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FAQs on Tanganyikan Cichlid Systems

Related Articles: Rift Valley Cichlids: Talking Tanganyikans, By Neale Monks, African Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes

Related FAQs: African Cichlid Disease 1, Cichlid Disease, Cichlid Disease 2, Cichlid Disease 3, African Cichlids in General, African Cichlid Identification, African Cichlid Selection, African Cichlid Behavior, African Cichlid Compatibility, African Cichlid Systems, African Cichlid Feeding, African Cichlid Reproduction, Cichlids of the WorldCichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,


Overcrowding J. marlieri juveniles to minimize aggression    11/28/18
<Hi Rina>
I wrote very recently regarding keeping panther crabs together with J. marlieri. Thanks again Bob for your help there.
I've decided to separate the two for the safety of the crabs, but now what to do with the Julies? One of them is a real bully and keeps the other two hanging near the top of the tank so the 10 gallon is clearly too small for them.
<Yes; best to move it... if no room, float it in a "breeding trap/net" or plastic colander...>
I have a 30 gallon tank but I can't quite justify giving three tiny fish so much real estate! I do however have three other J. marlieri, about 1-2 cm bigger than this group and I'm wondering if I could put all six in the 30 gallon tank until a breeding pair forms.
<With decor (rock, plants, wood...) I think this is your best plan>
I know the larger fish will pick on the smaller ones until the latter get a bit bigger at least, but if I add a fake rock wall with caves and three or four distinct rock piles, plants to break up lines of sight, plus five
Danios (which I also happen to have already) to give the larger Julies an extra outlet for their aggressive behaviour,
<Yes; good dither fish>
would that keep the aggression at a manageable level?
<I do think this will work. Have seen Julidochromis cultured, kept in such settings several times successfully.>
Thanks again!
<Welcome! BobF>
Re: Overcrowding J. marlieri juveniles to minimize aggression    11/28/18

Hi Bob,
Thanks for such a swift response.
I'll go ahead and do that then. Which brings me to my next two questions.
If a breeding pair forms, I know I'll have to promptly remove all the other fish from the tank.
<Mmm; maybe not so promptly>
But again, it seems like a lot of tank space for just two fish.
<Wouldn't be two for long eh? Is there a local market (fish stores, clubs...) for your African Cichlids?>
I just recalled reading somewhere that a Julidochromis mating pair can be kept in a 20 gallon.
<Yes; a long vs. a tall format better>
But a 20 gallon would be too small for growing out six juveniles with Danios, right?
<Mmm; no; it might well work>
And secondly, could I keep the Danios in the breeding pair's tank or no?
<If they're smart, yes... such that they'll keep out of the way. May be an issue with eating young>
Thanks again,
Rina Khan
<Welcome as well. Bob Fenner>
Re: Overcrowding J. marlieri juveniles to minimize aggression     11/28/18

Thanks again Bob. Will try to find a cheap 20 gallon then.
Rina Khan
<Real good>

Shell dwellers tankmates     12/3/13
Tankmates for Shell Dwelling Tanganyikan Cichlids

Hi Crew, I'm afraid I have to ask you this question.
< Never be afraid to ask.>
 My 20 gallon hexagon is in the process of cycling. I'm thinking about colony of multies (6-8). Is it acceptable amount?
< If you start out with 6 fish you have a 98% chance of getting a breeding pair. The pair will dominate the tank.>
 I read other kinds of shell dwellers are pair bonding and I can end up with 1 pair only? Is it correct?
< With 6 fish you have a potential of ending up with 3 pairs. Males get to one and one have inches. Females are rarely over a half inch.>
My main concern is about tank mates. Hexagon tank is kind of tall. I want to fill up it with some colorful upper water fishes. I found most
suggestions about dwarf neon rainbow fish or zebra danio. I think my tank is too small for these. I'm thinking about group of endlers livebearers. Are they safe or at least reasonably safe with shell dwellers?
< The shell dwellers will most likely hang around the bottom of the tank close to the shells. Small live bearers that can be swallowed that get too close to the shells can be eaten. Keep some floating plants in the tank for the small fish to hide.-Chuck>
Thank you for your help.

New to Tanganyikans
Lake Tanganyika Cichlid Combinations     10/26/13

Hi all, As usual, seeking your advice in preparation for a new setup.  I have a 48" tank (approximately 180l) with a tetratec 1200 external filter. 
I have long been intrigued by Tanganyikans and would like to set up a tank for them.  I'm interested in numbers and what combinations would work best. The fish I LOVE are: Shell dwellers - pretty much any kind!
Julidochromis Dickfeldi, Altolamprologus calvus and compressiceps and Neolamprologus leleupi. I'd also like a small group of Synos if possible. 
The Tanganyikan ones...I'm quite interested in Cyprichromis, but understand that these guys may not be suited to my tank? What would your recommended combination be for this tank? Look forward to hearing from you Thanks for the help in advance. Jo
< Lake Tanganyika cichlids need clean warm alkaline water. Use just one fish of each species to keep them from setting up a breeding pair. These fish are very territorial and a breeding pair would take over a large portion of the tank. With lots of rock work a single species of Altolamprologus, Neolamprologus ,Julidochromis would be fine with a group of shell dwellers and a group of dwarf Synodontis catfish. The Cyprichromis are best kept in groups and are very likely to jump in a small shallow aquarium.-Chuck>

Question about Ich     2/10/13
Hello! I have found lots of information via WWM! Thank you! In this instance, however, I am trying to bring LOTS of information together to see if I am on the right track. I have a 180 gallon Tanganyikan tank in which I recently added a few new Altolamprologus compressiceps. Foolishly I did not set up a QT like I should have and now a few of my fish have begun flashing. I waited and watched for a couple of days and now I see 2 spots (on separate fish) that look like Ich. All fish look fine otherwise.
<Treat the entire tank with salt/heat and you should have no problems.>
They eat fine, no clamped fins, no increased redness in gills, none are acting lethargic. Assuming this is Ich, I only want to medicate as a last resort, but I also do not want to find my lovely fish with a more advanced stage of Ich because I waited too long! That and I am still not entirely certain it is Ich, so I do not want to risk harming my beneficial bacteria by dumping meds into my tank.
<Does depend on the medications you use; modern formulations seem not to impact badly on filtration.>
Because of these concerns, I have decided to try the heat/salt method where I raise my water temp and add a small amount of salt. This is where it gets tricky for me. I have heard the magic number in which Ich cannot survive (in most cases) is 86 degrees. Is that correct?
<Sort of. 30 C/86 F is the highest fish-friendly temperature that you can use to speed up the life cycle. But you can get almost as good results as 28 C/82 F, which won't stress oxygen-sensitive fish like Lamprologus spp.>
I have read to slowly raise my temp. until I reach 86 and then keep it there for 10 days. I believe that Ich's life stages speed up rapidly once you raise the temp until you reach a temp that they can no longer survive in (86 degrees). If that information is indeed correct, how fast can I raise my temp?
<If time isn't of the essence, a couple degrees per day is ideal. But realistically, fish can adapt to similar changes across an hour (e.g., as happens when introducing new fish from the pet store).>
I do not want to stress my fish, but I also do not want to create a prolonged good environment for the Ich to multiply before they're all finally cooked! Where is the balance? I have read so many different things. Some say you can raise your temp 1-2 degrees every hour, yet others say not to raise your temp more then 1-1.5 degrees every 12 hours. Also, I have Frontosa (some of which are only 1" in size) in this tank and I know they do not like their water temp that high because with a higher temp the oxygen level in the tank will go down. If I have 2 canister filters (one on each end of my tank) and a circulation pump running, will that create enough oxygen?
<Should do. Will be immediately obvious if not… the fish will gasp at the surface, behave abnormally.>
IMO the surface movement looks good. In addition, my tank has glass and back strips covering the entire top, but I am leaving the lids open to allow greater aeration. Plus, my circulation pump should be mixing the less oxygenated bottom water with the more oxygenated top water. Do I need to do more to insure there will be enough oxygen to compensate for the added heat? So far in taking the mentioned steps, my fish look/act fine (aside from the 2 spots and the occasional flashing from the few). I always do weekly water changes and make sure my ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and pH levels are good/safe.  I will continue to monitor them all closely looking for additional signs of stress. Am I missing anything else? I want to take every measure to restore perfect health to my beloved fish in the least stressful way! Thank you for your time. -Lisa
<Welcome, Neale.>

Tanganyika System - KH and GH levels - 5/9/2012
Hi Neale,
WWM: Joe,
I was hoping you might be able to assist me with a query regarding the KH and GH levels in my African cichlid tank.
WWM: For sure.
I have a standard 8 foot tank which has been up and running for about 3 months. I have a few Africans in there and am expecting a colony of Tropheus to come in a few days.
WWM: Fantastic, if difficult, fish.
I am having problems keeping the KH and GH levels up (in particular, the KH). I am using Seachem Cichlid Salt and Seachem Tang Buffer.
WWM: Cool.
Interestingly, when I first started my tank, GH and KH levels were up at over 20dKH and 20GH. Now I find them slowly slipping to their current levels of 12GH and 8KH.
WWM: Acidification between water changes can "use up" carbonate hardness, though rarely as fast as this.
PH is currently around 8.8, Nitrates <20ppm.
WWM: Both fine.
When I pre-mix my water ahead of my weekly 30% water change, I have been overdosing on the Seachem Products, but have found that the GH and KH levels of the pre-mixed water do not go past 10-12GH and 7KH.
WWM: Odd.
I am at a loss to explain why this is happening. Is there a simple explanation?
WWM: Not that I can see! My approach would be this: Ignore the test kits, or at least try out a second test kit (perhaps they'll do a test at the pet shop). Add the right amount of buffer, observe the fish, and do regular, frequent, perhaps smaller water changes, e.g., 10% twice weekly rather than 20% weekly. This way water chemistry fluctuation between water changes will be smaller and less likely to trouble your fish.
Would you also please advise if it would be suitable to add some Baking Soda to my water in addition to the Seachem Buffer? Or perhaps just add extra Seachem Buffer?
WWM: I wouldn't overdose deliberately. If you add the right amount, it should be enough. Do a pH test a couple times per week, and if the pH stays steady, then chances are good that everything is fine. Adding some calcareous material to the aquarium (tufa rock for example) would be helpful, as this provides some extra "back up" buffering, hardening the water if it becomes more acidic, but in hard, alkaline water not doing much of anything.
Is there any other solution you can suggest?
WWM: Don't forget that Tanganyikan fish actually aren't that fussy about hardness or pH. The hard tap water we get in London is actually harder and more alkaline than the water in Lake Malawi! What they dislike is soft water, but within reason, they're pretty adaptable from moderately hard to very hard water, anything from, say, 10 degrees dH to 25 degrees dH is fine, and likewise they can adapt to any pH between about 7.5 and 8.5. What you don't want are big changes between water changes, which is why taking 10% out of the tank every 3-4 days might be better than doing 20-25% every 7 days. Make sense?
You advice is much appreciated, Regards, Joe
WWM: Cheers, Neale.

Hi Team,
I have a 600 litre community tropical tank that I am hoping to convert into a Tanganyikan set up. I have been researching the 4 'regions', water, rocks, shells and sand, that the fish can occupy and I have a good knowledge base now. One problem that I an uncertain how to manage is the fact that the tank has a Marina Styrofoam background and these fish may nibble at it and eat the Styrofoam causing digestive problems.
<Mmm, can try to coat, re-coat the Styro to discount...>
There is not a lot of algae on the Styrofoam as the tank is in a dark corner plus I do regular water changes but even a small amount on there may be tempting!
Is this a worry for these types of fish?
<Generally "not that much"; no>
 If I concentrate on fish with a more protein based diet would this eradicate the problem??
<Don't know what the effect of altering the diet thus might/would be>
 I don't think that removing the Styrofoam is an option but I could potentially fix some thin acrylic sheet or such like across the back of the tank in front of the foam so that I could maintain the appearance but the fish would not be able to get to it.
<Both possibilities...>
Any advice you can offer will be gratefully received!!
Many thanks
<I'd try the Tanganyikans w/ the foam as is m'self. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Substrate and DSB for FW Tanganyika system   1/8/12
Hi Crew,
<Hello Joe.>
I last wrote over 5 years ago regarding my marine system which I have now decided to convert back to freshwater  to keep Tanganyika cichlids (in particular the Tropheus species). I have read through the Articles and FAQs on this topic, but apologise in advance if the question has already been answered.
Currently,  I have a DSB of approximately 3 inches in my SW 8' x 2' x 2' tank. The substrate mix is approximately 70% beach sand and 30% coral sand.
I also have a 3' refugium with a DSB of 3 inches.
I will be tearing down the system and was wondering whether I should keep all of the substrate currently in my tank and refugium for the new FW system, or, remove part of it?
<That's up to you. You can leave it where it is, and it should help, and could be useful for a colony of shell-dwelling cichlids or something in the future. They like deep substrates into which they can bury their shells.
But you may prefer to use the refugium as an extra place for easily-cleaned lumps of tufa rock (for buffering the water) or biological media (to maximise water quality in terms of ammonia and nitrite). If you have strong lighting on the refugium, you might even choose to create some sort of algae filter, rotating out pieces of algae-covered rock at times for the Tropheus to feed on. All depends on your plan.>
My understanding of a DSB is that it needs to stay relatively undisturbed for it to work properly. Having had prior experience with Malawi cichlids, I know that they move a large amount of substrate around the tank constantly. Will Tanganyika Tropheus similarly disturb the substrate to the extent that it would defeat the purpose of having the DSB?
<Tropheus generally don't dig too much, they're adapted to nibbling algae from rocks. Some other Tangs do like to dig, like the Shellies just mentioned. Others fall somewhere between the two extremes, like Julidochromis, which use caves, but will move a little sediment around if that helps them improve their hiding places.>
My main priorities are (i) suitability of the substrate amount to the Tropheus; and (ii) minimising the maintenance in relation to the substrate.
Any comments would be greatly appreciated.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Substrate and DSB for FW Tanganyika system   1/8/12

Thanks Neale, much appreciated.
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

African cichlids
Lake Malawi Tank With Limestone   10/30/11

Hello, whoever may be answering this.(Be it Bob, or as I suspect one of his many aliases ;) )
< As far as I know he still goes by Bob.><<Sometimes Robert when I've been very bad>>
To start, A little background of my tank.
Started with a 20 gallon high, with gravel and 2 hang on back filters ( a whisper 20 and a Fluval c2) , a heater, and regular lights. I let this cycle, then added 4 cichlids. (this was before I fully understood the required water chemistry)
After about a month, and what felt like a ton of reading, I made some changes to the tank to try to replicate the nature environment as close as I could. Switched substrate to an aragonite/play sand blend(after fully rinsing, of course) in addition to supplements designed to raise pH and harden the water. (our
tap water is awfully soft). they "flashed" for a short while after the change, but seemed more at ease after about a week or so.
After about another month, fish are doing fine(imo). no problems with water quality, ammonia-0, nitrite-0, nitrate-0, pH-7.6, GH-7, KH-10, and 75 F steady.
I decided after advice from a couple people on another forum that the size of the tank needed to be increased drastically. So I switched to a 55 g tank, and proceeded to move everything from the already
established tank directly to the new tank.
A little cloudy at first, I suspect from the disturbed sand bed, but no other problems to speak of. water quality still same as stated above after addition of a proportional addition of additives. figuring the two HOB's wouldn't be enough, I added a Fluval 205 to the mix, figuring that the combined filtering capacity of all three would be enough for the volume of water, with the addition of a new powerhead as well.
After, I added 8 more fish, 2 cichlids and 6 Danios. I've included a picture of the tank as it is currently.
The tank is stocked with the following fish
Pseudotropheus demasoni
Aulonocara (not sure of sub)
Pseudotropheus acei
Labidochromis caeruleus
Hemichromis bimaculatus
< Not from Lake Malawi>
one "various cichlid" from lfs ( seems Malawi though, based simply upon behavior similar to others, coloration, and body shape, but very well could be wrong.
6 giant Danios. ( as I've read that as far as non-Malawi's go they are a decent choice to mix in due to size and speed.)
So here are my questions.
I've read a decent amount about compatibility, and I feel fairly confident of the mix (although again, I may be wrong.) You have any experience on this mixture?
< You selection is relatively peaceful with the exception of the Ps.
I haven't noticed any nipping, torn fins, damage, injuries or anything of the sort, although the cichlids and the Danios all seem the chase each other around now and again.
secondly. the power head I'm using includes a hose to be used for introducing air, creating a bubble flow. What are you feeling on this as it
relates to Malawi cichlids?
<I like the addition of the bubbles as an indicator of the water flow from the filter.>
thirdly, after the 55 was cleared out and functioning normally, I decided to take a small risk and collect limestone and granite rocks form a local forest preserve. After drying, boiling, and redrying the rocks, I put the into the tank. afterwards, the cichlids started to "flash" on the new rock ( which I suspect is a territorial or marking sort of behavior) and the Lab started making strange movements, almost what would
appear to be a seizure. I'm hard pressed to accurately describe it. Sort of a fast, whole body shaking motion. It's the only fish that makes this sort of movement.
Is this behavior considered normal, or might there be an underlying condition I'm not seeing?
< The granite is fine, but the limestone may be leaching minerals into the water causing chemistry changes to the water.>
Thanks for taking time out to help me if you can. Also, Love the web site, keep up the good work. Matt
< Thank you for your kind words.-Chuck>

Tanganyika Tank, misc. stkg.    2/15/11
Hi guys,
<And femmes Phill>
I hope this finds you all well and your new year has been a good one so far. So after careful consideration I have decided to set up a Tanganyikan tank with my rock hard Western Illinois water in a 40 gallon breeder tank. I'm good with the set up except some books call for dark gravel and others call for sand. Any thoughts?
<The dark color is of use for contrast w/ some species, for looks... the "natural sand" is likely of better service practically>
I will be adding an Altolamprologus calvus, either Julidochromis dickfeldi or marlieri, Neolamprologus brichardi, a small group of Synodontis petricola, and a small school of dwarf neon Rainbowfish for the top.
<Mmm, I'd likely stick w/ just one species of Cichlid in this size/shape, volume>
My other question, that I am having a great deal of variance in my search, is the diet. I was thinking doing bloodworms in the a.m.
<I'd leave these out... too much problems speculated in recent times re these insect larvae use>
and a general omni pellet or flake in the p.m. Monday through Saturday. I typically do not feed my fish on Sunday just to give their digestive tracts time to clear out. Does the type and schedule sound ok for what I have planned in the tank?
<I'd sub another mix of proteinaceous for the AMs>
On a side note I have a 5 gallon tank in my son's room with a Betta and 2 African dwarf frogs. I have a ridiculous case of green slime algae that started from week 3 of cycling. I used water from my South American 55 with the dechlorinated tap water and put live Cryptocoryne wendtii in there as well hoping to kick start the natural bacteria colony. Any thought on how this happened?
<Conditions permitting little doubt. Read here:
Nitrates/nitrites/ammonia are at 5/0/0ppm. How can I get rid of this completely without having to rip the tank apart or start over?
<See the above citation for approaches>
My son is in love with this Betta and I'm pretty sure he's family at this point so I need to keep this guy in good health lol. Would Erythromycin be effective?
<I would only try such as a last resort. Poss. downsides, including killing the livestock>
Thanks again guys.
As always you are amazing and your help is deeply appreciated. Happy Valentine's
as well.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Mixing Tropheus In A Lake Tanganyika Tank 9/10/09
Can Lamprologus Caudopunctatus be kept with Tropheus? Thank you. Phil
< While both of them obviously share the same water conditions, the Tropheus will ultimately chase the Lamprologus around and they will not thrive. Fry under 2" would be able to go together for awhile but the
Tropheus get big enough to breed they will chase all fish away from their territory. Tropheus have teeth and can inflict lots of damage very quickly.-Chuck>

Wish list
Lake Tanganyika Tank Set Up, stkg.    8/5/09

Very informative site. Well done.
< Thank you for your kind words.>
I would like to set up a primarily Tanganyika tank and I have a compatibility question:
What are your thoughts as to the co-habitation of the following? What numbers of each would work best given a 110 gallon tank with plenty of rock hiding spots, sand substrate, and a shell bed?
Benthochromis tricoti-<Large open water cichlid that gets big and can be somewhat skittish. Expensive and does better in groups with more females than males. Can be a problem jumper. Does not need extensive rock work at an adult size. Does best in a species only tank but may get along with other when small.>
Altolamprologus compressiceps Nangu (Black compressiceps)
Altolamprologus calvus (Calvus Black Congo)< Both these fish have the same temperament. I would switch out one of the species for one with color like a yellow calvus or orange compressiceps.>
Neolamprologus brichardi (Daffodil) < Nice fish but can be invasive in a larger tank. When a pair forms they continue to spawn while the older fry take care of the smaller spawns until they take over an entire tank. Forms large colonies in the wild. Very pretty fish. can reduce the numbers to keep other fish in the tank.>
Cyphotilapia frontosa (Frontosa) < No way. Gets a foot long and eats all smaller fish that it will fit in its mouth while they are sleeping at night.>
Neolamprologus leleupi (Leleupi) < Pretty orange or yellow fish. Pairs are difficult to get to pair off.>
Lamprologus similis (Similus shell dweller) < Make a little mound of shells for these fish to get a foot hold.>
Neolamprologus helianthus (Sunflower)< Nice yellow fish that is not as invasive as the daffodils>
Tropheus duboisii (Tropheus duboisii Maswa) < Nice as babies but not so nice as adults.>
Tropheus moorii Ndole Bay Red (Ndole Bay Tropheus) < Very aggressive.>
< Go with six each of all the Lamprologus types. As they pair off you can remove the others because they will be killed. Each pair will form a bond and pick an area to spawn. They will defend that territory and other fish will learn to stay away. The Tropheus are harem spawners with one male needed for several females. I would recommend a dozen of each. Assuming a 50/50 sex ratio this will give you 6 males and 6 females. The dominant male will pick on the other males so they should be removed. This will leave you one or two males per six females. Instead of the Benthochromis look at getting some Cyprichromis instead. Smaller, cheaper and will fill the upper open water area. Are prone to jump so keep the tank covered.
Instead of the frontosa look at getting some L. tretacephalus. Look the same as frontosa but stay smaller and are easy to spawn. Look at getting the book "Enjoying Cichlids" By Ad Konings. Blue peacocks may have a chance. Yellow ones are pussy cats and should be in a species tank The Tropheus may cross breed so make sure you have both sexes. Hope this helps.-Chuck>
Given this as a starting point, how would a group of peacocks hold up (for a little brighter color)?
Thanks for any input and/or recommendations.

Tanganyikan Rock
Rock Selection For A Lake Tanganyikan Cichlid Tank - 06/05/09

Hi guys! Hope everyone's doing really well and was hoping to get this to Neale. We've been discussing a Tanganyikan Cichlid tank that I am in the process of planning very slowly. I have been having a little bit of trouble finding the type of rock I want to use for my setup and continue to explore options. Just for the sake of some background information, it will be a 30 gallon tank with about a 5-7 gallon sump used for extra water volume and equipment. The display will house Julidochromis dickfeldi, Neolamprologus brichardi and some type of Cyprichromis. Being somewhat new to the freshwater aquarium world and absolutely new to the Cichlid aquarium world (but very, very impressed with how the Tang cichlid's look...very beautiful fish), but pretty well versed in saltwater and reef aquariums, I happened upon a type of rock called Texas Holey Rock while perusing EBay. From the pictures I saw, it appeared to me to be more appropriate for larger cichlids rather than the smaller ones that I am interested in, but maybe it was just those particular pictures. Anyhow, after looking through the information on your search for "Texas Holey Rock", I now realize this rock is nothing new to the industry, just to me, but I couldn't find any information in regards to whether people were using this type of rock for smaller cichlids in lieu of another type of rock where you can stack many rocks creating caves and chasms as opposed to a large chunk of only one or two pieces of Texas Holey Rock. Maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way and should try to get a handful of smaller pieces of the Texas Holey (if I can find it at the right price) to better create these spaces between rocks (nooks and crannies) rather than just the holes on the actual pieces of rock (sorry if I'm getting confusing here...not sure if this is quite making sense even to me). Anyhow, rather than being too "wordy" and maybe confusing all of us, I'll just ask your opinion on this rock in this type of application. Also, with the species I am looking to house, I guess it would be best to just have maybe a third of the tank consist of the rock, so I wondered what your guesstimate would be on the total poundage I should look into if I go this route. That may be a hard question to answer without seeing the rock, but figured it couldn't hurt to ask. Thanks so much for your help and I love you all in a strictly "fishy" way. With Much Gratitude As Always-Nick Sadaka
< This rock is very common to cichlid enthusiasts in Texas. I have been to Texas collecting the stuff myself. Some of it is very large with few holes. This is heavier that some rocks that have more holes in them. The amount of rock you select is going to be a matter of personal taste. The Julies and lamps will appreciate them while the cyps occupy the open water column. The color of the rock doesn't matter because the rock will soon become covered in green algae. This rock does have an advantage in that it buffers the water for an alkaline pH.. Smaller rocks are easier to work with than larger rocks. They can be arranged to suit the needs of the fish rather than depend on the diameters of the existing holes.-Chuck>

Setting Up a Planted Tank With Tanganyikan Shell Dwellers 5/5/09
Hi Wet Web crew! I hope all of the fantastic and brilliant people at Wet Web Media are prospering and thriving, and as always, I thank you all in advance for your superb work, advice and giving spirit. You are fine examples for all aquarists. I am hoping to be able to tap Neale for some help as we have very briefly discussed this in the past, but as always, I am thrilled to receive help from any and all of the exceptional Wet Web staff on hand.
I have been trying to decide on my next (and one of very few that I've tried...I've almost strictly done saltwater/reefs in the past) freshwater tank. It is a 36", 30 gallon tank that was once a reef setup, but has now been broken down to just tank, stand and sump. I am still in the research/idea stage and just wanted to run an idea past Neale/crewmember. My thinking may be a bit skewed because of my experiences being mostly reef oriented, but here goes.
I have been reading a lot of Planted Aquarium books (am currently reading Ecology of the Planted aquarium and am almost finished, and have Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants ready when I finish) and am often influenced by whatever I am currently reading, so I very much would like this tank to be planted, but don't know if my idea to do so can be correctly applied.
I am also currently very much enamored with the shell dwelling Neolamprologus multifasciatus and would like them to be my central inhabitant. After reading about these small, interesting fishes, I certainly realize that it would not be very wise to mix these excavating shell-dwellers with plants, so here's my reef-background solution which may very well be flawed. I was hoping I could do the setup for the 'multi' in the display tank and then use my sump as a type of planted refugium so I can enjoy both of those interests in a way that wouldn't disturb either. I've also read that the multi's enjoy really clean water, so I was hoping the plants would help with that as well. The biggest problem I see (and their may very well be others that I do not) with this idea is the tank water overflowing into the refugium and driving off the CO2. Would that be an overwhelming obstacle? I guess at this point I won't ask too many specifics, but I wanted to put the idea out there and see what you guy(s) thought (my use of the word 'guys' is a unisex one and I mean no offense, nor do I wish any crewmember to view that term as exclusionary in this query, please). I'm pretty sure that my 'idea' is not a unique one and that there are probably good reasons why this is not regularly done. That being said, I figured it was worth a shot to see what you guys thought. Barring that idea, is there any way you can think of that I could utilize those two aspects (planted tank and multis) and make it work?
Thanks so, so much for your help as always. I certainly will be following this up with a set up plan to run by the crew to make sure I am doing things right as I get further along if it's okay. I have certainly learned from experience that trying to set up an aquarium as best as possible from the start is really one of the biggest keys to aquarium keeping success. Thanks again and I hope you guys all have a wonderful day/week! Your Loyal Follower/Promoter/Disciple-Nick Sadaka (Not Neil Sedaka, but will still respond to the name if you choose to call me it!)
< The Tanganyikan shell dwelling cichlids require hard alkaline water. This is not very good for most aquarium plants. Set up a group of shell dwellers with a bunch of shells and some crushed coral as substrate in the main tank. Add plants such as Java fern, Java moss, Anubias and even some Cryptocoryne wendtii. Stay away from stem plants needing CO2. Use good florescent light bulbs in the 6500K range and keep them on between 8 to 10 hours per day. Cover the roots with rocks to prevent the cichlids from digging them out. The plants are slow to react and will not remove much of the organic waste but will be slow in dying to if the conditions are not to their liking.-Chuck>

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.>

Re: white specks 4/23/08 Hi Mike and Crew, Thank you for the advice given so far. The tank inhabitants are one male and three female Neolamprologus multifasciatus, chosen to suit the small tank. My current water conditions are as follows; Ammonia - .1ppm <Too much! Tanganyikans are notoriously sensitive to nitrogenous waste, and even Nitrate causes problems, let alone Ammonia. So, first up, review feeding and filtration. If these are basically fine, then also check you don't have ammonia in your drinking water. Sometimes as plain vanilla ammonia, sometimes as chloramine. In either case, you'll need to take remedial action by adding the appropriate conditioner to the water prior to use. All this said, if there's traces of ammonia in the drinking water, any half-decent filtration system should remove it quite quickly.> Nitrite- 0ppm Nitrate- 0ppm-1ppm PH- 7.6 (not currently adding Alkaline Buffer as I've been doing twice a week 50% water changes to keep the white specks numbers down) <Hmm... not sure you *can* safely economise on carbonate hardness in a Tanganyikan tank.> GH-179ppm (not currently adding KH/PH Plus as I've been doing twice a week 50% water changes to keep the white specks numbers down) KH-179ppm (as above) <Adding a pH buffer is largely irrelevant if you're adding sufficient carbonate hardness. DIY recipes for making Rift Valley water using cheap grocery store chemicals cost pennies per gallon. 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) Or get a recipe from a Rift Valley cichlid book, and then act accordingly. While I agree that commercial Rift Valley salts are pricey, that doesn't mean you can economise while treating your fish. Raising the carbonate hardness should automatically take care of the pH without any further need to add chemicals.> In my attempts to eradicate the organism I have tried an 18 day course of white spot eliminator, which had very limited effect. I then let the tank sit for two weeks before trying two courses of Parasite Eliminator, followed by water changes as directed, again with very limited results. <Do check you have removed carbon. One of the most common reasons medication don't seem to work is that carbon was left in the system.> As I learn more about the fish and fish keeping, I am hesitant to add more medications, instead doing twice weekly water changes to let the tank and fish recover from medications. I will try to take photo for more info but the specks don't photograph to well, as they are tiny. They could be compared to half a grain of sand size, and seem to be able to change directions in the water as they move against the current. <Sound like either Whitespot or Velvet; many medications treat both. Whitespot looks like salt, Velvet is smaller and looks like confectioners/icing sugar. Velvet also tends to have a slight golden sheen, hence the name. Often Velvet attacks the gills before anything else, so your fish "flash" against objects in irritation before any white spots become visible. Because Velvet attacks the gills early on, it is almost always associated with rapid or laboured breathing relative to normal.> At present I have not seen the white spots form on the fish like any of the pictures on the net, admittedly they are small fish which makes it hard to see. Thank you again for you time and assistance any advice is much appreciated. Kind regards, Darren. <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Extended Cycling 1/15/08 Hi WWM Crew, <Hello,> I am setting up a rather small (40 G/ 150L) Tanganyika Tank. Water, Substrate (Aragonite) and Rocks are in the tank. Filter, Heater and Maxi jet are running. Filter is a Fluval 305, Media right now are Prodibio Bio Digest on Ceramic Media, Activated Carbon and 100ml of ROWAphos. <Sounds great, though I admit to considering carbon a total waste of space in freshwater tanks.> I'm slowly raising pH and KH to 9.0 and ~14KH respectively. Unfortunately I realized that I'll have to be away from the tank <Oh...?> for 3 weeks at the end of March. There will be somebody who can fill up evaporated water once a week, but not much more. <OK.> My questions here is, is there any problem to be expected when I extend the cycling and wait with the livestock until I'm back in late April? <None at all. If the tank is currently unstocked, throw in one or two of those dumb "holiday" food blocks. As the calcium carbonate (or whatever they are) dissolves, it releases small amounts of flake food. The food will rot, release ammonia in the process, and keep the bacteria happy. I think those blocks last 2 weeks, in which case you might ask your "baby sitter" to throw the second one in halfway through your trip.> I really don't want to put a couple of juveniles in there to pair off, and then not be there if there is any trouble. <Agreed.> Should I feed the bacteria with some fish food or organic salmon scraps? <Yes, but do as indicated above, so the food is releases slowly, a bit at a time.> As usual, many thanks for your great help and input, Jörg <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Extended Cycling 1/17/08 Hi Neale, <Joerg,> thanks for your quick reply. In terms of the carbon, I'm planning to use it in the beginning to get rid of organic compounds and heavy metals, might be wishful thinking...? <Your tap water shouldn't have much of either in it, and dechlorinator removes heavy metals anyway. But my honest opinion is that even if carbon has some small positive impact, it isn't nearly as helpful as, say, 50% weekly water changes or the use of chemical buffers to moderate pH changes.> I'm using Tap Water, prepared in a 10 G Food Grade Bucket, aerated, heated, dechlorinated, etc. <Sounds good.> What would be a good filter plan IYO for a Tanganyika Tank, in addition to the mechanical and biological media? <Your prime issues with Tanganyikans are carbonate hardness and nitrate removal. Tanganyikans don't like pH changes and they don't tolerate high levels of nitrate. So I'd be looking at things like crushed coral or crushed oyster shell to buffer the pH upwards and nitrate-removing filter media if the nitrate levels are excessively high. Beyond this, it doesn't really matter what filter you use, though some aquarists do point out that poorly maintained canister and undergravel filters especially can become "nitrate factories", the last thing you want in a Tanganyika tank!> You mentioned earlier that De-Nitrification media is not overly effective, so I was planning to take care of the accumulating Nitrates by bi-weekly water changes. <Yep.> Besides some Phosphate control, what else would you put in there? <Wouldn't be too fussed about phosphate compared with nitrate, which is much more worrying with Tanganyikan cichlids. At some point you have to look at the cost/benefit ratio; chemical media sound good in theory, but are expensive to use in the long term. So do spend time prioritising things if you're on a budget.> Fill it up with Bio Media? <Never a bad idea, but do remember biological filtration produces acidic chemicals, so you should also think about raising the carbonate hardness.> Appreciated as always, <Happy to help.> Joerg <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Extended Cycling -- 1/18/08 Neale, <Hello Jörg,> thanks again! As mentioned earlier I am trying to bring KH and pH up to appropriate levels. I am using "Tanganyika Buffer" by Seachem, 5gram per 10 Gallon, until I reach a pH of about 9.0 which should result in a KH of +14 I guess, as I have not yet determined the ratio pH/KH/CO2 in my water. So far pH is 8.0 and KH is at 7, so I keep adding Buffer. My super soft NYC water keeps swallowing the buffer... <Too funny. Here in England, most of us have "liquid rock" ideal for Tanganyikans and Malawians but not much good for South Americans, so we end up trying to soften the water. Isn't it odd how we always want to keep the fish that don't like our local tap water?> The Aragonite should help keeping the Hardness up, right? <Yes, up to a point. Once crushed coral or whatever gets covered in algae and bacteria, it can't dissolve any more, so it stops buffering. In other words, chemical filter media need to be kept clean. I'd recommend having two batches of the stuff, one in the filter, and the other at standby. Once a month (or whenever you notice the KH drifting down) take out the batch in the filter, and replace with the standby batch. You can now deep clean the removed batch using hot water and sunlight (for the UV). Maybe even a splash of hydrogen peroxide. When you're happy it's nice and clean and properly rinsed to remove any detritus, you'll have a nice clean batch of crushed coral to put in the filter next month. Easy peasey.> Concerning the Nitrates, plants might help to consume some of it, I guess, but I'd like to keep the biotope right and not use west African Anubias or other hard water suitable plants, actually keep it without plants, even if I right now would love to see something green in there. <Let's not forget that plants ARE part of the Malawian and Tanganyikan biotopes. They're just not all over the lakes. Vallisneria and Potamogeton are both found in Tanganyika (I believe) but there's no reason you couldn't use Crinum or Anubias, both of which occur in Africa and are plenty tough enough to do well. All these plants thrive in hard water. Apart from Potamogeton, which isn't in the trade much, if at all, Vallisneria is the fastest growing species and a good "nitrate eater". Slow-growing plants have little effect, and Anubias especially is hopeless. The other good thing about Vallisneria is that it is pretty indifferent to substrate type, though it does like soil/sand mixes. I've grown it in coral sand and it did remarkably well! Adding liquid fertiliser to the water will be a good idea though, if only for the iron that stops the leaves going yellow.> So it will be water changes, and I'll give De-Nitrate by Seachem a chance. To prevent the filter becoming a Nitrate Factory I should wash out the filter media in aquarium water, right? Bi-monthly, perhaps? <In theory, once a month is often recommended. But to some degree you'll need to experiment: for the first few months, do a nitrate test once a week and log the data onto a graph (woo-hoo, Excel can be fun!). See where the peaks occur, and what impact your water changes have. That'll give you the data you need.> About me being away in March and my tanks, I was also planning to upgrade the 10 Gallon planted tank I talked with you about, some time ago. There the Water Chemistry is approved since then, with KH now being 5, carbon removed to prevent washing out the nutrients. Anyway the plants still do poorly if I forget to add Excel on a daily basis. So I am planning to add CO2, with a little yeast generator + pump for diffusion and upgrade the light from now 17W to CF 36W, 8000K Guess that will require a fine tuning of fertilizers, and for safety reasons a higher KH to prevent pH crashes. My feeling here is that I should wait with the upgrade until I'm back, which requires quite some patience, as the hardware is here already and screams to put to work... <I tend to like 10 gallon tanks to be room ornaments -- kept as simple as possible, so maintenance is easy. For some reason I'm happy to mess about with big tanks, but like little tanks to sit still. What I'm trying to say is budget your time/money carefully here. The Tanganyikan tank, done properly, and tailored for "advanced" species will consume plenty of your resources. And I'm suspecting you'll want to keep the advanced species rather than a bunch of Brichardi cichlids! A 10-gallon planted tank filled with Cryptocorynes and Anubias is easy to make and looks lovely, even without CO2 or fancy lighting. Add a few small fish like gobies and then a bunch of cherry shrimps, and that's all you need.> Many thanks, and I just can not finish a WWM E-mail without saying how much I appreciate what you guys do for the aquarium community! <We're all happy to help.> Joerg <Cheers, Neale.>

Cichlid substrate... Tanganyikan, African cichlids   12/12/07 Hi I have a cichlid tank an I'm think about switching my river rock substrate to a sand or grain. I mainly have Tanganyika fish and I was wondering what's the best substrate to use if I'm going for the white sand look. <Something calcareous, roundish... even intended for saltwater use... like crushed coral> I want to use fine white sand but I rather use something that benefit the fish more. I read about a silver sand but I don't want the metallic look rather just simply white sand. <Just seek out carbonaceous material, not silicate...> Also the coral sand is fine but isn't white but more tan. My fish rather have dark coloring so I think that white sand would look amazing in contrast. Also with sand.. does the fish waist <waste> end up laying on the surface or does the mild water current pick it up. <Hopefully the latter> I'm worried about the waist getting mixed in the sand since sand can't be vacuumed like river rocks can. Can u tell me the proper way to clean it? Thank you very much, Chris <Posted on WWM... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnaqfaqs.htm and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwgravelfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Setting Up A Tanganyikan Shell Dweller Tank  4/29/06 I feel rather stupid asking you a question but I've scoured the internet looking for an answer and can't seem to find one'¦ I'm setting up a Tanganyikan biotope, though I'm still at school so I need something that is relatively easy to maintain and this would be my first fish tank. Also I'm only allowed a ten gallon tank so I decided that Neolamprologus brevis or perhaps Neolamprologus multifasciatus would be interesting shell dwellers to have in such a small tank. The tank will be set up with sand as the substrate and crushed shells to buffer the pH, with thinly planted Vallisneria  and scattered river worn rocks (mainly for aesthetic reasons), and plenty of shells so the pair can take there pick (can you see a problem with any of the above)? < All the shell dwellers are constantly digging in the sand and moving it around. Place the plants in small flowerpots filled with Fluorite by SeaChem to prevent them from being uprooted. Us the rocks to hide the flowerpots. The crushed shells are not needed since the regular shells will be enough to buffer the water.> Though I've heard that cichlids are shy and that to make them less fearful you should introduce a school of dither fish, in such a small biotope is this possible? < Not needed with these little guys. They will swim away at first but will quickly be back out. Eventually they get use to the traffic outside the tank.> I want the fishes whether they be dither fishes or not, to be in something similar there natural habitat. I think it's only fair if we take them out of their habitat (captive breed or not) I feel (though it's not always possible) we should try to create their habitat to the best of our ability. Though I'm at a loss as to what fish to use, if there is any I can use? To make matters worse I am also not allowed a grow on tank, so if the shell dwellers do breed (am hopeful) I need dither fish that will not be too much threat to the fry (though I imagine most fish wouldn't be able to resist). If you could help I would really appreciate it. Thank you for your time Tara Ps. Hope the spelling and grammar is acceptable < I have been in Lake Tanganyika and have seen first hand the shell beds that Lamprologus multifasciatus come from. The water is too deep/murky/dark for plant growth except for some algae. Most of the fish are there to try and eat the shell dwellers. Many aquarists try and use dither fish with their Tang. tanks since most of the cichlids are attached to the rocks or sand. In a larger tank you could use a school of Cyprichromis. The Tang. killifish gets too big and only one male will survive in a tank. There are no barbs or tetras that are found in the lake itself. Other cichlids will try and eat the fry.-Chuck>

WWM Does Good ...Tanganyikan Shell Dweller Tank - 5/2/2006 Hi, I just wanted to say thank you for your advice on setting up my Tanganyikan Shell Dweller Tank  (4/29/06). I'm weary of asking anyone at or LFS for advice as they don't seem to know what a Tanganyikan Shell Dweller is. Its really good to get some definite advice that's not conflicting in anyway! Also your website fantastic seeing the problems that other people have come across makes me see how to (hopefully) avoid them and do the best for my fish. Again thank you for your prompt response. Tara (UK) < Thank you for your kind words.-Chuck>      

Large Lake Tanganyika Set Up   3/24/06 Hello friends at WWM :) I have a 600 gallon tank (90"x30"x48"). I've been chatting in an online forum and have received some very  negative feedback about my stocking plan.  All of the local cichlid  breeders and wholesalers that I've talked to have given me very positive  feedback.  From my research, I believe that this mix can be achieved with  care, and a willingness to separate fish as things may go wrong. I have a lot of rock - some 1500 odd lbs.  There are two separate  sandy beaches.  A large cobble mountain that sort of bleeds down into the  tank (lots of smaller caves, round rock).  And there are 3  LARGE flat rock structures with very large caves.  I'm not sure how  good of a picture that paints, but hopefully it's good enough.  The top 24"  inches of the tank are basically empty except for where my largest rocks stand  out in the water like towers. In the tank already are the following: 5 Yellow Calvus (1.5") 5 Inkfin Calvus (1.5") 6 Mpimbwe Blue  Frontosa (1.25") 20 Tropheus "Moliro" (1.5") 6 Synodontis Petricola  (1.25") I currently plan to  add: 30 Cyprichromis  "Undecided locale" 8 Paracyprichromis nigriventris 8 Benthochromis  tricoti 8 Xenotilapia papilio 4 Neolamprologus "Daffodil" 4  Lamprologus ocellatus "Gold" 12 Lamprologus similis 6 Julidochromis dickfeldi 6 Lamprichthys tanganicanus So this is a ... "the pessimist said" - the I hope - <and the WWM  feedback session> :) "Tropheus have special dietary needs dietary needs" - I will a primarily high protein vegetable diet. "Tropheus are just too boisterous" - Everybody on the forum assured me they should  be kept in a species tank with only other very aggressive fish (Neolamps and  Juli's).  I am hoping/theorizing that with 600 gallons to go around, they  won't cause too much havoc.  Yeah or Nay IYO? < The larger tank will allow non-dominate males a place to hide.> "Benthochromis tricoti are simply too peaceful to be with most of these  other fish" From my research, it seems like they'd have about 200 gallons  of water to share only with the Cyps.  Am I dreaming to hope that they  could thrive with Neolamps and Tropheus? < The tricoti come from very deep open water. The tropheus scrape the algae off the rocks. There will be enough room for the tricoti to get away.> "Your Frontosa can and will eat everything in the tank except  the tricoti". Grown from runts with the fish that might  someday be food, kept well fed and given the aggression level of the fish that  might get eaten seems like it could turn out okay. < The frontosa get over 12 inches and will eat sleeping fish that fit into their mouths.> In addition to that I  could set up my shellies so that they would be very inaccessible to a  monster Front.  If that doesn't work out when I start losing  fish I could pull them out.  Decent odds? < The bigger fish will continually stress the smaller ones to the point you will not see them , so what is the point of having them?> "The combination of rock, shell dwelling and sand dwelling fish are  simply incompatible and will make each other miserable.  To try to do it is  lunacy - slim down your selection."  I just don't really  understand why they said this - but this is my first Tanganyikan tank so maybe I  just don't understand what goes on with these kids when they're full grown and  breeding.  I'm not sure if reading paints an adequate picture. I really don't know anything  about the Killie on the list, except that it's very sweet looking and I want  it.  Nobody on the forum seemed to know either so that's sort of a  wildcard. < The killies are shallow water fish that eat lake flies from the surface. male cannot stand each other.> In a nutshell they said they  could set me up with Tropheus/Neolamp tank, they could set me up with a Frontosa  tank, they could set me up with a Tricoti tank, or they could recommend an  assortment that would inhabit each niche.  But if I wanted to be a  responsible fish keeper it was critical that I picked one of the previous tank  setups they would recommend. I'll add just as a note I will  probably be moving in the next year or so, and will have to break down the tank  and move it so I'll have a mandated social reconstruction at that time.   With that in mind, I'm more interested in innovating and exploring what my tank  is capable than coming up with a successful "5 year plan".  At the same  time I don't want to set up a tank destined for failure - but I don't consider  having to separate fish failure.  I own a pet store, and have many, many  tanks available for separating fish when/if it becomes a problem. Thanks for your time and feedback  :) Scott <Everything will go together when small. After the first year pull the fronts and the tropheus for the reasons already stated. Don't even start with the killies. Go with the Cyps or the tricoti but not both. Better to go with one shell dweller. When these cichlids start to breed you will have lots of daffodils and eventually they will take over all the rocky areas of the tank.-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.> Frontosa Not Moving Much   1/14/06 Hi there, I saw your website when I Googled it, and wanted to ask a question about my husband's frontosa. He was an active fish, now it just sits on the bottom of the tank under a rock and is very lethargic, he has bubbles on his scales. Can you give me some advice? Shan from Australia < Frontosas are from Lake Tanganyika. They require warm, hard alkaline water. They are fish eaters in the wild. Bubbles on the scales is an unusual symptom. Bubbles usually indicate some form of bacterial activity. I would recommend a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Check the water chemistry for zero ammonia and nitrites. Nitrates should be under 20 ppm. The pH should be around 8.0 at 84 F. If things don't improve in a couple of days then you may need to use an antibiotic, like Erythromycin or Nitrofuranace.-Chuck> African Mbuna Tank Set Up   1/13/06 This is Roger Nicholl again, I wrote you earlier about my aquarium being cloudy and not knowing why. My tank has been setup for about 3 months and I do a 10 percent water change once a week. I have 2 Regent Aqua Teck 30-60 power filters on it and it just does not seem to be doing the job. But come this Saturday I will also have an Aqua clear 500 on there. Now I only have 20 fish in my aquarium and I am selling 18 of them in order to put African cichlids in there, I already have my waters pH set to 8.0 and I was also wonder if you could give me an idea on what African's I could go with to have a very colorful tank. Keeping in mind that I only have a 55 gallon. PLEASE HELP. Thank you. I am so fed up with it that I am almost ready to sell the whole works. < I answered this question or one just like it yesterday. Check the FAQ archives.-Chuck> Setting Up a Bigger Tanganyikan Tank  1/1/06 WWM Team, I have been enjoying the hobby for about 25 years.  In fact I have had the same 100 gallon tank for about 23 years.  Of course the livestock, décor and filter technology has changed.  For about the last 10 years I have focused mainly on Tanganyika varieties.  Over the past couple of years I have successfully integrated a heavy plant load with Tanganyikans.  Currently both my fish and plants are doing great.  By using alkaline buffer (Seachem) and co2 injection I have found a happy medium of a PH of 7.55 and a KH of 9 that both keeps the fish very health and the plants pearling. Let me first tank you for all the hard work.  I have been reading your articles and advise, very nice stuff.  How did we ever survive before the internet? < Books, magazines and fish clubs.> I am looking for some advice for my planed upgrade.  I am in the process of purchasing a Lee-Mar 96x24x30 300 gallon tank.  My goal is to have a bigger version of what I have today.  From what I have learned in practice and from your great information I think I need a large closed loop system.  The wet dry route would pretty much remove the co2 I am trying to keep in the water.   I would like the closed loop system to include a cartridge filter, bio chamber, chemical chamber, heater and UV.  I have never owned our used Ocean Clear or Nu-Clear products and it sounds like they are probably too small and labor intensive/frequent for my needs.  What is your opinion on something like Hayward cartridge filters like the C900? < This will remove matter suspended in the water. May clog often depending on you selection of fish.> Do you have any cartridge filter recommendations?   Do you have any recommendations on Ocean Clear and Pentair Aquatics for Bio and chemical chambers? < Pick the system that is the easiest for you to service and clean. Right now either will work for the fish you have. You really don't have that many fish for all the filtration you have. The new tank will depend on how many fish and what kinds of fish you plan to keep.> How would you feel about using Fluidized Be Filters like Pentair or Quicksand? < These filters work great for breaking down ammonia and nitrites to nitrates. They will quickly die if the power goes out and all the media settles to the bottom.> Thank you for taking to time to help me out.  After 25 years in the hobby the more I learn the more questions I have. Regards, Freddy 100 Gallon glass CO2 injection with Aquacontroller II pro PH 7.55 KH 9 GH 7 (2) Via Aqua 750 (Sponge + 3 Chemi-pure + 2L of Seachem Matrix) each 18 watt UV (2) UG filters with 400 GPH Power Heads Java Ferns, Java Moss, Tiger Lotus, Micro Swords, Crinum calimistratum and others (2) Calvus, (7) Cyprichromis (2) leleupi (2) Daffodil (2) Cylindricus (2) random peacock (1) Old as dirt (over 12 years) and blind Texas (Aka "Bob") 10% to 15% water change every Saturday. < Do you really need CO2? Many plants in Lake Tanganyika actually get their CO2 from breaking up the CaCO2 molecule in the lake. For this you need very good lighting. I would recommend that you try your tank without the CO2 first. This could change your future filtration plans. The plants may not do as well but you really don't have any plants that really require CO2 supplementation. Much of your filtration needs will be based on what types of fish you wish to keep and how many. At high pH's ammonia is deadly to Lake Tanganyikan cichlids. Currently you have undergravel and sponge filtration that takes care of the biological filtration. The Chemi-pure actually removes valuable minerals that you Tanganyikans need. It is hard for me to argue with something that has worked so well for you for so long.-Chuck>

Tanganyikan Cichlids, Carbon - II - 09/16/2005 Thanks for the reply.   <You bet.  Crewmember Sabrina with you, this time, as so many of our folks (Bob included) are out at MACNA.> I checked out Eheim's website, and they recommend  running carbon short-term, to take something specific out of the water.    <This is the best/most common use, yes.> I've never relied only on biological filtration.  If I didn't run carbon on a regular basis, wouldn't my water not be as clear?   <Mm, only if you have something in the tank that continually discolors the water (like driftwood).  With proper maintenance, you should have no need for carbon except, as Eheim suggests, to remove something specific from the water (like discoloration from wood, undesirable chemicals, and emergencies where toxic substances may have been introduced).> I have always done 20% weekly water changes. <This is probably fine.  I would suggest to try running without the carbon for a while; it loses its efficacy after a few to several days, anyhow, so you really won't be "missing" much, I think.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

90 gal freshwater set-up for Tanganyikan Cichlids I am setting up a 90 gallon (72 inches long)  freshwater tank for Tanganyikan Cichlids.  I have an Eheim Classic 2217 and a HOT Magnum.  I am considering running the Eheim with mostly biological media, and a poly-filter.  I can then use the HOT Magnum with just carbon, as I think it would be easier to frequently change the carbon in the Magnum than the Eheim.  I am planning on keeping a good number of hardy plants with the fish, such as java fern and anubias.  My lighting fixture will be Custom SeaLife PowerCompact/Moon Lite.  A bit of overkill, but I got a good deal on it.  I'll probably run it with just the 10,000K bulbs it came with, not the actinics (which make up 1/2 the lighting from the fixture).   I am trying to avoid a ton of algae growth and am concerned about phosphates from the carbon.  Any suggestions in addition to or other than changing the carbon every couple of weeks? <Regular large water changes> Is there a brand of carbon that releases fewer phosphates? <The Eheim line, HR from TMC...> Other than poly-filter, I'd like to try and stay away from synthetic resins, but will consider using them if vitally necessary. <Not necessary. Bob Fenner> I forgot to add, that I would be using mechanical filtration in the Eheim also.  Am considering the Ehfimech for mechanical,  Substrat Pro for the biological, and Polyfilter, for good measure.  HOT Magnum   would just contain carbon. <Mmm, I'd use some mechanical media ("floss") to keep most of the "gunk" away from the carbon here... a pad before and after... sandwiching the carbon. Bob Fenner>

Live FW Rock?  9/5/05 Hello crew, Thanks for the help with an illness problem. This question is about freshwater live rock. I started thinking after looking at so many marine aquarium setups, that there should be some sort of Rift Lake equivalent of 'live rock'. Lake Tanganyika has sponges, snails, algae and other micro organisms very much like a marine environment (it is the oldest Rift Lake), more so than either Malawi and Victoria. Is there such a thing as Tanganyika live rock in the hobby? If so this would be great for the micro predators and Mbuna. Any interest, ideas or info would be helpful. Allen < It is true about the age of the Lake Tanganyika, but that is nothing compared to the geologic time that the oceans have been around. You forgot about FW jellyfish, crabs, shrimp and eels too. No such thing as live rock from Lake Tanganyika.-Chuck> Re: Live FW Rock? Lake Tanganyika Critter Set Up  9/5/05 Chuck, So if it's not available, are the various sponges, snails, algae, jellyfish, crabs, shrimp and eels (or similar critters) available which could approximate this environment. If so, any names of the creatures and an idea where they may be found would be appreciated. I've been sifting through the site and trying to determine if there are ways of supplementing my cichlids diet with live forage foods living in my tanks. Allen <The commercially available fish foods we have today are pretty darn good for the most part. All the lamps and Julies will feed on Calif. black worms infested in the gravel. Spirulina flakes pretty much take cars of all the herbivores like Tropheus and Petrochromis. To give your fish a boost try making your own fish food using the formula in "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings. When I was in Lake Tanganyika I asked the same questions. There were plants there too. Unfortunately anything else other than fish has the potential to become a biological hazard if introduced into American waters. The paperwork for such importations make importing these things impractical. Europeans don't have the same restrictions as we do , so some items make it to their hobbyists. These things turn out to be very expensive and don't ship very well. The crabs tear each other up, the jellyfish are poisonous to fish, the shrimp get eaten when they shed, the snails may carry schistosomiasis and algae is algae. There are many eels that could be exported but they are expensive and love to jump.-Chuck>

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