As I set up the new 55g tank, I thought it might be worth mentioning one of the potential hazards of filters - a leak. If you keep fish long enough, you will inevitably have a filter leak of some kind, regardless of the brand and regardless of the filter type. Large leaks are easy to spot and are rather infrequent. Small leaks on HOB filters are often discovered by a drip from the power cord at the base of the loop, if you have a drip loop. And because HOBs aren't very large filters, it usually doesn't take much effort to identify the location of the leak. It's usually occurs in one of two places: the seal where the pump housing connects to the filter body or a crack in the plastic filter body itself.
In canisters, a large leak on the input end will typically allow too much air into the system, slowing or stopping the flow of water. It's the small to really small leaks that typically go unnoticed for a while. However, small leaks in canisters can come from several different connection points. One easy way to quickly spot a small leak, especially one that originates from the hose connections at the canister tap or the pump head seal, is to place a piece of newspaper under the canister. Newspaper will turn dark with just a little moisture, making it a great indicator of water. Newspaper is even better when used in black or really dark wood cabinets where non-pooling water is difficult to see. This works well for sumps also, but sumps can be pretty large and difficult to get newspaper under without some help.
Fresh from the "every cichlid has its own personality" department is the news that I just added five new juvenile cichlids to the 75g - two Neolamprologus leleupis, two Telmatochromis vittatus, and a single Callichromis macrops. I picked them up last week from my LFS (I special ordered the vittatus).
I checked on the new additions once after a couple of hours to make sure they survived the initial introduction and weren't getting harassed by the other three cichlid occupants, Altolamprologus calvus. Everything seemed in order. Photos of all but one of the leleupis are below. I apologize for the poor quality of the photos. I was in a bit of a hurry to get some shots, so wasn't as patient as usual.
I left the lights off the tank and stayed away to give everyone time to settle. The next day I checked in on them to see how they were doing with the three calvus. As usual, the tank decor (rocks, shells, etc.) was completely rearranged just prior to releasing the new additions into the tank. This was to upset the territorial areas established by the calvus and put everyone on equal footing. Unsurprisingly, cichlids have once again proven my initial expectations wrong.
The leleupis were quite gregarious, moving about seemingly unencumbered by an inhibitions, which was a bit of a surprise. They're quite small and, along with several large dithers and the larger calvus, I thought they might be a bit timid. I also expected the macrops to be a little shy at first. Wrong. The little guy (or gal) is all over the place, even spending quite a bit of time up in the water column swimming around enthusiastically.
Also surprising me were the vittatus. I sat quietly for about 20 minutes before I saw the first one, and it was another 10 minutes before I saw the second one. Neither came out in the open, preferring to remain near the rocks and hug the substrate. I expected to them to be more outgoing right off the bat, however they behave a lot like my experience with newly introduced Julidichromis transcriptus....cautious and shy.
Fast forward a week and the new additions continue to surprise me. I suspect the leleupis are the same gender because they don't tolerate the same space very well. They both still stay in the open and are quite active. The macrops seems much more comfortable playing in the sand where he/she does a lot of sifting and jets about from tank end to end, seemingly without a care in the world. The vittatus are still a bit skittish and, like the leleupis, don't seem to care much for each other. They don't share the same space very well either. Furthermore, one of the leleupis is a bit aggressive toward the vittatus, chasing them around when they cross paths. The vittatus still stay close to the sand and still hug the rocks pretty closely.
Fortunately, the calvus don't seem to pay much attention to the new additions. Of course, the new cichlids are juveniles, so the situation may change as the newbies grow and mature.
I got the new 55g tank set up today, but it is currently empty. It too will house some dwarf Tanganyikans, which I'll have shipped to me direct in the next few weeks. That's a post for another day, so stay tuned. UPDATE 1/13/16: I elected to go with Mbuna cichlids from Malawi instead of Tanganyikans in the 55g. Read more about that here.
Rather than a "what to do" checklist, this post is going to focus more on what not to do. Keeping cichlids is different than keeping a goldfish or betta fish in a bowl. Sure, you can buy a single cichlid and keep it in a small tank. But most cichlid keepers don't operate that way. Even if you're an experienced cichlid keeper, these recommendations still apply. Of course, you have the freedom to do what you want, but please put your fish before yourself. It's not about you. It's about the fish. Here are a few "don'ts" that are guaranteed to save you time, money, and headache.
Purchasing cichlids for you aquarium generally isn't a complicated task...but it can be. If your source for new fish is local then, depending on where you live, limitations on selection may be high. If your LFSs always have what you want at a price you're willing to pay, then everything is good. However, let's be honest, most of us cichlidophiles don't have the luxury of having half a dozen LFSs nearby, each of which carries dozens of cichlid species.
Then there is the matter of purchasing fish replacements (new cichlids to replace some that have died or that you've sold, traded away, etc.) versus purchasing for stocking a brand new tank that you've set up. The former may be easier to do, especially if you only keep a couple of species and your LFSs always have them in stock. The latter is more difficult, especially when you're wanting some species you've never kept, wanting some species that are hard to get, or both.
If you follow my blog, you've seen several posts that mention my intent to set up a new tank. In fact, that day is nearly here. Of the two scenarios described in the previous paragraph, my situation is obviously the second.
There are numerous online cichlid retailers available, many of which are highly reputable. My LFS has some nice fish, but not everything I'm looking for. It appears that I'll be able to get some species locally and then have to order the rest online. This introduces a dilemma, especially if your conscientious about supporting your LFS, which I very much am.
Ordering online is most cost effective when you order a higher quantity of fish. This reduces the total cost you pay per fish. Consider an overnight shipping expense of $60, which is probably close to the average for most online buyers. If you buy four fish at ~$10 each for a total fish cost of $40, adding the $60 shipping and dividing that by each fish raises your overall cost for each fish to $25. $100 total divided by 4 = $25. Order 10 fish at $10 each, you're total fish cost with shipping now becomes $16.
Here's the dilemma(s). If you only have room for four new fish, then buying them online might be less cost effective than getting all four from your LFS. Splitting the purchase between your LFS and online doesn't offer much financial relief either. The solution to the dilemma(s) is to decide what you're willing to pay, how badly you want the fish, and whether you're willing to leave your LFS out of the equation.
Over this past weekend, I did something that needed to be done though I have never done it before. I swapped substrates with fish in the tank. Normally, I wouldn't risk wrecking a tank's water doing something like that. However, I wanted to try out the Versafilter that I constructed a few weeks ago. Based on its specs, I believed it would be up to the task of quickly clearing the water as I moved substrate in and out with my main tank filter turned off. I was correct.
I filled each of the Versafilter's four bottles with polyfill and capped the ends with cut-to-fit pond filter sponge, which has a nice density. At first, I tried to run the filter horizontally (completely in-line with the pump such that the connection utilized a single short length of hose). However, the filter assembly was more buoyant than I expected, which was surprising because I tested it and don't recall it being so buoyant. It really wanted to float, even when full of water. In any case, realizing that a horizontal implementation wasn't going to work, I had to modify it such that the filter assembly stood upright and the hose connections formed a "U" shape between the filter and the pump. Since this was being used in a 75g, I used the tank's top cross brace as a way to hold the assembly down with the help of a spring clamp.
This worked really well, with one exception. The pump I paired it with, as mentioned in the earlier post about the Versafilter, was a Sicce Synchra 3.5. I did this for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted a high flow rate because I wanted the water cleared relatively quickly. Second, the four bottle concept means, in theory, that you're splitting the intake power into fourths. Think of it like using your normal vacuum cleaner but having four hoses instead of one. To ensure that each bottle was drawing water at a good flow rate, a powerful pump was necessary. However, the 3.5 turned out to be a bit too much, based on the outflow. It didn't turn the tank into a whirlpool, but it was close. Nonetheless, the experiment worked and the fish, all 16 of them (cichlids, dithers, and a couple of catfish), seemed none worse for the wear.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub