African cichlids are an obsession for many fish keepers, due to their amazing colours and social behavior. Some say that fishkeeping only starts when you keep cichlids. Whether I agree or not, they have entertained me for over 30 years.
Unlike most most fish, cichlids look after their young, by guarding and protecting them. Most even carry the eggs in their mouths, called mouthbrooders. In order to do this its important to have a secure area of an aquarium that is easy to guard, so the fish identify a territory and make it their home. They will defend this space making them aggressive to others who go near their territory. For this reason they are best kept with other cichlids or with fishes who are no threat to their territory.
Water conditions in the Rift Valley lakes are very hard and the fish require a high pH range from 7.8 - 9.2, but most are breed at pH 8.
Feeding is easy but do not give these fish bloodworms or high protein foods. They eat algae and shrimp in the lakes and their body is not set up for other foods. I know many who have lost ALL their aquarium stock due to Malawi Bloat brought on by bloodworm feeding. Give them normal flake with frozen shrimps and greens.
African cichlids generally come from three lakes of the Rift Valley; Malawi, Tanganyika and Victoria. Most fish areimported from lakes Malawi and Tanganyika.
Malawi species are made up of genera Haplochromis and the rock dwelling Mbunas. Somewhere between the two genders are the Aulonocara and Trematocranus. These fish can be extremely brightly coloured, sometimes being confused for marine fishes.
Generally most available Tanganyikan fish are smaller than Malawis. They are rock dwellers and an fascinating to watch. They can be a challenge to some especially the Tropheus species who are extremely unforgiving to their own kind. These are not covered by our 5 day guarrantee. Mastering the behavior of the Tropheus has cost me over the years, but they are so rewarding when you get it right.
The main genus are Lamprologus, Julidochromis and Tropheus. These are all substrate spawners. Some have learned to lay eggs in shells.
These can be mixed with Malawis.
A few available non lake species are the Hemichromis, Nonachromis and Pelvicachromis, which are less colourful than some lake species but are still very popular.