Are you maintaining more than one fish tank? Do you do water changes one tank at a time? If you answered 'yes' to both of these questions, you should consider doing multiple tanks at the same time. Hopefully, you've advanced in the hobby to the point that you're using a Python gravel vacuum or some other brand to perform your water changes.
All you need is two gravel vacuums and two faucets. Then you can perform water changes in parallel.
If all I'm doing is changing water in my tanks, I often do two tanks concurrently, which greatly reduces my maintenance time. I encourage you to consider adding faucet driven gravel vacuums (yes, plural) to your maintenance toolkit. Aqueon and Lee's are other brands. If you prefer to use gravity-only models, there are plenty of those available too.
Three months ago, I posted about a new fish food soon to enter the market. I was given a 1 oz. container of the flakes and the two sizes of pellets (actually sticks) in advance, which I added to my Tanganyikan pantry. This new food, called CSPro, is a Calanus and Spirulina mix made by AquaLife.
I have to say my Tanganyikans love both! The flakes are broken by hand rather than augered, which results in larger pieces of flake in the container instead of tiny crumbs. Larger flakes lead to more of the food being consumed and fewer small pieces ending up on the substrate or stuck under rocks and decorations. With two sizes of stick pellets (1/8" and 1/16" diameter), you can accommodate both your small and large cichlids as well as any bottom feeders, especially if they're averse to flakes.
Look for CSPro to hit store shelves next week. I don't have distribution information at this time, so I can't pinpoint who will carry it. I'll provide an update when I have that information.
UPDATE (10/10/16): The food is now available at a few LFSs, primarily in the southeast, but is making its way to store shelves. You can also purchase it online from Aquariumconnection.com.
Hot off the press. Eheim has released news of a new partnership with Cobalt International. Rather than tell you about it, below is the official press release:
EHEIM and COBALT INTERNATIONAL announce an agreement for cooperation in North America."
I've met cichlid keepers from all walks of life and from all across the country. However, until recently, I had never met a cichlidophile from "down under". As a native and current resident of Melbourne, Australia, Daryl Hutchins has kept many varieties of fish since he was a child. If the name sounds a bit familiar, you probably know him as Editor of the Buntbarsche Bulletin, the official journal of the American Cichlid Association.
Daryl's dedication to the hobby can't be understated when he simultaneously serves cichlid groups in two countries that are over 9000 miles apart (that's over 15,000 kilometers for you non-US readers) and has flown to the US for the annual ACA convention twice. I reached out to Daryl a few months ago about being interviewed for the blog. He graciously agreed, so here we go.
Because I'm always thinking up new ideas for water flow, filtration, etc., I'm always experimenting. You should do the same. While most of the aquarium products at the pet store of your LFS were designed for specific uses, you don't have to use them as intended. In fact, I'm constantly modifying and repurposing pumps, filters, powerheads, etc.
One of the easiest modifications you can try is creating new types of in/out-takes for your filters/pumps, such as creating your own spray-bar with a short length of PVC. Or buy a couple of flared nozzles, add a "Y" connector, and create an outflow in two separate directions. If you want to create a little extra filtration, add some media to a 16 oz condiment or water bottle and connect it to your powerhead intake. The options are endless. You can get lots of ideas from YouTube, but make it your own. Be creative!
Coming on the heels of returning from travel, I realized that I might be able to share something useful about how I feed my fish when I'm gone. I mentioned in a previous post that I don't use automatic fish feeders. I use the human kind. I get my house sitters to feed them for me.
So how do my sitters know what to feed and how much? I pre-fill medicine cups before I leave and simply write a note detailing when to dump the cup contents into the tank.
If you're like me, you feed a variety of foods. Because my house sitter doesn't know anything about fish, he/she has no idea how much to feed or which foods to feed. I take those questions out of the equation.
Nothing like coming home from a vacation, doing routine tank maintenance, and noticing fish missing. That's right, plural. Two fish, to be exact, from a 55g mbuna tank.
This tank has stacked rock from end to end. Naturally, the fish hide when I'm performing my regular maintenance, so trying to do a head count is nearly impossible. I waited until feeding time because that's when it's easiest to count fish, especially for tanks that are heavily decorated or have lots of rock.
I noticed that my lone Pseudo demasoni and one of my Pseudo sp. "Elongatus Chailosi" weren't coming out to eat. That's a tell tale sign there's a problem. So, the search began.
I started on one end of the tank and moved rock until I got to the other end. Nothing. The canister filter has a sponge on the intake, so it was impossible for any fish to get sucked into the filter. I have two glass canopies that cover the top completely, so I knew they couldn't have jumped out either. That left only two possibilities: they had both died and decomposed to the point where nothing was left or....the powerhead. I knew that neither of those fish could have decomposed that quickly, so that left the powerhead.
Though the powerhead did not have a strainer or prefilter on its intake, I thought to myself, "There is no way either of those fish would get sucked in unless they were really sick or dead." I could tell the powerhead wasn't clogged to the point where it wasn't drawing water because I have an artificial plant right in front of it, and the plant was waving in the water while I was cleaning the tank earlier. However, knowing there was no other possibility, I unplugged the powerhead, turned it over, and looked in the short intake pipe. Yep, something was there.
I took a small plastic spoon and stuck the handle end inside the intake, using the handle as a sort of pry bar. I pulled the fish out. It was the demasoni and it had been there a while. I stuck the handle back in and pried some more. Yep, the other fish was in there too. I finally got it's heavily decomposed carcass out also. Needless to say, I did another complete water change. I also immediately capped the intake of the powerhead with a small prefilter sponge.
I don't want to blame my house sitter, yet I can't help but wonder what happened. Both fish were fine when I left on travel. Losing one fish would be highly unusual, but losing two would be extremely unlikely. No way to know for sure what happened. My house sitter has no experience keeping fish, and no instructions were left other than when to feed (the food for each feeding was pre-measured).
I mentioned I was out of town in the previous post. I had a meeting in Chicago for a few days. While I was there, I took some time to visit a local aquarium store. Located in the Old Town section of the city, the store is aptly named - Old Town Aquarium.
Located just a few blocks from Lake Michigan, Old Town Aquarium sits on N. Wells Street in a quaint little neighborhood filled with little shops and street cafes. The store occupies the street level floor of a small brick building just north of W. Schiller Street.
With all aquarium products in the front half of the store and the fish room in the rear, the store is nicely laid out and organized. Rather than species-only tanks, the store utilizes multiple 20-30g acrylic tanks that each house multiple species. Marine livestock is on one side of the store while freshwater occupies most of the other. The cichlid selection is not very extensive and, from what I could tell, focuses mostly on new world species. I saw some nice Firemouths, Geophagus, Salvini, and even some dwarf pikes. An interesting and rather unique aspect of the retail tanks in the fish room is that each tank is aquascaped. Aquarium stores typically provide little decoration and cover in their tanks, which I personally think is a mistake.
Unlike many aquarium stores, Old Town is full-service, meaning they'll not only help you decide what to buy but they'll even design it, set it up, and maintain it for you. Prices are reasonable on everything from fish food, to new tanks, to the fish themselves. In fact, the store offers a nice selection of products that is sure to provide the needs of every fishkeeper from the beginner to the expert.
If you live in downtown Chicago, you undoubtedly already know about this friendly neighborhood LFS. If you're in town visiting, take the time to stop by and check it out.
I apologize for the gap in posts over the past couple of weeks. I've been traveling, which has interrupted my regular blogging schedule. However, this is a good time to talk a little about looking after your livestock while you're away.
Normally, I don't travel for longer than a week at a time. Regardless, I always have someone house and dog sit if I'm gone, which ultimately has little impact on my regular feeding schedule. Anyway, though I have never used automatic fish feeders, I'm reluctant to do so for a variety of reasons (in no particular order below):
1) Lack of complete control over exactly when the fish get fed.
2) Fear of a mechanical malfunction, which leads to overfeeding. I'm not worried about underfeeding because healthy juvenile and adult cichlids can go a week without food without problems (fry are a different matter altogether).
3) I typically unplug filters when I feed to avoid uneaten food from getting in them. Yes, I do use prefilter sponges on all my intakes, but I prefer the food to sink naturally rather than getting blown around into all corners of the tank.
4) I really don't need them because I have someone who's willing to feed my fish while I'm away.
5) They are just more of a hassle than I want to deal with.
However, automatic fish feeders can certainly be good tools when you don't have someone available to feed for you. Also, having a single tank doesn't require you to have multiple feeders. So if you fall into either one of those categories, by all means give them a try. They do work or they wouldn't sell.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub