If you've been keeping fish for a long time and you have used online resources since the late 1990s, then you'll remember The Krib. I post about this because I can't begin to explain how much this site meant to my early development as a cichlid keeper. Chock full of all kinds of information about the hobby, but specializing in plants and dwarf cichlids, this resource was a mainstay in my library of information.
While the site is no longer active and much of the content is quite dated (the last update was in 2002!), there are still nuggets of gold to be found there. I would encourage you to visit the site for two reasons - 1) you may well find something useful and interesting that you haven't seen before and 2) you can get a good feel for how the hobby has evolved over the years, from aquarium products to processes.
Early in his academic work, Hurd's study organism was birds where he began working on mathematical models, which he eventually parlayed into doctoral studies at Stockholm University in Sweden. It was there he was introduced to cichlids. He went on to do his post-doc work at the University of Texas at Austin where he worked with lizards and also did some experiments with acoustic signaling during fights between firemouth cichlids (Thorichthys meeki).
I reached out to Dr. Hurd to inquire about his interest in doing an interview for the blog. He enthusiastically agreed and here we are.
Not without perhaps a bit of controversy, there are (possibly) some new mbuna species from the Labeotropheus genus according to this article posted on the Reef2Rainforest website (they're the folks who bring you the Amazonas magazine). Taxonomic changes aren't taken lightly by scientists, as this article bears out.
I'm doing some consulting for an aquarium company that focuses on elegant nano aquariums and accessories. As I was thinking about their website today, it occurred to me that much of what they sell is pretty obscure. In other words, as a specialty company, their products are not name brands. Part of that is due to the very specific type of customer they cater to, but it's also due to very minimal advertising.
Many cichlidophiles are quite loyal to specific brands, and many of the brands are well known and long standing in the hobby. However, there are many aquarium products that are less popular but equal or greater in quality than the mass produced, name brands. New products are coming into the market all of the time and they're not all produced by the big names.
For example, in the filter world, everyone knows about Fluval, AquaClear, Marineland, Tetra, Aqueon, and Eheim. However, there are some other very good, lesser known filter brands that are comparable in price and quality to those. Have you ever heard of Sicce? How about Hydor? In foods, there are popular brands such as Ocean Nutrition, Tetra, Omega One, and Hikari. You ever try Northfin? What about Sera? How about Piscine Energetics or New Life Spectrum?
The point is, there are lots of less popular brands of products available that are every bit as good or better than the ones you hear about all of the time. Consider expanding your horizons and getting out of your comfort zone. You can still remain loyal to your brands yet also branch out and experiment. You never know. You might just stumble across something you really like that's not already being produced by the usual players.
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.
I mentioned in last night's post that the fish room has over 100 hundred tanks with fish. I actually counted them today and grossly underestimated the number. There are exactly 313 (I think). Below are some photos of the room. It's impossible to get a single photo that illustrates the volume of tanks packed into the room, and even the two photos below are insufficient. Granted, most of the tanks are 10 gallon, but that's still a lot of tanks and a lot of water.
Need some color in your tanks? Mike Drawdy and his crew at Imperial Tropicals can solve that problem. Check them out and place an order (free shipping with a $45 or more purchase). I interviewed Mike at the beginning of the year, if you want a little more information about the fish farm and their operation.
Marine hobbyists are familiar with PE foods, but in the past year the company has released a freshwater pellet in 1mm, 2mm, and 3mm sizes. With fresh mysis shrimp as the primary ingredient, the pellet is high in protein and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. PE's efforts to produce them is based on PE's initiative to sustainably harvest and process mysis shrimp from a lake in Canada. Visit their website for more information about this new dry food for the freshwater market, including information about how the pellets are made and where to purchase them.
I spoke with Brandon Hooten, one of PE's sales representatives today at the ACA convention. He informed me that PE will also be coming out with freshwater flakes within the next couple of months. Based on the same formulation used for the pellets, the flakes will be customized for several varieties of fish (e.g., goldfish, cichlids).
Stay tuned for more information about PE and their emergence into the tropical freshwater food market!
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.
Even though there isn't an overwhelming number of good online resources for information about the Apistogramma genus, there are a few. Apisto Sites is one of them. Maintained by a couple of aquarists out of Norway, the site contains loads of great photos and several good articles. The site has a profile page with a quite comprehensive list of species, but the profile metadata is rather sparse. Nonetheless, there is some good information to be found here. Though apparently not updated very frequently, be careful not to mistake quantity for quality.
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.
Images from http://www.cichlid-forum.com/
Most long time cichlidophiles can identify cichlid species quite easily. Just like true gearheads can quickly identify cars without the benefit of seeing the make's logo, experienced cichlidophiles can tell what species they're looking at by just the shape of the body and/or tail.
If you're new to cichlid keeping and need a bit of a primer to help you identify an African species, check out the Cichlid-Forum.com's nicely assembled chart. It's neither comprehensive nor exhaustive but it does provide a nice color pictorial of the more popular African's in the hobby.
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.
For those of you who use Cobalt Aquatics' line of flake foods, they have released a new line called Ultra, which currently comes in three varieties - Worm Medley, Spirulina, and Color. Each of these come with more Astaxanthin, extra garlic and paprika added to their base flake formula.
If you are a consumer of Cobalt products, I would encourage you to sign-up for their newsletter. Occasionally they have free give aways, especially when they release new products.
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.
If you've kept cichlids for any length of time, then you've undoubtedly seen many extraordinary photos of them. Some of the best you will ever see are by my friend Mo Devlin. I've known Mo for a long time and I interviewed him for the blog a couple of years ago. In addition to being an expert photographer, Mo is an expert cichlidophile.
In any case, he has established a non-profit organization called the American Cichlid Alliance, which "is an independent resource for the dissemination of accurate and timely cichlid information. In addition we support the various clubs and organizations featuring cichlids." The organization has a Facebook page, which I encourage you to visit and follow. It is updated regularly and contains a plethora of information and links to excellent cichlid information.
Oh, and if you think you take some pretty good fish photos yourself, enter them into the monthly ACA photo contest. Mo is one of the judges.
Decided that you can only set up a small tank because of space limitations? Worried that there aren't any cichlids small enough for a small tank? Don't fret.
Consider some shellie species from Lake Tanganyika - Neolamprologus ocellatus, Neolamprologus brevis, Neolamprologus multifasciatus, or Neolamprologus similis. None of these species will greatly exceed 3" in length and they're easily sexed - adult males are larger. Except for the ocellatus, they're not the most striking in color but they have many other redeeming qualities.
What shellies lack in size they make up for in personality. Females guarding eggs/fry are fearless. I once had a female ocellatus no larger than a big paperclip beat my hand to death when I got just a bit too close to her shell while cleaning the glass. In fact, it initially rattled me so much I dropped the scrubber.
In any case, any of these species would make a great addition to a small tank. Shellies aren't much for the water column, so go for a shallower tank with a larger footprint. If you don't get one custom made, you'll have to go rimless to get one that isn't standard dimensions (I'm talking glass here, not acrylic). But that's not a bad thing. Rimless glass tanks are gorgeous. A good example is Mr. Aqua's 12 gallon bookshelf tank, called Serene. It's 35.4" x 8.3" x 9.4", which provides more floorspace where the fish will spend their time. In fact, Mr. Aqua makes several non-standard volume tanks and they're all excellent. They're made with precision beveled-cut glass and assembled using special silicone from Germany. I highly recommend them.
I have shared snippets throughout various posts about how I got where I am in my fish keeping travels. I have shared the names of people who have helped me in one way or another - some I know and some I don't. If you read the blog regularly, which I hope you do, then you've also read posts where I've acknowledged mistakes along the way. I've made plenty of them and, sadly, they've sometimes come at the expense of fish.
There are many things that have contributed to my success and failures in the hobby. Sometimes I have learned the hard way. The hobby is constantly growing and evolving, and you should never get complacent or stop learning.
There is one thing, however, that has remained constant with respect to my fish keeping - reading print resources. In fact, while I have sought the advice of many expert aquarists over the years, reading is what is responsible for the majority of what I have learned about fish keeping and the world of cichlids.
Years ago, you could pretty much trust the accuracy of everything that you read. With social media and the ease at which anyone can publish just about anything on the Web, it's no longer true. This is why I encourage you to place your trust in, and continue to read, traditional print resources - magazine articles, scholarly articles, books, monographs, newspapers. These resources are still vetted, more so than much of what you read on the Web.
In any case, I am thankful to those who have contributed to print resources by writing about all aspects of being an aquarist. You have played a vital role in getting me where I am in the hobby, and I thank you.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub