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Malawi Bloat

This article was worked on by our good friend Nads, this took a lot of her time up to sort it out which will help our members time and time again. Thanks to Nads for this.

Moderators: Nads, Ray, iwade4fish, Super Turtleman

Malawi Bloat

PostAuthor: Nads » Sun Feb 17, 2008 10:54

Mbuna from lake malawi are generally algae "grazers". Their teeth have adapted to rasp or scrape algae found on rocks in search of their primary food source. By doing this they pick up all sorts of micro-organisms that live in the algae. They are 90% vegetarian. The fact that their digestive track can only digest mostly vegetable matter due to it’s long design, is why a lot of hobbyists could suffer with “Malawi Bloat”.

The first signs of “bloat” are usually white stringy faeces, followed by the withdrawal of the affected fish at feeding time. Heavy breathing, clamped fins (usually the pectoral fins being held tightly against the torso) and problems with balance and swaying, seem to preclude the final stage of bloat where the fish literally balloons up and expires. These symptoms usually persist for anywhere from 3 days to 10 days. The bloating is caused by either a protozoan parasite or bacteria which is already present in most mbuna’s digestive track. Once the fish’s immune system is lowered, the parasites/ bacteria take hold and multiply, blocking the digestive track and ultimately consuming the internal organs.

Once your fish has bloated it is usually to late to save them. Worst of all Bloat seems to be contagious. Other fish in your tank can contract bloat though sifting and eating waste left to rot in the substrate. That is why it is so important to watch your fish eat at meal time. Cichlids are manic eaters, and if for some reason one fish isn’t eating or is hanging near the bottom. Something is definitely wrong.

The dreaded Malawi Bloat can be induced by a number of factors including, stress, poor water conditions, overfeeding, and in most cases feeding the wrong type of food, avoid foods that contain a high protein level, anything meat based or "warm blooded animal by-products" . A good quality spirulina flake diet and weekly water changes of at least 30% can go a long way to prevent illness in your tank of Mbuna.

Many medications exist for bloat, some more harmful than others to your fish and your tank setup. For starters a large water change is recommended before treating the entire tank. It’s quite likely that poor water conditions are the cause once you’ve eliminated diet.
The Top Three Mbuna keeping secrets

Feed mostly a vegetarian diet.
Remove all decaying waste when you do your weekly water changes using a water vacuum or python . 30% per week minimum.
Choose a fine substrate that is capable of buffering Ph and water hardness like play sand or crushed coral. This makes water chemistry simple.

Additional information can be found at the following link;

Malawi Bloat Treatment
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