Do You Want Looks, Personality...or Both?
By Keegan Armke (7-97)

          This is for hobbyists who have not kept many Tanganyikan cichlids. Most hobbyists, myself included, started keeping Africans that included the more common Pseudotropheus, Melanochromis, Labidochromis, etc.
          The color of that cherry red zebra sure looked nice a long time ago, but I grew tired of these type of cichlids. (The senseless swimming, chasing and killing got old fast. It can be compared to a new car, perhaps a bright yellow or pink one. It’s alright at first, but classics usually prevail.)
           I still admire and enjoy the brilliant coloration of a nice specimen of Mbuna, but I have learned that many pro-Malawi hobbyists assume the actions and personality of Tanganyika cichlids are similar to that of their Malawi relatives. These people need to be enlightened! The personalities of the two are extremely different.
           My opinion is that the reason for this relates to the fact that Lake Tanganyika itself is around 20 million years old, and is the oldest lake in Africa, if not the world. Lake Malawi is only about half as old. The cichlids in Tanganyika have evolved, developed and specialized about twice as long as the Malawians.
           I think this accounts for the many different shapes and sizes (dwarfs, etc.) found in Tanganyika. Most of the cichlids in Malawi have the same basic overall shape. Ditto the Victorian cichlids. Obviously, there are some variations, but not nearly as many as are found in Lake Tanganyika. Besides, many Tanganyikan cichlids have as much color as the Malawi residents and there does tend to be more variety of color among Tanganyikans.
           My purpose is not to demean Malawi cichlids. I am only stating my observations and opinions. Many of our tanks contain Malawi specimens, but tanks that we really study and enjoy for long periods of time contain Tanganyikans.
           The value and uniqueness of the Tanganyikans is more greatly appreciated when observed in a natural, community setting. When these fish start to replicate the actions they perform in the wild, it is something to behold.
            I have found it is easy to recreate a natural environment for Tanganyikans.
           1. Most species stay fairly small.(Many shelldwellers and Julidochromis species are right at home in a 10 or 20 gallon aquarium.)
           2. In larger aquaria (55+), the relative small size of the fish permits use of a variety of habitat structure to accommodate widely divergent species.
           3. Some open water species, especially Cyprichromis, actually spawn in the water stream using no rocks. Sparring between conspecifics produces colorful shows and very little actual damage.
           4. Adaptability, as in the wild, is a strong suit for Tanganyikans. One might be amazed at what a featherfin will use as a nest, or what an Altolamprologus compressiceps might use as a cave for spawning. Also, the Tanganyikans seem to get along well with many Malawi species. One community tank we have set up includes fish from Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria. Spawns occur from all three species.
           Recently, a customer called and said he and his wife were only interested in large, adult, colored male peacocks. They arrived and purchased a couple of peacocks. They stayed for over two hours and left with nearly a tankful of Tanganyikans they had never heard of or seen.
           I agree with a quote (Back to Nature Guide to Tanganyikan Cichlids) from Ad Konings: “Tanganyikan cichlids ARE the most interesting aquarium fishes known today.”

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