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Malawi cichlids + clown loaches = okay.

Posted By: Tibor <tibor@tiborsrealm.com>
Date: Wednesday, 19 July 2000, at 7:48 p.m.

Hi all,

I've done a bunch of homework and given the cichlids idea a go. Here's what I learned since I last posted here:

1) Malawi is not a lake of hard water; I was wrong in my assumption (that'll teach me!) It's actually soft water.

2) The fish from Malawi can generally go as low as pH 7.5, though 8.0 is good if you wish to breed them. I don't want to get numerous tanks and breed cichlids, so I decided to up my pH to 7.5 as a medium between my clowns and my new cichlids.

3) Cichlids can tolerate the current of a normal powerhead. This one I've only checked with one person, but I trust the source. Myself, I don't use one; just bubbles and a power filter for aeration and filtration.

As such, I went ahead and invested in two Kenyi, which are mbunas from Malawi. I checked at the store and they informed me (after checking) that their water was pH 7.28. Turns out my water was 7.2, as I was aware before I went. This was perfect!

I brought them home, very slowly acclimated them in the bag, and finally let them loose. They're a little over an inch long each; the male is just starting to turn yellow from his immature blue, and the female *was* (sigh) still blue per her gender.

I am pleased to say that the male is doing very well! The female, however, has perished. I think I've figured out why. The last full day she lived and the next morning I observed her not eating, mostly puttering about, and hiding behind my blue heater and blue plastic plant. I had left her and her "brother" a cave in the gravel and an ornament that was sufficient as a cave for the clowns, but still allowed me to see in through it's 3 openings. She had gravitated towards and rested there, while the male had choosen the undergravel cave that is more secure. When I arrived home the day she passed away, I observed (with considerable fear!) that my male was now no longer eating either. The cave in the gravel is actually a clear plastic cup that a betta once came in, covered with gravel. The clowns had evidently uncovered it whilst sifting through the gravel in search of food. Once I recovered it, the male Kenyi not only ate but spent some time there and defended his territory from the two swords (though he did not hurt them - just gave chase).

So my theory is that the female perished for lack of cover either because this stressed her too much or because she attempted (as I'd notice her do occassionally) to seek refuge in the superior cave and was stressed by the male. If only it had registered then, I'd have built her a better cave immediately! I found the male again happy today when I arrived home, and he has been eating and playing. Sometimes the clowns startle him, but I add additional food just for him after they've retired for the evening.

My tank conditions are: pH 7.4 (about to up it to 7.5) increased at .1 pH per half day. Temperature 80 F (remained thus, though most cichlids appear to be set to 78 or less, to help avoid any ich problems with the clowns (who remain in perfect health)). Hardness untested (whatever tap is). I've use PH UP at half dose (1 teaspoon per 20 gallons rather than 10) to increase the pH once in the morning and once in the evening. The Kenyi appears happy and active, and my clowns, believe it or not, have never looked better! But it bears to be noted that mbuna (such as Kenyi), from what I've seen, are far more dependent on true cover and true caves than clowns are. I've read that these are in abundance in their environment near rocky shores.

I asked questions regarding clowns and malawi residents in both the catfish & loach forum and an african cichlid forum. All responses were positive regarding the electric blue hap I did (and still do) desire. I was warned in the cichlid forum after I purchased the kenyi about their tendency to nip at fins. I observed this with my clowns when both Kenyi were living, and after tolerating it for a period the clowns banded together and chased the snot out of the Kenyis all of a sudden! Quite entertaining, and a relief as well. How they will do fending off a fully-grown Kenyi later on remains to be seen, but I will say that he doesn't mess with THEM anymore right now!

As a side note, my ammonia has finally stabilized, so my tank's cycle is at least halfway complete in spite of all those water changes! I did an ammonia test the other day and it came out clear as my $50 multi-coated telescope eyepieces! Whoohoo!! Now I'm doing the water changes for the sake of nitrite.

I'll post again in a month or two to update you all, as I realize that half a week is not long enough to determine to the true acceptability of the current setup. Wish me luck!!

Also, I apologize for the long post, but I didn't want to miss anything and am darned excited and anxious at the same time! For any of you who fear for my clowns, please do note that the moment my Kenyi does any serious offense to them that they don't adequately defend themselves against (or if he continually stresses them at some point), he's outta there!! I'm going into this with my eyes open.

Thanks for help and advice, and any criticism/advice welcome!


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