Prevention of Malawi Bloat

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Postby Mick e. t. » 2005-11-19 03:51


Prevention of Malawi Bloat

by Terry Ranson

First published in Fincinnati, the official newsletter of the Greater Cincinnati Aquarium Society

Besides territorial aggression, the main problem with Malawi cichlids is their tendency to get what has become known as Malawi bloat. This ailment is also known as African cichlid disease or African bloat. Malawi bloat can easily be prevented, and even cured, through proper husbandry.

I maintain more than 50 aquaria for the customers of my small aquarium maintenance business, and nearly half of those are populated with Malawi cichlids. I have discovered overfeeding is the primary cause of Malawi bloat.

Malawi bloat is primarily characterized by a distended stomach. Without a decrease in feeding, the disease then advances to a point where the stomach acquires a cylindrical appearance. In extreme cases, the entire fish appears swollen, and the scales will stand away from the body, giving the fish the appearance of a pine-cone. Indeed, when this affects goldfish, it is often referred to as “Pine-cone disease.” This body swelling is more properly called ascites.

Bloat is indicated by the stomach being uniformly distended; if the swelling is more of a lump than a swelling, it is probably a tumor, which is almost always incurable. Postmortem examinations of fish which die from bloat show the livers covered with a yellow, fatty substance. Secondary bacterial infections usually occur, but I believe this is simply the result of the stress caused by liver failure and possibly kidney failure as well.

Antibiotic treatment for Malawi bloat seems a waste of time in my opinion. Worse, it may result in antibiotic-resistant diseases down the road.

In addition to overfeeding, poor water conditions may be a factor in Malawi bloat, but since I always do water changes on a regular basis, I really can’t say. Without water changes, fish will die from a number of other causes, so the point is moot.

Fry of all fish species require feeding several times a day. The Malawi cichlid fry I raise receive newly hatched brine shrimp artemia at least three times a day. As they mature, these fish are eventually cut back to several times a week. My customers are instructed to feed adult cichlids on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If fed sparingly enough, fish can be fed daily. However, I’ve found most people put far too much food in the aquarium. The old adage, “feed your fish what they can eat in five minutes” does not apply to the majority of cichlid species. You should only feed what they will eat in a minute or two. If they are not eating voraciously, cease feeding for at least two days.

As far as I’m concerned, the ingredients in most prepared, dry foods are the best all-around food for African cichlids. This excludes Tropheus species, with which I have little experience. There are even more exceptions to this; obviously predatory species such as the fin, eye and scale eaters and strict piscivores may need more protein and calcium, which probably can be achieved through feeding frozen krill or brine shrimp.

I would caution strongly against feeding tubifex worms or beef heart to African cichlids. This is just too much fat and protein.

By following a careful feeding regimen and observing African cichlids carefully, Malawi bloat need never be a problem. Just remember - it's easy to overfeed, but difficult to feed too little.

Prevention of Malawi Bloat Revisited
Selected Comments by Phil Benes

edited by Mark Weierman
First published in Fincinnati, the official newsletter of the Greater Cincinnati Aquarium Society

In the January-February, 2003 issue of Fincinnati, we published an article by Terry Ranson on the subject of Malawi bloat. In the March-April, 2003 issue, Fincinnati took the liberty of presenting selected comments on the topic of Malawi Bloat that were made by GCAS Vice President Phil Benes in a discussion on the GCAS website’s General Discussion Forum. Your editor believes that Phil’s comments and Terry’s article, taken together, make the most comprehensive, well rounded presentation possible on the prevention of this nasty condition, and give the Malawi cichlid enthusiast a good deal to think about, and to put into practice. Phil’s comments:

“In my experience I have found African cichlids to be very sensitive to water quality. Back in my lazy days of fish keeping, I found if I didn't keep up with water changes, my Africans would sometimes bloat-up. For the last 20 years or so, I have stayed on a 50% water change once a week, and if I skip a week, I never skip two in row. Since I have been doing this, I can't remember the last time I had a fish bloat.

“There has been a lot written on both diet and internal parasites that cause bloat, but IMHO, I think the best recourse is to keep these fish in as clean water as is possible. There is a very successful Tropheus breeder in Michigan that feeds all of his Tropheus frozen brine shrimp daily and never has a bloat problem. If I tried that I am pretty sure I would have massive bloat. However, because of the amount of fish he ships, he is changing water daily. Also his tanks are covered with a mat of algae. Mark Murtaugh and I talked about this a few days ago, as I only feed my Tropheus spirulina flakes for fear of bloat but Mark feeds his a much more varied diet. The one difference he noted was his Tropheus tanks have more light than mine and we theorized that his fish are getting more natural algae in the diet than mine, and to put it bluntly, probably keeps them more “regular” (Maybe I should start feeding a Metamucil/Brine Shrimp mix!).

“Try doing daily water changes of 15 to 25% at the start and see if that helps. Also, let the algae grow on the back and sides of the tank and on any rocks in the tank. That will give your fish something to pick at as a lot of Africans like some plant food in their diet.

“One word of caution. If your fish are not used to frequent water changes, don’t go for the 50% all at once as the shock of new water could be too much .”

Phil pointed out in other comments on the topic that one must differentiate between piscivores, along with those Malawians that eat insects and mollusks, and those that munch Aufwuchs for a living when considering the question of bloat and the necessity of its prevention.

For a discussion of "neotropical bloat," as it applies to New World cichlids, see the comments in Lee Newman's article The Spotted Demonfish, Satanoperca daemon
Mick e. t.

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Re: Prevention of Malawi Bloat

Postby valemont » 2018-09-06 20:59

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Re: Prevention of Malawi Bloat

Postby valemont » 2018-12-01 15:36

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