Lake Tanganyika is a large lake in central Africa. It is estimated to be the second largest lake in the world by volume and the second deepest, in both cases after Lake Baikal in Siberia. The lake is divided into four countries – Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Zambia, with the DRC (45%) and Tanzania (41%) possessing the majority of the lake. Not only is it the backdrop for many stories, but it’s home to an incredible variety of cichlids that come from a large range of species, sizes, and colours. From the deep green shades to the golden sunset, from the very small (2″) to the very large (15″), there are more than 150 different species of Tanganyika cichlid that have been discovered, and we’re probably still uncovering new ones!

So if you are interested to bring a piece of Lake Tanganyika to your home, do consider these pointers when building the biotope.

Aquarium

An aquarium of a minimum of 300 litres is what is recommended when looking to house a mixed community of Lake Tanganyika Cichlids which would be moderate in size. A tank for Tanganyikan cichlids should be at very least 5 feet long, preferably bigger. The bigger the better. For some bigger varieties of fish, a bigger size of 600 litres or more is recommended. Make sure that there is no leakage in a made-to-order tank as getting out all the material would be a painful job. Because most Tanganyikan cichlids are territorial, the aquarium should have a large bottom area relative to its volume.

Lighting

In the Tanganyika biotope, lighting does not play a significant role and fish do not require special lighting. Live plants are not part of a Malawi cichlid display and the fish prefer more downcast light, making standard aquarium lighting more than adequate. Colour-enhancing bulbs can help accent the natural colours but are not essential. Fluorescent or LED lighting can be used; however, LED is preferred because it won’t add extra, unwanted heat to the aquarium. And consider more intense lighting to highlight Cichlid’s intense colours.

Substrate

Substrate depends on what kind of fish you want to keep and what conditions it requires. Some species live in shells and require relatively more minor substrates. Most Tanganyika cichlids are good diggers, so they need a thick layer of sand, and some do not dig at all, so you can put whatever suits you. Standard aquarium sand or gravel can be used, but crushed coral, coral sand or crushed oyster shell will help maintain the proper pH and alkalinity to support good health and colour in your Tanganyikancichlids. A 1″ to 2″ bed is best, as many species love to dig! Marine substrates will give a marine look to the tank as well as buffering the water.

Décor

The Tanganyikan cichlid aquarium should have plenty of rockwork, caves and other hiding places to create the needed territories. These rocks can vary in size from small pebbles to big footballs. When decorating your aquarium, position rocks directly on the aquarium bottom and add substrate around them to prevent stacked rocks from tumbling and damaging the tank if your cichlids burrow under lower ones. Add enough rockwork and another décor for the first few fish but leave room to add more as you add new fish. Any rock or artificial décor is suitable. It’s recommended that you do not mix different stones, and if it’s flat, then everything is flat. Although that doesn’t bother the fish in general, it will be better for your eyes when you tidy up the aquarium.

Water

This is the most important factor. Most Tanganyikan cichlids do best at temperatures between 22°C – 27°C which is easily attainable in India. In the winter as the temperature goes down, there could be a need for a heater. Some Large Tanganyikan cichlids can be rough on heaters, so it’s best to use plastic-coated ceramic or stainless steel models as opposed to glass to avoid breakage and a potential electrical hazard.

  • The pH should be between 8.3 and 9.2. 
  • The water hardness should be between 10 and 15dH. 
  • The temperature should be between 22°C-78°C.

Filtration

A strong filter with strong mechanical filtration capability is a must as many of the fish species love to dig, stirring up debris. Canister filters are suitable for aquariums up to 300 litres, but canister filters paired up with a sump filter are preferred for larger tanks. In the case of larger tanks, two canister filters with a sump filter are ideal. Generally, a combined flow rate of at least 10 times the aquarium volume is recommended.

Feeding

Throughout millions of years, the cichlids of Lake Tanganyika have evolved and adapted themselves to the myriad of different feeding niches that exist throughout the lake. A majority of the species display a high level of specialization and perfectly fit a certain niche. This is important to consider when you keep Tanganyika cichlids in captivity. Lake Tanganyika cichlids can be Carnivores, Insectivorous, Herbivores, Planktivores and Scavengers. Flake, granule and pellet foods make an excellent diet for virtually all Lake Tanganyikan cichlids. Frozen and freeze-dried foods are also recommended, but avoid feeding tubifex and bloodworms, as many of these cichlids cannot digest the high-fat content in these foods. Do not feed live feeder fish to your Tanganyikan cichlids, as their nutritional value is limited, and they can carry diseases. For Herbivores, allow algae to grow on rocks and another décor as this provides them with a constant supply of natural food.

Stocking

Once the temperature is set and a water conditioner has been added, allow your aquarium to run for 48 to 72 hours before adding fish. Start with juvenile fish. They will be less aggressive and more accepting of one another as they grow to adulthood. Add less aggressive species to the aquarium first and progressively aggressive species as time goes on. Ask your local aquarium expert about the aggression level of each species before you buy them. New additions should be at least the same size as the largest or most aggressive fish already in the aquarium. When mixing closely related or similar-looking species, try to add them to the aquarium at the same time to avoid supremacy from established fish. Never add a smaller member of a species already living in the aquarium.

Tankmates

Paracyprichromisnigripinnis, JulidochromisornatusTropheusduboisi, Cyphotilapiafrontosa are some of the most common fishes found in any Lake Tanganyika biotope. It is advisable to go with nearly the same aggression level of fish when considering tankmates.

Now that you have all the info you need to make a decision, it’s time to sit down and think. Owning Tanganyikan cichlids can be a lot of fun and very rewarding. They are beautiful, active, and very exciting fish! There’s no right or wrong answer here. The right choice is what’s going to be best for you and the aquatic life you decide to take care of.

Happy Fishkeeping!!!

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