This is the third installment of the What is my set-up? series. This post is about my 40g breeder All-Glass, Malawi community tank. The substrate is CaribSea sand (Moonlight).
This tank is a bit understocked. It was actually set up as sort of an emergency because I recieved extra fish with an online order I made. If you look closely, you can see the Elongatus peeking out from below the large round rock on the left side of the tank.
This is part 2 of the What is my set-up? series where I describe my tanks. Today's post is on my 55g Lake Malawi (mbuna) tank, which is glass and made by Marineland.
The substrate in this tank is all CaribSea sand (Moonlight). The dither fish are giant danios and black skirt tetras. See my previous post about dithers - What is my set-up? Pt. 1.
While I occasionally post complete photos of my tanks, I don't inundate my blog with them. In fact, it's been months and at least 100 posts since I last did so (other than this recent post). However, while I was doing my routine maintenance today, I thought many readers might like to know what my current set-up is.
I currently have three show tanks and a fry tank operational. Beginning with this post and over the next few days, I'll provide photos of the four tanks along with a description of their set-up. I'll go from the largest to the smallest.
My largest tank is a 75g All-Glass with a corner overflow (above). It is a Lake Tanganyika community tank. The substrate in this tank is 80% CaribSea sand (Moonlight) and 20% CaribSea gravel (Peace River). Below are the livestock and hardware lists.
The tetras are dither fish and, while not native to the lake, they are quite hardy and make great dithers. The plecos are also not native to Tanganyika, but one I've had for years and had nowhere to put him when I converted from SA/CA cichlids to the Africans. The other I bought as a juvenile to help with algae control a couple of years ago and thought it would adapt nicely. My water is not overly hard or alkaline, typically around 7.8 - 8.0 pH. Most purists would consider this water too alkaline for the tetras and plecos, and not alkaline enough for the Tanganyikans. However, all of my fish are tank bred rather than wild caught. I firmly believe the water is not an issue for any of them.
When I started in this hobby many years ago, I embarked on a journey to consume as much information about cichlids as possible. I read books, articles, studied photos, and spent hours upon hours online, seemingly canvassing every corner of the Web that I could reach. In addition, I relied upon the knowledge of a handful of aquarists and cichlidophiles, all of whom were patient and courteous despite my constant inquiries.
As we pause today to give thanks for family, friends, blessings, and anything else we're thankful for, I wanted to take a second to give thanks to all of those who, in some way, have helped fuel my passion for the hobby, provided advice, or have even been gracious enough to be interviewed here on the blog. Below is a short list of those individuals (in no particular order):
I apologize to anyone who I left out. Any omission was purely accidental.
When you become heavily invested in a hobby like this one, you'll invariably come across numerous aquarium products. Some of them you'll like and some of them you won't. In fact, products in this hobby aren't unlike those in other hobbies with respect to branding. Some brands are better than others - quality, dependability, etc.
I don't shy away from highlighting products that I like here on the blog, including brands that I'm loyal to. What I won't do is use this platform to denigrate a product by name or otherwise encourage hobbyists not to buy something because it's of poor quality. I've been asked many times to review a product and sometimes I'll post those reviews here. If I don't like the product, I won't post the review. However, I will share it with the vendor that asked me to do the review. Are there products and/or brands that I personally won't endorse? Absolutely. In fact, there are some products that I consider poor quality and won't use.
Sadly, I experienced one of those this week. As I mentioned in the previous post below, I just set up a 5.5 gal fry tank. I had a small HOB filter that I received as a sample from a wholesale company but had never tried. In fact, I've had the filter for probably a couple of years. I dug it out, inserted some media, plugged the filter in, and it ran like a charm. I unplugged the filter after a couple of days to move the fry into the tank. I swapped the media that I had initially placed in the filter with some seeded media and plugged the filter back in. It failed to draw water up the intake. No big deal, I thought. I decided to give it a headstart and force water up the intake with a small pump. The filter began to draw but the flow seemed a little weak.
I came home from work the next day and the filter was running but no water was flowing. I checked it to make sure the intake hadn't become blocked or something had come dislodged with the assembly causing it to lose flow. Nothing. Unable to get it going, I removed it and replaced it with a spare AquaClear HOB I had stored away.
I took the new HOB and put it on my test tub to try and flesh out the problem. I checked and rechecked everything, removing the pump assembly, the intake tube assembly, the impeller, etc. It ran fine but still wasn't pulling water. Normally, that would indicate a seal problem (air getting in the intake preventing a solid vacuum effect). I eliminated that as a possibility. In short, I couldn't find the problem. The filter ended up in the trash. I won't disclose who makes it. But needless to say, I won't be buying one. The fact that it worked initially and then stopped working after the first shutdown without any clear reason is unfortunate. That may not be indicative of the brand, but I've never owned that line of product before nor have I have heard from anyone that has. I'm labeling it a bad product.
Here's the scenario. You've decided that you need to set up a special purpose tank - for breeding, for fry grow out, quarantine, or something else. Also, you want to do it in hurry for whatever reason. You have an extra tank that's just the size you need buried somewhere in a closet or the garage. Do you have a spare heater? Do you know where it is? How about a filter of some kind? Media or sponge? Do you know where those are?
Setting up a spare tank for any reason isn't complicated until you get started and realize you don't know where all the things you need are. I recently re-organized my walk-in fish closet. Sometimes as I buy extra components, etc. I bring the bag or box in and just set it in the closet rather than putting them where they go. I took care of that problem today. Part of what prompted the re-org was the need to set up a small fry tank (5.5 g) and the fact that I kept moving bags from one side of the closet to the other as I retrieved the supplies I needed.
Choose whatever organizational system works for you. As you can see in the photos, I like see-thru plastic bins but not very large ones. In fact, I have separate bins for the following:
While I consider myself reasonably observant, it never occurred to me until recently how different the inhabitants of a cichlid community tank behave when the tank lights are off versus on. My 75g tank houses eight different species of Tanganyikans, 17 cichlids total. If you follow the blog, you know that my focus is on what would largely be labeled as dwarf cichlids.
The largest occupants are the three A. calvus and a hefty N. tretocephalus. While my experience with both Malawi and Tanganyikan cichlids suggests Tangs are more docile in a community setting, don't be fooled by their calmer demeanor. They have an equal capacity for aggression and destruction as the Malawis. However, when the tanks lights are out, calm seems to prevail. I'm not talking about night time, complete darkness. I'm talking about ambient light and no tank light on.
My Malawis are pretty calm when the lights are out as well, but in my experience, it's when the lights are out that bad things happen in the Malawi tanks. I agree I probably have a too small of sample size to make a general statement, but my experience suggests that a mildly stocked, mid-size Tanganyikan community tank containing dwarves is a mostly docile proposition, especially with the lights out.
If you recall, I attended the annual ACA convention this summer in Cincinnati, Ohio and made several posts about the convention. One of the speakers was a cichlidophile who I've followed for some time, and his talk was awesome, as usual.
Vin Kutty is regarded as an authority on the genus Crenicichla, whose species are commonly called Pike cichlids. Vin has been focused on keeping and breeding pikes for more than two decades. He currently maintains half dozen 180 gallon tanks with pike cichlids. He has collected Crenicichla species in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Suriname, French Guyana, Uruguay, and Argentina.
I caught up with Vin after his talk at the convention, I introduced myself, and invited him to be interviewed for the blog. He happily agreed.
Away we go!
It's not uncommon for cichlids to change colors depending on their stress level, mating rituals, etc. It's also not uncommon for cichlids to change colors between the fry stage and adulthood, sometimes significantly. In fact, it's not uncommon for young fry to bear little resemblance to their parents, which often makes it difficult to quickly determine the species of fry in a cichlid community tank that contains multiple species of breeding pairs.
For Telmatochromis sp. "temporalis shell," the above is very true. Past blog posts (here and here) focused on this fun little cichlid and its fry. Beginning a very white, almost translucent, often with light black stripes, this fish will turn brilliant smoky black at about the three month mark. And the change will occur nearly overnight.
Recently, one of the surviving temporalis juveniles in my 75g community cichlid tank had started swimming out in the open. About 3/4" long and almost solid white in color (top photo), it was too large to be consumed by even the largest of the other cichlids in the tank. Just the other day, I no longer spotted it. Usually, it appeared mostly during feeding time. Then suddenly, I didn't see it for a few days. I thought it might have died. Turns out my eye had been trained to look for a small white cichlid when I should have been looking for a small black one. In a matter of a few short days, the transformation was complete. The bottom photo above shows the same juvenile, now at about 1".
So the previous post (below), which discusses the specimen container that I modified to house some fry, didn't include any actual photos of the fry.
To remedy that, here are a couple of shots of the container in use. The blue "floor" of the container is a cut-to-fit sponge. Because the container is transparent and resides at the top of the aquarium just under the canopy, all perceived predators can been viewed through the bottom of the container. Fry are instinctually averse to predation, so in order to lessen their anxiety by seeing predators below them and to encourage them to exit their shells, I used the sponge.
The fry are Telmatochromis sp. "temporalis shell" and, as the name suggests, they are fond of shells in their native habitat. The two shells in the container aren't native to Lake Tanganyika, but the fry don't know that nor do they care.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub