The blog migration is coming along really well. I originally planned to do it over the course of a couple of months. However, I started on it this past Friday and worked on it almost all weekend. I got the new platform installed, got the framework of the new site set up, and got all of the posts imported to the new platform. I expect the new site to come online in the next couple of weeks.
In addition, I just secured another interview that should appear toward the end of the year. I won't give away who it is, but I will say that those of you who are fans of CA cichlids should be pleased. Stay tuned.
This reminds me. If you have any suggestions for interviewees, send them my way. I'm not shy about reaching out to folks, even those I don't know. Of course, there is no guarantee that they will agree to do it, but I'm not afraid to ask. I've been fortunate that the majority of people I've contacted have agreed to do one. In fact, I've only been explicitly turned down one time. I have had many simply not respond to my inquiry, which is rather unfortunate and, frankly, pretty unprofessional. I would hope people would at least have the common courtesy to reply. A simple, "No thank you" is sufficient.
If you've followed the blog for a while, you've noticed some changes along the way. Up until now, all of those have simply been cosmetic in nature. However, that too is going to change shortly. I am in the process of migrating to a new blog platform. While the current platform has served me well, it's not been without its challenges as the site has grown and the content has evolved. I am beginning to run up against some limitations that just can't be overcome on this platform.
As a result, don't be surprised if there is a decrease in the frequency of posts over the next two or three months as I make the migration. The posts won't stop, but more of my time will be dedicated to the migration. However, I can tell you there are some good interviews coming up - one with an expert hobbyist, one with the president of a major product manufacturer, and one with a vendor of cichlid products. If you've been in the cichlid hobby for any length of time, you'll recognize all of them.
I'm excited about the new version of the blog. Not only is the platform going to change, but the appearance is going to change also. Please be patient with me as I embark on this comprehensive makeover. I think you'll be pleased when it's done.
As always, thanks for reading!
I'm not really one to get attached to my fish, like I do my dogs. I don't name my cichlids nor do I tend to have favorites among them. Don't get me wrong, though. I HATE to lose a fish for any reason...due to my fault or anything else, and it upsets me when I do. In fact, I'm highly self-reflective, always asking myself how I might have contributed to every fish's death.
With all of that said, I have to admit I do have one particular little cichlid that I often feel sorry for. She's a Callochromis macrops, and I posted about her earlier this year. Why do I feel sorry for her? Let's back up for just a minute and talk about emotion in fish. Back in July, I posted about ethics in fishkeeping. I mentioned that fish are quite sentient. But do they have "feelings"? The human species is notorious for anthropomorphizing, and I am guilty myself, though I work hard not to. In any case, I often feel sorry for my macrops because I wonder if she is sad.
As I mentioned in the post about her, she resides in a 75g Tanganyikan cichlid community tank with many other species. The tank occupants are pretty heterogenous, not just in species but also in gender and size. She is neither the smallest nor the largest. The smallest honor goes to my single Telmatochromis vittatus at about 3". The largest are either my male Neolamprologus tretocephalus or the "three stooges" - my three male Altolamprologus calvus 'black' - all four of which are 5" plus. Miss macrops is about 3.5". In temperament, she is easily the most docile and laid back cichlid in the tank, a fact that I think works against her.
Sadly, she is pretty much the one cichlid in the tank that seemingly can not find a safe spot to be in for any length of time. If my breeding pair of Telmatochromis sp. "temporalis shell" aren't chasing her off from their end of the tank, my dominant male Neolamprolous leleupi takes out his frustration on her whenever she gets near him. To make matters worse, it seems that everyone else has concluded that she's also a good target whenever she's in the vicinity at feeding time. She's often scrambling to pick up just a small bit of food wherever she finds it. To her credit though, she just seems to roll with the punches. She's always on the go and does her best to blend in, using her large forked caudal fin to dart away when targeted. She's not particularly pretty, sporting a uniform champagne color, a mouth with a slight overbite, and eyes so proportionally large that she appears almost deformed.
Maybe all of the above paints the picture of an underdog. Doesn't everyone pull for the underdog? I do.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm on travel again. As such it occurred to me how many aquarists fret about feeding their fish while their away or, upon their return, lament how something has gone awry with their tank because of overfeeding, etc. So this reminds me of my post almost a year ago to the day about feeding my fish while I'm away.
There are many ways to ensure your fish are fed while you're gone. On the other hand, your fish can go several days without food and suffer no ill effects. However, if you're going to be gone for an extended period (e.g., a week or longer), I would recommend that you have a plan for making sure they get fed.
All cichlidophiles know how amazing the cichlidae family of fish is just from the incredible diversity of behavioral displays - from aggression to breeding to brood care. There are even studies that suggest quite a range of cognitive abilities, including the one I posted on nearly a year ago that concluded cichlids have the capacity for long term memory. Adding to the cognitive function discoveries of cichlids is another recent study that found male Pelvicachromis taeniatus demonstrate olfactory self recognition. Basically the study found that, given two caves to choose from, one pre-scented with their own chemical odor and one pre-scented with the odor of another male, P. taeniatus gravitated toward their "own" cave versus the cave of a non-family member or even a sibling.
If you're setting up a new tank or redoing an existing one and you've decided to use egg crate under your substrate, here's a tip to save you some hassle down the road; for medium to large tanks, don't use a single piece. Consider cutting your crate into sections, depending on the length of the tank. Why? If you decide to change your substrate, but you want to see how it will look before you do the whole tank OR you want to change the substrate in only part of the tank, having a single piece of egg crate will require you to remove everything from the tank. If you cut your crate into two sections or more, you only need to take out the section(s) that you want to redo.
Whether you prefer large or small cichlids, I've found that knowing what behavior you're looking for in new fish doesn't confine you to one category or the other. In other words, cichlid personalities don't differ a whole lot based on the maximum size of the fish. Some dwarf species are just as aggressive and pugnacious as their larger cousins, such as the largest Cichla (peacock bass) or Crenicichla (pikes) species. There are also some very large but reasonably docile species.
Your first decision on what to keep shouldn't center around what behavior you're looking for. What cichlids you keep should be based primarily on one criteria - the size of the tank rather than the personality or behavior of the fish. Large cichlids, aggressive or not, don't belong in small tanks and neither do a handful of small, aggressive cichlids. Even if you want to employ the density method to mitigate aggression among medium sized cichlids, the size of the tank should still dictate how many fish you put in it. Also, if you buy juveniles, know their maximum size so you can factor that in. Therefore, based on your available space and your budget, decide on the size of your tank(s) and then determine what you can put in them. Knowledgeable, experienced, and conscientious cichlid keepers will tell you the same thing.
So if you don't know what ethics are, it would be a good idea to look up the definition before proceeding. What follows is sure to challenge the views some hold about fish keeping and may even "ruffle the feathers" of others.
How much do you think about the cichlids that you have? I mean, how much do you really think about them, not as pets but as living creatures that you purchased from somewhere or someone? Do you know where your fish came from? Were they wild caught or tank bred? If the former, does it bother you that you're partially responsible for making a wild specimen captive? Just how much do you think about your fishes' well-being and do you ask yourself if you're doing what's best for them? Are there reasons you keep cichlids other than to satisfy your entertainment needs? Do you tell yourself that they're "just fish"? Do you wonder how many wild caught fish die before they ever make it to you? Do you justify your fish keeping efforts as rescuing them from much worse conditions than you provide? Does it bother you when your cichlids die, especially if you're ultimately the cause (e.g., poor tank conditions, poor tankmate choices)?
The answers to many of these questions are bounded by ethics. This post isn't intended to criticize anyone for his/her decision to keep cichlids. It's intended to convince you to be self-reflective about the choices and decisions that you make.
I readily admit that I sometimes struggle with my own involvement in the hobby. In fact, my fishkeeping interest hasn't always been continuous. There was a period when I questioned the ethics of it and halted my participation in the hobby. After all, I am restricting fish to a small space for the rest of their lives, not to mention that the space bears little real resemblance to their native environment, regardless of my efforts to emulate it. Even though none of my fish are F0 (wild caught in hobby parlance, which means all the fish I purchase are tank bred), they aren't domesticated pets like cats and dogs.
Sure, I could argue that because my fish are tank bred, they have known no other environment than one similar to what I provide them. So they really have never known anything other than living in a glass box or similar confined space. Does that make it okay? If no one ever purchased tropical fish (for the hobby, public aquariums, research, etc.), the fish would never have been bred in a tank to start with. The fact that I (and other hobbyists) provide a market for them is what allows them to be bred in aquaria and sold. The exact same reason some are wild caught and sold. Supply and demand.
I won't lie. Sometimes I watch my fish and wonder how their life would be different if they were in the wild with unlimited space to swim, explore, forage, breed, etc. It's often a bit sobering to think about. Do I feel guilty? Sure, sometimes. Do I feel like I'm depriving a living creature a "better" or "normal" life. Sometimes. Are my fish bored, are they depressed or sad being confined to a limited space in which to live? Those are anthropomorphic concepts. However, cichlids are sentient. They feel pain, they experience fright, and they express other behaviors that humans relate to.
Ultimately, my decision to keep them comes down to reconciling that the life I provide them may well be "better" than the one they would have otherwise (e.g., with another aquarist, in the wild). I consider myself a responsible aquarist and thus I don't believe I contribute to a lesser existence for them.
I just read about a cichlidophile who lost every fish in his large tank. The reason? Apparently a lightening strike. I'm suspicious of that explanation for several reasons, especially given the description provided and how the aquarist reached his conclusion. Regardless, this reminded me of a precaution that you can (and should) take in your efforts to protect your fish.
Invest in some good surge protectors. Ideally, all of your electrical aquarium hardware (heaters, pumps, filters) should be plugged into surge protectors. In fact, all of your most sensitive electronic equipment should be. While these devices aren't fool-proof by any means, they certainly can save you a real head-ache in some circumstances. Good aquarium components are just as susceptible to electrical surges as your television, Internet router, etc. And lightening isn't the only source of such surges.
As you may have noticed, I sometimes post about scientific research by referencing specific scholarly articles. Since these articles are written by scientists for scientists, there is no expectation that you will understand the content unless you're a scientist yourself (or you understand statistics and scientific methods). In fact, if you read the articles by starting at the beginning, it is pretty easy to get overwhelmed by the jargon and language, thus the "meat" of the article will be of little value to you.
So here's some advice. Only pay attention to two components of the article - the abstract, which is typically on the first page, and the conclusion/discussion, which is at the very end or near the end (sometimes the last section is about future directions or future research to be conducted based on the findings in the article).
By not getting bogged down on the actual science that is described in the article, you can focus your attention on the results (i.e., what the research found), which are usually easier to read. Furthermore, attempting to read the other sections is likely to increase the probability that you will give up on the article and move on to something else.
If you didn't have an opportunity to attend this year's ACA Convention, you can still get your cichlid social fix in a big way. The Ohio Cichlid Association's (OCA) annual Extravaganza is November 17-19 in Strongsville, Ohio (just outside Cleveland). Celebrating 23 years of cichlids and catfish, this year's event boasts a top-notch lineup of speakers, in addition to the enormous fish auction on Sunday. Furthermore, I've heard expert fish photographer Morrell "Mo" Devlin will be giving a photography workshop at the event. If you're really wanting to learn how to take expert quality photos of your tank's inhabitants, Mo can teach you. See the interview I did with Mo a couple of years ago.
Plan now to attend. The registration cost is a small price to pay to see more cichlids and catfish than you'll probably ever see in one place. On top of that, you get to meet many other people who share your interest in and passion for the hobby. Go ahead and make your reservations now to be sure and get a room at the convention hotel.
More information about the Extravaganza can be found on here on the OCA website.
Disclaimer: Bad photos ahead. Coupled with my poor photography skills and bad lighting, it was difficult to get a good shot of these fish because there were lots of people milling. I didn't want to hold people up who were trying to look in the same tanks I was.
Yes, the ACA is about cichlids. However, cichlids don't live alone in their environment. They share their lake/river/pool with a variety of other fish, including bottom feeders such as Corydora, Synodontis, Ancistrus, and Hypostomus species. Many cichlid keepers maintain tanks containing these types of fish. To that end, there are always bottom feeder species available for sale at the convention, either in the fish room or in guest's rooms.
Above is a photo of juvenile Pineapple plecos (both long and shortfin). The Pineapples are a beautiful orange/yellow in color, and you can see a longfin on the glass near the top.
Below is a photo of juvenile Red Calico plecos (longfin). These are a stunning reddish orange color.
So I just arrived here in Detroit and it's 10:30 pm ET. Unfortunately, I had a business meeting the past couple of days in New Orleans, so flew straight here.
Needless to say, convention registration was closed, so I'll have to do that in the morning. I also missed some really good talks today. Nevertheless, there is lots more going on tomorrow through Sunday, including more talks. I quickly took the photos above. The top one is the ACA banner and the bottom two are vendor posters set up in the lobby outside the speaker rooms.
Vendors are still unpacking their wares in the Vendor Room. I also dropped by the fish room where, as usual, there are probably well over 100 tanks set up containing all species of cichlids. And of course several folks are selling fish out of their hotel rooms, with the announcement bulletin board already half full with price lists and room numbers. If you're anywhere near Detroit, come to the Sheraton in Novi and check it out.
Looking forward to catching up with several folks and will be posting more tomorrow, including more photos. Stay tuned!
In aquaria, some cichlid species are really easy to breed and some are exceedingly difficult. There are many factors and variables that contribute to breeding success.
If you don't have much experience with a species that you're wanting to breed, you can try increasing the frequency of your water changes. If you're a weekly changer, consider increasing to every three days and vary the change volume. Many species can be enticed to breed simply with frequent, small water changes. Other options include making changes to diet, water parameters, and water flow.
If you really want to know the secret to breeding your species, find someone who has successfully bred them. Ask around and don't be afraid to reach out. Many cichlidophiles are happy to share their breeding knowledge and secrets.
If you keep a cichlid community tank housing a mix of aggressive and passive species, then you surely have experienced the latter sometimes missing out during feeding. This can be especially true if you tend to feed in the same location all of the time.
In my 75g Tanganyikan community tank, I used to feed in the same spot all the time. That was until I noticed that one of my male Telmatochromis sp. "temporalis shell" had established a territory directly below where I dropped in the food. As the food sank, many of the larger, more aggressive species would congregate to eat, including the Telmat. However, his feeding exuberance, coupled with defending his territory, resulted in the more passive species being expeditiously re-directed as they attempted to eat. Ultimately, these fish would only be able to consume smaller food bits that reached areas outside the territory.
The best way to address such scenarios is to place food in an area that gets the most aggressive eaters away from their territories. Even the aggressive defenders will leave their territory to feed. When they do, they are distracted, as they scramble amidst the other fish to get their share. Once the frenzy begins, drop some food as far away from that area as possible. This will allow the more passive species an opportunity to avoid the feeding melee and grab some of the larger morsels rather than scrounging around to clean up the scraps,
Some might argue that dropping food all across the tank would serve the same purpose. For a heavily stocked African tank, I would agree. However, hearty eaters will generally congregate where the initial supply of food enters the water. This will reduce the effectiveness of the "full spread" strategy as more food reaches the rocks and substrate where it may remain uneaten, which could increase nitrates.
If you have no plans for the weekend of September 22nd and you're anywhere near Lancaster, PA, checkout this year's Keystone Clash, which will feature Clash of the Cichlids V.
The clash is a giant competition where fish are judged by an expert panel of judges. However, it's not just about cichlids and includes other events, such as a fish showroom, a vendor room, an auction, a banquet, and a speaker program. There are four speakers lined up who will talk about a variety of fish and aquatic subjects, including cichlids.
Prior to this post, I was unfamiliar with the clash and, unfortunately, its website doesn't provide a comprehensive description. You have to do some digging around to figure out what it is. Even more unfortunate is the event site doesn't provide any contact information (that I could find) if you want to inquire. However, the clash is organized by the Aquarium Club of Lancaster County and Cichlid Club or York, so I suspect you could reach out to one of those organizations for more information about the event.
Here's the scenario: You've got the "bug" and you're going to set up another, larger fish tank, or you're going to replace your existing tank with a larger one. You've always used HOB filters (commonly called box filters), but you're considering a canister or two for the filtration on your new tank. The problem is you've never used a canister, and you don't really know much about them.
There are plenty of other resources available that describe how canister filters work, what types and amount of media they hold, and what makes them different from other filter types. So I won't go through all of that here.
If you're a member of an online cichlid forum or a Facebook cichlid group, you might ask for opinions on what to buy. This is a great way to learn what equipment other hobbyists are using. It's also a great way to get some bad advice. Many hobbyists choose to be frugal when it comes to buying equipment, either because higher priced hardware don't fit their budget or they just prefer to go the inexpensive route.
Be a little extra weary of going the inexpensive route with your filters. Actually, I recommend that you consider spending a little more and purchase a higher quality brand. Sure, even the higher end canisters fail sometimes. However, the probability that you'll experience a problem with some of the cheaper brands is greater, and those brands won't have as strong a warranty. Look for filter warranties in the 2-3 year range. I won't disparage any brands here on the blog, but some are clearly more cheaply constructed, which means they'll experience a failure of some type more frequently. Furthermore, in my opinion, spending a little more lessens the likelihood that a simple plastic component in your filter breaks within the warranty period.
If you're a regular visitor to the blog, you probably noticed a different look to the front page. I'm doing some updating and making some other changes, so stay tuned! Let me give a shout out to graphic designer David Rogers for the new graphical elements. If you want an image on your own site to link to the blog, feel free to use the one above.
Have you been thinking about joining the ACA but aren't entirely sure what the benefits are to you? Maybe turn the question around and ask what the benefits are for you and others. To that end you might wonder "What does the ACA do?" Here's how Alan R. DeAngelo, the current Chair of the ACA Board of Trustees and editor of the newsletter, answered that question in this month's newsletter:
The question came up about the relevancy of the ACA. It's just a fish club, right?
In addition to the above benefits, membership provides access to the monthly newsletter, the Buntbarsche Bulletin (ACA's journal), a registration discount to the annual convention, and access to the Cichlid Room Companion (perhaps the single best online resource for cichlid information).
In my opinion, all cichlid enthusiasts should become an ACA member. The organization does many great things for cichlids and the hobby.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub