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Show 101
DrTom's Mbuna Aquarium
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DrTom's Mbuna Aquarium contains about 55-gallons of water and about twenty-five Mbuna Cichlids like the female Pseudotropheus socolofi, shown above. She'd spawned two or three weeks before this video was recorded, and she was mouthbrooding her fry when this video was recorded.
The video, just above, shows a Male Mbuna Cichlid quarreling with a so-called Three Beacon Plecostomus catfish about which one of them occupies the cave. A few seconds from the beginning of this video both fish are in the cave. Then both exit.
The Complete Details about this Aquarium
Owner DrTom Bailey
Location DrTom's basement in Point Loma, a suburb of San Diego, California. Point Loma is surrounded by San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Click here to see a map of Point Loma.
Size This aquarium contains about 80-gallons of freshwater.
Material This aquarium is made of acrylic plastic. The front, ends, and bottom are clear plastic, the back side is black, which you can see in most of the videos and pictures. The top side of the aquarium is clear plastic with cut-out areas to insert the aquarium heater, the aquarium filter, and to access the inside of the aquarium.
Dimensions Width from left to right 48", height 20", front to back 16"
Filter Two Marineland Penguin 350B Filters with two Bio-Wheels in each filter.
Heater 100-watt Aquatic Gardens submersible aquarium heater.
Temperature Water at about 76 to 78 degrees F.
Installed Aquarium set up in September 2008
Videos Recorded during February 2009
Fish About twenty Mbuna Cichlids, plus one Lake Victoria Cichlid, which apparently is an unnamed species now called Haplochromis species 44, and one so-called Three Beacon Pleco catfish, which may have the scientific name: Leporacanthicus triactis. This catfish has also been known by the code L091.
pH of the
7.6 to 7.9, which is OK for Mbunas and the Hap. but is probably high for the Three Beacon Pleco that would prefer a lower pH but seems to be doing well in this water.
17 Cichlid Stones, one ceramic hollow log, and a layer of gravel about 1/2" thick when spread evenly over the bottom of aquarium, which rarely happens because the Mbunas dig into the gravel and pile it up. This is #2 size natural-color gravel labeled for use in aquariums. You could use any color of #2 size gravel that's labeled for use in aquariums or no gravel at all in this aquarium with these fish and this type of filter.
Lighting A two bulb lighting fixture contains one 36" 30-watt 10,000K fluorescent bulb and one 36" actinic bulb. These bulbs were originally in a saltwater aquarium. Now the 10,000K bulb is usually on and the actinic bulb is off.
Timer The automatic timer turns lights on at 10:00 am and turns the lights off at 10:00 pm.
Made of hardwood with dark cherry finish
Canopy Sits on top of the aquarium and matches the aquarium stand.
Magnetic Scrubber, scrub brushes, and
Python Products siphon, water changing device.
When doing 10-gallon partial water change twice each week, just before adding the replacement water from faucet, a high quality Water Conditioner is added to the aquarium water to neutralize the chloramines in 10-gallons of tap water.
Food Premium Food Pellets fed 3 to 5 times each day.
Maintenance 1. Use a magnetic scrubber to clean the inside surfaces of the aquarium as needed.
2. Do a 20% partial water changes twice a week, using a Python to clean the gravel.
3. Rinse the filter pads and scrub the filter with brushes as needed.
Lucky me! This aquarium, all the equipment, including the beautiful hardwood stand and canopy, and all the fish were given to me a few months ago. So the filter was biologically active and working well. At the time this video was made, I'd had this aquarium for about four months. In that time the fish had grown from a range of about 2" to 2.5" to a range of about 3" to 4.5" and had already spawned several times.
Mbuna Cichlids are all mouthbrooders, and when these fish spawn, the female picks up the eggs in her mouth, where the eggs develop for about 21 days, before see releases them. The females in this aquarium have released about 100-fry. Most of those fry quickly disappeared and were probably eaten by the larger fish. The Hap. sp. 44 acts like a predator and seems to hunt for small fish. Of the 100-fry about 5 have survived and are now living in the aquarium. In the videos from time to time you may be able to see a few of these young Mbunas.
Below are pictures of some of the fish living in DrTom's Mbuna Aquarium.
Male Pseudotropheus Maylandia greshakei from Lake Malawi in East Africa.
This fish is a male albino or partial albino, and DrTom thinks it may be a Pseudotropheus Maylandia greshakei or perhaps a very similar species. Pseudotropheus is a genus of Mbunas from Lake Malawi in East Africa. Maylandia is a subgenus, which some experts think should be a genus.
Male Pseudotropheus Maylandia estherae from Lake Malawi in East Africa
Mature Male Red Zebra
The fish, shown above, are both mature males that measure about 4.5" long and are probably Pseudotropheus Maylandia estherae, a species, which was originally called the "Red Zebra" but was later named after Esther Grant, the wife of Stuart Grant, who shipped lots of fish from Lake Malawi to DrTom and Nevin a long time ago. Most males of this species are blue, but rarely a male is bright orange like these males.
Young mature male Labeotropheus trewavasae, an Mbuna Cichlid, whose ancestors lived in Lake Malawi in East Africa.
Here is a beautiful mature male Labeotropheus trewavasae, a slender brightly colored Mbuna, living in DrTom's Mbuna Aquarium.
This female Pseudotropheus Maylandia socolofi, which is often just called a Socolofi, spawned with a male of a different species in DrTom's Mbuna Aquarium and can be seen here with a mouthful of eggs. About 10-days after she spawn, DrTom very gently remove the fry, and you can see two of them just below.
After her fry were removed, this Socolofi female was returned to DrTom's Mbuna Aquarium. The next day she began to eat well. In a few days she was looking plumper, and her coloration was brighter and more metallic, as shown in the above picture.
This fish is a mature male with the so-called "OB" pattern. "OB" is an abbreviation for "Orange Blotch". Many species of Mbunas have several color variations, and several species include "OB" males and females. This male is probably an OB Red Zebra, which has the scientific name Pseudotropheus Maylandia estherae. But this fish may be a different species. Whatever it is, it's very beautiful with a dazzling metallic blue sheen.
The male Cichlid, shown in the picture just above, lives in the same aquarium, but his ancestors came from Lake Victoria, which is hundreds of miles north of Lake Malawi in East Africa. DrTom likes him so much that he named him Julian.
Apparently Julian does not have a scientific name and has been given a number until his species can be named. So in the mean time his temporary designation is Haplochromis species 44.
Whatever his scientific name, Julian is always very active and aggressive. He's about the same length as the largest male Mbunas, but slimmer with less total mass. He's even more active than the Mbunas, and he constantly quarrels with all the other fish.
Maybe he should not be in this aquarium. It's interesting that he is very colorful from the side, as shown in the picture, and he often displays his side to other fish that are about his size. But his colors are more muted when seen head on, which probably helps him sneak up on small fish, as shown in the image below.
Cichlid from Lake Victoria, East Africa - Pundmilia nyerereii
Here is Julian showing a much lighter color pattern, while he stalks a small Mbuna in DrTom's aquarium.
The adult Mbunas and their babies have grown much faster than I have seen Mbunas grow in the past. A long time ago Nevin and I spawned and raised a huge number of Mbunas over a period of several years. I think these Mbunas, living in my aquarium now, have grown much faster, because of the premium food they are being fed several times a day. I think this food is much better than the foods we fed to Mbunas long ago.
This food also greatly increases the coloration of the Mbunas, and they seem to be much more energetic. This is even more so with Julian, who is very energetic, quarrelsome, and colorful all the time.
This new food has other interesting consequences. Most aquariums with Mbunas seem to have a typical odor. But this aquarium has very little odor. I have speculated that this may be a consequence of the food. Maybe this food is more digestible, leaving less residue in the fish's waste, which might result in less odor.
Usually when lots of Mbunas live in an aquarium, that aquarium will quickly build up a slime coating on the inside surfaces of that aquarium, but the inside surfaces of this aquarium have very little slime. This too may be due to the food, which may produce less residue and less slime. The very thin layer of slime is very easy to remove with the magnetic scrubber.
It is also very nice that this aquarium has no algae, and I have wondered why? The timer turns one 10000K 36"-long 30-watt fluorescent bulb on for 12-hours each day. I usually recommend keeping an aquarium like this in a room with mild room lighting and leaving the aquarium light off except when feeding the fish or watching them. This schedule might result in having the aquarium light turned on an average of a couple of hours a day. I would have predicted 12-hours of this light would grow lots of algae in this aquarium.
Why hasn't algae grown in this aquarium?
I think there are two factors. First the premium food, which as mentioned may be more digestible and leave less fish waste dissolved in the water. Algae is a plant, and usually fish waste is a very effective fertilizer for algae. But a more digestible food leaves less fertilizer for the algae and results in less algae or in this aquarium no algae.
A second factor may be the high temperature of the  fluorescent bulb. Generally plants, including algae, prefer a lower temperature bulb.
So this is kind of magic, and this magic trick makes maintaining this aquarium very easy. I am used to doing more work on an aquarium, and sometimes I get nervous and feel like I must not be doing enough work. So I clean the filter, which I find is already cleaner than I expected. Then I'll look through the end of aquarium at the front surface to see if there is a slimy film, or reach with my fingers down inside the aquarium to feel the front surface. It's usually squeaky clean, but more often than needed I'll run the magnetic scrubber back and forth. It only takes a couple of minutes to scrub the entire inside surface of the aquarium with the magnetic scrubber.
Twice a week I remove about 20% of the aquarium water, which is about 10-gallons of the 55-gallons of water in this aquarium. This is called doing a Partial Water Change and is very beneficial. I remove the water with a Python Products siphon, which is very effective at removing the fish waste that is mixed with the gravel. The gravel and fish waste are sucked up by the Python Products siphon, but the gravel eventually drops out of the siphon, staying in the aquarium, while the fish waste is removed.
Next I add to the aquarium water a high quality water condition to neutralize the chloramines in 10-gallons of fresh tap water, coming from the faucet. Then reverse the flow in the Python to refill the aquarium. This whole procedure takes just a few minutes. It removes lots of waste from the aquarium and greatly increases the quality of the aquarium's water.
In any case, this aquarium with the Bio-Wheel filter, the premium food, and the 10000K lighting, is very easy to care for. The maintenance takes so little time that it's really like magic.
But everything has not gone well in this aquarium.
There have been some problems. The Mbunas all seem to be species that grow large. There are other species of Mbunas that are smaller and are often called Dwarf Mbunas, such as the Lemon Yellow Labidochromis. These Dwarf Mbunas will usually do very well in a 55-gallon aquarium like mine, but the bigger species like the ones I have now in this aquarium will not do well.
I knew these large Mbuna species wouldn't do well in this aquarium and have often given advice to other aquarists to keep large Mbuna species in a group with at least 15-Mbunas in an aquarium with at least 75-gallons of water, but I ignored my own good advice, and that has caused problems.
Here's what happened. Quickly the larger Mbunas and the Nyererei grew to be 3" long. A Maylandia greshakei grew to be about 3.5" long and had a territory that covered about three-quarters of the aquarium. Most of the other fish were stressed and uncomfortable. One, a nice Zebra female, stopped eating, got Malawi Bloat, and eventually died. Another female, which was a beautiful orange Trewavasae, was eating very little and looking thin, so Nevin took her back to our facilities, where she recovered.
The pictures, just above, show two different so-called Red Zebra females. Each female is mouthbrooding eggs just after spawning in DrTom's aquarium. The eggs were very gently removed from a female's mouth and photographed. There were a total of 41 eggs, and 25 of those eggs are shown in the picture just below. The eggs were about 1/8th of an inch long. After a few minutes the female picked up all of her eggs, and then I put her back in the same aquarium, where she continued to mouthbrood her eggs.
The picture just above, shows a so-called Red-Zebra female about 2-weeks after she spawned. Some people have enough imagination to say they can actually see the eyes of the baby fish in her open mouth.
After another week, making three weeks total, DrTom very gently removed the fry, and some of them are shown in the picture just above.
Eventually the Greshakei male spawned with two or three females, including a Socolofi, which is a different species. After holding his territory and spawning several times, apparently he tired, weakened, and was quickly replaced another dominant male Mbuna. Nevin removed the deposed Greshakei, and took him back to our facilities, where he eventually recovered.

A solid white fish that looks like a Greshakei quickly became the dominant fish, held his territory for a few weeks, spawned several times, then lost his territory and had to be removed. A third male Mbuna then became the dominant fish. It seems there is only room in this 55-gallon aquarium for one dominant male Mbuna. This might be better without the nyererei, who constantly creates quarrels and increases the stress on all of the fish.
One nice female got Malawi Bloat and died. Another female had to be removed, and two males were removed after dominating the aquarium for a few weeks before weakening. A total of four very nice fish gone. But life goes on. There have been numerous mouthfuls of baby Mbunas released, and four or five of those babies have survived. They seem to be more acclimated to life in this aquarium and looked less stressed than the original fish. I do not make that comment as an excuse, but it is the way it is.
In a much bigger aquarium events would have been more favorable for all the fish. I was recently in Fountains Aquarium in La Mesa, California, which is about 15-miles from my home. In the middle of the store Fountain's has a huge 1000-gallon aquarium that 's packed with all sorts and sizes of Cichlids from Lake Malawi, including Mbunas and Peacocks. I saw at least one huge Mbuna measuring well over 7" long. All the fish were doing well. The bigger the aquarium, the better all these fish do.
I plan to get a bigger aquarium with at least 150-gallons of water for my Mbunas. In that aquarium I'll be able to keep at least 25 adults and there will be lots of baby Mbunas too.

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