Shallow Vegetated Shoreline, Lake Tanganyika, Kipili, Tanzania

_th place in Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2020

Volume: 536 liters
Dimensions: 150x65x55 h cm
List of fishes: Tropheus brichardi Ulwile (1 m + 5 f + fry), Eretmodus cyanostictus(2 m + 2 f + fry)
List of plants: Phragmites australis (common reeds)
Description of decorations: In aquarium, which I established, the design of all the material related to the landscaping, in other words, creating a vegetated area and placing the stones was made by taking into account the photographs and videos in the original biotope. I collected stones of different sizes (90 kg) similar to those in biotope from a river near my city. However, unlike biotope, I had to use three different substrates for the bottom to maintain water parameters and support plant growth. I would like to mention these respectively as aragonite sand (40 kg, 8.4 pH), plant-soil (25 kg, 7.0 pH) and Lecat (20 kg, 8.7 pH treated natural clay) belonging to the well-known brands. I was accidentally found some part of pear tree root on a weekend trip. I knew that it would not cause any harmful effects for water and fish health, so I placed the root of this old tree in the tank after it was prepared. After completing the design, I filled the areas where the reeds will not be found with aragonite sand and the areas where the reeds will be planted with plant soil and Lecat. From the shore of nearby lake, I found reeds of the same type as those found in biotope. This is how I obtained live reed lice. I used a turquoise transparent background and a lighting system at the back of the tank to give the same visual effect as the biotope.
Description of equipment:

  1. Lightening: 4 x led fluorescent (24 watt, 6500 K, Dayligth), 6 x Led Ufo Bulbs (26 watt, 6500 K, Dayligth), Pink colored T8 Fluorescent (30 W,850 Lm)
  2. Filtering: 2x External Filters each 1200 L/H, Fall Filter 1500 L/H
  3. Heating: 300 watt heater.
  4. Timer Plug for lightening system
  5. 6 x 12 v fans for giving wind effect to reeds upper parts which are above water.

Water parameters: TEMP:25° C, EC:490 µS, GH:8,6, KH:28, PH:8,6, Do:%0,7, Nitrate< 2,5 ppm, Nitrite: 0 ppm, NH4:0 ppm
Additional info: I have been using six different kinds of well-known brand quality fish foods since the tank setting up. I always get fish food in a closed and sealed box to make sure it is fresh and not fake. I feed them two times in a day. Photoperiod regime of tank 6 hours daylight were setting up for winter and fall, and also 8 hours daylight in a day for summer and spring season. Therefore I use a timer plug to turn on and off lights at the same time every day. In my tank, fish are naturally breeds and fry are naturally released but not to overpopulate tank I catch fry late night when they are in sleep and transfer to the different fish tank. I closely watch water parameters, and till now, water parameters did not shift from desired values. My managing strategies are control of the number of population, arranging the carrying capacity, keeping water chemistry and parameters in desired values, planned lightening, weekly maintenance and feeding with best quality food to keep them healthy, active and hope so happy. I started designing the biotope by taking advantage of the dead tree roots ability to absorb some unwanted material to maintain and maintain water quality parameters. For this purpose, I washed the dead tree roots before putting them in the tank and kept them in boiling water for 30 minutes, then placed them in the tank, while also using (neutral) plant soil with a pH of 7.0. I used aragonite sand to raise the pH of the tap water (7.5 pH), put the crushed corals in the filters so that I could mimic the water parameters of biotope given in published works. I think that reeds maintain healthy water quality criteria for fish. I have confirmed this idea with the results of NH4 and NO2-0, and NO3 tests are below 2.5 ppm. I do a regular 20% water change (by vacuum cleaning the stony parts) once a week. I add fresh water daily (about 15 litres per day) to compansate for the evaporation losses and the water absorbed by the reeds. During the water change, I remove the dead branches and reeds from the tank. I clean the algae from the glass by scraping once a week and clean the aquarium filters every 3 months.


Description of the area surrounding the biotope: Biotope is situated in the shoreline of Kipili. It is in the entrance of a bay which is occupied by human for several purposes. There are islands near, and human occupies some. Before water body surrounding area has enough large plain area that can be settled by humans, then hills and mountains start. The tough surrounding area is a forestry area, as a result of human settlements some part of trees is cut down. When we further go up towards hills, we meet forests. The ground is stony and mostly covered with grassy plants. Human activities in the surrounding area are affecting underwater life. Two seasons can be seen on the region, and they are wet season which is between October and April with high precipitation, thunderstorms and dry season which is from May until the end of August with continuous winds and little precipitation. Ref. (8-10,16,19,20,22,24)
Description of the underwater landscape of the biotope: Biotope (GPS:-7.444444, 30.592222) is a part of Kipili shoreline which is stayed underwater by a rise of water level and not deeper than 1.5 meters. As usual in Tanganyika coastline, the extension of the surrounding area goes on with same structure to inside Lake in here too, but unlike identified and known shallow rocky/stony shoreline habitats of Lake, reeds, fragments of dead grassy plants and a chopped tree root exist in this habitat. The bottom is covered with a mixed type (mostly roundish) of middle-sized, different colored stones and it is occupied by reeds (Phragmites australisis) roots or branches; therefore beige colored thin mixed sand is rarely seen in the habitat. Decayed organisms of the surrounding area create the perfect nutritive environment for reeds and other species, so in this habitat, lots of different species can be seen which come for feeding. Because of being situated in a bay, waves are generally weak, this causes demersal area stay stable so species can compete for food and reeds can grow up easily, but weak waves also serve mid-level of sedimentation. Algae is not developed strongly in habitat because of existence of reeds. Color of the water is changed by the time of the day as blue or green. Even though anthropogenic pollution affects the quality of water, however, visibility is still in a reasonable level. Due to the mentioned water quality, habitat is highly vegetated with Phragmites australisis but to avoid the danger of camouflaging crocodiles residents chop the reeds. Ref.(8-12,19,20,22-24)
Description of the parameters of the habitat: Measurment was done by diver, along the shore at 775 meters above sea level in 2012 wet season,
Temp:30,2° C, Ec: 502 µS, GH:9, KH:28,5, pH:8,5-9,0, NH4 <0,05 mg/l, NO2:0,05 mg/l, NO3 <0,5 mg/l, PO4 <0,02 mg/l, Fe :0,05-0,1 mg/l, Water transparency: High, Water Type : Clear Water
List of fishes and invertebrates occurring in the nature biotope: If we accept region as Ulwile, Altolamprologus compressiceps, Chalinochromis cyanophleps, Chalinochromis sp. ‘bifrenatus’ , Cunningtonia longiventralis, Cyathopharynx foae, exLamprologus callipterus, exLamprologus lemairii, Haplotaxodon microlepis, Haplotaxodon trifasciatus, Lepidiolamprologus elongatus, Lepidiolamprologus kamambae, Lepidiolamprologus mimicus, Lepidiolamprologus profundicola ,Neolamprologus furcifer, Neolamprologus sexfasciatus, Neolamprologus tetracanthus, Neolamprologus timidus, Ophthalmotilapia nasuta, Ophthalmotilapia ventralis, Perissodus microlepis, Perissodus paradoxus, Perissodus straeleni, Petrochromis ephippium, Petrochromis famula, Petrochromis polyodon, Petrochromis sp. ‘kipili brown’ , Petrochromis sp. ‘macrognathus rainbow’, Petrochromis sp. ‘texas blue’, Telmatochromis dhonti, Telmatochromis vittatus, Tropheus brichardi, Xenotilapia nasus, Xenotilapia sp. ‘papilio sunflower’, various invertabres.
List of plants found in the nature biotope: Phragmites australis (Common Reed), some grassy aquatic plants.
Threats to the ecology: Humans settle some parts in the coastline of Lake Tanganyika for the fishery, agriculture, industry and tourism. Approximately one million population is living around the Lake Tanganyika area. The protein source of the inhabitants of this region is mainly the aquatic organisms in the Lake. The dense human population in the shoreline of Lake causes anthropogenic and industrial wastes, deforestation of lands and overfishing. Pollutants and rising erosion are affecting underwater life in different ways such as decreased water quality, sedimentation in the narrow habitable zone for species and development of invasive plants. The climate change, uncontrolled overfishing and the other human-based problems are adverse effects for the underwater life of Lake. Because of these unfavorable impacts, biodiversity is diminishing and development of plankton which are nutritive foods for many fish species is slowing down in the Lake. People living around the Lake should be educated about sustainable fishing practices. Besides, legal regulations on deforestation and control measures for industrial facilities should be taken for the future of the Lake. Ref (13,14,22,24)
Sources of information:

22- Personel conversations and documents from Prof.Dr Ercument Genc about set up, water chemstry, assessment of biotope, fish health, water plants and tips for a healty tank. (
23- Konings, A. 2019. Tanganyika Cichlid in Their Natural Habitat. 4th Edition, Cichlidpress, El Paso Tx.
24- Personal converstaions with diver about his observations of habitat and surrounding area.

Comments of the members of the jury of Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2020