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FAQs on African Cichlid Environmental Disease

FAQs on African Cichlid Disease:
African Cichlid Disease 1African Cichlid Disease 2, African Cichlid Disease 3, African Cichlid Disease 4, African Cichlid Disease 5, African Cichlid Disease 6, African Cichlid Disease 7, African Cichlid Disease 8,
FAQs on African Cichlid Disease by Category: Diagnosis, Nutritional, Social, Infectious (Virus, Bacterial, Fungal), Parasitic (Ich, Velvet...), Genetic, Treatments,

Related Articles: African Cichlids, Malawian Cichlids: The Mbuna and their Allies By Neale Monks, The Blue Followers: the Placidochromis of Lake Malawi by Daniella Rizzo, Cichlid Fishes,

Related FAQs: Cichlid Disease, Cichlid Disease 2, Cichlid Disease 3, African Cichlids in General, African Cichlid Identification, African Cichlid Selection, African Cichlid Behavior, African Cichlid Compatibility, African Cichlid Systems, African Cichlid Feeding, African Cichlid Reproduction, Cichlids of the World, Cichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid Disease, Cichlid Reproduction,

READ re the environment that your fish/es hail from. MOST need hard, alkaline water (not all though)... Malawi and Tanganyika with a mix of salts in addition.

NO ammonia or nitrite is tolerable. These cause renal failure and troubles w/ other internal organs. Along w/ hypoxia, a loss of oxygen, such internal "burning" is responsible for many/much "later", "invisible" anomalous fish losses.


Pseudotropheus zebra - pH related illness       6/11/17
I have a 55 gallon tank that I set up on 5/26/17 for young Pseudotropheus zebras that I am raising from fry. I have many tanks and have had tanks for nearly 50 years since I was a kid.
Everything was going great until I did a partial water change.
I did a partial water change (20 gallons) on Tuesday (6/6/17) and on Wednesday they were stressed out. I am a geologist and work with biologists and engineers. Through a series of tests with meters etc... I figured out that I got a batch of acidic water which was used for the partial water change.
The water that was used had set for 4 days before using, so I did not use any Dechlor. I avoid using Dechlor unless I have to..
<Hypo, Sodium Thiosulfate; olde timey prep. for the simpler time of chlorine-only use as municipal sanitizer. Chloramines are used almost universally in the USA nowayears... Dechlor won't remove/change these. Best to do as you suggest and let water sit or aerate days (or week) ahead of use>
I dumped the water from the buckets on Thursday 6/8/17 and filled them with fresh water. The pH and all other parameters tested well and that water has been used now for 2 partial water changes... ( 10 gallons each)... one on
Wednesday 6/7/17 and one on Friday 6/9/17.
I kept the light on from Wednesday night until this morning at 6:00 AM and turned it back on at 1:30 PM today.
My questions involve my approach from here on out. Some of the fish are eating... about half of them... but not with the normal intensity. The others have no interest in eating. Some are scraping themselves occasionally and a couple have what looks like damage to their slime layer. It is not white fuzz and does not look like ich... but more like bubbles.
<Mmm... am wondering what this is>
I am old school and have a Marineland emperor 400 outside filter and two 550 powerheads with and undergravel filter. The setup is only 15 days old, so the carbon and the media in the filter is pretty new.
I am very concerned about the health of the fish. I have cared for these fish since I harvested from their moms and setup the 55 gallon just for them.
The quality of the aged water I have is back up to par with what it should be and I am preparing to do water changes in my other 7 tanks.
<I would stick with your water S.O.P., but add testing it ahead of actual use... and depending on its composition, add some salts and alkalinity blend (commercial or DIY) ala the "Malawi Mix" detailed by Neale here:
What are your recommendations to improve the health of my African cichlids?
<Per the above; addn. of the bicarb., MgSO4, NaCl>
I am planning another partial water change today (10 gallons only) and thinking about replacing the carbon in the emperor 400,,, even though it is only 15 days old. I think that I am going to leave the light on since they seem to do better at this point...
<Mmm; am not such a fan of GAC use in freshwater systems... better to leave "a unit" or more in and transfer out a new one every month or so. Many years back our service companies used a huge number of ChemiPure packets in
this way... in the years of Eheim canister filters and in sumps>
I have various types of medicine, but II fear that removing the good bacteria would be more harmful than the medicine would be helpful....
<Agreed. I would NOT treat the current situation with medicines; particularly antimicrobials. More likely to interrupt nitrification, make matters worse than better>
Thanks for any help that you can give me.
<Glad to share and hope this helps. Bob Fenner>

Newbie again. Cichlid issues, crappy water        9/27/15
Thank you for the advice on my koi. She's healing well and doing great.
Now I have a question on my cichlids.
60 gallon, 14 cichlids, parameters have been running: 76 degrees, 0 nitrites, 0.25-1.0 ammonia,
<?! Needs to be zero, zip, nada>

0 nitrates, (yes that is nitrates NO3), high PH is less than 7.4, and PH is running 6.0.
<This varying pH makes no sense to me>

All are pissed off at each other, which I've heard means they are happy.
One has two white dots, which look like bubbles in a photo so I've attached a video as well. Any idea what this could be?
<.... environment. Read, fix this.... boost alkalinity/reserve. Bob Fenner>

Cichlid with Popeye and Red Stuff (17 megs...)         5/22/15
<Your email has been deleted due to too-large file size.>
Cichlid with Popeye and Red Stuff... six Megs, no use of WWM          5/22/15

Hi! I have been reading for a few days now on how to fix PopEye,
<Mmm; this is a physical trauma... either the fish was attacked or swam hard into something
which is what I think one my cichlids has. His left eye is popped out and has something red popping out as well. I have attached a picture to see what you think. To give a little background, I have a 150gal Cichlid tank I got a year ago from a previous owner. It has 2 Eheim Pro 2 Canister Filters, 2 heaters, and a power head to move water. I have the API master test kit, and ammonia is always 0 nitrite is always 0 and nitrate is normally 10ppm
<Good values. I do hope/trust the water is hard and alkaline for this Mbuna
or lower, but lately in 3 out of the 6 tanks I have the nitrates have been 40ppm.
<Too high by twice>
I don't know how to get it lowered
<? READ on WWM re>

as water changes and keeping it clean have no effect. Is it the nitrates that is causing the problem with his eye?
<Could be related>
Is it contagious?
<No... unilateral exophthalmia... SEE READ ON WWM RE>

All the fish are full grown and very active I would hate to lose any. I feed them Wardley Advanced Nutrition Perfect
Protein and sometimes they get frozen bloodworms
<And this>

and brine shrimp with Spirulina. Sorry for the long email, just really worried about my tank. Any help you can give would be great! Also today with the water change I added 1cup of Epsom salt as I saw it was recommended Alot
<No such word>
is that okay? Or will it even help?
<Could possibly help. Again; ALL THIS IS GONE OVER AND OVER ON THE SITE>
Thanks again.
<Look for sharp objects in the tank and/or other mean fish/es... and remove. Bob Fenner>

2 dead kenyi cichlids in 3 days     4/2/15
Hi there, I bought four juvenile kenyi cichlids one of the males was already turning yellow so I bought it as I wouldn't have to wait long for them to pair up. Now the main problem is that I have got two cichlids dead with same symptoms. Before the first one died it started sinking and couldn't stay upright and rolled to its sides and died within three hours of showing these symptoms.
<Something very wrong here... environmentally or socially>
The second one too showed these symptoms
<Which are?>
and died in the same time period, in the second death I noticed that their bellies became a little orange/reddish/brownish. I can't specify the exact colour but the main thing is that it looked like swim bladder disease
<.... there really is no such thing. Like "cold symptoms">
so immediately transferred it to a jar and started the fasting treatment where it died now I want to know how could have I saved them so that I could tackle any situation like this in the future.
<... I'd be checking the water quality here. As two of the four are living, am given to suggest that the other two are culprits.
Bob Fenner>
Re: 2 dead kenyi cichlids in 3 days     4/3/15

I do a 10percent water change everyday
<Do you have measures for Nitrogen compounds?>
and I haven't seen any fighting now as you said that the other two might me culprits they are not as the third one died today showing the same symptoms (lethargy, sinking to bottom, inability to be upright, loss of appetite, staying in the corner).
So, I did a 100 percent water change and added rid-all general aid
<Not a good idea>
the last one is a male kenyi cichlid and has now started to show the same symptoms and yes I also have a breeding pair of swordtails they eat energetically but cichlid stay at the bottom and usually hides behind the filter what should I do I don't want my last cichlid to die. Could the reason of deaths be starvation as the last cichlid haven't fed for about 36 hours now
<Let's have you read.... starting here:
and the linked files above.... to give you insight into what might be going on here. BobF>
2 dead kenyi cichlids in 3 days     /Neale        4/4/15

Hi there, I bought four juvenile kenyi cichlids one of the males was already turning yellow so I bought it as I wouldn't have to wait long for them to pair up. Now the main problem is that I have got two cichlids dead with same symptoms. Before the first one died it started sinking and couldn't stay upright and rolled to its sides and died within three hours of showing these symptoms. The second one too showed these symptoms and died in the same time period, in the second death I noticed that their bellies became a little orange/reddish/brownish. I can't specify the exact colour but the main thing is that it looked like swim bladder disease so immediately transferred it to a jar and started the fasting treatment where it died now I want to know how could have I saved them so that I could tackle any situation like this in the future.
<Almost certainly an environmental issue. When a bunch of fish die within a short space of time, and the symptoms are generic, you can usually blame the environment. Obviously water quality is important. As with all cichlids, tolerance for nitrite and ammonia is minimal, but Mbuna generally have a relatively low tolerance for nitrate too, so frequent water changes are as important as filtration and aquarium size. Since these are Rift Valley cichlids, water chemistry is the second factor of crucial important.
Hard, alkaline conditions are essential. Some folks think adding salt will do the trick, but that's not true. You need a full range of mineral salts.
There's a cheap Rift Valley salt mix that's been around for decades that makes a fine alternative to store-bought equivalents.
Do bear in mind that moving a fish from a main aquarium to a "hospital" aquarium is ONLY useful if the hospital aquarium has BETTER conditions than the main aquarium. Sticking a fish in a jar because you recognise it needs to be isolated will in fact do more harm than good. Isolate a fish, for sure, but do so in an aquarium with a mature filter, heat, and sufficient
space (for small fish, a 10-20 gallon tank works well for hospital tank use).
Finally, can I state clearly that THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS SWIM BLADDER DISEASE. Gosh, that felt good to get out! What I mean is that fish roll over, swell up, and find it hard to swim for all sorts of disease-related reasons. For sure, sometimes there may well be a bacterial infection in the swim bladder alongside infections of other internal organs. But there isn't a common aquarium fish disease specific to the swim bladder, and when fish roll over or swim oddly, it's time to review the environment and ALL aspects of fish health, not Google "swim bladder disease". Make sense?
Cheers, Neale.>
RE: 2 dead kenyi cichlids in 3 days       4/4/15

Thanks it helped a bit as when I changed the water, raised the temp.and siphoned the gravel it showed a little movement and haven't died till now anyway it pooped today a little after a lot of time but still isn't completely healthy could it be constipation? Thanks
<Like all Mbuna, Maylandia lombardoi is predominantly a herbivore. So assuming you're providing a diet based on greens (Spirulina flake, cooked spinach, slivers of cucumber, etc) with only occasional zooplankton treats (brine shrimp are ideal because they contain algae!) then constipation shouldn't be a problem. On the other hand, feed them standard flake, bloodworms and other meat-based foods, and yes, Malawi Bloat is a real risk. Cheers, Neale.>

Fin deterioration on African cichlids  10/11/13
First let me thank you in advance for the help.
 I have a 180 gallon African cichlid tank with a wet dry filter. pH 8.0, NO3 25,
<... I'd be checking this... And is this measure (supposedly) Nitrogen as nitrate or? I suspect the actual concentration is MUCH higher... I'd check with another test kit; a good one>

 NO2 0, NH4 0.  The fins on the fish have been deteriorating over the last 3 months. Recently, the scales on the head are eroding like HLLE. 
<I see this>
The fish are fed 2x a day New Life Spectrum cichlid blend.
<A fave; fab; what I fed my African Cichlids for years; both from Pablo Tepoot>
  I'm beginning to think there is stray voltage in the tank. 
For equipment there is an Iwaki 70 external pump, 40w ultraviolet uv, Hydor power head, and a chiller.  I tested the tank with a multimeter in the past but didn't get a reading with the multimeter.  In retrospect however the chiller may have been off during the test.  Would the chiller be a viable cause?
<Highly unlikely>
  How would I go about using a multimeter to test this (I want to be sure I used it properly the first time around)?
Thanks again,
<What you have is almost assuredly "classical" metabolite poisoning. I would either ditch the wet dry entirely or modify it, clean the mechanical media... Daily... yes; every 24 hours... Do search, read re trickle/wet-dry technology on WWM. Not appropriate for your setting. Sorry for my didactic-ness this AM. Am running short... as usual. Please do write back if you have further questions, need for clarification. Bob Fenner>

Skin issue with coral twain reef cichlid. Please help!  12/31/12
I hope you can help me. I have had this wild caught coral twain reef
<I assume you mean Protomelas sp. 'Steveni Taiwan' , also known as the Taiwan Reef Cichlid.>
now for a year and he has always seemed healthy and still does besides this skin issue.
<Yes, I see. Looks like there's some erosion of the skin plus excess mucous.>
As you can see from the picture, he's got a moldy fuzz appearance on his eye as well as forehead, bottom fins, and side. It started with just the discoloration on his side and now has progressed to what you see. The tank parameters are 0 ammonia, 0 nitrates and nitrates. Ph is 8.0. I do 20 to 30% water changes every 2 to 3 days. I use 1 tablespoon of salt per gallon,
<Why? You do understand that careless use of salt causes problems for Malawian cichlids; do read up on Malawi Bloat.>
water conditioner, Malawi buffer,

<Assuming this is Malawi (or Rift Valley) salt mix, then you shouldn't need to add the tablespoon of salt. If the buffer is simply pH 8 buffer, then you are creating a problem. The pH of Lake Malawi is around 8, that's true, but your job is to raise carbonate and general hardness through the use of an appropriate mineral salt mix; do read here:
The Rift Valley Salt Mix is cheap and easy to make at home.>
stress zyme
<To the tap water?>
and ammonia neutralizer when needed.
<Ah now, this is worrying me. Are you adding ammonia neutralizer to tap water? That's fine. But if you have non-zero ammonia levels in the aquarium and think adding ammonia neutralizer will help, then you have a problem.
Ammonia in aquaria should ALWAYS be managed through filtration, typically, biological filtration.>
It wasn't always like this as up until 3 weeks ago, I always had .25 ammonia.
<Then your tank is overstocked, overfed, and/or under-filtered. It's also why your Protomelas is sick.>
The tank has been setup for 1 year. I have searched everywhere and have no clue. Anyone  I have spoken to has never seen anything like it.  Please respond.
<Protomelas inhabit extremely clean water. They are sensitive to poor water quality. They are also rather shy and peaceful, so you MUST NOT keep them with aggressive fish like Mbuna or they will be stressed. I'd bet all the money in my pockets that the problem here is environmental: the tank is too small and/or under-filtered (hence the non-zero ammonia) and that you've stressed this fish through the wrong water chemistry (see above) and poor water quality and perhaps the wrong tankmates. Review, and act accordingly.
As for medication, a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofurazone works wonders with cichlids, ideally, used in your quarantine tank (which I presume you have if you've bought an expensive wild-caught cichlid like this). Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Skin issue with coral Taiwan reef cichlid. Please help!    12/31/12
Thanks for the reply. After reading over my question again I realized I put that I use a tablespoon of salt per gallon. This is incorrect. I use a tablespoon per 5 gallon. It's regular aquarium salt. Not cichlid salt. Should I not use it?
<Absolutely not; at least, not by itself. Aquarium salt (also called tonic salt) is sodium chloride. This is the major salt that makes seawater salty (there are actually dozens of other salts in seawater, though in smaller amounts). Rift Valley cichlids are specifically adapted to the minerals of the lakes; in the case of Lake Malawi, it's calcium salts that are the majority, not sodium salts like sodium chloride. The real issue is the way they effect osmoregulation, which is the process whereby the fish get the right balance of minerals and water inside their cells. The wrong sort of minerals outside the body, or the wrong amount of minerals, and the fish either dehydrates or gets continually "flooded" with water (kind of like a fish drowning, if you can imagine such a thing). If you go back and read the Practical Approach to Water Chemistry article, you'll see that there's a "salt mix" that includes baking soda (which is sodium bicarbonate), Epsom salt (which is magnesium sulphate), and marine aquarium salt mix (which includes both sodium salts and calcium salts). The amounts you need of each is very small, teaspoon or tablespoon quantities per 5 gallons. So the mix costs pennies a month. But the benefits for your Rift Valley cichlids will be substantial and long-term. Don't change all the water chemistry at once, but over the next few weeks, as you change out 20-25% of the water, replace with new water that has this Rift Valley salt mix added. Cheap, easy and effective -- not often I get to recommend something that's so simple!>
Also, it's a 75 gallon tank filtered by an Eheim pro 350 filter. There's currently 16 fish in the tank. 2 yellow labs,
<Labidochromis spp. should be okay with Protomelas, but watch them.>
1 short body Flowerhorn, 1 blood parrot,
<Neither of these belong in here; remove them ASAP. Their behaviour is somewhat milder than the Mbuna, especially the Blood Parrots which can be easy targets for fin-biters like Pseudotropheus zebra>
3 red zebras,
<Pseudotropheus zebra; potentially extremely aggressive and incompatible with Protomelas spp.>
1 red empress,
<Protomelas taeniolatus; another peaceful species.>
<Nimbochromis venustus; another peaceful species.>
1 red jewel,
<Hemichromis bimaculatus; doesn't belong here. A West African rainforest species that does better in soft to medium-harm, around neutral water. Not especially aggressive outside of breeding.>
1 blue Melanochromis, 1 albino Melanochromis and 1 regular female Melanochromis,
<Melanochromis males can be psychotic, especially Melanochromis auratus; Melanochromis johanni is somewhat less aggressive and could cohabit with Protomelas in a large aquarium.>
1 socolofi,
<Pseudotropheus socolofi; not as psychotically aggressive as Pseudotropheus zebra or Melanochromis auratus, so potentially viable with Protomelas given lots and lots of space.>
1 female balloon Flowerhorn,
<See above; simply doesn't belong here.>
1 peacock.
<Aulonocara spp. should not be kept with most Mbuna, especially Pseudotropheus zebra and Melanochromis auratus. Usually wind up battered or simply so stressed their lifespan is appreciably shortened.>
The ammonia neutralizer is only put in once a week after a water change added directly to the tank.
<Why? Do review water quality management, i.e., filtration and stocking, and thereby ensure ammonia sticks at zero. Do understand "false positives" for ammonia are possible with certain types of tap water (containing chloramine) even after treatment. Does tap water register an ammonia level of zero before and then after adding water conditioner? If there is *no* ammonia detected in *both* those tests, but you *do* detect ammonia in the aquarium, then filtration and/or stocking are wrong.>
All fish were added at the same time when they were babies so they have all grown up together and there is literally almost no aggressiveness besides for the 2 yellow labs chasing each other.
<Very surprised, to be honest, but every tank is different. That said, your Protomelas is clearly stressed and that's why it's making extra mucous (the white stuff) and collecting in "scars" or "pits" on the head (cf. Hole-in-the-Head and Head-and-Lateral-Line diseases). In any event, your aquarium sounds overstocked to me, and will be once some of these fish reach full size -- an adult Flowerhorn needs a 75-gallon tank just for itself. Hmm… what else… do get and read something on cichlid-keeping by the likes of Paul Loiselle or Ad Koenig. "The Pocket Professional Guide to Cichlids" by David Boruchowitz is another good book. If you're on a budget, "Fishkeepers Guide to African Cichlids" by Paul Loiselle can be bought on Amazon.com for a measly $0.03 plus shipping; while a bit dated in style and content, it covers all the basics and Loiselle really knows his stuff. Once you've decided you want to get serious about cichlids, then find "The Cichlid Aquarium" by Paul Loiselle; not an easy read and not for beginners, but if you know fishkeeping moderately well, this is the absolute bible on cichlid-keeping and cichlid-biology. Out of print for years, but on Amazon for under $20.>
<Welcome, Neale.>
Re: Skin issue with coral Taiwan reef cichlid. Please help!    12/31/12

My tap water has 0 ammonia,
<Before and after adding your water conditioner of choice?>
as well as the 75 gallon tank. I know the test is correctly measuring ammonia as I have 5 other tanks and a couple are at .25 at the moment.
<Which implies the livestock are producing ammonia faster than the filter can process it (i.e., convert it to nitrite and then nitrate). Review stocking density, filter capacity and feeding regimen, then act accordingly. One of these factors, perhaps more than one, is wrong.>
I have been using the Aquino ammonia neutralizer in the other tanks to make the ammonia and nitrates less harmful until it comes down so I guess I just got in the habit.
<Easily done.>
You are correct, I should not be using it if I don't need to.
<It's harmless in itself. But if you have persistent ammonia in your aquaria, the problem is with water quality management. So rather than adding chemicals, establish what the problem is (why there's more ammonia in the tank than the filter can handle) and adjust the tanks accordingly.>
Now forgive me for questioning you as I know you have many more years of experience then I do.
But if the setup currently works and everyone is getting along meaning the 5" male and 4" female Flowerhorns and 1 parrot then why remove them.
<Because the Flowerhorns won't be 5 inches for long and the Parrot won't be small for long either. Flowerhorn Cichlids are hybrids as you probably know, so their precise adult size can be difficult to predict, but it will be around the 10-12 inch mark (males tending to be a little bigger than females). Remember that the overall size of an animal (i.e., its mass) increases as the cube of any changes in length. So while a 10-inch Flowerhorn may be only twice as long as a 5-inch specimen, it's mass will be EIGHT times than of the 5-inch specimen, and therefore it needs EIGHT times the oxygen and produces EIGHT times the ammonia. Make sense? In any case, a Flowerhorn singleton needs no less than 75 gallons, and a pair (inasmuch as pairs exist with these very aggressive fish) will need twice that amount of water, if not more -- and even then there are no guarantees the male won't decide to murder the female one day.>
They keep to themselves and don't bother anyone or the Taiwan reef.
<These fish are all still young, by the sounds of it. Hmm… you know the game of Russian Roulette? Let's say you play it once, and survive. Does that make it a safe game? Same thing here. Because your young cichlids have so far gotten along doesn't mean they will do indefinitely, and the odds are NOT in your favour. You have a poor combination of species that reveals little understanding of what particular cichlids need, i.e., not enough reading. Mixing Aulonocara with Mbuna is a classic beginner's mistake. You may have come across Mary Bailey in your reading on African cichlids. We've got a trio of her articles here at WWM that you'll find useful:
Mbuna occupy a very specific niche that makes them both fun to watch and difficult to mix with other cichlids. You may decide to try out your own combinations and wait to see what happens. That's fine, but do be aware of the problems, and when you see signs of stress or damage, be prepared to make adjustments. Do understand that mixing Aulonocara with Mbuna, for example, may not result in the immediate death of the Aulonocara, but rather the Aulonocara tend to live shorter, less happy lives than if they were properly kept.>
The issue you see on the Taiwan has always been there since I bought him a year ago, besides for the eye part. You say it's excess mucous but there is no white color to this. It's the same color as the purple scales. It's bumpy and mold like looking.
<Yes. Do see previous e-mail with suggestions on medications. But the immediate problem here is stress of some sort. More the Protomelas species you have to a suitable "peaceful" Mbuna community and it should recover with little if any need for medication.>
It looks like fungus but the same color as his body. Thanks again!
<Welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

African Chiclid
Red Spots on African Cichlid 10/24/11

I was wondering if you have any idea what the red spots are on my cichlid if they are dangerous to it and if so how to cure it.
Thanks Ben
< You have some sort of Lake Malawi cichlid. It is possibly a cross and the red spots could be normal coloration and not a disease at all. If he is acting normal without clamped fins or showing any discomfort then I would just make sure the water is hard and alkaline, and the nitrates are under 20 ppm. Add a little rock salt to the water and he should be fine.-Chuck>

Re: African Chiclid
Red Spots on African Cichlid II 10/25/11

The spots just appeared a couple of days ago and they look like they are raised bumps
the only thing is he's not really eating. the ph is 6.0 but it always has been and the nitrates are fine
Thanks Ben
< Raised bumps are not part of this cichlids normal coloration. The fact that he is not eating and raised bumps means we might have an internal infection. This fish does better in hard alkaline water. Long periods in acidic water may have affected the immune system in your fish. In a hospital tank raise the pH to at least neutral and treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Furan-2.-Chuck

red sore on head with scrape & a white dot on left fin of African cichlid
Africa Cichlid Care 10/21/11

Hi...my name is Kim & I have a 21 month old African Cichlid that has been staying at the top of his 10 gallon tank for the past 2 days or so. Today I noticed he has a red sore on left side of face & what looks like a circle, as if a scab would have fell off. Also, a white dot on the left fin & redness under same fin. Did notice a red line on top of body, on both sides. His mouth looks bigger to me, noticed him gasping once & last night, as I turned out the lights, I heard a big splash! I just did a 25 percent water change. Prior to this, the pH was 6.2 (which has been for a long time & he has been fine), the nitrite was 0, alkalinity was 0, hardness was 75 & the nitrate was 20-40 ( yesterday it was 20). My test kit does not include ammonia. He is usually in his cave, (which, I'm hoping, he may have just rubbed his face because he is getting big), or he is usually picking up the gravel & moving it around, his name is Hades. Yesterday I had added a bit of distilled water, since it was getting low & I have been sick, so I am about a week late doing the monthly cleaning & 50 percent water change. I also just added the 5 ml amount of Stress Zyme+ & a teaspoon of AquaSafe, which are the only chemicals I ever use. I feed him flakes every other day, but got confused & may have fed him a small amount 2 days in a row, didn't feed yesterday, fed today but he didn't eat. He is my only fish & part of my little family. Can you please help? I can't even eat or sleep. He has had me scared in the passed & always pulled through. I always have used distilled tap water, but if I have to clean tank & do another water change tomorrow, is it alright to use the water you buy in the stores? Thank You!
Kim & Hades
< There are a couple thousand species of cichlids from Africa so African Cichlid can mean many different kinds of cichlids with different requirements. I assume you are referring to a rift lake cichlid. Cichlids from Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika require hard alkaline water. They are pretty tough and can probably handle your distilled water treatment but would do better with water that is more like the waters they come from. If your tap water is in the alkaline range then start by doing water changes with treated tap water. This should bring the pH up into the alkaline range. Add a teaspoon of rock salt to the tank too. This will increase the body slime and help fight off the bacterial infections you are seeing. If no improvement is seen in a week then treat with an antibiotic like Furan-2 or Myacin.-Chuck>

Dying Tropheus duboisi 6/30/11
Greetings Crew! I write in at a loss as to what is killing to my Tropheus Duboisi. I currently have 6 (down from 8) young adults ranging from 3 to 3 1/2" in a 55 gal tank with lace rock and a 3 in DSB for just about a year.
Last Thursday I noticed that one had died (without my permission). So after a minor panic attack I tested the water and did a 15% water change. The only variance from my normal water readings was the nitrates (1ppm)

Cichlids Dying Rapidly-- 03/20/11
Cichlid Tank Die Off

Hello. I have a 90gallon cichlid tank. I am running 2 Fluval filters a 405 and 305. I have sand from home depot and about 70 lbs of live rock and couple lbs of other rock. I also have a Rena air 400 for air supply. my pH is around 7.8. Nitrates are higher around 60-80ish, nitrite is 0 and ammonia is 0. I have 25 African cichlids currently from yellow labs, peacocks, scats and few others. I have never had and problem with fish dying until the last few weeks. I purchased a 4 yr old Calvus from a friend and seemed fine. The next morning I woke up and found 3 fish dead.
I immediately brought him back because I figured he killed them. They had no bite marks on them or anything noticeably wrong. Over the next couple of day I lost another 5 cichlids all were fine the day before and found dead with nothing wrong with them. It has been 2 weeks now since anything else has happened.
What could of caused the death of 8 fish in little over a week? Could the calvus had brought some sort of parasites to the tank? I keep the salinity around 1.008ish brackish. I lowered it a little thinking maybe the salt was burning their gills please help. Thanks Adam.
< Nitrates become a problem at anything over 20 ppm. Nitrates are less toxic but they are still very harmful to your fish at these very high levels. As your fish died the levels of ammonia and nitrites continued to rise and added to the problem. The new fish could not handle the nitrate level and died pretty quickly. The salt was not helpful, in fact probably inhibited the FW bacteria needed to convert the ammonia and nitrites to nitrates.-Chuck>
Re: Cichlids Dying Rapidly
Cichlids Quickly Die 3/21/11

I was able to scoop the dead fish out right away and my ammonia levels and nitrites never changed from 0. None of the fish that died were new either the tank has been set up for little over a year now. So does more salt make the nitrates higher? I am unclear about the last sentence sorry. Thanks for the fast response
< The high nitrates are the major cause of the tank crashing. The new fish could not tolerate the excessive nitrate levels and quickly died. When they died the ammonia levels had the potential to spike. This only adds to the stress. The rift lakes are not brackish. They are hard and alkaline. Salt increases the slime coat over the skin and gills. This may have made your cichlids more tolerant of the high nitrate levels. salt does not increase the nitrate levels. -Chuck.>
Re: Cichlids Dying Rapidly
Cichlids Dying Rapidly III 3/22/11

There were NO new fish added that died. And I am unsure how long the nitrites had been high for because I had never tested them. They are still high. There are still 25 cichlids and there have been no problems for about 2 weeks. I don't believe nitrates had anything to do with this because they are still high and always have been. Most people are. The ammonia and nitrites never changed.
< There are two different scenarios, sick fish or sick tank. When a fish is sick the pathogen usually only affects old or weak fish that become vulnerable to disease due to stress. A sick tank, one that water conditions are not favorable to keeping aquatic organisms in an optimum level is a sick tank that stress fish. When fish are stressed then they are vulnerable to organisms detrimental to their overall health. Nitrates in the 60 to 80 ppm is a problem. It may not have been a problem in the past but it is one now. Losing 8 fish in a week would be very rare due to a single disease. It is a sign that something is wrong with the tank. You may live in an area with high nitrates in the tap water due to living in an agricultural area where fertilizers have leached into the groundwater. Check the nitrates of your tapwater. If they are less than 60-80 then start to change the water to bring the nitrates down. You asked the question and this is the best answer based on the information you have provided. I would like to recommend the book "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings. this book will help you with all aspects of cichlid keeping.-Chuck>
Re: Cichlids Dying Rapidly
Cichlids Dying Rapidly IV 3/24/11

So the calvus may have contributed to the start of the overall health problems is that what you are saying?
< The nitrates were already very high. The additional fish elevated ammonia, nitrites and nitrates to the aquarium water. When you added the new fish it just added to the problem and the levels just reached a toxic level with the addition of the new fish sooner than if you had not added the new fish.>
He bothered no one and he was gone after the 1st day because I thought he killed 2 fish but 6 more died after he was gone.
< Big calvus can be killers if they are breeding and defending a female in a shell or protective cave. If the calvus was a killer you would have seen very obvious aggression towards the other fish.>
Nitrates out of my tap are 0 tested them and it is also the law you can get sick from nitrates if you are to constantly drink water that has them.
< There are limits to how high the nitrates can be in domestic drinking water. >
I have done several changes and nitrates have not changed.
< Your tap water is zero and the aquarium water is in the 60-80 ppm range of nitrates. A 50% water change should have cut then in half just by a matter of dilution. Something in the tank is contributing to the excessive nitrates. This week clean the filters and change 1/3 of the water. Next week vacuum the gravel and change another 1/3 of the water. Dead fish, uneaten food and decomposing plant matter can increase nitrogenous waste.
Also feed the fish once a day and only enough food so that all of it is eaten in 5 minutes. Over a couple of weeks you should see a decrease in the nitrates.-Chuck>

Sick Cichlids please help
Sick Cichlid Tank 11/11/09

Thank you for taking my question.
< No problem.>
I have two remaining African Cichlids (of 3 ) I have had for 5 years or better. They are 4 inches long and live in 25 gallon tank. Recently we added the algae eaters to reduce the algae in the tank.
< The algae problem can be traced to high nitrate levels. Keep the nitrates to under 20 ppm. Ammonia and nitrites should be zero.>
The fish became erratic, swimming lifeless, barley holding on. We did a complete water change and complete cleaning of everything.
< Bad idea. You have now lost all the bacteria that break down nitrogenous wastes. You now have a new tank and probably need to cycle it all over again like a new aquarium.>
The two algae eaters died as well as one Chiliad. <?>
The water has been tested over and over again. The water numbers are perfect.
<Perfect equals zero ammonia and nitrites. Nitrates should be under 20 ppm.>
With n hours the fish are standing on there noses or laying on there side and their fins laid back. If we transfer them into another tank with fresh water they come around for about 4 to 8 hours and then back to previous condition. Both have started to develop brown on there fins and one has brown around its nostrils. Then after a while there skin turns white in color. They are orange. This has been going on for three weeks they are trying so hard to hold on and the sadness is they try to help each other in the tank and recognize us. We have been back and forth to the pet store they have run out of suggestions, we have read on your site the diseases and some symptoms are the same but can not cure them .Please please Help.
Thank you so much,
Jim and Carie Scott in Raleigh NC
< Lets start by checking the water. African cichlids like hard alkaline water. The pH should be at least 7.0 or higher. The water temp should be between 73 and 77 F. Use a very good water conditioner that removes both chlorine and chloramines. Check tithe water source as well as the aquarium.
The brownish coloration is a bacterial infection. If it is causing these kinds of symptoms then the infection is very advanced. I would recommend treating with Erythromycin or a Furanace antibiotic. Add about 1 tablespoon of sea salt or rock salt to the aquarium. to increase the slime coat.-Chuck>

Lake Victoria Cichlids - Still sick? 9/11/09
I just want to thank you in advanced. Here is my situation: I purchased a group of 7 Pseudotropheus flavus Chinyankwazi and a group of 7 Pundamilia nyererei Ruti Island.
<Not in the same tank, I hope. Pseudotropheus come from Malawi, which has different water chemistry to Lake Victoria, which is where Pundamilia nyererei come from. So while often sold in the "African Cichlid" section, they need different conditions to do well. There are also substantial differences in temperament. While both aggressive, Pseudotropheus flavus is much more aggressive than Pundamilia nyererei, not to mention twice the length.>
The day I put them in, a noticed 1 of the Flavus swimming kinda funny along with having a bloated stomach. The next morning, I caught him and put him in one of the floating internal breeding houses; I worked all day and came home to find him dead. I assumed it was bloat based on how large is stomach was.
<Could be a variety of things. Physical damage could be one, i.e., internal bleeding, if coupled with bruises and damaged fins. If you put these two species together, then that's definitely a possibility. Another very
possible explanation is a negative reaction to water chemistry changes.
Since the two fish need different water conditions, putting the Victorian cichlids into Malawi water chemistry could be a shock, or vice versa, exposing Malawians to the less hard, slightly above neutral conditions
Victorians want. Careless use of salt can also cause problems: see Malawi Bloat. Back in the day, people used to put "tonic salt" in Malawi tanks, and it seems to have been a major cause of mortality. Again, there are other issues to consider: nitrate concentration, oxygenation, etc.>
There was one more flavus that was breathing hard and laying at the bottom doing nothing - I treat with Metronidazole (using Jungles Parasite clear) which seemed to do nothing.
<And will do nothing, unless the problem is specifically Protozoans of the type treated by this medication, e.g., Hexamita.>
So I went and bought "General Cure" from API and the Flavus made a come back and started to swim and eat.
<Again, no particular reason to expect a cure without knowing what you're treating. Indeed, throwing in multiple treatments without understanding why can do more harm than good. Much to be said for removing sick fish to your hospital tank, observing, and then treating, once you have a diagnosis.>
The whole tank was treated, however I noticed most of the Ruti Islands with a white "nub" sticking out around the anus. There is no red coloration, it is just white and almost looks like a bubble.
<Could be a prolapse; does happen. A common mistake with Mbuna and especially Victorians is to give them mostly meat-based foods (e.g., flake) rather than what they really need, greens! Constipation leads to digestive tract problems, that leads to bacterial infections, and in the infections cause the prolapse.>
Each Ruti has this bump, and for some reason, it is not going away. I want to say it's bloat, but the fish do not appear bloated. They are swimming and they are always, always hungry. I have been doing 30% and 50% water changes along with adding aquarium salts AND Epson salt.
<What do you mean by "aquarium salts"? A Malawi tank should only, repeat ONLY have proper Rift Valley salt mix used; see here:
Salt by itself, i.e., NaCl, can lead to problems, e.g., bloating. Do review the literature on these two cichlid fish groups: there are countless books out there.>
Nothing I do is getting rid of these little white nubs on my Rutis.
Any suggestions? I am sorry I cannot attach a picture, they just wont stay still and catching them among a few hundred pounds of rocks is nearly impossible. I do not want to stress them anyway.
<Do review the needs of the two fish groups being kept here, especially in terms of diet, water chemistry. Likely some mismatch responsible, either directly or in terms of susceptibility to ambient bacterial infections.
Antibiotic treatment and a greens-based diet should help with the prolapse.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Lake Victoria Cichlids - Still sick? 9/13/09

The Flavus and the Ruti can both be put into the same tank, see the following:
http://www.cichlid-forum.com/profiles/species.php?id=1664 http://www.cichlid-forum.com/profiles/species.php?id=889
<These two links say nothing of the kind! If you look, there are differences in size, aggression, and, if you read anything about Lake Victoria versus Lake Malawi, water chemistry. Every single book or magazine ever written about these two groups of fish recommends they not be kept together. Sure, you can try, but it's dollars to doughnuts that the much bigger and much more aggressive male Pseudotropheus will bully, perhaps kill, the Pundamilia unless the aquarium is of truly vast size (by which I mean 200 gallons upwards). I've just finished editing an article by an experienced cichlid keeper all about Lake Victoria cichlids. It'll be out in the upcoming Conscientious Aquarist magazine, and I strongly suggest you have a read when that happens.>
As you can see, water hardness, water PH, and temps are all relatively the same.
<I'm relatively the same thing as a chimpanzee, but I don't invite chimps to family reunions. The devil is in the detail, and it's getting the details right that separates expert from casual fishkeepers.>
Both groups are fry, measuring around 1-1.5". There is no aggression between the groups and there is no aggression within each group.
<Still sexually immature. I'm talking about once the males become big enough to stake out territories.>
The fish were shipped to me in separate bags, so the chances that the Flavus died because of injuries do to damage caused by other fish is unlikely. Again, they were shipped in separate bags, so the Rutis and the Flavus were never with each other until put into the tank. When I did put them in, as I said, no aggression or fighting occurred within or among both species.
I do, however, think that its possible that damage happened during shipment; however, if this is the case, why did it only effect 1 fish out of 14?
<The weakest fish is usually picked off first, then the next weakest, and so on.>
I must say, that I do not think water chemistry has anything to do with this. My PH is 8.2. My temp is 82 degrees F. 0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, and Nitrate is around 5-10.
<The pH is a bit high for Victorian cichlids; the optimum is around pH 7.5, 10 degrees dH. I note you're not mentioning either carbonate hardness or general hardness, but merely pH. As you hopefully realise, pH is largely unimportant when keeping fish except so far as it is stable from week to week. Hardness and carbonate hardness are substantially more important.>
The aquarium salt I used is the one that API sells (API Aquarium Salt). I have never used table salt, and never will.
<API Aquarium salt is merely repackaged table salt. It's not the same thing as Rift Valley salt mix. By all means combine with Epsom salt and Baking Soda to produce a Rift Valley salt mix, but once the box is done, for gosh sakes buy some marine salt mix; only the latter has the full mix of trace elements, whereas aquarium salt has virtually nothing useful. This issue has been discussed so many times, there's really no need for you to reinvent the wheel.
Plain aquarium salt -- what you're using -- seems to one factor leading to Malawi Bloat. Before aquarists understood the importance of water chemistry, they did what you're doing, added aquarium salt to Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika aquaria, and Malawi Bloat was a very common problem.
Since switching to proper Rift Valley salt mixes (which you can buy, if you don't want to make yourself) the incidence of Malawi Bloat has become a lot less common. So please, just pick up a book on African Cichlids (anything by Loiselle or Konings is good) and read the darn thing, cover to cover.
Save yourself, and your fish, a lot of grief. You're making beginner's mistakes here, and while I'm happy to help each and every time, you'll be a lot more pleased with yourself if you can pre-empt some of the possible problems.>
I have only fed them one thing, and one thing only: Omega One Super Veggie:
I do not believe this food would cause any harm to either species.
<It's a good food. But do mix things up a little. Dried foods, used constantly, can cause dietary problems. Fresh green foods are the make-or-break additions to the diet with a lot of cichlids, reducing the risk of vitamin deficiency and constipation.>
I have read some of your input to other people and will try to feed smaller portions a few times a day. Maybe this will help?
<This is actually recommend practise, because at least some of these cichlids have relatively short guts, being adapted to constant grazing. So one or two big meals per day is largely a waste. So yes, a good idea.>
Should I try treating the tank with Nitrofurazone and see what that does?
<Yes, this can help treat a prolapse anus; as discussed here:
but do think carefully about what the triggering factors might be, and act accordingly.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Reply to Victorian Cichlids... 9/15/09

General Hardness (GH) is 300 ppm.
<Is this calcium oxide or calcium carbonate? Technically it should be calcium oxide, but for historical reasons many (most?) test kits quote calcium carbonate equivalencies. That being said, 300 mg/l calcium
carbonate would be ~18 degrees dH.>
Carbonate Hardness (KH) is 160 ppm.
<This is always calcium carbonate, and in this case, ~9 degrees KH.>
I do not know what these transfer in to as far as degrees, but I believe they are pretty spot on.
<For what? Lake Malawi has hard, basic water, whereas Lake Victoria is more neutral, moderately hard. It doesn't matter hugely, but my point is that these lakes *are not the same*, and Lake Victoria is in most regards a fairly typical large lake like many others in East Africa. Lake Malawi (and Lake Tanganyika) are different in that the geology of the area means their water picks up a lot more minerals as it drains into the basin. Lake Malawi has about twice the mineral content of Lake Victoria.>
Although I did not combine those 3 products (baking soda, marine salt, and Epsom salt) I did put them in separately minus the baking soda; I've been using marine salt and Epsom salt along with api's aquarium salt. Seems as if I should just cut out the aquarium salt and add the baking soda.
<Why? Rather than reinventing the wheel, I suggest you review the Rift Valley cichlid salt recipe described on WWM, as well as on other Rift Valley cichlid orientated web sites. The proportions of the minerals isn't
absolutely critical -- for one thing, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi have very different mineral contents anyway -- but I would use all three. The cost is negligible, so what's to lose? If you have hard water out of the tap, you might not need to use so much, and what is suggested for 5 gallons here at WWM might be fine for 10, even 15 gallons.>
2 different Flavus have created little round "nests" in the sand already.
However, I have yet to see any aggression thus far.
Im not saying that it wont happen, but for now they seem fine and are coloring up nicely.
I purchase the fish from Dave's Rare Aquarium Fish (in San Antonio) and I discussed the inhabitants of the tank before making my final decision. Dave was comfortable with the Flavus and the Ruti mix and noted that they should do well together.
He knows his fish, so I trust his opinion.
They're in the tank now, so its my problem if they start fighting...something tells me, however, that they'll leave each other alone (just as they are now).
<Let's see. The nature of my work here at WWM is to provide advice that works in as many situations as possible. I certainly do things at home I'd not recommend other aquarists do! So if I'm over-cautious, that's the reason why. But the flip side is this: I'm cautious because each day we get dozens of "problem fish" e-mails, and aggression is one of the most common problems. If I say that two fish might not get on, it's not because I'm trying to sell you another fish tank, it's because I know that there's a risk of things going awry. Please do understand this. With that said, by all means see what happens, and honestly, I do hope it works out. Both species you're keeping are colourful and interesting.>
Thanks again Neale,
<By the way, do stop by the new CA magazine, here:
There's a piece on Victorian cichlids by Daniella Rizzo in there you might enjoy.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Reply to Victorian Cichlids... 9/15/09

Yea, I'll hope for the best, and I'll keep you updated (hopefully with pictures soon).
<That would be nice.>
Where is the best place to get Nitrofurazone if you don't mind me asking?
<No idea; here in the UK, it's a prescription-only medication. In the US, Aquarium Pharmaceuticals market at least one version, called Furan-2 I believe. There may well be others.>
You have been most helpful. Much appreciated.
<Good luck! Neale.>

Lake Malawi Tank Problems 7/11/09
Hi, my name is Chris and I've been keeping African cichlids for about 2 years. I have a 135 gallon tank witch is a little over stocked about 300 inches of fish. It has a Fluval FX5 and a Rena Filstar XP3 as well as 2 hydro sponge filter 5s for filtration. I do a weakly/every other week 40% water change. I feed mostly Kens fish cichlid pellets and occasionally soak them in a vitamin complex. Well last week after doing a 30 percent water change and complete gravel vacuum I started to lose about 3 fish a day. When I find them, they have their mouths wide open and extended and look a little bloated but not much and all there fins have red streaks in them(normally clear fins) even the pectoral fins. I tested the water and it read: ammonia .12, nitrite .3, nitrate 5 and pH is 7.6. I added a uv sterilizer and some aquarium and Epsom salt. but I'm still losing fish. also right before they die they swim upside down and listlessly for at least an hour. also only the fish 3" or bigger have died. the smaller fish 2-3" have bean ok.
any help would be appreciated..Thanks, Chris
<You may have wiped out our biological filtration when you cleaned the tank. The ammonia and nitrites should be zero. The high readings are weakening the fish and may be causing secondary bacterial infections. Try smaller water changes (20%) but do them twice a week. Don't feed for a few days until the readings start to level out.-Chuck>

<Nitrite likely> were a little higher then usual which come to find out that my Pleco was not eating the algae tabs so they were rotting on the bottom. After removing the Pleco and changing the water and sucking up the leftovers I figured that I had the issue solved till another one died on Saturday. As of Monday they weren't eating so I tested the water again and found the nitrates were .5 ppm, 0 nitrites and chlorine, KH 150, pH 7.5. So not sure what else to do I removed all the rock and did a thorough cleaning and changed 50% of the water. As of this morning only 3 will eat, 2 have no interest in food and one is way pale sitting on the bottom looking like its about to expire (again with out my permission). I have 8 other tanks ranging from 10 to 125 gal all running with various Rift Valley Cichlids that are eating and not dying. The only thing I have done to the tank is add another basket of crushed coral to the Emperor 400 filter I have on it to raise the pH up a bit but I did that several weeks ago. As far as fish food I use Omega One algae flakes and kelp flakes. Kind of at a loss as to what I should do?
When I took the dead ones out they weren't bloated or chewed up, with out being a vet I didn't see anything abnormal. Would having that uneaten food in there cause that much of a disturbance that they would stop eating altogether? Should I just keep doing 10-15% waters changes every couple days? What would prevent them from eating or at least trying to eat beside swim and breed its all they have to think about. if only our life was that easy :)Thanks Paul
< There should never be left over food in a Tropheus tank. Feed only enough food so that all of it is gone in 5 minutes. Let some algae grow on the rocks. Tropheus have very long digestive tracts. It is easy for a problem to develop in such a long gut. Everything else looks fine. The rest of the Tropheus could be treated with Meronidazole and Nitrofuranace. Once they start to eat again you are fine.-Chuck>

My African cichlids... hlth.? Env.    2/19/08 hello I have a question. my cichlids are rubbing against the rocks and shaking what do I do?. I have just added CopperSafe how long will it take before I could do a water change?. and if this works how long will it take before the sickness will go away?. I have a 72 gal bow with 50 cichlids and my tank is about 1 month old. please help. <Hang on a second. This tank is one month old, contains 72 US gallons for water, and contains 50 cichlids? Given that even with small fish you wouldn't keep more than an inch of fish per gallon, with African cichlids this stocking density is insanely high. So first things first: tell me about water chemistry and water quality. Fish 'flash' (as this rubbing or scratching behaviour is called) when they are irritated. Sometimes the irritation is caused by parasites, but often by sudden changes in pH or poor water quality (ammonia and nitrite especially). Assuming these are Rift Valley cichlids, how are you stabilising the pH? What is the pH level immediately after a water change, and what is the pH a week after a water change -- this will tell you how stable the pH is. All aquaria become acidic over time, and with African cichlids slowing this acidification is essential. So you need to ensure you have lots of carbonate hardness. What is the carbonate hardness in your tank? That's measured in degrees KH, and shouldn't be confused with general hardness (degrees dH) although you need to know that, too. For African cichlids, a general hardness of around 20 degrees dH and a carbonate hardness of at least 7 degrees KH is required. Next up, what about filtration? What is the nitrite concentration in this tank? What about the nitrate? How much water do you change per week? (Should be at least 50%.) What is the capacity of the filter? Minimum should be 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, but realistically 10 times the volume is what a heavily stocked cichlid tank really needs. I'm asking you all this stuff because your fish are likely irritated/ill because of environmental issues rather than disease by itself. In any case, I feel your tank is massively overstocked, and unless you're a very expert fishkeeper rearing large numbers of juvenile fish that will be sold before they get too big, this tank just won't work. Cheers, Neale.>

My African Cichlid, env. dis.  2/1/07 I have a 55 gallon tank with an AquaTech 60 filter, two under gravel filters <Mmm, not advised with this group of fishes... too reductive, fishes dig up substrate/media...> each driven by a submersible power head, an aeration stick and an aeration tube on one of the power heads.  I currently have one Tiger Barb and one African Cichlid left.  I believe my cichlid is from Lake Malawi but I'm not sure which species.  It is about 5 inches long, orange with very faint tiger stripes (you can see them early in the day when the tank lights are off).  It also has egg spots on it's lower rear fin (male). A few months ago I learned a very good lesson.  I let the tank go and the nitrates got too high. <Ah, yes>   My cichlid became poisoned and it's tail was anchored to the bottom of the tank so to speak. I removed it from the 55 gal and placed it into a ten gal.  I did not know what was going on so I treated for Ich for a while, nothing...   I treated with a penicillin type antibiotic <Not useful for Ich> thinking infection and nothing, he started laying on his side.  I then did some research on your site and found out that the nitrates were too high and that is what happened.  In the mean time he became weaker and developed a viral infection.  I treated with recommended type of meds from your site. <There are no fish medications for viral complaints (as yet)>   He got too weak and would not swim at all.  His body looked better just would not swim or eat.  He stayed like this for probably 2 months.  He was emaciated and I thought I would end the suffering.  I was going to dispose of him when I thought I'd try something.  I caught him by hand and was just about to pull him up and decided to get a stick of food.  I held it to his mouth and he ate it right away.  I continued this for a week and he was soon swimming around pretty good.  I then started just adding food to the tank and he could swim and get it just fine.  I decided it was time to get him back into the 55 gal tank.  I adjusted the 10 gallon temp so it stabilized with the 55.  Performed a water change etc and transferred him over.  He has been there for three weeks now.  He still seems to have his tail pointing down at approx a 45 but seems to be generally happy.  I use a waterbed siphon on the faucet to power my vacuum the tank and perform a 25-30% water change regularly. <Good technique... do vacuum the gravel> PH is about 7.5 to 8, Nitrites 0, Ammonia - 0, Nitrates < 15.  I have aquarium salt in the tank at the recommended levels also.  I have standard epoxy coated aquarium gravel in the bottom. <Natural is better for the species listed> His problem is that over the last few days, his lips have become swollen as if someone injected them with collagen and made them look fat.  Also, if the tank lights are on say from say 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM or later his color fades and he looks like he is turning white.  When we limit the light his color stays more brilliant. Do you have a possible scenario for what is happening? <Reads like this fish is recovering... Takes time> I sometimes during water changes run water straight from the faucet to the tank and squirt the chlorine remover into the tank as I am doing so (squirt here or there).  Could I have too much of this chemical in the water? <Not likely... better to have a bit too much than too little> Any help would be appreciated. Thanks! D.G. <I would continue on as you've been doing. Do investigate (read on WWM...) re African Cichlid Systems... Bob Fenner>

Sick cichlids   1/17/07 Leaves Hi Team, <Mark> I am desperate for some help from you concerning my cichlids. Yesterday I lost my Peacock cichlid very suddenly in a matter of minutes. He was about 3 years old and in good health up until about 2 weeks ago when I noticed he was off his food and a bit lethargic. There were no other signs of obvious illness. I immediately tested the water and the only problem with the water was an extremely high level of phosphate of 5+. <Yikes! This is very high> Otherwise the water's Ph is 7.2   Ammonia - 0  Nitrite - 0  Nitrate - minimal. My worry is I have a Bumble bee catfish, ?(Nimbochromis polystigma)<Mmm, not a catfish... a cichlid: http://fishbase.org/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=2277&genusname=Nimbochromis&speciesname=polystigma> showing exactly the same symptoms of lethargy and loss of appetite and am afraid he will also die soon. Have put a pouch of Bio-Zorb in tank.  As we are experiencing a severe draught here in Geelong and with water levels extremely low, the water board are pumping water from other areas and we were wondering if the water quality is contributing to the problems we are experiencing. <I do believe this could be so... better to mix/blend in some water of known better quality... Perhaps RO?> My other fish appear to be fine for now. They include - Silver Sharks, Silver Dollar, Jewels, Jack Dempsey, Rainbow Cichlid and Upside-down Sailfin Catfish. I would really appreciate any help as I fear time is running out for me to save Bumble bee. regards, Nola <... are these fishes in the same system? They like a wide range of water chemistries... the Africans... quite a bit/mix of salts, hard, alkaline water... The silver dollar... about the opposite... Bob Fenner>
Re: Sick cichlids  - 1/18/07
Hi Bob and Crew, Thanks so much for the prompt reply and advice. Further to my cichlid problem, my girlfriend and I discovered after continuing with water testing regularly, that even though the General Hardness (GH) for all our tanks are in the appropriate range for the fish in the tanks, the Carbonate Hardness (KH) was at the opposite end of the scale and very low, anywhere between 20-50ppm. This includes the water in all the 7 tanks from tropical, marine, rift and goldfish that we own between the two of us. Our question is how do we raise the KH without altering the GH and upsetting the ph level? <Mmm, the easiest approach is again to begin with water of overall low hardness (the cheapest is likely reverse osmosis... your own unit), and add a source of Ca, Mg... carbonates, bicarbonates... either a mix you can make up or a commercial prep.... If you're so concerned> I also heard today that bore water is being used in our water now due to the draught conditions. I also need to clarify my earlier email, where I mentioned about what I used to help with my excessively high phosphate level; it was Phos-Zorb, not Bio-Zorb (my mistake). regards, Nola <No worries... Do make a pass over the FW chemistry sections posted on WWM, Maintenance... a bit of background in the basics will serve you well here. Bob Fenner>

Problems adding first fish 5/28/06 Hi, <Hello> After cycling my new aquarium (38 gal) for about 3 weeks, the ammonia and nitrite levels were both 0 and nitrate was about 20 ppm. <OK>  I then changed 50% of the water, and yesterday I added some fish (3 yellow labs and 2 socolofi, all juveniles).  Well, this morning I woke up to find all of the labs and one of the socolofi dead.  I removed the dead fish and tested the water again.  Ammonia: 0 ppm, nitrite: 2 ppm.  I immediately did a huge water change (about 75%).  The other socolofi looks ok for now, but what happened?  What should I do now? Confused... <What happened was too many fish to fast.  The biological filtration couldn't keep up with the addition of 5 new fish.  The tank had a mini cycle as evidenced by the nitrite reading.  The last fish will probably be fine but give the new tank time to catch up.  Don't add anything for a couple of weeks, then it will be ok to add 1-2 new fish, after proper quarantining of course.> <Chris>

Malawi Cichlid Tank Freaking Out  9/19.5/05 Hello, I have a 46/48 gallon tank. I had 7 cichlids in the tank, for about   10 months now. I had 2 tiger, 2 orange, 1 albino, and 2 yellow with black stripe  on top fin. As of 3 days ago, I have lost 4 fish!! They seem to be gasping for  air. They look as though they are having a seizure. One of my tigers actually  jumped out and committed suicide!! I had 3 live plants in the tank and a lot of  algae built up so, I cleaned the tank, and now only have one live plant. I also  have  a sand bottom. I do clean the tank, vacuum and scrub algae. I had a  Plecostomus but, the fish attacked and killed the two I once had in the tank to  control algae. I tested the water and all seemed o.k. I changed the filter as  well as did a partial water change. I am losing all of my fish as I only have 3  out of 7 left and the last 3 are freaking out, trying to jump out of the tank  and laying on the floor of tank and seizing!!!! What is going on? I had such a  healthy tank! I don't understand! HELP! < Check the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. The ammonia and nitrites should be zero. The nitrates should be under 20 PPM. The pH needs to be around 7.5 to 8.0. The water temp should be around 75 to 77 F. If all of these check out then check the food. They should be feed a food high in vegetable matter like Spirulina algae. Your filters should be pumping at least 150 gallons per hour. Mbunas are susceptible to protozoa infections like Ich without showing any symptoms. When they are less stressed I would try treating with rid-Ich by Kordon.-Chuck>
Malawi Cichlid Tank Freaking Out-Don's Two Cents  9/19.5/05
Hello, I have a 46/48 gallon tank. I had 7 cichlids in the tank, for about 10 months now. I had 2 tiger, 2 orange, 1 albino, and 2 yellow with black stripe  on top fin. As of 3 days ago, I have lost 4 fish!! They seem to be gasping for air. They look as though they are having a seizure. One of my tigers actually jumped out and committed suicide!! I had 3 live plants in the tank and a lot of  algae built up so, I cleaned the tank, and now only have one live plant. I also have  a sand bottom. I do clean the tank, vacuum and scrub algae. I had a Plecostomus but, the fish attacked and killed the two I once had in the tank to  control algae. I tested the water and all seemed o.k. I changed the filter as well as did a partial water change. I am losing all of my fish as I only have 3  out of 7 left and the last 3 are freaking out, trying to jump out of the tank  and laying on the floor of tank and seizing!!!! What is going on? I had such a  healthy tank! I don't understand! HELP! Thank you for such a quick response. I just lost another fish. =( <I copied your original question above to keep things clear to our readers. If I'm reading your question correctly all this happened suddenly after you cleaned the tank and filter. Sounds like a chemical contamination. It could also be pH shock, but less likely IMO. I would start doing large water changes, 60 to 75%, add fresh charcoal and cross my fingers. If your filter has a basket for extra charcoal, load it up. Change every few hours. If you see any improvement do another equally large water change right away. Keep this up until the fish can breath normally. But there is a problem with this approach. If your first water change caused a pH shock, then all these water changes will kill them. But at this point it seems they are headed there anyway. And it really does sound like something got into the water. Don>

African Cichlids itching Hi, <<Hello!>> I have a 55 gallon African Cichlid tank which has been running for approximately 6 months now.  I have 18 fish in it with the average length being 3" long. <<Whew, that's a lot of fish in a 55g. You *might* be OK for now but if these fish get any larger (and they will quite rapidly) you're going to have to move some of them. Crowding tends to be the norm in African Cichlid tanks because it helps cut down on aggression but on the other hand it's not as good for your Cichlids health and can cause water quality problems.>> They consist of mostly fish from Lake Malawi and a few from Lake Tanganyika. I run a Fluval 404 filter with bone charcoal, media and cotton in it.  I change 25% of the water faithfully every 2 weeks and the filter approx. every 6-7 weeks.  The pH is stable at 8.2 and the hardness is on the very hard scale on my test kit.  I use the African Rift salt in the water (1 tbls. Per 5 gallons).  The ammonia test kit shows a very slight trace of ammonia in the water.  The nitrites are very low and the nitrates are in the safe zone.   <<What are you considering slight trace and very low? Both the ammonia and nitrites readings should be at 0ppm. These being any higher than 0 could be caused in part by the amount of fish in there (Cichlids can be quite messy) and most likely overfeeding.>> Now that all being said, I've started to notice that some of the fish glance off the gravel and some of the decorations in the tank as if they are itching themselves.   <<This is not an entirely unheard of thing in Cichlids. Some of them do it just for fun, others do it because something is wrong. When I used to keep Africans I had a couple that did this a lot (in between them re-arranging their tank!). In your case this could possibly be the start of an outbreak of Ich but my best guess would be that it's caused by some other discomfort such as the ammonia and nitrites or the crowding.>> I went to my local pet store where I purchased most of the fish and they said there could be some sort of parasite in the water which could be causing them to itch. They gave me some drops to add to the water to treat the tank. They have a chemist make this medication up which has a wide variety of uses.  You could use it to treat Ich, fight fungus, fight parasites. it could be used every time new fish are added as a preventative purpose.  Well I have treated the tank 3 times (did partial water changes in between) and some still occasionally itch themselves.  Now is this normal behavior or do I have a real problem?  I read somewhere else that fish shimmying or shaking are tied in with the itching, this isn't the case with my fish though.  They just glance off of objects in the tank.  Please help. <<See above for possible causes. My suggestion would be to get the ammonia/nitrites down and move some of the fish to a different tank if possible, if not, sell them. Try to get the tank down to about 12 in it for now. You may have to move more later but for now this would work. I think this will greatly help their comfort and they'll be much happier. Keep an eye on them for any other symptoms of disease but I doubt you'll see any. Also, read thru http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/afrcichlids.htm and the related FAQ's for more info on Africans. If you do the steps above and the fish keep glancing off items but still show no signs of disease then don't worry about it, they're just having fun. Just enjoy watching them as this behavior can often be quite comical, especially in Cichlids!>> Thanks, Dave <<You're welcome! Ronni>>
Re: African Cichlids itching
Thank you Ronni! <<Glad I could help.>> I actually have one more cichlid tank with only 2 fish in it (Juveniles).  They are almost 2 inches now so they should be able to take a couple non-aggressive tank mates. <<Sounds like a good place. One thing I should have suggested earlier and forgot, (never answer e-mail before your first cup of coffee!) I would highly recommend quarantining any that you move before you put them in with other fish. This is just to be on the safe side and make sure that the scratching you're seeing is not being caused by the early stages of Ich or some other disease. I also keep a tropical tank which I have no troubles with. <<Sounds like you're having fun. Keep up the good work! Ronni>> Dave

African Cichlid Losses Hello Bob. I am Eric Rood's Nephew, and he told me about your website and how you are the man that can help me.  <Ahh, glad to make your acquaintance> I have had a 75 gallon tank set up for about 11 months. I have a magnum 350 filter system. I have been having trouble with deaths in the tank. one here or there, but now I just had one die, and two are looking very skinny and breathing quite rapidly. I only feed the fish New Life SPECTRUM Cichlid Formula and I am wandering what am I doing wrong. Am I getting bad fish with copper poisoning from a pet store? <Mmm, maybe... sounds like a "general environmental" problem of some sort. Do you have copper testing data? I would check this, dissolved oxygen, other physical variables here> Do I need a different food regimen. Uncle Eric said you were the one to talk to so I would greatly appreciate any help that you could give my way. email back any questions you have for me. Thanks for reading this email and have a great day. PS I had 11 fish in the tank. Nathaniel Rood <Do write back with what sorts (cichlids I take it) of fishes you have lost. I do suspect the root problem/cause here IS environmental. Need to know more about your source water quality, history of maintenance. Bob Fenner>

African Cichlids Hello <Hi!> My name is Tim my question is some of my cichlids seem to be standing straight up and gasping for air. It started with one and now there is a couple more. I have taken water sample into be checked and this seem to be ok ph about 7.2 -7.5 I added some salt to take filter system as suggested. And shut one filter down we are running a pair of penguin 170. One thing I have noticed is there seems to be a large amount of clear slime algae.  Sorry forgot to say it is a 55 gallon tank. Any help or suggestion would be helpful. Thank You, Tim <You said your water 'seems to be OK' but what exactly were the readings. Ammonia and nitrites should both be at 0ppm. Also, your pH is WAY too low for African Cichlids. It should be up around 8.2. This needs to be brought up but it needs to be done gradually. You should have both filters running and what kind of salt did you add? To what salinity? Was it done gradually or all at once? The clear slime is probably just detritus and should be vacuumed out. Ronni>

Cichlid troubles? Hi, I have a 30 gallon tank.  There are four fish total and two of them are cichlids.  About three days ago the largest cichlid (some type of African) started to shake or convulse every couple of seconds.  this died down and he now only does it when I put food in the tank.  But this seems to scare him away and he has stopped eating. I don't understand why.  I have done a massive water change, and ph is good (7.1-7.2).   <This is probably at least part of the issue....  Rift lake cichlids are adapted to very high pH levels - depending upon what area they're from, 8.5 or higher is not unheard-of.  Please try to find out what species this is, or at least what lake it's from, so you can decide if it will prosper in your tank, or whether it's compatible with the other fish you have (in terms of water requirements).> A zero on the nitrate levels, the temp is steady at 80.   <What about ammonia and nitrite?> and the  water is very slightly brackish.   <Urm, *how* brackish do you mean?  Do you know the salinity/specific gravity?  This, too, might be an issue.> There are no visible signs of disease, and all the other fish including the other cichlid (bumble bee cichlid) <Ah, Pseudotropheus crabro - a Lake Malawi native - fishbase.org says this should be in a pH range of 7.5-8.2; 7.2 isn't terribly far off that, so this fish might not be affected by the pH issue.> show these signs.  thanks for your time  Dan Guziec <Please do try to identify, research this fish - this really sounds like irritation due to environmental conditions.  Hopefully can be fixed.  -Sabrina>

African cichlid illness? I have African Cichlids that shimmy left to right with no forward movement.  I have already lost 2 fish.  My water temp is 80 degrees. PH is 7.8, <you did mention that these are African cichlids - do you know which species you have?  Or at least what lake (Tanganyika, Malawi, Victoria?) they're from?  The rift lake cichlids like rather high pH - along the lines of 8.5 or so - so that might be part of the issue.> no nitrates and no ammonia.   <What about nitrite?  Also, just to check, are you using a water conditioner for chlorine and chloramine?> Fish have not lost appetite, they eat twice daily (pellets) occasionally brine shrimp and bloodworms.  I have made 60% water changes monthly.   <Do smaller changes more often - 25% every couple weeks would be good to aim for.> I tried several treatments of Parasite Clear.  It doesn't seem to be working.   <This doesn't sound like a parasite to me; rather, it sounds like an issue with the water.  I know there are special 'salts' available for rift lake cichlid tanks, this and a higher pH may help (hopefully eliminate) the problem.  Other than that, I'm rather at a loss, I'm afraid; not sure what else you could do.> Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  I am new to the Cichlids and have only had the tank about 3 months.  Thanks in advance for your help. <I do hope making the water a bit closer to their natural conditions is all that treating this takes.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Kribensis with swim Bladder Disorder I have a female Kribensis that appears to have developed swim bladder disorder.  She is staying on the bottom of the tank and she has all of the symptoms of swim bladder Disorder. <What symptoms is she exhibiting.> I had a very busy schedule that I did not take care of my fish like I regularly do.  Unfortunately my ph level dropped to 6. instead of 7. <A slow change is not as bad as a rapid swing in PH.> I did a 1/2 of a water change and noticed that the female Kribensis was gasping at the bottom of the tank.  I have not seen anything like this in my tank before and all of the other fish are fine.  I have a 56 gallon tank with a variety of fish.  What is the best way to treat this?  I have read the pea method is useful with Bettas.  Would this also maybe work with the Kribensis?  How do I know that I am not too late.  (has had for 4 days) <I am not convinced that it is a swim bladder problem, the lethargy and labored breeding sound like a problem with the water quality.  Have you tested your water for Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate?  Water changes will fix water quality issues and hopefully turn the fish around.  Let us know what symptoms she is exhibiting, maybe we can come up with a more specific fix.  Also, try searching on wetwebmedia.com for swim bladder, I am sure you will find a ton of information.  Best Regards, Gage>
Kribensis with Swim Bladder Disorder II
She is swaying back and forth as if she does not have her balance.  The other day she was bloated and I thought she might be getting ready to lay eggs.  Then she is back to normal size.  She is also gasping.  Her normal bright colors are not as pronounced as normal and I have now placed her in a holding tank by herself but she is still in the same tank so as not to stress her out by changing water conditions.  We normally keep our tank very well.  Now we have done a 1/2 of a tank change and added our normal salt to the water and the PH is back to 7.  I have placed a couple of peas in with the female Kribensis and unfortunately she is not eating them. <I would be best to remove this fish to a separate quarantine tank for treatment and observation.  I would start adding Epsom Salt to the water, around 1 tablespoon per 10gallons to see if that improves her condition.  Are her scales protruding at all, like a pinecone? Were you able to get the Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate readings? It would be good to rule out water quality issues.-Gage>
Blue Ram / Kribensis with swim bladder disorders?
Thanks for your quick response Gage.   <Sabrina here this time - Gage and I have been working together on this one, and he's asked me to respond as he's busy at work right now, and we wanted to get back with you quickly.> Unfortunately my ram died this morning.   <I'm so sorry to hear that....> About 10 days ago when the problem of the ph was taken care of we did do a spectrogram treatment two times.  We did not do a third due to the sensitive nature of the rams.   <I'd give it another go; spectrogram is a combination of Kanamycin sulfate and Nitrofurazone, both of which are mild on fish and shouldn't be harmful to your rams.  Even better, though, would be if you could find some medicated antibacterial food, if this is a bacterial infection of the swim bladder, that'd be more likely to help.> Unfortunately the problem is still there.  When I did a nitrite, nitrate test my levels were low/undetected <Any nitrite at all is dangerous.  If it's not zero, please do try to get it down (water changes).  Nitrate is much less harmful, and doesn't get to be a problem until it's quite high, so no worries there.> the ammonia was between 0 and .25 level.   <Again, this must be zero, do water changes (daily, perhaps) if it's anything above zero.> I am at a loss for solutions....  It is something that I do not know.  Tonight when I came home from work my male Kribensis was acting strange.  He was displaying some of the same symptoms.  He was not bloated but he was gasping and pale.  He was not floating up or laying on the bottom of the tank.  When I isolated him in a little floater tank inside my 58 gallon tank he was upset he did not like being confined.  He did sit still with his tail slightly up above head level.  Do you think another treatment of Spectrogram?   <Perhaps, or possibly try Maracyn-Two from Mardel, since the spectrogram doesn't seem to have had an effect.  My preference, though would be to find an antibacterial food.  Jungle makes a stuff called "Pepso Food", which may help, but in and of itself, I don't think it'll do the trick.  Aquatronics used to make an antibacterial flake, but I don't know if it's still produced or not.> I have heard not to medicate too much.  Would this be over medicating our tank or affecting our under gravel biofilter?     <Most meds do affect the biological filtration of a tank.  It has been my experience that spectrogram doesn't affect it much at all, but prolonged use might, I'm not sure.  I'm also not certain how the Maracyn-Two would affect things.  Just test your water every day, maybe twice a day, if necessary, and be prepared with water for water changes if anything goes out of whack.> Thanks Debbie <Gage and I wish you luck, Debbie.  -Sabrina>

Prolific cichlids and a problematic UGF? Good day, I'm Andrew and I can use your help in an effort to solve problems that I have been having for a long time in my overstocked African Cichlid Malawi Tank. If you would be so kind as to read my information and reply with your suggestions I would be grateful .. Thanks. <Sabrina here tonight, shivery and cold (and refusing to acknowledge it and turn on the heater)> PROBLEMS:  Africans develop growths in their mouths, nose, and face area. Some get clamped fins, others have red streaks, fin rot has occurred, and fungus. All over a period of years. <So, what are the problems *right now*?  Whatever the deal, it most certainly all sounds like the issues have been/are stemming from environmental conditions in the tank.> No outside fish have been added since the original fish in August 2000.15 fish started the tank between June - August 2000. 5 males,10 females.  Yellows, Orange, Blues, Kenya, Fuelleborni were the choices.  After many deaths, births, and removals, there are 35-45 fish 1" in size or more.  Weekly fry additions from 10-20. <Holy moly.  You did say overstocked, didn't you!> TANK AND EQUIPMENT:  135Gal. Filtration; Fluval 404 canister with Chemi-pure, Emperor 400& Penguin 170 power filters. Hagen under gravel filter (could this be the problem?) <Could be a contributor, with such a fish load, I'm sure there's gobs of gunk under the plate, lots of nitrates....> 2 Aqua clear402 power heads. Ebo heater, 100 plus pound of gravel. Plastic plants, large rocks, 2 Tetra Tec deep water pumps. Canopy with 2, 24" & 2, 48" fluorescent light fixtures. MAINTENANCE:  Weekly water change of 25-30%....Amquel, Jungle start right, Proper ph 8.2 added after. <Mix up your water change water in a container before adding to the tank, so you can adjust the pH before putting it in to avoid shocking the fish.  Might want to consider more natural means of raising pH and/or buffering capacity of the water, as well.> **Note** Because of the fry, and the plastic mats that the hide under, I do not use my Python to gravel vac. This could be one of the problems.. <Definitely.> But to disturb the plastic mats that the fry hide under, they will run and become a meal for a larger fish. <Why not remove those fry to a separate rearing tank?  Poor water quality is just as much a threat as hungry adults> WATER LEVELS:  Water is in the proper range based on readings from my test kit. <What are the exact readings, especially for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH?> Here in Anaheim California we have very bad water. White calcium deposits are on the back of the tank and equipment. <Being that rift lake cichlids prefer super hard, alkaline water, that's probably perfectly okay.> MEDICATION USED:  Melafix, Jungle fungus eliminator and Pepso medicated food have been used quite a bit. <Is that what you're *currently* using?  To treat what, specifically?  All the things listed above?> FEEDING:  Overfeeding is a problem due to my desire to make sure the big fish have enough to not go after the fry. Cichlid Attack is a favorite, Hikari pellets and some flake food are their diet. <Again, if you get those fry outta there, you'll be in a much better position to see to it that environmental conditions are improved....> Water is always clear, but I know the fish are not healthy. <Indeed, clarity of the water does not necessarily indicate health of the water.> Solutions I came up with and your thoughts; 1. Ultimately I am looking to purchase a 300 gal. tank. but until my wife and I agree on when, I have to put that on hold. <Until then, sell your fry, earn some money to put back into the hobby - and do it right away, get that fish load down, and you can start in on cleaning under that UGF....> 2. I think a lot of the problem is that there is excess waste in the gravel. What would happen if I reversed the flow of the power heads to force the waste out of the gravel and into the tank while doing a water change? <At this point, I think you'd be headed for disaster.  Before you even consider that, first you'll need to thoroughly clean your gravel and get an air hose down one of the lift tubes, try to siphon gunk out from under the filter plates.> 3. Adding a UV Sterilizer <I don't think this will help you at this point; it sounds like your issues are from water issues, too much dissolved organics in the water.> 4. Removing the power heads from the under gravel filter. <I'm really not sure whether that would help or make things infinitely worse....> 5. With the rocks and plants, I would only be able to Gravel vac a maximum of about 25% of the tank. I don't think this is enough to help a great deal. <Agreed.  I really, really dislike UGFs for this (and many other) reasons.  They certainly have their uses, but not in a heavily decorated tank; anywhere with large rockwork or that doesn't get vacuumed, there will be huge accumulations of, uh, grunge (that's a technical term) that'll just sit and rot, causing any or all of the problems you've experienced.> What do you think ... <My opinion?  Get the fry out and into a separate, bare-bottomed rearing tank, and as soon as they're saleable, sell 'em to make room for more fry and help pay for your hobby.  Next, thoroughly clean the gravel, try to siphon under the filter plates with an air hose down the lift tubes, then remove the UGF altogether (or if you're feeling bold,  switch the flow instead as you mentioned above).  Have a *lot* of water change water ready, in case you need to do Mondo water changes afterward.  Now, do please understand, this is what *I* would do in your case - some people swear by UGFs, and I certainly like them for some applications.  I do believe, however, that it is a real hindrance to your setup.  I think the problems you're having are related to water quality issues (likely super high nitrates going on) and will begin to correct themselves once things are healthier in the tank.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>
Prolific Cichlids and a Problematic UGF? - II 
Thank you Sabrina for your help. I keep wishing for another answer other than the truth which is what you gave me. I hate UGF also.  <UGF do most certainly have their uses, and can be assets in some systems - or major drawbacks in others. It might benefit you to try the reverse flow technique (I might, in your case), but whatever you do, removing the fry is probably going to be the biggest, hardest step, but don't worry. You'll get there.>  I got it because when I set the tank up, I needed biological and all I had was an Emperor 400. Any way talk to you soon.  <I wish you well in your fishy endeavors! -Sabrina> 

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