Personally I would go with (for a 250 litre tank):
1 male Acei, 3 - 4 females 1 male Labidochromis Caeruleus, 2 females 1 male Maingano (Cyanoerhabdos), 2 - 3 females 1 male Saulosi or Sprengarae, 2 females
That's quite heavily stocked so wouldn't add any more but you could have a couple of bottom feeders but make sure you go with species native to the rift lakes such as Synodontis Petricola or Synodontis Multipunctatus.
Stay away from Bristlenoses, most species grow too big for your tank and they prefer a lower pH range to Malawis. You'd regret it anyway as the more you get into cichlids the more you'll want to try and recreate a similar habitat to the rift lakes, and bristlenoses look out of place in a Malawi tank IMO.
Also do not get clown loaches. Some people do it but they'll outgrow all of your cichlids. They're a beautiful fish don't get me wrong, but you can't provide for them long term with a 250 litre tank. You'd need to be looking at a 7 - 8 foot tank, and again there's the issues of them not being native as with the bristlenose above.
Re: New Project, - New babies in my Quarantine Tank
Thanks for that! I'm currently raising some Synodontis Petricola (11 in fact) with a view to breeding them, but I think it's a good year off yet, although they do seem to be fattening up quickly since I bought them 3 months ago, greedy little beggars! The zebras sound very similar in nature and temperament to my petricola. Mine are nearly a year old and only just topping 1 inch, with a couple of the greedy ones being about 1.5 inches.
I'm not averse to hearing any positive stories - none of us enjoy hearing people's mishaps! Please note that any previous comments were directed at the standard bowl-shaped biOrb and not the biOrb Life.
I notice you have gone with the Berlin method of filtration. I bet it was a bit of a task getting the skimmer connected? I assume it runs externally so assume you're a bit of a handyman like myself ;) Well done on that one can we see some pics? Did you have to drill the tank?
I have to say though, I'm not trying to put a downer on it but I'm worried for the Maroon clown. They do need a minimum of 120 litres each - 240 litres for a pair. Are you looking at upgrading your tank in the future?
Fuelleborni - I kept a few of these and they were very peaceful, except when the male was chasing the females during spawning. I've read that they can be very aggressive towards eachother though, although I never had any problems whilst they were in my care. What you sometimes find is you get a peacemaker in a tank - a fish that isn't overly aggressive but doesn't stand for any fighting in the tank. I had a Frontosa at the time (not recommended) that I'd inherited with the tank, and he would stop any fights going on in the tank by getting in between the two fish and taking over the fight with the more aggressive fish, who always backed down. So, this could have been why I didn't see much fighting from them as I rehomed the Frontosa and the Fuelleborni on the same day. Fuelleborni Marmalade are really nice though, that was my favourite.
Anyway, just to reinforce that I don't recommend keeping a Frontosa - they need a Tanganyikan species tank about 6 - 8 foot long and they need to be kept in a group of 5 or more.
Saulosi are a great fish. I kept a pair of these but they both died from what seemed like a debilitating disease. I never worked out what it was, I think that selective breeding in this species has caused some unwanted traits, as the Saulosi Coral I believe is a manmade hybrid.
Johannii I never had any problems with. Just make sure you don't keep it with any other Melanochromis (horizontally striped) species.
Cyaneohabdos - also called Maingano, is often confused with Johanni as the males look almost identical. Female Johanni however are yellow-y orange. Behaviour and temperament is pretty much the same.
M. Interruptus is also very similar looking to Johanni but has more of a checkerboard stripe than purely horizontal.
Demasoni I've never dealt with personally but I like the look of them and know many who have kept them without too much trouble but they can be aggressive if mixed with other blue/black vertical striped fish and will obviously fight amongst themselves for pecking order too.
My experience with Estherae isn't a good one. They are very aggressive, especially the OB variant.
Chismulae and Afra are a very similar looking fish and will clash. In fact, Afra themselves will have a go at anything, so I'd go with the Chisumulae, although a word of caution on mixing Chismulae and Caeruleus - being from the same genus they may cross breed, so make sure (if you do go with both) that you get a decent ratio of males/female (1 male and 3 females is about right). They may also fight, although this is less likely as they are different colouring.
Acei - absolutely cracking fish. I had 7 of these on their own in a 200 litre tank and they were great. They are the only Malawi cichlid that stick together and swim in a shoal, eating algae from bogwood (which also makes them unique). They do grow big though, I've seen some that top 8 inches...
Sprengerae are lovely fish and shouldn't cause you any bother. Actually scratch that as there's always an exception to the rule. You'll find that getting the right balance in your tank may take a while... just be careful not to combine similarly coloured species to the tank and steer clear of the more aggressive fish and you should be OK. Those (for me at least) would be:
Melanochromis Chipokae (Extremely Aggressive - will kill overnight) Melanochromis Auratus (Quite Aggressive) Pseudotropheus Elongatus & Cynoptilapia Afra (Territorially Aggressive - will dig burrow and persistently chase other inhabitants to the outskirts of the tank) Maylandia Estherae & Maylandia Estherae OB (Very Aggressive)
Oh, Labidochromis Caeruleus are also fine, but try not to have more than 1 male. I had a 2 males together and had to separate them as one was bullied into the corner constantly.
Some more good news. My copepod population has rocketed and I'm seeing them all over the glass. Big ones too, so my Mandarins will be happy. They have also started feeding on mysis again so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll regain some weight.
I've also sold my two engineer gobies to a reputable LFS
Sad to see them go but at least they've stopped messing up my sump, and hopefully they will go to someone with a much bigger tank.