Written by Russell McAndrews
Somewhere out there is an aquarist or two that have never overcrowded a tank. Unfortunately, this aquarist has never met one. Since I am sure we have all encountered this syndrome before, why not use it to our advantage. I would like to share some of my observations and acquired habits.
In my opinion, there are a couple of ways to maintain and breed mouth-brooding Malawi cichlids. The first of these methods involves a nicely set up tank of 30 gallon size or larger with plenty of rocks and hiding places. With few or many fish in the tank and an abundance of caves, a threatened member of the community can “run” and hide. If there are only a pair of fish and nothing to distract an aggressor then some sort of aggression absorber “dither fish”, must be added. A small school of barbs works well as do large danios.
My second method carries this last point to the extreme. Crowd the tank to the limit of the filter but limit the décor, or leave the tank bare of any item, which could be used to mark a territorial boundary. If nothing exists to mark boundaries, territories are hard to establish. If a tank is sufficiently crowded, an aggressor will lose track of his target. The other inhabitants will get in the way eventually.
Note that this does not mean you should re-arrange all your Malawi cichlid tanks; however, this might be an appropriate use of one or more tanks. Mind you, this requires an over abundance of filtration. No matter how you set up your tanks, be sure to take care in preventing unwanted hybridization Malawi’s (indeed most cichlids) being what they are your female “zebra” isn’t going to wait around for you to find her a mate. When she comes into condition and wants to spawn, any male will do. In the interests of species preservation, keep a male of the correct species in with any of your breeding females. Try not to mix species which are close enough to cause confusion e.g. Labeotropheus fuelleborni and L. treweuasae. Coloration is important as well; only one solid yellow species per tank.