Every once in a while I discover little DIY projects accidentally, just like this morning. I am a member of several cichlid Facebook groups and saw a great idea from Facebook user Duke Ciry at Cichlid Conversations.
Lots of folks use egg crate in their tanks, from lining the tank bottom for holding rocks to serving as tank partitions. Egg crate is actually louvered light diffuser than you can pick up at your hardware store. PLASKOLITE is one brand name.
Duke took the partition usage to another level. Rather than just sectioning off part of the tank, he made an egg crate cage to segregate an aggressive Lake Malawi peacock. It appears he used zip ties to hold the cut crate sections together. Nice idea!
There is a plethora of information available about the nitrogen cycle and how it relates to fish keeping, so I'm not going to discuss that here. You should already know that measurable amounts of ammonia and nitrite in your tank are toxic to your fish. You also may be aware that nitrates, while nearly always present in your tank, aren't as dangerous as long as the measured level is not very high.
"So?" you ask. Nitrate is often largely overlooked. Measurable amounts of nitrates are indicative of a healthy, or soon to be healthy, tank. That's because its presence suggests your tank and filtration set-up have accumulated enough beneficial bacteria to begin breaking down, or to fully breakdown, ammonia and nitrite (assuming the nitrate origin isn't the source of your change water). Nitrate is also often overlooked because its toxicity doesn't match that of ammonia and nitrite at the same concentration (ppm). However, it's important to understand why nitrate levels should be controlled. If not, it WILL impact your fish. How much depends on the concentration, the exposure duration, and the cichlid species.
Losing fish mysteriously when your ammonia and nitrite levels are zero, and you have no aggression problems? Check your nitrates.
Here's a nice piece from one of the forum moderators at Aquaponics Nation on how nitrates affect fish, complete with references.
I posted last month that the ACA convention is quickly approaching. Registration is now open, and the convention hotel, Sheraton Detroit Novi, is accepting reservations.
Please visit the ACA 2017 website to register and make your hotel reservations. Don't forget to order a convention shirt when you register. Events like the ACA help support not only the association but also the cichlid clubs who host the convention, in this case the Michigan Cichlid Association. For more information and to connect with fellow cichlidophiles, visit and consider joining the ACA convention group on Facebook.
Even though I usually have a steady supply of potential interviewees, send me some suggestions for interviews. It doesn't have to be specific individuals. If you want me to interview someone from a particular manufacturer or vendor about a brand or product, let me know. Also, if you know of an expert or someone with substantial experience with a specific genera of cichlids, give me a shout. I've interviewed experts on Apistogramma (Don Zilliox), Julidochromis (Pam Chin), and Crenicichla (Vin Kutty).
There are plenty of experienced people out there, professionals and hobbyists, who are happy to share their knowledge about products, livestock, etc. I have several more interviewees on the docket but I will happily entertain your suggestions.
As I observed my Telmatochromis sp. "temporalis shell" fry today in the 5.5g grow out tank, I noticed that even at 8 weeks of age they are trying to claim space. While not much larger than a small paperclip, the fry are already defending small areas. In fact, with nearly a dozen in the tank, a couple of them have been relegated to the top of the prefilter sponge of the little AquaClear HOB I'm using.
This species, at least in my experience, begin showing signs of their adult coloration pretty early (~6 weeks). As adults, they are naturally grey to to shiny black. See my White to black post. However, like many cichlid species, their color shade can vary depending on whether they're stressed, being aggressive, being defensive, etc. My current observations lead me to believe that, even as fry that are beginning to darken, they're only dark when they aren't stressed. Otherwise, they remain a light beige to near white in color.
I promised when I started the blog that I would bring you interviews with professionals from all aspects of fish keeping. Even though I am an amateur aquarist and this blog is for hobbyists, science regularly informs the hobby. Therefore, let me introduce Dr. Karen Maruska. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University (LSU). She received her B.S. from University of New Hampshire, M.S. from Florida Tech, Ph.D. from University of Hawaii, and postdoc at Stanford University. Her research uses fishes as vertebrate models to study how the brain controls social behaviors such as reproduction and aggression.
All photos courtesy of Karen Maruska.
Let's get started!
I have posted many times about great websites and online resources for cichlids. One that I think I may have forgotten about is Cichlid-Forum.com. This is a fantastic site and one that any cichlidophile should visit frequently and bookmark. In addition to a very active set of discussion forums, the site hosts volumes of information about cichlids including species profiles and product reviews.
If you haven't visited the site, please do. In fact, if you're a novice in the hobby and need advice or if you're highly experienced and want to give advice, consider becoming an active participant in the forums.
As part of my routine maintenance regimen, I completely clear out one half of the tank when I vacuum the substrate. Because I use sand substrates, fish waste gets buried easily as the cichlids move sand around. Thus, by removing everything from the tank, it ensures I can see and get to all of the waste. Furthermore, I can vacuum "a little deeper" to get to any buried waste without worrying about stacked rock toppling over. Some aquarists use a sand rake or their fingers to stir up the sand and bring solid waste to the top. I will do this occasionally as well.
Above is a photo of my 55g Mbuna tank before a recent maintenance. It contains lots of Texas holey rock and some river rock, along with some artificial plants. Below is a photo of the same tank after I removed everything on the left side. My Mbuna are pretty messy, so I regularly clear out part of the tank to thoroughly and efficiently clean the sand.
This post won't offer anything for an experienced aquarist, but if you're relatively new to the hobby, keep reading. Because cichlids are tropical fish and are endemic from mainly warm climates, their watery home is usually pretty warm. Sure, deeper water cichlids like from the Rift Lakes in Africa can experience mild fluctuations, but for the most part, cichlids live in water that is in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit.
If you're new to freshwater fishkeeping, most fish in the hobby require water that's in the same temperature range. One key to good fishkeeping is to mitigate stress in your fish, and one way to accomplish this is to maintain a steady water temperature. Most captive fish have been conditioned for living in a reasonably steady state with respect to water.
The point is, whatever cichlids you keep, make sure you try to maintain that safe range, which most experts will say is between 76-80 degrees Fahrenheit. So how do you change the tank water and ensure the temperature doesn't fluctuate wildly each time? The obvious answer is to use a thermometer to gauge the temperature of your source water. You can buy aquarium thermometers at your LFS for a couple of dollars and just run them under your source water until you have the right temperature.
The good news is you won't need to do this forever. Eventually, you'll be able to feel the right temperature with your fingers and will no longer need to depend on a thermometer. I haven't used a thermometer to measure my source temperature in years.
In fact, I keep my 75g Tanganyikan cichlid tank at 77.2. I did a 40% water change this morning and the temperature after the change was.....77.2. Not bad to get it to the exact tenth just by feel.
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American Cichlid Assoc.
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