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Getting started with Lake Malawi Cichlids


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Hi all,

I'm getting back into fish keeping after a couple of years off due to moving to the south island. I have a lot of experience keeping freshwater aquariums (south american and community tanks mostly). So I want to try something new. I'm thinking Lake Malawi cichlids.

I have a Blue Planet Vista Aquarium (167L) with a EHEIM classic 250 external canister (in addition to the built in filter). I know this is on the small side for Africans, but I was thinking of keeping it pretty simple.

I have read a lot about how to stock an African tank but most assume a massive tank. I am thinking along these lines:

  • 2x Male Electric Yellows, 6x Females
  • 1x Male Red Zebra 3x females 
  • 1x Male Blue Orchid
  • 1x Male Butterfly (Freiberg)

Would this work? I know mixing rock dwellers with haps/butterfly can be problematic, but I am thinking that this combination should work. 


Any recommendations? Am I on the right track or way off?


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4 hours ago, livingart said:

Most you are looking to keep will hybridise with the others

I have heard that can be a problem with electric yellows and red zebras, but I think I i'll skip the zebras, for that and that they are more aggressive. I'm only going to keep males of the blue orchid and butterfly. Adding females would overload the tank I am thinking.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Progress update:

Couple of setbacks! Heater was faulty and wouldn't turn off (was still heating when set to 18 when tank was 30+) the pump for the integrated filter broke as soon as I turned it on, the argonite wasn't included in the free shipping (fair enough though!) and I cant find a source down here for less that $100 (so I'mm giving up on that idea).almost everything else seemed to have more issues that I expected!. Hopefully all sorted now, got replacements on the way. 

I'm using a blend of Mitre10 play sand (nice golden brown colour) and Caroline Bay sand (dark grey) for the substrate. I found lots of awesome rocks on a road trip to Mt Cook (mostly from the shores of lakes Tekapo and Pukaki). Got it all in the tank and it looks awesome! I'm going to use crushed oyster shells in the filter to help with pH and hardness but the water down here has pretty high pH and hardness anyway.

I am thinking about cycling it with some mollies (and then probably giving them away once I get the cichlids) it will probably be a few months before I get the cichlids anyway as setting up has cost more than I thought!  I was thinking only 3 or 4 mollies, will that be enough to allow me to add 8-10 Electric Yellows at once? (don't want to add them slowly due to aggression)

I'll post a photo once the water clears up a bit more.

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  • 3 months later...

Hi everyone, sorry for the long time between updates!

I've had the tank set up for several months now, The filters are setup with ~1 kg of Fluval Biomax, 1kg of Biohome ultimate, and ~0.5kgs of Ehiem Substrat pro. So biological filtration should be more than enough. I've hotrodded the Blue Planet filter so it fits the Biomax and the substrat pro as well as some decent sponges for 3 stage mechanical filtration (if anyone is interested I can give a rundown of what I did). The Ehiem classic has the biohome and 3 stage mechanical as well. Both filters have intake prefilters to (in theory) stop sand getting into them.

Anyway enough with the technical side, the fish are currently 6x adult Electric Yellow Cichlids that I got from a local guy who was selling all of his setups as he was working away from home. From what I can tell there is probably too many males for them to breed, but that's probably not a bad thing as I don't have another tank to raise them in. I also have a Synodontis Sruptus (Featherfin Catfish) who is awesome and growing fast. Aggression is a slight problem, I've had some fin nipping towards the catfish. I've been trying to get enough caves so everyone is happy and it seems to be working.

As for hardscape, I've got fine sand for the substrate which looks cool but gets everywhere! I've changed the rocks several times but I've settled of some local red chert (basically red flint) which I really like. I had volcanic rock to start but the chert looks so much better and is easy to rearrange for water changes. I've also got some wood which the catfish loves to hang upside down around.

As for the future, I plan to add one or two male peacock cichlids eventually, maybe out of strawberry peacock/Red Kadango/Butterfly Peacock.

I've got a video that I will try to upload.

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I am no expert but the yellows look like good quality. As you know, the more caves and hiding spots the better.

The aggression may drop once more fish are added. With these fish I found the more you had (up to a point) the more time they spent defending their own territory so were too busy to go out harassing others.

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