Tanganyika or Malawi – which biotype to choose?

Aquaristics/Recreational activities
Chandler Lee
Tanganyika or Malawi – which biotype to choose?
It takes approx. 4 minutes to read this article

The question of choosing the right biotype is asked by many beginner aquarists. Some make the mistake of combining them in one tank. They associate biotopes of lakes Malawi and Tanganyika mainly with sand and a pile of stones with multi-coloured fish swimming among them. They do not notice differences in water parameters, feeding and requirements of the fish they keep.

Diversity of Tanganyika

Lake Tanganyika is twice as deep and almost 100 km longer than Malawi. The water has a slightly lower pH. In Malawi, on the other hand, the water is nearly twice as soft. The temperature and transparency of the water in both cases are almost the same.

In Lake Tanganyika, due to its great depth and varied types of substrate (sandy, with shell deposits, gravelly and rocky), there are many zones and types of shoreline:
– coastal zone (littoral)
– open water zone (pelagial)
– deep-water zone

Fish have developed a number of specific feeding habits and reproductive behavior. Thus, we distinguish fish species that lay eggs on the substrate, in rock crevices or even in empty snail shells. Among cichlids we can distinguish around 300 different species!

The most popular are those from the Tropheus genus, which are characterized by a huge palette of colors and color variations. They have a compact body structure and are about a dozen centimeters long. Many interesting social behaviors can be observed in them and their spawning is exceptionally spectacular.

Not less popular are also small, measuring only a dozen or so centimeters long shellfish. They spawn in empty snail shells.

Malawi’s color scheme

Malawi is a tectonic lake located in the area of the Great African Rift. In terms of size, it is the ninth freshwater body of water in the world. Despite its enormous size, the water parameters of the lake at different points do not vary significantly. Fish therefore live in a similar environment, making it easier to breed them in artificial conditions as well. Despite its alkaline reaction, the water in the lake is quite soft.

The most numerous representatives of the local fauna are cichlids – there are about 800 species! Among them, two large groups can be distinguished: “mbuna”, which in the local language means “stone-biting fish” (this is how the fish get their food by scraping it off the stones – editorial added) and “non-mbuna”.

Mbuna are shore-stationed species that often burrow in the sand and feed near the bottom of the tank. They range in size from 7 to 18 cm. Non-mbuna, on the other hand, are cichlids that inhabit underwater rocks or swim in free water. They are predatory (they often hunt smaller mouth-brooders) and slightly bigger – they are 20 to 30 cm long. Their common feature is very bright coloration and stocky body build.

Aquariums in Tanganyika and Malawi – indications

Recreating the biotopes of Lake Malawi or Tanganyika in a home environment is not particularly complicated, in contrast to choosing the right stock, which requires a well-founded knowledge. Keep in mind that Malawi and Tanganyika fish are aggressive and territorial so it is best to have 3-4 females for every male. You can also choose another option and use so called “controlled overfeeding”. Then there should be more fish in the tank than possible to cover, and there must be at least 10-15 liters of water per one individual.

The aquarium doesn’t have to be deep – a height of about 40-50 cm and a capacity of at least 150 liters is enough. Of course, the larger the tank, the easier it is to maintain stable physicochemical parameters of water and provide optimal living conditions for fish. The water should be very clean and well aerated, and the temperature should oscillate between 24-28°C. The water should be very clean, well aerated and the temperature should oscillate between 24-28°C. You may also be tempted to add some plants such as Anubias, Nurzaniec or Hornwort.

Each aquarist should make up his or her own mind and choose the groups of fish that are most suitable for him or her in order to make the conditions as natural as possible. However, it is not advisable to mix fish from different biotopes, as they have different needs and lifestyles. Therefore it is best to choose one group or only one species of cichlids.

Let the follower of Malawi be delighted with the underwater world, full of colorful creatures, while the “tanganicist” can boast of a greater palette of fish behavior in his aquarium.

Featured photo: Wikipedia

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