For those of you who use Cobalt Aquatics' line of flake foods, they have released a new line called Ultra, which currently comes in three varieties - Worm Medley, Spirulina, and Color. Each of these come with more Astaxanthin, extra garlic and paprika added to their base flake formula.
If you are a consumer of Cobalt products, I would encourage you to sign-up for their newsletter. Occasionally they have free give aways, especially when they release new products.
Have you been thinking about joining the ACA but aren't entirely sure what the benefits are to you? Maybe turn the question around and ask what the benefits are for you and others. To that end you might wonder "What does the ACA do?" Here's how Alan R. DeAngelo, the current Chair of the ACA Board of Trustees and editor of the newsletter, answered that question in this month's newsletter:
The question came up about the relevancy of the ACA. It's just a fish club, right?
In addition to the above benefits, membership provides access to the monthly newsletter, the Buntbarsche Bulletin (ACA's journal), a registration discount to the annual convention, and access to the Cichlid Room Companion (perhaps the single best online resource for cichlid information).
In my opinion, all cichlid enthusiasts should become an ACA member. The organization does many great things for cichlids and the hobby.
If you've kept cichlids for any length of time, then you've undoubtedly seen many extraordinary photos of them. Some of the best you will ever see are by my friend Mo Devlin. I've known Mo for a long time and I interviewed him for the blog a couple of years ago. In addition to being an expert photographer, Mo is an expert cichlidophile.
In any case, he has established a non-profit organization called the American Cichlid Alliance, which "is an independent resource for the dissemination of accurate and timely cichlid information. In addition we support the various clubs and organizations featuring cichlids." The organization has a Facebook page, which I encourage you to visit and follow. It is updated regularly and contains a plethora of information and links to excellent cichlid information.
Oh, and if you think you take some pretty good fish photos yourself, enter them into the monthly ACA photo contest. Mo is one of the judges.
Decided that you can only set up a small tank because of space limitations? Worried that there aren't any cichlids small enough for a small tank? Don't fret.
Consider some shellie species from Lake Tanganyika - Neolamprologus ocellatus, Neolamprologus brevis, Neolamprologus multifasciatus, or Neolamprologus similis. None of these species will greatly exceed 3" in length and they're easily sexed - adult males are larger. Except for the ocellatus, they're not the most striking in color but they have many other redeeming qualities.
What shellies lack in size they make up for in personality. Females guarding eggs/fry are fearless. I once had a female ocellatus no larger than a big paperclip beat my hand to death when I got just a bit too close to her shell while cleaning the glass. In fact, it initially rattled me so much I dropped the scrubber.
In any case, any of these species would make a great addition to a small tank. Shellies aren't much for the water column, so go for a shallower tank with a larger footprint. If you don't get one custom made, you'll have to go rimless to get one that isn't standard dimensions (I'm talking glass here, not acrylic). But that's not a bad thing. Rimless glass tanks are gorgeous. A good example is Mr. Aqua's 12 gallon bookshelf tank, called Serene. It's 35.4" x 8.3" x 9.4", which provides more floorspace where the fish will spend their time. In fact, Mr. Aqua makes several non-standard volume tanks and they're all excellent. They're made with precision beveled-cut glass and assembled using special silicone from Germany. I highly recommend them.
I have shared snippets throughout various posts about how I got where I am in my fish keeping travels. I have shared the names of people who have helped me in one way or another - some I know and some I don't. If you read the blog regularly, which I hope you do, then you've also read posts where I've acknowledged mistakes along the way. I've made plenty of them and, sadly, they've sometimes come at the expense of fish.
There are many things that have contributed to my success and failures in the hobby. Sometimes I have learned the hard way. The hobby is constantly growing and evolving, and you should never get complacent or stop learning.
There is one thing, however, that has remained constant with respect to my fish keeping - reading print resources. In fact, while I have sought the advice of many expert aquarists over the years, reading is what is responsible for the majority of what I have learned about fish keeping and the world of cichlids.
Years ago, you could pretty much trust the accuracy of everything that you read. With social media and the ease at which anyone can publish just about anything on the Web, it's no longer true. This is why I encourage you to place your trust in, and continue to read, traditional print resources - magazine articles, scholarly articles, books, monographs, newspapers. These resources are still vetted, more so than much of what you read on the Web.
In any case, I am thankful to those who have contributed to print resources by writing about all aspects of being an aquarist. You have played a vital role in getting me where I am in the hobby, and I thank you.
Interested in setting up a SA biotope? If so, then you should find this Step-by-Step Rio Negro Aquarium article very informative. Complete with numerous photos, the article outlines everything from the substrate to the aquascape to the fish that the author used, which includes Dicrossus maculatus.
Yes the maculatus is dwarf species (because the author's set-up is a nano biotope - only 15g), but there is no reason you couldn't simply increase everything proportionally to create a much larger set-up for your larger species. Many SA cichlid keepers emulate SA biotopes, including blackwater environments. In fact, there are many products available to facilitate such set-ups.
If you're intrigued by this and want even more information, visit Tannin Aquatics, a website that focuses on such aquatic biotopes. The site also sells products specifically to create SA environments in the hobby.
If you're like most cichlid keepers, you regularly think about your next tank - what size, what stock, what hardware. You probably also often think about your "ideal" or "fantasy" tank. You know the tank I'm talking about, the one which is just out of your reach either because of your budget, available space, or both.
I think about these things all of the time. As I point out on my About This Blog page, I'm partial to Rift Lake dwarf species for practical reasons - my source water and available space. But what if I could keep anything I wanted? That's easy.
I would have a 250g Tanganyikan community tanks. Why you ask? A couple of reasons. Well, maybe more than two.
What kind of tank is on your wish list?
What do all of these have in common? They're all potential products of irregular or inconsistent cleaning. If you have a power filter (HOB, canister, internal), clean the pumphead, impeller, and other components regularly. Clean your filter hoses too. Make regular cleaning of all components of your tank a part of your routine. But don't stop there. Keep your supplies clean as well - buckets, water change hoses, brushes, etc.
Regular cleaning (in conjunction with water changes) will also result in healthier fish over time. Adopt a consistent cleaning routine and you'll spend less time problem solving. It's really that simple.
Do you have sand substrate? Do you fret over losing sand when you're vacuuming it? Don't.
Losing some sand when you vacuum is inevitable. What's important is that you clean it well. The longer detritus sits on the substrate of your tank, the more nitrate that gets produced as the final stage of the chemical process responsible for the breakdown of waste. Sustained, high nitrates will eventually kill your cichlids, which will cost your more to replace than the sand.
When I clean my 40g and 55g tanks, it's not uncommon for me to lose a total 1/4 - 1/3 cup of sand. Since I clean my tanks weekly, that amounts to around a cup per month. I'm okay with that and I use Aquarium sand, which costs significantly more than other aquarium compatible sands.
Even if you use the expensive Aquarium sand varieties, the cost of the sand you lose is not high. Assuming you lose the equivalent of what I do each month, your total expense to replace your sand each year would be less than $30. How much do you pay for a couple of cichlids? Sure, there are many other reasons to worry about fish loss not related to detritus on your substrate, but worrying about losing sand because you're sucking too much of it up shouldn't be one. A clean substrate is a vital component of a healthy tank, especially if you don't have live plants.
If you want to add a nice, peaceful fish to your tank, pick up a few Cleithracara maronii. Commonly known as a Keyhole cichlid, this small South American is typically quite peaceful and passive compared to most fish its size. I hesitate to call it a dwarf species because mine grew to nearly 5", which is about the maximum you can expect. However, they are not rowdy fish by any means, certainly not compared to mbuna of the same size.
Mine never bred, but then again I never set out to breed them. I suspect it was because the water parameters didn't suit them. I'm on municipal water that runs between 7.5 and 7.8 pH even though I was using R/O at the time to lower it to about 7 and the hardness to around 150. The maronii species prefers softer, more acidic water but mine seemed to do well (growth, color) other than spawning.
In any case, the maronii aren't demanding. In fact, they're quite shy. I kept four together in a planted 55g, with what I believe was a ratio of 1:3 (1 male and 3 females), though it could have been 4 females (I never vented them to be certain). They aren't the most sexually dimorphic species, but I believe the females tend to be smaller and males have more pointed anal fins. Mine were all about the same size. It's not an overly colorful species, but mine developed a nice blue outline along the trailing ends of the fins, especially dorsal and anal. Sadly, I never took any photos of mine, but the photo at top is a good representation.
I haven't kept any American (CA/SA) cichlids in quite a while, but I would certainly consider a few of these fish for my next American community tank. If you're a beginning cichlidophile or wanting to delve into Americans for the first time, consider the Keyhole. Because of their shyness, it's not a bad idea to include some dithers in your tank. I included some Black Skirt tetras, some barbs, and some danios, which seemed to help pull them out from behind the plants, rocks, etc. You'll know if your Keyhole is "nervous" or "anxious" because the eye bar and black spot on the anterior will become very pronounced.
Back in December, I posted about a custom order I placed with Pleco Caves in Indiana. I was so pleased with the job Brantley and company did, that I placed another custom order recently. For this batch, I gave them different dimensions than the previous order. The new order arrived today and the caves look great!
These new ones are all ~2" x 2", which I wanted at both 4" and 6" lengths with open and closed ends. I asked for 4 of each category. So if you know discrete math (specifically combinatorics), how many caves did I order?
4 caves each x both 4 and 6" open (2) x both 4 and 6" closed (2)
4 x 2 x 2 = 16
Yeah, so the title of this post is a cheesy reference to 80's music. Nonetheless, if you plan to breed cichlids on a regular basis, especially mouth brooders, you should probably understand the ins and outs of egg tumbling. Tumblers are available via retail. There are also plenty of articles and videos detailing how to build one yourself.
One of the better descriptions of the egg tumbling process is in Marc Elieson's excellent article. Marc is an expert cichlidophile who has kept and bred dozens of Victorian and Malawi cichlids. He's also written numerous articles about all aspects of cichlid keeping, many of which can be found at cichlid-forum.com. Some of the articles are dated, but much of the content is still accurate and applicable. Marc is now a medical doctor, which might explain why he's no longer prolific with his cichlid articles.
Back in February, I posted an interview I did with Dr. Karen Maruska of Louisiana State University. If you didn't see the interview, check it out. An interesting tidbit about Dr. Maruska is that she's a scientist who willingly engages with the public. In fact, she considers public outreach important to her work, so much so that her lab produces a blog of its own, called Burt's Blog (name after her primary study fish Astatotilapia burtoni). What makes Burt's Blog unique is that its posts are written from a fish's perspective. Yep, from Burt's perspective. Visit the site. You'll find it interesting.
Following up on the previous post, you can't make general assumptions about cichlids based on reputation or characteristics. Why? Cichlids have their own personalities. Yes, some are genetically predisposed to aggression. However, there are exceptions.
To carry this farther, don't assume that larger cichlids have an automatic advantage over smaller species. Yes, if the size differential is significant and the larger cichlid can fit the smaller cichlid in its mouth, then it matters. Otherwise, many smaller species can easily hold their own against much larger tank mates.
Have you ever witnessed a crow harassed by a mocking bird? Many similar examples exist in the world of cichlids. Try to convince a fry guarding female Telmatochromis sp. "temporalis shell" to back down from any other cichlid of any size. Same for a male N. ocellatus.
A couple of years I ago I posted about the fact that cichlids, as a rule, are aggressive fishes. However, not all cichlids of the same species are equal. Just like not every Pit Bull is a killer dog, neither is every specimen of a cichlid species a killer fish.
There are many variables that factor into the aggression level of cichlids in aquaria. Despite what you might read on various forums, don't assume that just because someone says a particular species is really nasty that such a description applies to every cichlid of that species. It's just simply not true. Are particular species more genetically predisposed to aggression? Probably.
If you've kept various cichlids (multiple species, multiple ratios, etc.) for a long time, you'll know that cichlid behavior can't be painted with a broad brush. Cichlids have unique personalities. I have kept some species together without any problem even when the community consensus advises against doing so. Does this mean you should abandon advice that you receive and do whatever you want? No. It means that if you choose to go against the consensus, be prepared to act when one of your fish is getting bullied (i.e., have a way to separate tank occupants either within the same tank or using separate tanks). Sometimes even this strategy won't work, as some cichlids do their dirty work at night, and you won't see it coming before it's all over.
Regardless, if you're new to keeping cichlids, you're better off sticking with the consensus until you have experience. Better yet, if you're new to cichlids, maybe begin with a single cichlid or maybe two or three, all of a different species. Avoid the normally recognized aggressive species until you've learned more about cichlid compatibility or have spent considerable time raising these fish. There are some species that are better than others to begin your cichlid keeping journey.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub