The title of this post may seem oxymoronic, but there are cichlid species that don't have a "seek and destroy" mentality, especially if a single is kept. If you're looking for such a fish, you might consider Callochromis macrops, at least a female.
Most descriptions of this small cichlid suggest it is mildly aggressive, even to other species. Proving that cichlids can be highly individualistic, I have had a single female (see photo above) for well over a year and she's the most docile cichlid I have. She resides in my 75g Tanganyikan community tank with a variety of other dwarf Tangs and she is NEVER the aggressor. I even have some mild tempered cichlid tank mates that are not very tolerant of her. She doesn't get bullied but she does get chased off frequently.
Possessing enormous eyes, which is why their common name usually consists of the term "Big-eyed" or "Large-eyed," their bodies are shaped quite differently than most of your everyday variety of cichlids. Their feeding behavior also resembles that of the Geophagus genera - sand sifting, which is interesting to observe if you've never seen it.
To find more profile detail about C. macrops, a Google search will return plenty. If you're looking for something different in your tank that is active and curious, consider this nifty little cichlid.
Ever watch shows on the Animal Planet or National Geographic cable/satellite channels that focus on lions and that document the dynamics of the pride? If so, then you're familiar with the practice of adult lion males, who take over an existing pride, killing the young cubs that are offsprings from the former male pride leader. This is mammalian infanticide. One reason this occurs is that by killing the young, particularly those still nursing, the new male gains a genetic advantage within the pride, and the behavior accelerates a female's ability to breed again.
Did you know infanticide also occurs with cichlids (not to be confused with normal predatory behavior)? A main difference is that infanticide in cichlid groups is egg cannibalism. Neoplamprologus pulcher is one species that has demonstrated infanticide as a reproductive strategy. As reported in this paper, experiments showed that egg cannibalism by N. pulcher males involved in group takeovers occurs more frequently than any cannibalism by the regular group male.
Perhaps you've heard of these cichlids, but you've never taken the time to look them up. They comprise primarily the Geophagus and Satanoperca genera, mostly from South America. The nickname comes from their predominant feeding method - gulping the substrate, sifting it for any nourishment, and then passing what remains through the gills.
Consisting of nearly three dozen species, these are some of the most beautiful New World cichlids, in my opinion. If you're interested in adding these to your cichlid keeping portfolio, check them out. Below are a couple of good primers from Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine.
The guest speaker line-up for the upcoming ACA convention in Detroit has been set. I regularly encourage fellow cichlid keepers to join the ACA and, at least once, attend the annual convention. You would be hard pressed to find a gathering of a more knowledgeable and eclectic group of cichlidophiles in one place for several days. No matter what cichlids you have a specific interest in, there will likely be someone at the convention who shares your same interest.
The speakers for this year's convention are quite diverse. Listed below, each of them brings a unique set of cichlid keeping experiences that will resonate with the hobbyist in you.
As I originally posted nearly a year go, I acquired some juveniles of several Tanganyikan species for my Tang community tank. One of those species was listed as Telmatochromis temporalis by the seller. However, I was convinced that what I received was actually Telmatochromis sp. "temporalis shell," which is how I've mostly referred to them in various posts since then. As frequently happens with cichlid species, especially those not widely distributed and available in the hobby, accurate identification is often iffy, especially as there are variations based on lake locality.
The three that I acquired have grown considerably and have already exceeded the typical maximum size of sp. "temporalis shell". T. temporalis are sexually dimorphic in size, with males being considerably larger than females. My two males are much larger, at nearly 4" each, than the maximum size listed in various sources for sp. "temporalis shell" (~2-3"). In fact, I've read that sp. "temporalis shell" is considered by Ad Konings to be a dwarf morph of T. temporalis.
I had been suspicious of their true type from the outset because I have seen no characteristic that definitively differentiates the two variants other than size. Though I've read that T. temporalis are cave spawners, my bonded pair use shells. However, based on the documented maximum size differential and, lacking any other compelling evidence besides spawn site selection, I'm going to now conclude that what I really have are Telmatochromis temporalis.
In the photo above, you can see the female has emerged from a ceramic cave on the left. I had to brighten the image and increase the exposure a bit to get her to show up better because she is nearly jet black in color. The male's silhouette can barely be seen in the gap to the right of her. He's lurking just out of view, but he kept a watchful eye on me. My camera was about 2" from the front glass and she is about 4" away from the glass. If you look closely, you can see two fry just inside the aperture of the middle shell. The female appears large and imposing, but she's only about 2" long.
Once again, I've come across a fellow cichlid keeper who lost power and was ill-prepared for it, resulting in fish loss. Every cichlidophile will eventually face some type of crisis with respect to their livestock - a power outage, a bad heater, a dead filter, a leaking tank. The question is, how prepared are you for any or all of the above? These are all scenarios that pose risks to your fish. Do you have mitigation strategies in place for each of them?
Let's start with the power outage. What's the biggest danger resulting from a sustained power outage? Lack of filtration? No. Inability to maintain tank temperature? No. It's the lack of water movement produced by your filter, powerhead, or airstone that promotes the gas exchange required to oxygenize the water and clear it of carbon dioxide build up. Your cichlids will succumb the most quickly to a lack of oxygen, especially if you keep large species. However, this problem is easily addressed. You can either manually agitate the water for a few minutes periodically, or you can purchase a battery powered air pump and then attach an airstone. The latter will require an investment of less than $15.
Remember that oxygen is needed by more than your fish. It's essential to the biological filtration process, so the bacteria that populates your bio-media will continue to consume oxygen when the filter stops, though at a slower rate. Also, as water temperature rises, so does the rate of oxygen depletion.
What about a bad heater? All you need is a digital thermometer with an audible temperature alarm. If the temperature exceeds a preset high or low threshold, an alarm will sound. Keep a back-up heater on hand to mitigate this risk. You can always install a controller that will shut off the heater if the temperature rises too high and you're not around to address it. The controller is also a good investment if you travel a lot because it can shut the heater off if it fails while in the on position.
How about a dead filter? As long as you can maintain some water movement, perhaps via a powerhead or airstone, you should have time to replace the filter by purchasing a new one or replacing it with a back-up or spare you already have on hand.
A leaking tank? This one presents a big problem that extends well beyond loss of livestock, especially if you're away and the leak is at the bottom of the tank. You can install a low water sensor that will sound an audible alarm, but that won't help you if you're not there to hear it. Even if you install an advanced sensor that can notify you via cell phone text or e-mail, it won't help if you or a friend/family member can't get there quickly enough to address it. If you are home when a bottom leak occurs, you'll need to move your fish - either to another tank, a plastic tub, a kiddie pool, or even your bathtub.
If you've followed my blog for a long time, you probably remember my post about Just in Time versus Just in Case (JIT vs. JIC). I have a spare everything, not necessarily for emergencies, but more for convenience. I don't want to have to make a trip to my LFS each time I need something trivial - some additional bio-media, an extra sponge, etc. I strongly believe in redundancy, and you should too if you want to mitigate risk. Just have a look at this previous post showing my "fish closet" of supplies.
The investment you make in the safety and care of your fish is directly proportional to both how much you care about them and your financial position.
Here's the scenario. You bought several juvenile cichlids a few months ago, all of the same species. As they reached adulthood, some of them paired off. You've never had cichlids reproduce in your tank before, but now they have. What do you do with the fry?
Don't panic. You have several options. What you choose to do with them, if anything, depends on several factors - your tank inhabitants, your time, your proximity to a fish store, your network of cichlid keeping friends.
Some folks who keep breeding pairs of cichlids simply let nature take its course with respect to the disposition of the fry - they get eaten by either other tank inhabitants or their own parents. This typically works best in tanks that aren't densely decorated (e.g., few places to hide). Sometimes this strategy works well, while at other times some fry will survive.
If you have friends who keep cichlids, see if they'll trade with you. Then again, they may just want some new species and will happily take your fry off your hands. .
Finally, if you have an LFS (local fish store), you can see if it will take them. Many LFSs will happily take your fry, sometimes on trade. That's what I do. I just took about a dozen Telmatochromis sp. "temporalis shell" to my LFS for store credit. This is a great way to get necessary supplies (fish food, water conditioner) at little to no cost to you.
I've posted before about my breeding pair of Telmatochromis sp. "temporalis shell". I've also mentioned how incredibly prolific they are. Though I can't count the number of offspring they've had and the number of fry I've accidentally vacuumed up (relax, I use a gravity siphon and they go in a bucket), I had yet to see their eggs. I have nearly a dozen shells in the tank, and the female doesn't always use the same shell.
Well, today during the 1/2 tank clean out that I do twice a month, I was moving shells to vacuum and there they were. I think the female typically lays her eggs as deep in the shell as she can, but this time she didn't. I spotted the eggs almost immediately. In the photo above, you can see the eggs just inside the aperture of the shell. I didn't look deeper to see if there were more but I'm betting there are. You can see that they're cream colored and about the size of the head of a ballpoint pen.
I often see and hear discussion about tank lights, specifically about how long the lights should be on during the day, etc. The truth is, the fish don't care as much as you do. In fact, they're probably more content with the lights off. Light from above makes mid-water fish stand out more because they're nicely silhouetted against the light at the surface, which makes them prime targets for predators from below.
Take some time and watch your fish from a distance when the tank lights are both on and off. You'll notice a difference in behavior. My fish, both mbuna and Tanganyikans, are generally less erratic during the day when the lights are off. I've mentioned before, my mbuna experiences suggest that things turn sinister when there is complete darkness. But then again, many mbuna species can be pretty nasty if you don't have the right tank set-up and the right gender mixes.
Unless you're keeping plants, there is no real need to keep the lights on for long periods of time. By doing so, you're inviting algae problems and probably stressing your fish out more than is necessary. Experiences vary, but lights aren't on any of my tanks longer than a couple of hours a day. My house gets considerable ambient light during the day (not directly on the tanks) such that keeping my LEDs on isn't necessary.
This post really isn't cichlid specific, but it's probably something overlooked by cichlid keepers just the same. If all of sudden you notice that your water appears to be cloudier than usual, it may just be that the glass needs to be cleaned. In addition to the diatomaceous algae that grows on the glass (the brown patches), your may also get a light film on the inside that will affect the appearance of the water. Furthermore, the outside of the glass needs cleaning occasionally too. A light film will also accumulate there.
So make cleaning your glass a regular part of your maintenance routine. It will make a difference in the clarity and besides, no one wants to look at a tank with brown algae all over it.
If you're not currently a member of the ACA, consider joining. An annual membership is only $35, which is really a bargain considering what you get in return, which includes the following:
In aggregate, the value of all of the above to any cichlidophile should far exceed the membership cost. The Buntbarsche Bulletin is chock-full of articles about cichlid species. You also get access to all back issues.
The Cichlid Room Companion is probably the single most comprehensive cichlid website in existence. The sheer amount of information there is overwhelming - full species profiles including photos, numerous articles by professionals and hobbyists, a searchable bibliography (with links to many of the references), and tons of captive breeding information about specific species.
Join today and start enjoying all of the benefits!
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub