If you've kept fish for any length of time and you've used canister filters, chances are that you've had a priming issue at one time or another that results from the intake hose not staying full of water. If you haven't yet, you will. I think it's inevitable.
Most canister's sold today have quick release valves that allow you to disconnect the intake and outtake hoses from the canister without having to disassemble anything or worrying about clamping hoses. Furthermore, when disconnecting these quick releases at the canister, water is typically retained in the intake hose, at least to the point where the hose crosses the top of the tank. (Note: This is assuming you're using a canister the typical way and not connected via a pre-drilled hole in the tank like in an overflow box). While there are plenty of solutions out there for this scenario, here's one that should work with any canister filter.
If you have a powerhead or small submersible pump, use it to "push" water up the intake tube inside the tank. Most likely you have a strainer (see left photo above) or a prefilter sponge of some kind on the end of your canister intake tube inside the tank. Remove it, plug the canister in then insert the intake nozzle of the powerhead/submersible pump inside the intake tube (see right photo above). Make sure the water level in the tank is above the intake tube before you begin. It will only take a few seconds for the canister filter to begin pulling water from the intake tube and evacuate any air.
This solution can also work with a wet/dry, sump type of filter. However, trying it will require some additional steps, which is a post for anther day.
NOTE: Do NOT use a large/powerful powerhead or submersible pump for this. For most canister filters, a powerhead or submersible pump rated at ~160 gph should be more than sufficient. If the pump head pressure is too high, you could blow the hose off of a fitting. That's unlikely to happen, but anything is possible when you create great water pressure inside a closed loop. All you need is enough pump head pressure to "push" water up the intake until it reaches the top of the tank where the canister takes over and begins the water flow.
So what do you do when your LFS doesn't have the fish you want? You can see if your store will order them for you, you can check with your friends and colleagues who also keep cichlids, you can find an online cichlid retailer, or.....check out the ACA Trading Post online.
Hobbyists, some just like yourself, have an opportunity to sell fish via the Trading Post (TP). At any given time, you are likely to find 50 or more species listed for sale with most at very reasonable prices. However, it goes beyond that. You can also use the TP to let other cichlidophiles know that you're in the market by posting species that you're looking for. No one knows better how to locate hard to find cichlids than fellow hobbyists and breeders.
I have used the Trading Post in the past to not only find some species I've been looking for but also to contact the seller with specific questions. Most of the sellers are also breeders, so they often can answer species specific questions that you might have.
If you're a regular to the blog, you've probably noticed that I often post about resources for cichlid information. I point to videos, cichlid forums, Facebook, regular websites, etc. I do this because these resources present a multi-media experience that is multi-informative.
All of these resources have the capability of educating and informing you about cichlids. What they can't help you do is understand your own fish. Because cichlids are highly individualistic with respect to behavior, the resources you use to learn about them will provide you with information that is general to each genus and species, not specifically to your own fish. You can only understand the behavior of your own fish by observing them.
Species are known to interact with their own kind (conspecifics) in typical ways. However, if you house multiple specimens of the same species together, you may find that your fish deviate from typical behavioral baselines. That's a good thing.
Often, it's even more exciting to house multiple species together. Cichlids offer a variety of behaviors when they interact with each other. Sometimes they behave exactly like most information about them says they will. On the other hand, sometimes they won't behave at all like you expect. Do your cichlids behave differently than how you expected? If so, how?
With a little fore-knowledge and preparation, you can be adequately prepared for most any fish behavior scenario. Nothing is more valuable than what you observe, which ultimately becomes experience. When you invest in the hobby, you should also invest in your own intellect. Find out about the fish you plan to keep - do some research. But don't stop there. When you get your fish, watch them. You'll learn even more.
I mentioned at the beginning of the year that there would be more interviews. I didn't lie. They're coming.
Be on the lookout for interviews with well known members of the hobby, some industry folks, and more! By last count, I have five already lined up and at least a couple more I'm working on.
You know what happens when the lights on your tank turn on. If the room is really dark when the lights come one, the fish are usually pretty still and will even be quite pale looking, especially if the lights come after a lengthy period of complete darkness. Why? Because they're asleep, but not in the same way you and I sleep.
Nonetheless, when the lights come on, it often takes several minutes for fish to become active. If you spend any amount of time observing your cichlids, you know that even ambient light (e.g., daylight behind closed blinds or overhead lights in the room) is often enough to keep your fish awake and alert. Most aquarium fish will dart about when the tank lights are on, and most cichlids get quite enthusiastic when you approach the tank.
If you keep mbuna cichlids, don't be fooled by what you don't or can't see. When the lights are on and your mbuna aren't visible, chances are they're hiding, not necessarily from each other but from you and any other potential predators. You may not even notice much serious aggression then. However, when the lights are off and they're awake, there are lots of things going on.
If you have lots of rocks for caves and shelter, which is a good idea if you keep mbuna, grab a seat near your tank when the tank lights are off and observe. The interplay is fascinating, even more so with a mixed species tank. Some fish will be excavating the substrate, especially if you have sand. Some will be actively swimming in and out of the cover, perhaps just to see what's going on.
On the other hand, there may also be territorial disputes that result in posturing or, unfortunately, someone may actually be getting beaten to death. That's right. It can happen and it can happen quickly. In fact, you often won't even see it if you have lots of rocks and caves. In a matter of minutes a cichlid could get pinned under some rock and get bludgeoned to death by a tank mate who, the night before, seemed just as docile as a dither fish.
Ad Konings, co-founder of the Stuart M. Grant Cichlid Conservation Fund, prominent expert on Old World cichlids, and regular speaker at ACA conventions, often provides updates on African cichlid conservation efforts. Unfortunately, one of the many problems with efforts to protect cichlid species in Lake Malawi is clashes with local fishermen. See this recent update from Ad on the activities funded by the Conservation Fund. A shout out to the Cichlid Room Companion Facebook page. I encourage you to join the ACA and participate in their many conservation efforts.
This month's issue of the Cichlid News contains an interesting article by Dr. Tim Hovanec about the effects of grains and gluten in a fish's diet. Titled "Grain-free, gluten-free are important to your fishes' health," the article is an indictment on the large quantity of grains found in flake and pellet foods, which Dr. Hovanec says are detrimental to your cichlids' health over the long term. He stresses that because carbohydrates are largely an unnatural part of a cichlids diet, their digestive system is ill-equipped to deal with grains, etc.
The Cichlid News is a subscription-only serial and a great resource for cichlidophiles. See my February post about the magazine. For more information about Dr. Hovanec, visit his webiste - Dr. Tim's Aquatics.
Another great part of the convention are the many vendors who bring their products to the show. There are free samples for those wanting to try a product before purchasing. Nearly every vendor provides free samples of their products, especially cichlid foods. Some vendors even sell directly to the convention attendees. Among this year's many vendors were ZooMed Laboratories, Cobalt Aquatics, Swiss Tropicals, Aqueon, Marineland, NorthFin, Tetra, and the folks at Pleco Caves. If nothing else, hobbyists can engage with various product representatives and ask questions about the products.
In addition, vendors donate items for sale in the silent auction, where hobbyists can bid on and win products for less than half of the cost of purchasing them.
Just left the fish auction where all of the proceeds go to cichlid conservation. If you're familiar with the Convention, you know all about the Babes in the Cichlid Hobby and their efforts to raise funds and conservation awareness. See my interview with Pam Chin back in April for more information about this great group of ladies.
In addition to the fish auction (see a short video of the fish auction below), the Babes also organize the silent auction where everything from cichlid books to t-shirts to the latest in aquarium products are auctioned. Both auctions are fantastic and for a great cause.
Just finished my first full day at the convention. This first post focuses on one of the more overlooked aspects of the whole convention - the fish show. The convention is not only a place for fellow cichlidophiles from all over to get together and talk about this great hobby, but it's also an opportunity for them to show off their fish...live. It is a competition that has divisions and classes for nearly all new and old world cichlid groups (Haplochromines, Mbuna, Aulonocaras, Geophagines, Acaras, etc.). Show cichlids are housed in the show room, which may contain as many as 200 tanks. Awards are given out in each class as well as Best in Division and, the biggie, Best of Show.
If you want to see some of the most gorgeous specimens of these cichlids, the show room is the place to be. Many of these fish are kept in tanks, not unlike yours at home, by hobbyists who love cichlids as much as you probably do.
I mentioned in a previous post that I would be attending to the ACA convention in Cincinnati, OH this weekend. If you're within driving distance and want to enjoy a cichlid-focused event with hundreds of other cichlidophiles, stop by. It's an awesome convention where you can see hundreds of cichlids, learn more about them, and meet fellow aquarists. The speakers are a who's who of the cichlid community, at least in the US.
Be on the lookout for lots of new posts. I'll be blogging about the convention. If you are attending and you see me, introduce yourself. I love to meet the blog readers!
When you hear the term "bower builder," maybe your first thought is a bird - the bowerbird. You may then ask, what is a bower? Simply put, it's a dwelling, often elaborate and leafy in construction. So what's this have to do with cichlids?
If you keep African cichlids, especially from Lake Malawi, and you have a sand or mini-gravel substrate, you may end up with a bower in your tank. Within the context of fish, a bower is a typically well-defined depression, often on a raised mound. Cichlids aren't the only Perciformes to exhibit bower building, which is primarily a social behavior exhibited by males for mate attraction. Bass, perch, and bluegill are other common freshwater fish that perform this ritual.
If you're interested in the nuts and bolts of bower building by Lake Malawi cichlids, check out this outstanding scholarly article from the journal Frontiers in Ecology an Evolution. Yes, it's a research article, but it's readability is rather high for the lay public, in my opinion.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub