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FAQs on African Cichlid Systems 2

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: Malawi Cichlid Systems, Tanganyikan SystemsAfrican Cichlid Systems 1, African Cichlids, African Cichlid Identification, African Cichlid Selection, African Cichlid Behavior, African Cichlid Selection, African Cichlid Compatibility, African Cichlid Feeding, African Cichlid Reproduction, African Cichlid Disease, Cichlids of the World

From reef to tilapia (and back again)       4/7/16
Crew! I just picked up a 200 gal Oceanic Reef Ready and I needed your advice on how to get started. While I have found lots of info here on the reef setup (I plan on converting to a C2C skimmer and Bean overflow), my loving wife has asked me to set it up as a Tilapia (mixed Mozambique & blue) aquaculture tank to see if she wants to try aquaculture. I don't think she's going to like it in her living room, but...
<Agreed... at likely stocking densities... an eyesore, and smelly too>
What would be the best way of setting up the system to minimize transition when she changes her mind?
<Use the filtration as it is.... including the sand mentioned below... the Tilapia/Oreochromis can stand the bit more hardness and elevated pH it will lend>
The system as it stands has a Little Giant 4-MDQX-SC external pump, 400 lbs deceased live rock (previous owner's ex drained it with over $5k live coral still inside: still crying), 400 lbs live-ish sand, a 40 gallon sump in the
stand, a large unlabelled protein skimmer sans pump,
<Leave the skimmer and old rock out; till you convert it to marine>
and a 72" 4x96W Orbit PC light. The equipment is older, but was working just fine until it was shut off and drained (sigh). My ultimate goal i think will be a medium light softies tank. I'm considering a DIY cyclonic settling tank prefilter and salinity of 1.01ish
<? Not for the Tilapia>
with about 200 lbs each of rock and sand in-tank for bio filtration. Any other thoughts?
<Try the freshwater for now. Bob Fenner>

Converting Saltwater to Freshwater (Af. Cichlids...)    11/31/14
Hi guys,
Great Site! So I am about to convert my 210g FOWLR tank to an African cichlid tank.
<Easily done... and soooo much easier to maintain!>
The current 210g tank was setup about 14 months ago. I had African cichlids for many years before doing a salt tank but now want to
go back. I would like to note that prior to taking down my tank I ran a 30 day period of Cupramine. in my display tank. After I ran the Cupramine I ran CupriSorb for a month and the Cupramine was successfully removed.
<Ah yes; would have precipitated out by then at any length>
So most of the living organisms in my rock and sand are already dead. So I love the look of my reef rock and would love to keep it.
<Ok; fine to use with most Africans... Great Lakes I take it in your case>
I have already removed the rock and it is sitting in my garage drying. Would it be safe
to let it sit there for a week or two and then just rinse thoroughly add into my tank.
Next question is regarding my sand. There is 160lbs of sand in my display. Can I just drain the tank, stir the sand add freshwater
and reuse it?
<Mmm; can re-use, I would take all out, rinse in aliquots... 5-10 lb.s in a bucket with your hose running>
I would hate to have to by all new sand if its not necessary. Thanks
<Welcome. Bob Fenner> 

Helping friend w/ African cichlids.
Stocking a 25 Gallon Lake Malawi Cichlid Tank   8/7/11

Hi crew! So my friend recently set up her 25 gallon aquarium and is dead set on keeping African cichlids. More specifically Lake Malawi Cichlids. I personally think the tank is too small to properly keep Africa cichlids but she's dead set on them. So long story short she has asked me to help her stock the tank as she feels my knowledge of fish is better(yet she won't listen to me on the tank size issue *sigh). So I was thinking maybe a trio of electric yellows, a trio of demasoni (maybe a couple more to spread out the aggression?), and a small school of upside-down catfish (the dwarf kind). I know Kribensis (also from Africa but not Malawian),or shell dwellers would probably work better, but I'm hoping the stock list I've come up with would work. I'd like your feedback on this and maybe some alternatives? Thanks so much, Hannah.
<In the wild most Lake Malawi Mbuna types rarely get over 3 inches. In the aquarium they grow much larger. I would go with a group of small , 1 inch individuals and let them grow up together. This will reduce the chance of breeding an hopefully reduce the aggression. Try to get a group of 12 fish that are not the same species or are even close in markings. Forget the catfish and the Kribs. they would be torn up very quickly. Look into getting the "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings to help you with the tank set up and maintenance.-Chuck>

Advice please, Af. cichlid sys., stkg...    7/1/11
I am looking for some experienced advice please. Re stocking and set up as well as any other advice welcome.
<Getting the reverb back from Jimi Hendrix, oh yes, "I've got pet fish experience">
I am new to keeping Cichlids but not to fish keeping. I have a community riverbed set up also with 6 loaches, 5 Otocinclus, 7 Columbian Tetras and 2 Barbs.
I have done a lot of research before I decided to go ahead and do this type of tank and am 100% sure its the set up and fish I would like but need good advice from people who know about keeping these great fish.
I have set up a 240l Rio Juwel tank at the foot of my bed. The bedroom is good I believe as it has plenty of natural subdued light thought the day but not directly on the tank. Has a daylight and nature bulb as standard in the tank but I am considering taking one of these out to make it dimmer for them -- the light is only used from dusk till we go to bed anyhow so its not on long a few hours at most and a very small blue led light at night which is little more than a tint of colour. It has a 1000w pump (which we upgraded from 600w,
<Mmm, likely gph/gallons per hour rather than w/wattage>
and claims to filter tank 4 x hourly) with air insert for oxygen and juwels in tank bio filtration unit which I am familiar with and like using.
I have naturally harder water from the tap. but have used coral sand to buffer in case. I have used two large resin rocks to begin with that will provide a starting point to add more rocks as I add the fish.
We have decided to use the fish to cycle and have bought an ammonia alert. I plan on swapping my Nitrite sponge from my cycled tank downstairs with this once the ammonia shows on the alert. (?Good/ Bad)
<I'd use it/this from the get go... from the beginning... And move some of the "mulm" siphoned from the established tank. Read here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm>
I know there is <are> a lot of people who say its wrong to use the fish but I am being very very vigilant with testing and water changes when necessary to avoid any issues I can. I realise with hard water comes ammonia issues that are worse and I am prepared for the work needed. I tested my water after a week of the set up standing to get to 25 deg temp (Do you think this is warm enough I read a lot stating they are not that keen on too warm and they live longer in slightly cooler temp?)
<Is fine, depending on species...>
with the Coral sand washed and put in to settle. The results were general hardness: 180ppm, Carbonate hardness:240ppm, pH: 7.5.
Okay now to the fish Bit. I have taken advice from a shop I value for there knowledge as they always have good setups and healthy fish and even their receipts have the proper names of the fish printed on them for your reference.
I decided to start by introducing 6 small fish, 3 from each species, hopefully 1 male and two females but I am sure we will have got that wrong in time. . I watched the tanks for ages to see which fish looked healthy and less of a trouble maker and decided that I would buy Labidochromis sp mbamba x3 and Sciaenochromis sp Ahli x 3
The main concern I have is I overlooked the fact that both would eventually be a blue. I don't know if this is a huge mistake as I am planning on stocking the tank with further fish?
<Not more African Cichlids in this volume, but other families possibly>
Is this a big issue?
<Could be in terms of territorial aggression in time>
also with these two in the tank how many and what would you introduce next. I plan to wait until my tank has accustomed to the fish and returned to 0% ammonia before I do anything further.
<Depends on the species... Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/afcichselfaqs.htm
and the linked files above; particularly Compatibility FAQs>
Any Advice on the set up or Tank care/ Parameters or fish stock or Type would be greatly appreciated and I look forward to hearing from you.
Regards Michelle
<Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Flow rates for a large fish tank   6/22/11
Hi there
I really appreciate the assistance and help you all provide as you have done in the past for me.
Anyway, after spending time reading articles on your site I had a few questions concerning flow rates for a large freshwater tank.
I have a custom 300gallon acrylic tank made of 3/4" body with dimensions of 96"wide x 30"deep x 24" high. I want to make a Malawian cichlid tank with Haplochromis and peacock species. I want to get about 3000 gallons/hour to achieve the 10X turnover rate as recommended. I have two overflows with each one having 1.5" and 1" lines. I have an 80 gallon wet dry filter and wanted to know if it is okay to drain 3000 gallons into the wet dry sump by enlarging the 1" bulkheads to 1.5" so I have four 1.5" drains feeding into the wet dry filter. I would then have a larger return pump feeding 3000 gallons/hour back to the tank over the back in a closed loop system along the top perimeter of the tank. Is there any benefit to double the flow rate through a wet dry filter to make the 10X flow rate if the filter can handle this extra capacity? I would have to drill and add two more 1.5" bulkheads to the top of the wet dry sump over the filter pad.
Another option would be to only drain 1500 gallons/hour through the two 1.5" bulkheads and returning this with a pump back through the existing 1" lines and having another 1500 gallons/hour going through a closed loop system over the back and along the top perimeter of the tank. I would then have two 1500gallon/hour pumps at the proper head height to make the 3000gallons/hour 10X flow rate. Of those two options, what would be the best option? Any other advice is also appreciated.
I also have a 125gallon All-Glass tank with overflows that I want to use as a Central American cichlid tank and wanted to apply the same approach for filtration and flow rate as the 300 gallon tank.
Thanks for the advice.
<Hello Steve. Malawian fish generally want a high flow rate, so anything between 8-10 times the volume of the tank will be ideal. I wouldn't go substantially above this level unless I was keeping very large fish or species particularly adapted to surf conditions. The way you do this doesn't matter hugely, but if you can spread out the current so there is movement at the bottom as well as the top, so much the better. Marine-style aquarium filters are very good when used with Malawians, so any of the options involving a sump and a filter outside the tank has much to commend it, especially if you can place some bags of crushed coral in the sump to provide extra buffering against pH drops. Because plants aren't a major feature of Malawian tanks, the fact the overflow and sump drive off CO2 doesn't matter. In short, choose whatever method of filtration works for you in terms of budget and maintenance. Likewise, what works for Malawians is broadly applicable to Central Americans, except that water chemistry needn't be so hard. Do be sure to read Mary Bailey's article on Peacock cichlids, here:
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Flow rates for a large fish tank  6/23/11

Hi Neale
Thanks for the previous information
I was also curious about what your advice would be about the two return options about the wet dry setup with the bulkheads I mentioned earlier as seen in my previous post below. If you could provide recommendations that would be great.
<Hi Steve. I have no opinion either way! Would suggest you read this article re: bulkheads as written for the marine side of the hobby; the basic concepts hold true in a Malawian system where water quality and flow rate characteristics are very similar.
Do also read the articles Bob has penned on marine aquarium plumbing generally:
In broad terms, most overflow and sump systems work well, but certain designs, flow patterns work better than others. Cheers, Neale.>

First cichlid Tank, sys., stkg.  5/3/2011
Hey Folks,
Thanks for your wonderful website. I'm setting up an African cichlid tank and I'd like your input on my stocking plan.
<Fire away!>
The tank is a 56 cube
<Not an ideal shape for cichlids, though could work with Mbuna if rocks are built up as a cliff right to the top. A few caves at the bottom really won't cut the mustard!>
with a 10 gallon sump with Eco-Complete African Cichlid Sand. I'll be aquascaping with ceramic cichlid caves and some pieces of carefully arranged and glued stone. I'd like to stock with Labidochromis caeruleus, probably at least 6, and one other species, such as Metriaclima callainos, in similar numbers.
<Do read here:
Are these two species very compatible?
<Potentially, but the Metriaclima callainos / Maylandia callainos are extremely aggressive and quite a bit bigger than the Labidochromis.
Personally, I wouldn't mix them in a small aquarium like yours, especially one with such a limited surface area. Instead, look at the excellent Dwarf Mbuna species Pseudotropheus demasoni, a superb fish for an aquarium such as yours.>
What would be some other good, easily available choices to go with the Labidochromis?
<Labidochromis are quite mild, and can work alongside midwater dither fish such as the Rainbows; the Maylandia/Metriaclima, by contrast, will kill any dither fish. This is true for virtually all the other Mbuna including Melanochromis, so choose between Labidochromis and Rainbowfish, or Labidochromis with other cichlids -- you cannot do both!>
Finally, I would like a school of dither fish, and I'm considering the Australian Rainbow fish.
<Labidochromis are quite mild, and can work alongside midwater dither fish such as the larger Rainbows like Melanotaenia boesemani; the
Maylandia/Metriaclima, by contrast, will kill any dither fish.>
However, these are quite expensive, given that I would want at least 6-8.
<I'm confused by this. Good quality Mbuna should cost at least as much as Rainbowfish. If the Mbuna on sale are cheap, by which I mean less than the cost of the Rainbows, say, $5 or less, I'd be EXTREMELY dubious as to their quality and pure-bred status. Almost all the cheap Mbuna on sale are hybrids. Labidochromis are exceptions because only the one species in this genus is traded routinely. Still, there's a big difference between the fairly dull yellow Labidochromis and the really brilliant yellow ones.>
What are some other good options for hardwater dither fish that can stand up to these cichlids, and how many would you stock with this setup?
Thanks very much.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: First cichlid Tank   5/5/11

Thanks so much for your response.
<No problem.>
I will take your advice about building the rocks up vertically, and the Pseudotropheus demasoni seems like a great choice to go with the Labidochromis caeruleus.
If I just do these two species (ditching the rainbowfish), how many of each should I stock? I would like to minimize the impact of aggression, and also reduce hiding in the rocks and caves, without overloading my filtration.
<Do read Mary's piece on these both these "dwarf" Mbuna. But I'd work with 6 of each, perhaps more, as aquarium size, filtration, and nitrate levels allow.>
Thanks again.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Please help! Af. Cichlid Cu plumbing use     4/26/11
Dear Crew,
I own multiple freshwater tanks that house Malawi and Tanganyikan cichlids, they are all connected to a DIY Central Filtration System. I also breed them as a hobby so also house fry. My question is can I use Copper tank connectors on these tanks? As I cant get a hold of PVC types in my country.
<Mmm, you too likely will have troubles here if using copper. Though you might not have soft, acidic water (esp. for these African Great Lakes fishes), the salt/s added to their water would liberate too much free cupric ion in the water to suit me. I would look for other plastics of use, perhaps ABS. Bob Fenner>
Thanks in Advance

125 gallon set up, African Lake Cichlids   3/1/11
<Hello Crystal,>
I have a 125 gallon set up with about 1400 gph filtering. Ammonia 0, Nitrites o, Nitrates less than 20. I do 50% water changes a week So far all the fish get along great, but they are all still very young. I know I am over stocked, I am looking into getting a much larger tank and would like your advise on the minimum size tank I should get. I found a place to order a large tank, but I want to make sure I get one large enough. My fish still need a lot of growing out to do, Please let me know the best size in gallons I should get for them so I don't have to keep buying tanks. Here is what I have..
(5) Frontosa 2" 2" 3" 4"5"
<These get really, really big, and they're also nocturnal predators.>
(3) red fin borleyi (Copadichromis borleyi) 3" 3" 4"
<Copadichromis borleyi are pretty peaceful and easily bullied, so choose tankmates with care. In theory should work with Cyphotilapia frontosa, even though they come from different lakes.>
(1) Sulfur Head Hap 6"
<Aulonocara maylandi, a good community resident.>
(4) Electric Yellows (Labs) 3" 3" 3" 3"
<Can be waspish at times, but sufficiently small not to cause too much harm when kept with larger fish. Might be Frontosa food though'¦>
(3) Blue Dolphin Moorii 3" 3 " 3"
<Peaceful but very big.>
(5) Calvus 2" 2" 2" 2" 2"
<Quite small and can be tricky to feed. Might be harassed by the Labidochromis caeruleus. A good rule is to NEVER mix Malawian and Tanganyikan cichlids. They just don't "speak" the same language, and that means they can't avoid or diffuse aggression. Keep with Tanganyikans of similar size, temperament. Lamprologus leleupi for example would be yellow alternatives to Labidochromis caeruleus suitable for a Tanganyikan community.>
(1) Syn Catfish 3"
<Any particular species?>
(8) peacocks 2" 2" 2" 2" 2" 2" 2" 2"
<Vary in aggression, and the worst can bully Copadichromis spp., let along Tanganyikans such as Lamprologus.>
I know in time I will be pulling some of them out due to aggression, and I am thinking of maybe pulling out the females and have a male show tank. BUT I would like your advise on a minimum size for the existing fish, just in case they end up living in peace together.
Thank you very much Crystal
<Would not mix Tanganyikans with Malawians, end of story. But let's say you want to keep Cyphotilapia frontosa. A harem of these (one male, 2-4 females) together with a school of Copadichromis borleyi or one of the more peaceful Aulonocara species like Aulonocara maylandi would work great in 200 gallons, together with a group of Synodontis multipunctatus. Cyrtocara moorii can also work well with Cyphotilapia frontosa, though their larger size would place a great strain on filtration and water circulation. Neither Labidochromis nor Altolamprologus belong in this system, not with each other. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: 125 gallon set up
Thank you Neale for the quick response.
<Glad to help.>
After reading your email I have made some changes. Please correct me if I misunderstood your email. From your email I have decided to keep the Yellow Labs and Rubescens Peacocks in the 125 gallon
<Should easily work. Plenty of space for good numbers of both, and no risk of hybridisation.>
and the rest of my fish should be ok together in the new tank.
<Altolamprologus excepting; these are slow, gentle fish that don't always do well with bigger or pushier fish. House accordingly; good companions are rock-dwelling Tanganyikans that don't forage much in the open, Julidochromis spp. for example.>
I think I might just order a 300 or 350 gallon aquarium, that way I know they will have plenty of space. I am not sure what kind of Syn catfish I have. at the pet store he was sold just as a syn.
<The default species is Synodontis nigriventris, the Dwarf Syno. Other widely traded species including S. multipunctatus, S. petricola, S. euptera, S. notatus, S. decorus, S. flavitaeniata. There are a few others,
but off the top of my head these are the commonest ones. PlanetCatfish.com is a great place to ID mystery catfish.>
I have been doing research, but I haven't been able to place him to a certain kind yet. Thank you again Crystal
<Cheers, Neale.>

not sure what to do need your input (pics included)... reading    11/15/10
Hay WWM people. I have to say that I love the website and really do value your opinion's and wanted to make sure you guys know you guys are awesome.
I am sorry if I seem like I have very basic questions, <You'd do well to invest/igate in a basic freshwater aquarium book or two.>
when it comes to the type of fish I'm looking to start raising I don't know much. So I own a 150 gallon tank and have had it stocked with some generic community fish (Mollies, Gold fish, Bala Shark, Cory Cat, fish like that).
As beautiful as that set up is I wanted more. So I decided to look into African Cichlids, more into the Malawian Cichlids (they would be replacing what's in there now).
<... not compatible with what you already have>
My tank as I said is 150 gallon's and measures 6' L x 2' H x 18" W, and currently have an under gravel filter and pump as well as currently 1 ViaAqua 750 canister filter (fixing a second one to also have in the tank) which from what I have read is supposed to filter 315 gallon's an hour.
For my first question, I currently have a general aquarium gravel substrate down now with under gravel filtration set up now (not sure exact name or type but have included a photo to help), and some people say that it is ok to leave in there with those different types of Cichlids.
<Is fine>
However others say that I need to put something like crushed coral sand, being the most common suggested, over top of the gravel or should I remove the gravel and use only the sand, and if I do have to change to just the sand I assume I should cycle the tank after I switch to it how long I should let that cycle.
<If the looks of the current substrate are to your liking, I'd leave it>
I would like many fish and am not sure exactly how many I can put in that size of tank at once or if I need to put some in over time (and how long I should wait between adding fish) until I am satisfied at the number in the tank.
<Posted... on WWM, books...
the linked files above>
And if my filtration is sufficient enough or not. I have a lot of decorations in the bottom of the tank but they were for the community fish and I have a feeling that it wont work very well for the Cichlids I want to get (picture included). I have read on your site about some rock I can put in there for hiding spots but I don't know if I can find that locally. I have a few very smooth rocks in my garage that were from the river that are large enough to possibly make some caves for the fish but I don't want to put the wrong thing in the tank and kill all the beautiful fish.
<Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm
well that's all I had I think from reading things on your site I have an understanding on all the rest of the information I need so thanks again to all the volunteers that help with the input because your years of
experience and knowledge are so helpful and I think I can speak for everyone that visits your site to say you guys are awesome.
<Keep reading. Do write us if/when you have specific questions, concerns. Bob Fenner>

Fish aggression (insanely small aquarium, fighting, destruction'¦ the usual)
I have 5 African cichlids,   9/25/10
<A meaningless term. Can I stress this point? If you're thinking of these as "African cichlids" you haven't done enough research. Africa is a huge continent with a range of water conditions, from brackish water mangroves through to blackwater streams. There are cichlid species adapted to all these different environments, but few if any occur in them all. Imagine if I considered the Arctic Fox and the Jaguar as "North American Mammals". Sure, they're both mammals, and yes, they're both from North America, but they obviously have completely different requirements.>
a jeweled,
<Jewel Cichlids -- Hemichromis spp. -- come from West Africa and need soft to moderately hard, acidic to neutral water chemistry. They ARE NOT compatible with Mbuna and other Rift Valley cichlids. I mean, they will live in the same tank for a while, but conditions that are good for the Mbuna are stressful for the Jewel Cichlid, and _vice versa_.>
an electric yellow,
<Labidochromis caeruleus.>
a purple one with lime-green fins (Acei I think),
<Or some sort of hybrid.>
a cobalt blue (really light blue, almost white sometimes),
and the last one is brownish w/ darker stripes, but can turn grayish and sometimes gets a bright bluish with dark stripes almost looking like a Kenyi or Tretocephalus, but I believe he is Mbuna.
They are in a 29 gal. tank
<Insanely small for these fish. Matter of time before the sexually mature males fight, and systematically kill off one another.>
with an air pump and a Penguin 150 Power Filter with two cartridges in it. I have about eight plastic plants and two small hand sized decorations in there as well. There is a Pleco in there too.
<The Common Plec needs a 55 gallon tank even by itself.>
I've had them all in the aquarium for about five months and they've always gotten along.
<They were juveniles. But once hormones kick in, the males WILL fight.>
I left the house the day before yesterday and came back yesterday afternoon to find the "Mbuna" being chased in circles by the Acei, and I intervened.
<By buying another aquarium? Any other sort of intervention will be of limited value.>
I noticed that the Mbuna has some (scarred looking marks on his sides and his fins are frayed (thought it looked similar to fin-rot).
<Physical damage. In good conditions no real risk of Finrot, but in stressful conditions, or if the weaker fish can't avoid repeat attacks, this is the beginning of the slippery slope to death.>
I assumed they were from fighting.
A few minutes later, another fish attacked him, then it looked like they were all attacking him and following him and biting his fins and sides every time he tried to hide.
<So now you went and bought a new aquarium, right'¦? How much more carnage do you need to see before you understand that this won't work. There's a reason people write cichlid books, and that's to educate people who want to keep them. Can I suggest you run to the nearest bookstore or library and find something by the likes of Paul Loiselle or Ad Konings or David Boruchowitz and start some serious reading?>
They only went after him and not each other. Why do you think that is?
<It's what they do. Each male will try to kill the weakest "rival" in the aquarium. This poor fish has clearly been identified as the weakest fish in the tank, and the other males will kill him. After that happens they will turn on the next weakest, and so on until only a single dominant male is left. 30 gallons is not enough for most cichlids other than Dwarf Cichlids.>
Does he have some disease or ailment that the other fish detect and are trying to eliminate I removed him and put him in a separate container, and he sunk to the bottom and fell to his side.
After a while he straightened up and was doing fine when I went to bed. When I woke this morning and checked on him, he was laying on the bottom on his side again (the air pump I had in the container wasn't pushing air through the tube anymore, so I assumed he might be suffocating).
<Oh dear'¦>
I placed him back in the aquarium (he sank, then straightened up in a second and swam like normal) and all the other fish immediately headed straight towards him.
<What made you think this fish would be left alone? Please, I happen to like animals, and what you're doing is making me cry.>
He took a decent beating and again I removed him and put him back in a separate container.
<You waited until he was beaten up before removing him?>
He sank and stayed on his side again, I took the air pump from the aquarium and put it in his container and he perked up and has been "OK" ever since.
<Please put two and two together. This fish needs its own home. Your current collection of fish is like a boxing ring filled with psychopaths. There's no evidence at all you've thought about what these fish need to survive. Given good conditions and his own aquarium, perhaps with sensibly chosen tankmates, he may well recover and live a long and happy life. It's up to you.>
He even swam to the top to take a tiny bit of food. Considering all this, what would you say the problem is, I'm at a loss
<The problem is you and your lack of planning. Do some reading this morning, pray to the Fish Gods for forgiveness, and then set about restocking this aquarium and/or buying a larger tank into which a sensible collection of Malawian species might be added. There's plenty to get you started here:
I know you will think I'm being mean, but trust me when I say I'm holding back here. I'm actually furious. But I'm a nice guy and I want to help. So I hope this e-mail and the linked articles will set you straight. Cichlids are lovely fish, but they ARE NOT EASY TO KEEP and anyone who told you so was an idiot. If you'd like some more ideas and information, feel free to e-mail me back. I won't bite! Cheers, Neale.>

Taking the Plunge: Upgrading from 55 to 125 gallon tank  8/1/10
Hi Neale,
I've done some reading on the website but struggling to find some information regarding the equipment needed for this vast upgrade.
I'm accustomed to changing 20 gallons plus out of my densely populated African Cichlid brackish tank on a weekly basis (the tank's volume of water is displaced by about 40 pounds of rock). I've currently got an Eheim canister and AquaClear 500 hang on filter and a large sponge filter in the tank.
Funny thing is, I thought with moving to the 125 that I'd just have to beef up the canister filtering but now I'm finding that I may need to move to an RO/DI unit and wet/dry filtration (does the DI unit actually substitute for water changes - can't be!).
<Why do you need to do this? RO is basically about removing minerals and removing nitrate *from the tap water* before it's added to the aquarium. I can't think of any situation where RO water is crucial for brackish-water fishkeeping. Unless the nitrates are crazy-high, 40 mg/l or more, out of the tap, then plain tap water should be fine. Remember, hardness is a *good thing* in brackish water, and the marine salt mix will override any chemical instabilities anyway. Adding a second filter is always a good idea with big tanks simply because it's nice to have two outlets of water, one at each end of the tank. But this should be making life easier, not more complicated.>
I thought I'd basically be maintaining the 125 in the same way as the 55 except manually changing 40 plus gallons a week.
<Pretty much. Depends on how stocked the tank is; if the tank is lightly stocked, you can get away with fewer water changes.>
(Are you laughing?)
Could you kindly point me out to the part on the site that talks about the equipment I'll need to manage the 125 gallon brackish system?
<In general, identical to freshwater. The only real difference is that Zeolite doesn't work in brackish water, at least not as well, so you won't use that. But otherwise your standard freshwater filter should be fine. Do look at the "Brackish System Components" subsection on this page for some other thoughts.
I will also direct you to my personal FAQ, here:
There's quite a bit of stuff there on the brackish tanks not yet here at WWM.>
I am not a rocket scientist like you and Fenner are :) and for that reason have never ventured into marine tanks (would love to but petrified)'¦
<Not a rocket scientist either!>
My 55 gallon continues to shrink and look puny to me but maybe I'm getting in over my head here.
<I will say this, the two 200 gallon tanks I had at university were the *easiest* tanks to stock and manage. If you want to remind me what livestock you were hoping to keep, we can discuss the appropriate salinity, whether RO is necessary for making up new water, and so on. My hunch is that you're making things more complicated and expensive than they need be.>
Thank you for the help, it's very much appreciated.
Lisa Mae
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Taking the Plunge: Upgrading from 55 to 125 gallon tank  8/2/10
Oh thank you Neale. You see, you just can't find a resource like you guys ANYWHERE.
<Happy to help.>
I actually enjoy doing the manual water changes (do them religiously) and look forward to maintaining the 125. I've learned that 30-40% changes are the best prevention to problems (in addition to the well training of "pet
sitters" - "please count and feed 15 New Life Spectrum Pellets to large tank in living room at 9am, 3pm and 9pm...").
<Very good. I tend to put daily portions in Dixie cup type things, enough for one meal every 3-4 days, and then hide all the rest.>
I do already have two filters running - a "classic Eheim" canister and a big hang on filter which are positioned on either side of the tank. Plus a sponge filter internally.
Regarding the stock in my tank, my 55 gallon now has about twenty African Cichlids - small and up to 5 inches in length. I would like to add twenty more over time and a couple of Syno cats when I upgrade to the 125.
<I'm confused here. Two things. Firstly "African Cichlids" covers a lot of ground, and some species need soft water, like Kribs and Jewels, while others need hard water, the Malawian and Tanganyikan species. So I do hope you can clarify what you mean by "African cichlids", otherwise that's as vague as saying North American Fish, would could be anything from Salmon in Arctic through to livebearers in the Mexican highlands. Second issue is this: Malawian and Tanganyikan cichlids do not need salt in their water, and they are not brackish water fish. Indeed, there's some evidence careless use of salt leads to Malawi Bloat.>
Regarding the tap water I add to the tank, it sits in a 20 gallon trash barrel treated with Cichlid Chemistry for a week before I add it to the tank. I also have 50 pounds of bass rock in the tank to continuously harden the water.
<So not soft water African species then, like Jewels or Kribs?>
I got onto the whole RO/DI thing because I'm looking at buying a 125 tank used and they have the unit as part of the deal. So I panicked. There is "Amiracle Pro Line Wet/Dry Filter" that comes with the tank - could I use
this filter with a brackish system - I realize it has the same three stage filtering as my current filters.
<RO is useful for creating pure water, and if you have Tanganyikan cichlids especially, which are very nitrate sensitive, starting with RO water and then adding a Malawi Salt Mix will create extremely good living conditions
for them.>
I did look at the brackish system components info before I wrote to you today. I guess I was looking for something complicated and didn't see it.
<Still not seeing why you need brackish water for your African cichlids.
There ARE brackish water cichlids in Africa, many of them in fact, but they're not much traded. Both Jewels and Kribs occur in slightly brackish water, and some Jewel cichlid species can live/breed in seawater. But none
of these NEEDS brackish water, and the salt tolerance of Kribs is low. Do please look at the list of fish you have and think carefully about what you're trying to achieve -- it isn't at all obvious to me.>
I'll look at the link to your personal FAQ you sent me.
Thanks again and I really appreciate your help!
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Taking the Plunge: Upgrading from 55 to 125 gallon tank   8/2/10

Hi Neale.
I apologize for not being specific regarding the type of Africans I have.
I do have ONE Jewel (quite a bossy guy) and the others are presumably from Malawi.
<Correct. The farmed hybrid Jewels in the trade really need soft to moderately hard, slightly acidic to neutral water for best colouration.>
They include (4) yellow labs, (6) zebras, (4) Melanochromis, (2) rusties, (1) Petrotilapia nikhata, (1) Taiwan Reef hap, (1) red peacock Aulonocara and (1) Fainzebeleri. Have I really screwed up these poor fish in adding all the salt and bass rock? I was going on what a reputable LFS told me.
<Not a text book combination at all! Can I direct you to Mary Bailey's article in the new issue of WWM Digital, here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/WWMDigitalMagV1Ish1.htm
It's a Flash file that takes a minute to load, but I think you'll find the magazine worth reading. Anyway, you don't normally mix Mbuna, such as Zebras, with Haps, like Aulonocara. I'm surprised this collection has worked out. As for salt, yes, adding salt is bad. While you can use salt as part of a Rift Valley Salt Mix, on its own it appears to be related to a syndrome called Malawi Bloat similar to Dropsy. Do read here about water chemistry:
Salt itself DOES NOT raise pH, general hardness or carbonate hardness.>
I tried to do a quick online check (my African Cichlids book is packed as we're moving) and it seems most of these fish are indeed from Malawi.
<Indeed, but not all Malawians get along. Generally, you don't mix Mbuna with Haplochromines. They have different needs and personalities.>
My fish DON'T breed. I swear I'm the only person who has cichlids that don't breed. I'm guessing this is due to the wrong water chemistry! Is that right Neale?
<Could well be.>
I happened to isolate a Kenyi and Melanochromis from the lot that were behaving very badly - they're in a 30 gallon of untreated water - no salt just tap conditioner. They share their home with 4 South American Bumblebee Cats.
<Soft water fish.>
The Kenyi and Chromis acclimated to the untreated water fine and don't bother the cats.
<I see.>
On the subject of going to a bigger tank, I asked a friend of mine who has a 160 gallon. She only changes the water 50% once per month(!) while monitoring the chemistry of the water. She's has 3 filters on the tank - 1
canister and 2 hang ons - and in the process of adding another canister.
<I confess to being similarly lazy at times. With big tanks, you can often get away with this. I don't recommend it, but you do have a fall-back cushion lacking when fish are kept in small tanks.>
Thank you so much again for your help.
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

DSB Questions, FW, Af. cichlid systems  7/20/10
Greetings crew,
<Hi Paul,>
I just set up my latest 55gal tank with sand and I have a few questions.
The sand I bought is white and really fine, it looks like its going to be fairly compact so I was thinking about putting some live plants to help break up the bottom.
<Can help, but with cichlids this often isn't viable. By all means try something robust like Vallisneria and see how things go.>
I read the FAQ's regarding DSB's so I put about 1 1/2"- 2" worth of sand.
Should I have bought some gravel to mix I with it or perhaps a bag of crushed coral?
<You can do this, but a lime-rich substrate isn't going to be welcomed by most plants, though Vallisneria and Elodea-type things won't mind. In my tanks I use a mix of fine gravel and smooth silica sand in varying ratios
to create attractive substrates. I prefer to leave the water hardening components to Rift Valley salt mixes and/or bags of crushed coral placed inside the filter. Do read here for a recipe:
Sticking lime in a substrate without an undergravel filter will have a low and unpredictable buffering effect.>
Having sand that fine isn't going to cause any harmful side effects to the fish will it?
<Depends on the sand. Do check with the manufacturer; some fine sands, e.g., Tahitian Moon Sand, are abrasive and can irritate the gills of digging fish. But in itself, no, fine sand isn't particularly hazardous.>
As far as stock goes I would like to put Labidochromis caeruleus and Haplochromis sp. 44 but I'm wondering if they will cross breed?
<Nope. One's a Malawian and the other a Victorian, so they do have somewhat different water chemistry requirements.
In terms of temperament they should be okay together in a big enough tank, though I fear 55 gallons is pushing your luck; 75-100 gallons would be
<Cheers, Neale.> 

Re: DSB Questions, FW, Af. Cichlid stkg./sys.   7/21/10
Thanks for the links, they were very informative. I didn't know that Lake Victorian cichlids were that hard to come by.
<Does depend, with one or two species being widely sold but often inbred, while others are hardly seen outside of cichlid clubs.>
I'm going to skip the coral idea per your input
<Wise. While adding a little coral sand isn't a bad idea if you're not growing plants, it doesn't guarantee hard water conditions, so it's a "why bother" sort of thing in many cases. Much better to either add something to the water, or else place a bag of crushed coral in the filter you can clean under a hot tap regularly.>
I do have a question concerning cycling it though. The sand made the water fairly cloudy so I did a straight water change water conditioner, and I'm going to do another water change tonight.
I was planning on using water from my 72 bow so I tested the water and I found out that it was still showing nitrates at 10-15 ppm. nitrites and chlorine at zero.
<All sounds good.>
So I did a 30-40% water change and watched it for a few days and tested it again last night and the nitrates were back to what they were.
I also noticed one of my red empresses were flashing against the bottom occasionally.
<Unlikely because of the nitrate. 10-15 mg/l is a good level for cichlid aquaria.>
For stock I have 3 3 1/2" Red Empress and 7 2" frontosas.
<An interesting combo. Should work, though both are big fish, and space may be a problem in the long term.>
I have been feeding them once a day light feedings and the tank has been running for close to 3 months (I'm using 2 Penguin 350 filters). Should I not use this water to start cycling and just use fresh water and add flakes to start the cycle?
<Oh no, I wouldn't do this. I'd "clone" the filter if at all possible. All biological filters can lose up to 50% of their biological media without a dramatic drop in filtration capacity. So if you have ceramic noodles, scoop out half from the established tank's filter, put them into the filter in the new aquarium, and then transfer some fish across to the new tank to supply ammonia. Should work fine. Moderate the food a bit for the first week, maybe to half rations, but otherwise shouldn't be any noticeable rise in ammonia and nitrite. Given you have two biological filters, moving one filter to the new tank, plus half of the fish, should work too. But that assumes water turnover stays acceptable in terms of oxygenation and distribution of heat, so be careful there. If the Penguin 350 is supposedly able to handle either tank by itself, this should be safe. Otherwise not, and you'd want to replace the missing filter on the donor tank with another filter. Water itself contains little/no useful bacteria so moving it around is pretty pointless. Moving gravel can work if there's an undergravel filter, but otherwise again, it's fairly pointless except for the top half-inch or so of gravel which should contain some bacteria.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Cichlid Tank Question
New African Cichlid Tank Set Up  5/1/10

Hi there Crew, I am new to African Cichlids, however I do have experience of community fish and South American Cichlids. Right now I have a 100 gallon planted tank to work with, complete with pots and rocks for hiding.
I am trying to find out how to form a set up of African Cichlid's that would be comfortable for them, and I would love to have fish of different sizes and colors too. Right now I have one Electric Yellow Lab, a Cobalt Blue Zebra, a Firemouth Cichlid
< Not African. Will not do well over time in this set up.>
and a cichlid that I cannot identify, although I think he may be a Mbuna (he is black with yellow vertical stripes.)
< Look at Ps crabro.>
Will these fish work well together?
< I would recommend getting all the fish at once when they are all under 2". For general set up I would recommend a book by Ad Konings called "Enjoying Cichlids". Lots of good cichlids for a 100 gallon tank from Lake Malawi. Make a list of fish you have available in your area. There are over 1500 species from the lake so there is lots to pick from. Generally look for fish that the males and females are different colors. This adds interest and color to the tank.>
I am curious if I should add any of these cichlids in groups and if so how many for which species?
< If you try and add the fish one at a time then the new comer will get beaten up as he stumbles into existing cichlid territories.>
I was also wondering what other cichlid's I could put in with this mix, as well as if there were any catfish/Plecos that would be good. I would also like to add some dither fish, I love Rainbowfish if you think that would be a plausible combination. If so, how many should I add? Thanks for all the help. Your site is one of the few that actually seems to put out good information.
Thanks, Jae
< Big Plecos and Synodontis catfish work well in a large Mbuna tank.
Rainbows or giant Danios are not needed but can be added if desired. They do better in groups of at least 6.-Chuck>

Cichlid Compatability Questions, Julidochromis, sys.   1/1/2010
Hi there, A year ago, I received 7 cichlids (about 4 golden Julies and 3 cichlids with blue green stripes if I remember correctly) in a small fishbowl :(. Being new to taking care of cichlids and at the time I was always away from home, I ended up with 1 stunted surviving golden Julie (female, I think, without the spots). I recently upgraded her from the fishbowl to a 2.5 gallon tank. Is it advisable to find her a mate? I tried finding her one with a little bigger male golden Julie, but she terrorized the living daylights out of him. My sister gave me 2 ice blue (albino) cichlids (is this correct? they both have red eyes but no stripes, though they are called here ice blue cichlid) a few weeks ago. I tried putting them with the elder golden Julie, but she terrorized them yet again :(. I ended up buying a 5 gallon tank to put the pair and included 2 smaller ice blue cichlids. My questions are the following, and I hope to beg your indulgence on this matter :(.
1. Are golden Julies and red eyed ice blue cichlids compatible in a 5 gallon tank?
< Absolutely not. Each of the Rift Lake cichlids you own gets to be 3-5 inches. They are territorial and will defend their territories with very sharp teeth. The combo you have listed should be in a much larger tank.>
Or should I find a mate for the golden Julie ( she is by her lonesome in the 2.5 gal tank :( )
< Don't bother trying to pair her up. A pair need at least a 20 gallon tank.>
2. Is it advisable to have 4 cichlids or 5 cichlids in a 5 gal tank?
< In a 5 gallon tank you might get away with a couple of small dwarf cichlids. Non of the fish you have listed are suitable for a 5 gallon tank.>
I thought I was given a pair plus 2 additional female ice blues, but being juveniles, I think what I have now are 3 males and 1 female ice blue (though it is a bit too early to tell)
3. What other cichlids/fishes compatible with both golden Julie and ice blue that can eat the excess food stuff but will not grow too large? I tried a Corydoras with the cichlids and I had to have a friend adopt him because the cichlids picked on the poor albino Corydoras
< Any fish you place in this small tank will be treated as a trespasser and will suffer the same fate as the poor Cory cat.>
4. A nephew of mine slipped a snail in the aquarium and now it is multiplying like crazy! Any ideas to stop the snail deluge in both the 2.5 and 5 gallon aquarium?
< Snails can be killed using Fluke-Tabs.>
5. I am currently feeding them Tetrabits. The golden Julie used to love them but now it seldom eats them. Any ideas on how to get her to eat again?
<In a little tank there is very little room for swimming. Hold off feeding for awhile and offer the food once. Remove any uneaten food in 5 minutes.
She will eat when she is ready. Having food sit around in the aquarium will spoil and foul the tank.>
6. I recently cleaned both aquariums and noticed some thin, white wiggly worms after cleaning. Is this bad? What do I do to cure this?
< Could have come in with the snails. Fluke-Tabs will kill these too.>
Thanks, and am hoping for your response :)Happy Holidays :)
< A 5 gallon tank is only good for very small fish. Please research any fish you wish to put in a 5 gallon or find a knowledgeable fish store that
can provide guidance.-Chuck>

A few questions, stkg., gravel, FW...   10/9/09
<Hello Melissa,>
I have (2) 55 gallons fresh water fish tanks....one is 13 years old and the other is almost 4 years old. My 13 yr. old tank, I have 1 fish....a 15 inch Pleco....who is as old as the tank. I am wanting to get rid of the fish and make it more attractive.
<The problem here is that Plecs are big fish (arguably, too big for your tank) and messy (so they demand massive filtration and a tank without stuff that collects silt or debris). They look their best in huge tanks with just a few rocks and very powerful filtration.>
I'm wanting to put black sand.....and new decor inside. I really am attracted to cichlid fish. The blue and black ones.
<Depends on what sort of cichlids you want. Malawi cichlids are popular, and there are numerous blue-coloured ones, but they are super-aggressive, and beginners often make all kinds of mistakes here, and end up with half the fish killing off the other half. They're also prone to hybridising, which is bad, and they have very specific dietary and water chemistry needs.
A good species to start with is Pseudotropheus demasoni, a fairly small "dwarf" species. Both sexes are blue with black stripes, and you can't usually tell them apart. A 55-gallon tank could hold ten of these if there were lots and lots of caves. Don't add anything, just this species, and you'll be rewarded with a very active, entertaining aquarium. In smaller groups one of the males can become a real bully, which is why you need a big group, to divide up the aggression. If Malawi cichlids appeal, then be sure to buy or borrow a book about them first: they are widely sold, but most of the stock sold are second rate hybrids, and if you choose unwisely, you'll end up with a total disaster.>
Can you advise me on how I would go about cleaning the sand if i do choose to convert over to it .
<The easiest approach is simply to throw out the old sand. Replacing it wouldn't cost much, and this would save you the effort of cleaning it. Old aquarium sand is useful in the garden, so don't bin it. Just stir it into
any soil that needs a bit of extra drainage. Since all the bacteria used for filtration live in the canister filter media, throwing out the sand won't harm your filtration system.>
I have a filter that sits underneath inside the sand. Mangum 350. It is for a 75 gallon tank.
<I don't know anything about this filter at all. It isn't sold in the UK.>
Also, what other fish would you recommend and how many total.
<It all depends on what fish you want.>
Also, my younger tank I have 1 Gold Gourami, 1 red tail shark, 2 Chinese algae eaters, 3 cherry barbs, 4 Cory catfish, 1 clown loach, and 6 tiger barbs. I have had these same fish for a few years. Would you recommend me getting more?
<Your tank is overstocked as it is, or at least, the Chinese Algae Eaters will get too big for a 55 gallon tank, and the Clown Loach should really be in a group of five or more specimens, since they're very sociable.>
I am considering 2 more loaches and i really love angel fish, but I worry my gold Gourami would fight with the angel fish...
<Tiger Barbs would attack the Angelfish.>
I guess i just want to know as well......if any more, how many can fit in each tank??? I clean the tanks regularly. once a month. When I go to my pet store it seems like each person tells me something different.
<Pet stores exist to make sales. Assume any information offered may be good, but could be biased towards making you buy something.>
Thank you in advanced for your help! Good day. :)
<Hope this helps. Have a read on Pseudotropheus demasoni, and feel free to ask more questions. Cheers, Neale.>

African cichlid setup - fluidized bed?
Fluidized Filter Bed on a Lake Malawi Mbuna Tank 9/16/09

Hello Crew, First, thank you for offering such a wonderful resource to hobbyists such as myself. I've learned more from this site over my past few years in the hobby than from any other sources combined.
After successfully running a freshwater fish-only system for about 5 years now, I've decided to move onto a new challenge: African cichlids. I'm in the process of setting up an Mbuna biotope. The following is my setup as it currently stands (no fish yet): 46 gallon bowfront, Eco-Complete African Cichlid Sand, eheim 2217 with EhfiMech/course pad/Ehfisubstrat pro/fine pad.
I plan to add rock as the next step, but prior to adding any fish I had a few questions: As I understand it, aggression can be managed by "overstocking" the tank. By doing this I would have a considerable bioload
in the tank and I'm concerned about the 2217's ability to handle this alone (even if not overstocked, I heard cichlids are messy regardless). I'm also concerned that performing maintenance on the 2217 will overly disrupt my bio filter (as you probably know, the 2217, while a workhorse, isn't exactly user-friendly as far as maintenance is concerned). I've been researching additional bio-filtration methods and one that has caught my eye is the fluidized bed. I'm considering adding a fluidized bed to handle my biological filtration, and changing out the 2217 media to handle primarily mechanical, and as necessary, chemical filtration. I would be performing a 25% water change weekly as I did with the freshwater setup. Does this sound
like a viable alternative, or do you think I would likely encounter a nitrate problem? Could you suggest an alternative method? Again, thank you for your time. Billy in Boston
< Many of your ideas are right on the money. Fluidized beds are great as long as the power stays on. When the power goes off for any time period the bed collapses and the bacteria can die in a short time when the oxygen is depleted. They do handle a lot of bioload in the tank. Look into a power backup for the filter if interrupted power is a problem..-Chuck>

Red Empress, sys.    9/9/09
Hi there, I was curious as to the tank requirements for a Red Empress.
<Protomelas taeniolatus>
I have a 30 gallon that I have previously used for cichlids and was wondering if it would be large enough.
<Not a chance. Adults are up to 15 cm/6 inches in length, and the males are aggressive towards each other (and not exactly gentle around the females).
They're open water fish that like swimming space. Given these characteristics, you'd be hard pressed keeping them in even a 75 gallon tank, let along a 30 gallon one. On the other hand, it's a stunning fish,
and in 150-200 gallon tanks, a harem would look superb. It's hard to pick Malawians for 30 gallon tanks, and to be honest, with smaller tanks like these, I tend to point people towards Tanganyikans instead. Not only are there more smaller varieties, among the Lamprologines especially, but they're also somewhat less aggressive. The flip side of course is that Tanganyikans tend to be less colourful, though some are very pretty fish in their own way.>
I like to do my research before taking in animals and I want them to have the proper habitats, and that is why I am so thankful that you guys at WWM give such good advice!
<Thank you.>
Thank you so much in advance! Lena
<Cheers, Neale.>

Half Boiled Red Zebra 8/22/09
I am perplexed as to what to do next. I have had a full grown Red Zebra in a 10 gallon hospital tank for over a year because he and the other Red Zebra kept fighting.
<Danios should be kept in groups of 6+ specimens. Aggression between fish is common when kept in inadequate numbers. If your Danios fight, add more, and repeat until they stop fighting. Simple as that!>
He was doing well until one night I went to feed him and found him floating on his side in a curved shape. His gills were red, he seemed to be gasping for air because his gills were opening/closing a lot more than
normal and he was at the bottom of the tank.
<Sounds like environmental stress; should recover, assuming no serious physical damage done.>
I did not see any signs of tail/fin rot, cottony growth, scrapes, holes or other discriminating marks on him. He does have black spots over his body and a sunken in stomach however he has had these for a long time and has showed no signs of distress until now. The other Red Zebra in the main tank also has the black spots and sunken in stomach and shows no signs of distress either. When I checked the temp strip that attaches to the front of the tank, it read 86 degrees. I normally keep the tank at 75-77 degrees.
<Oh dear...>
I have a 50 watt Visi-Therm Stealth submersible heater by Marineland in the tank which I stuck my hand in to see if it was hot. It did not seem hot and I did not get a shock when touching it so I am not sure if the heater sent out any kind of current for sure. I immediately unplugged the heater and started to bring the temp down by adding frozen water bottles and ice packs (like you add to a picnic cooler). I also added an air bubbler, some Melafix and some Pimafix. I was unsure how long the temperature was so high and since this was all I had, I hoped it would combat any possible infections he may incur.
<Heaters can, do fail. One approach is to use a heater just big enough for the tank, so that if it jams "on" it won't heat the tank too quickly.
Another, better, approach is to use two small heaters (e.g., two 75 W units instead of the 150W unit). This way, if one fails, the other will at least keep the tank from cooling down too rapidly, and if one unit stays on all the time, the other will stay off, and again, water temperature won't change much because the one heater isn't strong enough. Perhaps the easiest approach of all is simply to choose your heater carefully: buy a reputable, even expensive, brands rather than the cheapest one in the store.>
I have dosed the tank for one week now with the Melafix and Pimafix and then did a water change as the bottle instructed. I probably did a 35% water change instead of the 25% the bottle stated. The fish seemed to be doing better; eating and starting to be able to swim better although still at somewhat of a slanted position and had trouble keeping himself in a vertical position when trying to eat the flakes at the top of the tank.
His gills also went from the reddish color back to the pinkish color they had always been. When I did the water change, he seemed to go downhill again; he has an appetite and still tries to make it to the top of the tank to eat but it is difficult for him and sometimes he can't make it. He does try to go after the flakes that make their way to mid tank and the bottom. His body is again in that debilitating curved position and he is on his side. His gills are not red however he seems to be in distress. I did turn up the air bubbler and have continued with the Melafix and Pimafix treatment; this is the third day of round two. I also added Seachem
Cichlid Salt according to the directions for Malawi fish-3/4 tsp for the 10 gallon tank. It has been two days since the water change and even though i fed him last night, I did not feed him tonight. I am at a loss for what to do next, in addition to or instead of what I am already doing.
<There's really nothing more you can do. Optimal conditions will help: For a Danio, this is relatively cool water (around 20-23 C/68-74 F), lots of oxygen, and water chemistry around 5-20 degrees dH, pH 6-8.>
Please help, this fish has been through a lot and is a fighter and I am really attached to him. I just don't know how long he can continue to fight or how much longer i can continue to see him suffer.
<Do see here:
My temperature is at 77 degrees right now and the only reading I know is my Ph which is at 8.0. I need to get another test kit that is not outdated but am not sure which brand is best. I also have a Penguin or Whisper filtration system hanging on the back of the tank-not sure which it is. I have nothing in the tank except for the ceramic air stone and a clay pot and a coffee cup for hiding.
I have given you as much info as I can at this time; sorry I don't have values at this time but anything you can advise me on would be great.
Thank you in advance, Michelle
<I'm afraid only time will tell. Provide optimal conditions, cool down the tank a little, don't fuss too much with water chemistry, and go easy with the food to avoid water quality problems. Good luck, Neale.>

Re: Half Boiled Red Zebra 8/22/09
Thanks for your reply however, I am a bit confused.
<I see... my misunderstanding of your question.>
My African Cichlid Red Zebra a Mbuna Cichlid (scientific name Metriaclima esterase from the region Lake Malawi) is in a 10 gallon tank with a 50 watt submersible heater by Marineland (currently unplugged). You had mentioned that Danios should be kept in groups but this is not a Danio. Are you trying to tell me that Danios will get along with him or are you possibly confusing my fish with the Zebra Danio?
<Yes, precisely so. In the UK, there's no "zebra" fish as such, and it's either a Zebra Danio or Zebra Cichlid, the latter usually, but not always, being Pseudotropheus zebra rather than Pseudotropheus estherae. (Forgive me for avoiding the whole Maylandia or Metriaclima issue here.)>
Secondly, from the reading I have done, Red Zebras like a water chemistry of 7.8-8.6 hard water and a temperature of 78-82 degrees.
<Precisely so; while adaptable, something around 15-25 degrees dH, 5+ degrees KH, and pH 8.0 suits them very well.>
My heater is made for tanks up to 15 gallons, should I get a smaller one than that?
<No; for a 10 gallon tank, anything rated up to 20 or 30 gallons should be fine.>
I did not see one that came smaller and I was under the impression that Marineland was a good brand. I will certainly look for a different brand if need be.
<Marineland is a mid-range brand. I have had a Marineland heater in a small tank, and while it worked fine for some 8 or 9 years, eventually it jammed and needed to be replaced.>
I will take into consideration putting in two heating units in my 75 gallon main tank.
If you can clear up the confusion I would appreciate it; I am still a novice at this and African Cichlids.
<Numerous good books; almost anything by Ad Konings or Paul Loiselle would be well worth adding to your bookshelf. Web sites are often good, but sometimes not, and dependent on the quality of the writer. A good book will have been edited and in the cases of the two authors just mentioned, written by world experts on these fish.>
You stated to start overcrowding my main tank; for a 75 gallon with an Eheim canister filter, how many Malawi Cichlids can I go up to?
<Difficult to say because it depends very largely on what types of species you are keeping, and the ratio of males to females, and whether you're keeping species that are closely related (e.g., multiple Pseudotropheus species) or else species distantly related and largely indifferent to one another (i.e., different genera). There's a great article here:
It's all about 75 gallon tanks, and gives some sage advice on choosing species for such tanks.>
Thanks again,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Water quality problems with African Cichlid tank
Malawi Tank Cloudy After Vacation 8/6/09

I have a 46 Gal tank with Aqua Clear 110 filter. Have 5 African cichlids in it. Have had tank since March and all has been great. Water checks have been normal with minimal nitrate level. I changed the carbon filter on Thursday and went on vacation for 4 days and had a family feed fish once each day. When I came back from vacation, water looked cloudy with particulate matter floating around. I checked water and had nitrates and nitrites in the water. I did a 30% water change last night and called local pet store who recommended using Acurel F. I couldn't find it, so I purchased Nutrafin waste control. I haven't added this to my tank as I am hesitant to add unnecessary chemicals. I see a lot of waste product on the aragonite substrate today which I gravel vacuumed yesterday. I am
wondering if these particles are fish waste or some kind of worms. They aren't moving and look a lot like the blood worms that I feed them. Help!
Any advice on what to do or if I should add this Nutrafin product? Thanks, Jen
< Next time skip the help when going on vacation. I usually go a week before I even think about having someone feed my fish. Do a 50% water change, vacuum the entire depth of the gravel and clean the filters. Don't feed the fish until the water clears. Skip the additives. The wormy things are fish waste.-Chuck>

Do I have the tank from hell? (Yep; Mbuna), incomp., sys., repro. 6/8/09
Greetings Crew:
No big emergency here, just some curiosity about the denizens of my tank and what seems like only scant reference to my fish by submitters of comments/questions.
I had written to WWM some weeks ago about a small auratus (about 1.5 ") who had seemed to be floundering (eventually passing), and received a reply sometime later from Neale. He was fairly adamant that my tank was catastrophe in waiting, and I thank him for taking the time to give me his advice.
<Melanochromis auratus is widely accepted as being among the more aggressive Malawian cichlids, so my opinion here isn't all that unusual. Writers such as Konings and Loiselle would suggest 250 litres/55 gallons,
minimum, for this species. Yours is still a baby, and I submit that you aren't even close to seeing what it's adult behaviour will be like, so do observe carefully as the months pass, and act accordingly.>
My tank is 29 gallons freshwater and my initial foray into the hobby purchased Feb 27, 2009. It contains the following stock: (Descriptions are my conclusions based on hours of perusing various sites for photos, and articles from your site to articles by Paul Loiselle and beyond.
<The danger here is that hybrids can look very like photos of "real" species in books; when shopping for Mbuna, you should operate from the perspective that all retailers will happily sell you poor quality or hybrid
fish if they can get away with it. While that isn't true, and some shops pride themselves on selling "the real things", a lot of generic pet stores haven't a clue about Malawian cichlids, and readily sell the infamous Mixed African Cichlids that irresponsible hobbyists and indeed wholesalers dump on them. If you're critical right from the start, you will have the right frame of mind, and be ready to ask the right questions.>
I have found identification to be confusing since a female of one species may appear to be a male of another species and vice versa.
<Indeed, which is why I strongly recommend shopping for specific species via retailers known to trade good quality Mbuna.>
Since doing a thorough examination of dentition a la Loiselle is beyond my ability, or inclination, at this point, someone with greater knowledge can perhaps point out the errors of my way.
<My general advice is uniformly this: Firstly, shop carefully. Secondly, choose a single species per genus. That way, the risk of hybridisation is low (essentially nil) and you also have the benefit of the fact females of
different species within genera may look alike, but females of different species in different general are usually easy to tell apart. A female Pseudotropheus is very different to a female Melanochromis, for example.>
1 Melanochromis auratus male, 3", black with a beautiful purple horizontal stripe mid-body and a less distinct purple stripe above. He has distinct egg markings on his anal fin. He is quite territorial and the "meany" of the tank.
<He'll get increasingly mean, and will almost certainly kill (or at least damage) any other males in the tank.>
1 Melanochromis auratus female, 3", white with well defined black horizontal stripes mid-body to top.
<Would do better with a few more females, though your tank isn't really suited to maintenance of M. auratus.>
1 Melanochromis auratus male, 3", bright gold/yellow with well defined black horizontal stripes from mid-body to top, which from reading a myriad of descriptions could be a female or a non-territory holding male. I opt for the later based on observed behavior to date. Could prove to be wrong later though.
<Remove surplus males while they are still alive.>
2 Pseudotropheus socolofi, 2", Albino (Pandani Rocks?)
1 Labeotropheus fuelleborni, 2" Orange w/black splotches, egg markings on the anal fin 2 Pseudotropheus demasoni, 2"-2.5", Blue vertical striped (Pambo rocks; these are not identical, one's stripes are not as vivid and has light blue tipped main back fins, while the other has distinctly white tipped main back fins)
<This tank is way overstocked for the types of fish you're keeping.>
2 Chromobotia macracanthus, Clown loach, 2"
<Doesn't belong in this aquarium, and will get damaged eventually; prefers softer, more acidic water anyway.>
1 Plecostomus, 3"
<Presumably a Pterygoplichthys species of some kind; while some folks keep them in Rift Valley tanks, they are competing for food, i.e., algae, and as this catfish matures it will put severe stress on water quality. Take it out.>
I am curious why there is such a lack of interest in the auratus by hobbyists, they sure are interesting. The Albinos are rather docile but are quarrelsome with each other, the demasoni and the fuelleborni are curious but otherwise docile.
<Male Labeotropheus spp. tend to be most aggressive towards their own kind, either other males or unresponsive females. Pseudotropheus socolofi are a "dwarf" Mbuna that generally work well in large groups, the males usually, though not always, directing aggression only towards each other or fish
with similar colours. Of the species named, Pseudotropheus socolofi is the only one I'd reckon viable in a tank a mere 110 litres/29 gallons in size, and even then, at a pinch.>
The Plec stays in the background doing its thing. The loaches are the stars and generally are ignored by the others and seem oblivious to the "threats" of the others.
<So far...>
The tank has cycled and seems to have settled out. Latest water test today was Ph 7.4, Ammonia 0.0, Nitrites 0.0, Nitrates 10.0, temp 77dg. I haven't gotten a test kit for alkalinity and hardness yet, though I do have a commercial type test kit for my swimming pool. It has reagents for total alkalinity and hardness, but I haven't spent any time trying to find a suitable conversion table. The tank readings with the pool kit were: Total Alkalinity 70ppm, and Hardness 130 ppm.
<The fact the pH is so low isn't a good sign. You're looking for a pH around 8, and that means you need a much higher level of carbonate hardness, by which I mean upwards of 10 degrees KH (178 mg/l CaCO3). Do read my article on water chemistry, look over the Rift Valley salt mix, and act accordingly.
I have gone through a bout of Ich on one of my original loaches (who eventually passed on), treating with half doses of Aquari-Sol in deference to the remaining loaches, and raised the water temp to 84 dg. No further sign of it at this time.
The biggest nuisance is brown algae. We are trying to restrain from overfeeding and reducing the number of hours the tank light is on.
<Reducing light intensity largely won't help. Instead, increase light intensity, and foster the growth of green algae that the Mbuna will eat, if you don't overfeed them. Brown algae, by which I assume you mean Diatoms, will get by even with ambient room lighting.>
The black auratus and the white and black striped auratus mated on May 14th. I just happened to be watching the tank when the black guy started bending and quivering. I thought the Nitrites might be out of whack but they were fine. After a few minutes the two began a circling dance with the male bending and quivering and then the female dropped an sack that looked like a grain of rice and immediately turned and scooped it up with her mouth. She dropped six sacks and after each would approach the anal fin of the male to fertilize the eggs. The whole thing probably took about ten minutes and then each went their own way to cover. The male has seemed to be a little less cranky and the female just hides in her cover. She has
shown interest in eating when I feed the others but she does not take in food that I have seen. From what I've read, incubation can be from 12 to 21 days. I hope she won't be harmed by the lack of nourishment.
<She will be harmed, yes. You MUST isolate her for a good three weeks afterwards so she can be fattened up. Obviously, she can't eat while mouthbrooding, and three weeks without food is a LONG time for a fish this small. Whether you remove the male(s) or move the female to a 10 gallon quarantine tank is up to you, but if you don't do this, she will eventually starve to death, or die from something related to her steadily diminishing energy reserves. Males will attempt to mate with her the moment she releases her fry.>
She seems okay, with her fat mouth and we are anxious to see what's next.
<It's certainly fun to breed these fish, but do please think about what you're going to do with the fry! Few shops will accept M. auratus fry.>
I understand from what Neale wrote and from other sources I have read, that mayhem can be in the future but at this point these guys are quite enjoyable and other than chasing about have not done harm to each other.
<Famous last words...>
Neale suggested I return the loaches and the Pleco since they compete for food, but none seem to be starving, and the loaches get along quite well even with the black terror. He just ignores them, unless they are trying to eat and then he butts his nose into their business.
<So far... the bigger issue is your water chemistry is wrong for the cichlids, and if you optimise it for them, the Clowns will suffer.>
I am certainly an inexperienced hobbyist and defer to your cumulative years of experience and will be cautiously observant and ready to take action as these guys and gals mature.
<Many, many books on African cichlids; would heartily recommend you invest in at least one, and read. You can't really go wrong with anything written by Paul Loiselle or Ad Konings.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Cichlid Questions 05/26/09
Mbuna by Himself
Hello Everyone. I have a series of small questions regarding a fish I recently adopted, whom I've named Shaman. My boss at work had a cichlid living in a dirty, half-filled 30 gallon tank, and he wasn't feeding it, so I asked him if I could have it to spare the poor fish a miserable existence and imminent death. To make a long story short, I brought the little guy home, and he is currently housed alone in a 10 gallon tank (I realize from my reading that this is really too small a size for a cichlid of any sort and intend to rectify that as soon as I get another paycheck). To compensate for the size as best I can, I have been performing fairly frequent 25% water changes (every 3 days or so) and being very stickler on my tank levels.
The pH has remained in the range of 7.8 to 8.0, the temperature at a steady 80 degrees, and the ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites at zero. He has been with me just over a week and a half and seems to be adjusting well to his tank, despite its size, and I have been feeding him on a base diet of Cichlid Staple twice a day, with bloodworms or brine shrimp for a small mid-day snack (he prefers the bloodworms). I've done a lot of reading about him since I acquired him so suddenly, and discovered he is a Purple Mbuna (Melanochromis vermivorus) - and because I've read they like to burrow in the rocks a bit, I've provided him with ample gravel and a rock cave big enough to hide him easily, as well as a nice piece of driftwood.
There are no plants in the tank, as I haven't been able to find consistent information as to what type would be good for him, plus I was worried about overcrowding it and him not having room to swim.  With that base established, here is my question - I never intend to house him with other fish unless it is necessary for his social health, since I really wasn't expecting to have even him. So - a) is it necessary to house him with other fish or will he be happy on his own?
< He prefers to be by himself.>
And - b) when I go about getting him a new tank, what size would you suggest?
< If it is just for him then a 20 gallon would work ok-Chuck.>
I apologize for the length - I just want to be certain that he has a good, healthy home now that I've brought him out of the poor one he was in. Any response will be deeply appreciated.
Thank you ~ Sarah and Shaman

Mixing additives for a Malawi tank   4/26/09
Dear Web Crew
I'm setting up a Malawi aquarium, which will have its water changes coming from 2 x 200 L containers. These are elevated to enable a gravity-feed to the system. Every week or two, I'll have to fill the drums with tap water and treat for chlorine etc., plus additives to adjust pH, GH and KH. To make things easier for myself--and because I'll be having a neighbour come in from time to time when I'm away to do the top-ups for me--I thought I might make up batches of additives for the containers so they don't have to be measured out each time I fill up.
<Good idea.>
For each 20 L, I'll be using one teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate, one tablespoon of Epsom salts, and one teaspoon of marine aquarium salt mix.
I have a couple of questions about this batching.
1.. Is it OK to mix these ingredients together and store them in a dry form for later use?
2.. Is it OK to mix these ingredients together and dissolve them in dechlorinated water in a plastic bottle so the solution can be poured into the containers when I fill them with tap water?
<No; I'd keep them dry, to prevent reactions between the chemicals, water, and dissolved CO2.>
3.. If it's OK to do one or both of these routines, is there a shelf-life for the mixtures?
<For the dry salts, mixed together, they should be stable for weeks, likely months, especially if kept cool and dry (e.g., in a Tupperware container in the fridge). I don't think anyone has actually done any tests here, but none of these chemicals is terribly reactive when dry. But still, do check the water chemistry of the water you make, just to be sure.>
Many thanks for your help on this occasion and for past very informative replies.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mixing additives for a Malawi tank (RMF, would you agree about the shelf life of alkalinity mix?)<<I do>>
Thanks, Neale, for your prompt reply and for info I can always rely on.
<Let's see if Bob agrees first! But I can't think of any reason why mixing your own salts wouldn't work; after all, you can buy pre-packaged cichlid salt mixes very similar in composition. Cheers, Neale.>

Hardness question, African Cichlid Sys.  3-4-09 Hello all, <Jim> I recently had the pleasure of stumbling upon your site and have been greatly impressed with the wealth of information found here. I have a 265 gallon all-male hap and peacock African cichlid tank. My question concerns the level of hardness as I believe mine is a little low. My water parameters are as follows: Temp= 80 <Mmm, I'd allow to be lower... will reduce aggression appreciably... as I see you intend to add a good deal more fishes> pH= 8.0 Ammonia= 0 Nitrites= 0 Nitrates= 10 KH= 5 degrees GH= 10 degrees <Mmmm> Water out of the tap measures as: ph= 7.6 KH= 6 degrees GH= 8 degrees My substrate and tank decor consists of Aragonite sand, lace rock and about twenty onion plants. <Sounds very nice> Filtration is provided by a Fluval FX5 and an Eheim 2217 with an additional FX5 to be added within the next week. The tank is very lightly stocked at the moment, containing twelve 3.5 to 5 inch fish. I plan on adding about 25- 30 more for a total of around 40 adult fish. I change about 25- 30% of the water every 3- 4 days as I can't stand the waste buildup on the sand. <A very good practice> I have always adhered to the philosophy of keeping things simple. In my opinion, the more water changes and the less chemical tinkering the better. <I am in total agreement> Basically, keeping water parameters consistent at a slightly less than ideal level is better than creating a chemical soup trying to find the "perfect" environment. However, if there is a simple solution to keep my hardness levels in a more acceptable range, I would definitely be willing to give it a try. I have read on here about adding crushed coral to my filters which seems easy enough. I had mistakenly thought that the Aragonite sand would sufficiently buffer the water but it makes sense that a constant flow through the media would be needed instead. What I am trying to avoid is having to add anything to the water when I do water changes. How unacceptable do you think my current hardness levels are? <They are fine> If I just add the crushed coral to my filter, will I create too much of a difference in the hardness between the water in my tank and the water coming from my tap and stress the fish with the constant fluctuations? <It would (initially) raise both the GH and KH... but...> Or should I leave well enough alone? Thanks for your help, Jim McGunnigle <If it were me/mine I would very likely leave well enough alone here Jim... It reads as if you have a very nice system, a good maintenance protocol, and a very good handle/understanding on basic aquarium husbandry... You are very likely a very reasonable/strong instigator of others getting into our hobby/interest. I thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Vallisneria, plants in the cichlid tank (Malawi, Tanganyika) 2/16/09 Hey Crew, First and foremost today I would like to congratulate you all on a very well put together and extremely informative website!!! I read your stuff till my eyes hurt almost every night. Anyways, on to business. Here's my setup 100 Gal.(60"x24"x16"), Fluval 305(3 trays sintered glass, 2 trays API ammocarb, 1 tray nitra-zorb), Penguin 350 running standard cartridges and bio-wheels, H.O.T. Magnum 250 running micron cartridge, 2 Hydor Koralia 3's, Hydor inline 300 watt heater, 60" Hamilton HO lighting canopy with 1 each 10,000K day and actinic(room for two more T5 bulbs) on for 10hrs per day. 80 lbs pea gravel mixed with 20 lbs aragonite base cichlid mix, 80 lbs Utah lace rock, and 1 large piece African driftwood. Water parameters are PH 8.2, KH 9 degrees, GH 12 degrees, NH3/4 0ppm, NO2 0ppm, NO3 10ppm, temp 78 degrees. I use baking soda, Epsom salt, instant ocean marine mix, and Kent trace elements for cichlids. All water mixed, aerated, and heated the night before, of course. Maintenance includes gravel vacuum, 75% water change(stocking density is heavy), filter maintenance, and water testing, all weekly. Fish include various Malawi and Tanganyika cichlids, all of which are thriving, two pair breed all the time. I know they shouldn't be mixed, but all is well for over a year now. Not much aggression as I rearrange rockwork weekly. If problems arise I'll have a good excuse to buy another tank!!! Phew. Okay, here's my questions. Will plants(Vallisneria, Java moss, Anubias, etc.)thrive under my lighting? Should I add more bulbs to my hood? If so what K temp? Can I plants these in small clay pots with fertilized pond soil and then bury in my gravel? If so what would a good soil/fertilizer combo be? What other plants will thrive in my water? As well any recommendations for growing plant in a cichlid tank you could throw my way will greatly appreciated. I know my beloved cichlids will mow these like grass, but that's half the idea. Sorry if the tank description was long, just wanted to be as descriptive as possible. I would also like to thank the crew in advance for all the great pointers I am sure to receive. Yours Truly, Victor <Hello Victor. Vallisneria is very adaptable, and while it prefers really bright light, grows reasonably well even under moderate levels. So provided you have at least 2 watts per gallon, I'd fully expect Vallisneria to do very well in your tank. Since Vallisneria species are native to both Malawi and Tanganyika, they are one of the most appropriate plants to keep with Rift Valley cichlids. Nimbochromis livingstonii for example is a species that specifically inhabits Vallisneria thickets. Colour temperature largely doesn't matter for plants because they are much more adaptable in this regard than corals. But the ideal is around 5500-6500 K. Vallisneria can be planted in pots, but quickly grow out of them as they expand across the tank. If you want just a small clump of them in one corner, then those plastic pots with rock wool will work fine, provided you remember to put iron-rich fertiliser tablets in among their roots once a month. Alternatively, if you're growing lots of Vallisneria, then using a plant-friendly substrate will make sense, even if it's just one half (of whatever) of the tank. I find a mix of pond soil and gravel to about an inch works great. Put a gravel tidy (or any fish-safe plastic mesh) on top, and then cover with another couple inches of gravel or sand. The gravel tidy will keep the cichlids from making a mess if they dig. Putting large stones around the first few clumps of Vallisneria will help prevent them being uprooted. Epiphytes (Java moss/fern, Anubias, etc.) and floating plants obviously couldn't care less about the substrate and rely solely on fertiliser added to the water. Epiphytes tend to grow slowly, so a half-dose per month should be ample. Floating plants are nutrient greedy, so use a full dose for them. Floating plants are superb for removing nitrate, which is useful in cichlid tanks, and also provide the shade cichlids prefer. But do bear in mind most cichlids are partially herbivorous, and will view many species as food. Hard water is not a problem if you choose the right plant species, and in fact things like Java fern and Vallisneria actually prefer it since the bicarbonate salts are a prime source of the carbon they use for photosynthesis (which can cause issues with KH and pH stability through the light/dark cycle of the day, so once plant growth becomes rampant, keep a check on water chemistry). Hope this helps, Neale.>

Cichlid TDS and PH, Africans   8/17/08 Hello All, Great site, Thank you for all the helpful information. <Kind of you to say so!> I would like ask a question on TDS and PH levels in my tank and the possible effects on my Lamprologus Multifasciatus breeding pair. <OK.> First some background information on my system. The tank is 80 litres with a fine crushed coral substrate; I use an Eheim 2213 canister filter and additional air stone for aero ration. A Lamprologus Multifasciatus breeding pair is the tanks only inhabitants. <Sounds nice.> When doing water changes I use a mix of 20 litres of tap water to which I add a mix of. * 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) * 1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) * 1 teaspoon marine salt mix (sodium chloride + trace elements). <OK.> My tank readings are as follows Nitrates: 1-2ppm Ammonia: 0.1ppm <Here's your problem: this is dangerously high for cichlids generally, and Tanganyikans especially. You're either overstocked, underfiltered, or overfeeding.> Nitrite: 0ppm PH: 8.8 -9.4 <Probably a bit high; try reducing the mineral salt mix by 25% and see how things go. If it's still high, try reducing by 50%. A pH around 8.0 is ample, and you're really more interested in the carbonate hardness and general hardness, which should both be "hard" on whatever scales you're using. For example, I'd be aiming for 7+ degrees KH and 20+ degrees dH.> Now to the problem with the tank, my pair of multi's had recently breed 4-5 weeks ago all seemed to be well until quite recently the male started to lose appetite, followed shortly by what appears to be heavy breathing. As the levels seemed to be OK, I talked to my LFS for suggestions. Their response was that my water mix was wrong and that the TDS would be too high for the fish causing the heavy breathing, so to go home do a 40% water change with a dose of 20ml Bactonex. <The ammonia... the ammonia...> Well I followed that direction and needless to say my male died 1-2hr later. What I would like to ask is could excessive TDS levels cause this or is it more likely the high ph cause have caused the difficulties in breathing? <The pH is a trifle high for these fish, and reducing the salt mix will help. As I say, reduce by 25% first and see what happens. In other words, if you change 20 litres, add 0.75 teaspoons or 0.75 tablespoons of the various salts per 20 litres and see how you go. Use your pH and carbonate hardness (KH) test kit to keep track of things.> The second part to the story is that after the male died I watched the female closely for a week that appeared fine, did water change 30% and purchased new fish. These consisted of a breeding pair, single male, additional two females and two fry (came free in shell). <Hmm...> Well all hell broke loose with the original female fighting and lip locking with the new largest female, the males started to follow suit to the point the next day one male was dead, the original female injured herself fighting and died two days later. From there on in a fish died each two days to the point of the only the one smallest fry has survived. <Not uncommon. Adding new fish to a small tank with an established cichlid population is always difficult.> As this was occurring I tested the water each time and found the only spike was a rise in Nitrates so I did water change 30% and dose of Stability to the water. <Nitrates tend not to kill cichlids outright; rather, what happens is their immune system weakens, and things like Hexamita/Hole-in-the-Head become more common.> Can you suggest any possible causes or what may have happened to the fish? Could the deaths of the new fish be stress from settling in even if they appeared to be breathing heavy like the original male who died? Or could the joker from the LFS have a point? Thank you in advance for any advice. Regards, Darren <Not sure what the "joker" in your local fish shop said, so can't comment there! But there are two things going on here: ammonia toxicity, and aggression between established and new fish. To fix the first, review filtration/stocking/feeding. For the second, there's no guaranteed solution, but moving the rocks about to break up territories, leaving the lights off for the rest of the day when introducing the new fish, and praying to the Fish Gods can help when done together. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Cichlid TDS and PH   8/18/08 Hello All, Thank you Neale for your prompt and helpful advice. <No problem.> I would like to ask further questions on Ammonia please. My tap water is reading between 0ppm and 0.1ppm to start with, so I age the water and treat with "Prime" which claims to detoxify Ammonia. <Correct. But as ever, if one product doesn't work for you, do try another!> My question is there a better product for removing the Ammonia? Or should I be encouraging my good bacteria to grow through sound tank conditions so as to deal with this level on its own? <A little from Column A, a little from Column B. I'd certainly try another product, and I'd also check my dechlorinator removed chloramine as well as chlorine, as using the wrong product can yield ammonia from the improper breakdown of chloramine. And yes, if you have a healthy biological filter, it should remove small amounts of tap water ammonia quite briskly. If this was a persistent problem, I'd make this recommendation: do frequent, small water changes, say 10% every 2-3 days. That way you're only adding small amounts of new ammonia, and giving the filter sufficient time to remove that small amount before it harms the fish. Doing 25-50% every week would be dumping a big pile of ammonia in the tank.> The second question relates to my filter and overfeeding. I have always found it difficult to feed small amounts as the canister moves a large quantity of water and the food blasts around. <A common problem. Some aquarists recommending switching off the canister filter for a couple minutes while feeding. You can also use a turkey baster to "blast" small amounts of food-laden water right into the cichlids' patch of ground.> Could the prime be working on the ammonia but my overfeeding because of excessive water movement causing the problem? <Overfeeding certainly is one possibility here. Here's the test: check the ammonia level before feeding, and then 30 minutes later.> Is turning the filter down at feed times the solution? <If you do this, be careful: leaving the filter off "suffocates" the bacteria quite quickly. No more than a couple minutes is safe, in my opinion, though up to 20 minutes is said not to do irreversible harm.> Once again thank you for any advice and keep up the great work your saving countless little fish lives each day!! <Happy to help, Neale.>

Re: Cichlid TDS and PH  08/18/2008 Hello all, Thanks for the great advice and information, I shall try to put it to good practice. Keep up the great work , Thanks again Darren. <Glad we could help, and good luck! Neale.>

Mbuna and Ammonia Problems  7/7/08 Hi there. Wondering if you may make a couple of suggestions regarding filtration, etc. <Sure thing!> A number of months ago, I read Ad Koning's book on African Cichlids. Since I was experiencing ammonia levels in my 55 Mbuna tank, I followed his advice and fed the fish once every other day (vs. 2-3 times per day). This brought on a great deal of aggression and I lost a lot of fish. So I went back to feeding them twice per day - an amount they can consume within 30 seconds. <I have to say I agree with your experience. Whilst in theory feeding fish less than once per day may have distinct advantages, on balance I'm in favour of the "multiple small meals" approach. All my day-active fish get two meals per day, but small ones. One in the morning, another in the evening. The catfish get their pellets or wafers at night, after lights are out. This way you spread out the ammonia and problems with uneaten food.> I then commenced doing 10% water changes every other day which did nothing to abate the ammonia levels. <Ah; well, if you're getting ammonia present "in real time", then there's three things to consider -- overfeeding, under-filtering, or overstocking.> I am back to conducting 30-40% water changes on Saturdays. Despite taking ammonia tests, which show no trace of ammonia, a few of the fish still flash. I've been treating the water with Amquel which neutralizes ammonia and I have found this effective. I also have a canister and a large hang on filter equipped with ammo chips. I change the filter media once per month (not at the same time intervals). <Chemical ammonia removers only work up to a point, and once a dose has been used up, any new ammonia produced by the fish is left untreated. Amquel is of no value at all in this context; it is exclusively for removing ammonia from tap water prior to adding fish.> I understand bio media aid in the nitrification process. Both filters are loaded with the stuff. What to do? I must be doing something wrong? <As outlined above. Given the tendency for Mbuna tanks to be overstocked, filtration has to be profound. I'd reckon on a big canister filter at least 6 times and ideally somewhere between 8-10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. So adding a second big canister might be just the ticket.> Look forward to hearing from you. Lisa Mae <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Mbuna and Ammonia Problems  7/9/08 Hi Neale, thanks so much. With both filters (canister and hang on) I'm turning over an equivalent of 685 gph which meets the needs of the 55 gallon tank. The canister is only filtering 185 gph which is rather weak. Looks like I need to seriously upgrade the canister. What about media Neale? Is zeolite effective if changed/recharged once per month? What do you use to combat ammonia levels and spikes? Thank you very much! Lisa. <Hi Lisa. The problem with combining multiple "weak" filters on a single big aquarium is that unless you position their inlets and outlets carefully, it is very easy to end up with corners of the tank with minimal water movement. Adding powerheads can help, as will an undergravel filter. But in all honesty, with fish are big and messy as Mbuna, filtration needs to be robust. If you are detecting ammonia, then you clearly don't have enough biological filtration. I wouldn't bother with zeolite -- realistically this will be very expensive, and removing some biological filtration media from one filter to replace it with zeolite makes no practical sense at all. So, what I'd look at is something like a couple of Eheim 2217 'classic' filters. These aren't expensive, have lots of capacity for biological media, and are extremely reliable. At about 260 gallons per hour turnover, two of them would give you well over 10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. You could of course simply add one and use that alongside what you already have, or combine one filter with a reverse-flow undergravel filter that would take care of carbonate hardness as well as ammonia. While old school, reverse-flow undergravel filters are inexpensive to set up and extremely effective at dealing with ammonia and solid waste. Either way, fill with good quality ceramic media or sponge for biological filtration. That should take care of your ammonia. In properly maintained, mature aquaria with suitably sized filters, you shouldn't get ammonia spikes or problems. It's as simple as this: if you detect ammonia, you either have too many fish for your filtration system; put too much food in the system for the filter to deal with; or just don't have enough filtration for the overall bioload. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mbuna and Ammonia Problems  7/9/08 This is great info - thank you so much! My problem has to be poor filtration - I only have about a dozen Mbuna in the 55 gallon so I'm not overstocked. I'll swap my current canister for the Eheim 2217. Thank you! <Hi Lisa. The concept of "being overstocked" is a practical rather than theoretical one, which is why I am leery of these inches-per-gallon rules. If you have a system where ammonia never gets to zero, you're overstocked. As you say, on paper at least a dozen 10-15 cm Mbuna should comfortably fit into a 55 gallon system. But in practise these fish are so active and have such high growth rates that it is very easy to find the otherwise reasonably sized filter being overwhelmed. I have a 40 gallon system in which I keep a few smallish tetras and glassfish along with a 15 cm Panaque nigrolineatus. Although water quality is perfect, the tank itself gets dirty very quickly simply because the catfish eats wood and produces masses of brown faeces. So it has two canister filters offering water turnover of almost 10 times per hour. Seems ridiculously over-filtered on paper, but actually the least I can get away with! In other words, one should go by empirical data -- ammonia tests for example -- rather than what is stated on the box the filter came in. Cheers, Neale.>

AFRICAN CICHLID TANK QUESTION RE WATER CHANGES   6/22/08 Hi WWM Team, <Hello,> I am about to set up a 125 gallon African cichlid tank and have a question about PH and water changes. The water from my tap is around 7.2 with KH and GH that goes above the top range of my tester kit!! I do not have the exact amount but both are high. <Suggest you get a KH test kit; it is KH that really makes a difference when keeping Rift Valley cichlids. The dip-strip kits with various different water tests on them are ideal; not terribly accurate, but good enough, and cheap to use.> I was intending to get a cichlid eco complete substrate to buffer the PH to 8.0. Several of your threads on tropical fish generally say not to mess with PH unless absolutely necessary. <Correct. But where things that need specific water chemistry are concerned, such changes may be necessary. In this case, you will likely need to raise the KH so that the pH is maintained at a suitable level. Don't change the pH directly (waste of time if you don't buffer the water as well). Instead provide a source of carbonate hardness and the pH will go up automatically.> When I do a weekly water change with my 7.2 water, would adding untreated water at 7.2 to water buffered to 8.0 by the substrate each water change affect the health the fish? <Potentially. Read through the threads and you'll see a homebrew recipe for Malawi Salt Mix like this: For each 5 gallons, add... * 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) * 1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) * 1 teaspoon marine salt mix (sodium chloride + trace elements) This will cost you literally pennies per water change as none of these things costs much. The baking powder and Epsom salt can be picked up from grocery stores and/or drug stores. Stir into the water until it dissolves, and then check the pH and KH. Should be just about perfect, but if not, add more of the salt mix, or dilute with tap water, as required.> Would the fish thrive in PH 7.2 water with inert gravel? <Not really.> I am intending to keep Pseudotropheus saulosi and Iodotropheus sprengerae. <Very good choices. The first is quite small and not excessively aggressive, and the later a large, active species that is very easy going. I'd add to the list yellow Labidochromis caeruleus (though any Labidochromis species would be fine); they are gregarious though territorial and work well in groups. Aulonocara also work well in big tanks without aggressive Mbuna, but they are a bit more touchy about water quality and can of course be aggressive amongst themselves, so you want one species comprising a single male plus two or more females. There are lots of Aulonocara species, so pick a species that has the colours you want!> Any other tank mates you could recommend that would add a variety of colour would be appreciated. I will be including plenty of rock for territories etc. <Leave some swimming room, too!> Many thanks Brian <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Mixing African Lakes Cichlids, sys.  3/10/08 Good day Crew, I am building 2 x 200 Gallon tanks in my living room side to side and got a question. Can i have 1 Malawi in one tank and Tanganyikan in the other if they share one big filtration and sump? I am worried about the PH and water differences in these two cichlids. Thanks <Yes, you can. Just make sure you have lots carbonate hardness and both will be fine. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mixing Cichlids 3/10/08 Thanks Neale. How would i keep a good carbonate hardness on both tanks or system? What should i use? I rather not use any chemicals etc. Should i add crushed coral to the filtration or any other ideas you can share? Thanks again John Luke <Hmm... this should be covered in any good book on African or Rift Valley cichlids. If you don't own such I book -- put it on your shopping list! Tanganyikans especially are rather unforgiving. In any case, the simplest way to keep the carbonate hardness nice and high is to add a "Malawi salt mix" or "Tanganyikan salt mix" to the water, and then perform regular water changes to offset acidification. There are commercial mixes available, as well as countless DIY ones that cost very little. Technically, Malawi and Tanganyika have very different salt composition; in practise, it doesn't matter hugely so long as the carbonate hardness is nice and high (7+ degrees KH) and to a secondary degree the general hardness value is high as well (20 degrees dH). One I have on my hard drive is below (in brackets is the "stuff" added to the water): Per 5 gallons/20 litres * 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) * 1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) * 1 teaspoon marine salt mix (sodium chloride + trace elements) The alternate method is to incorporate a lot of calcareous media in the substrate, decor, and above all else the filter. The chemical media in the filter needs to be fairly well crushed to maximise surface area, because it's the dissolution of the chemical media that hardens the water and inhibits acidification. Furthermore, you have to constantly "refresh" this media because algae and bacteria cover it quickly. I'd recommend cycling two media bags of calcareous stuff (such as crushed coral). While one is in the filter, the other is gets deep cleaned to wash away the dirt. Rotate them every month or so, or sooner if you find the KH value dropping. In practise you're creating something like an old school "fish only" marine aquarium, but without the seawater. If you happen to live in an area with very hard water (as is the case here in Southern England) there's no real need to do anything beyond regular water changes. Modifying water chemistry is mostly an issue for soft to medium hardness water areas. Cheers, Neale.>

My questions concerns Rift Lake Cichlid Compatibility, Stocking Levels and General Husbandry 2/29/08 Hi folks - thanks for your hard work on the web site; I find the questions and responses really interesting and helpful. <Thanks.> I have 4 specific questions about my own tank which is a 180L Juwel Vision, 92 CM Long. Perhaps I should set out the details : Tank has Rockwork piled in three linked sections all the way up the back, and some real plants (so far so good on those, Java Fern and Vallis) Current Stocking is : Aulonocara OB x 1 (about 4 inches) Pseudotropheus acei 'White Tail' x 1 (about 4 inches), Pseudotropheus Socolofi x 1 (about 4.5 inches), Pseudotropheus Aurora (formerly classified Metriaclima I think) x 1 (about 3 inches) Albino Pseudotropheus Macropthalmus 'Red Cheek' (about 3 inches) Iodotropheus Sperengae x 1 (about 2 inches) Labidochromis Caereulus (yellow) (about 2 inches) Labidochromis Hongi (about 1.5 inches) <Not exactly text book stuff! Iodotropheus and Labidochromis certainly shouldn't be combined with aggressive Mbuna. They might be fine now, but over the long term, I'd not be so sure...> Hemmichromis Guttatus (about 2.5 inches) <Completely wrong environment.> Neolamprologus Tretacephalus (about 3.5 inches) Neolamprologus Leilupi (females - accidentally) (about 2.5 inches). Julidochromis Ornatus (about 2 inches) <Far too delicate to be mixed with Mbuna. Possibly Iodotropheus and Labidochromis, but not Pseudotropheus and Aulonocara.> The Jewel does well. The leilupi is accidentally female (I wanted all male to remove breeding aggression but either I deserve the Nobel Prize for fishology or she slipped through) and in fact spawns quite a bit, and I do see fry in the tank occasionally - perhaps this gives her a little more mojo to stand up to the Mbuna, which she does very well. <Staggered.> I would move out the Julie (back to my LFS) except that I accidentally bought him with a defect (one ventral fin higher than other, perhaps tumour that side) and I know he won't get picked up by anyone else; he's no trouble, feeds well and is healthy otherwise. I'm happy to let him serve out his time in the tank whatever that may be. <OK.> The tret does fine; he has taken a number of the Pseudotropheus down a peg or to and from what I read trets are generally able to look after themselves. <Up to a point, but this isn't usually what you want, because sometimes things go wrong and you find the formerly happy fish dead.> The Aulonocara is a very aggressive specimen (I had more peacocks in there initially but he knocked them off one by one so I now have Mbuna and he is far less full of himself now). I would not add more Peacocks to this tank as long as he is in it, or perhaps not at all looking at the rest of the stocking. <Aulonocara can be aggressive, so this isn't unusual.> All other fish are thriving. The Mbuna under 3 inches were purchased and added in the last 2 months as I realised I did not in fact have enough fish in there (6 or 7 total) to prevent constant territorial disputes, and lost a couple of fish that way. <You have WAY too many fish for 180 litres. I'm simply flabbergasted this is working at all. I have set up similar sized tanks with Mbuna and yes, it can work, but over time there does seem to be a certain amount of attrition once male fish become fully grown.> My filtration is Fluval Four Plus internal, Plus Juwel Internal but upgraded to 1000 LPH pump. I do a weekly 35% actual water volume change with Seachem Prime, and this plus some Java Fern and Vallis plants keeps Nitrates closer to 10 than 20 at all times. I have not detected ammonia or nitrite (API kit) since the tank cycled a year ago. <Fine.> I feed exclusively New Life Spectrum Cichlid Formula, and my rockwork has a general carpet of green algae which they all graze on occasionally. <Good.> Phew, sorry for dragging on. My first question is whether I should be using a commercial rift lake buffer or other additive. My Ph in the tank is 7.8 (7 from the tap; my rockwork is tufa, substrate crushed coral) and although I do not think it impacts on the Malawi, I think it has slowed growth of the tangs somewhat. Would I be better to attempt to hold Ph at say 8.3 - 8.5 as a happy medium ? <The pH is immaterial. What's the HARDNESS, specifically the CARBONATE hardness. That's what matters with Rift Valley cichlids, because what you want is pH stability rather than any specific value. The short answer is that if you live somewhere with hard, basic water right out the tap (e.g., Southern England) then water changes alone should be adequate to maintain water chemistry. There are plenty of cheap DIY recipes for Malawi salts, so if you want to make some, go ahead. This said, Nitrate is usually the limiting factor with Tanganyikans, not water chemistry. What is your nitrate level?> My second question is whether I am done with stocking this tank ? <Oh yes.> I ask this because I saw some answers to questions on stocking a 30 gallon which suggested 20 Mbuna, and that seemed aggressive to me. Having regard to adult size and whatnot, I think I may be done, but you know the temptation to add just one more...if I am not maxed or overstocked, what would be a nice addition ? I don't consider the tank to be overly aggressive; the balance is pretty good at the moment. <"At the moment" is the operative phrase. Overstocking tanks works when [a] all fish are equally aggressive and [b] you have massive amounts of filtration and [c] you are prepared to do 100% water changes weekly. The idea is you make it impossible for any one fish to hold a territory. In your tank, you have some massively aggressive fish and some relatively non-aggressive fish, so the bullies can and will assert their dominance eventually.> My third question is whether I am doing anything awfully wrong in keeping the present mix. <It's all very wrong in many ways. If it works right now, fine. But I can see lots of ways things can go wrong in the long term. Differences in water chemistry, behaviour, hybridisation, etc. Your fish are juveniles right now, and you may simply be lucky. But some of that stuff is very likely to kill some of the other stuff, no two ways about it.> My fourth question is whether I should be supplementing their diet more. <The more varied the diet, the better. So yes.> Many thanks for your advice. Eoghan <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: My questions concerns Rift Lake Compatibility, Stocking Levels and General Husbandry FAO Neale 2/29/08 Hi Neale - many thanks for your reply and advice. <Cool.> I just wanted to answer your question on nitrates and just ask for more information on a couple of other things. <Go ahead.> The nitrates in the tank are at all times closer to 10 than 20; as stated, I do a 35% or so (i.e. never less) minimum change weekly, and have PolyFilter in both filters, changed every six weeks or so. <Very good.> I was considering the tank to be pretty well overfiltered with the Fluval Four Plus and Juwel 1000 - noting your comment on massive overfiltration would you add/change the filter set-up and if so to what ? <Change for the sake of change isn't much fun, so if water quality is good, then leave things be. But with messy fish I'd tend to go with high capacity canister filters (whether internal or external) over the low pressure Juwel Compact internal filters. I have a Juwel 180 litre tank next to me here, and it mostly contains small fish (tetras and the like) but there is also one quite big Panaque. She produces a lot of solid waste (mostly wood chippings!) that the Juwel filter simply can't handle. It doesn't have enough "suck". Those Juwel filters are great for biological filtration, but for mechanical filtration, you want a nice big external canister filter that you can position in the tank somewhere it sucks up the dirt.> Noting then your comments on having some massively aggressive fish in there; I actually thought I had chosen the relatively less aggressive Africans, within that frame of reference, i.e. they are pretty much all massively aggressive compared to other fish. <Yes and no. There's no such thing as a generic African cichlid. Some species, like Neolamprologus brichardi, are as peaceful as any dwarf cichlids. Same with the smaller Julies. And then you get the other extreme, like Melanochromis spp., some of which will literally take over the aquarium and attempt to kill anything they view as a rival. It *isn't* easy getting a balance, and to some degree most people keeping Rift Valley cichlids end up making mistakes. But broadly you have three classes: Tanganyikans (except Tropheus); peaceful Malawians (Iodotropheus and Labidochromis); and then nasty Malawians (Pseudotropheus, Melanochromis, etc,). It's best not to mix these three.> The Jewel I introduced having read around a lot on their compatibility and I suppose, summarising, there was a lot of support for the view that they could go in with Malawis, albeit that there was also plenty of opinion that they could not. <Jewel Cichlids may do okay in a Malawi tank, but the water chemistry is all wrong for them. They come from rivers where the water is often soft and acidic (though admittedly some species also live in brackish water). So while they're adaptable, I doubt you'll get them best from them in terms of colour.> I was hoping that by carefully selecting different colourations I could go with my current mix until they began to hit closer too adult size at which point I would have to move some out and/or upgrade. <Colour is indeed important, and fish tend to be most hostile to fish that look similar. But there are fish that simply try to hold an exclusion zone around themselves, and weaker fish can lose out.> Looking at the 12 fish in there, could you suggest what is in fact appropriate for the tank (180 litres, 92cm long) ? <The number is not the problem, but the variety.> All fish are male except the leilupi (I'm staggered about the fry too - apparently this shouldn't be possible in that set-up !). Your comment on having way too many fish for 180 litres was a bit of an eye opener - I actually had only 8 fish in at one point and they beat merry hell out of each other; the mood has calmed down completely since I added the newcomers; I would say there is now no territorial aggression as a result but of course am monitoring carefully. Going by my Nitrate readings I am presently happy with the bioload and my current maintenance regime - I would greatly appreciate your advice on what to keep and what to move, if I can not arrange e.g. a 55 gallons over the next couple of months. <If things are working for now, then maybe leave things be. But my feelings are these: Firstly, make sure you have only one species per genus. You don't want to have to deal with hybrids, and moreover, species in one genus are more likely to fight than any other combination. So just one Pseudotropheus species (including Maylandia/Metriaclima), just one Lamprologus, and so on. Secondly, decide if you want a Mbuna tank or an "everything else" tank. Robust Tanganyikans and non-aggressive Malawians (like Iodotropheus and Labidochromis) can coexist. It isn't recommended, but it can work if you're careful. Mbuna (Pseudotropheus, Melanochromis, etc.) are best kept alone, possibly with Tropheus if there's space for them. Aulonocara work better with Mbuna than more peaceful fish, though that varies with the species concerned. I would recommend looking at any one of the many excellent books on African cichlids. There's a nice little book called 'Fishkeepers Guide to African Cichlids' by Paul Loiselle that covers the basics and can be picked up on Amazon for very little money. But there are many other more detailed books out there.> Thanks again, Eoghan <Cheers, Neale.> Re: My questions concerns Rift Lake Compatibility, Stocking Levels and General Husbandry FAO Neale Neale - I promise not to keep coming back to you all day, but had to say thanks again for the advice in both your responses and the time taken to set it out. I will take it all on board. Eoghan <Happy to help; it's better to ask questions than to make mistakes. Good luck! Cheers, Neale.>

Mbuna Carbonate Hardness & Guppy Death.  2/21/08 Hi there. <Lisa... is that you dancing?> I'd appreciate your advice on a couple of issues please? <Sure!> Concern 1: I've been raising the hardness of soft water in a Mbuna tank with Kent Cichlid Chemistry. I've obtained a Total Dissolved Meter to monitor the results. My tank currently reads 1485. Could you confirm that this is 148.5? <Mmm, very likely so... the order of magnitude reading would be very high for TDS> The Africans should range from 200-400ppm so I still have a bit to go to raise the hardness - albeit on a very slow basis... (I've also attempted to raise the hardness with aragonite with little results - and crushed coral makes a mess and I have to vacuum it to keep it clean.) <Ah, yes... can be done... with stored, recirculated water... but some particulates are still likely> Concern 2: In general, if a tank is overcrowded however the water quality is very good, could this lead to loss of fish? <Mmm, yes... from a few root causes... Mainly aggression... as in most commonly. But limit of oxygen, metabolite poisoning, other problems can arise from overcrowding as well> I have a 30 gallon populated with 11 assorted cats (2 Plecos, 5 Corys, 4 S. American bumblebees) <Mmm... do see the Net, part. Planet Catfish re these... likely...> and 11 guppies. I've lost 7 guppies within the last month (mysteriously). <These cats?... http://www.planetcatfish.com/cotm/cotm.php?article_id=91 I do weekly 10% water changes - nitrates 0; ammonia 0; nitrates 5-10ppm, pH a bit high around 7.4. The guppies did real well for a long time then suddenly began to die. <Mmm... perhaps Chondrococcus... Please read here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/guppydisfaqs.htm and the linked files above> I realize this is A LOT of fish for 30 gallons...I could only surmise that this is overcrowding problem... there are no signs of disease. <The bodies are not beaten up I take it... Read on the above citation> Looking forward to hearing from you! Thank you. Lisa <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: Mbuna Carbonate Hardness & Guppy Death. 2/21/08 Hi Bob. Yes, it's me one of the Boston Ballet's principle dancers. Aged 43, fifty pounds overweight and a Mbuna fanatic! <Mmm, well... at least you can still dance! I'm a bit heftier still... older... but still an aquatics fanatic!> Regarding the Mbuna carbonate hardness. I am truly at a loss here. Kent Marine instructed me to buy a TDS meter to receive accurate readings for water hardness (because I didn't trust the API kit). <Mmm, well... I would look to another bit of test gear... TDS is not necessarily all that directly related to hardness... Have you read Neale's excellent piece here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwhardness.htm and the articles and related FAQs files above?> As I reported to you earlier, something is off. When I read your note, I caught an early train home remarking to my coworkers "I am going home to rescue my fish from me." Yes, my fish regularly wince as I approach their tank. I have been so diligent about my fishkeeping. Gone to great expense as you would imagine. It is an addictive hobby - I love it. Anyway, upon arriving home, I opened up my Mbuna log - a log I keep based on your recommendation in The Marine Aquarist (!). (I actually keep 5 logs.) With the TDS meter I took five readings from five separate tanks. This particular TDS meter's detection range is 0-1999ppm per the documentation. <I see> Mbuna: TDS shows 1534ppm; API 5ml liquid drop test shows 4dH or 1dH x 17.9 =72ppm (this water is treated with Kent Cichlid Chemistry) Mbuna2: TDS shows 1592ppm (treated for hardness) Community: TDS shows 648ppm (not treated for hardness) Community2: TDS shows 642ppm (not treated for hardness) Goldfish: 636ppm TDS (not treated for hardness) Aged tap: TDS 390ppm; 3dh or 54ppm API 5ml liquid drop test <Well... these readings are possible... and the high readings for the African Cichlids are not really "that" high... in terms of what their native/natural waters are...> What can we derive from these numbers? Aged untreated tap shows a TDS of 390ppm OR... 54ppm. Which is it? (rhetorical) <Ours here, in S. Cal. is about 800 in even numbers... there are places around the world (not commonly in the U.S., but possible) that have softer water, less TDS than this... and much more...> I imagine the water chemistry (nitrification?) affects the water once it's in the community tanks? <Mmm, not so much in the way of TDS... does go more acidic, less hard with time... though a good deal of solids are added vis a vis foods/feeding...> Is my TDS meter incorrect? <Did you calibrate it? These readings may be accurate> You would think the Mbuna would be literally petrified if the hardness is 1534ppm? <Nope> Floating fossils? Swimming in limestone? Shall I become a paletologist? What the heck is going on here - how can the two types of test be so skewed? <Heee! We do have a paleontologist amongst the Crew... Neale Monks works for real for the British Museum of Natural History...> I am paralyzed. What do you recommend? A new ($70+) TDS meter? Looking forward to your response! Lisa. <I'd check the calibration, and go forward with what you have. No worries. Bob Fenner>

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.>

African Cichlid Tank Set Up - 02/06/07 Hi there!  I am setting up a 75 gallon freshwater aquarium, and I want to make this one an African Cichlid tank.  I've never kept cichlids before, and have done heavy research on compatibility and what not, but I want to make sure before I do anything.  I have listed possible livestock as follows:  Electric blue, electric yellow, livingstonii, Jack Dempsey, Female Kribensis, Salvini, and Red Zebras.  Now keep in mind that I have never cared for a cichlid before, and I have done significant research that says these fish will do alright with each other; you guys are the experts however.  Can you give me some suggestions on this project?  Thanks once again, I love your site.-Blake < Don't mix African cichlids with New World cichlids. The African cichlids are much faster and have teeth. As far as you set up: The electric Blue is OK. Will get up to 8 inches and may chase smaller fish that it can eat. The electric yellow is OK. Will get up to 4 inches but is non-aggressive. The Livingstonii will get up to 8 inches and will not bother fish in cannot eat. The red zebras are OK. Fairly aggressive and territorial. The Jack Dempsey and salvini are from Mexico and would get picked on to death by the African cichlids from Lake Malawi. The female krib is suicide. Only gets 2 inches long and comes from soft acidic water. I would recommend "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings as an excellent book for keeping cichlids.-Chuck>

Planning a 55 Gallon African Cichlid Tank  1/7/08 Planning to revamp my 55 gallon tank with new fish. Have completely cleaned it out, have tested the water for three days straight, pH is coming in at a 7.0, nitrates and ammonia etc. seem to be in order and temp is at approx 76-80 degrees. I would like to have a cichlid tank and noticed the Aquarium store in my area has a very strong selection of African Cichlids which are quite beautiful. Could you please advise how many fish I can purchase, what types of Cichlids would mix well together, and what non Cichlid fish I could also have that would mix well. Thank you, Eric <Lake Malawi cichlids do make an attractive and active tank. They like hard alkaline clean water. Water should be between 75 and 77 F. The pH needs to be up around 7.4-8.0. The filter should run at least 150-300 GPH. There are approximately 1000 cichlid species from Lake Malawi. Most of the cichlids in the hobby come from the rocky habitats and are referred to as Mbuna. They eat algae off of the rocks so they require a diet high in vegetable matter. Generally these fish need to very densely populated because they can be very aggressive and have lots of sharp teeth. By keeping them crowded the aggressive males are able to chase all the fish and not just a selected few. Generally I would recommend getting all the fish as juveniles and let them grow up together. I would get about thirty. As some of the males mature they can be traded back to the store. This would leave you with about 20+ adults. A good book would be "Enjoying Cichlid" by Ad Konings. It covers most of the available cichlid species in the hobby. Good fish to go with them are Australian rainbows and Synodontis catfish from Lake Tanganyika.-Chuck>

African Cichlid GH Too High  12/12/07 Hello Neale. Sorry for bothering you again. I am still in the first week of cycling my Mbuna tank. My water parameters are (Test Kits from NT Labs UK) - pH 8.1, KH 9, GH 25, NO2 1, NO3 5, NH3 0. How can I lower my GH? Should I use RO/DI water? Thanks you Ghulam <Hi Ghulam. Don't bother... GH 25, KH 9 is perfect for Rift Valley cichlids. They will love it. The nitrite is still a bit high though, so be diligent with water changes, and don't add to many fish too quickly! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Cichlids GH Too High, Africans  12/20/07 Hi Again Neale. I am now in my 18th day of cycling my Malawi Cichlids tank (Mbuna) and last week my GH was 25, now its 28. I tested my tap water and its 7 GH. Is it still ok for my future fish? Will they breed in these conditions? What can I do if I need to lower it? Help Thanks in advance :-) Ghulam <Greetings. Malawi cichlids are fine at 25 degrees dH general hardness. On the other hand, if your tap water has a hardness of 7 degrees dH and that rockets up to 25 degrees in the aquarium, then you don't have much water chemistry stability. While it is fine to use calcium-rich substrates in a tank to harden the water, if you're going to go down that avenue, it's best to perform small but frequent water changes. Perhaps two 25% water changes each week. So test the hardness before the water change, immediately after the water change, and then seven days after the water change. If the hardness variation is small (say, between 20 and 25 dH) then don't worry too much. But if the variation is between 10 and 25 dH, that's less good, and you'll want to do smaller water changes but more often. With Malawi cichlids, hardness and pH don't matter too much in terms of exact values, but what does matter is stability. By the way, note "GH" is what you're measuring, General Hardness, and not the scale used, which is "dH", or "Deutsche Härte", literally "German Hardness" in German. One other thing I'd remind you: carbonate hardness ( degrees KH) is somewhat more important with Malawi cichlids than most other aquarium fish. You want a consistent KH of at least 7 degrees and ideally more than 10 degrees KH. Carbonate hardness is the thing that keeps pH steady. Again, anything between 7.5 and 8.5 will suit these fish in absolute terms, but what they hate is dramatic variation, so if you run the tank at pH 8.0 (a good number) then you want to keep variations small, say between 7.8 and 8.2. The tendency will be for the pH to drop across the week, and the water changes will bring the pH back up. A high carbonate hardness inhibits this pH drop; the higher the KH value, the smaller the pH fluctuation. Do also remember if you plan on breeding your Malawi cichlids, then you have to ensure none of the fish can hybridise, and that there are enough females per male to prevent bullying: when groups of one male and one female are kept, the female can be battered to death long before she has any babies! Cheers, Neale.>

New 300g fresh water set up for African cichlids  12/7/07 Hello and thanks in advance for your time. <Welcome Joe> First off, I haven't bought anything yet, including the tank, so I am open to changing anything based upon your suggestions. I'm a clean slate. <Ahh!> I intend to set up a 300g (96 long 30 deep 24 high) freshwater tank for African cichlids. <Mmm, there are actually quite a few variations/themes for such "African Cichlid" systems... By lake, habitat type... Need to be careful in actual species selection, mixing... avoiding crosses... sorting sex ratios... You would do well to read the very nice, though old Cichlid books by Paul Loiselle, Tetra Books... likely available from a library> I want the tank to be in a wall viewable from two rooms. I'm going to do two overflows, one on each side of the tank leading to a sump under the tank. I have plenty of room under the tank for the sump and am thinking about 75 gallons. I think I want 2 inch bulkheads (to accommodate a 2" ID PVC, so the hole would be 3.25") <Mmm, no need to be this large OD... even with Schedule 80 bulkheads... don't make over-size> for the drains, not sure what size the bulkheads should be for the return. <The diameter of the discharge volute of the pump/s> in fact, I don't know how much water I should be turning over an hour. <... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/afcichsysfaqs.htm and the linked files above> I would also like advice as to how to filter. Should I do a wet/dry to my sump or a bio filter in the sump? <Perhaps both> I've heard bad things about bioballs being a nitrate factory. I am also considering two more holes for a closed loop system to UGJ's. <Ahh! Good idea> Again, how large should these holes be and any advice as to setting up such a system would be appreciated. <See WWM re these issues... all and more related information that is pertinent/germinal re is posted...> I am going to use a lot of rock in the tank and was wanting to use eggcrate to defuse the weight of the rock, but can't figure out how to do that with a UGJ? <I would NOT use an UG filter here, nor with most any African Cichlid biotope aquarium... not much to gain, and more maintenance than it's worth> I'm also concerned about all the holes in the bottom of the tank, I'm hoping you will tell me if done right I won't have a leaking problem. <... I would NOT drill holes through your tank w/o a plumbing plan, strong sense of what you're doing... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marsetupindex2.htm the fourth/pink tray down... on Plumbing> Please feel free to offer any advice and suggest any changes, no matter how small. Thanks again, Joe <You have good ideas Joe... but need to do a bunch of reading, note-taking to hone down your choices, actual working engineering plans... Can be easily done by reading on WWM... and even fun... Do write us back with specific concerns, questions. Bob Fenner>

African Cichlid... and Neotropicals (Firemouth) systems  12/7/07 Dear Crew, I have a few question please. What temperature range is best for the African Cichlids? The thing is that I have a Teco Conditioner (Chiller, Heater & UV built all in one) and it does not keep a constant temperature. If I set it on 24 Degrees Celsius, the unit only starts chilling at 26 until it reaches 24 then stops, and it does this very slowly, not quick so it should not shock my livestock. So is it ok for the temperature to be between 24-26? If not then please specify the best range. Cichlids I would like to house in one tank (200 Gallon with Wet/Dry Filtration) and hope I can also breed. 2-4 or more Pseudotropheus demasoni (Pombo Rocks) 2-4 or more Labidochromis caeruleus 2-4 or more Firemouth Also what about using a RO/DI Unit? Thank you. Ghulam <Hello Ghulam. The temperature variation you describe will not cause any problems. Firemouth cichlids (Thorichthys meeki) are not Malawi cichlids and I personally wouldn't mix them. Mbuna are quite violent animals; Thorichthys meeki are mild and have quite specialized jaws unsuitable for fighting. That's why they flare their red gill covers instead. Only rarely will Thorichthys meeki actually "lock jaws". If Mbuna and Thorichthys meeki get into a fight, things might turn nasty. Pseudotropheus demasoni is incredibly nasty towards other blue fish of similar shape and pattern, though yellow and orange Mbuna like Labidochromis caeruleus and Maylandia estherae are said to work well with it. So by all means replace the Thorichthys meeki with another Mbuna, but choose the species carefully so that it isn't blue and doesn't have vertical bars. Using RO water in a Malawi cichlid tank is a good idea. It keeps the nitrate levels low, so the fish are healthier. But you will need to add minerals to harden the water. You can buy "Malawi Salt" mixes, or you can make your own. A common Rift Valley salt mix is as follows. Per 5 gallons/20 litres 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) 1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) 1 teaspoon marine salt mix (sodium chloride + trace elements) Stir in the bucket, and then when dissolved, add to the aquarium. Make changes to water chemistry in small steps so as not to stress any fish. Cheers, Neale.>

African Cichlid Info New Cichlid Tank Questions    12/4/07 Dear Crew. Hi I'm new to this site & really love it, also gonna start my first fish tank ever. I have a few questions that I'm not too sure about & can't seem to find. 1) Should I use RO/DI Unit for African Cichlids? < There are lots of cichlids that come from Africa and there are many different water types too. If you are asking about cichlids from the great rift lakes then you do not need a RO unit since these fish prefer hard alkaline water.> 2) How much circulation should be used in the tank? < About three to five times the tank volume per hour.> 3) I am also gonna be buying a sump filtration & drill my tank, how much circulation should I use for filtration? < As per question number 2.> 4) What test kits do I need? < A pH and general hardness kit to get the water chemistry right. Then a ammonia, nitrite and nitrate kit to make sure your tank is properly cycled and then you can determine when to change water and how much water to change.> 5) How long before I can add fish? < If you use Bio-Spira you can add fish as soon as the water temp is set.> 6) Can I breed African Cichlids with more than 1 couple? I will be buying a 190 Gallon Rectangular tank. If we are still talking about Rift Lake cichlids then you will need to know exactly what species you are talking about. In Lake Malawi 99.999999% of the cichlids are maternal mouth breeders. The do best in colonies with one may to 4-6 females. Some cichlids from Lake Tanganyika can be breed in pairs while some others are usually bred as colonies like the Lake Malawi cichlids. I would recommend "Enjoying Cichlids by Ad Konings.-Chuck> I hope I did not ask you too many questions & thanking you in advance. John Luke

Converting Reef to Cichlid 12/1/2007 Hi Bob and Wet Crew. <Ave!> Hope your all doing well. Its been ages since I emailed you wonderful people. I would like to know what I would have to do to convert my 200 Gallon Reef Tank to a Cichlid Tank? I would also like to know what equipment should I keep in the system. <Does rather depend on the cichlids being kept. If hard water species (Tanganyikan, Malawian, Victorian or Central American cichlids) essentially everything except salt and skimmer will be useful. Soft water species (South American and West African cichlids) obviously don't want limestone materials in the tank like tufa rock. Brackish water cichlids (Chromides, plus various tilapiines and cichlasomines) can be kept tanks more or less identical to marine tanks except the skimmer won't work below SG 1.010).> Tank Info...... 1 200 Gallon Main Tank (Drilled) 2) 45 Gallon Sump with Bio Balls 3 55 Gallon Caulerpa Algae 4) Skimmer 5) UV 6) Heater (I know I should still use this, but just put it as info) 7) Many Powerhead of different specs 8 Denitrifier 9)Many Marine White and Blue Actinic Fluorescent Lighting 10) 2 Pcs Send pumps - 1 x 3325 LitresPH + 1 x 2500 LPH I hope I got everything in there. <Well, obviously the Caulerpa won't work. Better simply freeze it and use as food for herbivorous cichlids. The skimmer won't work except in mid/high-end brackish. UV sterilisers work well in freshwater even though they aren't widely used. Water current is good for riverine/lake-dwelling cichlids, but the blackwater species (like Angels and Discus) won't appreciate too much current. Lighting will be very useful if you keep algae-eating cichlids (Mbuna, Tropheus, etc.) -- allow green algae to grow on all rocky surfaces freely, and these fish will graze it down almost to the rock.> Ghulam <Cichlid care is essentially very similar to marine fish care in terms of requirements for water movement, low nitrates, and in the case of Rift Valley species high levels of carbonate hardness. The big difference is you are more likely to keep groups of the same species, so breeding and social behaviour are greater issues than with marines. Do take care when selecting stock to avoiding having closely related fish: not only are hybrid fry more likely to be produced, but closely related fish often fight more than distantly related ones. There are numerous books on cichlids, and I'd encourage you to have a read of one or two of them before selecting your livestock. Hope this helps, Neale.> Re: Converting Reef to Cichlid   12/2/07 Hi Neale, Wow! This must have been the fastest email reply I ever got in my life! I forgot to mention a couple more things...hope you don't mind :-) I will be keeping Soft Water African Cichlids. What about my Live Rock (seeded from other live rocks now for over 6 years) and live sand/gravel? Shall I just vacuum everything completely? like all the shrimps and worms. Thanks and in Advance for the next email too. Ghulam <The short answer is that you will have to get rid of the sand, gravel, crushed coral, live rock, and anything else calcareous. Soft water cichlids should be kept in tanks that contain only non-soluble rocks, such as slate and granite. I would hope you can sell/give-away the live rock in its "live" condition. It goes without saying that marine live rock cannot survive in freshwater aquaria. Cheers, Neale.>

Sand in the Pseudotropheus saulosi aquarium  11/8/07 Hello. I am thinking about switching my substrate to sand. I have gravel right now. Would it be ok if I went to a local hardware store and picked up some Silica Sand. I herd that its ok and will not kill my fish. The only thing that I herd to do is put a sock full of the old gravel in to provide the sand with some of the "good" bacteria till the sand gets "broken in" to the tank. Would this be an ok sand to use? Also I wanted to put some flat rock in my tank. I was thinking I would pick some slate up at a local rock store. Should I be concerned about having to do anything to the rock before I put it in the tank. Like would just washing it off be ok or would I have to boil it? Also would I have to boil the sand too? Thanks and any other suggestions would be great. <Smooth silica sand is fine in aquaria. I use it all the time. But you have to look out for sharp silica sand, which is also sold in garden centres and hardware stores. Sharp sand is, well, sharp, and it doesn't do the fish any good when they root about in it. Smooth silica sand is much safer. Sand is of absolutely no value in biological filtration, so inoculating with bacteria is pointless. The lack of water flow through sand means anaerobic conditions develop, and filter bacteria die. In a cichlid aquarium, all you want is enough silica sand to cover the bottom pane of glass. Maybe 1 cm or so. The cichlids will keep this turned over as they dig. You don't need to boil sand before use, but it will need cleaning. Sand often contains a lot of silt. Expect to change the filter wool in your canister filter a few times if you don't clean the sand sufficiently well! Lots of people prefer to use coral sand in Mbuna and Tanganyikan tanks; silica sand obviously has no impact on carbonate hardness. If you were planning on using an undergravel filter in this aquarium to help deal with carbonate hardness and pH, then don't use silica sand. If you're not using coral sand and crushed coral as an undergravel filter, then you will need to consider how you are going to keep the hardness and pH nice and high. Cheers, Neale.>

Rift lake salts, GH & KH 10/3/07 Hi WWM crew, I used to have a community setup and used KH salts to buffer the system and maintain a neutral pH. I now have a community tank with a number of cichlids (calvus, dickfeldi, Kribensis) so I am using rift lake salts. I was advised to use only the rift lake salts and not the KH salts as well. I've just had a major shift in pH (to acid) and the cichlids are all sick as a result. My question is: should I be maintaining the KH buffer salts as well as the rift salts or should the rift salts have the same effect? Thanks in advance!! Lachlan <Rift Valley cichlid salts should maintain KH and pH all by themselves. Essentially, Rift Valley salts are packaged salts for raising the GH, KH, and pH of regular water so that it matches that found in either Lake Malawi or Tanganyika. That said, if you're keeping Rift Valley cichlids, you should also have some built-in carbonate hardness reserve in the aquarium. I would strongly recommend the use of either crushed coral inside a canister filter or an undergravel filter built with a coral sand/crushed coral mix. Sticking lumps of Tufa rock in the tank won't work, because for the calcium carbonate to have any value as a buffer, water must be flowing past a vast surface area of the stuff. If you have a pH crash below 7.0, then clearly you weren't adding enough Rift Valley salt given the ambient softness of your local water supply and/or the stocking level of your aquarium and/or the use of acidifying materials in the tank such as bogwood. Cheers, Neale>

Sudden dying fish advice! 10/3/07 Hi <Hello.> I hope you can help me, am a bit of a novice fishkeeper and after a promising start am slight concerned about the goings on in my tank! <Oh dear.> I have a 35gallon freshwater aquarium, which ive had for three weeks (originally my brothers and kept for 6yrs). It had 5 Malawi's and one Plec and I added another 8 Malawi's, another Plec and 5 red claw crabs (about 2cm each). <Red-claw crabs are brackish water animals, and shouldn't be kept in a freshwater tank. They are also amphibious animals, and keeping them permanently submerged is cruel. Kept properly, they are more like frogs, rooting about on land, but dipping in the water to moisten their gills periodically.> Everything was going fine but then in the last 24hrs both my catfish and the alpha male (a 2.5inch blue zebra) of the tank have died! <Check water quality when two fish suddenly die.> I have checked all the levels and everything is normal. <Define "normal". I'm assuming you aren't using brackish water, so the conditions aren't normal for your crabs at least. More specifically, have you tested the nitrite level? Also, what's the pH and hardness? Malawi cichlids need fairly hard water to do well (at least 10 degrees KH, and a pH around 7.5-8). I don't know what Malawi cichlids and plecs you are talking about, but 13 Pseudotropheus zebra and two common plecs such as Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus simply cannot be kept in 35 gallons of water. There is no way water quality will be acceptable for them all. Even a single common Plec needs around 50 gallons of water, at least.> My concern is that, could this be the work of the crabs and should I really get rid of them? The shop said they could live together but now am not so sure <Crabs shouldn't kill most fish, though they will certainly catch and kill very small fish like guppies. But unless you are keeping them in a brackish water vivarium with a sand-bank and wood for them to climb about on, then no, this isn't an acceptable home.> Advice would be most grateful as I don't really want £80 stock all to die off! <Indeed.> Best regards, Lester <Lester, you need to sit back and review the aquarium conditions. A 35 UK gallon tank is simply too small for all the fish you are keeping. What will happen is that the fish will die, one by one, until the aquarium reaches its "carrying capacity". You can delude yourself into thinking the aquarium is fine, but Science doesn't work that way, and until the population reaches a sensible level, fish will keep getting sick and die. For 35 gallons, you should be thinking about, say, one or two Ancistrus Bristlenose catfish along with maybe three cichlids (one male, two females). Nothing else will work in the long term. Hope this helps, Neale>

Stealth Cat Shadows Corys -- 9/24/07 Hi there Neale, <Hello Lisa,> Hope you are well. <Likewise.> A couple of weeks ago, I installed lunar lights into one of my communities tanks so I could observe nocturnal behavior. Very interesting! <Indeed...?> Last evening one of the two Microglanis iheringi made an appearance. When it does appear, it quickly scales the length of the large piece of driftwood and dashes about the substrate chasing everyone off. He is quite the character. His behavior last night was unusual in that he was literally shadowing one Cory at a time - as if he were trying to latch onto to their bellies in a horizontal position (his dorsal fin to their bellies). The Corys didn't like it naturally - they raced about the tank until the bumblebee gave it up. The bumblebee tried this on 2 or 3 Corys within a 10 minute timeframe. <Hmm... more likely schooling behaviour. Microglanis iheringi is a social species, and some small catfish will form mixed schools if conspecifics aren't available. I bet if you added two or four more Microglanis iheringi, you'd find them schooling together and ignoring the Corydoras.> I woke up at 4am and gazed into the tank and the bumblebee cat was exhibiting the same behavior. <OK.> Do you suppose this is about aggression? Territoriality? Mating?! <None of the above. Microglanis iheringi is completely peaceful (except of course to small fish it can eat!).> And may I please ask you a question pertaining to the Mbunas and stabilizing their pH at 8.0-8.2 and appropriate kH? <Feel free.> For the past couple of months, I've incorporated crushed coral and shells into the filtration and tank however the highest I can raise the pH with this method is 7.8. I've been able to elevate the kH only about "5 notches" which isn't close to ideal level. Should I begin to add a chemical buffer to necessitate the ideal levels? <What's the precise value? One of the misunderstandings in the hobby is the idea Lakes Malawi and Tanganyika are incredibly hard, with massively high levels of carbonate hardness. While they certainly are comparatively hard compared with, say, the Amazon River, the general hardness (dH) values of the two lakes aren't incredibly high, around 6-10 degrees dH for Malawi and 10-12 degrees dH for Tanganyika. My local tap water, drawn from a chalk aquifer, is harder than this, around 18-20 degrees dH! What makes the two lakes special is the composition of the salts in them, in particular their relatively high levels of carbonate hardness. The salts in Tanganyika are about 2/3rds carbonates, and in Malawi about 4/5ths carbonates. This has a particular effect: while the waters in these lakes might not be phenomenally hard, they are extremely stable in terms of changes in water chemistry such as pH. Anything about 8 degrees KH should fulfill this criterion comfortably. Higher levels simply provide more stability, but up to a point Malawian cichlids are fairly adaptable (Tanganyikan cichlids tend to be less so). Because coral sand and crushed shells dissolve slowly, there's an argument for doing small water changes more frequently if you find the pH and hardness fluctuates too much between water changes (i.e., if your local water is quite soft). In this case, doing 25% water changes instead of 50% ones might make sense.> Thank you and look forward to hearing from you! <Hope this helps!> Lisa. <Neale>

Re: Stealth Cat Shadows Corys -- 09/25/07 Thank you for your response Neale and the detailed information. <Not a problem.> With the crushed coral, I've essentially taken the Mbunas (Lake Malawi) from extremely soft water to a level to about 107.4 kH or 5 degrees dH which falls below the ideal 8 degrees dH you mentioned. <Does not compute... does not compute! There's no such thing as 107.4 degrees KH. That would be a solid piece of limestone! The KH scale as far as aquarium water goes runs from 0 at the soft end to over 20 degrees KH, which would be very hard water. Each degree KH is about 17.9 milligrams per litre calcium carbonate, so 107.4 mg/l CaCO3 would be about 6 degrees KH. That is fairly low, and a bit short of what you want for Mbuna.> The pH holds at 7.8. I change 25% of the water every other week. With this notable incompatibility, shall I hold my current position or in fact introduce a buffer/hardener? <You have two ways forward, each with its pros and cons. You could improve the chemical filtration in the system. If the KH is staying too low, that means the water isn't passing through enough crushed coral. An undergravel filter is the classic way to fix this: a substrate of coral sand on top of a gravel tidy on top of coral rubble will comfortably buffer the water to a nice high pH. This is the system that has been used in marine and Rift Valley cichlid aquaria for generations. On the plus side, this works well and is cheap and easy to set up. On the down side, it requires a bit of maintenance, particularly if the undergravel filter *is not* part of a reverse flow filtration system. The problem is undergravel filters suck up the dirt, so the substrate needs cleaning periodically (typically a good stir once a month, and a deep clean once every year or two). The second approach is to add Malawi salts. These are, in my opinion, more effective and economical than buffering liquids. Since you're "halfway there" in terms of providing the right water conditions, you probably won't need a full dose of the salts to get a nice high KH. So mix a half dose into the next water change, and see what happens. Obviously avoid doing a rapid change in water chemistry -- changes to the better, if too rapid, can still be damaging to fish. So do a 25% water change with the hardened water, and then another next week, and so on until the water is completely replaced.> The Microglanis iheringi are rather tough to find... <Funnily enough, a local pet store in London I visited yesterday, Wholesale Tropicals had some! So anyone in the UK interested in these lovely fish... that's where to go!> I so much enjoy watching the catfishes' behavior - the Plecos (they finally took to the lettuce!), the Corys and these bumblebees. <Ah, the joys of catfish. Addictive, aren't they?> I NEED bigger tanks for more fish! I am experiencing what Joyce Wilkerson calls a "marine décor explosion." !! (Clowns will be next adventure.) <Tell me about it! Fishkeeping, once you're on a roll, is bad for the bank balance. But it's like having your own personal zoo, with fascinating critters from all four corners of the Earth. It's a great hobby.> Thank you very much for your help Neale! Lisa <Well, hope this helps, Neale>

Filtration For A 90G Malawi Cichlid Tank 9/6/07 I have a 90g freshwater cichlid tank (mostly Malawi with a large Pleco) with 28 fish of small to med size. The tank is 4 months old now and seems to have properly cycled. I have one 250W heater, a Fluval 405 with the recommended media (Foam screen, bio rings and carbon pouches) and two bubble stones. pH is good (7.5 to 8+), no nitrites, the LFS says my phosphates are somewhat high but not to worry about it unless I have a big algae problem, which I don't. Plus I do 33% water changes once a week (I don't always take all the decs out of the tank, but still agitate and python much of the exposed gravel. I am wringing my hands as to whether I should get an additional filter (It would have to be a canister because I have no room behind the tank for a hang-on) which would likely be the Eheim 2126 for the following reasons: 1) I have never achieved what I would characterize as crystal clear water (only briefly after doing a diatom filter of the water) 2)These are dirty fish 3)I have a tendency to overfeed (albeit they only get fed very other day) 4) It might be appropriate anyway given the size of the tank and type of fish 5) We will start to travel weekends in the winter, so the redundancy of the filtration and heater might make sense 6) It might reduce on going maintenance 7) When I have changed the carbon, or rinsed out the foam (but not the rings) I get cloudy water for 3 or 4 days which I think is a bacteria bloom. What are your thoughts? Thanks in advance for your help. Thomas < For a 90G tank I would recommend that the filter turn the tank volume over at least 5 times per hour (450gph). Your 405 is rated at 340 gph without any of the media being clogged. The 2126 is rated at 275 gph. When running unclogged both your filters will run 615 gph. A little overkill but well worth the investment in keeping your fish healthy. You still need to service the filters on a regular basis. Just because the waste is out of the tank it is not out of the system. That only happens when you clean the filters. I would recommend that you alternate cleaning the filters so you don't lose the biological filtration.-Chuck>

Suggestion for Very Cool Lighting for Mbuna Tank  8/16/07 Hi Neale! <Hello Lisa,> I have successfully transitioned the 11 Mbuna into their new uncramped quarters! I am so thrilled. Water chemistry readings are very good - I will continue to check every few days in the event that I don't have sufficient good bacteria built us in there however I think we'll be okay. <Cool.> This tank truly is a show piece and I'm investigating lighting that will really make the Mbunas' color stand out. Currently I'm using a white florescent bulb however I believe there's got to be a better alternative. There are a number of choices on the market ... might you make any suggestions? <I'd not recommend any single light; rather, consider using a variety. Choosing a tube with a reddish cast (like a Gro-Lux) plus one with a more bluey shade (like a Triton) works quite well in my experience. Too much of any one colour light favours different coloured fish at the detriment of others. Since Mbuna come in such brilliant shades of blue, yellow, orange, and purple it's best to choose lighting that benefits them all. That said, lighting isn't as big a deal as substrate. Nothing enhances the colours of fishes so much as dark substrate. Matt black sand (volcanic sand) is ideal, but a dark brown river sand works well too. What works worst is white coral sand and plain silica (silver) sand. Fish fade their colours when bright light upwells from the substrate. It's not normal for them. In the wild, below them is dark and above them is light, so they have evolved to have darkest colours on their backs so that fish above them can't see (as easily) them against the gloom below. It's called countershading. Anyway, bright substrates make the bottom of the tank almost as bright at the top of the tank, and the fish can't get their colours "quite right". There are exceptions to this of course, particularly fancy varieties of fish which have been bred for unnaturally bright colours. But cichlids usually "adjust" their colours across a broad range, partly for camouflage and partly for communication. Anything you can do to work the tank in favour of this, means you'll get better colours. Also overlooked is the background. A plain black or dark blue background often shows off the colours better than something more fussy. That's a perception thing rather than the fish doing something to their colour cells, but the end result is the same: your fish look better to you.> Thank you and hope you're well! <You're welcome. Indeed, am well.> Lisa. <Cheers, Neale>

Re: Suggestion for Very Cool Lighting for Mbuna Tank  8/16/07 This is fantastic info Neale - thank you so very very much and going to such effort to elaborate on the subject! I do have black sand in their tank! <You're welcome, and good luck. Neale>

"If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It" Af. Cichlid stkg., sys.    7/31/07 Hi there. I very recently purchased an established 30 gallon (tall) aquarium from a woman who could no longer keep the tank. The tank contains eleven 1-2 inch mbunas, 2 bumblebee cats and a Chinese algae eater. They are all very healthy (but must be cramped in there!) <I'll say.> Upon arriving home, I immediately placed the fish in my 30 gallon long which was fully cycled. <OK.> The former owner used regular aquarium salt, maintained the pH at 7.5, temp high 70s, with no buffering substrate (obviously). She performed 50% water changes once per month. <Not altogether ideal conditions, I'll admit. The salt certainly isn't required, and the water changes far less than I'd recommend for a heavily stocked aquarium like this. 50% a week would be more appropriate.> I will be performing 25-30% water changes bi-weekly (in fact, I performed their first water change last weekend - two weeks from their move - and they seem to come alive!). <Yes, that's normal. Water changes can have a "tonic" effect on many fishes.> I will also be acquiring and moving the fish into a 55 gallon within the next month. Mbunas should number around 15 in a 55 gallon tank right? <Depends on the size and the species. But yes, overstocking does help deal with the aggression, though you need to compensate with extra filtration and extra water changes to keep water quality good.> I understand the bumblebee cats' ideal pH level should not exceed 7.5 - I am not sure about the algae eater. <Both are pretty adaptable. Neither make ideal additions to a Rift Valley cichlid aquarium since they prefer more neutral rather than very hard and alkaline conditions. But neither are they very fussy.> If these guys have survived this far without brackish water and a pH around 8.0, should I leave it alone? <No. Neither the mbuna nor the other fish want salty water, though admittedly salt will help detoxify nitrate and nitrite, so could have played a useful role in the previous aquarium as the "lesser of two evils". But long term, you want to replace the use of salt with better water quality management, and ideally maintain the pH around 7.5 by adding some calcareous filter media to the filter, such as crushed coral. This will buffer the water and, compared with adding coral sand to the substrate, is easier to "recharge" by cleaning and/or replacing periodically.> I am planning the transition to the 55 gallon and want to be clear on type of substrate, salt and pH. <The traditional use of coral sand as a substrate made sense when people relied on undergravel filters, since the water was pulled through the substrate. If you're not doing this, and are using a canister filter for example, the buffering effect is much less dramatic. I'd recommend using something more controllable. Opt for a chemically inert sand in the aquarium, like silver sand, that gives your more options in terms of colour. Black sand for example really highlights the colours of most fish. You only need the shallowest depth, maybe 1 cm. You can instead either add Malawi salts (not aquarium salt or marine salt mix) to the water with each water change or else fill one of the compartments in the canister filter with crushed coral. Once a month you'll probably need to "deep clean" the crushed coral with hot water to remove the organic slime that covers each grain, and perhaps every 6 months replace it entirely with fresh crushed coral. Since your crushed coral consumption this way will be small, this is a low-cost, low-tech approach. You'll need to experiment a bit to get the optimal amount of crushed coral in the filter, but assuming you have hard/alkaline tap water to being with, filling one of the three compartments in the average canister filter should do the job. Aquarium/tonic salt is definitely not required. HOWEVER, since your fish are acclimated to these conditions, I'd change the water chemistry only slowly, perhaps over the course of a week or so, doing 10-20% water changes each day, replacing some of the salty water in the tank with plain water from the tap. Dramatic water chemistry changes -- even from "bad" to "good" -- can stress fish. As far as eventual water chemistry goes, you're looking for around pH 7.5-8, hardness 15+ dH/10+ KH. Contrary to popular belief, mbuna don't need incredibly high pH and hardness levels. What matters to them rather more is water *quality*, as well as good diet.> I want to do the right thing and very much would appreciate your advice. Thank you! Lisa.

Re: If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It. Mbuna... sys.  -- 07/30/07 Thanks Neale, <No problems.> I have a 30 gallon hex community tank with Plecos, Corys, guppies and danios. The pH holds at 7.0. Water is soft. Should I move the bumblebee cats and Chinese Algae Eater out of the mbuna tank into this one? (I was also thinking that I'd eventually transfer one of the Plecos to the 55 gallon mbuna tank since he is 6 inches or so long and crowded in the hex.- I see Plecos in mbuna tanks often.) <The "bumblebee cats" could be any one of a bunch of species, many of which are confirmed predators that will simply view guppies and danios as live food. The most common species are Microglanis iheringi (around 3-4") and Pseudomystus siamensis, formerly Leiocassis siamensis, (around 6"). The former is from South America, the latter from Asia. Microglanis iheringi is small enough that anything bigger than livebearer fry should be safe, but the latter will definitely chow down on small fish. As for the Chinese Algae Eater, these are incredibly nasty animals (usually) and difficult to house in anything other than a robust cichlid/catfish community. I'd leave it with the mbuna for now.> I am having a tough time locating black silica sand (as you noted) - I love the idea of it - if you know of an online resource please let me know or I will pursue nearby nurseries. I also read on your site, the sand is ideal for the catfish's barbells in one of my other tanks. I did locate a black sand made by Carib Sea specifically for salt water or cichlids however this must not be chemically inert? <Silica sand is often easier to buy from garden centres than pet shops. The main thing is you buy the smooth variety now the "sharp sand" for, I hope, obvious reasons. I use the plain vanilla kind, which costs around 3 UK pounds for 25 kilos, around 50 lb. So it's cheap, too! The only problem with the plain vanilla silica sand is its yellowy-brown, and you get the issue of the fish fading their colours to some degree. Mixing it with some fine pea gravel helps, but still, black sand is definitely nicer (if more expensive). I think your assumption the Carib Sea sand is not chemically inert is correct. If the ingredients mention "aragonite" then avoid in any tank where you want a neutral pH. The mbuna obviously won't care, nor will the guppies, but danios, Corys, etc would sooner have a near-neutral pH than something wildly alkaline.> My water out of the tap is soft, pH 7.2 - should I adjust it to the correct hardness as you stated for an ideal mbuna tank? <That water is ideal for tetras and barbs, but not for mbuna. Definitely add crushed coral to the filter to raise the pH/hardness. Tonic salt, despite the myth, doesn't do either. There is such thing as Malawi Salt Mix that you can add, though personally, I'm cheap, and prefer to go with the crushed coral alternative. It's more hassle, but it works fine.> Concerning diet, I currently feed the mbunas 3 times per day - a mix of plankton, Spirulina flakes, peas and spinach - all they can consume in about 30 seconds at each feeding. I also leave a piece of zucchini in the tank for them to munch on during the day. <Sounds perfect. Mbuna are more or less omnivorous rather than carnivorous, so mixing up the diet with plant food, flake, and occasional cube of frozen bloodworms or chopped seafood is the way to go.> One more question please! How much lighting do the mbunas require? 12 hours per day? I've only had the tank lights on about 3-4 hours in the evening because ambient summer temps with A/C on holds at 75-77 degrees. <Mbuna couldn't care less about the lighting. If you have plants, then you need lighting 12 hours per day (and again, to shatter a myth, there *are* plants in Lake Malawi) but otherwise don't worry about it. If in summer the tank is overheating, then switch them off except perhaps for feeding time so you can watch them eat. The water temperature in Lake Malawi is quite variable, and at certain times and especially in deeper water the water gets quite cool, down to around 20C/68F. Excessively high temperatures, above 30C/86F, on the other hand, are very uncommon and in aquaria at least severely stress Lake Malawi cichlids. So if you're worried the lights are causing heat problems, switch 'em off.> Thanks so much - there is really a great help to me. Lisa <You're welcome. Neale>

Re: If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It. -- 07/30/07 Thank you Neale very very much. I feel confident now in knowing how to proceed for caring (and transitioning) the mbunas to ideal conditions. I am so excited to take on this project. Have a great day!! <No problems, happy to help. I did notice a typo in the previous e-mail, where I said, "now the sharp sand" when I meant "NOT the sharp sand". Beyond that, good luck and enjoy your fish! Neale>

Re: Increasing Water Hardness, for Mbuna f's   8/13/07 Hi Neale, <Lisa,> The pH in the Mbunas tank is beginning to rise with the use of the crushed coral as you prescribed. <Very good.> Strangely, the water hardness remains extremely soft with no change. Is this unusual? <Yes, unusual. Crushed coral consists almost entirely of a mineral called aragonite, a variety of calcium carbonate. Aragonite is "unstable" in geological terms and dissolves readily, in doing so, the concentration of calcium ions and carbonate ions will go up. This is what is making the water's pH rise. You should also see an increase in general hardness (which measures, among other things, calcium ions) and carbonate ions (which measures, alongside bicarbonate, carbonate ions). Anything else doesn't really fit the science (at least as I understand it). Regardless, don't worry about it too much. Crushed coral is self-buffering (if that's such a term) meaning it won't raise the pH beyond about 8.2, however much you add. This is well within the preferred zone for Mbuna, so you're laughing. The main thing is watch the fish, and check their behaviour is normal; if it is, assume the water chemistry is fine. Provided you do regular water changes, and perhaps once a month clean out the crushed coral, maybe changing 50% of it and hot-water cleaning the rest, everything should happen nicely in the background.> Looking forward to hearing from you! Thank you. Lisa. <Cheers, Neale.>

Question about cypress driftwood and African yellow lab cichlids.. Lake Malawi Cichlid With Driftwood -- 07/24/07 Hello, I have a 55 gallon freshwater tank with regular gravel and water in it. I want to add a lot, and I mean a lot of cypress driftwood into it. The cypress driftwood is currently soaking in a sink in my garage. My other 55 gallon tank has yellow lab cichlids, with about 40 babies in it (the parents had kids). I want to add the cypress into the new tank first, then add the yellow lab babies. I was wondering if a lot of cypress will affect the PH for the yellow labs. If I do frequent water changes, have carbon in the filter, and monitor the PH ( I use SeaChem alkaline buffer), will everything be alright? Before I go ahead and do this, I just wanted your opinion, to put my mind at ease. Have you or anyone you know had problems with African cichlids and cypress driftwood before? I greatly appreciate your help and information on this site!! <The organics in the water like driftwood absorb calcium ions. When all the calcium is absorbed their will be excess hydrogen ions in the water that will then bring down the pH. Frequent water changes will help replenish the calcium in the water. Adding a buffer would be good insurance. I think you will be fine.-Chuck>

Cichlids in a 12-gal tank?  A Nano-Cichlid Tank  7/10/07 Thanks for all your service here. I've tried to sort of triangulate from various answers here but am still a little anxious. I have one of the 12-gal Eclipse tank-in-a-box kits with the cartridge/bio wheel filter that I used for growing up some frog eggs into frogs. I'm wondering if there's any realistic way this set-up could be used for cichlids -- it seems like most everyone uses a larger tank. (Having swum in Lake Malawi a few times, I love cichlids.) With just a few and plenty of hiding places, could I get away with it? How much water changing would be required? Could you recommend some species that might do well (i.e., smaller ones)? My LFS mostly sells "assorted African cichlids" that are pretty clearly juveniles, but appear to be Mbuna. Thanks much, James < The Marineland Eclipse is actually a pretty good little system. The filtration and flow rate are excellent. You can keep a number of smaller cichlids in this set up if the aggression can be managed. Most of the assorted Mbuna are very aggressive species that would not last very long in a little tank. Peaceful species like Mel. parrallelus or Ps. saulosi would be worth a try and could probably be mixed together. Sand sifting Mbuna like Ps. lanistacola could probably be housed as pairs. Control the nitrates with water changes. Try and keep them under 25 ppm. I have been to Lake Malawi myself and share your interest.-Chuck>

FW filtration, lowering pH though using aragonitic mat., and NO3s in an Af. cichlid set-up   6/20/07 Hey guys. In your opinion, regarding freshwater tank setup, do you think it would be equally as effective to put two Aquaclear 500 HOB filter on a 125g opposed to one canister and one HOB Aquaclear 500? <Mmm, possibly... though I would in either case, locate the units at either end of the system, clean only one per week during other regular maintenance... water changes, testing...> I am setting up a tank for a friend and through my past experience I really think that the HOB's do a better job at filtration. Currently on my 75gal I have one of each (canister/hob), what do you recommend for a large tank like this? <For what sorts of livestock? If this were a planted tank, I'd opt for the mix of units... for Af. et most Cichlid set-ups the two outside power filter hang-ons if these were my only choices> Also, on my Malawi tank I put roughly ten pound of crushed aragonite as my substrate to buffer the ph. <Good> In the beginning, my ph was steady at about 7.9-8.0, now i notice that it has gone down to about 7.5-7.6, what could be the problem? <The more-soluble parts/faces of this substrate are gone... a good idea to refresh (replace, add to) occasionally... every three months or so in this proportion of sized tank/gravel> Also, my nitrates are constantly at 40ppm even shortly after a large water change on my 75gal. <Too high... a good idea for you to read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaintindex.htm See the yellow tray, Nitrates below?> My bio load is only at half of it's maximum plus the fact that it's well over filtered with filtration rate of 850gph. I have about ten cichlids and one catfish with a total of about 40 inches so I guess I probably have about 30 more inches left to stock (going by general rule of thumb....1" per gallon). Any ideas as to what may be the problems here? <All sorts> Thanks in advance for your time and help!!! Jason <Read on my friend, read on. Bob Fenner> Re: FW NO3   6/20/07 Thanks Bob. The link you gave me in the last email was targeted toward saltwater (even though it claims to be freshwater nitrates), <Ah, yes... we don't have enough mat. as yet to separate. Many of the principles apply to both...> and did not answer my questions. The article told you "generally" about nitrates with no information pinpointed to my current situation. I also checked the FAQ's and no one seemed to have the problem I have without probable cause. I have no probable cause, so with your several years of experience do you have any idea what the problem may be? <Yes... a simple balancing of a series of variables/equation... More food, metabolism on one side... not enough anaerobic digestion by certain groups of microbes on the other... And insufficient nutrient export otherwise... Again... please do re-read where you were referred to... the linked files at top.... Your options are simple to delineate... less food, esp. of a proteinaceous nature, less livestock... more anaerobiosis... DSB likely, perhaps specialized media (e.g. sintered glass, ceramic beads/macaronis... made for this...) and the export... more water changes, the use of chem. filtrants, purposeful photosynthesis... the DSB, plants likely in a tied in live sump... All gone over and over on WWM...> I vacuum once every two weeks along with 20% water changes. My bio load is only at about half of the maximum it should be <... not useful thinking... Try covering your "good eye" with your hand, walking backward for a minute... Really> for a 75gal tank. I have an Aquaclear 50 HOB and a Filstar XP3. I have bio rings and stars in both filters but no BioWheel so the bio filtration is constantly under water with no air hitting. I use no supplements and feed very lightly. So clearly Bob, can you see any probable cause here? I don't, I need help. Jason <Read my young friend, read. RMF> LOL, thanks for answering my simple question Bob. <Welcome... RMF>

Giving Up On Salt Water For The Easy Cichlid Tank -- 06/16/07 It's been a long, long while since I've needed to ask y'all a question! Briefly, I'm tearing down the reef, and, wondered if the live sand bed could be rinsed, and, left in place for some African Cichlids...Aulonocara nyassae (SP?) Species will be probable for the future! < Welcome to the world of cichlids. No problem. Just make sure the organics are gone and add Bio-Spira for FW .-Chuck> Thanks, Your friend, Stormbringer

Mbuna Trouble - Not Eating... Env., social issues   6/9/07 Hello there, <Howdy> I started a Tank about 3 months ago (90 Gallon), let it cycle for about a month until I could measure no ammonia, no nitrite, and no nitrate. <How cycled?> I then added 3 /Labidochromis caeruleus, /and 3 /Pseudotropheus demasoni. /Things were fine for about another month with everyone eating regularly (fed twice a day all they could eat for 2-3 minutes). The I added 2 more (but older and larger) /Labidochromis caeruleus, /3 /Metriaclima estherae, /3 more /Pseudotropheus demasoni , 3 //Labidochromis hongi/ and finally 3 /Labidochromis caeruleus (white)/. After approximately 2 weeks the 3 Metriaclima and 2 larger Labidochromis were beating up on everybody smaller with the exception of the demasoni (who held their own). This was about the time that most of the smaller fish stopped eating (all except the 5 aforementioned and some of the larger demasoni). I removed the 3 Metriaclima and 2 larger Labidochromis, which has helped the aggression but has not helped the eating situation. <A typical Mbuna event...> In the last 2 weeks following the fish removal I have lost 2 /Labidochromis caeruleus (white)/, 2 /Labidochromis hongi/, 2 /Pseudotropheus demasoni/, and 2 /Labidochromis caeruleus. /All but one of the remaining demasoni are eating, and one mother even released fry today. The rest of the fish (1 hongi, 1 yellow and 1 white lab) fail to eat, and seem lethargic. The final demasoni seems a little bloated and is resting at the bottom of the tank. Since they have stopped eating, I have curbed feeding due to rising ammonia (0.25 mg/L) <Not cycled> and nitrate (5 mg/L), nitrite is 0. I've been trying to remove all uneaten food after 3 minutes. I have been feeding them Aqueon Cichlid flakes and occasionally Aqueon Cichlid sticks. I want to do something and my local shop has been less than helpful. Any ideas? <More filtration... and more decor/rock likely, moving this about to break up territoriality, plus switching to better foods... Try the Spectrum pellet brand... is what I feed my Mbuna... developed by a supreme African Cichlid breeder... Pablo Tepoot> Also - I have been changing 25-30% of the water every week, I treat the water with Stress Coat and at the beginning was using API Accu-clear and AlgaeFix <Poor ideas/additives... too toxic in this already unstable chemical mix> as directed to help clear the cloudy water (after changes only) and the AlgaeFix to curb growth on the Texas Holey Rock (I have not used these for about a month though - I thought the less chemicals the better). Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks! -Jason <I'd be reading on the various Cichlid boards on the Net... deciding on likely removing some of the fish you have placed... or less likely, adding to the mix here to induce a "dither" effect. Bob Fenner>

Re: Mbuna Trouble - Not Eating  6/9/07 Hi Bob, <Jason> Thank you so much for the quick reply! <Welcome> One question regarding filtration. I have a Fluval 405 canister filter (2 beds ZeoCarb and 2 beds biological) and a Fluval 4plus mechanical filter. Is this enough? <Obviously not... I have two similar sized African Cichlid systems running just with Eheim canister filters... but they're far less populated...> It sounds as if this may be a combination effect from the tank not being fully cycled and not enough hiding spots. I will add more cover today and keep you informed! Thanks so much for all your advice! -Jason <You have read on WWM re these Systems, fishes? BobF>

Filtration For Large Lake Malawi Cichlid Tank    5/12/07 Hello folks. Quite an overwhelming site you have there. My wife and I have been avid Malawi cichlid keepers for a while now. We recently bought a 220g aquarium which will be a new home for several groups of Mbuna. I have several questions about filtration: Would I be on-track in thinking the most efficient filter I could have for a large tank with a heavy bioload (say 40 fish, ranging in size from small fry to 6" adults) would be a wet/dry? If so, what determines the capacity of a wet/dry system, in terms of bioload- the media capacity; flow rate; both or neither? Lastly, are there any "DIY wet/dry filters for dummies" sites out there? I've seen several designs, and I like to think I'm pretty 'handy'; but I'm not the greatest plumber in the world- I'd like to see the "hows and whys" spelled out step-by-step. Thanks for your time. KLK < To start out , you should have a filter or filters, that turns the tank's water volume over at least three to five times per hour. For your tank that means 660 to 1100 gallons per hour (GPH). The wet/dry component on any filter is a great feature to have. The bacteria that do the biological filtration or breakdown of waste is limited by the amount of oxygen that is in the water. On wet dry systems that are working properly, there is adequate oxygen so you get a very complete and fast breakdown of the initial waste products. This means the ammonia and nitrite are broken down into nitrates rather quickly. The nitrates are removed by water changes. I would recommend that you start out trying two Marineland Emperor 400 outside power filters (Online $100+). They would pump 800 gph. They are very easy to maintain and are very quiet. The bacteria live on the Bio-Wheel attachments and is considered the wet/dry part of the filter. Big wet/dry filters are expensive to buy, expensive to run and noisy too.  If you have no room for a power filter then a couple canister filters may be needed, but they have no wet/dry component to them unless you add a Marineland Magnum 350 Pro System to the outflow tubes. The sump type of wet/dry filters still require quite a bit of plumbing no matter what type you get. Check them out online and see if you could replace them with common material found at a home improvement store. Some parts may require fabrication.-Chuck>

African Cichlids, sys.    4/22/07 Hi, <<Greetings. Tom here.>> I have a 38 gallon aquarium, (fully cycled for about a month) and I am interested in the Mbuna Cichlids from Lake Malawi. <<Certainly understandable. Hard to beat, or even match, African Cichlids for color/beauty in the FW world.>> I was just wondering how many fish I can keep that tank? It's empty except for the snails that keep breeding but I try my best to get rid of them. The water is hard and alkaline, pH around 8.2 (which is one the reasons why I want them) because of the naturally occurring buffers, probably. Anything under 5 inches, by the way. <<Well, I can't say that you haven't handed us the proverbial 'hot potato' here. :) A 38-gallon tank is smallish by Cichlid standards, however, a 'heavy' stocking scheme is commonly recommended to disperse/distribute potential aggression in these fish. Rather than relying on my limited knowledge/experience regarding your question, specifically, I'd like to direct you to an excellent essay on this topic by Paul V. Loiselle at this link: http://cichlidae.com/article.php?id=149 I think you'll find it enlightening as well as addressing your question in far greater detail than I could provide in this space.>> Thanks. <<Happy to help. Best of luck in your venture! Tom>>

Keeping Ps. acei   3/27/07 Hello, I am soon getting a 29 or 30 gallon tank I plan to have an under gravel filter and a regular filter (don't know what brand or type yet). I would like to get Acei (name at pet store) cichlids I went online to see if that was the real name and it was, I didn't do much research so I was hoping you could tell me a little about them ( water qualities, how many I can put in the tank, etc.) Mainly I would like to know about breeding them, are they mouth brooders or cave spawners? Any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Veronica < This is a very interesting cichlid from Lake Malawi. It likes hard alkaline water at about 77 F. In the wild it eats algae off of driftwood, so it needs a diet high in Spirulina algae. They are not very aggressive as far as Lake Malawi cichlids go. You could peacefully keep six or eight in your tank as long as it is well filtered and you do regular water changes. They are maternal mouthbrooders with females holding eggs and fry fro up to a couple of weeks. If the adults are well fed they may not go after the fry.-Chuck>

Temperature fluctuations Hi Crew,  Just a quick question for you on temperature. I have a 66 Gallon Tank with African Cichlids. We just moved to a new house and now the fish are situated in the basement. By the way we live in Canada so the nights get cool. In our other house I had a Tronic 200 watt heater in the tank which seemed to nicely maintain 80 degrees. However in our new house I notice the daytime temperature of 80 degrees and when I get up in the morning I notice the temperature is around 76 or 77 degrees.  < The temperature range for Malawian cichlids is between 75 to 80 degrees so you are still well within their range.>  I have even added another 100 watt heater. On the back of heater box it says a 200 w heater is good for 65 gallons so I figured 300 watts should do the trick. I have the tank about 4 feet from the concrete wall. Should I add yet another heater or is a 4 degree variance ok? Any other suggestions?  < This all depends on how "Cool" it gets. Unfortunately glass is a pretty poor insulator. If your tank was in your home and you kept the house at 65 degrees F. Then a 200 watt heater might work. If you mean down to the 50's or lower then you heater could turn into a little night light trying to keep up with the heat loss. Overall the temp. is fine right now. If it gets below 75 for any length of time and there may be problems. The higher the temp . the more breeding you will get and the better your fish will look. Two things to consider to maintain the water temperature. Add more heat with another heater and watch your electric bill get even higher or reduce the heat loss from the tank. Start by placing sheets of Styrofoam insulation underneath the tank and on the back. This will help insulate the tank without hindering viewing the fish. Keep the top tightly sealed too. Lots of heat is lost through openings in the top.>  Also when I moved the tank I saved about 1/4 of the water and the gravel  and also the filter contents. will this be enough to get the new system  running or should I be performing more frequent water changes then normal?  < As long as the gravel remained wet there should be no problem and the bacteria should have remained intact.-Chuck>  thx  Ron

Help with Cichlid tank  3/16/2007 Hello- <Hi there> I need help figuring out what is happening with my Red zebra (even though he is orange:-)).   <Okay> First I have just set up a 29 gallon tank with Malawi cichlids. <Dangerously small volume... with time, growth, behavior here...>   I have 2 Kenyi, 3 exasperatus, 3 red zebras, 3 Acei, 1krib and 1 cat fish from lake Malawi he has spots on his body and striped on his tail).  When I put my 3 Kenyi (all small1 inch to 1.5 inch) into the tank one seemed to come down with something- he passed quickly. the other two seemed to have cotton mouth- one on the mouth itself and one on his one fin.  I treated with the antibiotic that turns the water red can't remember the name) <Likely Tetracycline... regular water changes...> with M. green. Everyone seems great and I did my first water change today to start taking out the meds.  My Red zebras have always had a black belly area (the pet store guy said it was normal) but tonight I noticed one has a protrusion( it looks like it is part of his internal area).  The one side is slightly "swollen" and the other has a distinctive "lump". He seems at this point to be eating and active.  I am thinking it is constipation, I was feeding some small cichlid pellets that float and have switched to Spirulina flakes and tropical fish food with occasional brine shrimp (frozen).  Any help you can give would be great.  Thank you so much! Christie <What is your water quality? Do you use salt additions? If so, of what sort? Bob Fenner>

Re: Help with <African> Cichlid tank -- 03/18/07 My water is great-- Nitrates 0-5, Nitrites 0, Amm. 0, Ph 7.6-8.  You are correct with the Tetracycline treatment. <Easy guess>   I have used salt additions ( aquarium salt) 1 tbls to 10 gallons of water.  I also (last night before this was noticed) added some natural rock with a hard salt present on it... I could not even scrape it off with a knife with out breaking part of the rock off. <Likely not salts, but carbonates... lime...> It is used to provide caves.  I boiled the rocks for about 2hours. Also last night one of my aceis was swimming erratically but other wise seemed fine.  This morning they both seem fine and the bump seems to be gone.  I am thinking I may be feeding the wrong food... I would also like to touch on the comment of the volume being too small... I was told by numerous people that this would work in my tank - is this not correct? <Not IMO... I only keep African Cichlids nowadays... (just travel too much...). I encourage all to start with nothing smaller than 55 gallon tanks if possible, keep only one species per... two males max. and females as they develop from a batch of younger individuals...> I do plan on upgrading to a 55 gallon tank with in the next year. <Good... do know though that many of the Cichlids hailing from the same "Lakes" will cross- inter-breed> But bought these fish based on the tank I have now (I feel that is the best bet).  I do have rock work, caves and numerous fake plants.  Any thought are greatly appreciated. <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwlvstkind2.htm The tray on cichlids, parts on Africans... Bob Fenner>

High Nitrates in a Malawi set up   3/11/07 Hi there, I have a question about Nitrates, <Hello Faye.  I have an answer about NO3.> My Mum has a 180L Lake Malawi Cichlid set up which has an external filter (Fluval 104) which has ceramic rings as well as floss and sponge media, she also has the Jewel filter box but has a power head which isn't really powerful enough for the tank but she intends on upgrading that soon. She has just added another power filter with nitrate reduction sponges in it in a vain attempt to reduce the nitrates. <Vain indeed.  I have never had any luck with this kind of product.> She has about 14 Cichlids which are about 2 to 4 inches long. Her tank has a nitrate reading of over 80! <This is considerably high.> She does regular water changes (about 30% twice a week since the nitrates soared about 30% once a week before then). She cleans her filters regularly she cleans under the rocks etc. We just can't understand why the nitrates are so high, the ammonia and nitrites are 0. I thought it could be the ceramic rings kicking nitrates back into the tank. <This is most likely part of it.> The tank doesn't look overstocked but maybe the filters are inadequate for such messy fish, maybe needs a higher turnover rate? personally I think she feeds them too many times a day, although she feeds them flake which is vegetable (Spirulina) based, this could be contributing to the problem, am I right thinking she could feed them once per day? <This would also be increasing other pollutant levels in the tank.  Two to three times a day in small amounts is actually good for them.> If the filtration is inadequate could you recommend a good filter? (Bearing in mind I'm in England!) <I think that your filtration is just fine.  Try this:  Cut the feedings back to twice a day, and begin cleaning the media in the Canister filter once every two weeks.  Rinse the little ceramic rings in tank water.  This will preserve the bacteria on them.  The floss should be rinsed in tank water as well.  The sponges should be thoroughly cleaned.  Also try adding activated carbon that you change monthly.  Brandon> Thanks in advance Faye

New African Cichlid Tank Problems  3/8/07 Hi guys, My story begins with a 29 gallon tank purchased as a kit at the local super store. Got home, couldn't wait to get it together so I started putting everything together and a hour later I had set up my very first tank. I filled the tank with tap water and conditioned the water with the packet that came in the kit and let the tank cycle for 24 hours. The next day I went to the LFS to get some new wet pets. I went and picked up three African cichlids 1/2'' or so in size. The guy selling me the fish also recommended that I use stability which is a bio filter starter to help along the nitrogen cycle, so I purchased the stability along with some good water conditioner. I get home put in the stability per directions on the back, let the fish float in the tank for 20 minutes then put them in a small bowl and added tank water every 15 minutes till the bowl was full. Netted them out and put them in there new home. The fish are doing fine and all is well watching those little guys swimming around brought a nice new atmosphere to the living room. While I was at the LFS I saw a Columbian catfish that I wanted to get but didn't want to overload the tank in the beginning. Two days go by and I really want the catfish so I packed up the kids and head down to the LFS to get my new catfish. Luckily for me they were out, but my kids picked out a cool looking blue African cichlid so we got him instead. I decided to do some research on the Columbian catfish and that's when I found this very helpful and informative site. I am glad that the LFS was out of the catfish cause thanks to you guys I learned it would be a brackish water to marine fish. Another day passes the fish seem to be getting more distant from each other and not looking well so I come back to you're site to research new tanks and *boom* a whole new world of info am learning about ammonia and pH levels, nitrite and nitrate. I make a quick run to PetSmart to grab a test kit. I find a master test kit with the liquid, vials and color cards. I get home and start my tests ammonia first wow it was at 2.0, then my pH 7.6 nitrites 0 and nitrates 0.I test my tap water 1.0 ammonia 7.6 ph. I run down to the super store and grab 15 gallons of spring water and a Python I got home and did a 50% water change. That got my ammonia down to .50, pH stayed the same around 7.6, nitrites 0, nitrates 0.It was late and I thought I did everything I could that night. I go to work the next day and come home to find my water temp at 68F so I turn up my heater the little light comes on and think it would heat up over night well it never did. I woke up the next morning and it was still at 68F.No big deal I will just go buy a better heater. So I go to the LFS to get a heater I picked out the most expensive one. I spared no expense for my little wet pets am really starting to get attached to the little guys. My girlfriend picked up another 20-40G power filter from the super store. Well I get home find one dead and another acting just like the one that just died. I removed the dead one and did a 20% water change and refilling back with the same type of spring water I used in the 50% water change. I installed the new heater and the new power filter because I hear 2 is better than one. Yes, the new heater is working and the water is warming up. I do another water test ph 7.6 ammonia down to .25 nitrites 0 nitrates 0. I get down to inspect the fish close up and noticed one with white spots and my girlfriend says its ich. I noticed the orange one had white fuzzy stuff around his mouth and has had a lot waste hanging from, him not like the others and he looks very sick. I go ahead bite the bullet and flush the orange one he just looked very sick I couldn't stand to see him like that. I hop back on to this wonderful site to read up on ich. Decided to go with the salt and heat method so I added 2 tablespoon of aquarium salt to 5g and turned the heat up to 82F.Now to my question, is there anything else I can do to make these fish more healthy and to make sure the ich is gone for good? <The cool water temps has stressed your fish and made them prone to diseases. Your fish actually like hard alkaline water. The spring water may not have enough minerals in it for your fish. Many biological "starter" cultures don't work too well. I would recommend Bio-Spira from Marineland to make sure that the bacteria are established for the biological filtration that you need. Your fish eat algae in the wild. Stick to foods that are algae based. Foods too high in animal protein tend to cause internal infections. If you like cichlids then I would recommend a book by Ad Konings titled "Enjoying Cichlids". Great book for aquarists just getting in to all kinds of cichlids.-Chuck>

Lake Malawi Cichlid Biotope  2/19/07 First off, thanks for taking the time to read my e-mail.  I apologize for the length... :-)I am planning a 215-Gallon (or 210-Gallon, depending which manufacturer you believe, hehe) tank (72"x24"x29") and I am CONSIDERING doing a Lake Malawi biotope.  First of all, I should mention that my past 10+ years has been marine reef experience, but I'm trying to consider a more cost-effective, yet still INTERESTING alternative. Anyway, to date, no matter what I start out with, it becomes a reef again in a matter of hours during the planning process. ;-)  I'm hoping that you fine folks might be able to open my eyes to some successful communities that will captivate me. To date, the plans that have more or less "made the cut" are either a SPECIES tank for P. saulosi, or a MIXED tank of P. demasoni and L. caeruleus.  Your thoughts on either of these?  How many dominant male saulosi are likely to be in a species tank that size?  Then will the rest be orange females and steel blue (no stripes) males?  Or just the orange females?  Also, I've heard it said that demasoni and caeruleus impact one another's' breeding and therefore, while "compatible" are not TECHNICALLY compatible... Your thoughts? Also willing and excited to consider any other mixes.  I want activity, colour, and DEFINITELY NO CROSS-BREEDING.  I don't want to contribute to the growing numbers of "Malawi Mutts" in the trade. Thanks and my apologies once again for the long e-mail <Go with the Ps. saulosi. They are not very aggressive and you can have equal numbers of males and females. Orange females and  blue males with black fins and bars are actually very attractive  and pretty close to what they look like in Tawani Reef in Lake Malawi. To pull it off you need good stock. Don't settle for inferior fish. The Ps. demasoni are very aggressive and the L. caeruleus will get pushed around and not thrive.-Chuck>

Malawi Cichlid Tank Problems    2/16/07 Hey guys/gals?  A few questions again regarding driftwood.  I  have a Malawi African Cichlid tank setup and I was wondering if I have to be  concerned about driftwood softening my water?  I have two 16" long pieces  in my 75g tank.   Is driftwood ok to use with Africans?  My cousin gave  me some and after doing research I found that it MAY soften water and lower  pH.  If this does indeed happen, what can I do to prevent this or decrease  the likelihood? <Driftwood can absorbs some calcium ions and soften the water. It usually leaches out tannins into the water making it look brown. If there are no brown colors coming from the wood then it is probably OK.> Secondly, I have tried a bunch of medicines and cannot get  my cichlids to stop scratching their gills on the rocks and plants.   There are NO white spots whatsoever on ANY fish and I have continued to keep the  degrees up to 85 and aquarium salt at 3 tblspns per 5 gal.  Every fish in  my tank scratches it's gills and I am not sure if this is normal or if there is  a parasite.  Parasite clear didn't work, nor did salt/temp manipulations,  or CopperSafe.  What causes this (flashing with no white spots) and why  isn't this being cleared up by salt and temp manip. (assuming it's  minor....no white spots)?  Just seems like every fish tank I have had,  including saltwater, have always had a flashing/itching problem with fish.   Have I been doing something wrong all this time after 10 years? Thanks a lot, Jason < Check the nitrates. When over 25 ppm the parasites become more active on stressed fish. Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filters. Check the pH and make sure it is at least 7.5. The water temp should be around 78 F for Malawi fish. Check these things again in a week and modify your maintenance as needed. You should see less scratching.-Chuck.>

African Cichlid Tank Set Up II - 02/11/2007 Thanks a lot!  I really don't want to set up a death trap for my fish due to my inexperience with cichlids.  Any advice on the quantity of fish I can keep for 75 gallon?  I was planning at least two for every species.  Thanks again! -Blake < Lake Malawi cichlids are group spawners. I would recommend that you get at least 3 females for every male. Most crew members would tell you to keep your stocking on the conservative side and start out slow. I am going to tell you to go with 50 small cichlids at about 1-2 inches, six of each species. This means you will get 3 males and 3 females of each assuming you are getting a 50/50 sex ratio. Keep the best looking male from each species and sell/trade the other two males of each species back to your local store or give them away.  You should end up with about 35 +/- adult fish. You can add the oddball non-Mbuna type Malawi cichlids when they are adult.-Chuck>

Filter Recommendations - 02/11/2007 Hey Chuck, we were speaking about power filters yesterday.  I just went and purchased the penguin (bio-wheel) HOB power filter.  The Emperor was a bit out of my price range but I was wondering how you feel about BioWheels? < I love them. I think they are a great asset to any aquarium filter. If they had them for air driven filters I would have them on them too.> I am using this on an overstocked 75g African Cichlid tank as an addition to my Rena Filstar Xp3.  The Aquaclear is within my price range compared to the Emperor so now I am considering buying one of those for my 55g.  I never realized until just now that the media in the Aquaclear is much like a wet dry filter.  Is the Aquaclear filtration setup more effective than the bio wheel setup, or are they similar? Also, which is the most quiet between the Penguin and the Aquaclear? Thanks a lot. Jason McCorry < The limiting factor to biological filtration is oxygen. That is why the Bio-wheels are out of the water. They are probably the most efficient media for bacteria to grow on.-Chuck>

Filter Choices, FW power   2/12/07 Hey Chuck, just a follow up.  After reading your email regarding the Penguin filter I went and returned it.  Still, the Emperor is way out of my price range (strictly because it's only an add-on filter for an already powerful canister).  So I went and bought the Hagen Aquaclear 110 (pumps 500gph), do you think this is a better choice than the Penguin? < It does not have a Bio-Wheel so I think you will be missing out on some of the biological filtration it would have provided. The Hagen is fine. Lots of water movement with very good mechanical filtration.> I've read a lot of reviews on this filter, but what's your opinion on it?  Where does it stand in ranking amongst the Emporer etc.? Thanks Chuck < I am still a big fan of the Marineland filters with the Bio-wheel attachments. I have had them run for many many years without any problems. The Hagen filters are good I just do not have any recent hands on experience with them.-Chuck>

Substrate Is In The Eye Of The Beholder   1/28/07 Thanks for getting back Chuck.  I went and took a look at the "African Cichlid Mix" by CaribSea and man was it the ugliest substrate I've ever seen.  Not even the color was pleasant.  Now am a little leery about African substrates in general.  I haven't had a chance to look at the "Authentic" type.  In your opinion, is this much nicer looking than the "African Cichlid Mix", or are they very similar? <You should be able to access their products on their website caribsea.com. They offer at least six different substrates that are very different from one another. If you don't find anything you like then find a source locally and use what you want. If it is the buffering capacity you are concerned with then add a bag of crushed coral to the filter. As the water runs through it it will increase the hardness and raise the pH.> I am going to wait to hear back from you because I have to order it online without seeing it in person, no local stores have it!  I can get a 50lb. bag from "That Fish Place" in Lancaster for $22.99.  So keeping in mind I really don't care for the African Cichlid Mix, what's the probability I will like the Authentic?  Thanks again Chuck <The most important thing is that you get something you will be happy with. You are the one going to look at the tank all the time and you will not like being an aquarist if you are not happy with the look of the tank. Never take anyone's recommendation on how something will look because everyone has different taste. Substrates may look different in the tank and may look different when wet too. I already recommended the Rift Lake Authentic. Do a google search and maybe you can find a recommendation. I know at Cichlidforum.com they have photo contests with cichlid tanks. Find a tank that you like and see if you like the substrates.-Chuck>

Malawi Cichlid beh., sys. Questions   1/23/07 Thanks again Chuck.  Do you think it would help prevent color loss in male African cichlids if I increased the amount of fish and/or overstocked my tank? <Almost all the cichlids on Lake Malawi are mouthbrooders. This usually means that the males will be brightly colored and need to establish a territory to breed. Dominant males look their best guarding their territories. As some fish grow and get stronger, others will get older and weaker and lose their territories. If you jam the tank with fish the males will always have some color, but they will never look as good as when they are breeding.>  I chose not to go the male/female route and as you told me before it all depends on water quality, dominance, food type/variety etc.  I notice that the pics and videos I look at over the internet of Malawi tanks (super-male) that are more heavily stocked, don't have loss of coloring.  Will their colors come back/improve if there are more fish in the tank to take the focus off of just a few fish? <The pictures on the internet are usually of dominant or breeding  males defending a territory. Their may be other fish in the tank but he is the most dominant one in the tank.> One more thing, what do the colors consist of with this CaribSea "Rift Lake Authentic" substrate? < Kind of a medium grey-brown color.> Thanks again for your help Chuck, I really don't know what I would've done without your knowledge/input.  Sometimes books just aren't as good as the feedback from someone with personal experience. Jason    < If you are really into Malawi Cichlids then you may want to check out the American Cichlid Association at cichlid.org. Their national convention will be in Sacramento Cal in mid July. Check it out and thank you for your kind words.-Chuck> Substrate Recommendations For A Malawi Cichlid Tank    1/21/07 Hello, I was wondering about African cichlid substrate.  Which do you recommend to bring out the colors of Africans?  I was looking at African Cichlid Mix" by CaribSea and also the "Authentic" type.  I was using white crushed coral and it seemed like it made the colors of my fish drab and dull, so I plan to switch to something a little darker.  I'd prefer a gray/charcoal color over brown with a little white mixed in maybe.  Which substrate by CaribSea looks most presentable/attractive and brings out/intensifies the colors in my fish? <CaribSea makes a Rift Lake Authentic that I like. Neutral colors in the substrate will not interfere with the natural colors of your cichlids. The crushed coral seems to be ok for Tanganyikan cichlids but tends to overpower the intense coloration of the Malawi mbuna.-Chuck> Thanks, Jason

Keeping Assorted Cichlid Species in a Small Tank  1/8/07 Hi, My name is Dylan <Hi Dylan, Pufferpunk here> I have 2 questions 1: Can I keep 2 Malawi blue dolphins, 4 electric yellow cichlids and 2 yellow regal cichlids in a 120 litre aquarium with 3 clown loaches and 1 bristle nose catfish? <Whoa!  120L equals a little under 32 gallons.  Have you done any research on the adult sizes of these fish?  The Malawi blue dolphin, can grow to impressive size in aquaria with males reaching over 11 inches and females smaller at 8 inches or so.  Large tanks of 75 gallons or more would be a good idea if you plan to house several adults.  Minimum recommended tank size for the electric yellow 5 inch adult is 50g.  The 6 inch Yellow Peacock Cichlid does well in an aquarium that is at least 50 gallons with plenty of rocks for territories and a sandy bottom.   Clown loaches can attain 1 foot (sorry, I'm from the US, you'll have to do the conversions yourself).  Fish like cichlids, are extremely aggressive & need room to escape each other.> 2: Can I keep a black ghost knife in a aquarium with the above fish? <Absolutely not.  You'd need a tank 3x the size you have now to keep this 18 inch fish.  They are difficult to feed, as they only accept live worms as food.  I think you need to do much more research on the species you are interested in & find smaller fish for your tank.  Be sure to also research the importance of cycling a tank, before adding fish (just in case you are new at this hobby).  Fishless cycling is recommended.  Please, the next time you write us, be sure to use the proper capitalizations in your letter.  I corrected this one, so we can send it to our FAQs.  ~PP>

New 125 set up    1/5/07 Hello Gentleman, <And some gentle women...> Thank you all for the service you provide. I've learned a great deal about freshwater and specifically African Cichlids but still have a long way to go. A copy of Barron's Malawi cichlids by Barron's was ordered today. I have successfully kept a marine aquaria for over 20 years however new family has placed demands on time that do not permit constant monitoring and maintenance of salt tank. Sooo.... Setting up 150 gallon African (Malawi predominately) tank. I bought two new Aquaclear 110 filters and an Professionel 2 Eheim 2028. Filled it with around 1" of "live Cichlid sand?" <Do monitor your flow rate every time you glance at the tank... to assure this isn't getting too clogged here> and piles of rock. Lighting will be 4 foot fluorescent tubes that I saved once they aged beyond the recommended spectrum output however still power up. <Ahh, a good save, use> What is the minimum number, yea different huh? Fewest I can keep in a 150 with this filtration and proper maintenance without "encouraging" aggression. I was thinking this combination: 16 fish 1-3 inches at introduction. 8 different species one male and female of each. Hope that at least one pair will hook up. Labidochromis caerulens  1.5-2.5"  $6 Labidochromis Mbama  2-2.5" $8 Aulonocara jacobfreibergi  Undu Reef 1.5-2"  $8F $12M Aulonocara jacobfreibergi Carolinae swallowtail 2-2.5"  $5F $8M Aulonocara stuartgranti Codue McClear or Nagara 1-1.5"  $8F $12M Aulonocara? German Red Male 3.5" $30M $12F Metriacima estherae Red Zebra 2-2.5" $6F $12M Cynotilapia Afra Jako Reef 3-3.5" wild $20M 18F <Good choices... "pairs" or trios of these would/could all go here> Here are some questions that I have: If these species will coexist could you recommend an introduction schedule based on temperament/ Will I be having trouble with aggression because I am not crowding them? <I would place them in the order presented... the Labidochromis first, the Kaiserfishche/Aulonocaras next...> Just trying to keep maintenance time down. Will the Spirulina flake and dry seaweed foods I fed the marine tangs provide adequate nutrition for cichlids? <Mmm... I would add at least another staple dry food that would provide a bit more bulk/nutrition... I use (and plug unashamedly) Pablo Tepoot's "Spectrum" fish foods... of appropriate pellet size... almost exclusively for my African Cichlid tanks> Can you recommend a skimmer box that I can place the Eheim drain pipe in so I skim the surface? <Mmm... I'd take a look at Eheim's product itself for doing this. Please see their site, or search the Net re... a few etailers carry this> I tried using a leftover from my WD however too many bubbles. Yes I know I should have kept WD but I really needed to simplify the system with little ones around. Okay here's a silly one. For years I vacuumed around coral rock but always could pick out waste. Also had many crabs and scavengers to clean. The new set up has so much rock I'm not sure how I will clean in all the crevices and caves? <I encourage you to do as I do... with (weekly in my case) water changes, I pick up, re-build the various rock formations to one side to the other... bigger rock on the bottom, with an eye to preventing falling down problems... and vacuuming about, under... Helps to disrupt a good deal of territoriality as well...> I know there is an obvious answer thanks. Hope you and yours had a great holiday season. I really appreciate any assistance you can offer. Sincerely, Mike ph <Thank you for writing, sharing Mike. Bob Fenner> Metriaclima lombardoi Maylandia, NNS   12/28/06 Hi, I have 3 Metriaclima lombardoi Maylandia. don't know the sex so far. <You will. Please see here: http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=2374&genusname= Pseudotropheus&speciesname=lombardoi> what should be the salinity of the water? <Mmm, some people add "salts" made to mimic the make-up of Lake Malawi... if your water is "naturally" hard, alkaline... I would just keep up a routine of frequent partial water changes> anything specific that I should feed them? Vishal <Possibly... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/afcichfdgfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Lighting for African cichlids?   12/16/06 Hey guys!  Wanted to ask what your opinions on lighting for African cichlids?  I have a lot of lighter colored blue cichlids along with a  yellow lab and a German red peacock.  Which lighting would you recommend to  intensify their colors to the max? <Some higher K fluorescents... boosted output if cost for fixturing isn't too dear> I am not interested in spending a lot  of money so I was thinking of picking up a twin tube, what do you think?   <Okay> I  have tried a full 48" strip (4ft long 75gal), and it was way too bright.   So I am thinking of going down to a 30" or 36" to get that dim bluish/purple  look.  Which bulbs should I choose and what will enable me to  accomplish this lighting effect?   <See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marcanopies.htm Yes, though it's titled "marine"... and the linked files above> Can't find much on EXACT bulbs to use in  the forums I have read on your site.    Thanks <Oh! These come and go... and an added important note... almost all lamps are made by just three co.s on this planet... just re-labeled... And as usual for such gear questions, best to "ask an assortment" of like-minded individuals... The various BB's in our interest on the Net... for current info. on what's available, best, and where to get it. Bob Fenner> Re: Lighting for African cichlids?   12/17/06 Thanks Bob, but you didn't answer any of my questions in the email. <?>   Also, the web address only gave general information.  I'll keep looking  though, thanks for your time. <Mmm... did you follow the links as requested? Am very surprised you did not find "enough" re fluorescent lighting... Let's try another starting point:
and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/afcichsysfaqs.htm and a go with the search tool: http://www.google.com/
 Bob Fenner>

Crushed Coral Substrate And African Cichlids   12/3/06 Hey Chuck, quick question on crushed coral.  I used 40 lbs of Florida  crushed coral in my 75 g African tank.  The pH was around 7.3 and now it's  already up to around 8.3.  Within a matter of a week this happened.   How much more will it raise?  Don't know if it will raise so much to the point that it will be intolerable to my cichlids.  Will it go above  9? Thanks < Since pH readings are logarithmic. It would have to increase another 10 times to be raised one additional point. This is not likely. Over time the coral will be covered with bacteria and the pH will not raise as fast or be as active. Sudden changes in pH are not desiraable. At 8.3 your pH is well within range for African cichlids.-Chuck.>

Re: What can I do to enable the color to come back on my African  cichlids?   11/27/06 Ok, thanks Bob but I am doing everything you recommended.  The only  thing left is that I have smaller cichlids mixed with a few large cichlids,  could that be the problem? <Mmm, no... not generally> Also, am I better off with dark colored substrate? <Yes, by and large> I see in the forums that crushed coral is recommended for  cichlids and obviously I purchased the Florida (white).  Which is better to  show off the true colors of the fish, dark or light? <Something in-between... "natural gravel", that will get you both a boost in alkaline reserve, and less-bleaching light effect>   Some FAQ's say white  some say dark. Thanks <A "toss up" twixt chemical/physical improvement in water quality (and its beneficial effects) and less reflectivity, washing out effect on the appearance... Bob Fenner>

Salt For A Rift Lake Tank  11/20/06 Hey Chuck.  I was reading the forums and noticed that you recommend to  use 1 tablespoon of rock salt per five gallons of water for external  protozoa.   Will Rift Lake Salt have the same effect on external protozoa as  rock salt will? Thanks again for your speedy responses < I usually recommend just salt because rock salt is cheaper and does not affect the pH. Rift Lake salts usually have buffers to increase alkalinity and pH. I don't need these in my water that comes hard and alkaline out of the tap. I would still use rock salt for treating diseases and leave the others for maintaining water chemistry.-Chuck> Filter Recommendations For A Rift Lake Tank  11/20/06 Oh, I forgot to ask you another question lol.  I am buying a hang on  whisper filter for my 75gal African tank.  I am planning to overstock this  tank so I want to have a little extra filtering.  I currently have a  wet/dry with bio balls.  I was wondering if I should get a hang on  filter with a bio wheel or is it ok to get one without?  Since I have  plenty of good bacteria in the bio balls, wasn't sure if it was necessary to  have an additional source of good bacteria.  I found a whisper that is for  30-60 gallons and pumps 330gph but no bio wheel.  I found it real cheap at  Wal-Mart and wanted to purchase it.   How do you feel about this?  Is  there anything you would change about the filter, or should I buy it? THANKS!!! <If you already have an established wet/dry system then the Bio-wheel is not needed. The addition of an extra power filter is a good idea, especially is you service it often. Thanks for the kind words.-Chuck>

African Cichlid Tank Size, feeding Dempseys  11/12/06 I currently have 3 butterfly male peacocks in a 20 gallon long. Two cichlid "experts" told me this will work fine with no other fish in the tank. <Mmm...> It's been 2 months and so far they are doing fine. I will soon be acquiring 2 yellow labs from a friend and want to add them with the peacocks. I have a 30 gallon tank I could set up for all of them. Will this work okay for them or do I need a bigger tank yet? <Bigger would be better, but the thirty might work> Also, I have 2 Electric Blue Jack Dempseys (approximately 2 inches long) in a 60 gallon tank. They will not eat anything but blood worms. They refuse flakes and pellets. I know they need more variety in their diet, so how can I get them to eat something else? Thanks for your help, Kelly Jones <Try Spectrum pelleted food... Highly palatable, and mix some of this in with the bloodworms in increasing concentration... Bob Fenner>

Dead Live Rock To Buffer African Cichlid Tanks 11/01/06 Hey guys, I was talkin to someone earlier but deleted the email and have it no longer.  I wanted to know if I could use dead live rock as a hardness/pH buffer for an African cichlid tank? < I would not be worried about the pH or hardness generated by the rock. My main concern would be the leftover bodies of the animals and plants that use to make it live. Place the rock in a bucket. Check the water for hardness , pH and ammonia. Soak the rock for a week and check the water again. If you have any ammonia levels then I would not use the rock.> I used to have a marine tank and I put all of my dead live rock outside in my landscape beds for decoration.  Is it possible to take my bio balls out of my wet/dry and put the dead live rock in there to accumulate beneficial bacteria similar to how the bio balls do)?  Thanks < The Bio-balls would do the same thing as the rock. You need the most surface area you can get for the bacteria to grow on. I would stick with the bio balls.-Chuck.>

Goldfish Stones for African Cichlid Tank  - 10/25/06 Hey guys/gals, I wanted to know if I could use the pond stone (safe for koi and goldfish) in my African Cichlid tank?  Says nothing in the forums about pond stone specifically.  If this is safe for goldfish and koi then is it safe for Africans as well?  I'm not sure of the kind of stone it is, all I know is that it hasn't raised any of the levels in my pond. Thank you < If they are pretty inert and don't have any sharp edges then they should be fine. Leave any algae on the stones for the cichlids to eat-Chuck.>

African Cichlid Stones - 10/22/06 Hey crew, I have read the forums regarding outside stones for home  aquariums and didn't find my answer.  I have a pond outback and bought two  truck loads of pond stone (stone that's safe for fish and pond water).  Will  this be safe for my African cichlids?  I just want to put a few in. <I really don't see a problem here because it is already pond grade.  However make sure very clean - you may even want to boil first.  Jen S.> Thanks

Jewel NOT Of The Nile - 10/22/2006 Hi, and thank you for an informative web site! I have a 55 gal tank with 2 Jewels, 4 African Blues, 2 Livingstonii, 2 lion Plecostomus and a pair of yellow cichlids (can't remember the name). Also have 2 Australian Yabbie lobsters. Lots of plants, BioWheel filter. Have had all the above for several months, do regular water changes, etc. Well water, high Ph, hence the cichlids. Lately one of the Jewels is looking bad. It appears bloated and color has become very dark. It spends a lot of time just lying (upright) on or near the bottom is sluggish but moves away if disturbed. Any clues? I have looked, and my husband has looked, for answers on the web, no luck so far. Thanks!! Patti <A clue? Sure, but it's only a clue. Although Jewels are African they hail from the western river systems, not the Rift Lakes. They prefer water conditions more suited towards South American Cichlids. Incorrect water conditions can lead to a host of such problems by lowering the efficiency of the immune system. Don>

African Cichlid Tank ( Lake Malawi )   10/1/06 I am currently in the early stages of an African Cichlid tank and still find myself doing plenty of research as to compatibility. <Good> I currently have 1 Yellow Lab and 1 Melanochromis auratus.  In my readings I have learned that because of their aggressive nature I should populate my tank so that it is somewhat crowded, thus keeping the aggression in check. <Yes, either this or purposely sparsely populated... in either case with plenty of "habitat"... broken rock openings/stacking, tunnels...> My confusion is in the fish I keep.  I have read several places not to keep fish that look alike as they will become aggressive and territorial towards each other... this makes sense to me.  However I have also read of aquarists that have several Yellow Labs in their tanks and when I visit my LFS I see tanks with fish of the same species all the time, no visible aggression. <Is done for the purpose of display, easy retrieval... can be done in captivity, but with age, size... reproductive behavior ensuing... Troubles> I know that of the Lake Malawi cichlids the Yellow Labs are more docile than most but I was hoping for a little direction so that I can populate my tank with a successful outcome. Thank you Bill <Mmm, I suggest you borrow or buy Paul Loiselle's excellent Tetra Press books on African Cichlids here... too much to state on the Net/here re this issue... But please read here also: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/afcichselfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

A Refugium In A FW Cichlid Tank 9/25/06 Hi, I've had success and enjoy my reef system, and also have a tropical setup too.  I now want to setup a cichlid tank (African).  If I've learned one thing from your site and the many q&a, is read/research and keep doing that until one is certain they know what they're doing.  Here's what I'm considering -  I have a 90 gallon that has recently been shut down/cleaned. It has about a 40 gallon refugium.  Can I make use of the refugium in a Cichlid setup? < Not really needed but won't do any harm either.> I've been through a number of articles and question/answers and either didn't find anything around making effective use of a refugium in a Cichlid setup or maybe there isn't much written on this topic.  The guy at my LFS suggested I could fill the refugium with Lava rock and along with using filter wool I would have an effective filter. I'm suspicious that this wouldn't work well and wanted your opinion.  Thanks for any information you can provide, and keep up the excellent work you do for everyone in the hobby.  Shawn. <It all depends on what you want out of your refugium. If you are looking to convert ammonia/nitrites to nitrates then a Bio-Wheel from Marineland will take care of all that with an outside power filter. If you are looking to reduce the nitrates then you could always grow plants in the refugium to reduce the nitrates. Malawi cichlids prefer hard alkaline water. You could grow plants in there but they would not grown quickly enough to really do any serious nitrate reduction. You could always use it as a filter as your fish store suggested but servicing it sounds like a real pain. If you let it fill up with gunk then you would have a serious nitrate problem between water changes. A filter collects the waste but does not remove it from the system. You need to do that by cleaning the filter often, no matter how large it is.-Chuck> Cichlid Tank Set Up    8/13/06 What sized fish tank would I need to have either 2 or 4 Lake Malawi cichlids or 2 or 4 fire mouth cichlids, and a pleco in the tank? < Four firemouth cichlids could go into a 29 gallon tank until they decide to spawn. If you get a pair then they will set up a territory on one end of the tank and chase all the other fish away. The other two won't be safe and could be killed. Depending on the species you could keep four Malawi cichlids in a 30 gallon. They are mouth brooders and one male per tank. He will kill other males and may be tough on the females too if they are not ready to spawn. Yellow labidochromis, and Ps saulosi are a good choices for a smaller tank.-Chuck.>

Cichlid Aquarium Size   8/19/06 Well I wouldn't want to waist <<Ho-boy...>>  my money if the fish were just going to get killed. What sized fish tank will keep 2 fire mouths or 2 Lake Malawi cichlids? Would the pleco be fine if they decided to spawn? < A pair of firemouths would do OK in a 20 gallon tank. Anything else in the tank would be beaten up or killed including a pleco. In a 40 gallon there is room for the non spawning fish to get away for awhile. Eventually the firemouth fry begin to wander and will soon be all over the tank and the parents will start beating up the other fish. Malawi cichlids are mouth brooders. The male sets up a territory and only allows spawning females in. All others are chased away. A male Malawi cichlid would fight with another male or continue too chase a single female until she is dead. I would recommend that you start with some smaller more peaceful cichlids like Kribs, German rams, or curviceps. They can be kept in a  community tank with Plecos. The pleco may attempt to eat the cichlid's spawn.-Chuck>

Water Chemistry For A Malawi Cichlid Tank  - 08/12/06 Quick question. I've tried to find this answer on your website. After looking for two hours I thought I would send my question. I have a 75 gallon tank with 12 African cichlids, Malawi. I have read that the pH should be in the 8.2 range. My tap water in St. Louis is around 7.2. I currently add Cichlid Lake Salt and Malawi Victoria Buffer (both made by Seachem) to my water when making water changes. I've tried (proper pH 8.2) but must be doing something wrong. One month ago I lost my whole tank being stupid and not testing my water before adding it in a change. That won't happen again. I change 30 gallons every two -three weeks. Can you suggest a product or maybe an idea of how to get the pH right a little easier? Today I put my 30 gallons in the container and added the salt according to directions and added proper pH 8.2 according to directions and tested the water. The color on the test card was not even close to any color that was shown. I dumped that load and tried again. I ended up adding the salt and Malawi Victoria Buffer, I followed those directions and went slowly checking water after each addition. I had to do this 5 times. Please help with an easier way for me to get the water right. I have this tank and a 150 gallon one, that one does not have Cichlids. I am 6 months new to the hobby. Thanks, Rex < St. Louis gets much of their water from the Mississippi River. This water can be low in minerals so it makes it very soft and unsuitable for most rift lake cichlids. Get a box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, it is nothing more than sodium bicarbonate. In a separate container, fill it with water and calculate the volume. Add a measured amount of baking soda and measure the pH in 24 hours. Repeat until you have the desired pH. Make enough for your next water change. When doing your next water change you should vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Add the treated water very slowly. You may want to do weekly 15 gallon water changes to make the adjustment even more gradual. Never adjust the pH in an actual existing aquarium! You can add crushed coral, oyster shells or limestone to the filter to also increase the pH. When the water gets acidic it will dissolve the shells which are made up of calcium carbonate. This is why we recommend removing shells from community aquariums.-Chuck> Re: Malawi Cichlid Set Up  - 08/12/06 Thanks for answering so quick. I have sand instead of gravel as a substrate. < Sand is fine.> I vacuum every time I make a water change. I also clean the filters every time, On those I rotate changing media. I have two Penguin 350's and a Fluval 405 canister. I know this is a lot but I've always heard and read that you can't have to much filter. On those water changes I have a Rubbermaid trash can that I fill for water changes. I use a pond pump to siphon the water into the tank. I'm checking the pH in the trash can before I add it to the tank. By the way this can is used solely for the fish. I'm sorry for not telling you all this in my first question. I'm I doing everything right? < I would let the water sit for 24 hours before using it. Some water has dissolved CO2 in it that makes the water read more acidic then it actually is. When the CO2 gas is gone then you get a true pH reading.> I have looked at countless websites and you guys are head and shoulders above everyone that I have seen. Thanks Again, Rex < For more info on keeping cichlids I would like to recommend an excellent book. "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings is the best out there. You will find lots os great info on keeping all kinds of cichlids. It is available from Cichlid Press.-Chuck> FW Wet-Dry, Af. Cichlid Sys....   7/8/06 Hi <<Hello, Rene. Tom>> I'm getting a 125 gal. tank with a wet dry filter system. <<New or "pre-owned", Rene? Information sheets contained with a new system will have the manufacturer's recommendations for cleaning/maintenance of their particular filter.>> Currently I have African cichlids. My question is what is the best maintenance? How often do I have to clean it? <<I state the obvious here but the "best" maintenance is that which keeps the mechanical filtration media clean and free of built up solids along with maintaining a healthy supply of beneficial bacteria in the bio-media. Some wet-dry filters come with built-in protein skimmers, which will fairly ineffective for a FW system. As far as how often to clean it goes, this will be largely experimental on your part but I would recommend cleaning the "pre-filter" media on a monthly basis to start. Wash this out in used aquarium water (optimal) or in tap water that you've prepared with a dechlorinator (less optimal). The frequency will, of course, depend on the load your fish place on the filter based on number of fish, sizes, feeding habits, etc.>> Do I remove all of the filter media and replace it? <<No. The pre-filter will ultimately need to be replaced as this will probably break down over time but the bio-media need never be replaced short of a calamity in the tank. Depending on the type of filter you're getting, this bio-media may be plastic, ceramic or some other sort of material and will house your beneficial bacteria. Replacing it would throw your tank into a "tailspin" toxin-wise, which is why you should rinse it - again, in used tank water - and put it right back into service. Provided you keep your pre-filter in good order, cleaning the bio-media of built-up solids shouldn't have to be done very often. As I've mentioned, hopefully you'll have access to the manufacturer's recommendations. Eheim, for example, makes a wet-dry filter system wherein the foam pre-filter should be discarded after about a couple of months. The mechanical and biological filtration is left to the other media contained in the canister after this time.>> Any suggestions will be much appreciated. Rene <<Hope I've given you enough to go on, Rene. Enjoy your new set-up! Tom>>

FW tank foam on surface  - 06/22/2006 Hi, <<Hello, Kate. Tom>> I have a 38-gallon aquarium that is currently housing three juvenile M. callainos.   <<You'll probably want to look into bigger quarters for these down the road, Kate. Not so much because of their adult sizes but due to potential "territorial" disputes.>> A couple of days ago, I noticed some white foam collecting on the surface of the water at the corners of the tank.  I skimmed off the foam, but it has reappeared?   <<Can/does happen until we get it "cleaned up".>> What is causing this, and how can I correct it?  My water parameters and maintenance schedule are listed below: -NH3 0 ppm -NO2 0 ppm -NO3 0 - 5 ppm -Temp approx. 79 F -25 - 30% water change and gravel vacuum weekly -Feed once a day, as much as they can eat in about a minute <<Foamy, cloudy or "soapy"-feeling water is the result of particulate and/or dissolved organics (carbons) in the aquarium. The particulate variety derives from fish waste/food, typically. The dissolved types are the end product of bacteria feeding on the particulate organics. (Bacterial and algal "blooms" are common conditions found when the problem is significant.) Enough of the science stuff. The first thing to look at is your mechanical filtration, i.e. foam pad, activated carbon media (if used). The foam pad is the first line for catching particulate matter and, in your case, should be cleaned every few days for now. Activated carbon will capture the dissolved organics though its utility will be, pretty much, gone in three to four weeks. (Don't bother washing the carbon media. Won't do a bit of good and the carbon cannot be re-activated so toss it and put in a new bag or cartridge. Sidenote: No, the "collected" organics cannot be washed back into your tank from the carbon media despite what some otherwise reliable sources would suggest. I only add this because it's a myth that floats around in the hobby (pun somewhat intended) that needs to be dispelled. The pH levels in your tank would have to be either so low or, so high, for the chemical reaction needed to take place to release the "bad stuff" from the carbon that your fish would have a very serious case of "dead" before this occurred.) I would also recommend that you look into the size of your filter, particularly the amount of water changes per hour that it's capable of. Ideally, your filter should process 8-12 times the size of your tank per hour. Roughing up the math a little, between 320 and 480 gallons per hour would be great for you, higher being better.>> Thanks for your help! <<Hope I have, Kate. Good luck with it. Tom>>

Re: foam on surface  6/29/06 Hi again, Tom. <<Hello again to you, Kate.>> Thanks for the quick reply.  I followed your advice: replaced the filter cartridges (it was getting to be about that time anyway), and   I rinse them in a bucket of tank water (dechlorinated) every few days. The filter is an Emperor 400, by the way, with the foam/carbon   cartridges and some floss (changed every couple of weeks) in the extra media baskets.   <<Change the floss every week, Kate. This adds some "polishing" to the water.>> The bubbles disappeared for a couple of days, but now they're back! <<Drat those bubbles! :) See above...>> What do you recommend? Extra water changes? <<Once a week is sufficient. More than that falls into the "too much of a good thing" category. Deeply vacuuming the gravel - all the way to the bottom - will help. Oh, you'd be surprised what lies beneath! (Find those little pockets that you don't generally get to. Amazing the amount of "yuck" you'll pull out of there!)>> Reduced feeding?   <<Shouldn't be necessary. It sounds to me like you feed your pets quite properly.>> A bottom feeder (although my swimming piggies rarely let any food hit the bottom of the tank, lol)? <<Nah...unless you want one. I've got Corys and Brochis (look pretty much the same; different genus) and I still have to do some serious deep vacuuming to get the "crud" out of the tank...weekly. (Our Saltwater counterparts have options but ours are a bit more limited.)>> Thanks again! <<Any time, Kate. Tom>>

Surface Scum Comes Back After Tank Cleaning  6/29/06 Hi again, Tom. Thanks for the quick reply.  I followed your advice: replaced the filter cartridges (it was getting to be about that time anyway), and I rinse them in a bucket of tank water (dechlorinated) every few days.  The filter is an Emperor 400, by the way, with the foam/carbon cartridges and some floss (changed every couple of weeks) in the extra media baskets.  The bubbles disappeared for a couple of days,   but now they're back!  What do you recommend?  Extra water changes?  Reduced feeding?  A bottom feeder (although my swimming piggies   rarely let any food hit the bottom of the tank, lol)? Thanks again! < These fish require hard alkaline water. Foods that are high in fats and protein tend not to dissolve in this water and tend to float on the surface. An active filter will agitate the water and these fats and proteins will cling to the surface of these bubbles. This then acts like a little protein skimmer with these undigested fats, oils. proteins accumulating in the corner of the tank. Try feeding an all vegetable diet with spiraling flakes/pellets and see if things improve over a few water changes.-Chuck>

Setting Up a Flow Through System For Rift Lake Cichlids   6/12/06 Hi there Crew, As my ongoing project takes shape I am seriously thinking of putting and a flo-thru once system as described on your site. I haven't been able to find much detail on these so I thought I'd email you to try to get some specifics. My system has a nominal volume of 5400 lts. I have been designing it so far with a central system in mind. However the costs of heating and pumping seem to be looking very expensive with our recent fuel price hikes. I am fortunate that the water comes from the taps at a level ideal for Malawi and Tanganyikan fish that I sell so only a little modification is needed. With a flow thru once system I could have the water plumbed to my Fish house, and as you say, let the state pay for the pumping costs. Then I only have to worry about the heating costs which can be done quite easily with inline pool heaters. I would also need a purification system to remove the chlorine and other such contaminants en route to the tanks. And I think I would still want plenty of aeration in the tanks themselves. Would the flow rate of a city supply be sufficient to push the solid wastes out of the tanks? < Too many unknown factors but you can determine it yourself. The fish need aeration so you need air in every tank. Fill up the tank with fish and start checking the ammonia levels daily. If you have any measurable ammonia then you need to increase the flow rate or keep less fish until there is no measurable ammonia. If you don't have enough water then this might not work.> My thinking is that this system with the right water purification would be so much better for the fish and for growing on the fry. Can you let me know what else I would need to bear in mind when looking into setting up this kind of system? < I have seen some systems set up for 5% to 10% per day water changes. Discus keepers change 50% per day. Let the fish be your guide to how much water and how often to change.-Chuck> Thanks Rob African Tank Suggestions   6/3/06 Crew, Thanks for the advice with this tank and others!  Some questions about the same tank (still planning the setup). It will still be a 29G tank with PC lighting.  However, now I'm thinking about using an Eheim Pro for the filter.  It's rated for about 132GPH, so would this be a good filter to run for this tank? <I find canister filters a real pain to service and prefer hang on the back filters when I can make them fit. Eheim is a fine company that has been around for many years.> Livestock now would be a pair of the p. pulcher, a Pantodon buchholzi, and...?  What would be a good third option, more of a middle (preferably) African fish that's a little more active than the other types, but not too big or rowdy? <  Look at the yellow Congo tetra,  Hemigrammopetersius  caudalis. A smaller and less aggressive tetra. This is becoming more available but may be seasonal in your area.> I'd rather not go with some type of Synodontis, since they're a little aggressive, I'm really looking for more of a smallish tetra type fish.  Any suggestions? < African river fish are actually quite rare and difficult to find. Try looking at aquabid.com to find them if they are not available at a local store.> Also, I've decided to go more African with the plants.  I understand Water Sprite is African, at least some species, and I'd still like to go with some of this floating at least.  A few species of Anubias might be ok, maybe nana or coffefolia or something else.  Do these sound good with about an inch or a little less of Eco-Complete, topped with an inch or two of fluorite? < Anubias does not require a substrate at all. Tie the roots to rocks or driftwood.> For the Eheim, I'm thinking sponges/prefilter, ceramic rings, and peat fiber. Would you go with peat for this setup in the filter, or just leave it out for activated carbon or nothing? < The fish you have listed do better with softer water but it is not required unless you want to breed them. Peat will turn the water yellow and may reduce available light to the plants.> Thanks for all the help with everything, just trying to get this tank started off right.  I've had ich in other fresh tanks in the past, so I'll be quarantining all the fish and plants before they go in here.  Thanks again! Alex < Thanks for asking.-Chuck> African Cichlids In a 50 Gallon Tank  - 05/29/06 The only problem is everything costs so much! I was thinking since all my cichlids died (pretty much all) I could get these lip stick cichlid fish, they are so pretty and cool looking, then I thought where am I supposed to get that money? Ugh paying for things sucks. But I will get that 50 gal! Do I have any more questions/problems? Would a 50 gallon hold 6 African cichlids comfortably? It doesn't seem like it < A properly set up 50 gallon tank will hold at least a dozen Lake Malawi cichlids.-Chuck> Plumbing For A Rift Lake Cichlid System  5/29/06 Hi again Crew, Your help so far has been invaluable to me. I have totally re-designed my fish house with your help so far (on site info too) Anyway it looks like with my new design I will have a water volume of 6273 ltrs in my fish house. I will be stacking the tanks 3 rows high. With the inlet of fresh water only entering the top tanks. The top tank will drain into the next tank down, and that one into the bottom tank which will then drain to the sump. My question is regarding the flow rate. The top tanks will require the piping to me at a 2m head. As I intend on keeping and breeding only wild Malawi's and maybe tangs I need the flow rate to be about 5 times the volume per hour. In a system this size that means 30000 ltrs per hour. My thoughts are that this will be a massive rush of water through the tanks. Would I therefore be right in my thinking that due to my design I will only need the 5 times flow rate for the top tanks, as they will flow into the lower ones at the same rate anyway. The 30000 ltrs per hour surely only counts if I am running inlets to all the tanks. My filtered water will run into the top tanks which will flow down to the other tanks before going to the sump filtration. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks Rob < If the top tank was 100 ltrs and the flow rate was 500 ltrs per hour then you would have a 5X flow rate. But since the top 100 lt tank flows into the second 100 lt tank and once again into a third 100 lt tank then the flow rate is actually 1.67. This would be the same as taking a 300 liter tank and dividing it up into thirds with a filter than runs 500 ltrs per hour. The flow rate is still 1.67X per hour. This might be OK for breeding pairs of Tanganyikan substrate spawning cichlids where the tank density is relatively low, by harem spawners in crowded tanks really need the good filtration.-Chuck>

Lake Malawi Cichlid Mayhem   5/25/06 I'll lay out my question and then give some background details.    I have read your site extensively and am following the advice "it's  hard to give too much information".   Here's my question:  Why would a pair of Pseudotropheus yellowfins  suddenly both turn up with nasty wounds on their backs and mouths and  die in the same night when they had (seemingly) gotten along well with  all tankmates for months? I am a 6-month aquarist novice.  I have a 65 gallon cichlid tank  with a male and female (carrying fry) Pseudotropheus Kenyi, male and  female pseudo. albino red zebras, male Melanochromis johanni, male  melano. auratus, female yellow Labidochromis (just got done carrying  fry), a Pleco and a Synodontis multipunctatus.  The male yellow  lab got beat up and is in our 12 gallon hospital tank now.  There  are four pseudo. yellowfin fry growing up (they're about 1/2" long now)  in the adult tank.  Their parents are the source of my  question.     We used to have one male and two female pseudo. yellowfins (they're a  dark purple-gray color with bright yellow top and tail fins). < Sounds like Ps. aurora.> Six  weeks ago one female yellowfin disappeared and we never any sign of her  again.  Weeks of peace and harmony went by.  The remaining  pair of yellowfins did well, and their fry are scattered in safe  crevices of the main tank.  We resigned yourself to the notion that  when I had the tank lid open for several hours to catch the male yellow  lab on the sly and put him in the hospital tank, the female yellowfin  must have jumped out and gotten eaten by our dog or something (we were  at a loss for any other explanation of the instant and total  disappearance of a 2.5" long fish). < Could have easily died and been eaten by the Pleco.> Thinking all was now well, we  decided to buy the last fish we wanted:  a female johanni and  another female Kenyi.  My husband did the shopping ten days ago  and came home with a female Kenyi and a "female johanni".  The  moment I saw the "female johanni" my husband bought, I knew it was  actually a male Melanochromis of some other sort -- turns out it's an  auratus (good grief, if the cichlid expert is out for the day, don't  take the word of just anybody at the pet store!!). <Big difference between a yellow female johanni and a black and yellow auratus.> He's doing  great as the smallest non-fry fish in the tank, but the female Kenyi  died the night she got home from the pet store.  She had no  visible wounds upon her death.  Seven days went by without  incident, but two days ago I came home to find both our adult  yellowfins, one female and one male, with nasty wounds around their  mouths and what looked like one huge, circular wound right on top of  their back.  Both fish had the same kind of wound on the back  which spanned approximately 1/3 the length of their bodies and was  semicircular upon side view.  They both died that night.   When I (heartbroken) took their bodies to the "cichlid expert" at our  pet store, his opinion was that the male auratus, only a resident for  one week, was the primary suspect for such aggression.  The other  fish experts at the store offered two contradictory opinions:  one  said that since the male yellowfin normally shares a large synthetic  log with the Synodontis, perhaps the female yellowfin tried to move in  to spawn and the Synodontis aggressively kicked them both out.   The third theory was that we have some sort of bacterial infection  (this was espoused in part by the fact that the other fish hadn't been  as aggressive to feed that morning and the night before).  Ammonia  and nitrites are 0 and pH is 7.8.  (We'll be adding crushed coral  to the gravel during our next cleaning to help keep the pH a little  higher). Temp is 78 degrees F.  We bought the medication the store  recommended (PimaFix) but did not administer it yet because that  evening the fish ate voraciously again and we saw no other afflicted  fish.  The only other thing out of the ordinary now is one very  cloudy eye on the female albino zebra.  The male albino has been  excavating gravel, so perhaps she received a mating injury, but that's  just a guess.  Can you help me understand what might have so  suddenly killed my pair of parent yellowfins?  I'll admit I get  very emotional about our fish and this incident has made me question  whether I will be able to remain a cichlid keeper for long.  If  there's an eminent danger lurking in our tank, I want to know and  remedy it!! Sincerely, Kristy, Raleigh, NC < There are basically only a couple of things that really are a problem with Lake Malawi cichlids. One is aggression. Usually you see weaker fish being chased by more dominant fish and the tails of the loser are being slowly bitten off. These fish do have teeth and can do some damage but it is usually not overnight. It happens most often after a few days. Now a fish that is being aggressively chased can attempt to jump out of the tank and kill itself by striking the glass top and knocking itself out. This may explain the mouth damage that you observed. The second reason is internal infections. Your fish really need an all vegetarian diet. Fish that are fed too much protein have problems with internal blockages. These blockages feed the bacteria and protozoa in the gut and they start to fed on the food and not the fish. the microorganism grow and distend the belly area. The fish stops eating and usually hangs out in the corner until it dies. Other fish can eat the carcass of the dead fish and this can cause others to bloat up and die. The distressed fish is usually pretty well colored and is the prettiest , and easiest fish to catch at the store. This may explain the female Kenyi's death. The marks on the back are done by the Pleco eating the bodies of the dead fish.-Chuck>

Yellow Water in An African Cichlid Tank  - 05/20/2006 Hello, First off let me start by saying that I have spent countless hours trying to figure out what is going on in my 125 gallon African Cichlid tank. Can the nitrate cycle be 2-3 months long, when I had the Fluval 404 I don't remember it taking this long to go through its first cycle. My numbers for Nitrate and Ammonia are low and I have been putting the info into an excel spreadsheet to track them: time date co2 O2 fe Iron pH kH gH no2 Nitrate nh3/nh4 Ammonia Leaf Zone Flourish Iron CompPlant Supp Flourish Phosphorus Plant Gr

time date co2 O2 fe Iron ph kH gH no2 Nitrate   nh3/nh4 Ammonia Leaf Zone Flourish Iron Comp Plant Supp Flourish Phosphorus Plant Gro
20:00 17-Apr-06 16.70     7.37 14.00 5.00 0.00 0.00          
20:40 19-Apr-06 14.00     7.37 11.00 2.50 0.30 0.00          
19:36 22-Apr-06 ?? 2ml 0.10 7.49 11.00 3.00 0.30 0.00 7 caps 3 caps 4 caps 5 caps  
8:45 29-Apr-06 ?? 2ml 0.00 8.00 10.00 3.00 0.30 0.00 10 caps 6 caps 6 caps 8 12 caps
19:26 5-May-06                 10 6 6 8 12
19:43 12-May-06   5ml   7.81 9.50 2.00 0.30 0.00 10 6 6 8 12

I cannot seem to keep the iron content up either. I have had the tank going longer than these dates I just started the tracking, because I was wondering what may be going on and this was a way of remembering things. The tank is planted, I have a co2 injection system as well, sand substrate mixed with fertilizer sand substrate this is like 1/2" deep, with gravel on top and its about 1/2" deep. Oh almost forgot the question that led me to email you, how many of the carbon filter pads should be used at once for this filter, I put all of them that came in the 3 pack in and it didn't do anything for the yellow water cloudiness I have. I have the yellow discoloration in the tank and have read that carbon should clear it up, I have used crystal clear plus a few other products to help clear it up as well but nothing has worked. Any help would be greatly appreciated. < You have a conflict going on at many levels. The cichlids like to root around on the bottom and are probably disturbing the gravel and the fertilizer you had placed with it and may be the reason the tank is continually getting cloudy or stained yellow. The plants are probably absorbing the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, especially with a CO2 system. Your African cichlids like a high pH. As you add CO2 into the water it makes carbonic acid and actually decreases the H+ concentration thus lowering the pH. Calcium in the water binds with it to make calcium carbonate. Driftwood will yellow the water as the tannins leach into the water. The carbon filter pads should remove the yellow water. If it is an algae bloom I would cut back on the fertilizers/additives do a water change and clean the filter. Cut back on the light and se if things clear up.-Chuck>

Yellow Water II   5/21/06 I know the effects on the pH with adding CO2, and I really only have one cichlid messing with the gravel. I have a pH regulator controlling the CO2 input to the tank, and I also know that they like the High pH. I need to know how many of the carbon pads there should be in the filter at one time. Now as far as the lighting why would I turn it off? I have a planted aquarium and if I do that they will start to die????? I don't think it is an algae bloom do to the UV sterilizer I have in line with the input of the filter. I have had an algae bloom so severe that it made me buy the uv sterilizer in the first place.... and the algae bloom made the water green. < The reason for turning off the lights is this. Algae will soon die without light because it has very little reserves. Plants on the other hand do have some storage capacity and can go awhile longer than algae without light. Since you have a UV sterilizer you probably don't have an algae bloom. Replace the pads as needed to get rid of the yellow water. If the yellow is coming from an organic source then this should take care of it. I would follow the manufacturers recommendations of probably one at a time and change it often. If that does not work the try PolyFilter. It pretty much removes everything and you may have to add some buffers to replenish the minerals removed by the PolyFilter.-Chuck> Filtration for a Cichlid System   5/15/06 Greetings to the Crew from here in the UK, I have been reading through your site for some time getting info I needed for setting up my fish house. I have three separate central systems running at present. My questions are as follows and I will refer them to one of my systems for ease. I keep/breed mainly Lake Malawi, Lake  Victoria, and Lake Tanganyika cichlids. My system has approx 1300 ltrs of water in total (343 us gallons). There are a variety of size tanks which use overflows into the main sump below. Is there a formula for calculating the correct flow rate I should use? IE how many times per hour should I be turning the water over on this system. 1/2/3? <Many factors are needed including the bioload  and how crowded the fish are and how big etc.. Generally the Lake Malawi mbuna and Lake Victorian Haplochromines are kept as harems and so you have many females to a few males and the stocking density is rather high. The Lake Tanganyikan substrate spawners are often kept as pairs so the stocking rate is not so high. Ideally I like to run the Malawi/Victorian fish at 3 to 5 times the tank volumes per hour The Tangs at least 3 volumes per hour. You can check these by adding a flow meter to your system to see what you are actually getting.> Etc The pump currently is a fish mate 4000 pump that runs 3800 lph but taking into account the head and beds in the piping I think the flow rate is somewhat less.. maybe around 500gph less restrictions caused by the bends and pipe work etc. I'm not sure how to calculate the effect my plumbing will have had. < That's why you need the flow meter.> The sump is very basic. It is a 30lx 14w x18h. first section for the incoming drained water holds filter wool as the mechanical filter, followed by two baffles between which I left space if I needed to add any chemical media, the middle section holds a fluidized bed filter rated for up to 600 gallons aquaria. This has a max flow rate of 200gph so the pump on it runs at 175gph. Two more baffles and the final section houses the return pump to the tanks. Is the sump really big enough? (I am purchasing a new heater that will need to be housed soon too) < Waste collected in the sump still needs to be removed. Often aquarists have these huge sumps and the nitrates go through the roof because the waste is till in the system and stays there until it is removed by you. Just because you can store more waste doesn't make it any easier on the fish. I prefer a smaller system that is very easy to service so I can do it  more often.> Will this be sufficient in filtering my system? < It will collect the waste but you still need to remove it.  Still need water changes/ gravel vacuuming too.> The filter wool can be easily changed simply by pulling it out although I do worry about debris falling from it during this process and getting pushed into the FBF, the FBF is rated for far more volume but as the pump returns at a higher rate then the FBF filters some of the water will be returned only having been mech filtered. I am not sure if this will be a problem overall so long as the water flow is correct hence my asking about flow rates. Oh, also I saw a mention about tanks been gravel cleaned using a commercial vacuum? Can I get some info on these as I have a lot of tanks and cleaning them with a siphon tube takes forever. < Look at the Python system at DrsFosterSmith.com> I'm sorry if these subjects have been covered already but I searched for a good while before deciding to ask. < No problem. that what we are here for.-Chuck> Many thanks for your help and time Rob Stone

Making artificial rock ... for Af. cichlid sys.   5/9/06 To the Crew! <Tom> I hope that you are enjoying your day; South Florida is hot and muggy as usual.  My question, after searching the archives, is on making artificial rock for my 75g African Cichlid tank.  I came across an article about making rocks from a mixture of 6 parts Aragamite sand and 1 part cement for reef tanks.  Would this be suitable to use in the cichlid tank?  The pH is 8 and the water is moderately hard, about 12dkh.  The article explains construction, drying and 'curing' before being placed into the tank.  My concern is the effect on the water parameters.  I want to add more rock, but at $2.00 lb for coquina rock, I am looking for a less expensive way of adding rock, with the added benefit of customizing my own 'natural' rock formations.  I also do not want to damage the fragile world my babies live in.  Any thoughts on this from the "pros"?  Keep up the good work! <The only further comment I'll make is to make sure to seek out "Plastic" cement, as this material has much lower initial alkalinity, is easier to rid thereof. Please do send pix along of your project. Bob Fenner> Thomas N. (Tom) Bilello Rocks For A Malawi Cichlid Tank   5/9/06 Hi, you might remember me, I'm the one with Nemo the Red Zebra Cichlid. Well, anyway, I'm trying to give him more rocks in his tank and fewer cheesy decorations, so I was thinking about Lava Rocks. Will they be okay? < You need to look at the rocks closely. Chemically they are fine, but the very rough texture may damage the mouth as he feeds off the algae. Pick rocks that are not sharp top the touch.> I'm also planning on building a few caves for him out of them too, if they can go in his tank. They are a medium size. Will he hurt himself on them? < When stacking rocks to make caves I would recommend that the rocks themselves be placed on the bottom of the tank. When Nemo digs his pits, there will be no danger of the rocks and the cave collapsing on him.> Also, his little fins are growing back very rapidly. I'll have to take more pictures of him when they fully grow back. Well, thank you for your time, Zhara < Keep the water clean and they will be back before you know it.-Chuck> Making Caves With Lava Rocks  - 05/10/2006 Okay, can I attach them together to make the cave? I've heard that silicone sealant is okay, is it? < Silicone will not harm the fish after it is cured. It may not stick to the rock but try it and see.-Chuck> Decorations With African Cichlids  4/27/06 Okay, hate to keep bothering you, but what decorations do Red Zebras need? I'm assuming rocks, but what kind, and are plants okay? Zhara <Rocks that don't leach any minerals into the water and are fairly smooth are OK. Plastic plants will work. If you have good lighting you can try live plants like Vals, Anubias, java fern and crypts.-Chuck>

Lake Malawi Cichlid Questions   - 04/27/06 Hi, my mom bought 5 Cichlids from Lake Mbuna. <These fish are actually from Lake Malawi. Mbuna is the native term used to describe the rock dwelling cichlids.> She keeps them in a 10 gallon. < Waaaaaaaay too Small.  Should be in a 30 at least.> I know that that is NOT a good setup, and she now knows that too. < So when are you going to change it?.> She has/had one 3" (male?) Blue Cobalt, one 2" female Kenyi, one 1 1/2" (Male?) Yellow Lab, one 2 1/2" (male) Gold Mbuna, and one 2" (male? female?) Red Zebra. Bad mix, right? <The mix is OK in the proper set up. A 30 to 55 gallon tank with lots of rock work would work out just fine.> Apparently so. The Blue Cobalt and the Kenyi get along great, but the G. Mbuna has decided that even though the B. Cobalt is bigger than him, he's the boss. So, the Red Zebra and the Yellow Lab were miserable. I removed them, before they were seriously mauled, and, about 4 days ago, put them in my 30 gallon with my Peacock Eel, 7 Zebra Danios, and 2 Gold Dojo Loaches. Well, I wondered why my Loaches were hanging out on high plants so much. I got to looking 2 days ago, and found that Cody's (smaller loach) front fins were nearly gone. So I wasted no time putting the Red Zebra back in the old tank. (I know it was him because the Yellow Lab is petrified of everything moving.) Anyway, the Red Zebra was nearly dead 2 hours later when I checked on him. So I hurriedly set up a 10 gallon hospital tank with an extra heater, filter and airstone. I put him in there, and added some MelaFix and a teaspoon of salt per 2 gallons. He wasn't getting any better, and in fact, was getting a thick slime on his lower body. This morning I remembered I had some Maracyn and added that. Now he's doing WAY better. No more slime, and he's much more lively and he's eating. If he recovers, can he stay in the 10 gallon by himself? < Eventually he will get up to 4 inches long. Pretty small set up for a 4 inch fish.> He was very lively in the 30 gallon, and we became very attached to each other. I really like this little guy. (guy, girl, I don't know which...) Can he have any other tankmates, or does he need to be alone? < Lake Malawi cichlids actually do better when they are very crowded but proper filtration and water changes are required to make this work.> Oh, and about Mom's tank, it now has the Gold Mbuna, the Blue Cobalt, the Kenyi, and a Rhino Pleco, who is more aggressive than any Pleco I've ever met. (Not very aggressive, but if they nip at him, he becomes the killer mutant Pleco) Is that too much? < All these fish get to be at least 4 inches. Swap them out for fish that are smaller and less aggressive.> They seem to be okay, except for the G. Mbuna. He won't let anyone else come anywhere out of their half of the tank. Thank you so much for your help, Zhara Zorgon PS: The Red Zebra's name is Nemo. Mom named him. :) < Do a Google search on the WWM website for Lake Malawi or mbuna for more FAQ's about these fish.-Chuck>

Malawi Cichlids In A Small Tank  - 04/27/06 Okay, thank you so much for your help! As to when Mom plans on getting a bigger tank,...I think pretty soon. She wants to get a 20 or 25. < Still too small.> I keep telling her to trade the G. Mbuna back for some flakes or something, because he's the worst about it. And we thought it was a good setup at first, thanks to the "knowledgeable" salespeople at the newest LFS. (where we purchased them) So what should I do with Nemo? Buy a bigger tank? He seems happy in the tank alone, even in his sickened state. He might just be relieved to be left alone, but who knows... <He will be perfectly happy alone but a 20 would be better.> And the Yellow Lab, is he okay in the 30 with the other fish? < The yellow Labidochromis caeruleus is the least aggressive of the Mbuna you have, but he may still turn nasty toward the other fish when he gets older.> He seems very happy with them, no aggression, except once today, while he was scrutinizing the Eel, he got these dark vertical stripes on him, but when I walked across the room, his stripes went away. What's up with that? < Cichlids  can change their patterns depending on the mood they are in. A dominant fish may have dark bars to show that the eel is not wanted. They quickly lose the bars when less dominant to show that they are submissive and don't want to fight.-Chuck> Thanks again, Zhara

Filter Recommendation For A Big Cichlid Tank  - 04/19/2006 What would be the ideal system for filtering a 180 gallon "fish only" cichlid tank.  I am mostly concerned with a mechanical filter that is easy to clean.  Would "Nu-clear" cartridge filters after a wet dry be optimum.? < For my money I would look at the Marineland Tidepool Wet/Dry Filters. When used with their overflow intake system they are really very easy to maintain. They are a little pricey and you do have to buy an additional pump, but I don't think you will find a better simpler filter.-Chuck>

Maintaining Lake Malawi Cichlids  - 04/11/2006 Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions!  I'm actually a herp guy, by experience and profession, going on 10 plus years now.  I've only recently gotten into cichlids and, because I'm something of a perfectionist, I have lots of questions.  I have several more after reading your responses.  If I am breaking etiquette by sending more questions in response to your initial answers, I apologize. Regarding water quality:  I just tested the water again tonight and all levels (ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate are in the "safe"/"acceptable" ranges.  Would that mean it is more likely that the problem is bacterial or protozoan in nature? < What is safe? Not all fish have the same tolerances to waste products. There should be zero ammonia and nitrites. The nitrates should be under 25 ppm. High nitrates promote stress in fish and allow them to be attacked by parasites that could be either. Typically Malawi fish are prone to protozoan attacks.> Regarding Metronidazole: It seems that products with Metronidazole are not that common (at least, I didn't see any at a local Pet Warehouse, which usually carries a wide range of supplies).  On the internet I found something called "Fish Zole".  Is that adequate?  Will that damage the beneficial bacteria? < This is Metronidazole that only effects anaerobic bacteria, not the nitrifying bacteria.> Regarding food: I do feed a variety of high quality foods, which I rotate frequently.  I feed my fish two times per day and the food is rotated during each feeding. < Cut back to once a day and only enough food so that all of it is gone after two minutes.> One of the foods is a Spirulina flake, the others are two high-quality flake foods, the third is a product called Bio-Blend (from Marineland Labs) food for cichlids.  Then, I supplement weekly (or so) with either frozen blood worms < Bad for Lake Malawi cichlids and will lead to bloat.> or brine shrimp (I also feed my Bichir these, which I sink down in front of him during each feeding, but doubtless the cichlids get some of that every time as well).  I keep a variety of species, thus wanted to really give a variety of foods.  For example, I have several Pseudotropheus (demasoni, flavus) that I've read eat algae/aufwuchs in nature, so the Spirulina is best for them, I'm assuming.  But, I've read that, in the wild, several of the other species I have, such the Sciaenochromis fryeri (sp?), the Peacock cichlids and the Labidochromis textilis are piscivorous and insectivorous...so I would think that the frozen, regular flake, and bio-blend would be best for them. Does this seem sufficient, or should I switch solely over to the Spirulina and Bio-Blend? < The Bio-Blend and Spirulina are all you really need for all of your fish.> Whenever I do water changes I use Aqua-Safe from TetraAqua, or Start Right from Jungle, which is supposed to aid slime coat.  You're suggesting that the rock salt (rather than Aquarium Salt, a Jungle product) should be added in addition after a water change? < The salt will help add a slime coat but will not dechlorinate any tap water.> Again, thank you very much for your time.  I will really try and resist tying you up with more questions after this. Sincerely, Josh < For more info on cichlids check out the book "Enjoying Cichlid" by Ad Konings.-Chuck> Malawi Tank Problems  - 04/10/2006 Great website and resource that you provide! I hope this email gets through....I tried sending one directly via the WetWeb website, but couldn't log in.  I was able to find the email address by clicking on the "properties" option of the "email the WWM crew a question" link. I've searched your databases and Googled, and my problem has numerous parts, thus I couldn't find something that solved it adequately.  This will be sort of long and drawn out, as there are several facets. If this problem has been addressed in the past on this website, I'm sorry for wasting your time. I've recently started keeping Malawi cichlids.  On approximately Feb. 20, I set up a 55 gallon aquarium with a hang-on the back filter and undergravel filters. We added our first batch of fish on Feb 26th, and the second batch on March 25th.  We currently have a total of 26 fish in the tank (including a bristle-nosed pleco, and a small Senegal Bichir). I was aware that I would be introducing the fish before the nitrogen cycle had stabilized, but with frequent water changes (20% every day for several weeks in mid-Late March when Nitrite levels were high), and daily water testing, the fish did pretty well.  They did "flash" fairly often during this time (I assumed, due to the nitrite levels irritating the gills), but they always ate well and were very active. However, after the nitrogen cycle stabilized, the fish continued to flash very frequently and sometimes looked a little listless.  I kept a very close eye on things, assuming an illness would show up, but nothing did. Then, on April 6th, one of our Labidochromis textilis suddenly went south.  He was getting harassed, so I floated him at the top of the tank in a larger net to separate him from the others.  By that night, he was belly-up with a slightly bloated abdomen and eyes. The next morning, I noticed a smaller female Sciaenochromis fryeri (and only her) exhibiting the slightly "salted" appearance of ich.  I assumed that due to the L. textilis' silvery appearance that I may have missed the "salt grains" on him.  I immediately began treatment with malachite green.  The second day of the malachite green treatment, I also noticed that she had slightly bulging eyes and a slight "pine coning" of the scales (neither of which seemed to be as bad as I've seen in pictures of dropsy).  Yesterday (during the third day of Malachite green treatment), she died. Tomorrow is the fifth and last day of malachite green treatment, but the other fish seem to be "flashing" almost as often as before.  None have exopthalmia yet, but I'm worried there may be a bacterial problem in the tank as well....although I'm not sure. My current plan is as follows:.....do a 50% water change after malachite green treatment has stopped.....then do a series of treatments with Melafix or Maracyn-two (i.e., things that won't damage biological filtration). My questions are: Does it seem likely that I have a bacterial infection in the tank (almost concurrently with ich)...or is this maybe behavioral with cichlids? < Drop the water temp to the mid 70's. Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Check the nitrates and keep them under 20 ppm with water changes. The scratching you are seeing can be related to poor water quality but may also be protozoa  infection too.> Is my current plan a good one (i.e., should I go ahead with MelaFix or maracyn-2)? <Don't use either and add about three cups of rock salt to the tank. This will increase the slime coat on the fish and may reduce the scratching.> Should I, instead, use something like Metronidazole or Nitrofurazone, or should I do nothing? < Definitely use metro for the bloat and change the diet to a Spirulina based food.> Again, I don't see any current signs of "pop-eye" or dropsy in the remaining fish (aside from the "flashing") but I'd also like to stymie any potential problems. Thanks for your time, Josh < Watch the fish for a change in appetite. When they quite eating it is usually too late to treat.-Chuck> Sand for A Malawi Cichlid Tank  - 04/04/2006 Thank you Chuck for the fast response. I guess the paint idea was crazy or at the least unacceptable. As to the sand you mentioned, can I use "Play Sand" that is sold at Home Depot? It should be pretty sterile if it's for children's sand boxes. I like the idea of the crushed coral (pH). Could I mix it in with the sand or just use one or the other. Thanks   Jack Winker < Take a very close look at the individual sand grains. If it is a crushed sand then it will have very sharp edges and be very abrasive to the fish that interact with it. Ideally you are looking for a substrate that has well rounded grains. If this was a tank for characins then it would be fine because they almost never come in contact with the sand. Catfish like Cory's would lose their whiskers in a heartbeat. You could just use sand, coral or a combination.-Chuck> Bare Bottom African Cichlid Tank    4/4/06 I am planning on purchasing a 49 gal. bow-front aquarium and stocking it with a few African Cichlid. What I have researched so far is that it is not recommended to put gravel on the bottom of the tank for these fish however, should you use gravel it is not to be no more than 1/4" deep. I am not crazy over the appearance of a bare bottom (no pun intended) so I was wondering if the bottom could be painted. If so, what kind of paint (preferably a matte finish). What I would like to do is paint the bottom and then broadcast some coarse sand/grit (probably crushed garnet) onto the wet paint to give it a textured look. When the paint dries it will lock in the sand/grit. Is this do-able or just a crazy idea? Any help would be appreciated. Jack Winker < In the wild, Lake Malawi cichlids commonly called Mbuna, rarely come in contact with sand. I would recommend that you go ahead and add a inch or so of fine sand to the bottom of the tank. Crushed material usually contains sharp edges that can injure fish. Go with a well rounded fine sand or crushed coral. Breeding females sometimes pick up fine gravel in their mouth instead of the eggs. By using very fine sand the females are able to determine the difference and they get the eggs. Breeding males may establish a territory and excavate a pit down to the bottom of the tank. This could be prevented by placing a layer of 2 to 3 inch round smooth stones over the sand.-Chuck> Salting An African Cichlid Tank  - 03/09/2006 Dear Crew, I have recently set up a 90 gallon African cichlid tank. I put 10 teaspoons of salt in the water and it did not even register. What is a good amount of salt to use for African cichlids? Thanks for your help. Dan < None. Rift lake cichlids are from hard and alkaline water. Not brackish. Make sure the pH is at least 7.5 and they will do fine. Salt will not usually hurt them but it really isn't needed.-Chuck>

Filtration For A Lake Malawi Cichlid Tank  - 03/05/06 Dear WetWebMedia, First of all I love your site. It has been very helpful. I do have a few questions I am still unsure about however. I have recently set up a 90 gallon freshwater tank with about 1 1/2" crushed coral on the bottom. I plan on housing African Cichlids in it. The tank and filter is very old. It was my Dad's for about 10 years. He recently lost interest and gave it to me. For filtration I have a magnum 350 canister and a wet/dry system. Unfortunately I don't know what kind or model/make of wet/dry. My first question is weather or not this is adequate filtration. Your site has recommended that African Cichlid tanks be filtered over 3-5 times per hour. I am not sure how many gallons per hour the wet/dry does and I know the magnum has lost a step in it's old age. It does not spit water out nearly as fast or hard as it use to. I was wondering if you had any suggestions on additional filtration to help polish the water a little and get some more water movement going. I was thinking about an HOT magnum, simply because I am already familiar with their products and it can cycle 250 gallons per hour. My next question is about salt. The guy at my LFS said that they recommend putting one teaspoon of salt for every gallon whenever Africans are concerned. Is salt really necessary? I have a few friends with tanks and they say they never add salt for their Africans. Should I be adding any salt and if so how much? Thanks in advance for any insight. Look forward to your response. Dan < I try to avoid canister filters whenever I can. If you have enough room, I would recommend and Emperor 400 outside power filter. Very easy to service and have the built in Bio-Wheels. Lake Malawi has hard alkaline water. Keep the pH between 7.2 and 8.2 at the water temp at 77 F. Salt is not needed but it does increase the slime coat on the fish to prevent disease.-Chuck>

Peacock Cichlid Set Up    3/2/06 Thank you for your quick response.  I'm excited to get started.  One part just confused me...  You said "don't mix your female Peacocks".  Do you mean just one female with several males?  If the other males don't have a mate, won't they be aggressive towards her if she's the only female?  Or will they stay away because of the big difference in color variation?  I.e.:  1 Blue Male and 2 Blue Females, 1 Yellow Male, 1 Red Male, etc... and not 1 Blue male and female, 1 Yellow male and female, 1 red male & female.  And how many 6" cichlids can I comfortably put in a 65gal for low aggression?  Thank you again! < Don't mix female peacocks with other peacock females of a different species. You cannot tell the blue females apart from the yellow peacock females. This takes an expert with a keen eye for detail. If you have one female in a tank of different males , she is most likely to spawn with whichever male is dominant. If have one female in tank of males, then she is likely to get chased all the time until she is exhausted unless she can find somewhere to rest. You could probably put 12 to 20 fish in there depending on your filtration and water changes.-Chuck>

African Cichlid Set Up  - 3/1/2006 I currently have a 65gal (36x18x24) tank with a Magnum 350 canister and BioWheel filter system. I have been researching for weeks and finding lots of conflicting answers.  I am hoping you can help to clear up any final questions before I begin stocking.  Here's where I'm at... I will cycle the empty tank for about 3 days before adding "ditherfish".  I was thinking about 6 Tiger Barbs, wait 3 days, 6 Rosy Barbs and a Pleco and/or Catfish for the algae. Wait one week and then begin adding my Cichlids. < Go with Bio-Spira instead of using fish. Fish may introduce disease and then you'll have to get rid of them anyway. The Bio-Spira is faster too.> I'll start with juvenile's on all of them.  Least aggressive first, wait a week, most aggressive last. Add fish at night just before lights out.  I definitely want at least 2 variations of Peacocks, they're my favorite. < Go with a blue one and one yellow one and don't mix the females.> I have been able to find Golden and Ruby Red locally and was warned to stay away from the OB's as they are a hybrid? < Correct.> I also like the Electric Yellow Lab, the Kribensis and the Leleupi <sp?>  And this is where I get stuck.  What I want:  A harmonious tank with smaller (6" and under) and very colorful or clear patterned fish.  How many can I keep?  Is overstocking a good idea to keep down aggression if they can't establish territory?  Which are pairs and which are harems?  Are they compatible with Gourami?  Any help would be greatly appreciated...  Thank you!!! Christina < Forget the krib and the gourami. Looks like you are into yellow fish. Lets look at building your tank around a peacock species, genus Aulonocara, since they are your favorite. They come from Lake Malawi where the water is hard and alkaline. Water temp in the mid to upper 70's. Lots of rocks and sand. The blue varieties of peacocks are better adapted to a community aquarium that the yellow or red varieties. All the females and fry are brown in color and very difficult to tell apart. Yellow labs will add some yellow color and are not too aggressive. Some of the sand sifting haps would go well with them too. Check out the book "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings  at CichlidPress.com. You will find that there are lots of different peacock species available by venders online. All Malawian cichlids in the hobby are maternal mouthbrooders and do best in harems. Lake Tanganyikan cichlids like the Neolamprologus leleupi really do better in a quieter tank.-Chuck.> Crushed coral... washing for African Cichlid system  - 2/21/2006 Hello, After many years without a tank, my son decides he would like to get one. As the story goes, I now have myself a new 125G. This will be used for African Cichlids (Malawi) and was looking for information on the crushed coral. I did a quick search through the FAQ and without spending 10 days reading and getting bug eyed - thought I would just ask this question that has no doubt been answered a million times. Does the crushed coral need to be rinsed before using and if so, how much? <Do rinse (otherwise, snow machine!) in a bucket... plastic... the "pickle" type that has not had toxins in it... in five, ten pound batches... with a running garden hose... till it runs pretty much clear> Thanks for a great site - wish I had this info last time I had a tank. Len <I'll bet! Cheers, Bob Fenner> Keeping Frontosa Cichlids   2/7/06 Hi crew.  I really thank you for all your earlier replies with all my heart. While surfing the net I came across this magnificent fish. I have decided to keep them. The only question I have is, can i keep them in a 90g tank with ph7 and soft water with other cichlids like the convicts, Mbuna species etc... ? The people whom I have come across the net keep them in a species tank with a ph7 and hard alkaline water. Will they survive in soft water with a ph7? I cannot get any help from my LFS's.  They have never kept a frontosa but are ready to order them for me. What do I do? I will be very thankful for any help. Thanking you < C. frontosa comes from the hard alkaline waters of Lake Tanganyika. At night they eat sleeping cichlids on the bottom of the lake. The can get up to 14 inches long. They do best in a tank all by themselves. I would not recommend frontosa with your current set up.-Chuck.>   Setting Up a Malawi Cichlid Tank  - 01/12/2006 This is Roger Nicholl again, as I mention before I have a 55 gallon aquarium and I am wondering how many African Cichlids I can put in my aquarium and what kinds. I want a colorful aquarium, but without going saltwater. Please Help. Roger. < I actually wrote an article a few years ago about the Freshwater/Saltwater tank. Using the right combination of cichlids many people thought it was saltwater. The trick here is to maximize the colors and patterns of all the fish while trying to keep everything peaceful. Start with Ps. saulosi. Males are blue with vertical black bars and black fins while females and fry are bright yellow with no pattern. Melanochromis parallelus has white females with black horizontal stripes. Males are black with horizontal blue stripes. Labidochromis chismulae has powder blue males with vertical stripes and pearl white females with no markings. Labeotropheus trewavasae from Zimbabwe Rock has a bright blue male with a red dorsal fin. The females are a pink to orange mottled pattern. Use crushed coral as the substrate with some val. as plants. Use good lighting to really show them off. A trio of each would work OK. Use a big filter that pumps at least 200 plus gph. Feed Spirulina flake food and keep the water temp around 77 F.-Chuck>

Keeping Neolamprologus tretocephalus  12/5/05 Hello I am setting up a 55 gallon African cichlid tank. The main fish I want to keep in it is a Neolamprologus tretocephalus. So my question for you is what other types of fish and how many would work with this fish in a 55 gallon aquarium? I read on the Internet that keeping more than one of these guys in the same tank is not a good idea, because of their aggression towards their own kind unless the tank is much bigger. So I want to get one Tretocephalus and what ever else you suggest. I do know that some people think that Tretocephalus need a bigger tank but others say that just one in a 55 gallon tank would work just fine. Thanks, Tyler < Trets are a very cool Lake Tanganyikan cichlid. Kinda a like a little frontosa. They get about 4 inches and require warm hard alkaline water. They come from areas with lots of rock work. If you get more than one they may mate and breed. Breeding pairs may take over an entire tank. Other tankmates may include other neolamps like pulcher or brichardi. Altolamps like calvus or compressiceps would work very well. If you want to add some Cyprichromis them you will need to get a pretty go sized school and keep the tank well covered because they like to jump. Featherfins like O. ventralis or A. dewinti would go well with them too. Check out the "Enjoying cichlids" book by Ad Konings for some good tips on keeping this as well as other Tanganyikan cichlids.-Chuck> 

140g Tanganyikan Filtration Question - 11/25/2005 Hello and Happy Thanksgiving! <Thank you; happy Thanksgiving to you, as well.> I really appreciate the information you provide and have learned a lot from this website. <Glad to hear it!> I just purchased a 140 gallon half cylinder aquarium to house a Tanganyikan community and I'm a little confused about the type of filtration I should be using. There are so many products on the market that it's a little overwhelming! <True enough!> I am thinking about an Eheim Pro II 2028 canister filter, <A WONDERFUL product.  This and the 2128 are, in my opinion, the best canisters available.  I find mine delightful.> but from what I read, this is not enough filtration for my size tank. <Possibly true.> What would you suggest? <I'd go with a large-ish wet/dry system under the tank....  a "sump"....  Can build it yourself, or there are also products available geared for marine aquaria that you could use.> Do I need something else in addition to that?  Thanks! <If you do choose to use the canister (again, I do greatly enjoy/recommend this particular model), then I would add one or two sizeable hang-on type filters.  I think the "better" solution would be to go ahead with a sump-style wet dry, but you can really do most anything you want and are comfortable.  And those Eheims work like a dream....  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Setting Up An African Cichlid Tank  10/21/05 I have a new 75 gallon tank, and have mostly raised South American cichlids in the past, so I am somewhat new to African cichlids. I'm looking to get a lot of variety in size, with many colors. Any recommendations on the fish combinations that would work well? Also, are catfish the best to use for a "cleaner" fish? I've use Plecos in the past with my SAs. What dither fish (if any) do you recommend? Thanks! <If you wanted to do a Lake Malawi tank then there are many options. Keep the water in the mid to upper 70's. The pH should be over 7.5. I would use a crushed coral type of substrate to buffer the water and prevent it from becoming too acidic. The filter should pump at least 400 gallons per hour. I will give you some recommendations but you may not be able to find all of the fish. Both males and females will be colored. Try Pseudotropheus saulosi, Ps. acei, Melanochromis parrallelus, Labidochromis caeruelus (Chisimulae), Labeotropheus trewavasae (Chalumba) for the rocky areas and "Hap" Moorii for open sandy areas. Get six of each. Plecos don't work too well in these tanks. Try some Synodontis petricola for cleaner fish. Try and find some zacco barbs from Asia as dither fish. They can handle the water conditions and are very active swimmers.-Chuck>

African Cichlid Tank Stocking 10/22/05 Chuck... also forgot to ask. When you say "six of each", do you mean 6 of all the fish you mention? So, 36 all together? That seems like a lot. < You get six of each around the same size. Hopefully under 2 inches and raise them all together. As they grow you will get a 50/50 sex ratio of half males and half females. As a male of each species becomes dominant it will chase the other males to the upper corners of the tank. There they can be removed and traded/sold back to the local fish store for credit. This will bring you down to approximately 25 fish. This is a little over crowded but these fish need to be over crowded to disperse the aggression between the males. This fish I have recommended don't get that big. The C. moori actually get pretty big but are not very aggressive. -Chuck> 

Setting Up a Malawian Cichlid Tank  10/5/05 Hi Crew. I've been reading your site for a couple of months now and I really appreciate all of the advice you have given that has helped so many people out. After having an 80 gallon saltwater aquarium for about 4 years, I've decided to turn it into a freshwater Malawian Cichlid tank (I've read about 1 per 10 gallons). I've been debating over what kind of filter and substrate to use and I have received conflicting advice on whether it would be OK to use the dead corals from my SW tank in this particular setup. I'm trying to decide between the Marineland emperor power filter 400 and the Fluval 404. I'm leaning toward the Emperor because it turns over more water and I've read better reviews. I will also be using 2 402 powerheads. Is this adequate filtration/circulation? < The emperor is an outstanding filter. I really like it because it is easy to clean and has the bio-wheel attachments added to it. Water flow should be closer to 5  times per hour. With the power heads you should be fine as long as you don't let the filter clog up and slow down.> (I've read that 3 times/hour is enough and this seems to be covered). < Malawian cichlids really do need to be crowded to disperse the aggression so I always kick it up to 5 times.> If I could get away with not using substrate, I would like to take that route. But If I do need a substrate, would a thin layer (less than 1 inch) of crushed gravel do the trick? < Crushed gravel, no. Crushed coral yes, about an inch would be great.> I really appreciate your guys' help and I hope you continue to do what you do so well for a long time to come. Thanks,-Jake Chladek < Since you are in the area you should check out the Sacramento Aquarium Society. At the end of Oct they are having their big workshop and auction. They call it FinDig.-Chuck>

More Lack of Research, Overstocked, and the tanks not even cycled yet.  10/3/05 I have a 55-gallon tank. with about 10 African cichlids <I'm sorry to say my friend that this tank is grossly overstocked almost 3 times over what you should have.>  that wont grow more  then 4" that is the kind of fish I have chosen <Would help to know the exact species next time.>, within the first few days,  the tank was fine, after, the whole tank got cloudy, <The tank has not cycled and the extremely heavy bio-load is not helping, please read here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm.> I went to pet's mart and I was told that by replacing 10% water and getting " Start Right"  <I have never heard of this product though my detective work tells me its more than likely a 'quick cycling' product, 99% of which do not work, one of those that do is bio-Spira. However with this fish load seeing zero ammonia anytime soon is not likely.  The Local Pet Shop is on the right track with the water changes but really you should not have nay fish in the tank yet and never this many.> liquid, it would clear up the tank fast, it didn't, I replaced the water slowly and cleaned the decorations and pebble on the tank the tank went back to normal and now the stress level is sky high  <They are socially overcrowded and suffering from poor water quality.> I was told it is because it has no aligns, what should I do <Research next time to begin with.  Start with larger water changes and seriously consider returning the livestock or at least most of it.> , since some of the fish are slipping away,  <Best to return them until this tank is ready and then rethink your stocking scheme.> by the way the tank is 2 weeks old and again have 10, 4" cichlids in there. <Far too many, far too soon, please read through the WWM FAQ's, if you had so in the beginning you would have avoided this. If you don't already have a test kit, purchase one. Read here as well and follow the links to the related FAQ's http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/afrcichlids.htm .> <Adam J.>

Learning very quickly... Frontosa stocking, cycling... 9/20/05 I have a 55 gallon tank, bought it new about 4 weeks now.  I added cycle and let it sit for a few days.  Then I added about 20 African Cichlids, including two Frontosa's.  <20!?!  You are overstocked by at least 10 fish.  Plus, Frontosas would really like some more room. (70+ gallons).  Also when any of these guys start to breed you may have huge aggression problems.  I hope you have LOTS of hiding spots.>  I now know quite a bit about cycling the aquarium!!!  I didn't, obviously.  The PH is about 7.5, I placed a piece of coral in the tank to increase PH and I have placed two pieces of Utah Ice for hardness in the tank. <Sounds like a plan.> I am trying to cycle a 55 gallon tank full of expensive fish (Didn't know the difference at the time).  I have been monitoring ammonia levels and doing 40% to 50% water changes every second day.  Ammonia has hit 2ppm, but I keep it at 1 and below with the water changes.  I have three Aqua tech filters running, one at 330 GPH and two others at 100 GPH each.  I am filtering the tank about 10 times an hour.  I have added a charcoal bag from a cycled tank in the large filter. <Good effort.  Also, feed lightly.  Even so, I'm concerned even with this much filtration you may not be able to keep your ammonia=nitrites=0 or your nitrates under 20.  If possible, I'd take at least half the fish back to the store until you get your parameters in line.  Then add some back until you are tired of doing water changes to keep your nitrates in line.  Also, remember, these fish are juveniles, so they will grow and become even heavier polluters.> A local fish "expert" advised me the water in our town is safe to add directly to aquariums.  I have done that for some years now on a community tank that was given to me in 2000.  <Most municipal water systems contain chlorine.  Chlorine will evaporate if you leave water out for a few days.  Chloramine (the other common chemical) requires a dechlorinator.>  (Already cycled, that's why I was uninformed on my new purchase!)  I have had no problems.  Today during a water change I accidentally poured about a 3oz of Wardley's Water Conditioner in the tank.  <I haven't used that product.  How much are you supposed to add to 55 gallons.  If you overdosed, you should do big water changes to remove some of it.  Over dosing can be toxic.>  I have also been adding quite a bit of Hagen's Cycle.  <That yields varying results, but doesn't hurt.  I hope you are following package directions.> My questions are:  am I going about cycling and not killing my new tank and fish (under the circumstances) the best way, <No, the tank is overstocked.> and will the conditioner affect anything <It could, do big water changes dosed correctly.>? Thanks! Rodney G Priddle <Hope this helps.  Please help your fish and take some back or get a bigger tank.  Keep asking questions.  There are several people that are active on the WWM chat forum that can and will discuss their Cichlids. Catherine.> Wow, quick response.  I do have lots of hiding spots.  I'll see about bringing some back, or maybe this will be reason enough to buy another tank!!!  <Awesome!  Keep us posted.  Catherine> Rodney Re: Learning very quickly  9/21/05 I am doing a massive water change and I added another 330 GPH filtration, so now I am doing 860 GPH, do you think this will handle the setup? <What are your ammonia, nitrite and nitrate readings now?  Even if we assume you can put enough filters on  that tank to get the ammonia and nitrite to 0 after the cycle finishes, your nitrates are going to be sky high unless you are doing massively daily water changes.  In freshwater aquariums nitrates are removed by plants to some degree and by water changes.  The second problem is you've got a LOT of large, aggressive fish in that tank.  Without tankmates, the Frontosas will need at least a 70 gallon and probably bigger aquarium.  They get to be over a foot long!  I don't know how big your fish are now, but when they are grown, they are almost going to be bumping into each other.  This would be like you and 20 of your not so good friends living together in a bedroom.  Even if there was a reasonable filtration system pulling out most the waste, would you really want to do that?  Catherine> Rodney Re: Learning very quickly  9/21/05 I definitely do not want that to happen.  Thanks for the advice; I'll do what I can to reduce my numbers. <Or get a bigger tank; always more fun!> I put this many in because I was thinking the more fish the less aggressive they will be, I read that online.  <That's true up to a point.  For example, if you have one really aggressive fish, if he has 1 other fish to pick on, he'll drive it crazy.  If he has 3 other fish to torture, the aggression is spread around.>  I'll take your advice.  <Don't just take my advice!  Keep reading and asking others.  Like I said WWM chat forum is a good place to share experiences.> Rod <Catherine> How many Electric Yellow Cichlids? 8/15/05 Hello! I have a 75 gal tank (48"x18"x20") that I plan to use for Electric Yellow Cichlids. pH = 7.8-8, ammonia = 0ppm, nitrite = 0ppm, temp 75-80. Currently I am housing a single Synodontis Eupterus Catfish (I am aware that my pH level is a bit high for the Synodontis but it has grown to adult size under these conditions and seems to be doing great). My only question at this point is how many Electric Yellow Cichlids can I keep (happily) in this tank along with the catfish? Thanks a lot! Zack < If you only plan to keep one species of cichlid in this tank then it will depend on your filter and maintenance habits. I would recommend a filter that pumps at least 250 gallons per hour. Bigger is better, up to 500 gallons per hour would be best. I prefer an outside power filter that is easy to clean. Check out the Marineland Emperor 400 or a couple Emperor 280's.  They are easy to clean and have the bio-wheel technology that I really like. The nitrates should stay under 25 ppm. If they continually exceed this number between water changes then you either need to change more water more often or keep less fish. You fish are fairly peaceful for Lake Malawi cichlids so I think you could easily keep around 30 adult fish in this set up.-Chuck>

Planning New Cichlid Tank 8/15/05 Thanks so much Chuck! I have been helped by the WWM "crew" before and once again your quick response amazes me! < Sometimes you get lucky and catch us at the right time.> I believe the filtration in the tank to be ample as I previously housed 2 huge Oscars (14" and 12") and the Synodontis I mentioned with no problems for years. < Keep in mind that large Oscars are fairly slow fish with slow metabolisms. Your electric yellow labidochromis will be very active and thus have a more active metabolism.> I was a little surprised at how large a number of adult electric yellows you said I should be able to house but then I recalled reading that keeping a large number of the fish helps to disperse the aggression in the tank. Even still I don't think I will exceed 10-15 of the fish as I love giving my fish lots of space to swim in. I do have another couple of questions for you if you don't mind. Assuming I keep the number of electric yellow cichlids down to 10 would I be able to put some "peaceful" community fish in along with the Synodontis? < What do you have in mind?> I am thinking 5-10 albino Aeneus Cory catfish (don't know why but I've always loved the little guys) < No way! Your Lake Malawi cichlids prefer hard alkaline water and the Cory's come from South America where the water is soft and acidic. The cichlids will soon turn your Corys into mobile banquet blocks and they will have no fins in no time at all.> and/or 5-10 zebra danios. < The danios are pretty fast and may have a chance.> perhaps you could make a few suggestions as well. I would appreciate it! < For catfish look at Synodontis petricola from Lake Tanganyika. They are small, very efficient bottom feeders, like the same water chemistry, are fairly peaceful. For open water dither fish look for giant danios, Sacco barbs, and large types of rainbow fish.> Secondly, I do plan on having some live rooted plants but are they essential? (assuming I have plenty of rocks for caves/hiding of course) Thanks again! Zack < Plants always look good in a tank. Anubias, java fern and java moss will tolerate the same water conditions and don't require much light. With medium light you can try Cryptocoryne wendtii, crinium onion plants, and giant Val's.-Chuck> Setting Up a New African Cichlid Tank  08/08/2005 Hi, I was wondering how many (5"max) Mbunas can a 55g house for a clean tank with mediocre filtration? < The key to keeping Mbuna,( Lake Malawi Rock Cichlids) healthy is to keep them crowded and provide plenty of filtration. The filter should turn  over the tank at least five aquarium volumes per hour. In you case that would be around 300 gallons per hour. Provide lots of rocks for shelter and keep the water around 75 to 77 degrees F. Feed them Spirulina flakes once a day and remove any uneaten food after two minutes. Every time you add anew fish you need to change the aquascaping around so they need to set up new territories. If the nitrates are below 25 ppm per week then you can add more fish. If they exceed 25 ppm then you need to increase the volume or frequency of the water change or you need to remove some fish.> I currently have a 2"electric yellow (male), a 2" Kenyi (female), and a 3" chipokae (female) and I'd like to add the other fish or 2 before these that I have get any bigger. I was leaning towards a red zebra with the black accents on the fins, is this the male or female zebra? < True wild red zebras from Minos reef have a blue male and a red female. Through line breeding by fish farms both the male and females are now red.> And also thinking of a demasoni or bumblebee, what do you think? < Both are aggressive with the bumble bee getting up to 6 inches and changing color to almost all black. The demasoni's are smaller but are very aggressive for their size.> I currently run the standard filter that came with the Wal-Mart setup, I don't know the gph on it. < Go back to Wal-Mart and read the box on a new setup so you can figure out what you have.> And lastly, my water is only a couple weeks old, I placed my old filter from my 20g tank to cycle this one and all the gravel, my question is should I still expect cloudiness, or could it be because it gets indirect sunlight through one side of the tank? hey thanks a bunch! EP < Check the water quality. Ammonia should be zero. If not add Bio-Spira from Marineland. This will help get the tank cycled quickly.-Chuck> Basic cichlid setup 8/5/05 I've been surfing around this forum, and I have been impressed with the thoughtful insights you are providing.  However, I haven't found the answer I am looking for. I have an empty 29 gal. that I am cycling right now.  I'm looking to begin stocking it in 2 weeks after I return from a vacation.  Due to the hardness of the water where I live, I am strongly considering African cichlids.  In the past, I have had a 20 gal, that had two socolofi and one honngi (sp?) along with a Synodontis cat.  (Gave them away because of a move.)  For my 29, what would be some of your suggestions for a good set up?   Questions that follow with that basic request: <I would look to the many smaller species of African Cichlids and set upon a species only set-up for this small tank. Perhaps some Lamprologines, Steatrocranus... Bob Fenner> Converting Salt to Freshwater 7.23.05 Hey, was hoping you could answer my question here.  Currently I have a 65g saltwater tank that I want to convert over to African cichlids.  Can I just take the live rock and out and do a few real big water changes to knock the salt level down to almost nothing and then add the cichlids?  Or do I have to reassemble the whole tank and take all of the water out and recycle it? Thanks <Even if you are going to reuse the decorations, substrate, etc, I would break it down and give it a good rinse.  There are probably a good number of creatures living in your substrate that will die off when you convert to freshwater and may have an effect on the cycling process.  -Gage>

Cichlid tank Cycle / parasite problem 7/22/05 A buddy's tank is having some problems and I am a little stumped as to where to go from here. Tank is a 29G. I guess he wanted to cycle it quickly so he started with 9 Mbunas about 3-5" long and adding "Cycle" to the water every day as directed by the bottle. <Too much...> This was definitely too much load for that small of a tank and a few days after he said he lost a couple fish. They would start breathing heavily and stopped eating and soon died. <...> He also purchased a 125G tank, filled with water, add water conditioners and ran for 24 hours. After 24 hours he moved the remaining fish to the 125G tank and  again started adding "Cycle" to the tank. He said this seem to be ok and ran it for a week with no problems. After a week he bought several large fish (Frontosas, large Haps, etc). Everything seems fine for a few days. After that again a few fish start breathing heavily and stop eating. <... Stop!> Here is where I come in and test water. Water is un-cycled with a very high nitrite spike and small ammonia spike. We do a large water change and add Bio-Spira live bacteria. <Ah, thank goodness for friends like you> I have always had excellent success with it before cycling a tank almost overnight. After a couple days still the same situation. Tank appears to be mostly cycled now and nitrates are rising, but the few fish that were breathing heavily are still breathing heavily and not eating. <They, and the microbes in the BioSpira were poisoned, hemolyzed in the fishes' case, by the ammonia...> I also notice a peacock with white spots on him appearing to be ick. Instead of adding medications we bring the temp up to about 83 and add Kosher salt to bring the salinity up. <Excellent> I figured that even if it was not ick this should help most fungal diseases of the gills if that was causing the problem. <Yes> Now here we are a few days after with salinity around 1.002-1.003 and temp around 83. The fish suspected to have ick no longer has any white spots on him. Also made sure water surface had plenty of movement and added airstones. <Good> Everyone seems to be fine except for the few that are still breathing heavily. Will they ever get better and return to normal or is it too late for those. Thanks <Very likely these fishes will survive, improve in the next few weeks. If only every community had "fish gurus" as yourself. Thank you for writing. Bob Fenner>  

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