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Planning The Malawi Fish Tank Set Up

After spending years working on building aquariums and aquascapes I have learned that the key to success is to plan what you are going to do before taking the plunge and opening the wallet. So when I moved the Tropheus Ikola from their bringing on home in to their new home I was left with an empty 240l Fluval Roma Aquarium.


This left me with a perfect opportunity to attempt another rift valley aquarium based on fish from lake Malawi. I have always admired cichlids from lake Malawi which I think is mainly down to their colour and playful nature. They are always swimming around and exhibit interesting activity which makes observing a treat. I have kept Malawi in the past to the point of filling a 750 litre tank with them however over time became slightly more conscious of the species I was keeping, their compatibility and what else was available. I ended up with over 100 Malawi cichlids in a 7 foot tank, a mixture of males and females as well as a variety of species however I realised there were many more out there and with a fascination with Tropheus cichlids the Malawi’s were rehomed.

After thinking about the reason for rehoming the Malawi’s being mainly down to thinking I had the wrong species and with the extra knowledge I had gained over the years I thought it was about time and opportune to use this spare 240 litre tank to have a go at Malawi’s again. The aim of this tank is colour – to give the wow factor.


Without trying to tell you how to suck eggs or anything, there are 3 basic types of Malawi cichlid; Mbuna, Aulonocara and Haps. The main differences are explained in this article but as a summary Mbuna are rock grazers and primarily vegetarian whereas Aulonocara and Haps are more open water Cichlids and although they will graze on rocks, they are classed as predatory cichlids which must have fish in their diet. It was decided to gain the wow factor we wanted to concentrate on Aulonocara and Hap cichlids. Whilst a 240 litre tank isn’t ideal for the potential size of Haps, these can be moved to a larger aquarium as they get bigger.

Now the tank and fish had been decided upon, the equipment would be next, always like to be safe with this side of things and use 2 of everything if possible and over do things rather than leave things on the edge, this results in a much more stable environment for the fish to live in too. So we would use 2 filters, 2 heaters and ensure this is overkill for the size of aquarium.

For further information on what equipment we used and final fish and aquascape check out the article dedicated to this aquarium and it’s history.