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Thread: questions about converting my SA discus tank over to a Malawi tank

  1. #1
    Member mstamper's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Peachtree Corners, GA

    questions about converting my SA discus tank over to a Malawi tank

    I love my discus but have been thinking about selling off my stock and starting over with African Malawi and I would be overstocking to keep aggression down as much as possible.
    something like this tank but smaller.... forgive the music...

    I have plenty of filtration to turn my 75 gallon over several times an hour.

    I have done some research and from what I have read I would also need to put a wave pump or 2 into the tank to keep the waste moving into the filters and provide the current the Malawi need.

    I am in Peachtree Corners area and am not sure what I would have to do with keeping the water to the proper pH needed for the Malawi. Or can they survive and thrive with just treating the water with Safe?
    If I have to up the GH / KH / pH what is the best way to do that? epsom / marine / baking soda mix? Lots of crushed coral? a combination of the 2?

    I know I need LOTS of rocks to create caves for the fish. where is a good place to find good rocks to use? the tank currently has Pool filter sand as the substrate. Would it be best to dump that and start over with fresh sand and rocks?

    As for livestock, is there a good number of club members who keep / breed Malawi to purchase stock or what stores / web sites would be good to purchase Malawi from?

    Those here that keep Malawi, do you find that your tanks grow algae or does the harder water keep that at bay? How often do you do water changes? do you just do top offs? 1x a week, 1x a month? more often? do you clean your canister filters every water change? What temps do the Malawi need? Do I need a chiller?

    Are there any other considerations I am missing in my thinking?

    I know this is a ton of questions. Internet research has answered some questions but most of those posts are from all over the world and I am interested in local keepers information.

    Thanks in advance
    Last edited by mstamper; 03-09-2018 at 01:07 PM. Reason: additional questions
    75g Planted Discus tank

  2. #2
    When I had Malawis, what I did was use regular white sand, but I filled the tank with a lot of dolomite (basically limestone rock) in a big pile along the center from side to side, leaving an alley in the back and in front - to about halfway up. I had a power filter that hung on the back on one side, with the intake tubes reaching to just above the bottom and the outflow nozzle pointed diagonally across to the opposite corner. All the nooks and crannies and caves gave plenty of refuge for the fish - i had fuelleborni, auratus, red empress, zebra morphs, and several generations of brichardi that kept reproducing like rabbits.. it was neat to see the parents defend that school of fry against all the other fish in the tank, and when things got too heated the whole family just retreated into crevices. The dolomite kept the pH and hardness up without any problems. I didnt use crushed coral because some of the fish liked to sift thru the sand and burrow under the rocks... I made sure that the bottom rocks were set in place solidly enough to prevent a topple-over and possible shatter disaster. Feeding time was like a shark feeding frenzy, fish darting out from their favorite hidey-hole to grab a nibble and dash back to safety.
    Last edited by Igster; 03-09-2018 at 03:18 PM.

  3. #3
    I keep a 72g bowfront Mbuna tank with 2 large HOBs and a powerhead. Powerhead really makes a difference in "stuff" collecting on the substrate.

    Speaking of substrate, I use aragonite. Keeps my PH high and is fine enough for the fish to sift through. I don't get much of if any green algae, it's mostly brown diatom algae.

    I try to do water changes once a week but sometimes fall behind and do one every 2 weeks. I don't add anything to my water and keep it at 79-80 degrees. Hope some of this helps.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Johns Creek, Georgia, United States
    Blog Entries
    I don't think all Malawi fish actually need current, they live in a lake, after all. Mbuna live in rock piles and they do grow algae, but the fish like it. I think the high current is just a way of cutting down on aggression and controlling the mess in an overstocked tank. If I use a power head, I put it on a pond-size sponge filter, one of those + a hang-on-back or canister does a large tank, otherwise I use two other filters. You want the insurance in case one quits. I shoot for a total of 10 turnovers per hour. My tanks usually got brown diatom algae unless they were in sunlight because they only had single florescent tubes. I used the salt mix you mentioned, 3:1:1 tps / 5 gallons for water change water, not topping off. I used river rock from a landscaping place (they sell by the pound). But if you have money to burn, the "cichlid stones" are awesome, hollow ceramic rocks. The salt does crust on stuff, especially hang-on-backs. Clean a filter at any reduction in flow. I wouldn't bother will a chiller, most will do fine 70-85F. But at the higher end you need to have lots of surface flow to oxygenate the water. has lots of good articles for getting started. Most of the fish that have been in the hobby a long time are very tolerant of nitrates as long as you keep the pH up. But neglect water changes and algae will get bad. Keep only one species of each genus and color to avoid hybrids and unnecessary aggression. I like the small mbuna like C. afra and P. demasoni.


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