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The Beautiful Aquarium in

Giselle's Restaurant

This page contains a story about Mbuna Cichlids living in a large aquarium in a restaurant, named Giselle's.
Mbunas are a large group of Cichlids that live among and near the piles of rocks along the shores of Lake Malawi in East Africa.

Many Mbunas are very colorful with bright patterns of horizontal stripes or vertical bars.

Click here for more about buying Mbuna Cichlids from us.

Giselle's Restaurant
Many years ago I knew a wealthy middle aged man who thought Giselle's was such a great name for a restaurant that there just had to be a restaurant by that name, but there wasn't, so he started one.

At least that's the way he explained his reasoning to me at the time.
He twisted my arm, until I agreed to put an 80-gallon aquarium in his new restaurant right by the entrance, and I had to agree to take care of this aquarium too.

He paid me for the aquarium, and the fish, and everything including paying me generously for the time I spent in his restaurant.

But I was busy with my fish, and I wasn't too interested in his aquarium.
He wanted the brightest fish available, like the marine fish he'd seen in another restaurant, but I knew nothing about keeping marine fish in an aquarium.

So I put about 25 Mbuna Cichlids from Lake Malawi in the aquarium. I think there were 4 or 5 Auratus, some Kenyi, Pindani, and Red Zebras. It made a nice colorful mixture.

All the fish were between 1.5 and 2" long. My friend, the owner, took a long look at the aquarium and said in a quiet voice, "This aquarium looks like a fish ghost town and needs more fish a lot more fish." So I put in another 15 Mbunas plus 3 nice Synodontis Catfish.
Most of the aquariums were bare with no gravel, and I'd set his aquarium up the same way with no gravel, but now I added about 1/4" inch of gravel.

I also added 8 to 10 tall plastic plants and two large piles of reddish lava rock. I knew these rocks were non-toxic and safe in fresh water aquariums.
The 1/4" thick layer of gravel wasn't deep enough to anchor the plastic plants, so I wedged the bases of the plants under the rocks, and the plants looked like they were growing up from among the rocks.

I knew these Mbuna Cichlids didn't need gravel, or rocks, or plastic plants, but I was trying to satisfy the owner of the restaurant.

After I finished adding these decorations, I stood back from the aquarium to see how the aquarium looked, and I was surprised to see that the aquarium was dazzlingly beautiful.

The parts seem to fit together: the fish, the rocks, the gravel, and the plastic plants made a beautiful combination, and everyone really loved it.

The cook and the waitresses would take breaks and sit in front of the aquarium right by the front door.
The restaurant was on my way home, so I'd stop in each day, feed the fish, and do a few minutes of maintenance. But soon it got to be kind of complicated.

Not the fish or the aquarium. That was all fine, but I'd always have a long discussion with someone about the aquarium.
One day the cook wanted to know everything about the flake fish food I was feeding to the fish.

The next day there was a customer who said the fish were so beautiful that they had to be marine fish and couldn't possibly be freshwater fish.
"No," I said, "they are actually from a huge freshwater lake in east Africa where they live among large piles of rocks, and these piles of rocks in the huge freshwater lake might be something like coral reefs in the oceans, and that might somehow explain why these fish were brightly colored like coral reef fish."
"No, no," he said, "they have to be marine fish." I dipped my finger in the aquarium, tasted the water, and said, "This is fresh water."
"Oh god," the guy said, "that's disgusting, tasting the water", and he said he thought I was still lying, and it was really salt water with salt water fish in spite of what I said, and he wasn't going to taste the water either.
Another problem was one of the waitresses, named Charlene, who insisted on helping me. She wanted to feed the fish about 8 to 10 times a day. She'd feed them more than they could eat and cause lots of problems.

She was tall and beautiful, and I was pretty young at the time. She was maybe 5 years older than I was, but I had to remind her sternly a couple of times not to feed the fish more than they could eat.
After a couple of months she improved and was very good at taking care of the fish and the aquarium.

She'd talk about how much she loved her fish to anyone who'd listen to her, she had cute names for several of them, and I noticed that a lot of the men listened to her talk about her fish named "Blue", "Jackson", and "Slim".

mature female Red Zebra Mbuna hold her fry in her mouth.
Shown above, a mature female Red Zebra Mbuna, like the ones that lived and spawned in Giselle's, with babies in her mouth that are trying to peak out at the world.
One day Charlene was very agitated and reported to me that one of the fish wasn't eating.

She pointed her finger and said, "See there it is hiding in those rocks, it won't come out, and its mouth looks kind of swollen and funny."

I glanced at the fish and immediately saw it was a female with a big mouthful of eggs.
My brother and I had bred many thousands of these Mbuna Cichlids by then, and I immediately recognized a pregnant female.

Charlene was overcome with curiosity, and had me explain all about mouth brooding cichlids. Then she started worrying about the female not eating and where were we going to keep the babies and on and on.
The next time I came into Giselle's Restaurant, Charlene was explaining everything to Pauli, the cook, and a couple of other men.

Charlene would emphasize something about "mouth breeding" and look at me for approval, but I'd say, "mouth brooding", and she'd say, "That's right they don't really breed with their mouths, the females brood the babies in their mouths."

Pauli would give me a big wink, smile, and look back at Charlene. The other guys were winking and smiling too.
But Charlene never seemed to pay any attention to them, she just wanted to talk about her fish, her aquarium, her babies, and what was she going to do about this and that, and she'd always stand quite close to me.

I'd notice that her perfume was kind of nice, and she always had some little ornament that caught my eye, that I'd be looking at while she was asking me all about the eggs spots on the males fins, and saying that these fish were lots of fun, and on and on.
But then I'd realize, "Hey, I've still got a lot to do tonight. I'm late for dinner, and I've got to get out of this place."

So I'd be saying good-by while Charlene was following me out the door with one more question.
Then there was a very nice guy, named Larry, who owned a Swenson's Ice Cream Parlor right next door to the restaurant.

He'd hear I was in the restaurant, or sometimes he'd even be waiting for me, and he was just captivated by the aquarium and the beautiful fish.

He'd have an hours worth of questions. Talking about the aquarium seemed to be his #1 Priority.
Larry's customers would come into the restaurant from the Ice Cream Parlor and want to get an ice cream cone, but Larry would just keep talking about the aquarium, and so we'd all be standing around by the aquarium agreeing over and over with Larry about how beautiful it was.
I just couldn't ever get out there in less than an hour and a half, and I was a busy young guy.

I was also trying to keep my weight down, and the cook, Pauli, would always bring me out a big plate of manicotti or something special, and I hadn't had dinner so I'd gobble it down, and then he'd be back with another bowl of something and want to talk about his cooking, the food I was feeding to the fish, what did I think about Charlene, and what was this mouth breeding she was talking about?
The owner thought all this excitement and interest was great. He'd never say anything about the aquarium, but when he was there, he'd usually stand by the aquarium and listen to Larry, and the cook, and Charlene, the waitress, and a customer or two talk about his beautiful aquarium.

The owner would never complain about his employees wasting time on the aquarium.
Somewhere in the conversation somebody would mention that this was the most beautiful aquarium they'd ever seen, and the owner would nod his head back and forth and smile to everyone.
Anyway there were about 40-cichlids in the aquarium in the beginning, but before long they had grown an inch or so, and there were a few too many fish.

Of the 40-Mbunas, 4 or 5 of them just didn't grow, and 4 or 5 grew to be much bigger.

I would take out the smallest ones and the biggest ones. That way the smallest wouldn't get picked on, and the biggest wouldn't pick on the other fish in the aquarium.
Incidentally, I took some of these small Mbunas home with me and put them in my aquarium where there weren't any big fish, and the small Mbunas, that hadn't grown much in the restaurant, began to grow normally in my aquarium.
Eventually, the 80-gallon aquarium in Giselle's Restaurant had about 20-Mbunas all about 4" long and the 3-Synodontis catfish, and for many years this aquarium was a local landmark.
Many people went out of their way to stop in to see it and to hear a story or two about the beautiful fish.

Some even went out and bought a big aquarium, and copied everything including getting about 40-Mbunas, and then removing the biggest and smallest as the fish grew.

Click here to go on to another page in this website with Customer Comments and our Replies about the Mbuna Cichlids of Lake Malawi.
Pet Fish Talk a Podcast about keeping pet fish in aquariums, fish bowls, and ponds.  
Click here to listen to a Special Show titled "Mbuna Cichlids", an MP3-PodCast, hosted by The Bailey Brothers on Pet Fish Talk.
Pet Fish Talk a Podcast about keeping pet fish in aquariums, fish bowls, and ponds.  
Click here to listen to a Special Show titled "Mbunas Spawning", an MP3-PodCast, hosted by The Bailey Brothers on Pet Fish Talk.
Pet Fish Talk a Podcast about keeping pet fish in aquariums, fish bowls, and ponds.  
Click here to listen to a Special Show titled "Malawi Bloat", an MP3-PodCast, hosted by The Bailey Brothers on Pet Fish Talk.
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