Most fishkeeping hobbyists have standard aquariums - glass or acrylic tanks that are mass produced in standard sizes (e.g., 10, 20, 55, 75 gallons). The reason for this is availability. You can purchase these tanks at your big box pet stores (e.g., PetSmart, Petco, Pet Valu, Pet Supplies Plus), independent LFSs, Wal-Mart, etc. On the other hand, some fishkeepers have custom aquariums.
Why would cichlid hobbyists want custom made tanks? Some cichlidophiles have tanks built for specific display locations in homes (e.g, in walls, furniture), some have them built for keeping or breeding specific species, and others have them designed for a unique look. Whatever the reason, there are vendors that will build that special tank for you. Below is a video from Custom Aquariums out of Wisconsin.
Video of fish tank fabrication at Custom Aquariums.
The downside, of course, is cost. A custom tank is more than just a few pieces of glass or acrylic siliconed together to create unique volumes. The more customized the tank, the more expensive it becomes compared to the mass produced standard versions because the process becomes less automated as customizations increase. For example, the components are cut to size based on your specifications, and then the assembly process is modified to accommodate your other choices. Many parts of the fabrication workflow may be modified just to construct your individual tank - whether it's a shallow, rectangular version or a tall, hexagonal design. Options include glass/acrylic thickness, glass clarity, joint types, tempering options, rimmed/rimless, pre-drilled, and of course volume and dimensions. On the other hand, depending on your options, you may well find a vendor who will construct a tank of the exact same dimensions for less than a standard tank in a big store. However, you need to also consider the shipping charges. Unless you live nearby and can pick the tank up yourself (or have it shipped to your LFS at a cut rate), the shipping charge alone may add considerable cost, especially for larger tanks.
But don't let any additional cost stop you from owning that beautiful showpiece that you've always wanted. Do your homework before selecting the design of your tank and then do your homework on who to get to build it. Below are a few tank vendors that can accommodate your need for that special tank build (Disclaimer: I've never used any of these vendors and thus can't speak for the quality of their work. I'm not endorsing them in any way, only providing links to their sites as a resource for you, the reader).
How deep do you have the intake(s) of your filter(s)? Where you position the bottom of the intake can matter in several different ways. In fact, you don't even have to position the intake vertically, but that's a story for another day.
If you have sand substrates and you seem to get regularly get sand in your filter, you should consider raising the intake. A little sand in your filter isn't going to destroy it. It may decrease its lifespan as it wears on the impeller, but that's unlikely to happen quickly unless the intake is gulping large quantities. How much sand gets in your filter might also correlate with the cichlid species that you keep. Larger species kick up greater volumes of sand more often. You can mitigate some of this by prefiltering the intake with a sponge, but be cognizant of the sponge's PPI (pores pre inch) density. Too dense and it will collapse from the water intake pressure. Too sparse and too many particles (including sand grains) will get through. I use approximately 30 PPI sponges on my intakes. Some folks refuse to use prefilters because they claim the sponges place too much pressure on the filter impellers. I disagree.
I don't unplug my filters when I do water changes, even though I change 50% of the water each time. My intakes are deep, so I don't have to worry about the water dropping below the intake. If you have a filter that isn't self priming and you want to do large water changes, I would suggest that you make your intakes deep also. Otherwise, if you do a very large water change and the water line drops below the intake, you'll have to manually prime your filter to get it restarted. I've posted an easy trick for priming problems. The other advantage to having a lower intake is that it will better capture any detritus that gets stirred up by the fish.
It might take some trial and error to find the intake sweet spot, but you'll find it. Experiment and see what works best for you. You don't have to prefilter, but I do and I highly recommend it, especially if you have live plants. Plants shed lots of bits and pieces, which are easily caught by the prefilter turning the intake into an extra mechanical filter, ultimately decreasing the time between filter cleanings.
Yes, the freshwater angelfish is a cichlid. They belong to the genus Pterophyllum and are endemic to various locations in the Amazon basin of South America. Many aquarists don't realize that these thin, oddly shaped, "finny" fish are cichlids, though they are very popular in the hobby. I personally have never kept them, so can offer nothing substantive about them. However, they are readily available at most fish stores.
Because of their popularity in the hobby, there are numerous resources available to learn about them, if you've never kept them or are a novice cichlidophile. One good place to start is this article in Tropical Fish Hobbyist.
Serious cichlidophiles understand the importance of effort when it comes to providing the most optimal environment possible for their fish. Effective fish keeping isn't about the quantity or cost of the equipment you use (dependability aside). It's about the quality of the fish you get and your effort as a fish keeper.
I encounter fish keepers frequently who are more interested in doing less work and taking short cuts rather than exerting effort. Folks, being a good aquarist requires effort. Do the work - water changes, water testing, substrate cleaning, filter cleaning, glass cleaning, decor cleaning. At the end of the day, performing those tasks are the only way to ensure quality tanks and healthy fish.
Because a significant number of vendors of aquarium products and livestock are based in coastal states like Texas and Florida, you might be wondering what impact the hurricanes had on those businesses. The folks at Reef to Rainforest recently reached out to many of them for status updates. Sr. Editor and Associate Publisher Matt Pedersen then compiled the feedback into a nice four-part piece on the Reef2Rainforest website. Check it out to see how some of your favorite vendors are doing after the hurricanes.
I have posted several times in the past about the fecundity of my breeding pair of Telmatochromis sp. "temporalis shell". I have also posted photos of the parents and their fry. However, I believe this is the first time I've captured a photo of the female next to a shell containing visible eggs. Because adults of this species are often jet black in color and they prefer to remain hidden, it's often difficult to get good photos of them due to their proclivity to use the numerous ceramic caves I provide. This time, though, I was successful...partially.
If you look in the photo above, you can see the eggs in the shell aperture (horizontal arrow) and you can see the female (vertical arrow) to the right of the shell just peeking out from within the cave opening. The photo appears washed out because I had to adjust it to make the female more visible. She's looking straight on at me because I'm right against the front glass of the tank. She's obviously curious about what I am doing, especially since her shell is only about 3-4" from the front glass. If you're familiar with temporalis, both genders have a nuchal hump. You can see hers quite visibly in the photo even though she is looking straight on. Also notice the white of the anterior dentary portion of her jaw (i.e., surface of lower front lip). This is not uncommon and can be especially noticeable in males, as they jaw joust frequently.
It's hard to say if the eggs are fertile and hard to say if there are more inside. As you can see, the visible ones are quite light, almost egg-white in color, which is often indicative of being infertile, since typical temporalis eggs are more of a cream color (at least in my experience). She's spawned probably over 80 times already, so she's not a novice.
Though it doesn't take a hurricane to lose electrical power, Harvey and Irma are further proof that extended power outages can be fatal to your fish. As I've discovered over the past several days, lots of cichlidophiles have suffered extensive fish loss because of a lack of power due to these two devastating hurricanes. While a minimal catastrophe in the grand scheme of things, it is extremely unfortunate yet preventable.
I've posted about how you can be prepared for power outages, at least short ones. See this post from back in March and this post from May for more information on being prepared for power outages.
If you're looking to set up a Lank Tanganyika biotope tank, complete with flora, your plant options may be a bit limited. While the lake is home to numerous plants, the availability of most is pretty sparse within the hobby. Below you will find a short list (in alpabetic order) of what is probably the most easily accessible plant species for your tank.
I bet when you're reading about conservation issues within the context of the aquarium hobby, you probably think habitat and species conservation. Looks like you might want to add sand to that list. That's right, unbeknownst to most hobbyists (I'm betting) is that, by weight, sand and gravel are the most extracted natural resources on the planet, even surpassing fossil fuels. Per this article from The Conversation, the demand for sand is at an all time high. Though based on current sand prices, it doesn't appear that the basic supply for consumers is dwindling. However, it is a bit disconcerting, especially given many of the problems outlined in the article. Lots of cichlidophiles have tanks with sand substrates. All my tanks do.
I don't believe that the hobby demand for sand is currently contributing to the issue. However, it is something that is worth noting based on the information from the article, which I would encourage you to read. I bet you didn't realize all of the things that require sand to produce and/or build.
While there are plenty of videos about cichlids on YouTube, it's often difficult to find many that are both well produced and include commentary about the fish, etc. Furthermore, there aren't a large number of YouTube channels dedicated exclusively to the aquarium hobby, specifically the livestock. However, one that I found which is well done is Fincasters.
Created and run by John Carlin, the Fincaster content is great quality and quite informative. John offers a variety of videos that focus on individual cichlid species that any cichlidophile should find very interesting. In fact, I interviewed John back in 2016, where he talked about his videos, their production, etc. I encourage you to visit his YouTube channel or his website of the same name.
If you've kept cichlids for any length of time, then you can quickly differentiate them from other species of freshwater aquarium fish. It's primarily their behavior that sets them apart. The more species that you keep, the more behavioral differences you'll experience. However, you'll only learn about their behavior, both as a species and as individuals, if you pay attention to them.
I'm not going to tell you how to enjoy your fish because that's not my place. On the other hand, I can't encourage you enough to spend time watching your fish and caring for them. If you don't, you're guaranteed not to understand why something happens to them when it does, whether it's fin/body damage from aggression, illness, or some other issue. It's an unrealistic expectation for novice cichlid keepers to recognize and understand the cause of a problem when they first encounter one - not so for the experienced. Not everyone is an expert, but you don't have to be an expert to be cognizant of behavior that is typical of the species you keep or of your specific fish. Just simply pay attention to your fish, know what's going on in your tanks, and change your water frequently.
If you're a New Life Spectrum (NLS) fan, then you'll be interested to know that they're about to release a new line of foods containing healthy doses of probiotics, cleverly called Probiotix. Apparently unveiled last month at MACNA '17, the new line isn't available to the public just yet. In fact, as of this post, the NLS website doesn't even have any information about it. However, you can see a photo of the packaging above and read a bit more about the product thanks to this piece by Reef to Rainforest.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub