As a family we have pets. We have a dog, a beagle, which I will undoubtedly post about one day and we have an aquarium.
Our first fish aquarium was a little one gallon tank for a betta my son won at a fair. This fish lasted for about two years. After him, we tried many different fish until we upgraded to a five gallon Fluval Spec V aquarium.
Fresh water aquarium keeping can be a challenge. Despite my many years of personal and professional experience with fish keeping (my first jobs in high school and college where in pet/fish stores and I was a marine biology major for a while), our little tank never really flourished.
Enter the Mbuna
In the last year I changed the aquarium occupants to a mbunas, also know as African cichlids. Mbuna (pronounced boo-nuh) is the Tonga word for rockfish referring to the colorful and amazing fish living amongst the piled rocky shores of Lake Malawi in Africa. Lake Malawi, bordered by Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, is incredible in it's own right. It is a rift lake and is the ninth largest and the sixth deepest lake in the world. It also has more species of fish than any other lake in the world, estimated to be about a 1000 cichlids alone. This region is also near where Australopithecus afarensis was first found.
Due to the depth of the lake, mbunas have evovled very deep and varied coloration and due to their territorial natures, then are very active, aggressive fish. These fish are readily visible, not startled by people outside and always a pleasure to watch. They don't play well with other fish in the aquarium and they pretty much get the aquarium to themselves. They need a lot of hiding places to feel secure.
Below is our take currently:
Normally, mbunas are known for uprooting plants, but due to the small size of the fish and large size of the substrate gravel, that isn't much of an issue. The mbunas all have territories and are quite happy in there aquarium chasing around, hiding and munching on the plants. The live plants are from all over the world and flow gracefully in the filter current. I am frequently replacing plants as they chomp through bits of them.
Our five little mbunas are named after members of The Beatles, in reference to the little yellow submarine in our aquarium, and in honor of my son's grandparents. The photos below are not from our actual fish, but Wikipedia images, but they show each species:
Paul – Pseudotropheus demasoni is rather timed and hangs mostly in the left of the tank:
John and George – Maylandia estherae are a bit different. John is the boss, largest and orange with dynamic gray mottling. He is constantly exploring. George is solid orange more timed and hangs in the middle:
Ringo – Melanochromis auratus is very bold and roams throughout the tank:
Pete – Labidiochromis caeruleus - Pete, named after the first drummer, is semi-timed and hangs on the left. He was hiding in the aquarium photo above:
People often see these fish are remark that they look like marine fish. I could never support having a marine aquarium. Mbunas breed very readily in captivity and are excellent parents, protecting their young aggressively. All of my fish are domestically bred, as are the vast majority of fresh water fish you find in most stores. Very few marine fish can be breed in captivity, and the resulting damage to our ocean reefs is horrible:
If you love marine fish, visit an aquarium, such as the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific or the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Better yet, take up Snuba, snorkeling or even scuba diving and visit these beautiful fish in their natural habitats. I'm considering one day going to Malawi to dive in Lake Malawi.
I have really enjoyed these fish. Following simple rules, including making sure the water conditions are good, they are very hardy and easy to care for. Most new aquarists overlook these fish, often found on the edge of aquarium fish sections. I was once guilty of this too. In time I was able to convince my family to adopt these little mbunas, and we haven't looked back since!