African Cichlids and Plants

African Cichlids and Plants

A colorful freshwater set up is sought after by many aspiring aquarists, but randomly choosing fish and plants simply because they look beautiful is certainly not a good idea. Many factors must be considered if you want a long lasting set up. Placing fish in unsuitable water parameters and combining specimens that will harass each other will inevitably produce a lot of stress. Not only will your fish lose their vibrant colors and look dull and drab; they will also be highly susceptible to disease.

If you want a colorful set up with fish that work well with each other and appreciate the same water temperature and chemistry, you can go for a habitat setup where you mimic the conditions in a certain habitat. If colorful fish is what you’re after, why not try a Lake Malawi aquarium? Lake Malawi is home to a wide range of strikingly decorated species that display beautiful color combinations as well as intricate patterns. Be aware though; some Malawi species are really aggressive and is not recommended unless you know how to deal with aggressive fish and prevent fighting in the aquarium. There are for instance a lot of really aggressive Mbuna cichlids, such as species from the genera Pseudotropheus and Melanochromis. Combining pecies that consider each other prey in Lake Malawi should naturally also be avoided. 

If you want an active aquarium, choose some bottom dwellers, some mid dwellers and some top dwellers. Species from the genera Aulonocara and Labidochromis are for instance known to spend most of their time in the mid and bottom regions of the aquarium. Other examples of charming Lake Malawi cichlids that will inhabit this part of the aquarium are the Haplochromines.  

Lake Malawi is an alkaline lake where the water is really hard, and your Lake Malawi fishes will therefore need such conditions in the aquarium as well. This means that you can only use plants that tolerate hard, alkaline waters. Many Lake Malawi species do great even without any plants, since they hail from rocky parts of the lake where plants do not grow, or spend most of their time out in the open water where plants are equally scarce. Many aquarists do however prefer planted aquariums and Lake Malawi fish do not mind sharing their home with some plants. As a matter of fact, most species quickly learn that plants create a myriad of suitable hiding spaces, just like the rocks and crevices do in their native habitat. If your fish dig a lot and uproot the plants, you can choose plant species that can be anchored to rocks and caves, or simply go for floating plants. Examples of plant species that are easy to find in most aquarium shops and that will tolerate hard, alkaline water are Java fern (Microsorium pteropus), Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana), Vallisneria gigantean and Riccia fluitans.   

When keeping species from Lake Malawi, the recommended water temperature is 78-82° F. The pH-value should be in the 7.6-8.6 range and the water hardiness kept no lower than 200 ppm. Ideally choose a substrate that will help you keep pH-value and water hardiness up.

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