Friday, October 14, 2011

Lake Malawi Cichlid Beginners

This is some simple but important advice for Lake Malawi cichlid beginners. If this is your first freshwater tropical fish tank setup and you have had a chance to study up on the information I have provided through this blog and you have reached the point of wanting to start an African Mbuna cichlid aquarium then here is a tip that you will want to know to be successful. Cichlids are an awesome tropical fish species to have but it is very important to know how to properly take care of them.

What are some of the African cichlid tank requirements? Well, your new tank needs to be cycled before live fish are added. What does that mean? It means that you allow enough time for your tank water to properly build up a sufficient amount of natural bacteria that aids in reducing or breaking down organic material. Fish waste, plant matter, rotting fish, uneaten food are all broken down by certain bacteria. This bacteria produces ammonia and this is very dangerous for fish. So you can understand that if you were to put your cichlids in the tank right away, there would be no bacteria present to breakdown the waste and there would end up being a spike of ammonia (called 'new tank syndrome') once the bacteria show up. This would prove to be toxic and detrimental to the fish. Many would probably die. So you need time for this bacteria to appear and then you need time for additional bacteria to appear that will consume the ammonia. This bacteria then produces nitrite and then another bacteria appears to consume that, creating nitrate. When nitrate is detected in the tank water, and nitrite is no longer detectable, then your tank is
ready for fish to be added. This is known as the biological cycle.

I cannot stress this enough that this cycling of your tank must be done FIRST. It can take from 4 to 6 weeks, and maybe longer, to complete. You must allow for the full cycle to get done. But what is a good way to do it without adding in your precious cichlids? I recommend that you begin by purchasing some important test kits. Get an ammonia test kit, a nitrite test kit, and a kit to test nitrates. Then fill your newly decorated tank with water that has been conditioned to eliminate chlorine in the water, turn on your filter(s), keep the tank lights off. I began the cycle of one of my tanks by dropping in a chunk of aged meat. As the meat begins to rot, the bacteria will begin to appear to break it down.

After a few days of having the meat in the tank, begin to test the water for ammonia. Keep testing until you start to see a rise and fall in ammonia levels. When the levels begin to fall begin to test for nitrites. When these levels have fallen to low levels, test the water for nitrates. When you no longer detect nitrites remove the meat, and then you can add fish. I recommend that you add some test fish first just to make sure the water is completely safe. Add some minnows for example. These are very hardy fish and if they thrive for awhile, then your cichlids will thrive. When you put in your cichlids, they will eat the minnows, but this will be OK because this is natural and your newly cycled tank will be able to handle the new load.

A lot of people will put in fish such as Gourami's or minnows right off the bat to kick-start the cycle. But I personally don't like the idea that these fish are going to suffer because of the toxic spikes that will take place. They are hardy fish, but I don't like it. But if you have no problem with that, then go ahead and add them to get the cycle going instead of meat. I prefer the other way, and then I add them later just to make sure the filters are performing at peak performance.

Please, make sure if you are a Lake Malawi cichlid beginner that you follow this advice and take the proper time to cycle your tank. If you do, you will have great success with your African cichlid tank. Read more about African cichlids...