Tanganyika community tanks.

Tanganyika community tank
Tanganyika tanks are, in this article, defined as tanks that primarily contains several cichlid species from Lake Tanganyika. Sometimes fish, from other places are present, but They play a subordinate role, usually as Snail- or Algae control.

The argument for specifically choosing cichlids over of other genera is, apart from their interesting behavior and wonderful appearance, that They constitute over 99% of the available species on the market. The operative words here are
several species.

This article is all about Community tanks, with the various advantages and drawbacks it entails, when trying to accommodate the demands of different species, regarding decoration and feeding. The alternative, is a species tank, to which you can find some tips regarding decoration and running here, but information about the enhanced possibilities for adapting to a single species, must be found elsewhere.

The headline says Tanganyika tank
s, as opposed to t
he Tanganyika tank. This is because of the multitude of highly different fish, which makes the possible combinations, with varying themes, almost infinite. It is, however, possible to make some rough distinctions, aiming to put together, some fish that may coexist, without getting in the way of each other, and which will be able to show their varying looks and behavior, within the narrow limits of an Aquarium. Off course it is impossible for a single article to cover all variations, but this attempt to show some general principles, may hopefully serve as a platform, to work from.
How big should the Tank be?
The traditional (and fairly useless) answer is, as large as possible! Tanganyika cichlids are, generally speaking, not as demanding as Malawi cichlids, and many species will thrive in tanks considerably smaller than 100 L. For a Community tank however, it would be a good idea to have a larger tank, because there has to be some space between the fish, so that they can stay out of each others way.
Ideally the tank should not be less than a standard 325 L (130x50x50cm) Tank, even if it is totally possible to set up tanks that are smaller. It should be noted, though, that the number of possibilities are drastically reduced below this size.
The versatile aquarium.
Decorating the tank, requires some consideration. A good tactic, is to split the decoration into two different categories; a permanent part, which is integrated with, and covers the necessary technical installations, and an easily removable part, facilitating the necessary hiding places/free swimming space/places to dig that may be desirable according to the chosen stock.

There is a high probability that the collection of fish, for various reasons will not turn out as expected, or not live up to expectations, resulting in changes which may require change of the decoration. In such cases, it is most practical if the "basic decoration" (not least if it is glued to the tank
walls!) allows for a change of type, without being removed.

This is done by limiting the "basics" to an absolute minimum. If, for instance, the popular artificial rocks are used, it would be a good idea to limit their use to the background, and let the decoration itself, including hideouts, consist of materials that can easily be moved, or removed, without disrupting the whole setup.
Below are shown 3 examples of different tanks, built over the same basic decoration.

The basic decoration. Great for Sand cichlids at the bottom, with pelagic species like Cyprichromis in the open space and the shown
P. nigripinnis between the modules. Adversely, it is totally wrong for Substrate breeders.

Here is added a few rocks arranged in two piles, limiting the available area for sand Cichlids, but making the Tank fit for a number of substrate breeders
like e.g. Julidochromis, Neolamprologus and Altolamprologus species. Also in this setup, Cyprichromis would fit in (as seen in the picture).

Here the loose rocks takes up so much space, that it prevents the tank from being used for Sand cichlids, but, the abundance of holes and crevices,
makes it an excellent, home for the large and lively Tropheus. Alternatively, this setup could accommodate various large  Neolamprologus,
Lepidolamprologus, and Altolamprologus species, maybe with a large Cyprichromis species in the free space above the rocks.
Technical installations.
Technical installations in Tanganyika tanks can be regarded as the same in all variations, since the species of the Lake, are basically all exposed to the same environment. There may be variables in Water movement or light, but it is safe to say, that the species relevant here, are fairly indifferent to the Lighting, thrive very well at the same temperature of 23-27ēC and with a water movement equal to the tank volume of 4-8 times per hour.

Tanganyika tanks are often heavily stocked, so effective filtering is important.

This can be achieved in various ways, with various price tags attached, and a thorough description of the possibilities, would constitute a whole article of its own, so I would just suggest a suitably large external canister-filter, which is easily installed in the setup, following the instructions provided by the manufacturer, or the use a HMF (Hamburger Matten Filter (German) which basically is a large mat of foam, where water is forced through. A picture of such a well ingrown mat, is shown further down on this page.

The reason for singling out the canister filter, in spite of the fact, that it probably is the most expensive filter, is that it is also one of the most effective, does not demand much knowledge about filter techniques, and is fairly independent of the decoration of the tank.

contrast to the mentioned HMF filter, is pretty independent of the decoration setup. Besides, it is very easy to control and, if need be, clean up, without disturbing the whole tank, and it`s possible to get reliable guidance from the supplier, who does not need detailed information about the aquarium in question, to be able to help out with the right size of the filter, and the best filter medium.

The best filter medium, is usually the one made especially for that particular filter. It is invariably depressingly expensive, but according to My experience markedly better, and is able to stand for longer periods between cleanings, than e.g. filter vat or common gravel. The popular Bioballs, are not effective enough for the relatively small volume of the canister, and is thus best avoided.

Any filter needs maturing, as described in the "Startup" section later in this article.

The shown
Eheim 2080 Professional III
filter is very large, and will be able to run a tank the size of  up to 1000L, but there are filters for any size of tank. Typically a correct dimensioned filter will need cleaning 2-4 times a year.

This is best done in used aquarium water, and under no circumstances in very hot or cold water, which is highly detrimental to the bacteria culture in it!

The algae covered "wall" to the left of the image above, is actually the foam mat of a HMF filter. Behind the mat is mounted a Powerhead, that circulates water out of the chamber formed by the tight-fitting mat and the tank walls, thereby forcing water from the tank through the mat back to the chamber to keep the water level even on both sides. Correctly dimensioned, this type of filter is probably the most effective aerobe filter in existence, and may run until the mat disintegrates (at least 8 years) without any cleaning. The drawback is off course the high visibility, since it is rarely possible to get the mat coated in algae like this one.
Water circulation.

Tanganyika cichlids are used to heavy water movement, so this should be mimicked in the tank, both for the sake of the necessary oxygen absorption, and the general wellbeing of the cichlids.

A rule of thumbs says, that if the collective capacity of the pumps, are 5 times the tank volume per hour, the water movement is sufficient (i.e. a 250L tank needs a collective pump capacity of app. 1250 LPH).

 This is usually more than the filter pump manages, and the additional flow is best provided with an internal pump without any filter, often called a Powerhead, or just PH. The PH is ideally installed hidden in the decoration, preferably directed, to send the exhaust beam up to move the surface, which is very beneficial to the oxygen adsorption, and also helps breaking any surface film.

Tunze TurbelleŽ powerhead 3000/2  and Aquabee UP3000.

These powerheads are essentially identical, each with an output of 3000 LPH, but the Tunze manages this with a power consumption of 25W, whereas the Aquabee uses 48W!

Also note the protected intake on one of the powerheads. Without one of these grids mounted (it is always included in the box), the PH is very dangerous to the fish!
The Water temperature, which should be 23-26 ēC can, if necessary be regulated with at Thermostat-controlled heater. Actually it is rarely needed in a living room, because the lamp and PH emits enough heat to raise the temperature to the correct level (and sometimes above!), but if necessary, the heater must be used. It should be dimensioned so that it has a Watt consumption about half the tank volume, (i.e. a 250L tank needs a 125W heater). Remember that the scale on the heater does not always show the correct temperature, so a reliable thermometer is necessary for control!
Now We need to shed some light on the whole thing! The simplest way to achieve this, is a regular aquarium lamp mounted with  one or more fluorescents. If the tank is bought as a kit including the lamp, there`s no need to worry anymore about this, other than picking the right tubes, but if the lighting is to be specifically acquired for this particular tank, there is a couple of alluring/confusing options;
HQI lamps, which are very popular with marine aquarists, gives a very realistic and beautiful effect, especially since the light is emitted from a single point, and thereby has a distinct "sunshine effect" over the decor, if there is a little rippling in the surface from the PH. Unfortunately there are also some significant drawbacks, which explains why very few cichlid aquarists have them; If the lamp is required to look reasonably good, it will also be rather expensive, and the lamp must be mounted no closer than 20 cm. from the surface. That usually requires the lamp to be hung from the ceiling, or mounted in a very voluminous cabinet. The first option lets quite a lot of light out in the room, possibly ruining the ambience, and the second  solution may make the tank look unreasonably large.

Far more common, are fluorescent tube lamps, either prefabricated or homemade, and with good reason. They allow for a wide variation of light intensity and colour variations, and takes up very little space. There are two basic systems: T8 and T5. The primary difference between them, is that the T5, which is a relatively new system, yields more light per Watt than the older T8, and is able to use more Watts at any given length of the tube. This allows the lamp to "burn more fuel" but also to give out a lot more light.

All this, is fairly inconsequential to a Tanganyika tank, where plant growth rarely is a high priority. Selection of light colour is also purely aesthetic, and the choice is mainly between natural or enhanced colours.
The first is best achieved by  Biolux from Osram, the latter could be a combination of Gro-lux and Aquastar, both from Sylvania.
Decoration of the tank.

A fair resemblance to the Inhabitants natural biotope, should of course be attempted, to best enable them to display their natural behavior. In a Community tank though, it will in most cases be necessary to make some practical compromises, as there will inevitably be some adverse demands.

The trick is, to set up a selection of species, that makes it possible to achieve a compromise that everybody can live with.

Let us start with the above mentioned basic decorations; A beautiful, and space saving solution, would be modules, or less flexible, a whole background from e.g. Back-to-Nature or Pangaea, which is glued to the back- or side glass. Especially the BTN are sublimely good at hiding technical installations, and detracts very little from the tanks water volume, since they are hollow. The drawback is primarily their price and the fact, that they are next to impossible to move, once the tank is up and running. Alternatively, large rocks can be placed to cover technical installations, but they will invariably also serve as hiding places that could make it very difficult to remove fish form the tank without redecorating.

The rest of the decoration depends on the selection of fish chosen for the tank, but the differences are largely limited to number of hideouts/free sand bottom/free swimming space. The most important, aesthetically, is that the materials used, are not too different from each other. In nature, one single type of rock will typically dominate any given biotope, especially in a lake that has essentially been unchanged for millions of years.

For practical purposes, it would be prudent from the start, to recognize the fact that at some point, it will for various reasons, probably be necessary to get the fish out of the tank. Lots of hideouts, makes it very hard to remove fish from the Tank when necessary, so it is worth considering how many hideouts is really needed, and limit the number to that, instad of making too many.

Additionally it is a good idea to make sure, that the hideouts can be opened without too much hassle. This is done, by avoiding too much stacking of the rocks, so that it is possible to uncover them, without having to break down most of the decoration.

It is always a good idea, to start  by placing a thin polystyrene plate on the bottom, before stacking rocks in the tank, to avoid that rubble under a rock accidentally puts too much pressue on the glass, with resulting cracks!

It has become popular to build DIY backgrounds i Polystyrene, covered in Cement, and it really does give almost endless possibilities for making an exciting and unique Tank, but it should be mentioned, that a natural look is harder to achieve than One would think. Technical details regarding This, is beyond the scope of this article, but there are probably lots of information elsewhere on the Internet.

The substrate is important. Fine sand is a safe choice, since this is preferred by the species that are dependant on digging, and the rest does not care. Be prepared for some redecoration by the Fish (dependant of species off course)! A depth of 2-3 inches should be sufficient.


Plants are not necessary, and in most cases not biotopically correct, if this is a concern, but a lot of aquarists feel that it adds a valuable spark to the tank with a little green, and there are a few plants that works fine.

Among those are the Microsorium pteropus (Java fern) and the Anubias species, which distinguish themselves by being able to grow, without being planted in the Substrate, but also many Cryptocoryne species are very suitable, due to their tolerance for mediocre lighting, and ability to do without fertilizing.

Algae are both natural and, in most cases, desirable as decoration as well as food supplement.

A good layer of Algae motivates herbivores to display their natural feeding behavior, and provides a good supplement of vegetable food matters. Plants as well as Algae, benefit from a lot of lighting, so if they does not grow well, more light is one of the ways to get them going. Adversely a limitation can take the edge off of the algae growth, if this is found undesirable.

Tank with fine sand as substrate, granite Rocks from a beach and variants of Cryptocoryne willisii. Note the differently coloured Rocks.
Ideally They should have been selected with more attention to this, so that they would have the same colour, giving the decoration a more natural look.
Materials and preparation.
Almost any kind of rock is usable, provided they do not contain anything toxic (some rocks may contain e.g. metals, that dissolves into the water), or has very sharp or ragged edges, which can harm the cichlids in case of collisions. This is universally applicable, but is especially important in tanks containing Featherfins or other Free swimmers, as many species are prone to damages to the eyes.
Some of the (in Scandinavia) most commonly used rocks are: granite, Faxekalk (lime rocks that essentially are fossilized corals, compressed to massive chalky pieces), Kenya rocks and lava. Lava rocks are in My opinion a bit problematic, as they often are both very ragged and sharp, and always have very rough surfaces, whereas the other types are very fine, but in case of the Faxekalk and Kenya rocks, not very natural looking.
Granite comes in various colours and structures, all suitable for the aquarium, but for a natural look, it is best to select a single colour/structure, and use only this in the tank. Most rocks are ready for use after a thorough rinsing in cold water, but if they are found i.e. on a construction site or in a muddy field, it could be a good idea to douse them with boiling water.

Roots are, contrary to common belief, very usable in Tanganyika tanks, as long as they are thoroughly water drenched, so they will not decompose in the Tank (Read: If You are not completely sure about what to look for, You buy them in a reputable store!) The superstition about how Roots does not belong in Tanganyika tanks because they are not natural to the Biotope and lowers the Ph value is quite widespread, but let us just make it totally clear here, that it is utter rubbish on both accounts! Off course trees fall, or are blown into Lake Tanganyika, just as any other lake, and regarding the Ph-drop, it is next to impossible to affect this value noticeably in water with the hardness required in this type of tank.

That said, roots will often cause some yellow/brownish colouration to the water, which is not exactly flattering to the cichlids, but this will be kept to a minimum by the recommended water shifts. Roots are ready for use, after a quick rinse in cold water, when bought from a store.

The Sand is best cleaned in portions in a bucket, and should be rinsed until there is no more dirt floating in the water.


We will start with the basics; When the Tank has safely arrived, it has to be cleaned with water, and all glass surfaces should be polished. This is done to make sure, that there are no chemicals or other residue from manufacturing/previous use left in the Tank, and  it provides a good opportunity to inspect for scratches to the glass or frame. If the Tank in question is a used one, there is not much to do, but to use the least damaged glass as front, but if It is a new one, it should be returned at once, for a replacement!

When this is done, it is time to glue the Background/Modules, if those are planned, to the glass and the back glass may be painted on the outside. If there are plans for an external background, it is probably also easiest to execute those now! Next step is to place the Tank where it is supposed to stand making sure that It is absolutely level!!!, and put in the polystyrene plate on the bottom.

Now it is time to install all the technical gear, according to the guidelines given in Their corresponding Manuals.  Generally speaking, They should be placed as hidden as possible, without impairing their function. Powerheads and In/outlets from external filters, are best left loosely placed, until the decoration is completely in place, and then be adjusted so that everything fits.

Some Aquarists prefer to decorate the Tank completely, without any water in it, but personally, I  like to fill the Tank about 3/4 after placing a few heavy Rocks on the polystyrene, to keep it down.

Anyway, now is the time, for the most exciting and important step! The reason for My preference for having water in the Tank during decoration, is that water changes the visual perspective, making the Tank seem narrower than It actually is, and I like to take that into account right away, when placing the decorations.

Either way, the decorating is finished off, by spreading the chosen substrate evenly over the bottom, and the technical equipment is plugged in. There You have it, a working Tanganyika Tank, ready for maturing!

Now the filter must be activated, which can be done in a couple of ways. The aim is to add a culture of beneficial bacteria to maintain the biological reduction, that is the main purpose of the filter. The simplest way, is to do

nothing, other than a couple of small feedings in the Tank, but it takes some patience, as it typically takes 3-4 weeks to get the filter going this way. A quicker way, which requires access to a matured filter, is to take a good portion of said filter, and put in the the New, so the bacteria can quickly spread from there. The last, and fastest way, is to simply buy the bacteria in pill/powder form, and add them to the filter by letting them in via the filter inlet. The manufacturers claim that the filter can be up and running in 24 hours, but it is probably best to wait about a week or so... If You`re so inclined, it is possible to get various test sets, which can measure the content of the various waste substances in the water, and this way see when the filter is starting to work.

 It will be too laborious to go deeper into the degrading processes here, but in short, what happens is, that waste from the fish/uneaten food is reduced to Ammonia, which is extremely toxic but quickly reduced to Nitrite. Nitrite, which is also very toxic, is then reduced to the relatively harmless Nitrate. It is mainly the Nitrite level that is measured during the Maturing period. Under no circumstances, may fish be added to a Tank with any measurable level of Nitrite! When Nitrite has been found, and has disappeared again, the filter is working properly.

If You don`t want the inconvenience/cost of measuring, You have to wait until You are reasonably certain that the filter is matured, which can be anything from 1 to 4 weeks. In this period, it is best to add a little food (Dry flake food is fine) to the Tank from time to time (You are feeding the bacteria).

Now it`s finally time to add some fish (but do read the rest of this article first!), and "some fish" is NOT an entire Tank stock! It is best to start with 3-5 smaller fish, ideally the most peaceful of the planned stock, and leave them alone in the tank for about a month or so, to make sure that the filter is absolutely matured, and ready to deal with the waste load of a full stock.

As mentioned above, a lot is happening in the tank, during the startup phase, and this continues even after the Tank is stocked. One of the things that may be cause for some worrying is the Algae growth. Typically there will in the first 1-2 months grow a layer of brown algae all over the decoration/substrate, but not to worry (unless these Algae is kind of greasy/slimy to the touch), as this will almost certainly go away, and give way to the green algae that most of Us like to have.


Neolamprologus leleupi
Purchasing and mixing the stock.

Mixing the fish properly, is one of the essential points of making or breaking success for the tank, so I will spend a good deal of space on this point, but first let us have a look on some general tips, always worth having i mind, when acquiring new fish:

1: Purchase only healthy fish! A pretty obvious point off course, but both stores and private vendors have fish that are either sick, too skinny or too fat, and especially the latter, can be quite difficult to correct, especially if other tank mates have the opposite problem. Wild caught fish pose their own problems, often suffering from slight malnutrition, as they have been through a tough time, with a lot of changes and very little feeding, but if they are otherwise healthy, they should be able to recover, if they are treated with care.

2: Purchase only fish with absolutely certain identification! Unfortunately many fish, especially from private breeders, are of dubious origin. The doubt may be about  where in the Lake They are caught, correct name of species, or even  if they are hybrids! It is totally unacceptable, but nonetheless not uncommon, that more or less ignorant Aquarists "accidentally" sell off the hybrids that, either by simple misfortune, or because the keeper has not been careful enough, have appeared in the tank. Certain identification is, for most Aquarists, a question of of faith in the vendor and the chain of dealers the fish have gone through. Generally speaking, acquiring the stock through a reputable dealer, is the safest way to make certain, that the fish are "genuine". Tanganyika cichlids are not as prone to this as e.g. Malawi cichlids, but many of the fish in general trade, can no longer be connected to the original site of capture/variant, and this could be a problem if the goal is breeding, as they will be of lesser value to discerning Aquarists.

3: If possible, purchase more than the actual goal of each species, so that a reserve is at hand, should anything should go wrong! More often than not, some of the fish are not up to the desired standard, or if they are purchased as juveniles, the gender distribution is off. Fatalities may also occur, even in perfectly running tanks, and replacements are not always available.

Callochromis stappersii
Matching of fish for various tanks.

When planning the future stock, a variety of considerations must be made, if the tank is meant to be more than a random heap of whatever fish the dealer had in stock at the day of acquisition.

1. It is a great advantage, if all fish thrive on the same food, or alternatively that special feeding of the exceptions is possible.

2. The stock should consist of species that will not hybridize. This is best secured by avoiding closely related fish, and making sure, that a suitable number of individuals are present from each species.

3. The fish should preferably match each other in temperament and behavior. For example, species that requires peace should not be matched with species that race around the tank all day. If possible, matching fish that

occupies different places/levels in the tank, is a good idea.

4. The tank should be an aesthetic treat, as well as an interesting object of study, so also for this reason, it would be preferrable, if the fish could occupy different niches, all over the tank, and display their respective behavior unhindered of each other.

5. The size of the tank is crucial, for which tactic is best when planning the Stock. The smallest tanks (in this context 100 L.) are best suited for 2 species, preferably occupying different zones. From there the possibilities expands proportionally to Tank size.

Below is listed a selection of various standard (in Denmark) tank sizes with some rough ideas, of how to decorate and populate them.

Paracyprichromis nigripinnis

Would do splendidly in at Tanganyika community tank, not least accompanied by the two species illustrated above, in a tank of app. 325 L.
In order to make the many species a little easier to match, they are here divided into logical groups of species with common traits, which makes it possible to replace them with each other when planning the stock. If the contents of this Table, and the Table below it, are compared, it should be possible to put together, a stock with a very good chance of success.
Group 1.


Only the small species are included here. The larger species could be counted as part of Group 2

Group 2.

Small Substrate-breeders

The Neolamprologus brichardi group is deliberately left out here, since They can be problematic in this type of setup

Group 3.

Large Substrate-breeders

The Lepidolamprologus species could be included here, but due to Their extraordinary efficiency as predators, I consider Them somewhat unsuited

Group 4.

Small Free swimmers

The Paracyprichromis hardly fits the name, but are included here anyway

Group 5.

Large Free swimmers

The Cyatopharynx species belong here, and could be regarded as equal to the Ophtalmotilapia species, but move the Substrate around so much, that it could be problematic in a decorative tank

Neolamprologus brevis

Neolamprologus ocellatus

Neolamprologus ornatipinnis

Neolamprologus sp. "ornatipinnis zambia"

Neolamprologus stappersii

Julidochromis ornatus

Julidochromis transcriptus

Neolamprologus buescheri

Neolamprologus caudopunctatus

Neolamprologus leleupi

Telmatochromis bifrenatus

Telmatochromis temporalis

Altolamprologus calvus

Altolamprologus compressiceps

Julidochromis marlieri

Julidochromis regani

Neolamprologus cylindricus

Neolamprologus sexfasciatus

Neolamprologus tetracanthus

Neolamprologus tretocephalus

Variabilichromis moorii

Cyprichromis leptosoma

Cyprichromis pavo

Cyprichromis zonatus

Paracyprichromis brieni

Paracyprichromis nigripinnis

Cyprichromis coloratus

Cyprichromis microlepidotus

Cyprichromis sp. "leptosoma jumbo"

Ophtalmotilapia boops

Ophtalmotilapia nasuta

Ophtalmotilapia ventralis

Group 6.

Peaceful Sand-cichlids

The Enantiopus species should be used with caution, as They are easily intimidated, and therefore should only be matched with absolutely peaceful Tank mates

Group 7.

Robust Sand cichlids

Group 8.

Omnivore Goby cichlids

Group 9.

Herbivore Goby cichlids

Group 10.


Generally only ideally suited to each other and group 9

Callochromis pleurospilus

Enantiopus melanogenys

Enantiopus sp. "kilesa"

Xenotilapia flavipinnis

Xenotilapia nigrolabiata

Xenotilapia sp. "papilio"

Callochromis macrops

Callochromis stappersii

Xenotilapia boulengeri

Xenotilapia ochrogenys

Xenotilapia sp. "ochrogenys ndole"

Tanganicodus irsacae


Eretmodus cyanostictus

Eretmodus sp. "cyanostictus north"

Tropheus brichardi

Tropheus moorii

Tropheus sp. "red"

Tropheus sp. "black"

Simochromis babaulti

Aquarium size in Liter/L/B/H Suggested stocks
Under 128L Not suited for this purpose.
Best tactic here, would be to decorate the Tank as a Rocky shore at one end, and Sand coast at the other.

This will suit 1pair from Group 2, and a colony of a species from Group 1.

160L/100/40/40 This Tank is 20 cm. longer than the one mentioned above, which could be used for a rock setting in both ends, and thus have room for 2 pairs of either the same or different species from Group 2 in combination with a colony of a species from Group 1

The increased height/width compared to the 160 L, may be used to let the decorations at each end, meet in the middle, e.g. in the shape of an artificial background, or modules. If arranged with open crevices, and maybe an overhang, it would make af fine niche for a few  P. nigripinnis/brieni in addition to the above mentioned species.

Alternatively, a rock setting i one end, covering no more than 1/4 of the tank length, and free sand bottom for the rest, would hold a single pair of the species from group 2, and a school of a small species from group 6.


The possibilities expands considerably here, because of the increased length of the tank. Tactics could be the same as used for a 250 L, but would give room for larger species of the same types, and opens up for the possibility of a small school of Cyprichromis species from group 4, as replacement for Paracyprichromis. This will result in a lot more movement in the open space. There may even be room for a pair of Tanganicodus irsacae (Group 8).

Alternatively, a herbivorous tank could be an option, with a couple of species from group 9 and 10. See the image for a  decoration suggestion


This tank, will, compared to the ones mentioned above, allow for a whole new group, which has been out of the question in the smaller tanks. It is long enough to hold two schools of 8-16 each of different species (from different genera!) from group 5. Additionally there is room for 1-2 species from group 7, provided the bottom is left relatively open. Alternatively, a bottom with lots of rocks, would be ideal for 2-3 pairs of species (the same or different) from group 2.

Off course, it is still possible to keep the tank with group 9/10, but the possibilities would not expand much from a 325L.

Larger tanks will often have niches, which can be used for fish from different families, like catfish. Most commonly used, are species of the genera, Synodontis which has several species indigenous to Lake Tanganyika, Phyllonemus typus, and various eels.

 The image shows a spiny eel of the species Aethiomastacembelus ellipsifer, investigating a breeding nest for Callochromis stappersi (the booding female is also seen) for eggs.


Here the options are almost too many to single out any that would be significantly better than other. Instead I will give an example from a tank of My own, that actually incorporates more species than I would really recommend, but which worked remarkably well for a long time. The image on top of this article, is of that tank.

Altolamprologus calvus, Ancistrus sp., Callochromis stappersi, Cyprichromis sp. "leptosoma jumbo", Ophtalmotilapia ventralis, Synodontis lucipinnis, Tanganicodus irsacae and Xenotilapia sp. "ochrogenys ndole".

 No less than 8 different species! The key to the fair success lies, apart from space, in the fact, than the number of species that demands a permanent territory, is zero, and that the species distributes Themselves to different niches in the tank.

Only the sand cichlids would occasionally get in the way of each other, but there was room enough for everybody. My problem with the tank, was that, from an aesthetic point of view, it looked a little messy. The inclusion of a non-Tanganyika species, Ancistrus, is due to their great performance as algae control.

Running the Tank.
Generally speaking, the fish in this type of aquarium, can be split in two groups, Omnivorous and herbivorous. Strictly speaking, several species are really carnivorous, but thrive well on the same diet as the omnivorous, provided the meat-content in the food is sufficient. As a rule, the two groups are best kept apart, as it will be difficult to secure the right amount of nutrition (both too little and too much is bad), when They are kept together. Especially the herbivore species are prone to problems, and fatalities are by no means rare!

Various food-types:

Below are shown examples of more or less suitable food, I use Myself. I have included name and Manufacturer, but there are lots of other Manufacturers, Who makes equally good variants of the same types of food. Storage is, for the Frozen food types, self explanatory, but for dry food, a cool place is also beneficial, especially if it is to last a long time. This makes the traditional place on top of the Lamp, a very bad habit!

1: Different types of discs and pills. The discs are Hikari and Tropical green algae wafers, and the pills are JBL Novofect. The discs are very hard, while the pills are easily crushable. Used in herbivorous tanks, with fish from groups 9/10.

2: Flake foods. Here is shown TetraRubin and TetraMin, with a small amount of crushed flakes of both, in the middle. Good basic food, with a suitable mixture of meat and vegetables for most Omnivorous fish, and with added vitamins. This is the staple food, which is also used in crushed form, for juveniles and plankton-feeders.

3: Cichlid sticks. Unfortunately a little large for the smaller species, but in crushed form, a good additive, or as a boost for specimens which suffers from slight malnutrition, e.g. Females just out of brooding. Crushed to powder, it`s splendid food for juveniles. If carnivores, such as Altolamprologus are present, whole sticks might be a good way to feed these, as smaller and faster species can not eat it first.

4: Cyclop-eeze and Spirulina-powder. Cyclop-eeze, which is meant to give boosted colouration, enhanced growth, and added fertility, can be used as an additive on its own, in very small quantities, but are better suited for mixing in e.g. shrimp mix. Spirulina has to be mixed into some other food, and is something to be very careful about! In small quantities, it`s a really good and healthy additive, but it`s very easy to overdose (apparently nobody knows exactly how much this is, and it probably varies according to species). Overdosing can lead to the so called melanin spots, which appears as little black spots on the fish. Apparently it does not bother the Fish, but it is ugly! If these spots appear on the Fish, feeding with any kind of food containing Spirulina, should be terminated. With some luck, the spots will disappear in time, but it will probably take several months.

5: Frozen shrimp-mix. D.I.Y, or buy it from the few dealers that carries it. Use it by breaking it in suitable pieces. It is a fantastic additive, that practically all fish loves. It can be mixed just like needed (see recipe suggestion). It is a great daily addition to dry foods, but as it does not (in the suggested recipe) have enough nutrients, it must be mixed with something else. It gives a powerful colour enhancement (even without the Cyclop-eeze addition) and works splendidly at keeping the intestine system of acclimatizing fish going.

6: Frozen cyclops. Carried by most dealers, as either plates that can be broken in suitable pieces, or in blister packs, where the food is already portioned out (what are the odds, that these portions are right for Your particular needs?). Splendid food, but too small for some of the larger species. Especially good for the species in group 4/5, since it is a lot like their natural food. Also great at raising fry, as it yields a very fine growth rate, and excellent colours.

7: Frozen adult artemia. Carried by most dealers, as either plates that can be broken in suitable pieces, or in blister packs, where the food is already portioned out. This is a really good food, for all omnivore and carnivore cichlids.










Recipe for shrimp mix:

2 parts frozen shrimp incl. shell, 2 part frozen peas and 1 part frozen spinach. If extra colur-enhancing effect is desired, Cyclop-eeze can be added, but should be limited to max. 5% of the total weight. Spirulina powder can be added, but should be limited to max 1% (see above). Everything is run at least 2 times through a meat-grinder, put into zipper bags of suitable size before freezing, so it will be easy to break suitable pieces off for feeding.

Water changes.
A Tanganyika tank is usually fairly heavily stocked, and the lively cichlids expels a lot of pollutants. As mentioned in the Startup section, the Filter reduces these pollutants to Nitrate (NO3). This Nitrate is actually also poisonous, albeit about a 100 times less than Nitrite (NO2).
Something has to be done to keep the concentration to an acceptable level. Nitrate filters do exist, but they are expensive and demands a certain technical skill,  so the good old-fashioned water change, is the best and safest solution.
The necessary level of this water change, varies with the load on the system, but 1/4-1/3 of the total volume per week, will usually be fine. It is best, if the  old water can be replaced with tempered water from the Tab, but in some locations, the hot water contains traces of metals and/or bacteria from from the Water heater, which is highly undesirable to get in contact with the cichlids.
Generally speaking, locations with a more or less constant throughput (e.g. apartment complexes) are safe, whereas locations with little and erratic throughput (leaving the hot water in heater for prolonged periods) are not. In these instances, it is safest to use cold water only, compensating by not changing as much water at one time, but then do it more often.

Water changes are rarely among even the most enthusiastic aquarists favorite pastimes, but it does not have to be so bad at all!

It is possible to lighten the workload considerably, by using well thought out and functional tools. The remedies illustrated below, has a price of just about 100 US$. That may sound a little expensive, but apart from the relatively cheap Hose, They lasts a lifetime, and saves a lot of toil and aggravation. With this set of tools, a complete 1/3 water change on 7 Tanks with a combined volume of 3300 liter, can be completed in 3 hours. This time can be used to do the various check ups and maintenance on the tanks, since the water is running by itself.


These Fittings are carried by most DIY stores. They`re made from PVC, Which is glued together with PLASTMO rain-gutter glue. The straight pieces, can be screwed onto the Bend, as well as together. The Bend makes sure that the whole thing stays in place, and the Grate prevent small fish from being sucked out of the Tank. The other end of the Hose is mounted with the Male half of a large Eheim coupling. Emptying of the Tank is started by powerful suction here, and then keeping the outlet lower than the Tank. Gravity takes care of the rest. When the desired amount of water is out of the Tank, the Hose is connected to the Tap, via the Female half og the Eheim coupling, combined with a common Gardena coupling, and the flow is reversed by turning the Tap on. As long as You`re already in the proces of emptying the Tank, You may just as well try to get rid of the Dirt collected in the gravel/sand and between the Rocks. This is easily done with the illustrated contraption, here mounted on the PVC fittings. You simply insert the Tube into the sand and between the Rocks, and let the contained dirt out with the water to be changed.
Cleaning the Filter.  
If appropriately dimensioned, the filter can go a long time between cleanings. Often the need for a cleaning can be visibly checked, by looking at the outlet, if this is above the waterline during a water change. If the flow is recognizably slower than usually, it is time for a cleaning. How this is done, varies according to the make of the filter, and it is always a good idea to consult the manual (I presume, that those Who have been building their own filter, also have some ideas as to how it is cleaned, and thus do not need any instructions).  
General maintenance.
Apart from the above mentioned, only cleaning of the inside of the glass, is really Aquarium related. it is best done with an Algae scraper, which works just like the Ice scraper for a car, albeit with a razorblade. It is a good idea to watch it a little when the scraper is in close proximity to the sealing, but other than that, it is by far the safest way to clean the glass, without risking the scratches, the widely used Algae-magnets can be accounted to. On the outside, the glass is cleaned with a soft cloth, combined with some sort of Window-cleaner.

Other family members (and the Guests that has to endure the proud presentations of the aquatic wonder) will probably appreciate it, if the Tank, and Its immediate surroundings, are kept reasonably free of spilled food and the likes!

Generally speaking, the community tank is totally unsuited as a breeding tank, as any fry, will almost with a 100% certainty, end up as extra food for other fish.

The exceptions are a couple of substrate- and shell breeders, with an extremely efficient and prolonged protective behavior, that gives the fry a reasonably high chance of survival, and tanks containing exclusively Herbivores, which usually have a very high survival rate, provided that the Tank is usefully decorated.

For the rest of the species, an active effort is required. Easiest are the mouth brooders of groups 4, 5, 6 and 7, where only isoation of the brooding female after breeding, is necessary, so They have a safe place (preferably a separate tank, to which the female have been transferred, 18-20 days after breeding) to release Their fry.

The substrate breeders of group 2/3 are more difficult; The chosen pair can be moved to a species tank for the duration, or an attempt to remove the fry, as soon as possible, can be made

Although Tanganyika tanks are easy to maintain, occasionally various causes for irritation/aggravation will inevitably arise, just as with any other type of tank.
Here is a list of the most common ones.
Algae can, even if some of Them are highly desirable, get very annoying. Generally, algae is a natural part of the bio culture in the tank, and if They get out of hand, it is most likely that something is askew. Typically the problem revolves around levels of nutrients in the water and/or amount of light. Too much of either, can cause the algae growth to surge, especially in new tanks, so logically, the obvious remedy is to reduce one or both. This means a reduction of food, and shorter periods of lighting. If the tank is placed in direct sunlight, some sort of screening may be necessary. Alternatively the Algae can be reduced by Ancistrus in the tank, if Biotopic integrity is not a priority.
While most types of algae, at worst, are a nuisance, there is one type that is really aggravating; Slime algae, or as they are also called, Blue green algae, which forms large mats of slimy, foul smelling layers covering and suffocating just about anything in the tank, can be a real pest, and is very hard to get rid of (Ancistrus will not help), and in some cases, a total restart of the Tank may be necessary. Before resorting to that, mechanically removing (suck Them out with a Hose) the algae, stopping any feeding for as long as the fish can take it, which is several weeks for healthy adult cichlids (or the fish may be removed from the Tank), and dampen the light to almost total darkness, over a prolonged period, may be worth trying.
Snails are not really a problem, but may be a nuisance if their propagation is not kept in check. Actually snails, especially Malay snails, are quite nice to have, as they keep the substrate from clogging. In tanks with no natural predators, they can, however, be so prolific, that it degrades the look of the tank, which makes it desirable to reduce their numbers. The easiest way is actually to collect them manually, but this entails at least 10 minutes of work on each tank every day, over a period of a couple of weeks, to be really effective. Snail traps are also a possibility. The trap could be a Soda-can, which is placed in the Tank, with some sort of bait (e.g. a Disc) inside. After a while (several hours), the Can is removed and discarded. This has to be repeated every now and then.
It is also possible to incorporate snail eating species into the stock.
Neolamprologus sexfasciatus and Neolamprologus tretocephalus are great at it, if they fit in.
Also various loaches are good, and easier to mix with the cichlids, but They have no natural affiliation to lake Tanganyika.

Fortunately Tanganyika cichlids are very hardy, and provided the tank is running satisfactorily, They are not very prone to infections or parasites.

It would be too tedious, in an article already very long, to list all the possible diseases, so I will concentrate on one, which apparently affects African cichlids, and especially Tropheus very much, compared to other known aquarium fish; It is not very well defined, and could in fact be more than a single disease, but it is commonly known as Bloat.

The symptoms are refusal to feed, and as the disease gets stronger, the fish takes a position close to the substrate, slowly waggling Its body with all fins stretched. Often It has a visibly swollen abdomen. At this stage, there is really nothing left to do, but putting the victim down, but it is important to start treatment immediately, to save the rest of the Stock.

On the Internet, a lot of homespun methods can be found, some fairly good, other utterly ridiculous and in a few instances downright dangerous to the fish, their keeper and the environment.  I would strongly recommend sticking to the "officially approved" treatments from reputable vendors, which is fairly effective, if given in time. The medicaments should be given in double dose though.

This disease is obviously not the easiest to deal with, since any fish showing clear symptoms are often beyond recovery, so it is better to focus on prevention. It is fairly certain, that the disease is caused by a flagellate, which is always present in the intestines of any cichlid, but suddenly propagates violently, destroying the intestines of the victim in case of e.g. stress.

 Stress can be induced by quick changes in the environment (water quality, food), but can also be the result of prolonged pressure from Tank mates or simply wrong- or over feeding, which should be avoided or at least minimized.

This concludes this article. I hope it can be an easily accessible source of guidance and inspiration towards a well functioning  aquarium.
Kim Jakobsen, may 2007. Edited june 2010.