Keeping Lake Victoria Cichlids
Lake Victoria is home to a vide range of cichlids and their requirements when kept in awquaruiums will naturally differ considerably. Some Lake Victoria cichlids inhabits cliffs, while other prefer the sandy bottom, some feed on tiny algae while others are tough hunters et cetera. They do however have a lot of things in common since they all inhabit the same tropical freshwater lake. Below are a few guidelines to keep in mind if you are considering setting up an aquarium with Lake Victoria Cichlids. It is however always advisable to do some research about the particular species to wish to keep as well, to find out which conditions that are ideal for them.
You usually need at least 55 gallons / 200 litres to set up a good aquarium for Lake Victoria Cichlids. If you have a smaller aquarium you can however consider keeping some of the dwarf cichlids or small Victorian Hap’s. A 35 gallon aquarium will allow you to house quite a few of the smaller fishes. Keep in mind that Lake Victoria cichlids require lots of rocks and lots of open water, a combination that makes them unsuitable for small aquariums. Numerous species are also aggressive and can ultimately kill each other if kept together in a small aquarium. Many aquarists choose black gravel or crushed red granite gravel to make the colouration of their Lake Victoria cichlids, but it is not the only suitable substrate. Many cichlids prefer a sandy bottom since it resembles their natural habitat. From a practical point a view, crushed coral is practical since it helps keeping the water hard and the pH level high. Some cichlids do however have sensitive gills and crushed corals can cause irritation. The coral also has to come from somewhere and coral mining in the wild causes harm to coral reefs.
Cichlids from Lake Victoria require alkaline water conditions and the pH should ideally be kept between 7.2 and 8.6. African cichlids are capable of adjusting to quite a wide range of pH levels, but it has to be small and gradual changes. Keeping a stable pH around 8.3 is much better than allowing the pH to shift rapidly from 7.2 to 8.6. The water in Lake Victoria is very hard due to all the dissolved minerals and salts from the surrounding regions. If you live in an area where the tap water is soft, you need to make it harder. As mentioned above crushed coral is one way of doing this. Placing shells, limestone and other rocks in the aquarium will also improve the hardness. There are also commercial buffers available that can be used to control mineral content and pH levels in the aquarium. Providing your Lake Victoria cichlids with the right conditions will greatly improve their colours and make them much more vibrant. The optimal water temperature for Lake Victoria cichlids are 74 – 78 degrees F.
Frequent water changes are extra important in an alkaline aquarium, since ammonia is much more harmful to the cichlids at a high pH. The ammonia is ten times more toxic at a pH of 8.0 than at 7.0. Perform 10-20% water changes once a week. Decorating your Lake Victoria aquarium with plants is a good way of creating additional territories for your cichlids to claim, which can hamper aggressive behaviour. Most plants will however die in such alkaline waters or be eaten by the cichlids. Many Lake Victoria cichlids also love to dig up plants. Java Fern and plants from the Anubias family will however usually do well in a Lake Victoria cichlid aquarium, as long as you plant them in pots.
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