So I admit, I'm a bit of sponge addict! I LOVE sponges because I think they're extremely versatile and hugely utilitarian. Typically reserved for mechanical filtration in canisters, HOBs, and other mechanical filters, sponges are also widely used as bio-media for air driven filters. Every time I stop by my LFS, I make it a point to check out the sponge selection. I buy square sheet sponges, cylinder sponges, pond sponges, etc. I always have a need for the non-standard types. Because I'm a JIC (just in case) hobbyist, I will regularly buy them in the event a new use presents itself.
The photos above show some of the various sponges I keep on hand. These all vary in size, thickness, and density.
The cylinder sponges (upper left) are typically used to pre-filter intakes of canisters and HOBs. I even keep one on the intake in the corner overflow of my pre-drilled 75g.
The rectangular sponges (upper right) typically go in HOBs, but I sometimes find customized uses for them. The circular sponges (lower left) are for various canisters. The funky shaped black piece in that photo is what remains of a sheet sponge that I've cut up for various special projects. A full sheet sponge is shown in the lower right photo. This is actually pond sponge that comes in sheets 18" x 12" x 1". These are very handy when you need something very specific. You just cut it to fit what you need.
Anyone, at least in the United States, who’s been a cichlidophile for any length of time, should recognize the interviewee for this post. Pam Chin is an Honorary Life Member of the Pacific Coast Cichlid Association (PCCA) and past editor of the PCCA's award winning publication; Cichlidae Communique. She has published many articles in Buntbarsche Bulletin, Cichlid News, and aquarium societies from Australia to Sweden. She has received numerous writing awards from the American Cichlid Association (ACA) and the Federation of American Aquarium Societies (FAAS), including “Best Continuing Column” and “Author of the Year.” A long time member of the ACA, she has served many roles including on the Board of Trustees and was named an ACA Fellow in 2011, which is ACA's highest honor.
She is a founding member of “Babes in the Cichlid Hobby,” which as the name suggests, is an all female group whose members raise money for cichlid research and conservation. In addition, she occasionally gives talks at cichlid clubs around the country, where she shares her knowledge from years of breeding and raising cichlids. Pam is recognized in the hobby as an expert on African cichlids and, along with husband Gary, she currently maintains over 150 tanks of Old and New World cichlids in their customized fish house. In addition, she has traveled around the world to observe and collect cichlids in their natural habitat.
Let's get started!
Sometimes routine tank maintenance isn't so routine. The 75g Tang tank was due today to get 1/2 the rock work and decorations removed so I could thoroughly vacuum the sand. I removed everything on the left side of the tank except for some shells that a pair of my Telmatochromis sp. "temporalis shell" had grown fond of over the past few weeks.
If you have experience with shell dwelling cichlids with a sand substrate, you'll know that they will often fill unused shells with sand and even bury the shells completely. I suspect there are at least a couple of reasons for this. One, open shells in proximity to the shell being used by a breeding pair are an invitation for competing shell dwellers to set up shop nearby. Two, open, unburied shells nearby provide hiding places for small predators intent on ambush.
In any case, I began moving the shells out of the way and noticed that one was pretty empty of sand. I decided to basically just move it instead of upturning it. So the other shells seemed to be at least partially filled with sand. I started dumping them because detritus will often collect in them if they aren't being used. As a little sand came out of one of the shells I also noticed some darker colored objects dropping out - WIGGLERS! Crap! Technically, they're probably past the wiggler stage, but I still consider them wigglers because it doesn't appear they can do more than scoot across the sand. They're certainly not swimming about in and out of the shell.
I put the shell back down expecting mom to come get her brood and put them back. I moved away from the tank and just waited for a few minutes. Sure enough, here she came. She moved over from some nearby rocks, assessed the situation and, very methodically, began picking them up and moving them back into the shell. I did't count the wigglers but I figure there at least 8-10 that came out when I first noticed them. I waited until she had completed the task before I moved the shell to the corner of the tank.
Where the shells had been originally was not an ideal spot to attempt to raise some fry. The shells weren't very strategically placed to defend properly. Putting the shell in the corner and rearranging the rock nearby offered three things, 1) additional protection, 2) a well-defined and defendable territory, and 3) an increased probability of future breeding success for the pair.
In the top photo above, you can see the female peeking out. It's hard to tell, but the shell is only about 10" from the camera. The shell she's in is about 7" from the aquarium glass. She is quite aware of my presence, and I had to be real still for a a minute or two before she would come out. Even then, it was only for a couple of seconds to do some house-cleaning. The wigglers are deep in the shell. I didn't take any photos of them because I was too intent on getting them back in the shell before they were "seen" by other fish in the tank. It would be naive to think that, just because they might not be seen, other fish weren't aware of their presence. Fish give off multiple cues about their presence - audible, visual, and chemical.
In the bottom photo above, you can see the male with the noticeable nuchal hump. At about 3", he is significantly larger than the female, who is probably about 2/3 his size at 2" and less full-bodied. Yes, they are as black in person as they are in the photos. The are in fact jet black in color. Below are a couple of closer shots I took with the shells moved into the corner of the tank.
So you may remember the post about the cichlids I recently ordered for my 75g Tanganyikan tank. I posted photos of the newbies except for the Eretmodus cyanostictus, commonly referred to as the Tanganyikan Clown. Finally got a good shot of him yesterday.
Anyway, after nearly three weeks and everyone now settled in, I thought I would give a bit of an update. The Clown is much more gregarious now. He's all over the place most of the time. Of the two Trets, the smaller one is a bit less shy. I haven't vented either one, so it's hard to tell the genders. If I had to guess solely based on behavior, I would say one is a male and one is a female. They do not interact at all and, in fact, pretty much ignore each other. The larger one tends to hide a bit more, but that's not indicative of anything in particular.
The greatest difference can be seen in the Telamatochromis temporalis. If you recall, I said they were quite shy. They have come out of their shell, pun intended. All three of them are very active. I've never kept the species before, so really didn't know what to expect. They're significantly larger than I thought they would be. The largest one is probably at least 2" long. I thought these were the sp. "Temporalis shell," but I'm not so sure. Regardless, they are even more active than the Clown, though they tend to stay nearer the substrate. The Clown gets up into the water column quite a bit.
Of the three new species (Trets, Clown, and temporalis), I would have expected the Trets to be the most adventurous, followed by the Clown. It's actually the very opposite. The Trets are more cautious and more easily spooked. I'm quite surprised at that.
Wow! My Telmatochromis vittatus made honorable mention in the first monthly ACA photo contest. Check out the video of the March winners below. Congratulations to all of the winners! If you didn't win, keep submitting. You don't have to be a professional photographer. Simply get your favorite cichlid photos together and send them in. Prizes are awarded for the top three plus honorable mention. Visit the rules page and show everyone your fish!
Below is the photo I submitted.
I've thought about the answer to this question a lot. Defining an aquarist is easy. There is a standard definition. However, the word doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. In fact, ask a group of aquarists what it means to them to be called an aquarist and you'll probably get different answers.
As I sifted through the myriad reasons why I keep fish, I began to see a pattern. Since my youth, I have been mesmerized by freshwater and marine ecosystems. I grew up spending summers on a local lake where my family owned a houseboat. I went to college intent on becoming a marine biologist, though that never panned out. Nevertheless, I've always been naturally curious about how things work, which includes biological systems, and I've always been especially intrigued by fish and marine mammals.
Some might argue that aquarists are fish lovers. I would support that definition. Then again, there are some who keep fish more for the fun of watching the aggression or predation. In other words, some enjoy watching their fish hunt and consume live food. Those fish keepers might be aquarists in the strictest sense, but they're not aquarists to me. Just like I wouldn't call someone a dog lover who raises dogs to fight other dogs or raises dogs to hunt rabbits, raccoons, etc.
I sincerely care about my fish and I don't like it when one dies, regardless of the reason. I enjoy the behavior of cichlids - the parental care, the defense of a territory, the individual personalities, etc. I could go on and on.
Is an aquarist an expert in fish keeping? Sometimes.
Is an aquarist someone who values the life of other species? Maybe.
Some aquarists do it as a vocation. Some do it as a hobby. Some do it for the challenge.
If you're reading this, I suspect you have more than a passing interest in fish. If you keep fish, why? What does being an aquarist mean to you?
Every fish keeper that has kept fish for any length of time, and especially if he/she has maintained multiple tanks concurrently, knows that having the right tool for specific tasks can save time, effort, and frustration. I can't count the number of times that I started some task only to realize that I simply didn't have the right tool to do the job. For that reason, I've put together a short list of tools that your fish keeping toolbox should not be without. This isn't exhaustive, but having these items will make setting up and maintaining your aquarium much simpler.
These next items aren't really for a tool box, but they will be needed at some point in your fish keeping travels.
Not unlike most people, I have opinions about many things. Certainly, my thoughts on cichlids, and fish keeping in general, are many and, usually, consistent. Also, I tend to use considerable discretion with respect to whom I share my opinions. Not unlike opinions about government elections, abortion, gun control, and other hotbed topics, sometimes verbalized (or typed in this case) thoughts can open the doors to colorful discussions.
I don’t necessarily consider my opinions to be deeply entrenched but I do feel strongly about many things. This often leads me to reflect upon my own values and make an attempt to view things through a different lens. I won’t get philosophical here but I will point out that your own views are colored by many things - your parents, your friends, your social circles, your experiences, etc. It’s not as much about being right as it is about understanding what feeds the roots of your thoughts and asking yourself “Are my views generally shared by others and, if not, why not?” This helps with perspective.
Having said all of that, I can’t help but wonder why I continue to see cichlid keepers with fish that are too large for the tank they’re in, sometimes a tank that has little or no substrate, decoration, etc. If the home is temporary, then that’s understood. However, some folks keep fish like this for general viewing and honestly don’t consider it to be problematic. Of course, this issue can be broadened to include many other living creatures whose care we (as humans) are responsible for.
How does this fit with what I wrote at the beginning of this post? I clearly disagree with, and don’t appreciate, folks who keep too many fish, too large a fish, etc. in small tanks. Is my viewpoint out of the norm? Who is to say how many fish is the “right” number for a given sized tank? Who determined that keeping a single, adult Oscar in a 30 gallon tank is irresponsible? I like to think that the majority of thoughtful fish keepers would agree that the Oscar scenario is a bad one.
I saw a video this week, on Facebook, of an individual who had four 6”+ fish in a tank that appeared to be no more than 48” long with a divider on one end holding a female in what looked like about a 12” section. Based on the video, I’m guessing the tank to be a 55g. The purpose of the video post wasn’t to ask for help with something but rather to just point out that the poster is getting a larger tank. However, the tank in the video didn’t have a single decoration, rock, etc. except for the end with the separated female. Nothing other than about 1” of substrate, a submersible heater, and a powerhead. Some folks keep fish in a similar way.
I see fish tank examples described above all too often. In fact, I wrote about it in an earlier post, so it clearly resonates with me in a negative way. What do you think?
Actually, the tank isn't new. It's been storage for a while. As I mentioned in the previous post, I ordered some cichlids from Mike's Cichlids in Florida. Their policy is to, at their discretion, ship an extra fish or two of each species in your order if you order multiples. This is in case of DOAs. That policy doesn't apply to single fish orders (singles of a species).
I ordered a pair of 5 different species, and they shipped an extra fish with four of them - Telmatochromis temporalis, Pseudo. Elongatus Chailosi, Pseudo Red Top Ndumbi, and Lamprologus tretocephalus. Not knowing behorehand what I would get in terms of extras and not knowing how many DOAs I might get, I erred on the side of caution and set up the 40g. However, I didn't do a final set up with it (e.g, I didn't add substrate, rock, or permanent filtration). I wanted to be prepared for extra fish that I knew I probably wouldn't add to either the 75g or the 55g, but I didn't relish the thought of adding sand to a tank that I might end up taking right back down.
Because the temporalis are quite small as adults and they were going in the 75g Tang tank, I just put them all there. I ordered two Trets, and they sent three, one of which was significantly larger than the other two. Due to their reputation as belligerent Tangs, I elected not to put all three in the 75g. Furthermore, I didn't want to put three Chailosi and three Red Tops in the 55g Malawi tank with the other tank inhabitants (mbuna). Thus, into the 40g went a Tret, a Chailosi, and a Red Top. Yes, that's two Malawi cichlids and a Tanganyikan. However, the tank is plenty large enough and the three species can co-exist just fine.
I added all three to a nearly bare tank, save for a sheet of egg crate light diffuser on the bottom. On top of the egg crate I added four or five rocks for shelter. Sadly, the Tret did not survive longer than 36 hours. I saw no evidence that it was being harassed by the two mbuna but I noticed it just didn't look right within several hours of adding it.
The next obvious problem was to add the sand while the fish were in the tank. That's not a process I would recommend for someone without experience with a sand substrate. One of the biggest nuisances with adding sand is that it will invariably cloud the tank. However, I was prepared for this possibility. Having the proper hardware (i.e., filtration) can substantially mitigate this and, thankfully, I had it.
Those of you who read the blog regularly, and have for a while, will remember the post on the canister filters I built nearly a year ago using large condiment bottles. I stuffed two of these bottles with polyester fill to help clear the water, in conjunction with the two temporary AquaClears I set up for the regular filtration.
You can see a photo of the tank below with the bottle filters on each end of the tank. The intake end of the right filter is stuffed with Polyfilter. I like to use this whenever I add anything new to a tank (decorations, rocks, etc.). It does an awesome job of removing toxins and other nefarious chemicals. All four filters had the tank cleared in a matter of hours.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub