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Keeping Malawi Cichlids in Lithuania - Part I

by Sigitas Adomaitis

My full name is Sigitas Adomaitis, but all friends and people I know call me Sigis - this is not nick, this is also a "valid" name. I'm living in Vilnius city, the capital of Lithuania, address Vaduvos St. 28-33 (everybody welcome).

I’ve been in this hobby almost as long as I can remember. It all started when I was a kid of 7 years old, and my father brought to home a pair of guppies. Interesting, even now I can remember the small 3 liter glass bottle with guppies! A month later, my parents bought me an aquarium of 40 liters. My farther was also interested in the fish, so I didn’t run this tank by myself – my father did the water changes and so on. Anyway, being a kid, I spent hours and hours looking at the guppies. Later, when I was around 14 years old, I had three aquariums: a 120 liter with angelfishes, gouramis and catfishes, the same old 40 liter aquarium with guppies and platys, and a 25-liter tank for raising brood. After I finished college, I moved from one city to another and was unable to maintain all the tanks, and my parents gave away two of them, and one was broken. So I did not keep aquarium fishes for around 8-9 years. Regardless, throughout that time I had an idea to buy a new aquarium. It was two yeas before I bought a tank from one aquarist here in Vilnius - he moved to Germany and had nothing to do with this tank. And the passion started again. Now I have two tanks: a 160 liter mbuna tank and 30 liter with snakefish. Very soon I will have one more with a capacity of 250 liters. Next are plans to change the old 160 liter tank to something around 300-400 liter tank for the same mbunas.

My “cichlidmania” started accidentally. I simply I bought five Melanochromis auratus juveniles (not a very good fish to start with). Yes, the same fishes that are shown in the photos. I simply loved the colors and behaviour of these fishes and bought them in street market. Of course, I knew what a cichlid was by that time, but I had never kept African cichlids and had no knowledge at all. I started searching for information on the web, read different books about African cichlids. I became very excited reading various articles about “mbuna” and “utaka”. By that time I gave away my angelfishes (Yes, yes! I was keeping juveniles M. auratus with angelfishes at the start!), leaving only M.auratus in the tank. I decided to add more fishes, and to concentrate only on African cichlids. After I heard and read so much, I had no doubt I needed to make a “mbuna” tank. So, I bought several Cynotilapia afra from the local aquarium shop. Later, I added Pseudotropheus zebra “red” for their beautiful orange color. They are a very good contrast to blue C.afra. For me, African cichlids are the most interesting fishes I have ever had before. Nothing can compare to them! Their colors and their strong character and behaviour makes these fishes interesting objects to observe. Even my girlfriend, who is not very interesting in fish keeping, once told me “those fishes are intellectual creatures”. Wow… she also likes them!

And, last thing, working as a webmaster for the last eight years for different companies in Lithuania and foreign as well, I decided to start my own project www.akvariumas.lt. (“akvariumas” means “aquarium”). A lot of people joined and participate in this project. Half a year ago, this website was granted third place in Lithuanian websites championship. This is the most prestigious award in Lithuania.  Not even a year has passed since I started it, but now this web site already has had almost 60.000 visitors (around 3.5 million citizens live In Lithuania, and only about 12% has an internet connection).  My email is info@akvariumas.lt, suggestions are always welcome.

Tank description:

Size of the tank: 100 x 40 x 40 cm, (160 liters)

This is a heavily planted tank with stones which create a lot of hiding places. Filtration is carried out by a TetraTec 400 internal filter (400 L/h) which works all day long. Of course, I would not recommend just a mechanical filtration for an mbuna tank. I have plans to make a bigger tank with a stronger filtration system, so the fishes will be moved to the new aquarium. It looks like I'm lucky enough to have a tap water with a pH=8 and a GH=15. The tank already running for two years, now. During this period, I have lost 3 fishes - 2 Melanocromis auratus females and 1 M.aruatus "special". "Special" because I don’t know if this fish was a male or female – it looked like the fish was trying to change its color to black, but suddenly it stopped and remained a "half male". I will admit that its death was basically my fault, as the stones where placed incorrectly. In my opinion, hiding places should cover not only the bottom of the tank, but should also occur at higher levels till the top of aquarium. This is the place where all females choose to hide from aggressive males in my tank. The next interesting thing in this aquarium is plants. Most people think it is impossible to keep mbuna in planted aquarium. This is not true as it has already been shown with some fellow hobbyists. In my opinion, It just depends on the selection of the right plant species. In my tank I am growing Anubias, Microsorium pteropus and some Cryptocoryne plants. Those plants (according to my observations) are of almost no interest to mbunas. The only exceptionis that sometimes they like to scrub young leaves of Anubias barteri. They have never touched the Microsorium pteropus up to now.

For photos and notes on the species I keep please see next page

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