Hobbyist Gallery - Randy Klaus

RANDY KLAUS (El Dorado, Kansas, USA) E-mail: mbuna2002@yahoo.com Website: http://groups.msn.com/Breathingeasierwithgills/breathingeasierwithgills.msnw

This is my article on my 100 gallon Mbuna aquarium. This is an unusual shaped tank. This 100 gallon is designed by me with the dimensions of 48” long by 26” wide by 19” tall by ½” thick acrylic all the way around. The back side of the tank is black in color. I designed this tank in this fashion for more surface area. With the amount of Mbunas that are housed in this tank surface area was utmost importance. As you will see as this article goes along. This Mbuna tank has been up and running for 1 year and 7 months.

Substrate and rock work are as follows. Substrate is African Cichlid Mix along with River gravel with a total depth of 2 ½”. Then rock structure is about 300 pounds of real rock collected from local lakes, streams and rivers. Additional rock was purchased from local fish stores. The large rocks are arranged to where there are approximately about 30 to 35 hiding spots.

Lighting of this tank is accomplished by 2 colormax T-12 bulbs. The lighting is set to a timer and is on for 12 hours a day. I run the lights this long so I can achieve at least some algae growth. Even though the algae that does grow is consumed rather quickly, making it an even bigger challenge to grow algae. Filtration of this size of tank was a major undertaking. The main filter is a Tidepool 2 with a 600 gallon an hour pump. I elected to use this filter as a major biological center. The first tray I do use filter floss pad. The second tray I use bioballs and in the third tray I use cell pore pads. This filter is hard plumbed to the tank and tank stand. Along with the tidepool I also use 2 Fluval 404 filters. Each Fluval containing carbon, bioballs, sponges and ceramic tile. Water movement throughout the tank is accomplished by 2 power heads rated at 300 gallons an hour. Attached to the intake of the power heads are sponge filters. Heating of this tank consists of 2 150 watt heaters. 1 heater being placed in the sump of the tidepool system. The second heater is placed in the prefilter area of the tank just right before the tidepool s.o.s. system. The tank temperature is maintained at a constant 80*f. Cooling of the tank is accomplished by the use of the house central air conditioner. Piping from the AC floor vent is directed into the tank stand via a fan mounted inside the cabinet, using evaporation as the cooling process.

Now for the selection of Mbunas. Labidochromis Caeruleus x1. Labidochromis Chizumulu x1. Labidochromis Yellow Top Mbamba x1. Labidochromis Hongi x1. Pseudotropheus Livingstoni x1. Pseudotropheus Albino Lombardi x1. Pseudotropheus Polit x1. Pseudotropheus Red OB Elongatus x1. Pseudotropheus Flavus x1. Pseudotropheus Likoma Elongatus x1. Pseudotropheus Acei x1. Maylandi Estherae x2. maylandia Callainos x1. Labeotropheus Trewavasae x6. Labeotropheus fuelleborni x1. Cynotilapia Axelrodi x1. And last but not least the 2 nonmbunas Copadichromis Borleyi x2.

Now with this selection I am most assured there will be some people out there that will raise the issue of compatibility. Before you all start getting into an uproar I will rest assure you all that there is no major fighting within this tank. There are sizing conflicts but no deaths, injuries or mutilations that happen in this tank. I have even had the mbunas breed in this tank and the fry have been released in this tank with no complications. They all seem to be rather happy with very beautiful coloration. With a new set of fry due anyday now from the Maylandia Estherae species. I have never had any hybrid fish produced in this tank. All fry have been to there respected species. I enjoy it when I get to see the actual spawn take place in this tank. I have been known to watch this tank for 24 hours when I have seen the spawn process start. Don’t get me wrong though when I first set up this tank I found out real quickly what mbunas work together and what ones don’t. I have had a few failures along with a few victories in stocking this tank. But I have learned a lot about compatibility over the 6 years I have been dealing with all my mbuna tanks.

Water changes and water testing are conducted on a weekly basis. Water changes are of at least 25% but more along the lines of 50% weekly. Along with water changes a through gravel sweep is done. Water testing is done about every 2 weeks. The PH is at a constant 8.2. Gh is at 260ppm. KH is at 120ppm. If need be I use African Rift Lake Buffer and salt to maintain all trace elements. Filtration is cleaned weekly at different times of the water changes. One filter a week. Every 6 months the main rock structure is removed and a 75% water change is conducted. Then the rock structure is put back into place with the equal amount of hiding spaces to help disperse the typical mbuna aggression.

Now to the feeding of these hungry mbunas. This is one of my favorite times of the hobby. I feed my mbunas a very mixed diet and they are feed 2 times a day. They are feed all they can eat in 2 minutes and no more. The food left over is consumed rather quickly. Food ranges from Tetramin Tropical Crisp, HBH African Attack pellets, Nutrafinmax Complete flake food, Nutrafinmax Spirulina Algae Flake food. Also feed is AD Konings Cichlid vegi Formula, a homemade version of Ad Konings food I read about in one of his great books. I also feed them San Francisco Bay Brand Brine Shrimp, Emerald and Plankton. I also have made fish food out of veggies and fruits in which these hungry mbunas eat like it is going out of style. After I drop the food in I set back and make sure every fish in the tank is eating. This is a number one rule of mine is to make sure they all eat.

The conclusion of the 100 gallon mbuna tank. With the help of a few people on the internet: George Reclos for the information on collecting rocks. Mr. Fish , Allen Boatman, Jeffery Howe, Dr. Paul V. Louiselle and the others who have helped but for the Life of me I can’t remember there names, I am Grateful. For the very large collection of books I have, most by Ad Konings. Mr. Ad Konings, I may never get to meet you and I may never get to email you are talk with you in a phone conversation, but I would like to Thank You personally for all the information you have released on the Great Rift Lake, Lake Malawi. Thank You SIR for all your help in giving me study and reading material.

MCH Verdict

A nice selection of Malawi mbuna together in one tank, what's at the same time a bit too much (very close to be regarded as “overcrowded”). The caves that are made are good in number, although a more natural setup (e.g. use of some really large rocks) would definitely give a better look. The substrate should be sand in my opinion, as this adds the final touch in any African cichlid tank. Most sadly, the Copadichromis don't belong in such wild mbuna bunch, as they can't cope with their aggression. Also the single male environment (I assume they're all males because there is 1 specimen of each species), something probably aiming at reducing aggression, will at the same time take away the most attractive part of keeping Malawi cichlids; the spawning!

The layout is right (it also follows my belief that LARGE footprints should be preferred), the use of acrylic is a personal choice (we don’t have many tanks made from acrylic here) but ... the overall look seems "dull", there is NOTHING really "thrilling" ... Among “wrong” things (in my personal opinion) I would like to list the following:

1) The size of the gravel is too big and - possibly - too bright in color. A darker color is always to be preferred for African cichlids.

2) The choice of fishes is wrong. There are too many singles, I am not sure that it is possible to avoid hybrids under those conditions.

3) the "rock building" looks a bit unnatural. The rocks are too sharp (aka squared), too bright and contrasting (in color)

At a first glance the tank looks right but, the more You go in detail the more You find "black spots"

I must confess that I generally liked this tank although it puzzled me a lot as something seemed like not being in order. Knowing it is an 100 gallon tank one would expect more “space” which is not evident in the photos. It could well be that this is due to the rock formation being in the center of the tank which keeps all fish together in that area of the tank. Indeed, looking closely at the photos one can see that there is enough space at the periphery; fish just stay close to the rocks. The use of sand should be preferred although the size of the gravel is still within the acceptable limits. The rock formation could also be better in some ways but still I have to give credit to this hobbyist for using the “rock-thin gravel” combination. The collection of the fish is nice and the only non-mbuna (Copadichromis) is not a predator so this could only be regarded as a minor error. The photos could be of better quality, too, perhaps showing the highlights of the tank and hiding the weak points. However, I believe that it should make it to the Gallery, since it is way better than the majority of the tanks we receive for reviewing.

Overall rating by MCH :  61/100

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