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Questions  1.
                                                                                                                      
                                                             (More Topics --Q2)

Q.    WHAT  do I  need  to start ?   and   HOW  do  I   `look after`   the  tank.
A.   It isn`t difficult  if   your  given the direction and guidance from someone who has
 experienced some of the problems over the years.  After all, this is where `know how`
 is  gained. I hope that you will follow  the advice to the letter initially, and then when
 you see how successful  you are,  your confidence grows and you  will  wonder what
 the  worries  were all about.
 First  the  tank.  It  should  be as big  as you  can `house`,  for a number of reasons.  A
 good average size to start with  is  48" long  by 18" tall  by 15" wide.  A big tank  (ie.a
 bigger   volume  of  water)  is  more  easily  kept  `chemically balanced` than a small
 tank.  There  are  basically  three  main  tank  conditions  which need  to  be  `set`  to
 maintain  a healthy  environment  for  Malawis  and  Tanganyikans.  They are  Water
 Hardness, Temperature and  Water pH value. If all  these are kept at  the  levels I am
 going to suggest now, the fish will eat well (always ready to eat) and show excellent
 growth  rate. Malawis  will adapt  to  almost any  water condition  within reason, but  
 they will only survive ----- This way they will thrive !!!!

Q.   What Qualities should  `Suitable Water` have.

A.   From  experience  my  recommended  values  are:-

       Hardness   (Gh)     18 / 22 Din (German Standard) or   324 / 396 ppm.(BS)
       Temperature         80 / 82 F.  (27 / 28 C)
       pH    (Alkalinity)    8.2 / 8.5

Q.    How do I get the Water ready for fish.
A.   To obtain these figures/values isn`t nearly as difficult as most people imagine.
1.   We`ll start with  Hardness.
 Most  tap  water  isn`t  hard  enough.  It  is best  to  buy a Gh  test  kit and be sure, but  
 straight  out of the tap,  dependant  upon  where  you  live, will be  between 1 /14Din.
 (1Din Gh  and  8.9 pH  are my  `out- of- the- tap`  values). To harden , add  Magnesium
 Sulphate (which is Epsom Salts BP, human usage grade from the chemist) until, with
 testing,the value is 20. The amount required to take a tank of dimension 48#18#15ins.
 (approx. 45gals.200ls)  from Gh 6 to Gh20,  would be  about 10/12 table spoons. If  it is
 overdone  (ie say 25 din)  it isn`t  going to harm the fish , (I have  bred Nimbo.LINNI in
 55 Din).   All  you do  is  drain a  little off,   as though  doing  your  water  change  and
 top up again with tap water, and recheck the value.
2.   The  pH  figure  isn`t  quite as  easy  to  obtain,   but  I`ll run  through the procedure.
 Assuming   your  water  is  `low` , in  the  region  of   7/ 7.4  then  with  the  addition  of
 Bicarbonate  of  Soda` , (again can be obtained  from the chemists), a value of  8.1pH
 can be  obtained  immediately.   This large adjustment however should only be done
 on a  tank  without  fish  (new tank set-up),  as it would  shock/stress  the fish if it were
 done at one  application.  This  is  because each  pH point  is 10  times  higher  up the
 pH scale.  Therefore  from pH7.4 to pH8.1 is 10million times  more alkaline and would
 do the fish harm.  The natural pH of  `Bicarbonate of Soda`  is approx.  8.1, increasing
  the value  more,  can be achieved  by  adding  crushed  cockle  shell  in any  type  of
 power filter,  by  replacing the charcoal,or some of   the `ceramics` with cockle.It acts
 as both a mechanical  filter,  taking out  larger  particles  of  debris/detrious, and also
 more importantly as a pH increaser and also a pH buffer,preventing daily fluctuations
 in pH levels. Add cockle to smaller internal power filters by removing half of the filter
 sponge,and  putting in the crushed cockle. The filter would need more attention as it  
 would then be slightly  less efficient  at removing debris. I feel this is out-weighed by
the pH advantages` as covered above.

3.   The  temperature  requirement  is  self  explanetary,  but  should   be maintained
       reasonably accurately.
 In  both  lakes  the  temperature  doesn`t  fluctuate  much  more than 3/4`C in 50m.  of
 water.There is little thermocline, ( vertical water circulation ), due mainly to the fact
 that  the geology of the  region  (volcanic)  maintains the  equilibrium in temperature.
 However,  in the rainy season, mid November / mid February, with the influx of  fresh
 water, however  minute relatively,  induces the fish to breed. This natural occurance  
 has a parallel in our tanks. Water change is good for several reasons. In a small tank
 volume  ammonia`s  build up, and a good combination is correct filtration combined  
 with regular changing  of between  10% and 20% of  tank volume weekly. If 10% is the
 chosen figure, then do it with COLD water,as it will only reduce the tank temperature  
 by a few degrees, and you will see that the fish appreciate it,and if you havn`t tried it
before, it could induce fish to breed, which may not have done so far.

 Q.        What `filtration and decoration` can be used in a Malawi tank.

A.   If an under gravel filter plate is to be used, then substrate such as gravel,or gravel
 and crushed cockle shell mixed, or just crushed cockle shell can be  used.  Basically,   
 it depends on the colour you want to see in your tank.The thing to bear in mind is that
 the lighter  colour  the  substrate,  the  sooner an algal growth appears.  You probably
 know that  this  should  be green, and in time will cover all  surfaces. If the filtration is
 internal or  external  cannister,  then  the  tank bottom only  requires a  covering of 12
 to 18mm.  (1/2" to 3/4")  of fine coral gravel,  grain size 2/3mm. max.  The fish, in their  
 routine of  feeding and  grubbing,  will move it around easily,  thus  dislodging debris
 which will then  find its  way to the filter unit.  The substrate is  purely to stop  the fish
 seeing their reflection in the bottom glass. As previously mentioned, rockwork is best
 not  leaned  against  the  back  glass,   for  the  reasons  stated.  Tufa  `PYRAMIDS` are
 constructed  by  assembling  them  in   the  form  of  a  molecular  model.  That  is my
 description.  As  the  tufa is very  soft,  it can be  gouged,  drilled or  bored out  in  the
 correct  places to allow  plastic `joining rods` to be positioned, and fixed with the aid
 of   silicone  glue.  This allows  for  quite a  sturdy  tower to be built up,  to almost any  
 height. The  `joining rods` are the two halves of a plastic clothes peg (with the spring
 removed) .You can let your imagination run riot, but remember two things, firstly, the
 finished  structure has to go in through the narrowest part of the tanks  strengthening
 bars at the tank top, and second, if tufa is dry it is relatively light, but if it  needs to be
 moved out of  the tank when wet, `lightweight` it is certainly not.  Plastic plants are a
 bonus  for  Malawi  keepers,  given that only  a couple of  varieties of  `natural` plants  
 will  grow  in  hard  and  alkaline  water.  Java Fern  and  Vallisneria  were  the  best
 for me, but  the  fish love  to  nibble the latter, and  the former is a  very  slow  grower.
 A  wide  range  of  very  realistic  looking plants are on  the market,and are available
 in 18" and 24" lengths, to plant up even the deepest tanks.  A large clump of  maybe
 three  bunches,  if  supported  from   the top  of  your  newly  constructed  tufa  tower,  
 would allow a brooding  female to  take  some refuge if  needed, as  well  as adding
 a  focal  point of  green to the upper tank levels.
                                                                (More Topics -- Q2)