Lake Victoria Cichlids
The deeper-sea species have been known to science for many years, but the rock-dwelling cichlids, called Mbipi (‘Ma-Bippy’) are a fairly recent discovery, having been found during the 1980s.
Although rare in captivity, some Lake Victoria cichlids are available to aquarists as specimens released by captive breeding programs.
Many of these species are believed to be extinct in the wild and exist only through the work of specialized cichlid keepers. They are among the most brilliantly colored and strikingly patterned of the cichlids, and are relatively easy to keep and breed.
It is possible to find for our aquariums Astatotilapia obliquidens, Astatotilapia latifasciata (Lake Kioga), Astatotilapia sp. ‘Ruby Green’, Astatotilapia sp. ‘Kenya Gold’, Astatotilapia nubila, Astatotilapia brownae and Astatotilapia sp. ‘CH44’.
What conditions do Lake Victoria cichlids require?
These aggressive fish are often kept alongside Malawi Mbuna fish, but do best when kept alone in tanks. While they are generally kept in hard, alkaline water, they also do well (and produce larger offspring) when kept in neutral conditions.
They should not be bred with community fish, but smaller insectivorous species can often be combined with schools of smaller ‘dither’ fish, such as Danios.
The tank should be at least 90cm x 30cm x 36cm, and should be stocked with copious amounts of bog rocks and wood, and very well filtered. Most species leave the plants alone and take refuge among the vallisneria.
Do Lake Victoria Cichlids need to be overpopulated?
If Lake Victoria cichlids are kept in a community with other fish from the same lake, they will have to be overcrowded; otherwise the males will become hyper-dominant and may kill other fish in the tank.
At 90cm x 30cm x 36cm it should hold around 20 fish as these are generally smaller and more aggressive than Mbuna.
However, for breeding purposes, only one species should be kept per tank. Lake Victoria cichlids often hybridize in captivity, and it is important to keep existing species pure. Like the Lake Malawi Cichlids, Victorians do not form true pairs, they are polygamous.
A single male will often mate with multiple females during a single day. To successfully breed these fish, keep at least 3 females for every male. A large colony of a single species not only looks impressive, but is also more likely to reproduce successfully.