Lake Victoria is one of the Rift Valley lakes on the African continent, and just like the other Rift Valley lakes, Lake Victoria is popular among aquarists for its wide range of beautiful fish species. Other examples of Rift Valley lakes are Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika. Cichlids are very common in Lake Victoria, and a lot of the cichlid species are endemic to the lake. Cichlids have adapted to all the different habitats in the lake and display a wide range of different looks and behaviors. If you want to keep a Lake Victoria cichlid it is important that you research the specific species that you are interested in, since their requirements will differ considerably depending on which part of the lake they inhabit. Some Lake Victoria cichlids are found along the shores where they inhabit caves and crevices, while other species prefer the open waters or the sandy bottom and its abandoned shells. Estimations show that there are at least 200 different cichlid species in Lake Victoria, and many scientists and aquarists suspect that they will find even more species in the future since Lake Victoria is far from thoroughly explored by science. Pollution, over-fishing and a disturbed eco-system do however threaten the wild life in Lake Victoria and many species might die out before we have a chance to discover them.
All Lake Victoria cichlids will however appreciate the same water chemistry. Lake Victoria is filled with a high level of dissolved minerals from the surrounding area and the water is therefore very hard. If you have soft tap water and need to increase the hardiness you can either purchase a commercial buffer from your fish store, or use naturally occurring items such as corals, limestone and shells as aquarium decorations. The water in Lake Victoria is alkaline and you should keep the pH between 7.2 and 8.6 in the aquarium. Since Lake Victoria is a very large lake, the huge water mass will prevent any rapid changes in water chemistry, temperatures etcetera. Lake Victoria cichlids can adapt new conditions, but the changes have to be small and gradually. Allowing the pH value in the aquarium to shift rapidly between 7.2 and 8.6 is dangerous to the fish even though it is technically within their preferred pH range. The water temperature should be kept between 74 – 78 degrees F.
Some of the Lake Victoria cichlids have been breed in aquariums. The Astatotilapia brownie is considered to be one of the easier Lake Victoria cichlids to spawn. Astatotilapia brownie has developed in Lake Victoria and can be found nowhere else in the world. Since it grows no larger than 12 centimeters it is comparatively easy to provide it with a relatively large aquarium where it will thrive. Astatotilapia brownie used to be known as Haplochromis brownie and is still sometimes referred to as a “Haplo cichlid”. Neochromis rufocaudalis is another Lake Victoria cichlid that is known to spawn in aquariums. Keeping at least three female Neochromis rufocaudalis with one male is advisable, since they male can harass the females during the breeding period. Neochromis rufocaudalis cichlids are sometimes sold as “Nigricans”.