So, adding the vals that I’d gotten from a local Crazy Fish Guy™ caused quite a stir in my tank – even though I hadn’t rearranged the rock piles at all, the fish definitely seemed to be thrown into a tizzy. My two colored-up saulosi males started fighting, so I was keeping watch on them. Before I went to bed, I saw that one of the two seemed to have “submitted” – he was lurking low in the tank, keeping his fins to himself, and “colored down” a bit – paler than normal. He had some scale damage, but no tattered fins and he wasn’t trying to hide behind the filter outputs or up in a corner of the tank. Since these two fish had been peacefully coexisting for months – and through a breeding – I figured that would be the end of it.
It wasn’t. The alpha male was just waiting for me to go to bed.
Unfortunately, by the next morning, the damage had been done – the second male had been viciously beaten in the night, and though I immediately isolated him, he only lived a day and a half. I wasn’t even sure which “alpha” male had been responsible – the alpha rusty had been acting more aggressively than the saulosi had been, up to this point.
So I waited and watched, and this morning, I found the mostly-yellow “third” male lurking in the same spot at the center of the tank, down near the substrate, as the deceased male had been. That was NOT going to fly, not at all. So I hauled out my net, popped an algae disk into it, and made a point of trying to lure one of the two males into the net. Unfortunately, they seem to have figured out that net = scary danger, and both of them were too canny to be easily caught. (And somehow the other fish just seem to know that you’re not after them!) I eventually managed to corner the subdominant male and net him, though. He doesn’t seem to be injured at all, but his color had that splotchy-black “I’m really stressed!” look, and the alpha saulosi chased him across the whole tank and back once while I was watching. I’d have gone after the colored-up male, but unfortunately he was more difficult to catch (I’d failed an ambush on him already).
One of the “juvies” – smaller fish – still in there looks like he’s a male as well, but that one won’t be a good replacement for Psycho Alpha, since I’m a bit suspicious of his breeding – he’s got what looks like way too many bars on one side. If he does start to color up, I’ll have to pull him as well. This makes me nervous, because every fish that comes out of there decreases the species density and makes aggression more likely – and the fry are not going to be large enough to return to the adult tank for many months.
Oh, and the rusties seem to be going through some of the same problems, though they haven’t killed yet. I may have to try pulling the alpha rusty male out – there simply aren’t enough adult rusties in the tank for me to pull any of the others out. Which is a shame, because the alpha rusty is the only one who’s showing the nice purple color in that group, and I suspect he’s going to be even harder to catch than the saulosi as he spends way more time in his caves!
Just goes to show, don’t try to keep mbuna unless you have at least one extra tank and plenty of isolation boxes available… and if you want to breed them, have at least three tanks for them. I need to get another heater for my third tank, one of my old heaters gave out – thankfully stuck in the “off” position. I’ve had one go out the other way, and cook most of the fish in the tank. Since that happened, I’ve been “undersizing” the heaters instead of using the five-watts-per-gallon rule. The fish tanks are in my main living area, after all, and so the room temperature doesn’t get too cold.
What with having to pull fish out, I’m thinking of maybe getting another species group for the tank – I don’t really want to get more acei, though they are pretty and peaceful; they just get too big as adults to really look right in a four-foot tank. Going to have to do some research!