Overcrowding - Malawi Cichlids (Mbunas)

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Discuss all topics related to freshwater and planted tanks.

Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 10:41 am

Overcrowding - Malawi Cichlids (Mbunas)

by Rodrick

I posted a topic some time back regarding too little or too much filtration and one of the points raised was the number of fish stock. So I listed the fish. I had 10 in a 50 Gallon tank with another 13 on order. Unfortunately the Labeotropheus trewavasae' red top' OB died due the stress of the transport but the other 12 together with the other 10 are really doing well.

This is the list of stock

2 x Pseudotropheus saulosi Males 2 X Females
2 x Metriaclima estherae
2 x Labidochromis caeruleus
2 x Pseudotropheus OB ????
1 X Iodotropheus sprengerae
1 X Labidochromis hongi
1 X Labidochromis perlmutt
1 X Labid. caeruleus white (limited)
1 X Labeotropheus trewavasae' red top' OB
1 X M. cyaneorhabdos (maingano)
1 X P. flavus
1 X Pseudotropheus greshakei 'ice blue'
1 X Pseudotropheus socolofi
1 X Tropheops red cheek
1 X Cynotilapia afra yellow dorsal
1 X P. elongatus Mbenji
1 X Pseudotropheus red top Ndumbi

One of the points raised was that there would be aggression problems with the amount of stock. In fact the opposite has happened. The initial aggressive / dominant fish have settled down and now there is very little aggression in the tank, and they tend to "school" a lot closer and have become more of a community now. There is the odd chase around the tank BUT few and far btw and nothing more than that.

The fish are all around the 70 - 80mm size range with a few slightly smaller. The one thing I did was order the new fish either the same size or slightly bigger than the current stock. I believe that this has helped in preventing dominance from the original fish. I know they are going to get bigger (so some might think that 50 gallons is too small) but from what I have gathered at the moment the lay out of my tank allows alot of movement with open water lots of rock structure tunnels caves overhangs ect and then lots of open substrate giving the fish lots of space to move as a group or seperately.

It is really awesome to see this community of MBUNA'S swimming around and watching their antics. I initially was going to go with haps / auloncara (non - mbunas) but the Mbunas have as much diversity and color to offer and to be quiet honest they have not been very difficult to keep.

I would like to hear any suggestions agreements or disagreements regarding this set up, or info on what I might need to look out for. It is through mainly this site that I have learnt so much in such a short time.

SO thanx to all of you that have answered my questions or everyone else that has posted coz it it so insightful and unlike books ect which are one sided and biased there is a community of feedback and info which one can sift through and make sense of this awesome hobby


Posts: 373
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:18 am

by miami754


Glad to hear your tank is doing well. I'm not sure who told you that overcrowding would increase aggression because it is a VERY common aggression control technique. With that being said, there are limits to it. Some people hear overcrowd and jam a billin fish into a tank. I think putting 22 fish in a 60 gallon (I think that is what your profile said your tank size was - if not, I'm sorry) is going over the line in my opinion. You are getting away with it now because they are all just 2-3" in size. However, most of your fish will reach 5-6" and then you are going to have around 120-132" of fish. In my opinion, that is WAY too much. When people speak of overcrowding, they would mean in your tank to put around 14-15 fish. Typically, you could put 10 fish in your tank (assuming an adult size of 6"). I know the 1" per gallon rule is very generic and doesn't apply very well to mbunas, but it is at least a little helpful for this discussion. So, instead of 10, you could add 4-5 fish and that would constitute your overstocking.

So, there are one of two things you could do.

1) Buy a larger tank when they grow.
2) Take back 7-8 of the fish.

Also, when overstocking you MUST overfilter. Mbunas are messy anyways, but when you cram more into an area, they need tons of filtration. You need to ensure this happens. I didn't see what filtration you have so I'm not saying you don't have enough. I'm just saying to check it out.

Also, you probably aren't seeing alot of aggression issues right now because they are all pretty young still. You will end up with a dominant male for the whole tank no matter what you do. They key is to limit his aggression to just chasing fish around and not killing them. It is impossible to completely get rid of mbuna aggression. The best you can do is limit it. I wrote an article up in the article section of this website on limiting cichlid aggression that you may find useful.

I have to leave right now so I don't have a chance to talk about your stock, but I'll return later and go through it. I'm glad you're enjoying mbunas so much. They are my favorite fish by far. It's easy to catch the bug :).

Posts: 106
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 9:03 pm

by BurgerKing7704

These are great fish, and its good that you aske these questions. It's far more enjoyable when you arent worrying about coming home to a dead fish.

I agree with what miami said, except i would cut down the different species to no more than four. For example: Labidochromis Caeruleus, Metriaclima Estherae, Iodotropheus Sperengerae, and Cynotilapia Afra. Those are the four species I would keep in your tank, minimal aggression, and great color. You will also get a taste of breeding with these guys, although red zebras and labs will crossbreed. I wouldnt stock more than four of each species(1m 3f).

The reason I suggested the 4 species, is because this way you can limit the amount of aggression between species because the males will have their own species to take it out on.

If you dont like my idea of stocking its no big deal, because there are tons of options with that stocklist, have a couple of favourites we can find a way to keep them and not have to worry about aggression.

You might know this, but mbuna dont care about the amount of gallons your tank has, they care about the footprint of the tank(how big the base is), so stocking this tank like you would a 55g tank isnt the best idea, a 55g tank is 4 feet wide which gives the fish tons of room to build territories and chase eachother.

Overcrowding - Malawi Cichlids (Mbunas)

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