When setting up a new tank, consider it a blank canvas. This means you can do whatever you want. In fact, use your imagination...or no imagination at all. It's easy to construct your cichlids' new environment from the bottom up, but consider going the opposite direction. Start from the surface and work down. How much open water in the top column do you want? You know the height of the your tank and you know where the water line should be. Do you want decorations or plants that reach the surface? Do you want the mid-level water to be open or occupied too?
If you like to create the normal way, from the bottom up, don't be homogenous with the substrate. Nothing dictates that you must use a single substrate. I've had tanks with both gravel and sand. They're awesome. The tank doesn't need to be symmetrical either. Mix it up. Obviously, the larger (e.g., longer) the tank, the more options you have to make the environment a composite. Use one type of rock on one end and use another type on the other end. Maybe create a step-down environment - make your rock-work higher on one end and step down to nothing on the other to mimic shoreline. If you have a SA/CA tank, put rocks on one end and wood on the other. Use multiple types of wood, different lengths, different thicknesses.
If you're looking for a true biotope display, nature is rarely symmetrical. Don't make the tank look like someone set it up. To get ideas, look at some photos of the lake bottom of your fishes' endemic environment. And keep this in mind; your fish don't care. As long as you provide sufficient cover for any fish that need it, use your imagination or just put stuff in at random. No one is going to see the tank more than you (and anyone else that lives with you). You should enjoy looking at it and watching your fish.
Ordering fish online for the first time? Why buy cichlids online? Two words - selection and availability. There are many reputable online cichlid retailers, and I have ordered from some of them. However, purchasing online isn't for everyone. Below are a few things you might want to consider before deciding to make an online purchase.
How do novice cichlid keepers choose what cichlids they want to keep? Everyone has a different reason for why they chose a species or multiple species to keep. Sometimes the choice was heavily influenced by pragmatics (e.g., the size of tank, the type of source tank water). In other words, the size of the aquarium home determined the most appropriate species. Sometimes the choice was solely driven by personal preference (e.g., typical temperament of the species, species appearance). In other words, the decision was made based on what the cichlid looked like or how it behaved at the store.
There is really no "proper" way to choose your first cichlid. However, there are a few things you should consider before making the decision, and I've listed them below:
If purchasing just one and you want something with a lot of color, consider purchasing a male. They tend to be the most colorful in adulthood. If you purchase a juvenile cichlid, it may be difficult to determine the sex because most species that are sexually dimorphic in color aren't distinguishable until adulthood. If you plan to purchase several and they're all juveniles, know how big they'll get and know how aggressive they tend to be, especially if they're all the same species. If you get several of the same species, you'll most likely end up with at least one of each gender. Do you have a plan if a pair is formed and they spawn? What will you do with the fry, assuming they survive?
The most appropriate way to figure out what to keep is answer the questions above and do some homework by reading about cichlid keeping. What you want to keep and what you should keep probably won't be mutually inclusive. Go with the latter until you get some experience. Ultimately, what you should keep will reveal itself when you answer the questions and do your research.
If you've kept African cichlids, especially mbuna, you've probably used holey rock at one time or another. I'd be willing to bet that you've also had rock in which its exposed surface within the tank has accumulated diatomaceous algae (the brown stuff) or regular green algae. Either way, you've probably also discovered that such algae is not the easiest stuff to remove. The surface of holey rock, unlike river rock, is usually quite course, which makes it difficult to clean.
So what do you do? Most people will get out a brush of some kind and scrub it while holding it under running water. That will do a partial job. So how do you get it back to the crisp white color that it was when you bought it? A tip I picked up from a fellow cichlidophile is that you sun bleach it. No need to take a brush to it. Just set it out in direct sunlight for a couple of days. The longer it's exposed to bright sunlight, the whiter it will get (to a limit). A week ago, the rock on the right in the photo looked almost as bad as the one on the left. Notice the difference after a few days in the sun.
Would you like to have information about fish keeping, including nice articles about cichlids, delivered to your computer and your home? Consider subscribing to Amazonas magazine, one of the best freshwater aquarium magazines available. While not specific to cichlids, nearly every issue has information of some utility for any cichlidophile (e.g., articles, new product information and ads, species snapshots). Furthermore, the photographs are awesome!
Don't let the magazine title fool you, though. Content does not focus solely on the fish from the Americas (Central and South America). There is often plenty of information about cichlids from around the world.
Published bi-monthly, a one year subscription costs $29 (US). Even better, consider a three year subscription (18 issues) for $69, which is a bargain. That's $3.83 per issue. And if you're wondering how much magazine you get each month, the Jan/Feb issue was 100 pages!
This is a great resource, even for the expert cichlid keeper. In my opinion, you can always learn new things about fish keeping, tank maintenance, etc.
Where do you go when you're looking for profile information about a particular species? Most people head online. That can be a slippery slope, however.
One of the best, most comprehensive online sites for cichlid information is the Cichlid-forum. It contains profiles of more than 1600 species. The profiles page provides a very nice search interface where you can enter what you already know about the cichlid you're looking for. It also offers a variety of ways to search based on certain species characteristics (e.g., breeding type, temperament), if you're looking for a new species to consider for your tank.
The search interface does lack a few useful search categories, such as substrate type, recommended tank size, and maximum species size. Recommended tank size can be subjective, but no more so than temperament and difficulty (how hard the species is to keep), two search parameters that are provided.
Though designed for a more knowledgeable cichlid keeper, there are enough search options for even the most novice cichlidophile to narrow down a list of potential species suitable for his or her tank(s).
Once you find the species that you're looking for, a simple click on the link will provide you with a nice list of profile data. Don't expect much narrative. The profiles are meant to be short and succinct. As an example, here is the profile for Altolamprologus calvus. This is about as much information as you should expect for any species in their database. If you're looking for long text descriptions, you'll need to search for articles on the species you're interested in.
I posted once before about the Cichlid-forum, but that post was short and was meant to simply point out its online forum value. All in all, the site is a tremendous resource for any cichlid keeper, and I encourage you to sign up. It's free!
Though not the norm for bloggers, I thought I would create a post welcoming new folks here. Pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee (or your drink of choice), sit back, and do some reading. The blog offers a whole array of information, advice, tips, recommendations, interviews, and other nuggets. I hope that you find at least a few things interesting, useful, or helpful.
As I discuss a bit on my About This Blog page, true cichlid experts might not find a lot of new information here, but it's not geared toward newbies either. What I try to bring you is a variety of information about cichlid keeping to think about and consider, much of which centers around my own experience. I do interviews with many folks connected to the hobby - from amateur hobbyists to business people in the industry. Check out the previous interviews here. What you want find here are very many cichlid profiles. While I will share with you information about specific species, this is more within the context of those that I keep or have kept. There are plenty of other websites that provide biological, ecological, and taxonomical details of nearly all species.
The blog is a couple of years old, and I try to post something at least every other day (though sometimes work gets in the way). There is a Search box on the right that does a pretty good job mining the site. What you won't find on the blog are advertisements of any kind, and that's for three reasons: 1) I don't do this for financial gain, 2) I don't want to be beholden to anyone about the content, and 3) I don't want stuff cluttering up the site. I don't know about you, but I hate going to sites that have blinking, scrolling ads or pop-ups and such. You won't see any of that here. There won't be anything to distract you from why you're here in the first place.
I welcome feedback and I'm happy to engage with you. My only request is that you be respectful and civil, both in your comments on posts or your messages to me directly. You don't have to agree with anything on the site but if you read something that makes you ponder for a minute or two, then maybe it was worth it. If you have an interview recommendation, a suggestion for the site, or anything else, just give me a shout. Visit my FAQ page and use the Contact form to shoot me a message. I love hearing from readers.
Beginning aquarists should not start with cichlids. However, I routinely read about new aquarists who set a tank up for the first time and then purchase some cichlids, many times without even knowing what they bought. Bad idea...for several reasons. I'll point to Paul Butler's 12 nicely outlined tips for starters.
Unless you really don't place much value on the life of the fish you keep, it's a good idea that you don't "cut your fishkeeping teeth" on cichlids. These fish, as a rule, aren't for beginners because they're notoriously aggressive (mostly to each other) and often require greater attention to water quality/chemistry than other fish. If you must begin the hobby with a cichlid, please start with just one. And know what species it is, its requirements (e.g., tank size, water), and how it might fit with any other fish you're buying before you buy it (yes, many cichlids will happily consume other fish if they can fit it into their mouth).
Fish keeping is supposed to be fun, especially if you do it only as a hobby. It shouldn't be fun to net out dead, half eaten fish or watch your tank while all but one fish constantly stays up in the corners near the surface. Also, keeping cichlids is not cheap because cichlids are not cheap. They are not generally sold as a discount in groups, like guppies, mollies, tetras, barbs, etc. In other words, most stores won't have them 4 for $10 or some other dollar amount. Even the least expensive cichlids generally cost no less than $5 or $6 each in U.S. currency. More expensive species can cost in excess of $100 each.
It's okay to be new to the hobby. Everyone starts that journey somewhere. I just recommend that novice aquarists do two things first. 1) Don't go buy a bunch of cichlids for your first tank and 2) read about cichlids before doing anything. An informed hobbyist makes fewer mistakes and kills fewer fish - unless that's his/her intent.
While I consistently encourage aquarists to shop at their local fish store (LFS) whenever possible, I also recognize that patronizing a brick and mortar store isn't always feasible. I'm sure many of you shop at Amazon.com, as do I. If you do and you are the charitably type, please consider bookmarking smile.amazon.com and make it your default Amazon.com address. Then consider selecting the American Cichlid Association (ACA) as your charity. Amazon will donate .5% of the cost of each eligible purchase to the ACA, which is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. It's a great way to benefit the ACA, without doing anything different than you normally do when you order from Amazon. To learn more about the Amazon Smile program, visit their about page.
One of the great joys of cichlid keeping is networking and sharing information with fellow cichlidophiles, which enables all of us to make new friends, learn new things, and expand the hobby. This blog is a vehicle for sharing information with you, the reader, and it serves as a notebook of sorts for topics and other bits of information that I frequently refer back to. I hope that as you explore the blog you find something of interest and informative. Perhaps you will learn something new. Furthermore, if you find something useful, I hope that you will share it with your aquarist friends. In fact, I encourage you to do so.
Having said all of that, please be mindful that the text and photos you find here belong to me unless otherwise noted. You're free to share it but you're not free to do so unless you also cite my blog as the source. Sharing content without attribution (or acknowledging where you got the content from) is fraud, which is a form of theft. You are taking something from me and using it for your own gain (e.g., financial, reputation). Under the copyright license I have for this site, you're free to use content found here without my permission as long as you cite my blog. If you want to quote the words from my interviewees or share other quoted information on my blog, cite both that person and my blog. It's not complicated.
Have you ever performed a web search looking for a cichlid profile, gone to several of the sites from the search results, and noticed that many of the sites contain the exact same text? That's because one site simply copied from another. That profile text originated somewhere but has been passed off as original on other sites to either make them seem authoritative, make them seem reputable, or some other intentional purpose. It happens all of the time and it's wrong. Please don't do that. No one likes a thief, and that's basically what you are when you do it.
It's been almost 18 months since I posted on noise in aquariums, but I was reminded of this problem again the other day. As I was doing some work, I noticed a constant humming sound coming from above me (i.e., from a tank in a room above where I was working). I had just completed a water change nearly 30 minutes prior, so I suspected the sound had something to do with that tank maintenance. I went upstairs to look and a powerhead was vibrating badly, which was resonating through the tank, the stand, and the floor above where I was working. I was able to adjust the powerhead to reduce the vibration, which subsequently reduced the humming.
If that sound was noticeable enough to bother me, imagine how the fish in that tank felt. You're probably wondering whether such sounds really have any impact on the fish. After all, fish are bombarded with sounds constantly in the wild just as they are in captivity. I posed that question to Dr. Karen Maruska at LSU when I interviewed her recently. Dr. Maruska studies the effects of noise on captive fish, including cichlids. She indicated in the interview that most equipment sounds (e.g., filters) in aquariums are in the low-frequency range, which have a greater probability of affecting fish in a negative way. Her research on this is ongoing, but she indicated that there are published studies that discuss some of these detrimental effects.
So here is a small bit of advice for lowering vibration noise if you use external canisters for filtration. Fold a towel and set your canister on top of it so that your canister is no longer making contact with the solid surface of the floor or cabinet. The towel will dampen much of the vibration caused by the canister. Use a light colored towel also. This way you can easily spot a canister leak before the towel becomes soaked. A light-colored towel darkens when wet.
Everyone begins their cichlid keeping journey somewhere. Maybe you grew up around fish tanks, your friends kept fish, or you were mesmerized when you first encountered that tank with a big Oscar in it. Regardless, you weren't born knowing how to be a good fish keeper. You've had to learn like everyone else. How you learned, however, may vary from another cichlid keeper.
Yesterday, I stumbled upon a pretty solid list of do's and dont's for any cichlidophile, novice or otherwise, which should serve as a guide to being both successful and responsible with these amazing fish. I have re-posted it here with permission from the author.
I'm pretty onboard with each of these, except for #8. I'd be more inclined to have a quarantine tank over a hospital tank, especially if you regularly acquire new cichlids from multiple sources. If you need a hospital tank all of the time, you're either not doing something right or you're getting bad fish. I don't consider quarantine and hospital tanks one in the same, but some folks do.
CORRECTION (4/05/17): The author of the tips contacted me after posting this and indicated he had a typo in #8 below. The second sentence in #8 originally began "You need one set up permanently,.." What it should have said is "You don't need one set up permanently,..." I corrected it below, but that edit necessitates a change in my paragraph above to simply say, "I'm onboard with each of these."
*GENERAL TIPS FOR CICHLID KEEPERS*
Did you know that some species of fish, just like many other animals, can identify conspecifics by sight? While it may often be difficult for you to tell the difference between some of your fish, Julidochromis transcriptus is one cichlid species with the ability to sort through facial patterns to identify those of its own kind.
Perhaps even more interesting is the depth of their recall. From how far back in time can they remember a familiar face? What are the contexts by which they remember or is context even a variable? These are interesting questions, but not the objective of the research by the team of scientists in Japan who recently published a paper in the journal Animal Behavior titled "Face recognition in the Tanganyikan cichlid Julidochromis transcriptus".
If you've never kept this species, you should consider doing so. It's a wonderful little Tanganyikan that is relatively common in the hobby, easy to breed, and even more fun to observe. Also known as the Masked Julie, transcriptus, like other Julies, is a torpedo-shaped cichlid that prefers lots of rocks and caves. They have an interesting knack for positioning themselves at odd angles near rocks and cave openings when they're not feeding, spawning, or protecting territory. They may hang inverted under a rock or even position themselves vertically.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub