you know it's an 'African', you need to crowd them in a large-ish tank, and all will be well.

Well, like many who have tried this has found, this leads more often than not to a rather unhappy tank. So I figured it's time to set the record straight a little bit. I wish to point out three things, one, that 'African cichlids' is an extremely poor description of the kinds of fish you keep - as poor as 'American cichlids', two, that each environment where we find these fish has a great diversity of fish that cannot just be all mixed higgledy piggledy, and three, most rift lake cichlids do not pair.

1. African fish by and large come from four places:
Lake Malawi
Lake Victoria
Lake Tanganyika
and, the West African Rivers

Each of these places have different kinds of fish that need different types of care. The West African Rivers, that give us Kribensis and Jewels, are superficially similar to the Amazon. The water is soft, and littered with leaves.
The rift lakes, Malawi, Victoria and Tanganyika are hard water (Tanganyika is broadly speaking the most liquid rock of the three). They are also some of the largest lakes in the world, Tanganyika being the deepest. Since the lakes have only recently (geolocially speaking) separated, the fish are superficially similar in habits and needs. Generally, though, mixing fish from lakes are a bad idea.

2. Each environment has fish that require vastly different care

In lake Tanganyika, for example, you find shell dwellers, highly aggressive tropheus and petrochromis, large, graceful frontosa and schools of sardine-like cichlids. While it is certainly possible to create a happy community of tanganyika fish, each occupying its own niche, much research and care is required. Adding small leulepi with large frontosa is like adding guppies into an oscar tank.
In lake Malawi, you find two types of fish (this is an oversimplification. If it is extremely problematic to you to oversimplify the complexity like this, then I consider you part of the choir, and thus not in need of preaching to :P). You have the open water dwelling fish, and the rock dwelling fish. The open water dwelling fish are larger, and contain the peacocks, the large haplochromines like nimbochromis venustus and the ever popular dolphin cichlid, cyrtocara moorii. The rock dwellers are what you typically find in the 'mix malawi' tank (please do not buy fish from this mixture from hell). If you mix a venustus, and a rock dweller, you have added a predator into a small container with its natural prey. Setting aside that open water fish need open water, and rock dwellers do best in a tank 2/3 full of rocks, they also eat different foods. Always do your research.
Lake Victoria has the nile perch, and mass extinction ensued. As such, to my mind, these fish require special care to prevent hybridisation. They can sometimes live with other rift lake cichlids, but help as to which species lives well with which is few and far between.
Basically, knowing that all your fish are from Lake Malawi is not enough information for you to know how to care for them.

3. Most Rift Lake Cichlids DO NOT PAIR.


They don't form pairs, they don't live in pairs. The male mates aggressively with anything that has the right equipment. That is why we have so many hybrids, and why they kill so many females. They won't stop trying to spawn. Keeping only one female of a species per male is a death sentence for her. Most of them are best kept in harems, with one male to many females of the same species. Four or more females to a male is generally a good rule. Most cannot be sexed while young, so you need to buy more babies, and rehome extra males. This is part of keeping these fish, just like destruction-resistant heaters are part of keeping oscars.

TLDNR: Do your research before buying your fish. Knowing that they are 'Africans' is not research.
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  • ehall67
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ehall67 replied the topic: Re: Basic information on caring for 'Africans'

thats a good starters guid for africans nina very enjoyable read!

I learned something honestly ;) I would like to talk more about africans some day!! you know a lot

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  • Nina_W
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Nina_W replied the topic: Re: Basic information on caring for 'Africans'

Thanks Eddie.

I'm always happy to talk about these fish, but I'm extra happy to talk to a friend about them.
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  • ehall67
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ehall67 replied the topic: Re: Basic information on caring for 'Africans'

thanks Nina!! so tell me a little bit about these shell dwelling cichlids they are very small correct?! what do you know about them??

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  • Nina_W
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Nina_W replied the topic: Re: Basic information on caring for 'Africans'

well, they don't get much bigger than 2 inches or so, and they tend to stay within 4-5 inches of their shells. Some types are very aggressive, and won't like other species of shell dwellers, others will live with other conspecifics. Most can add interest to a Tanganyikan community setup (hard to get right, but very satisfying - not so much my area of speciality, though, but I have good links :P ).

Some can live in a 10 gallon, but a 20 gallon is better for a species tank. Each fish needs its own shell, and then a bunch extra because they're picky. Escargot shells, or hermit crab shells work well. Males keep a harem, and often won't tolerate other males (within reason. In a large tank with lots of space it might work out). They're extremely spunky and good fun to watch. An excellent idea for people with smaller tanks who want some sort of African fish.
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  • ehall67
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ehall67 replied the topic: Re: Basic information on caring for 'Africans'

humm that is interesting I was thinking about doing a small 10 gal tank and maybe with them If I ever came across them and was just wondering if it was possible to do...

thanks again for the information .. maybe shoot me some links so I an read a little more bout em

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Nina_W replied the topic: Re: Basic information on caring for 'Africans'

Purdy pictures, and very thorough (on the different species, not on caring for them):
www.cichlidae.com/article.php?id=65

I know I link to this forum a lot, but alright, they have good stuff (their library is just wonderful):

www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/shelldweller_corner.php

Worth reading, if a bit wordy and disoraganised:
www.aquaticcommunity.com/cichlid/shelldwellers.php

And finally, if you've only got ten minutes to read something, then read this one:
www.shelldwellers.com/shelldwellerbasics.php


just a note - some online sources recon you can keep some tetras and so on with them, but I've not heard of a tank like that working out long term - they are really quite territorial. I think it really also is worth considering keeping their water really hard and well supplied with dissolved salts (not table salt), which eliminates most tetras and barbs anyway.

Here is a picture of my absolute favourite shell-dweller tank:

(and here's the thread it's from:
www.cichlid-forum.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=235853 )
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  • JasonR
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JasonR replied the topic: Re: Basic information on caring for 'Africans'

Great info Nina! Know where I'll be goin if I ever decide to get into Africans. :)
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Nina_W replied the topic: Re: Basic information on caring for 'Africans'

JasonR wrote: Great info Nina! Know where I'll be goin if I ever decide to get into Africans. :)


Thanks :)
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  • ehall67
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ehall67 replied the topic: Re: Basic information on caring for 'Africans'

Thanks nina I am going to piece through this in the next couple days exactly what I wanted to know !!

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