When should I add this adult mbuna?


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Jeremy Gay advises a reader on mixing an adult mbuna with juveniles.

Image: Lemon drop mbuna, Labidochromis caeruleus. 

Q: My 550 l tank sprang a leak and I quickly got rid of all but my Lemon drop mbuna, which I’ve had since it was just a fry following my first experience with cichlids. This fish is now about 10cm in length and swimming around in a 90 l tank while I set up a new 250 l one. 

I will be filling the tank with juvenile mbuna and this one adult fish, which I think is a female. 

Should I put the adult in with the first batch of juveniles, or should I settle maybe 15 juveniles in before adding the adult? Could I also add a Red-tailed shark or some bottom feeders? 


A: Jeremy says: I would introduce all the juveniles first and let them grow up a bit and establish territories. 

If you add the adult fish at the same time, it will be the dominant fish, which should be okay if it's a female, but if it turns out to be a male, it will be a terror, and will affect what you add in the future. 

Don’t add any non-mbuna fish such as the Red-tailed shark you mention; it won’t appreciate the hard, alkaline water and the crowded conditions that the mbuna need. The cichlids will steal its food too. Stick to rock-dwelling Malawi mbuna only.