Caring for Malawi fry
I refer to a female fish with eggs or fry as "Holding" but they are also known as "Carrying". If you are planning on keeping Malawi cichlids or already do then as long as you have a male and a female you are guaranteed to have fry at some stage. Malawi cichlids will breed readily and easily so make sure that if you want to keep and raise the fry you have enough tanks at hand. It takes about 3 months for the average fry batch to become near sell-able and once a female has released her fry she can start on the next batch just days after being placed back with her male.
If you do not want to keep the fry then you are best keeping all males. The holding female can be left in the tank to release her batch of fry however these will be eaten by the other fish. This is not something that I personally like to do so if a holding female can be removed with her eggs then I will always try to do so. If you are planning to keep and raise the fry then remove the holding female into her own tank as soon as possible.
Malawi cichlid fry are fascinating to watch. If you have ever had a holding female in a tank you can sometimes catch the little eyes staring at you when she opens her mouth. After about 3 weeks when the fry get to big to hold the female will release them if she does not feel threatened by anything. If you are lucky you can sometimes catch her doing so or even see them rushing back into their mum`s protective mouth.
At some stage she will not accept the fry back into her mouth at which point you can catch her and put her back in the main tank. If you want to speed up this process then place small bits of rock or slate into the tank for the fry to hide in. This will stop them going back into mum`s mouth. Once the female has been removed then it is down to you to care for the fry.
Care and Feeding
There are many fry foods available on the market however these can be expensive so all i do is crush some of the adults flake food into powder and feed them a pinch twice a day. The fry will grow very quick at which stage you can introduce tablet food that sticks to the tank or feed them grindal worms which is what I do, as well as larger crushed flake food. In time they will get big enough to eat un-crushed food. When the fry are small it is very entertaining watching them swim round with a whole worm sticking out of their mouth which is bigger than them.
In one of my fry tanks I use the smallest Eheim 2006 internal filter, if the fry do manage to get sucked up they live in the bottom of the sponge chamber with no harm done until I remove them. However you must clean your filter in a container just in case any fry are in their. I also use sponge filters powered by air pumps, these are much safer for the fry however I find that they do not keep the tanks as clean as mechanical filters.
I also have air lines powered by an air pump going into each fry tank. As the fry get bigger I sometimes replace the Eheim 2006 or sponge filter with an Eheim 2010 depending on how many i have in the tank at that time.
When doing a water change on a tank with very small fry I use a piece of air line to syphon up all the debris and waste food from the bare bottom tanks then do the water changes as described here. All of my fry tanks have bare bottoms (no substrate).
Growing Quickly Now
After a few weeks and depending on how big the batch was, you may need to separate your young fish into other tanks as they will be growing quite fast and need more room. It usually takes around 3 months for them to be near sell-able but once they are you can sell them on and start all over again if you have not already done so. Shops will normally take young fish from about 2 inches in length but this can vary from shop to shop. Other outlets for your fish are eBay Auctions or Aquarists Classifieds.