Rift Valley

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The three Great Lakes of the East African Rift. NASA Imagery

Thirty-seven hundred miles (6,000 km) in length, this dominant geologic feature of East Africa is known as the Great Rift Valley or the East African Rift. It is home to three great lakes of intense interest to aquarists:

Plate tectonics in action, creating the trough known at the Great Rift Valley.
  • Lake Tanganyika: home to approximately 200 known cichlid species. Very hard water, 11-17 dH with carbonate hardness 16-19 dH.

  • Lake Victoria (Victoria Nyanza): Once home to more than 500 species of Haplochromis-type cichlids, Lake Victoria has lost an estimate 250 species after the introduction of large, predatory Nile Perch. Carbonate hardness of 2-8 dH.

  • Lake Malawi (Lake Nyasa): More than 500 species of cichlids, many brightly colored, including the herbivorous "Mbuna" rock dwellers (Labidochromis, Labeotropheus, Metriaclima, Pseudotropheus, and others) and the mostly carnivorous Haps (Haplochromis spp.). Water has a total hardness of 4-6 dh, and carbonate hardness of 6-8.