We speak to Romanian fishkeeper Poiana Silviu about his mbuna set-up.
When did you set up this tank?
It was completed in April 2010, but I started working on it during February of that year — getting the cabinet, light system and glass, and going into the mountains to collect the rocks I needed.
Did you experience any particular problems in the process?
I didn’t have any major problems setting up — just minor bugbears like carrying the cabinet’s 150 kg/ 400 lb metal frame up many stairs to my ninth floor as it wouldn’t fit in the lift.
I also had to carry the bottom glass part of the tank up the stairs too!
A few months ago I broke the magnetic impeller of my Fluval FX5 filter during a cleaning session, so I had to wait two weeks for a new one. In the meantime the whole tank had to work only on a Hydor Prime 30 for filtration.
My biggest problem is that because of its size and the rock formations, I can’t net any fish from the tank, especially the fry that survive among the rocks, so my stocking density is slowly growing.
There are several generations of fry surviving among those rocks, but I can’t count them. I see new ones once in a while.
Your stocking selection looks very sensible, with no aggressive species. Is your collection based on previous experience or do you take advice?
Before I started on this tank, I spent a lot of time researching Lake Malawi, including water parameters and types of habitats, and looked at pictures and underwater videos. I’ve dedicated most of my time to mbuna species — investigating their aggression, diet, breeding and behaviour.
After that I talked to other experienced African cichlid fishkeepers, picking up tips and tricks from them.
Would you change anything about your set-up?
If doing it again, I’d change my livestock to other mbuna species, or even go with Tanganyikans. If I can find two big rocks for the left and right side of the tank that match the existing ones and help cover the hardware all the way to the top, I’ll certainly add them.
What’s your maintenance regime?
I do up to 40% weekly water changes, vacuum the sand and clean the algae from the front glass and sides. Once every few months I clean my external filters.
What advice would you give people wanting to set up a similar tank?
Choose species carefully, based on behaviour, cross-breeding risk, colour contrast and diet. Don’t mix large haplochromines with small mbuna unless you want to see some hunting behaviour in action!
Use rocks similar in shape, colour and texture with the ones in the lake to get that authentic, natural feeling.
Take good care of your fish and they will reward you with stunning displays, behaviour and a lot of fry.
If size and budget were no object, what set-up would you create?
I would make the fourth wall of my living room the front glass of my dream tank, from left to right and from floor to ceiling.Then I’d feel as if my house was built under water among the fishes. How cool would that be?
Name: Poiana Silviu
Occupation: Sales representative
Location: Bucharest, Romania
Years of experience: 20 years. I started keeping fish as a little boy, but stopped after just a few years. I returned to the hobby two years ago.
I’ve been keeping Malawi cichlids since May 2009 in a tank that’s smaller than the one featured here.
Tank size: 200 x 70x 50cm/80 x 28 x 20”
Total volume: 700 l/154 gal.
Livestock: Eight Metriaclima sp. ‘daktari’, seven Labidochromis caeruleus ‘Lion’s cove’, five Pseudotropheus sp. ‘Acei’ (Msuli), four Pseudotropheus sp. ‘Elongatus Mpanga’ (pictured above) and three Metriaclima pulpican.
Lighting: Four 30w JBL Solar Marin Day tubes.
Filtration: One Fluval FX5 and one Hydor Prime 30, both containing bio media.
If you enjoyed this article, why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? Check out our latest subscription offer.