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FAQs on Neotropical Cichlid Systems

Related Articles: Neotropical Cichlids, Central American Cichlids by Neale Monks, Central American Cichlids by Neale Monks, frican Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in General

Related FAQs: Neotropical Cichlids 1, Neotropical Cichlids 2, Neotropical Cichlids 3, Neotropical Cichlid Identification, Neotropical Cichlid Behavior, Neotropical Cichlid Compatibility, Neotropical Cichlid Selection, Neotropical Cichlid Feeding, Neotropical Cichlid Disease, Neotropical Cichlid Reproduction, Convicts, Oscars, Firemouths, Texas Cichlids, Severums, Triangle Cichlids, & Cichlids of the World, Cichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,

Geophagus Tapajos Red Heads; stkg. neotrop. cichlids, sys.     8/8/17
Hello Crew,
Firstly, thank you for such an informative site, and the time you take to help everyone, it's very much appreciated!
I have been researching Geophagus Red Head Tapajos and would like to dedicate my aquarium primarily to a group of 8, along with a small group of 4 Guianacara owroewefi cichlids in my 460gallon aquarium.
<Should be compatible; both peaceful species of smallish size ultimately>
I am still in the last part of the cycling process but as I have quite hard alkaline water I know I will have to change this to soft acidic water soon, well before I add any fish.
<Yes; these cichlids live in tannin-acidic, soft-water conditions; and have not been bred in captivity thus far in successive generations to be "more flexible" water quality wise>
My question for you was, what are the appropriate GH and KH ranges for these fish, primarily the Geophagus Red Heads?
<In one place hardness is listed as 18-179 ppm... so quite soft to somewhat hard. I would shy on the softer end of the scale here>
I keep finding very varied information online about this species and their water chemistry preferences.
<Considering the water, smallish location this Eartheater is endemic to, and its water chemistry, I consider the above to be accurate>
I have purchased a 4 stage RO unit as well as a triple stage dechlorinator, heavy metal and nitrate filter so am prepared to set the water to the necessary levels. Lastly, I just wanted to check, are Geophagus Red Head
Tapajos and Geophagus Orange Head Tapajos simply two variants of the same species or two different species?
<According to my references these are definitely two different species>
Many thanks,
<As many welcomes. Bob Fenner>
Geophagus /Neale       8/9/17

Hello Crew,
Firstly, thank you for such an informative site, and the time you take to help everyone, it's very much appreciated!
I have been researching Geophagus Red Head Tapajos and would like to dedicate my aquarium primarily to a group of 8, along with a small group of 4 Guianacara Owroewefi cichlids in my 460gallon aquarium. I am still in the last part of the cycling process but as I have quite hard alkaline water I know I will have to change this to soft acidic water soon, well before I add any fish. My question for you was, what are the appropriate GH and KH
ranges for these fish, primarily the Geophagus Red Heads? I keep finding very varied information online about this species and their water chemistry preferences. I have purchased a 4 stage RO unit as well as a triple stage
dechlorinator, heavy metal and nitrate filter so am prepared to set the water to the necessary levels. Lastly, I just wanted to check, are Geophagus Red Head Tapajos and Geophagus Orange Head Tapajos simply two variants of the same species or two different species? Many thanks,
<Hi Jake. Geophagus sp. Tapajos 'Red head' is one of the more widely traded Geophagines, and many if not most of the specimens on sale are farmed, and these are less finicky than their wild forebears. In fact most Geophagines are more bothered by water quality than water chemistry, even the soft water ones. Your real challenge is keeping nitrate as low as practical (I'd be aiming for less than 20 mg/l) and only secondarily worrying about water chemistry. Frequent water changes, light stocking, and high water turnover rates are all important, given the size, sensitivity, high oxygen, and high temperature requirements of the species. So provided you avoid really hard water, and keep water chemistry stable, anything up to, say, 12 degrees dH would probably be fine. Carbonate hardness should be lower simply to keep the pH down, but I'd still be aiming for a pH of about 7 simply to optimise biological filtration, in which case 2-3 degrees KH would probably be fine, or else appropriate use of a commercial pH buffer. There's simply no real advantage to faffing about with water chemistry if that's going to make water changes expensive or infrequent -- as I say, it's water quality that makes or brakes Geophagines rather than water chemistry. It may well be that a 50/50 mix of tap and RO water will produce something around 10 degrees dH, pH 7, that would be absolutely fine for your cichlids provided the nitrate was 20 mg/l or less. Finally, yes, so far as I know, Geophagus sp. Tapajos 'Red head' has been sold under a variety of names, including the ones you mention. Of course it could well turn out we're looking at a species flock of similar but geographically isolated populations of cichlids, but for the time being they're all assumed to be one, rather variable, species of cichlid. Cheers, Neale.>

Advice regarding setting up a 75 gallon new world cichlid tank      7/5/16
Hi crew,
I have made up my mind to get a bigger tank, and it is going to be a 75 gallon one.
<Nice size!>
The tank length will be 48 inches maximum.
In our area in New York City, the water out of the faucet has a pH of about 7.1 , and hardness is around 175-200 ppm.
<Acceptable to a wide range of species: Central Americans, Rift Valley, Madagascan and Indian cichlids.>
I am torn between a South American and a Central American set up for Cichlids. Which one should be more appropriate for me, going by the water chemistry here?
<Central Americans are obvious choices and ideal for your water chemistry, with lots of nicely coloured species to choose from. One or two species are peaceful and get along with midwater community fish, the Rainbow Cichlid,
Herotilapia multispinosa being especially good in this regard. Hypsophrys nicaraguensis, the Nicaragua Cichlid is fairly placid though specialised to fast water habitats and would have to be kept with appropriate tankmates, such as Giant Danios and medium sized Loricariids. Likewise Firemouth Cichlids are bluffers rather than fighters, and get along much better with midwater characins and robust catfish than they do other cichlids. But once you get past these, Central Americans are somewhere on a scale running from belligerently territorial all the way through to psychotic, so tend to be much harder to keep except as breeding pairs or in very rough and tumble mixed cichlid set-ups. South Americans are much more variable in terms of behaviour but tend to range from very placid through to strongly territorial rather than psychotic. Apistogramma at the one end, and perhaps the meaner Pike Cichlids at the other. They also tend to prefer low to medium hardness water. There are some adaptable species though, things like Severums and Blue Acaras, which will generally do well in hard water provided water quality is good. So definitely some options there.>
I am not planning to have any RO/DI system anytime soon, so that is not an option for now if the water is not soft enough for one particular set up. I intend to keep medium sized Cichlids, that will not grow into 1 foot plus
<I'd be looking at the Rainbow Cichlid if I was happy with one cichlid species alongside various catfish, loaches, barbs and tetras. Nice size, excellent colours (though variable with mood as well as breeding) and generally a good reputation for being easy to keep. I'd also see if the Asian cichlid Etroplus canarensis is available in your area. It's a stunning fish, sociable and peaceful outside of breeding, though you do need a largish group (5+ specimens) if you want to avoid bullying. On the South American side, Rotkeil Severums are beautiful and widely traded, and a singleton would make a stunning centrepiece fish for life alongside medium-sized tetras, L-number catfish, even things like loaches and
climbing perch if you don't mind missing continents! Most of the Acaras are easy going with regard to water chemistry, and the Blue Acara is a good general purpose resident for communities of medium-sized fish. At the smaller end of the size range, the Bolivian Ram would adapt to your water fine, as should farmed Apistogramma cacatuoides. A bunch of options, really. If you're thinking about a rough-and-tumble community of medium-sized South Americans, I'd be looking at the relatively peaceful Cryptoheros spilurus, Archocentrus sajica, Amatitlania siquia... of course the Convict could be on the list but it breeds so readily and throws its weight around to such a degree that I'm not a fan. The Honduran Red-Point, Amatitlania siquia, is a lot more interesting and any surplus fry should be easily rehomed. You could focus on sand-sifting Thorichthys species such as Thorichthys aureus, Thorichthys ellioti, or the classic Thorichthys meeki (Firemouth) but I would never combine these "bluffers" with any cichlid likely to fight with them (Rainbow Cichlids are fine, Blue Acaras probably, but nothing else their own size springs to mind). A sandy-substrate with rocks and plants around the edges would look great, and then stock with midwater schooling fish to help them feel more secure, medium-sized barbs and tetras for example, like Bleeding Hearts or even something like Swordtails. Sand-dwelling loaches and catfish, like Whiptails, Horseface Loaches and Brochis spp. would all fit in nicely.>
Also, please advise about tank decor, substrate choice, and most importantly livestock that I should be compatibly keeping ( with reasonable friction/fracas among tank-mates not escalating into outright warfare) for either set up ( whichever more suitable in your opinion).
<Will depend massively on the species being kept. But by default, a thin layer of sand or gravel, plenty of bogwood and rocks for caves and shelter, and floating plants makes an excellent starting point for most cichlids.
Plants in pots are an option in some cases, but that will depend. Floating plants on the other hand are usually ignored and help to manage nitrate, the biggest threat to cichlids in otherwise well maintained aquaria.>
I am not looking forward to keep breeding pairs or male-female pairs, and two or more of one species will not be kept in the tank. Every fish will be a singleton.
Your advice will be much appreciated.
Best regards,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Advice regarding setting up a 75 gallon new world cichlid tank   7/6/16

Hi Neale,
Thanks so much for your kind and elaborate advice on setting up the upcoming 75 gallon.
<Most welcome.>
All points considered, I think I am better off with a central American set up. I think I will go with 1 Hypsophrys nicaraguensis, 1 Archocentrus sajica, 1 Cryptoheros spilurus ( the spilurus is harder to find here, so can a cutteri be a good substitute? Or a Honduran red point male?)
<Cryptoheros cutteri is relatively peaceful though territorial and a good companion for your selection. Honduran Red Point would work, too. All very similar.>
As dithers I think I will use giant Danios.
<Cool. Do get the temperature and water current right for the Nicaragua Cichlids though.>
A critical question remains though. I have this insanely beautiful F1 salvini female ( she is about 3 inches now, or a little bigger) currently gracing my 40 gallon tank, which is well planted, and with a lot of cover.
She is not very aggressive, and certainly not ornery as most Salvinis are.
<With Salvini, it's the mated pairs that cause problems, plus the fact they're moderately capable piscivores. So a single female should be okay in here, but you might find a hybrid pair forming. Hard to predict.>
But she is definitely, and expectedly territorial. She wisely keeps away from my rather personable but just as territorial Ctenopoma acutirostre, and largely ignores the other tankmates unless they get too close.
<She must be rather mild if the Ctenopoma acutirostre can push her around!
Ctenopoma acutirostre are much less powerful fish than aggressive cichlids of similar size, and tend to get bullied by them. I think of them as very much African "angelfish" in temperament, if that makes sense. Territorial, opportunistic piscivores, but otherwise harmless.>
But I do not want to push my luck too much, and this could be my opportunity to put the salvini in the new 75 gallon central American tank.
How good are my chances with her in the new tank with the nicaraguensis, sajica, spilurus/cutteri, and the giant Danios?
<Definitely better than 50%; I'd try it out, installing her first, the Hypsophrys next, and the other species after them. Let the milder fish stake their claims first.>
Should I stick to this same list, or do you suggest any other more suitable substitutes?
<Some sort of catfish? A Panaque or Hypostomus species would be about right.>
She is a fantastic specimen, and it would break my heart to rehome her, if need be.
<I think you're good to go here! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Advice regarding setting up a 75 gallon new world cichlid tank       7/7/16

Hi Neale,
Thanks so much again. Yes indeed, a Hypostomus should be very easily obtainable, and I will include one.
<I don't mean the common "Hypostomus" sold in aquarium shops. These are usually Pterygoplichthys species that get to between 45 and 60 cm in length (18-24 inches) and are much too messy to work well in a system with low nitrate. Instead I'd be looking at something like Hypostomus cochliodon which gets to around 20 cm/8 inches. It's an ideal species for life alongside cichlids at the milder end of the aggression spectrum. Panaque are also very good, though size varies, sometimes unpredictably (my Royal Plec is almost 20 years old but barely 20 cm/8 inches long).>
Although I find catfishes very messy, but the inclusion of one should give this thing a very balanced look.
<Agreed. Synodontis are another good choice, with some species like Synodontis angelicus being attractive fish in their own right.>
Regarding water temperature, I plan to keep the tank at 82 degrees F. Is that ok, or a bit too high?
<For most cichlids this is a bit warm. Will depend very much on the species, but most are happier around the 25 C/77 F mark. Warmer water means less oxygen, as well as a higher metabolic rate, which in turn means the filter has to work harder. At higher temperatures they'll also be more "frenetic" in terms of social behaviour, including tendency to want to
breed (even if kept singly).>
The tank will be filtered simultaneously by an Aquaclear 110 HOB filter operating at max flow, and a Fluval FX5, or a similar high-capacity Eheim Canister filter. I hope this should provide adequate water movement. I do have a powerhead lying around somewhere. Will it be necessary after the two filters get going?
<I like the idea of two filters. The powerhead will be welcomed by the Nicaraguas, but not essential.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Advice regarding setting up a 75 gallon new world cichlid tank       7/7/16

Hi Neale,
Thanks again for the tips, and making me feel more confident about it. Now I have to shop for the essentials.
<Good luck! Neale.>
Re: Advice regarding setting up a 75 gallon new world cichlid tank      7/14/16

Greetings Neale,
I have started shopping for the tank and feeling excited about it. I tested my local water parameters again ( even took some to my laboratory where I have access to a fancy pH meter). All good there, and I have a pH of 7.1.
The GH is also fine, around 190 ppm, confirmed by the API test kit as well as by an electronic TDS meter. However, the KH looked somewhat low at 3-4 dKH. The water might have below par natural buffering capacity to prevent
pH swings in the tank. I am not too worried about the pH itself, but pH swing is something I should try to avoid, no?
<Yes, but 3-4 degrees should be enough. Will depend a lot on the background level of acidification. See what happens over the weeks, and if you find the pH drops, I'd add a bit of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to each bucket of water. 1 teaspoon per 20 litres/5 US gallons should be ample.
Indeed, half that amount may well be enough. Add to a bucket of water, do the KH test, and see what you get.>
Should I use Aragonite Cichlid eco complete sand ( from CaribSea) that will simultaneously raise the pH and general/carbonate hardness and keep the pH stabilised for the life of the tank ( or so they claim)?
<These sands can work, but only so long as the sand is clean. Here's the deal: as sand grains become covered with algae and bacteria, the limestone becomes "isolated" from the water, kind of like putting a plastic wrapper around a sticky sweet. Generally speaking the cleaner you can keep the substrate, the better it'll work. But oftentimes people find that after a year or two the pH-buffering capacity starts to weaken. You could simply replace the substrate, or some portion of it anyway. But personally, I prefer to either add sodium bicarbonate or alternatively put crushed coral
in a media bag inside the filter, and thoroughly clean this media (with hot water) every few weeks. Indeed, simply replacing this media can be a good option.>
This product is originally designed for Rift Lake Cichlids, but the product information says that it is good for hard water fishes as well.
<Correct. This approach can be used and frequently has been. But with the proviso you're likely to have to replace some or all of it within a couple years. A bigger issue is that you're locked into a certain type of substrate and consequently aquarium landscaping. The off-white colour of the sand can cause colourful fishes (especially cichlids) to "fade" their colours so they look washed out. Something like a Rainbow cichlid or Firemouth cichlid will look a lot more intensely coloured in a dark, shady tank. In the wild they use colours for communication, and "tune" their colours as the environment dictates. In a bright environment the fish will subdue its colours so it doesn't attract predators.>
Since I am setting up a Central American tank, and not a Malawi tank, is this going to be an overcompensation?
<Nope, but your water chemistry as it stands is fine. A touch more KH is really all you need, a degree or two more than you have. Of course if pH is stable between water changes, no extra KH might even be needed.>
Or should be I fine just by putting a bag of crushed corals/ cockleshells in the filter and that can take care of the required carbonate hardness and buffer the water properly? This will also raise pH, but maybe not to an extent the Aragonite will.
<Quite so, but see above.>
Which one should be a better choice in your opinion for this Central American Cichlid tank?
Cheers, Sanmay
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Advice regarding setting up a 75 gallon new world cichlid tank       7/16/16

Hi Neale,
Thanks again for all the advice. I do see pH swings in my existing tanks, and one of them has a number of plants as well. A diurnal variation of 0.4-0.5 pH unit is routinely seen, and this difference increases with increase in the photoperiod. Just before lights go off the pH meter shows 7.52 sometimes that falls back to ~7.1 in the morning. These tanks are quite well-aerated with nice surface agitation.
<Such day/night pH changes are well within the normal ranges and NOTHING to worry about.>
I intend to have just an inch or a tad bit more as substrate depth. I was thinking about buying chemically inert coarse grained sand, and chemically inert gravel ( both dark coloured with some contrast), mix them in a ratio of 3:1, and put a small bag of crushed coral in the filter.
<I think this is a good approach.>
I will monitor the pH and the GH/KH over a month or so, and then add or withdraw some of the coral as needed. Water changes will let me know if I am seeing swings in pH. Does this seem sensible?
Chucking out a whole bed of substrate and having the whole thing overhauled every couple of years seems a very daunting endeavour, one that I am not looking forward to get into.
<Me neither, though I just did this to a tank with a persistent algae problem. A nutrient rich substrate in a tank where plants didn't grow well isn't a good combo. In any event, yes, I do prefer an inert substrate I can ignore, while keeping chemically active materials in the filter so they can be cleaned/changed as needed.>
Controlling it from the filter is a lot less bothersome.
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Filtration and Water Changes   1/31/14
I have a 75 gallon tank that houses an Oscar and a convict cichlid. I currently have a Fluval 405 filter(343 gph) and am considering purchasing the Fluval fx6(900 gph) to go along with it. My question is, with this much filtration how often would I need to do water changes? null
<I would add this filter; but still change out a good quarter of the water once a week; gravel vacuuming... Ideally storing the new water for the week in advance. You might look over the SOP for FW water changes posted on WWM.
Bob Fenner>

Setting up a south American cichlid tank   9/26/11
Hi All,
<Hello Andrew,>
I hope you're well and thank you for the education and support you all provide. It's fair to say I've spent a good few hours reading on this site.
<Thanks for these kind words.>
My question is this: I've been back in the hobby for about six months and have two (140 litre and 120 litre) tanks with community fish which are going well after a few early deaths and cycling issues (Mainly my own lack
of knowledge which this site has been invaluable at rectifying). I am about to purchase a 240 litre tank and would like to dedicate it to breeding two types of south American cichlid.
Would I be able to keep a pair of Apistogramma Apache
<More widely called Apistogramma sp. "Masken".>
with a pair of Blue Acara (Aequidens Pulcher?)
<Potentially, but do bear in mind that this cichlid is fairly large and somewhat more aggressive.>
or would you suggest a different combination with the priority on the Apache.
<Yes; Apistogramma are most easily bred in small tanks with lots of plants and middling temperatures. Very soft water is often essential, as are low pH levels, potentially 5-6 in the case of some species, and at best no higher than 7 with things like A. cacatuoides. By contrast, Blue Acaras are boisterous fish that do better at low to middling temperatures and aren't fussy about water chemistry but do best in neutral water conditions.
They're more omnivorous, and can uproot some plants while foraging for food. Again, whereas Apistogramma often benefit from maintenance alongside small surface-swimming dither fish such as Hatchetfish, Blue Acaras are best bred as pairs in their own aquarium in the same manner as things like Angels.>
I have the opportunity to get these fish wild caught which means they will be pure fish but also very sensitive.
<Yes; again, the low pH level means biological filtration will be operating at very low efficiency, so an understocked tank is an advantage, potentially with more reliance on floating plants for ammonia removal than filtration alone.>
Which leads me to my next question. From my research on this site I believe these fish will be extremely sensitive and will require superb water quality with a hardness of around 5. Is this correct?
<Yes. Very few Apistogramma do well above 10 degrees dH, pH 7, and most will want 1-5 degrees dH, pH 5.0-6.5 depending on the species.>
Also is mixing 4 parts rainwater to 1 part tap water (My tap water is precisely Ph 7) and adding conditioner the correct way to achieve this?
<Potentially, but you may find using rainwater with Discus Buffer easier, though a 4/1 mix may work if you also use a pH-down buffer and keep a close eye on pH stability.>
(Not necessarily the right ratio as I can research the exact ratio on this site as long as I have the correct hardness). The setup will contain lots of rock caves and slate.
<Don't underestimate the value of floating plants with Apistogramma; they appreciate the shade. But otherwise yes, their habitat is mostly leaf litter and sunken wood rather than plants.>
Finally, as I've only been back in the hobby a short time do you feel this project may be beyond me at this stage.
<You may want to try A. cacatuoides before anything more challenging. That species is almost certainly the "easiest" Apisto thanks to its tolerance for hard water and community aquarium life. Apistogramma borellii is another good species that isn't too picky about water chemistry or tankmates. Apistogramma agassizii is a bit more challenging in the sense of being fussier about water chemistry, but is otherwise reliable. All three are widely traded and inexpensive. But with all this said, if you have a reasonably large aquarium for your Apistos, can control water chemistry as per the species requirements, and understand how to maintain low nitrate levels as well as zero nitrite/ammonia, none are insanely "difficult" fish per se.>
The last thing I want to do is purchase wild caught fish and condemn them to a brief unhappy life.
Many thanks for your help, hopefully in this matter but also for all the other things I've learned and will continue to learn.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Setting up a south American cichlid tank   12/3/11

Hi Neale,
Thanks for your reply and advice. I've finished cycling the tank and was hoping to be ready to start stocking but unfortunately the pH and hardness are (I believe) a bit too high for Apistogramma (7.7 and 14 degrees respectively).
<Not really too high on either count. Remember, pH is largely irrelevant, so unless wildly high, 8 or above, don't worry about it, and certainly don't try and change it directly. Fish don't "feel" pH is any meaningful sense, though pH does have impacts on things like bacteria levels in the water and whether some fish eggs mature or hatch properly. So adjusting pH tends to be an issue only when keeping blackwater fish (e.g., Ram Cichlids, where a pH between 4.5 and 6.5 is required) and where sex ratios or hatching rates are proving problematic. Now, hardness can be an issue, but for the hardier Apistogramma, like A. cacatuoides, a hardness of 14 degrees dH is acceptable, if not ideal.>
I've researched a remedy for this and would just like your advice/opinion.
I have six panda Cory in another tank at pH 7.0 which I would like to move to my south American tank. I plan to use peat balls to lower the pH to 6.5 in the new tank along with a couple of almond leaves however I know this could require some experimentation to get right but I believe a slow and steady approach with frequent measuring would be the best way.
<I'm very worried by your talking about pH rather than hardness here.>
Is it best to introduce the panda Corys once the pH drops to 7 or should I wait until its down lower and move them from pH 7.0 to 6.5 in one go?
<Forget the pH. Unstable pH levels have killed many more fish than pH levels that aren't textbook values! If you have a hardness of 14 degrees dH in your tap water, then the ideal thing would be to lower that to about 7 (i.e., by mixing 50/50 tap water with rain or RO water) or, if that is too expensive, 10-11 degrees dH (i.e., about two parts tap water to one part rainwater or RO water). You can keep most, if not quite all, South American fish extremely well at 10 degrees dH, pH 7.5.>
I hope to stock this tank with a school of 15-20 tetras (Not sure on type yet, recommendations welcome!)
<Select according to water temperature. Neons prefer cooler water, Cardinals warmer water, for example. Lemon Tetras are excellent all-rounders if the water isn't too hard and there's subdued lighting.
X-Ray Tetras are very hardy tetras and good choices if you want trouble-free fish you can add and then forget about. Hatchetfish are excellent dither fish, but shy and easily bullied, and sensitive to poor water quality. Various other options too. Peruse Baensch's Aquarium Atlas for some ideas.>
and up to 12 panda Corys
<Remember these don't like being kept above 25 C/77 F; if you must keep the temperature higher, then go with C. sterbai.>
to go with the Apistogramma cacatuoides (2 of) as well as an L177 gold nugget Pleco. The tank has a small piece of bogwood and will soon have some floating Indian fern to create (I hope) a nice dark Amazonian atmosphere to bring out the best colours in the fish. Am I heading in the right direction to achieving this?
<Yes. But do remember the Amazon largely lacks "planted aquarium" type biotopes. Mostly, it's leaf litter on silica sand, with lots of tree trunks. Overhead shade may very well be provided by floating plants, such as the excellent Amazon Frogbit. The Amazon water level goes up and down with the seasons, so much of the year it's a sunken forest with terrestrial plants partly submerged. Despite their name, Amazon Swords aren't especially characteristic of the rainforest.>
Many thanks,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Setting up a south American cichlid tank     12/4/11

Hi Neale,
Thanks for the swift reply. Don't be too worried about my talk of pH. I have some knowledge of chemistry (not used for a few years though)
<Real good.>
and I believe I understand how it all fits together in the aquarium (after much reading).
My concern was that lowering the carbonate hardness via rain water will cause the pH to become unstable which as you mentioned below has killed many a fish!
I believe the peat balls will provide a buffering ability to stabilise the pH at 6.5 with the right dosage.
<Sort of, but I would trust them. Use a Discus buffer instead. Peat is extremely unpredictable.>
Will the Corydoras be better off moving to similar water conditions (Chemically) at which point I would begin to lower the hardness via water changes over a couple of weeks using the peat balls as a buffer, or would it be better to do the adjustments before moving them and then move them in to a tank with different water conditions?
<Ideally, introduce the fish to the tank with whatever water chemistry the fish have experienced up to now, and then slowly change the water chemistry over the following weeks.>
I hope this makes sense.
Thanks for your help.
<Cheers, Neale.>

What sized aquarium, & Cichlid/Catfish comp.    7/1/11
I am going to purchase an aquarium soon for large cichlids.
<Fair enough.>
The fish I want are 1 red Oscar,
<Needs soft water; not aggressive when not spawning.>
1 jack Dempsey,
<Needs hard water; can be aggressive.>
1 convict,
<Also needs hard water; females more colourful than males and less aggressive.>
1 Salvini,
<Also needs hard water; extremely aggressive; quality of specimens in the trade nowadays pretty poor.>
6 silver dollars
<Need soft water.>
and 1 Pleco.
<What sort?>
All Male if I can.
<Good luck sexing juveniles'¦ male and female Oscars for example are essentially identical and cannot be sexed outside of spawning. Usually male cichlids are more aggressive than females, so adding adult males to an aquarium usually ends up with bullied or dead fish!>
Are then any type of catfish I can put with these fish?  
<Depends on the water chemistry. Are you keeping a hard water collection or a soft water collection? How are you keeping nitrate down? Above 20 mg/l, nitrate is a serious killer for Oscars especially -- Hole-in-the-Head and Hexamita infections in particular. It may well be that water quality will be better managed with fewer fish.>
What sized aquarium will I need.
<Which of your cichlids do you want to keep? A collection of hard water Central Americans can work in 200 gallons/750 litres without too much bother. Have done this with a Jaguar, a Midas, and a group of Convicts, plus a Channel Catfish and a Gibbiceps Plec. Obviously you wouldn't keep Oscars or Silver Dollars in a hard water Central American community. Likewise, a 200 gallon tank could be a great home for a harem of Cyphotilapia frontosa together with a few Tanganyikan species of Synodontis.>
I am willing to buy up to 807 u.k. litre aquarium. It is 8x2x2. If I can go smaller I would like to. That is just the maximum. Could I get by with a 6x2x2 foot aquarium. Is there any room for more fish, and if so what would you recommend. Thank you
<Do think more carefully about what it is you want to keep, rather than a random collection of cichlids. Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: What sized aquarium

On your first combo of fish, the hard water one could I sub a Flowerhorn for the midas. Sorry for the stupid questions.
<Yes, a Flowerhorn would be more or less equivalent to a Midas cichlid, but do be aware of the problems associated with Flowerhorn cichlids including inbreeding and the often-low quality of the specimens offered for sale.
Cheers, Neale.>

South American and Central American tanks -- 7/12/10
Hi Neale,
<Hello Phill,>
I've got my 55 gallon mixed cichlid tank going well now and the fish are starting to grow out. They are still juveniles so not starting to see any territory issues yet but I fully anticipate it in the near future.
We will be moving to a new area next month that has much nicer water! (neutral and softer).
<Nice for the South Americans; not at all nice for the Central Americans.
Do understand the differences in water chemistry requirements and act accordingly.>
Anticipating this move I have purchased another tank as I want to separate the centrals and south Americans and get 2 distinct bio-type aquariums.
The 55 will house my Severum, blue Acara, festivum, and angelfish.
<Nice, but I do wonder if the Angels are going to get the short end of the stick here. Be careful.>
The 30 gallon will house my Firemouth, Honduran red point, and rainbow cichlid.
<Should be fine, but Firemouths get fairly big, and they're poor fighters with jaws that are easily dislocated. Rainbows are generally peaceful, but HRPs are more like Convicts in their tendency to punch above their weight.
In 55 gallons that'd be no problem, but in 30 gallons you may see some friction. Difficult to say.>
I have plenty of driftwood, rocks of variable sizes and shapes, and hardy plants (crypts, Anubias, java's, etc.) I was wondering if you could give any incite as to how I can aquascape the tanks to make it really visually appealing as well as comfortable and safe for the fish. I want to make it look really authentic.
<Well, for the South Americans, apart from the Acara you're looking at midwater species with no interest in caves. Severums eat plants, so that's going to limit your options to things like Java ferns and Anubias. I'd throw in some Indian Fern too for shade, though the Severums will eat the stuff. Blue Acara actually need cooler water than the other three species, but if you kept the tank at 25 C/77 F you should be okay. Their optimal range is 20-25 F/68-77 F. Severums, Festivums and Angels generally prefer warmer water. Cichlid aggression goes up with temperature, while their hardiness goes down if kept above or below their optimal range. In any case, only the Acara will swim close to the bottom, and while it doesn't really use caves, it will appreciate some sort of shade.>
I've heard a lot of info online and I'm not sure how much of it to believe.
Does the CA tank need any driftwood
<Not essential, but useful.>
or should I do all driftwood in the SA tank and all the rocks in the CA tank as the CA's are more of the cave dwellers.
<The Firemouths aren't cave-dwellers at all, they're an "earth eating" species that sifts sand. They aren't too hard on plants and will use them for shade. Rainbows and HRPs are somewhat more cave-dwelling, but primarily for breeding. In all cases you're after using rocks, bogwood or plants to create boundaries and places that break up their lines of sight.>
Does the Severum need a cave to hide in<No, they hide close to the surface, among plants.>
and if so how do I construct one large enough for him once he grows out?
What is the best way to arrange it to give them all places to hide and territories to claim? Any other points you can think of beyond what I have mentioned would be great. I'm really getting into this hobby and I want to do it right! Any pictures or web links you can provide for advice would be awesome. Thanks again guys for your continued help. It's truly appreciated.
<Do try and track down 'The Complete Aquarium' by Peter Scott; it's basically a book about biotope tanks and has 6-page spreads on each type of habitat and part of the world. It's been out of print for a while, so you should be able to get a used copy online for very little.>
Warm regards,
<Cheers, Neale.>

FW wet dry... New World Cichlid filtr.    2/9/10
Hello there,
I am in the process of setting up a 135 gallon fw tank. I have a fairly large Oscar, a jack Dempsey, and a large Pleco. I am planning on getting them a few more tankmates once the tank is up and running. I am also planning on having plenty of live plants throughout the tank. I have some aggregate gravel as my substrate. I am building a wet/dry filter and just had a few questions. I am setting it up very similar to the Eshopps 150-cs, but I was curious as what I should use for mechanical filtration. A few of the sources I have read on the internet say polyfill is the best, but I wanted to check with you guys before I made a purchase. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated. Thank you very much for your time.
<Yes, a wet/dry filter will work. However, the reason they're rarely used in freshwater tanks is that they drive off carbon dioxide, and that makes it difficult for plants to grow. Floating plants will be fine though, since they get their CO2 from the air, and given Oscars and JDs uproot plants anyway, that's likely the way you'd have to go. In terms of mechanical filtration, it really doesn't matter what you use. There's no "best" really with mechanical filter media, since anything fine enough to trap silt will do. Mechanical filters are let down by how often *you clean them*, since
they're only as good as the last time they were rinsed off; leave them clogged up with silt for a couple of weeks, and they won't do anything at all. So choose something easy to clean and (if necessary) cheap to replace.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: FW wet dry
If that is the case then what would be a more appropriate method of filtration?
<Well, depends what you're after. Since Oscars and JDs dig, and Plecs can be pretty hard on small plants, your best bets in terms of plants for the bottom of the tank will be Anubias, Java fern, and if you can get it, Bolbitis. All three are slow-growing, so have little impact on water quality or algae control, but they are pretty and difficult for fish to destroy (Java fern in particular seems to taste horrid, so most fish ignore it). Most critically, they are grown attached to rocks and bogwood, so won't be bothered if your cichlids dig up the sand or gravel. If they get moved about, that won't bother them either; just put 'em back where you want them, or move the plants around so your fish have territories. Throw some floating plants into the tank for algae control, and you're all set.
Anyway, if you grow these, you're able to use a reverse-flow undergravel filter, which is perhaps the best all-around filter for large fish. Unlike other filters, these have water pushing UP through the gravel, and this moves faeces and detritus into the water current, and then the canister filter can remove them easily. So you get good water quality PLUS good water clarity, without having to constantly clean the gravel. Having said this, because cichlids dig, they can "short circuit" undergravel filters of all types, so you will need to place a gravel tidy under the top half inch or so of gravel, so that the cichlids can do minimal damage to the filter bed. If this doesn't appeal, and you really do want live plants, then the best filters are those that "splash" the water the least, since the splashing is what causes the CO2 to be thrown out. Plants with roots hate undergravel filters, so that's another issue too. Regular canisters are perhaps the best, since these can be rigged with spray bars just under the waterline, so they ripple the outgoing water rather gently. The downside of course is that the less circulation of the water there is, the happier the plants will be, but that's the reverse of what big cichlids want. It's perhaps best to think about what sort of aquarium you want: an underwater garden, or a community of cichlids with just a few plants as a backdrop.
There are some cichlids that love plants, including (surprisingly to some) quite a few Malawian and Tanganyikan species that live in the vegetated parts of these lakes, often around beds of Vallisneria. Since Vallisneria is remarkably easy to grow, and comes in a variety of colours and sizes, that can be a nice way to combine cichlids, plants, and a few catfish.
Cheers, Neale.>

Using Crushed Coral As A Substrate for South American Cichlids  10/22/09
Dear WetWebMedia people, I have been a fan of your site for quite a while. It is very educational. I do have one question that I could not find the answer for, however. I have a 90 gallon tank that I was using for African cichlids. Consequently, I was using crushed coral as gravel to raise the pH. I am thinking about starting another tank to keep south-American cichlids. My question is can I use crushed coral for south-Americans as well, since I have a lot left over, or will the high pH be a problem? I have heard that South Americans can be very hardy and tolerate a wide range of water qualities, but I wanted to ask the experts first. Thank you for your input.
< Most South American cichlids, especially wild fish, would not appreciate the high pH. Many Central American cichlids are more tolerant of the higher pH. If you want to use the crushed coral then I would recommend Central American cichlids instead of the South American ones.-Chuck>

FW Tank Size for Neotropical Cichlids 8/30/3009
Could you tell me what would be the best size tank for a 4" threadfin Acara cichlid.
<I tend to be conservative when it comes to tank sizing so I believe bigger is better.>
The LFS is suggesting a 36"L x 24"W x 20" high, but I think that perhaps minimum length should be 48".
<The LFS is correct in a tank of that size would work, but I agree with you that a 48" long tank would be better suited and give you some more options for stocking.>
What do you think ?
<With rare exception, I have never heard anyone complain they bought a tank that was too big, so I would go with the larger one.>
Thanks in advance.
<My pleasure.>

Cichlid Tank... induced troubles  6/17/09
Hi Crew
I have a friend that has a 210 gal cichlid tank, he has 2 Oscars, 4 jack Dempseys, 1 convict, 1 parrot, 2 Plecos & 2 green terrors.
<Quite a mix>
He has water issues of course, he was only doing water changes & gravel clean every 2 weeks.
<I'd do weekly>
His Oscars have hole in head disease which of course is probably caused by poor water quality.
<Very common cause, along with nutrition>
We did a 25% water change & gravel clean and i told him to step up his water changes & gravel clean to twice a week till he cycles his tank then do it weekly.
<... the system is not cycled?! I'd do more to move this ahead... have him read on WWM re.>
He has an XP4 Rena canister filter with a flow rate of 450 GPH which I think is not enough.
<It is not>
He has 2 power heads & surface skimmer hooked up to his filter.
<Of help, but...>
We live in Toronto which has good water quality Ph 7.0 and moderate to hard water out of the tap.
Now he has a feeder tank for feeder fish which I told him to stop because of the chance of disease in his main tank, with that being said his feeder tank has a white fungus around the top of the tank on the top framework of the tank.
<... dismantle this tank, eschew using feeder goldfish...>
He also said that when he put in his feeder fish, within an hour the fish were infected and covered with this fungus.
I told him to empty the tank and scrub it with a stiff brush and leave it empty for a month or so, will this kill the fungus.
<Leave it empty period>
Also his filter in his main tank he had it jammed with 4 Nitra Zorb packs & 6 Chemi pure charcoal bags along with his sponges & bio media, we took out 2 Chemi pure bags but keep the 4 Nitra Zorb packs. I am not a fan of Nitrate remover media I figure regular water changes will take care of the Nitrate with his almost overcrowded tank & his cichlids are large! Oscars probably close to 8" long!
<... Please... see WWM re NO3... You are in the service business... should know better than this...>
Have any suggestions on filtration & the fungus problem, I figure he should add another XP4 filter which would give him 900 GPH.
<See WWM re the first two and yes to the last>
Thanks everyone & keep up the good work, as usual!!!
Brian Macdonald
PS How was Bob's Trip to London, Ont?
<A very nice time, the 50th anniversary of the CAOAC... Gary Lange, Heiko Bleher and I gave presentations, good folks to chat with... and not-too-cold weather. To my scant awareness, very similar to Toronto.
Re: Cichlid Tank  6/18/2009

Hi Bob
Think there was a misunderstanding in my email about the cichlid tank The poor guy dealt with a company that did everything wrong from installation to their service & advice so he is a little gun shy
<I see>
This was my first visit so I did my thing and he was very happy so I told him about your site and said I would contact you about the fungus & filtration so he could hear it from the BEST!
<Ah yes... best to have him search, read... write us directly with his questions and concerns>
I am forwarding your e-mail to him cause he is fairly new to this but really has a passion for his tank & wants to do the rite thing
Thanks Bob
<Welcome. BobF>

Cichlid Mystery... Neotrop., sys., hlth., fdg., beh.    8/6/08 Re: Cichlid Mystery Wild Florida Cichlid Problems (Chuck's Second Opinion) 8/6/08 Hello Crew, hope you have some insight for me, for I am mystified. I have a 20 gal tank with a single specimen Mayan Cichlid (False Red Terror). <Are we talking about Cichlasoma urophthalmus here? Obviously this species, getting to 40 cm in the wild, is far too large for a 20 gallon tank.> < This fish is commonly found in Florida,-Chuck> I've had it since it was the size of a penny; he (theoretical; only going from how bright salmon red he gets when showing off) was netted out of the actual Everglades (where they are an invasive species), and he is now about a year and a half old, and about 5-6 inches long. He is fed a variety of foods: Hikari Gold cichlid pellets, dried Gammarus shrimp, dried bloodworms, live Ramshorn snails and occasionally, live Gambusia and Mollies from a large 65 gal Everglades tank I have in the Florida room, also the source of the snails (and home to a 8-inch Orinoco Sailfin Catfish that I thought was a tadpole once.) ALL his live foods are grown by me, so I have no fear of contamination that way. <Still, I'm leery of using wild-caught fish as food because you're running the risk of introducing parasites that don't normally occur in aquaria and so end up being difficult to treat. As you may/may not know, many parasites pass through multiple hosts, for example a small fish, then a bigger fish, and then a predator bird, then out with the birds faeces into the pond and back to the small fish. Because this cycle can't occur in aquaria or fish farms, these parasites don't normally occur in tropical fish tanks. If you have a fish that happily eats prepared and frozen foods, why take the risk?> So far he is the textbook definition of a Mayan, charging the side of the tank anytime you walk by, and sometimes attacking his own reflection for hours at a time, unless he is hiding behind the huge water sprite planted in there. <OK. These are nice fish; kept one in a high-end brackish aquarium for a long time. They thrive in brackish/marine conditions, and are arguably more mangrove swamp cichlids than anything else.> I went away for 5 days for vacation, so I stuffed his tank with snails and food fish, and had someone feed him some of his pellets about two days before I came back so he wouldn't starve. <OK, here's the first problem. NEVER, EVER "stock up" a tank with food. A healthy small fish like a Neon can go a week without food NO PROBLEMS. A big healthy fish like a cichlid can go two weeks or more without food, and in the wild would have to periodically anyway. In other words: it is better to leave your fish hungry during vacations than the alternative, which is to risk overfeeding them (or having them overfed). Too much food = too much ammonia/nitrite, and that leads to stress.> I came back only to find him lying on the bottom of his tank, in a hole he'd cleared out, looking the palest I've ever seen... his eye-spot was white, and he was still for hours. He had re-arranged his pea gravel extensively, which makes me think he might have been looking for snails. <Hmm... more likely displacement activity. When animals can't do one thing, because of stress or some other factor, they will sometimes do some other, unrelated activity. Humans biting their nails is the classic example: nothing to do with being hungry for protein!> Much testing of water ensued, to no answers... pH is 7.2, ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates under 20 ppm, tank temp is 78, water is general hard, absolutely nothing happening there. <Ah, but you misunderstand. The nitrite/ammonia spike could have easily occurred day 1 after you left, and by now the filter has removed them both from the water, but the fish remains stressed.> The tank is acrylic 20 gal, has an Eclipse 2 (capacity much higher than 20 gal) filter top with bio-wheel in perfect working order and seeded with my own bacteria from other tanks., and there's plenty of aeration in the tank. The tank water gets changed weekly along with all the other tanks. <Still too small. These novelty filters that fit the hood are maybe fine for small tropicals like Neons but have no place in the cichlid aquarium. Too much space is given over to compact cartridges contains junk you don't need like carbon and Zeolite. Not enough space is given over to mechanical media and especially high performance biological media (ceramic noodles). Complete waste of space if you ask me. You should be using a decent canister filter rated at 6x the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. For this species of cichlid a 20 gallon tank makes no sense at all, and long term you're going to find this fish increasingly difficult to keep healthy.> After testing and re-testing and finding nothing to correct, I went and fished out a few snails and threw them in, in hopes that he'd become more animated. <No, doesn't work this way. When fish are sick or off-colour, you don't feed them. You run the risk of making a bad situation worse. A healthy fish -- particularly a cichlid! -- will be begging for food once hungry.> After a few hours and his lights turned off (on a timer, mind you), I could hear the clicking of snail shells against the tank, so I knew he must be feeling better. The next day, after the snails had been eaten, I tossed a few Gambusia in there. It's been 2 days, and he is back to normal, charging the side of the tank every time someone walks by, attacking his food and patrolling his tank, flashing his stripes when he's aggressive or just turning brilliant salmon if I get near... What do you guys think happened? My theory is he might have knocked himself out charging his own reflection, but any and all advice is greatly welcomed. Maybe he missed me? <Suspect a water quality crisis in your absence.> Carol <Hope this helps. Have cc'ed Chuck, our cichlid guru, for a second opinion. Cheers, Neale.> < Sometimes in the dark, fish get spooked by shadows. In a small tank where there is no place to hide it could have damaged himself on an object or on the tank himself. As per Neale's recommendation a larger tank is in order for the best concerns of your Mayan Cichlid.-Chuck>

Setting Up A New World Cichlid Tank  7/22/08 Hello again and sorry to disturb you. I really have a special place in my heart for South American cichlids, especially Oscars and jack Dempseys. So I was wondering what would be a proper mix to include at least 2 Oscars and 2 electric blue jack Dempseys, but also adding any combination of convicts, chocolate cichlids, green Severums, and maybe some regular Dempseys in a 265 gallon tank? Also if possible, would a Chinese high finned banded shark work well with these fish? Please give me a few examples as for I do not want to over crowd my tank. < First of all forget the shark. It needs cool water and the others would tear it up all the time. The key to blending all these fish together is size. The chocolate cichlids and green Severums are probably the most peaceful of the group and need to be the largest. Next in size would be the Oscar. The jack Dempsey's can be aggressive and males can get up to a foot long. Females are smaller and are less aggressive. The convicts as the most aggressive but will be the smallest of the group. Your biggest problem will be if any of these fish pair up and breed. All of these fish will defend eggs and fry from all other fish. Even if you do not have pairs, many of these fish will spawn with other cichlids that are not even their own species. Some of these hybrids will even produce fry. Start out by getting small fish and let them grow up together for the best results. Large fish can become territorial all on their on and take over an entire tank. Dither fish like silver dollars are very useful in these large cichlid tanks.-Chuck>

Jaguar Cichlid... gen., sys., food   03/04/2008 Hello, I have recently acquired a jaguar cichlid. I'm not sure how old he is, but he's about 10 to 11 inches long. I think he is male. <Lovely fish; difficult to sex.> The lady I bought him from said he had killed his mate, and had been off his food for a week or so. She thinks he killed her because up until that time, the tank had been quite algae-filled, and the female was able to hide. The owner decided to scrub the tank down, and that is when the female became more visible and was killed. <Doesn't really sound very likely, unless the algae were huge kelp-like things!> The owner was an experienced fish hobbyist - in fact, I bought her entire collection: 25 years worth, mostly of African cichlids, along with a community tank and some South American cichlids. I have them in five tanks. <Sounds nice.> My jaguar cichlid is in a 35 gallon tank, with a little driftwood and a rock cave which he sometimes hides in. Tank dimensions are 3 foot by 1 and 1/2 foot by 1 foot. (This is the same size he was used to before I purchased him.) <Ah, the plot thinnens. Simply too small. When I kept this species, it was in a 200 gallon system, and realistically you need to be keeping them in something "jumbo" sized, i.e., 75 gallons upwards; these are BIG, TERRITORIAL fish.> Once he gets better I am looking to move him to a larger tank, but don't want to risk stressing him any further by moving him at present. <Quite the reverse is likely to be true. Provided water chemistry is constant, and he isn't placed in a tank with a larger, territorial cichlid -- moving him is a great idea.> I have had him for a couple of weeks now, and have offered him all kinds of food: frozen fish food that she had been giving him before he went off his food, freeze dried blood worms, flakes, pellets, ground beef, raw fish, live fish, but so far he has eaten nothing. <Well, for a start, stop with the live feeder fish. Live foods generally, and feeder fish especially, appear to bring out aggressive tendencies in fish. Live fish are also parasite time bombs, unless you're breeding your own. One of the most idiotic things in the hobby is the use of Minnows and Goldfish as feeder fish. They are far to high in fat and contain lots of the Vitamin B1-destroying chemical Thiaminase. Bob Fenner (who runs WWM) has made the point in print and elsewhere that Goldfish are then #1 cause of mortality in captive Lionfish! The ONLY safe fish species that can be used as feeders are gut-loaded, home-bred livebearers. Anyway, Parachromis managuensis will eat pretty much anything when settled. Earthworms are a favourite. My specimen enjoyed squid and other types of seafood. Oily fish was enjoyed, by this wrecks water quality, so use sparingly and just before doing a massive water change. Once settled down they eat pellets, and these are truly the ideal staple, being safe and nutritionally balanced.> I had a couple of smaller problem fish - a minnow that was killing its tank mates and a barb that was chewing the fins off its tank mate. I put them in with my jaguar cichlid, hoping he might be tempted to eat them. He does dart at them occasionally, but until this morning he hasn't killed them. Today I found the small barb dead, floating around the tank. The jaguar will look at it and just swim away. He might have killed him, but it's more likely that the barb died of stress. <More than likely territorial aggression. In any case, this ISN'T how you solve aggression problems in community tanks. Tiger barbs for example become nippy when they're kept in too small a group. "Punishing" a specimen because it is doing what its genes are telling it to do is just plain dumb. It's a fish, not a naughty child. So, look at how many Tiger Barbs you have, and if there's less than six, add some more. Do also remember that Tiger Barbs are NOT GOOD COMMUNITY FISH. This is made plain again and again in the fishkeeping press, so there's no excuse for not being aware of this. You simply don't keep them in [a] small tanks and [b] with slow moving or long-finned tankmates. Fine with barbs and tetras, not fine with Gouramis and angels.> The PH is 7.7; nitrites close to zero, ammonia close to zero, the water is not very hard (just above the 'soft' line when I tested it.) He has oxygen (bubbler stone), low lighting, the temperature is around 73 degrees. <Parachromis managuensis needs hard to very hard water with a basic pH and LOTS of carbonate hardness. I'm guessing he's off colour and not eating because the water is all wrong. This is non-negotiable. The pH should be 7.5-8.5, general hardness around 15+ degrees dH, and carbonate hardness upwards of 7 degrees KH. Adding salt and other Mickey-mouse quick fixes are not an option. Raise the KH by incorporating lots of calcareous media in the filter. You can also add tufa rock and other calcareous rocks to the aquarium, but by themselves these have a marginal effect on KH. Crushed coral or crushed oyster shell in a nice big canister filter is the way to go. Water changes need to be generous: these are heavily polluting fish, and this means they produce the chemicals that acidify the water. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm > He seems very shy - not at all the aggressive guy I was told I was getting. He shies away from the walls of the tank if anyone comes near, if I stick my hand in he'll swim away, and he backs away from any food that is dropped into the tank. <Wrong water chemistry, and absolutely normal behaviour under the circumstances.> I've put salt in the tank and have done a 20% water change, but so far nothing has helped. <For the seven billionth time for people who haven't learned this yet: aquarium salt doesn't raise hardness or pH. It is of no damn use in a freshwater tank! Carbonate hardness comes from carbonate and bicarbonate salts, and these are not to be found in boxes of sodium chloride! Also, water changes should be around the 50% mark, weekly.> His water also stinks like dead fish, not strongly but it is there. <Sounds like too much food, not removed quickly; perhaps under-filtered too and certainly not enough water changes.> I'm concerned he is starving himself to death. <He is.> He seems quite active, swimming around and occasionally darting to the surface. <Darting behaviour in stressed cichlids is a very bad sign.> Do you have any suggestions about what I could do to get him eating again? <Many many things. Please read my advice carefully, and then sit back and read the article about water chemistry. It is absolutely critical you understand this, because right now this fish doomed with a capital D.> Thanks very, very much for your help and advice! Dana <Happy to help. These are gorgeous fish, and my specimen was a real show-stopper, but they are not "easy" fish, and Central American cichlids generally need very specific water chemistry conditions to do well. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Jaguar Cichlid, sys.  03/04/2008 Thanks for your help! I'll get him in a bigger tank right away. I have a couple of empty tanks sitting around: a 70 and a 100 gallon, so that shouldn't be a problem. I'll get the water hardness fixed right away too. The jag is such a gorgeous fish, I'd have hated to have him die on me, so I'll be onto this today. Thank you! Dana <Dana, all sounds promising. I hope things get fixed, and you enjoy many happy years with this wonderful fish. Mine was a sweetie, and in the 200 gallon tank not at all aggressive. Possibly was a female though. So difficult to sex. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Jaguar Cichlid, sys.,  food  3/6/08 Hi again, Neale, Well, I've got my jaguar moved to a larger tank (70 gallon), with plenty of crushed coral. The water has tested quite hard - we may need to dilute it just a bit but it's much better. <Wouldn't worry about diluting the water to make it less hard. Central American cichlids like their water to be "liquid rock"! The other thing is that messing about with RO water or whatever adds to the effort and expense of water changes. Central Americans really want big water changes, and that being the case, YOU want things as cheap and easy as possible!> Nitrites, etc. are all low. Ammonia is zero, Ph is 7.8 . Water temperature is 75 degrees. <Perfect.> Today he is moving gravel all over the place, rearranging his aquascape to his own liking, I guess. He hadn't been doing this for quite a long time, so I think that's a healthy sign. <It is indeed! Well done. A happy cichlid is a digging cichlid, that's what I always say.> I've offered him all kinds of delicacies: frozen bloodworms, dried bloodworms, (so far I haven't been able to find any live bloodworms), cichlid pellets (large and small), brine shrimp flakes, tropical fish flakes, frozen cocktail shrimp... He STILL won't eat a thing. <Give it time. Hunger makes the best sauce. Do try earthworms though: they're used as bait in fishing for a darned good reason -- NOTHING is as yummy to a predatory fish as a nice juicy earthworm. So grab a hand shovel, go to the yard, and have a root about.> He just watches the bits of food float around the tank, then turns away and ignores them or swims into his rock cave. He seems active and curious: watches people as they walk past his tank, but quickly backs away if anyone actually approaches him. <The curiousness is excellent and precisely typical of happy Guapote cichlids.> What can I do to interest him in eating again? Why would he be starving himself when he seems otherwise healthy and active, though maybe a bit timid for a jaguar? <Jags are timid; it's a myth I think that predatory cichlids are aggressive cichlids -- quite the reverse in fact. Predatory fish need to go about their business unnoticed, or their prey would see them. Worse, if they got into a fight, their delicate jaws would be damaged. So predatory fish tend to back off rather than go looking for fights. This holds for Guapote (what yours is), for Pike Cichlids and of course for Oscars. Compare with omnivorous or even herbivorous cichlids like Tilapia and Mbuna or even Kribs -- for their size, these fish can be incredibly punchy. In any case, make sure you have lots of hiding places (remember the Golden Rule: the more a fish can hide, the less often it will choose to do so). Floating plants such as Indian fern will also make a big difference, though those big 36" plastic plants are probably going to be easier to use in a large tank with a strong filter.> I really appreciate all your help and suggestions. I'm very new to the whole cichlid scene, though I've done community tanks for a few years. <Ah, welcome to the Cichlid Club! Cichlids really are fish that become members of the family; they're smart and they become tame. When I looked after my Jag it was in a display tank in a lobby area, and we'd arranged some chairs nearby. People would go get coffee from a machine in another room and then come sit by the tank so they could spend a couple minutes "chatting" with the Jaguar and the Midas Cichlid that also lived in there. The two cichlids would go to the ends of the tank and hang out quite contentedly, apparently enjoying the attention (or perhaps trying to get out and kill the big gangly apes threatening their territories!). Anyway, do try the earthworm trick, and also remember these fish hunt at dusk and dawn, so feed first thing in the morning or last thing at night.> Dana <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Jaguar Cichlid Earthworms? Umm... This is Canada: the frozen North! To reach an earthworm, I would have to hire a bulldozer. I'll look up fishing stores and see if they have any. Thanks again!! Dana <Hello Dana. Surely you're can't be much further north than I am here in the UK? But I guess those darned polar winds make a difference. In any case, yes, earthworms should be available from a bait shop. And you can actually grow your own! Earthworm "farming" is a hobby of sorts here in England. There's an excellent little book called "The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms" by Amy Stewart all about what earthworms do, why they matter, and at the end of the book, how to care for them. Fascinating stuff! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Jaguar Cichlid 3/7/08 Hi Neale, I don't know whether or not we're further North than you are, but the ground is frozen solid and we're expecting another 60 cm. of snow over the next 36 hours. <Yikes!> Happily, there are bait and tackle stores that sell worms for people who brave the elements and go ice fishing, so I'll be headed out there after work this afternoon. <Very good.> The jag is still digging and digging and attacking his bubbler. He sure doesn't look sick, though he is much thinner than when we got him. I have no idea how he stays alive after a month without food. <He's a fish, and in the "dry season" likely has to make do with very little food.> I'll let you know whether the earthworms do the trick. <Yes, please do.> Thanks again, Dana <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Jaguar Cichlid -- 03/10/08 Hi again Neale, Here's the jaguar's dietary report: he pays no attention to food whatsoever, including earthworms. I tossed one of his rejects into a different tank for my smaller cichlids and almost started a war. The worm was gone in seconds. I have a fresh one hanging from a suction cup at the side of the jaguar's tank, but he ignores it completely. I thought if I hung it from the wall of his tank, he might notice it more, rather than having it hide in the gravel like the last ones did. He is still moving a lot of rock, swimming around and investigating everything, and ducking into his cave regularly, but he's just not going to eat. If you think of anything else that might help, I'm very open to suggestions. Thanks, Dana <Hello Dana. I can't think of any "quick fix" here except to try as many different things as you can. If the fish is otherwise behaving normally, there may be something sapping his appetite. Bloating, constipation and Hole-in-the-Head all start with a loss of appetite, so consider those options, since all are quite common in cichlids. I'd perhaps treat for Hexamita/Hole-in-the-Head proactively, just in case. This disease is much easier to treat before the symptoms become established and obvious. I'd then run something laxative through the system, such as Epsom salts (see elsewhere on WWM for the details). If these don't help, then something systemically anti-bacterial like Maracyn would be a good idea. All this said, he may simply [a] not be settled and [b] not wild about the foods being offered. Time and variety will fix this. A risky option might be to introduce some other fish of comparable size but sufficiently durable they won't be harmed. Often fish that are reticent about feeding become bolder when they see other fish "take the bait". This is standard practise in marine communities for example, where damselfish fulfill this role admirably. Cheers, Neale.>

South/Central American cichlids set up   2/17/08 I want to set up a 55g tank with some Jack Dempsey, Black convict, Rams, Firemouth and other south/central American cichlids. <All fine fish, but few of these can be kept together. Rams need warm, soft, acidic water with minimal nitrate; Central American cichlids want cooler water that is hard and alkaline. Jack Dempsey cichlids are incredibly territorial, and will beat the heck out of most South American cichlids. And so on. Please choose ONE cichlid that appeals, and build the aquarium around that species.> I would like to use eco complete as substrate but was wondering which other type can I use in order to provide a sandy bottom as well. <Eco Complete is a total waste of money. Most cichlids will destroy plants.> I want to arrange the eco complete to the back and sides and sand/other substrate in the middle, so I can plant on the sides and create like a corridor. <Some hope! Really, there's a reason why people only keep Angelfish and Dwarf Cichlids in planted tanks.> I know some of these fish like to dig, so could you suggest some hardy natural plants that I could use as well as which other substrate will be a good mix? <Plastic plants glued to rocks are really the only options for a mixed cichlid community. Firemouths, for example, are "earth eater" cichlids, and even though they don't uproot plants outside of spawning, they produce so much silt and mess that only very robust plants will survive. Convicts, Severums, and various other cichlids will either dig the plants directly or view them as food.> I have an Emperor 400 for the tank, do I need other type of filtration or another Emperor? Any other comments for the set up or fish species selection? <Please go back to the drawing board. Choose either [a] a planted aquarium or [b] a robust cichlid community, e.g. a mix of Firemouth and Convict cichlids. Nothing else is likely to work.> Thanks. Mauricio <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: South/Central American cichlids set up 2/17/08 Oh ok, so yeah I was way off! Then if I want to keep a planted aquarium with angels and dwarf cichlids what would be a good substrate? <Yes, Eco Complete is widely appreciated as being one of the better substrates for aquatic plants. Obviously doesn't make any difference what substrate you use if you opt for floating plants of epiphytes.> And if I decide on the cichlid community tank, which substrate will be a good choice? <Entirely depends on the cichlids. If you went Central American, a mix of coral sand and smooth silica sand is good because this raises the carbonate hardness. But South American cichlids don't want hard water, so plain smooth silica sand is better. If your budget runs to it, black volcanic sand brings out the best colours with dwarf cichlids such as Apistogramma.> I was doing some reading and it seems a fine sand substrate will be good, but if so where can I get that? My LFS has just sand for SW tanks. Thanks for the help and advice <Apart from shopping online, gardening centres are usually good places. Smooth silica sand is used to make potting composts, and is very inexpensive; here in England, a 25 kilo bag costs less than £5. Cheers, Neale.>

New with Aquariums and i have a 72 1/2 x 18 1/2 x 21 1/2, Neotrop. cichlid sys.   8/16/07 Greetings. I have this Aquarium that i purchased used. I really do not know how many gallons this is can you help please? <That tank contains 124.83 US gallons.> I have 2 Oscars and a Severum in this tank. I'm using a EHEIMS 2217-13 Classic Canister Filter. Is this sufficient? <That filter is rated at 264 gallons per hour. That's maximum throughput. You can knock 10-25% off just by filling it with media and putting it under the aquarium (where it has to work against gravity). Now, a standard aquarium should have a filter providing not less than 4x the volume of the aquarium in turnover. In other words, the MINIMUM safe filtration for a tank with 125 gallons of water would be a filter with 500 gallons per hour turnover (4 x 125 = 500). This is what you need for regular fish, like tetras and barbs. Anything messy or large, like goldfish, big cichlids, or plecostomus-type catfish needs to be given more. I'd recommend not less than 6x the volume of the tank, and even 8x wouldn't be out of line. In other words, you really need AT LEAST one other filter of similar size just to have adequate water quality. If money is tight, don't forget about undergravel filters. They're cheap and extremely effective. On the downside, they aren't good with plants or tanks with lots of rocks, and they do need a fair degree of cleaning to work properly.> I have also heard about water polishing, and i have seen the UV Sterilizer's. If i was to connect the UV Sterilser to my Canister Filter would this give me Crystal Clear water and Healthy Water for my Fish?? And would this be considered water polishing?? <Don't worry about polishing the water. At the moment, any cloudiness in the aquarium is likely caused by insufficient mechanical filtration. The filter processes the water too slowly, and your fish are kicking up silt from the substrate too quickly. Big fish do that. Things like UV filters don't really do much about this anyway, they're really for killing off waterborne algae and pathogens. Mostly, they're a thing marine aquarists need to use. Freshwater aquarists will get equally good effects more cheaply simply by combining more mechanical filtration with more water changes. Mechanical filtration is best provided by filling one of the compartments in your filter with filter wool, and then replacing it every few weeks.> If this is not the best route to go for my tank could you please advise me as too what i should use along with my EHEIMS 2217-13 Classic Canister Filter please. I want the best for my fish as well as the top quality water that is Crystal Clear. I planned to get more fish in the near future as well. Thank You. <Unlike the situation in marine fishkeeping, where "high technology" really can make a world of difference, in freshwater fishkeeping life is much simpler. Concentrate on supplying the basics: essentially adequate filtration and regular water changes. Do these things, and you should good quality, nice and clear water. So for now, consider adding one or more filters similar to what you already have, or else add an undergravel filter. Cheers, Neale.>

Cichlid tank stocking; Setting Up A New World Cichlid Tank  7/29/07 Hello, crew. I'm going to set up 75 gallon American cichlid tank Is it ok to add following fish ( about 1-2' each): 2 salvini 1 jack Dempsey 1 green terror or Texas cichlid 1 common Pleco Could this system exist for long time? Regards, Mark <Initially everything will be fine until the fish get to be 4 to 5 inches. At that point you may have a pair of salvini. If they are a pair and decide to breed they will take over 1/2 the tank. Male jack Dempseys and male green terrors can get up to a foot long. At this size they get old and cranky and could decide to make the entire tank their territory. Hopefully they will be females and not get as big or as aggressive. It will be difficult to tell at 1-2 inches long. If all the fish are females then I think you will be OK.-Chuck>

Cichlid tank... Neotrop...   6/30/07 Hello, am am considering buying a tank containing different types of cichlids and I want all of them to eat feeders and I plan to buy them all small so they can grow and adapt together. I would like to buy a pink veil tail Oscar, a red devil cichlid, a green terror, a blood parrot(s), a bottom feeder and i would like to place a albino claw frog in the tank which i have now that is growing rapidly. I would just like to seek the advise of the crew to see if this would be an okay move because obviously i don't want any of the fish to die or become sick. Could you please send me something back in regards to this topic, in particular tank size and number of each type of fish or another tank set up you see fit. Thank You <Greetings. For a start, none of the animals you want to buy will live together happily, unless perhaps you have a 1000 gallon tank. Oscars view frogs as food. Red Devils are far too aggressive to live with Oscars and need completely different water chemistry. Green Terrors are also very aggressive. Blood Parrots are unable to live safely with other cichlids because of their deformities, and God help the poor catfish you keep in a random selection of fish like this. So basically you need to sit down with a book on cichlids and read about them first. Next, planning on using feeder fish is STUPID, even putting aside the question of cruelty. Cheap feeder fish bought from the store carry parasites and bacteria. That's why they're cheap. So eventually your cichlids will get sick. Goldfish and minnows are also rich in fat and a chemical called Thiaminase that breaks down vitamin B1. So, over the long term, using these results in sick fish. The only safe way to use feeders is to breed your own livebearers such as guppies. These are safe to use and you can gut-load them before feeding them to your predators. If you don't know what gut-loading is, then you haven't done your research about predatory fish. If you simply want to see one fish kill and eat another fish, then you shouldn't really be keeping a pet at all because that is the completely wrong attitude to take. Thirdly, almost no cichlid needs a live fish diet anyway. Oscars, for example, happily eat pellets, and in the wild feed mostly on "hard" prey such as crayfish, crabs, and large insects. They also eat a lot of plant material in the wild. Red Devils are largely insect, worm and snail eaters, feeding by sifting sand for food. They almost never eat fish in the wild. Green Terrors are very similar, though the prey they eat are smaller. In fact, the vast majority of cichlids are more or less omnivorous, and should be fed accordingly, with a mix of plant and animal foods. Using standard pellets and algae wafers is simply the easiest way to do this. I'm personally 100% against Blood Parrot cichlids because of the cruelty involved in producing these hybrids. Many have problems swimming and these fish seem especially popular with fish producers involved in dyeing and tattooing fishes, a sickening example of animal abuse. Producing such a crippled, hideous fish simply because some few people think it looks nice goes against everything I believe in. So please don't buy these fish. If you want to keep cichlids, I'd suggest starting off with a 40-55 gallon tank and keeping a single pair, or else getting a 150-200 gallon tank and trying a Central American community. Such a community could include things like a few Convicts and Firemouths plus single specimens of Red Devil and Jaguar cichlids, plus any Common Pleco catfish of your choice. Cichlids are long-lived animals and so you need a tank that will be fun for 10+ years. In a community situation having a variety of species is definitely fun, but choose the fish very carefully, picking species comparable in aggression levels. Good luck! Neale>

75 gallon FW tank... plants in with Neotropical Cichlids, UG filters...    5/21/07 Hi, my name is Brian and I have recently set-up a 75 gallon FW tank within the last month and a half. My problem is that just today I've noticed about 11-12 little small spots of brown algae. I read on one of your sets of FAQ's that if you add live plants, that they use the same nutrients that the algae does. <Can, yes> But my real question is will live plants do well with a gravel substrate? <... some can/do... but almost all are better off with no such filter present, or being "blind potted" or a barrier installed... if an UG is used> I do weekly water changes of 15 gallons with a gravel vacuum. Water parameters are: Nitrates-10, Nitrites-1(it seems to hover here + or - .5ppm), ammonia is around 1 and coming down slowly. <These last two MUST be zero. Please see WWM re.> The tank is stocked with South American cichlids: 2 convicts, 2 firemouths, 2 curviceps, 1 green terror, 1 Dempsey, and 3 Texas cichlids (one was originally sold to me as a Dempsey. There is also a Senegal Bircher that is maybe 3.5-4 inches. <... I would move this last> I'm aware of the adult size of all these fish and the Bichir and arrangements have been made with one of the 3 LFS's in town to take several of them. Thank you and your site is awesome. <Well... these Cichlids will tear up most any live plant... And, UG filtration is not usually useful with such avid diggers... And, you need more biofiltration, likely mechanical... all covered on WWM... Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

The perfect 125 Gallon Cichlid Setup   4/27/07 Hi, I was wondering what you believe to be a "perfect" setup (plants, rock, driftwood included) for a 125 gallon freshwater aquarium used to house: 2 Plecos, 1 Red Devil, 1 Albino Tiger Oscar, 1 Jack Dempsey. Don't fret about price. <Greetings. For the selection you have, there isn't a perfect set-up because the selection of fish is a bit random. The red devil wants water on the hard, alkaline side. The Jack Dempsey around neutral and only moderately hard. The Oscar soft and acidic. In short, whatever you do, someone is going to be unhappy with the water. Behaviour is also an issue. Jack Dempseys and red devils are very aggressive, but Oscars are mild and don't like aggressive tankmates. Sure, they're predators -- but like most predators, they want to be left alone, not embroiled in wrestling matches.> Was also curious if you knew a website to suggest a place to purchase these items, including the tank. I'm quite ignorant on all the lingo, so it wouldn't hurt to over-simplify. <Before you spend any money, it's time to buy a book. There are several nice Central American cichlid books. Also read up on the cichlid articles here at WWM. Review the ones on red devils http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/reddevils.htm and "neotropical" cichlids http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/neotropcichlids.htm especially. I set up and ran a 200 gallon Central American cichlids community for my university while I was a student, and it was one of the best tanks I have ever kept. Everything -- good and bad -- they say about Central Americans is true. On the plus side, they are hardy and bold and easy to tame, and the red devil was loved by all the students because it would swim to the front and "play" (actually, trying to attack them!). Central Americans also come in some amazing colours, and healthy Cichlasoma maculicauda, Texas cichlids, and Firemouths are hard to beat. On the downside, most dig craters in the gravel and are sometimes a bit rough. But my community worked, with this red devil, a beautiful Cichlasoma managuense, and bunch of Firemouths and convicts, plus of course the mandatory Plec, in this case Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps. Decoration was simple but rugged: gravel at the bottom, and a selection of huge granite boulders and slabs to create caves and 3D relief in the tank around which the fish could swim. If you have the space, then buying/collecting big rocks is certainly the way to go. Plants (except floating plants) will simply be uprooted (or eaten) so don't bother. Most Central Americans are very tolerant of water chemistry (a few will live and breed in seawater!), but all need very good water *quality*, so provide the best filtration you can afford. I'd suggest external filtration providing a turnover of 6-8 times the volume of the tank per hour.> Thanks for all the help. Mike <No problems. Once you've read up a little more, invest in the tank, buy the fish, and enjoy. Cheers, Neale>

Tank Size For Cichlids   4/4/07 Hey you guys you have been a big help.  I have a 3 inch Oscar, 3 similar sized parrot cichlids, and a convict in a 45 gallon tank.  In about 3 months we plan to purchase a 90 gallon tank. Is 90 gallons ok for them? Thanks your site has been a great help! <The Oscar will get about 12 inches while the parrots will only get about 8 inches. The convict will get up to 6 inches if it is a male. The tank should be barely able to hold this many large fish. Make sure you have good filtration and keep up with your water changes.-Chuck>

Central America cichlid Tank set Up  2/28/07 Hi my name is frank In the future I plan on getting a 125 gal tank for Central American cichlids. I have 2 questions. 1:- My future 125 gal tank I was thinking: 1 jack Dempsey the main fish I want) 1 convict 1 salvini 1 fire mouth 1 fish that is about the same size and aggression level as the jack Dempsey. I was thinking like a Green terror, a Texas or some thing. Can you help me figure out what fish similar to the jack Dempsey would be compatible also can I add another smaller cichlid to this setup? <A male Texas cichlid or Green terror would work.> I can not get this tank for a little while. I have an old 29 gal tank that I use to keep some Africans in. I was wondering if I could keep a couple smaller Central Americans in it so I can get use to them. water conditions, personality. etc..) I don't want a lot in the 29 gal just something I could practice with before I go bigger so I know what to expect. I was just wondering which ones would work and how many? ps I don't want breeding in either of my tanks....Thanks < Get a firemouth. He will be the least aggressive of all the fish on your list.-Chuck>

Little Cichlids Get Really Big    1/21/07 I'm thinking of getting a baby Oscar and baby green terror, and a 5 inch common Pleco. Would they be ok living in 55 gallon fish tank? thanks, Christian < Each fish you have asked about can get up to 12 inches long. Your 55 gallon would only be able to house one of these fish when they are full grown. They may start off small but can reach full size in just a couple of years. I would recommend that you look to other fish that don't get so big.-Chuck>

Large Cichlids Together in a 55g Tank  1/1/07 Hi, <Hi Edwina & Happy New Year, it's Pufferpunk with you tonight.> I have a new 55g freshwater tank. I got 2 Oscars about 2-3 in., 2 Jack Dempseys 3-4 in, and 1 4 in. dinosaur eel (my 6 yr. daughter wanted--they said it would be okay). I went to 3 different fish stores and asked a million  questions about a community of aggressive cichlids that could live together. <Should have asked here 1st!> So, I come home with these fish and start to research them and it seems that none of them should be together. <Mostly true.> Also after reading I am assuming my tank is to little in the long run. <Definitely true!  With the fish you have, to be happy at adult size, you'd need at least a 150g tank or larger.  I think you'd probably be OK with the 2 Jack Dempseys in the 55g--they don't grow as large as Oscars.  As far as the "Dinosaur Eel", depending on which species it is, they are extremely predatory & can grow quite large--some as big as 16+".>   I am a beginner and am eager to have a successful aquarium. I am unsure where to go from here. Any suggestions you could  offer would be great. So for rambling on.   <Since you say you are a beginner, might I ask if you know about cycling a tank before adding fish?  If you haven't, you will need to purchase Bio-Spira & after an 80% water change, add the product to your filter.   Here are some excellent articles for your reading pleasure: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/library.php?cat=4 http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/library.php?cat=6 ~PP> Edwina

Jaguar tank   12/28/06 Thinking about putting together a 300g tank and including jaguar cichlids in it. <Parachromis managuensis, gorgeous animals... bringing back memories of an old friend, Guy Jordan, and his... "Pablo" here> I have a few ideas, but figure I'll tap into your collective experiences to see what all you think I can put in there as well and at what densities? Thanks <... Are quite aggressive species... I encourage you to consider a biotopic presentation... to study re the range of this species (see fishbase.org) and use this site to further investigate other life found in its habitat... Seek out these species... especially larger Catfishes of interest, possibly some larger, fast Characoids. Bob Fenner> Rainbow Cichlids At An Acid pH   12/14/06 Hi Crew, I want to keep some Rainbow cichlids. However, my tank is currently 6.6 pH, which other inhabitants prefer. It seems like Rainbow cichlids prefer 7.0-8.0 pH. Would it be happy and show good colors in my tank? Cheers Tim < These guys are pretty tolerant of a wide range of water conditions. They will be fine. They will be very aggressive and if they decide to spawn the other tankmates may be in trouble.-Chuck>

Jamming in another Cichlid, Firemouths and Uarus  - 08/12/06 Hello, <<Hi. Tom here.>> I have a 2 foot by 2 foot by 1 foot fish tank and in it I have one triangle cichlid at 4 inches, two firemouth cichlids, one is 4 inches and the other is 2 inches, a upside-down catfish at 5 inches and a pleco at 6 inches. Could I get a female firemouth cichlid at 4 inches to go in my aquarium? <<Will it fit in a 30-gallon tank? Sure. If you're asking if I would recommend this, however, I'd suggest that it might not be the best idea unless you have plans to upgrade the size of your tank in the near future. Your Triangle cichlid (Uaru amphiacanthoides), while a peaceful enough fish, can grow to 12" and needs room to thrive. Reason enough to increase the size of your tank. The Firemouth cichlids (Thorichthys meeki) would be fine in the 30-gallon. Might get a bit rambunctious but what Cichlids don't? :) Your Pleco, now, could prove interesting, size-wise. My favorite fish shop had a Common Pleco in a display tank last weekend and all I could think was, "Holy Mary, Mother of all creatures, great and small! Algae-eater, be hanged, this animal is large enough to eat my front lawn!" Typical size? Not in the least but it does point up the fact that, given the proper home, diet and water conditions, this fish will grow BIG. Kind of boils down to what your future plans are, really.>> thank you. <<Happy to help. Tom>> And a follow-up: <<Tom>> thanks Will the triangle cichlid carry on growing and not stop till normal size or will it grow so it can fit in my tank? <<It's growth will slow dramatically as compared to that of a like fish in an adequately sized tank. This is often and erroneously perceived by too many hobbyists as the fish "only growing to the size of its tank." The fish's growth is, in fact, being stunted with bones, in particular, not developing in a normal fashion. Internal organs and musculature may also be adversely affected. In the vast number of cases, the fish doesn't live out its potential life span.>> thanks <<You're welcome. Tom>>

Re: Jamming in another Cichlid, Firemouths and Uarus  -   8/14/06 thanks When shall I get my bigger tank? <<Give yourself some "breathing room" to plan and research. You're investing in your pets, yourself and your home and, none of this needs to be done "five minutes ago." From the fishes' viewpoints, they'd prefer to be in an environment that approximates their natural habitats. Ideally, this is what we strive for but this is also a "selfish" hobby. We want our aquariums to be pleasing to the eye, as well. Other considerations include water filtration. How much? What type? What fits your budget? Decor (which is not as small a matter as some think) is important as it can contribute to water conditions, i.e. driftwood vs. rocks. This needn't be "overwhelming" and, frankly, it isn't. Fish, God love 'em, are amazingly adaptable. The upshot? You've got some time to work with so do some homework. (Ever feel like you asked what time it is and some guy told you how to build a watch? :) ) thanks <<Any time. Tom>>

Re: Jamming in another Cichlid, Firemouths and Uarus  -   8/14/06 thanks I have 1 last thing to ask you. Yesterday I fed my fish and they were fine but I went out and when I came back my big firemouth was having a fit or something. It was twitching, its fins all crumpled up, and its colours were going and coming back. It was a very healthy fish, had long fins and in perfect condition but it had a fit and died. Can you tell me how this may of happened? <<First, I'm sorry to hear about your pet. Now, unfortunately, there's little way of knowing what might have happened here. A physical trauma/injury to the brain seems unlikely but it's possible. Another plausible explanation would be an "epileptic-type" seizure brought on by a genetic disorder of the brain. Wish I could offer something more definitive.>> thank you <<Sorry, once again. Tom>> 55 Gallon Advice, continuous salt use, neotropical cichlid stocking, 3 ppm NO2   8/4/06 Bob,   The website is great and I've learned a ton from it!  I have a few questions for you if you have a moment. I have a 55 gallon aquarium that is about 2 months old.  It is a freshwater tank (but has 1 tablespoon of aquarium salt per 5 gallons added to improve quality of water-at the advice of LFS)- <Permanently? Not likely a good idea> I have 4 fish.  One 2" tiger Oscar, one 2" Jack Dempsey, one 3.5" Blood Parrot and a Pl*co of about the same size.  After reading from your site, I am worried that I will have an overstocked tank within a few months and don't want to lose any fish because of it.  Do you think it is safe/smart for these fish to grow up together in this tank (LFS said I would end up with just one Oscar within 6 months)? <Would be better if the tank was larger... but...>   should I try to find a better home for the Oscar?   <I would, yes> What would be a good match to add to this setup if the Oscar is traded out?    <Another neotropical cichlid of some species...>   Filtration is a 30-60 Aquatech along with a Whisper 60.  Can't afford a canister filter yet, but am hoping these two will suffice.  They eat Omega One cichlid pellets and flakes once a day (with a home grown guppy or three thrown in once a week).    <Do keep up with regular/weekly gravel vacuuming and water changes>   All of the fish are very active and seem healthy right now even though I am having a nitrite problem. <?!> They are at 3.0 on the test strip (dangerous level), <Extremely. I would cease feeding till this is under 1.0... Look for Bio-Spira...> so I have been doing regular water changes and only feed a few flakes per day.  Any advice to make my tank safe for these guys other than what I'm already doing? (also added the new Whisper filter to help balance things because the Aqua-Tech 30-60 didn't seem to be handling it by itself).       Thank you in advance,   Ross Wakefield <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/neotropcichlids.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: My Oscar, Sys., seashells best at the seashore   8/1/06 Hmm.. I sent you an email earlier today, asking about my new Oscar. I know on your web page it says read and you'll more than likely find what you're looking for, and I think I found one of the answers to one of the questions I had asked. (the one about why my new Oscar lays at the bottom of the tank) I still am curious as to whether sea shells are good for the tank or not. <Generally not useful for freshwater systems on two counts: they too-likely change water quality by dissolving... to conditions you don't want. And secondly, the shells sharp edges are too likely to physically damage the fishes> they're pretty, but If they are harmful I'll take them out. I have two in there. so there's not that many. Anyways...one more question, and sorry for the bother: I currently have a 10 gallon tank with a two inch or smaller tiger Oscar. I know that is probably two small. <Yes, will need more room... soon> but it's all I can have right now. When should I upgrade to a larger tank? <ASAPractical> What size of Oscar is considered too large for my tank? Thanks. <Likely at 3 inches or so... Bob Fenner>

Red Devil Tank Size   5/27/06 I love the site and know you could answer this. <Hi there - this is Jorie! Glad to hear you like the site, and I sure will try to help out.> I've got a Red Devil and everything's going great...water, food, etc. I have him in a 55 gallon tank. <This is too small.  What else do you have in the tank?> They say a minimum tank size for a Red Devil is 55 gallons? <Not quite sure who the ubiquitous "they" is, but I dare say "they" are wrong.  This type of cichlid is classified as a "large" fish, and depending upon what other livestock you are housing, I would say an absolute minimum tank size is 125 gal.> Will he still grow to his full potential size in this tank if he is healthy? <No - keeping a large fish in a tank that is too small can result in stunting at minimum, and can cause greater health problems as well.  Not to mention it is just plain cruel. Ever see the movie "Boxing Helena?"> Great if you could get back to me. Thank you. <You're welcome.  If you want to let us know what all fish you have, we could better help you pick an appropriate size tank for everybody!  Good luck, and thanks for caring enough to ask...Jorie>

Cichlid Tank Size Recommendations  - 04/02/06 Hello from Kirkland, WA, I just have a quick question about what size tank I will eventually need when my new fish grow up. Currently in our 20 gallon tank we have 2 breeding pair of convicts (so 4 total), 2 Firemouths, and 2 jack Dempseys. They are all about 1 inch right now but I know that I will have to upgrade to a much larger tank to accommodate them as they grow. What would you recommend as tank size requirements for this stock fully grown? Also, if this is a poor choice of tank mates it would be best for me to change things sooner than later, so any comments you could give would be appreciated. Thanks for your help and expertise. Steve < The male convicts and Firemouths will get up to 5 to 6 inches. The jacks will get up to 8 to 10 inches and maybe more. If your fish continue to breed then the will grow much slower because they are putting all of their energy into breeding and raising fry. Breeding cichlids require a lot of space to raise their fry. If the Firemouths and jacks pair up then they will need more space then if they don't pair up. I would recommend keeping one pair of convicts with the other fish and upgrade to at least a 55 gallon tank.-Chuck> Filtration Recommendations for a South American Cichlid Tank   1/21/06 Dear WetWebMedia, I will soon be setting up a 75 gallon freshwater tank. I plan to keep South American cichlids. My question is what type of filtration should use? I was thinking about a magnum 350 canister because I have used them in the past and been very satisfied. Is one canister enough for this tank? If not what would you recommend? Thanks in advance. Dan < Canisters are a pain to clean. I prefer power filters. I like the Emperor 400. More water movement , easier to clean bio-wheels included.-Chuck>

RO/DI confusion - 1/18/06 I recently purchased a six stage RO/DI system. I hope to use the water for my freshwater(55gal-discus & angels)(20gal-planted community), nano-reef (20L-pair of false Percs and corals) and FOWLR(29gal-mono and green spotted puffer). <small tank for these fish... monos prefer to be in groups and GSPs are best kept alone> My questions are broken down into 1)mixing salt and 2) using RO/DI for freshwater tanks: 1) I have set up a reservoir to mix my salt. a ten gallon tank) The water is heated to 80 degrees. I have been running a powerhead with the aerating feature for 24 hours now. The pH tests at 7.6.(cheap Aquarium Pharmaceuticals test kit) (I trust that this will be fine after adding Instant Ocean and I will test with an Aquarium Systems kit before using) <No sense in testing the pH of newly produced RO/DI water.> The total Alkalinity measures 1 mEq/L. (Seachem test kit) Here is where I get confused. I have read through the site extensively regarding buffering RO water. <Should read zero.> Some articles on the site recommend adjusting pH and alkalinity before adding salt. Others claim that the salt mix contains enough buffers on their own. What do you suggest? <Ideally you would add the correct amount of buffer before adding salt... unless the salt is explicitly designed for RO/DI water. Of course, you will have to be adding the buffer after the salt for a while until you know how much to add.> 2) I also keep freshwater angels and discus. I would like to use the RO/DI water for these tanks. I am afraid of the low Alkalinity. I have not found any articles about buffering RO/DI water for these uses. (They may be out there, but my hours of searching the site has not found them.) What procedures do you recommend for buffering RO/DI for freshwater applications? <There should be a multitude of articles regarding buffering RO/DI for Discus. There are two possible methods: A) Cutting the RO/DI product with tap water to achieve the desired KH and GH, or B) replenishing the KH with a buffer (I use baking soda), and replenishing remaining minerals with a product such as Kent RO Right. You will need to "practice" adding these to spare water (and leaving the result to sit for a while) to learn how to make consistent water - it takes a while to get a feel for the correct amounts of these products, and too much / too little can be very damaging for the fish.> If there is a good article on the site, could you please send me a link as I have not found it yet. <search for "reverse osmosis" and "Discus" and possibly "reconstituting" on Google.> Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with me. <You're Welcome! Best regards from Shanghai, John> Steve

RO/DI confusion   1/17/06 I found an article on the web re: reconstituting RO. Here is a link if you have time. http://fins.actwin.com/aquatic-plants/month.9906/msg00208.html If not, the basic formula they suggest is: Chemical dose/ dose/ measurement 100 liters 50 gallons unit Epson's salt 3.5 6.5 quarter teaspoons calcium carbonate 6 11 600 mg tablets baking soda 4 8 quarter teaspoons potassium chloride 1.5 3 quarter teaspoons What do you think about this recipe for using 100% RO for my discus and angels? <Is a good, practical mix... I would try using about half the dosage here, and testing for what values you can to determine if the resultant water is "about" what you're looking for> If you would recommend trying it, where can I find calcium carbonate and potassium chloride? Thanks, Steve <Very likely a "health food store" will carry these in suitable quantities and finely ground enough to be practical for solubilizing. Otherwise, I'd search on the Net for folks re-packaging, selling small-enough supplies from an inorganic chemicals business. Bob Fenner> Breeding Severums (02/25/03) I'm going to sound like a COMPLETE ignoramus here, but oh well. <Ananda here, and believe me, I have done the same thing....> I have 2 Severums in my community tank.  I am interested in breeding Severums, but have NO idea how to determine the sex of them!  I have read descriptions that say things like "the male has pointier fins", but I have been unable to see actual side-by-side pictures showing the differences, which makes the descriptions useless.   <I didn't find any side-by-side photos, either, and read that one of the few ways you can be certain of the gender of the fish is to examine their genital papillae. The text didn't specify what to look for, but I suspect the male's will be more pointed and the female's ovipositor will be rounded. (The other way to be certain which is which is to catch them spawning!) A female Severum may have a dark spot on the dorsal fin, while males may have reddish-brown spots and worm-like markings on the head. > They are about 3-1/2 to 4" long, one green & one gold.  Any help you can give would be VERY appreciated! <I've read that these fish do not pair bond particularly easily. I would suggest a large tank, excellent food, and several fish. If you have one male and a harem of females, you may get a pair to spawn. As for *finding* that male, you might need to go to a local fish store with a fair number of these fish in one tank and just stare at the fish for a while, or look for a cichlid club and ask its members for help.> Thanks, Raven <You're welcome. --Ananda>

Convicted of overstocking! Hello, <Morning! Ryan with you today>  I have been reading through the FAQ on your site, and have found them very helpful, however I am still a little confused on several points... <I'll clear up what I can!>        1) I am cycling a 29 gal setup with power filter (came as a package), right now I have 2 nearly full grown Convicts and one smaller convict...since I made the mistake of adding other fish to soon (I had put 3 others with them in there two weeks  into cycling, and when everyone started looking ill even with the water changes, I went on the net and realized my mistake so I gave the others away.)  <OK- You've overstocked.  Already I can see BIG problems if you don't change the dynamics of this tank.  2 Full grown convicts in a 29 gallon is overdoing it, and the reason you can't get anything in order.> I have been doing VERY frequent and sometimes very big water changes to keep the water safe for them, and it seems to work...They are acting normal and feisty and lay eggs about every two weeks but then the eggs disappear, I guess because the water isn't ready to support the fry, or they are eating them... Whenever they start looking ill or they stop nipping and chasing one another I assume the ammonia or the nitrite levels are up so I do a big water change, but now that the tank has been running about one month (and I have been doing these changes since the beginning) I read that I was not supposed to be using treated water that hasn't been sitting for 24 hours?! <Yes, a good idea> I have been siphoning from the bottom, and then filling a 1 gal pitcher from the tap, treating it with 10 drops of chlorine treatment and sometimes stress coat or stress zyme and pouring it in. <I would recommend distilled water over tap> I did not realize that the water wasn't treated instantly as the package never mentioned letting the water sit. The sheer volume of water changes I have been doing would make it difficult.  So should I start letting the water sit? I am in southern NM and temps have been consistently over 100, inside with the AC the tank sits at around 77 degrees and even the massive emergency 60% changes (I had to do 2 -when the cons were hovering sickly at the bottom in week two and after I made the mistake of adding more fish and everyone got ill) have not altered the temp more than 1 degree, but if I leave the water sit outside won't the hot water be more stressful?  <Leave a 5 gallon bucket of water inside- should be plenty for your weekly water change on a 29 gallon.> Would  the chlorine take this long to kill them, or is it OK to keep doing it this way since they appear to be OK? <No, they're a very hardy fish.  This doesn't mean they LIKE it though- aged water is a great benefit and chemically much more stable.>        2) Then to make matters worse, my husband said that the filter was running too slowly- the water used to have more force and now it doesn't- so he took out the blue carbon cartridge and rinsed it in the sink...didn't this just upset the cycling that I had nearly finished? I had been afraid to change the pad because of that...then he does this! So just when everything should be balancing out I have to start over? <NO>  Not only that but the water does not flow any faster as a result. So is my filter broken? Is it OK to replace the cartridge without upsetting the cycle? Does rinsing the pad mess up anything/everything? And shouldn't I change the pad every month? Does that mean I need to recycle the tank endlessly? <No, in ideal conditions the colonies of beneficial bacteria will repopulate the filter media in just a day or two.  Your tank may re-cycle if it's not stable to begin with- watch the ammonia and nitrite levels, and do water changes when detected.          3) When the time comes (in a few weeks hopefully) to add new fish, how many fish can safely be added at first? I am considering tiger barbs as tank mates, and ideally would like them to be nearly full grown so the Cons won't kill them (right away at least...) Could I safely add 2? Then 2 the next week? Or is that too quickly?  I read that tiger barbs like to be in groups of 6...would they be OK until I could safely reach that number over several weeks? What if I added young tiger barbs slowly, my tank has plenty of hiding spaces, would they be OK with the cons? Would 6 tiger barbs and three convicts overstock my 29 gal? Or Can you recommend a better match for my Cons? <You're going to have to remove at least 2 of the cons to add anything.  1 convict and 2 small fish would probably be alright, as long as you continue the water change regimen.> Thank you for taking the time to read this, I realize that the whole cycling thing must be pretty repetitive to you guys, but I cannot seem to find the specific information I need...And I have spent this last month reading everything I can find, but so much of it is contradictory, everyone has another method or system.  <The beauty of this hobby!  Every aquarium is different in it's own way.  You've got to "finesse the ever-changing living dynamic in your aquarium on a daily basis."> Thank you so much! Melissa <You're welcome. Ryan>

Sick fish and cloudy water Hello All, <Hi. Steve Allen tonight.> I have to say I love your guys' website. A lot of useful information. I've gotten a lot of help previously when I had an ich outbreak that wiped out half of my tank. <Glad the site was helpful. It has certainly helped me.> Which is the reason for me writing this to ensure I do treat them in time and correctly and to find out some more info.  All 5 of my blood parrots have died but my cichlids are still alive!!!! They were Jellybean parrots which I found out later that they were all injected/dyed <A horrible, barbaric practice indeed> which made them susceptible to disease, but we won't get into that.  They've been replaced by more cichlids and catfish. With that said, I think I have too much information stored in my brain in a short period of time and now I'm somewhat lost in which direction to go.  Let me tell you what I have before I get started. I currently have a 90 gallon freshwater tank, nothing but fake plants, gravel and some driftwood. Inhabitants are no more than 2 inches <Fish grow you know.> big except for the catfish. I have 1 of each species/genus: Electric Yellow, Cobalt Blue, Kenyi, Auratus, Red Zebra, Bumble Bee, Snow White Socolofi, I think it's a Labidochromis Textilis, can't really find much info on that species though since it's not as popular, Albino Fairy Cichlid, and Daffodil. <I'll be shocked if you can get this many (10!) cichlids to grow and thrive and get along in a tank of this size. You have too many.> I recently purchased 2 Synodontis upside down catfish about 2-3 inches big. A common pleco about 5 inches and a chocolate pleco about 3 inches. (I think it's a chocolate/rusty pleco, it has the closest resemblance to what I can find on the web) I had quarantined all 4 of them for about a week <1/4 of the time recommended.> and acclimated them slowly into the main tank. They disappeared for several days. They've been in the main tank for about a week now. Didn't realize that they were nocturnal. <I often didn't see my Synodontis for weeks at a time.> I've had them for about 2 weeks. Up until a few days ago, I started seeing them chase the cichlids out of the caves they were hiding in. I was starting to get worried that they were dead or something.  I did have some algae growing on the wood, the fake sword plant and along the sides of the tank, but now they're spotless!! So I assume they're eating, not only that, they're poop is soo long so they are definitely eating something. Ammonia 0.25 ppm (probably due to overfeeding or from adding the catfish) <And having too many messy fish in your tank.>  I did cut down feeding to half now and will continue to do so until zero, maybe even stop feeding them if anything. Nitrite 0 Nitrate 40 ppm  Is this level okay or should it be lower? <I'd try to keep it under 20 with a good regimen of frequent water changes.> What is considered to be a safe level of nitrate? What is enough to keep algae growing? <Keep at 20 or less.> pH is at 7.6 Water temp is at 75-78 I've been doing weekly water changes since about 4 months ago I tore down the main tank due to all the parrots dying. At the time I had 5 cichlids left which I ended up using to get the tank to start cycling again. After about a month, I purchased bumble bee, snow white and the Textilis cichlid and added them to the tank. (I know I shouldn't have done that because I didn't know at the time that the tank hasn't fully cycled yet PLUS me had no test kits either...I'm so bad...) A week later I bought the 2 fairy cichlids and added them too. This is when I started doing my research on the Nitrogen cycle and then I went out and bought test kits. About 6 weeks went by and test readings dropped to zero and Nitrate was at 20 ppm that's when I started adding the quarantined catfish. I resisted the temptation of adding more fish. yay!!! <Yes, you already have too many.> I've been changing about 30% of the water weekly <good>, vacuuming the gravel <good>, adding Amquel <bad>, Stress Zyme <not very useful> and Stress Coat <why?>. Last time I changed the water was on Monday 1/26/04, 2 days after the catfish were added. I WAS using aquarium salt when ammonia and nitrite levels were peaking to aid the cichlids in breathing. <not really much help> I knew that this were to help during my research and the cichlids were all at the surface gasping for air so I added extra aeration too. <a better choice> But after getting the catfish I wasn't too sure if they were sensitive to salt so I didn't add any when doing the last water change.  Up until last night I noticed that my chocolate pleco had one white spot on his tail. I checked again today and it wasn't there. Without panicking, I knew it was ich but the source of it was a mystery to me. <One spot may not be ich, but wise to be cautious.> I'll be trying to catch Mr. pleco tonight and move him to a separate hospital tank which is housing a baby black Dalmatian molly (Nemo) about 1cm, the ONLY survivor out of 15-20 fry and the mommy died the day after. <What are you going to do with the Molly?> All the other fry were probably eaten by the bigger mollies or from the red worms hanging from the mommy's butt. Eww I know. Sad to say I tried to save her but I couldn't. I ended up inheriting her when all of my boyfriend's family's fish had died except a few mollies and gouramis. That's a whole different story, won't get into that.  Anyway the cichlids are displaying A LOT of scratching which is starting to worry me. <I'd worry too. Could be ich or perhaps irritation from high nitrate.> Bumblebee is scratching itself against anything non-stop and it's not looking too pretty. And the Lab Textilis is swimming in a funny circular motion. A few of them also hang out by the heater and water current. And they're colors have been changing as well. The chocolate pleco was the only one who had any ich visible on his body but all other fish seem to be displaying infection as well but no spots.  Should I treat the whole tank since they all seem to be showing signs of distress or should I just remove my chocolate pleco into a hospital tank and treat him there for ich? <Start with the pleco and getting the nitrates way down with a big water change. Stop using Amquel. It is only a stopgap measure.> I know if I treat the whole tank, the meds might destroy most if not all of my good bacteria but since I've been doing weekly water changes and is in that MODE, <more like DAILY if you kill your biofilter.> I wouldn't mind to continue for a few more weeks...just a few weeks.  <Do it forever.> BTW, I haven't changed the filter in the water pump yet, but will do so soon. It's been about 2 months since we cleaned it. <Could be pumping out a lot of nitrate.> What about the catfish, are they sensitive to medications or salt? <Salt is not helpful in with this problem. I suggest you read through the FW Ich FAQs for info on correct treatment.> They seem to be fine, no scratching or spots.  Can high levels of ammonia cause ich outbreaks? <Can weaken fish immunity> Right now it's at .25ppm What about cloudy water? <Bacterial bloom. If green, then algae.>After I did the water change, my tank got cloudy, it was cloudy even before the catfish were added....I haven't used activated carbon before but I did purchase a box of AmmoChips. Would this help? <Will absorb ammonia.> In case the cause is from the ammonia. I know it might help with my cloudy water situation.  Can ich occur when other fish are picking/nipping at the new inhabitants? <Yes, or perhaps they already had it.> I'm asking this because I've been seeing Bumble bee nip my Pleco's fins which are raggedy and torn right now. Will Maracyn used to treat fin and tail rot help? <Antibiotics will help with fin rot.> The catfish are good "fighters" so none of the cichlids are bothering them and the common pleco is the biggest fish and I don't think they bother him either.  I do have Rid-Ich from my previous experience, which didn't go too well because by the time I found an answer, it was too late to save any parrots. <Check the FW Ich FAQs for the best options.> But the cichlids still lived through it!!! Poor fish, they've been through a lot in the last few months...the good thing is that they're growing pretty rapidly. <And soon will not fit in your tank.> I apologize for slapping you guys with a rather long email and it's been months since I've had an ich outbreak. I have somewhat of a clue of what needs to be done but I'd rather be safe than sorry. Any help or advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you!!! Sandy <My main advice is to stay away from the fish store. Don't buy any more fish until you have another or a bigger tank. You are going to need one just for the fish you already have. Do you have some good aquarium books to read? Hope this helps.> 

Would a 20 gal tank be too small for a Jack Dempsey? <Yes, Jack Dempseys get to get up to 12 inches. You would have the same problem you had with the Oscar.> I currently have some African Cichlids in the 20 and have a 29 gal that isn't set up yet. I was thinking about getting some more African cichlids and putting them in the 29, < Be careful about putting Africans in the 29 gallon. A 50 would be better but it can be done in a 29 gallon if you stay with the smaller species like Ps. saulosi or less aggressive species like Ps. Acei,> and then buying a small Jack Dempsey to put in the 20. But would he Jack Dempsey outgrow the 20? < If you really want to get into cichlids then I would really like to recommend a book to you to read. It is called "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings. It is a great book covering most aspects of cichlid keeping from tiny dwarfs to large monster cichlids. It covers tank requirements and food needs too. It is not cheap but it will save you lots of time, aggravation and money in the long run. -Chuck>

Neotropical cichlid set-up Hi. I need your help with something. I have searched your site FAQ's and have found helpful info, but not exactly what I am looking for. I have a 125g tank. We are in the process of setting it up but are trying to figure out what filtration we need. We are having the top made w/lights, other then that. We have nothing yet. We don't have a ton of money to spend, so that is something to keep in mind. We are trying to figure out the filtration and pump. < Quality equipment will really pay off in time, money and success. Oscars will get up to 12 inches long when full grown. They are messy feeders and generate a lot of waste that needs to be dealt with. Here is what I would do for an ideal Oscar set up. Oscars come from South America and need warm water. Get a good quality 200 watt heater. A cheap heater may stick after a few months so I would not skimp here because a stuck heater can cook your fish. Some stores may not carry a heater with that large a wattage so two 100 watt heaters placed at opposite sides of the tank would work too. The filter should pump enough water to circulate the tank no less than three times an hour. I would recommend an outside power filter that pumps at least 400 plus gallons an hour. They are easier to service than a canister filter. > We are planning on getting a couple Oscars and are also wondering how long we should let the tank sit before doing so. The pet store here (Good friends with owner and employees) says you can put the oscars in immediately. I do not agree. I know sometimes they are wrong. I am looking for info on pretty much everything. Please help as I am wanting to do this right. But inexpensively. Also, how many fish could I have in a tank that size. Even if only two were Oscars. I want them to be very comfortable so do not need to know the max limit. Just the comfortable one. Thanks a ton. < Wash the sand or gravel well. Add enough so at least 2 inches covers the bottom tank. Don't worry about plants. The oscars will just end up tearing them up. Wash the rocks well and make sure they are safe for the aquarium. Place the rocks on the bottom of the tank and not just on the sand. Oscars like to dig and may excavate a tunnel under a rock and end up being crushed by it. Fill the tank up with treated water. Turn on the heater and let it run overnight. The next day check the thermometer. If it is less than 80 degrees and the heater is turned off then it will have to be adjusted. Turn the heater knob until the light comes on and wait another day. Repeat as often as needed to get the heater adjusted to 80 degrees. Large tanks take time to heat up so you will need to be patient. Now that the filters are running and the heater is properly adjusted we need to add some fish. Two little baby one inch oscars could be added at this time. Feed them only a smaller portion of flake food that they only eat in a few minutes. Resist the temptation of over feeding them many times a day. I know they are cute at this size but the excess food will just go to waste. Ask the store for a little sand from one of their existing tanks. This sand contains beneficial bacteria that is needed to breakdown the waste that your fish will be generating. After a while your tank may smell and get cloudy, if this happens you will need to reduce the ammonia levels by either treating the water with a chemical or dilute the ammonia levels with a water change. This is caused by ammonia building up in the water. The bacteria will eventually multiply and break this waste down to nitrite and then nitrates. The nitrates will have to be controlled with water changes. It will take about a month for the bacteria to build up enough in numbers to handle your tank. After a month if you wanted to add some other fish you could. Keep in mind that your oscars will get big sooner than you think. New fish should be quarantined because they may carry disease into your tank. Treating and curing fish in a 125 gallon tank can be a lot of work and expensive.-Chuck> Alisha

pH range for Firemouths and Acaras I have a 25g aquarium and want to keep firemouths and blue acaras. The problem is that the tap water I use is alkaline (pH=8) and these cichlids require a pH around 7. The aquarium is decorated with 3 large pieces of driftwood, but they don't seem to have a dramatic influence on the water's pH. I used Zeolite in the past and got a ph of 7.3, but now I have stopped using it as it absorbs the ammonia, which is critical for the Nitrosomonas cultures. What's the solution for my problem? Should I use chemicals (and which of them?) to bring the water to the desired pH value? Could the cichlids survive in alkaline water? Thanks. Spyros < You could try and keep them in your local tap water. Keep the water clean and warm. If they start to break down I would obtain a 5 gallon bucket and fill it with bottled or filtered water so it is essentially mineral free. Use a buffer that will keep the water at pH 7.0. As you do your weekly water changes the pH will gradually be replaced with the new water and it will be right around 7.0.-Chuck>

Cichlid question for Chuck (source, care of neotropicals) Hi to the Crew ! I have a cichlid question, I'm hoping Chuck might know where I can find some info. (I've searched online like crazy...) I recently got two very small cichlid fry from a friend (the only survivors from 3 spawns).  He had gotten the parent fish via Aquabid, and they were listed as "dwarf chanchitos" or "C. oblongus". Unfortunately (for me) he has since sold the parent fish (his pH seemed too high (8.0) for successful breeding/rearing, and he saw some other fish he wanted for the same tank) so I don't have any photos of them.  The fry are too small to really tell much from a photo. I'm looking for any background info on these fish - natural habitat, range, preferred water chemistry, etc.  All I've been able to find is that they are South American, and one photo of a pair of adults (assuming these are in fact C. oblongus, or that is a synonym) -- or at least a place to start finding that info ( I don't mind doing the research). From the name 'dwarf chanchito' I thought they might be related to Cichlasoma facetum (of course, I'm not even sure if Cichlasoma is a valid genus anymore, I lose track) but I've found nothing about a dwarf relative in articles about C. facetum. I'm trying to decide how to best shuffle tanks to provide these fish a proper home, depending on temperament, adult size, and preferred water conditions.  They are eating heartily (I've got microworm and daphnia cultures and BBS hatches going for some pearl Gourami fry, plus frozen Cyclop-eeze and daphnia, etc, so they are getting lots of right-size food options) and I'm expecting to need to move them to a more permanent home soon. Any leads or suggestions would be greatly appreciated !! < I too have acquired some of these fish not to long ago from a group in Southern Calif. The word is that these fish came from Argentina and are very similar to Nandopsis facetum. Mine have not bred yet but from the pictures I have seen I think they are a geographic varient of N. facetum. Captive bred fish seem to spawn at a smaller size than in the wild so they may have been given a "dwarf" trademark name but I think they will get just as big as the true facetum over time. One thing about these fish is that they from an area so far south that the water is cooler then what most tropical are use to. They can easily handle water easily in the 70's and probably lower.-Chuck> Thanks, Rich Paulhus My Ocellaris Hello WWM, I have a 72 Imp. Gal. tank. its running for over 2 weeks now and I've originally purchased 2 ocellaris the smaller one died because of stress so I bought more ocellaris the three were in harmony for a few days when I noticed one had his mouth wide open and looks like he's in a lot of trouble. He wouldn't eat and days later he died.  Now a day after an ocellaris died another ocellaris showing the same symptom-open mouth!- now he's not eating.. it's almost a write off :( when my fishes often show signs of stress they die. No ammonia is present, low nitrite and nitrates all other fishes seem to do just fine.  I've lost so many fishes over the couple of weeks (mainly due to the ammonia spike) that I'm thinking of giving up the hobby!  Just because i feel like I'm a bad caretaker! But all i do is worry about them. I'll send a picture < Cichla ocellaris (peacock bass) are South American Cichlids that are actually quite sensitive to water conditions. Just by looking at them you think they would be bullet proof and easy to care for. Actually they are one of the most difficult cichlids to keep. They require soft acidic water similar to discus! Water temp should be around 80 F and a pH of 7 or lower. They almost always require live food and extremely clean water with no ammonia or nitrites and a nitrate level no higher than 25 ppm with 15 ppm and lower even better. These are pretty tough requirements for a fish that gets close to 2 feet long. Try and find an easier fish at first and work up to a peacock bass later after you have become more experienced.-Chuck> Cichlid Aquarium and debris accumulation -- overfeeding, not enough water flow 10/28/05 Hello Crew, <Hi Dan.> Thank you for taking time to answer my question.  <No trouble.>  I have a 90 gallon with several small South American/Central American cichlids. They include: 1 black convict 1 Jack Dempsey 1 electric blue Dempsey 1 tiger Oscar 1 salvini cichlid <I noticed you said small, so I assume you are aware of the potential size of these specimens?> All are about an inch long and doing very well. My problem is that there is constantly dirt/debris on the bottom of the tank. I do weekly water changes of 20-30% My filtration consists of a wet/dry system (not sure what type or size, it was given to me by a family member who did not want it) and a Magnum 350 canister. Is this adequate filtering for a tank this size with this amount of fish?  <Yes but in addition to this I would like to see some power-heads for water flow...a lack of water flow may actually be the reason for your debris accumulation.>  It just seems like no matter how much I clean and gravel vacuum, I just can't keep up with it. I went out and got two Plecos in hopes of them cleaning things up a little bit.  <Plecos will contribute much more waste than they will clean up.>  Both are about three inches. Unfortunately they have not done much. I did a little research on your site and noticed that you have referred to Plecos as "poop machines" a few times, which does not help my cause.  <Yes, they are quite messy fish and furthermore they cannot live alone on your algae or debris they have nutritional needs as well, please look into this further via WWM.>  What if anything can I do to get rid of this debris? It is very unsightly.  <More water flow to keep the debris suspended to allow the filter to grab hold/process it. Are you over feeding perhaps?>  Is there any type of "cleaner" fish that you would recommend?  <No, no more livestock.>  Thanks for your help. <You are welcome.>  Dan <Adam J.> 

South American Cichlid Didn't Cycle 10/25/05 Hey crew, I have a cichlid tank with South American cichlids, just reaching the one month mark with the tank the ammonia levels have finally started to drop but also around the same time one of cichlids stopped swimming. The fish just sits on the bottom of the tank and can only propel itself with the pectoral fins. < Your cichlid did not like the elevated ammonia and probably nitrite levels and has developed an internal bacterial infection that has affected the swim bladder. Keep up on the water changes, clean the filter and vacuum the gravel. Remove any uneaten food after a couple of minutes. Try treating with Metronidazole. This may affect the tank cycling process so continue to watch the ammonia levels.-Chuck> 

Big Fish For Not So Big Tank  10/21/05 I own a 55 gal tank that houses two Oscars, one tiger about 3" and a red Oscar about 2". I have  been watching them and at fist they been just swimming together, now the bigger seems to be dominating the smaller one. Is this normal? < Yes. Cichlids are very territorial and this often happens with two fish in the tank.> I also plan to get a red devil to complete my tank. Would this be advisable since I always had red devils and liked them in my tank. If not a red devil what about a  Tilapia buttikoferi? < Your 55 gallon will hold one adult fish. Pick one and get rid of or don't get the rest. All of the fish you have picked can get over a foot long over time.-Chuck> Setting Up a New Cichlid Tank  10/20/05 Hi, I just got a 37gal from a friend (just the tank), I bought a TetraTec 300 (and its heater module). I put large gravel in as a substrate (reading today that I probably should have used a sand). I decided on a cichlid tank because I have a 20 gal tropical but I want slightly larger fish. I was just wondering what you guys would recommended to stock the tank? I was hoping for some nice looking fish but I don't want to overload the tank. Steve < Look at some of the mid sizes Central American species. If you want to breed them then start out with the basics. Get six convicts and let them grow up together. They will pair off in different parts of the tank. It will be great fun to watch and you can learn how to raise the fry. Take the fry into your local fish store for trade. Trade in the breeding pairs and move on to Firemouths, then larger fish like Jack Dempseys. Once you learn how to breed cichlids then there will be no end to your interest in your tank. Other tanks will become boring. If you just wanted a display then I would recommend a single specimen of convict, Firemouth, salvini, rainbow cichlid, jewelfish, blue Acara, and others. Just make sure that they are all about the same size and have plenty of rockwork to establish territories.-Chuck>

Dovii Cichlids and Softening Water 11/2/05 Hi I have a 49 gallon aquarium and wanted to know if I could house a wolf cichlid pair. < Not for long. They get big and are usually very aggressive.> I am currently building a 250 gallon wood/glass aquarium in my fish room (soon to be anyways) I would like to what type of setup to have for this fish. < Rocks sand and some wood. Big filters that will pump 700+ gallons per hour. Lots of water changes.> I also have a second question. I have a 35 gallon but the water is outrageously hard and alkaline, like off the charts. I want to know how do I reduce the alkalinity and hardness? The ph is 8.1. Should I lower this ? Nitrates are 20ppm and nitrite is 0ppm. I got 175 BioWheel and a 100gph tetra 3 in 1.Any suggestions for this? (sorry for the 2 part question). < There are many fish like rift lake cichlids that will very well in your water. Your filtration is very good. Getting the pH down would be better for most aquarium fish but at 8.1 that would be the upper limit for most community fish. Some livebearers would do OK too. check out the WWM FAQ's for additional info on softening aquarium water.-Chuck> 

Keeping A Dovii Cichlid, Tank Is Snowing and a Plague of Guppies 11/3/05 Hi, If I keep a lone P. dovii maybe with some type of dither fish,( I know will probably become his lunch), in 49 gallon tank, how long could I keep him in there?  <Until he gets about 8-10 inches, about a year depending on food and environmental changes.> What level of ph and how hard water should be? <This fish can tolerate hard alkaline water just fine.> What type of foods could I offer it (P. dovii).? <Washed earthworms, brine shrimp, krill, high quality pellets like spectrum and some flake food.> I have a 15 gallon guppy tank with a guppy plague ( too many guppies) that I use to feed my charross barracudas ( freshwater barracuda). Could I do this also with the P. dovii? < Sure> I also added pH Bullseye to the 35g tank and the tank turned all white with a milky color it did lower the ph to 7.0 but it looks like it snowed. All the algae, rocks, plants, and even fish are coated with this milky substance it looks like it just dyes algae, slime coats, etc. with white milky color...all fish are fine happy and feeding well.  I know now its not a good idea to add something to take away something. Should I do gravel vacuuming and basically 70% water change to fix this problem <That would help, but then you are back to where you started from. The product bonded with the calcium in the water and formed a precipitate. Next time check out the WWM site for softening water.> Please help, thanks, Sean (sorry for bad grammar) < Next time do not apologize for the grammar. Fix it yourself or your question will not be answered. The purpose of this web site is to help people become better aquarists, save some aquatic animals, and post the questions so others can learn from the them. If we spend all of our time correcting grammar then that means that with our limited time someone will have to wait for a response. Many on the crew would not respond to your problem the way it is written. With computers today spell and grammar check could not make things any easier. Please use them.-Chuck> <<Thank you, Chuck.  We have a page regarding when, how, and why we prefer queries come in legible English.  Please see here (to start): http://www.wetwebmedia.com/QueryCorrsRefPg.htm - Marina>>

Dear Mr. Fenner... (Cichlid Tank planning) I am going to start a new tank up from starch once again...i am a little nervous. because i would like it to be perfect. <Learn to be satisfied with your efforts... shoot for "near"> i will be keeping S. American, and c. American cichlid of all varieties, it will be a 55 gallon tank. i will make sure the fish are compatible and try really hard to select good looking, healthy fish from the local pet store. <Worthy goals> i am planning on buying a good filter, a Fluval 500 made by Hagen. for the first two months i will let the water cycle and make no water changes during that period of time. after that i will make 20% water changes every week. I wont feed much because i understand that can keep the water dirty. when i get my tank and set it up, i will add the fish gradually, and i wont ever clean both the carbon and foam at the same time. if i do all these steps will i have a successful fish tank? <These are all good ideas... I would pre-store your water for changes> are there any other steps i should do to maintain a healthy, clear fish and tank? thank you in advance... peter k. <To study re the needs, temperaments, ultimate size of the species you have in mind... Read up on their nutritional, water quality requirements. The database fishbase.org may well serve you here. Bob Fenner>

Large Cichlid Tank Questions Hi Bob, <You got Steven Pro today. I am part of the WWM crew and taking my turn answering some of the daily queries.> I have a huge question and would like some advise. I currently have a 35 gallon tank and 1-4" Oscar,1-2" Green Terror, 1-2" Texas Cichlid and 1-1" Jack Dempsey. I do Plan on adding 2 more fish 1 red and 1 blue parrot. I know I will be needing a much bigger tank and pretty soon. <I hope it is VERY soon.> I plan on purchasing a 135 Gallon 6 foot aquarium. Questions? 1. Do you think this is a big enough tank for the inhabitants I plan to keep considering these fish will grow pretty large? <It should be OK for the six fish you mentioned, but leaves little to no room for more.> 2.What kind of tank and filtration do I need to keep the cost to a minimum and also maintain ace to a minimum? <You are going to have to do a lot of water changes to keep these guys happy and growing. Weekly water changes in excess of 25% would not be too much. Get yourself a Python water changer and position the new tank near a floor drain and a faucet.> I am looking at clarity plus acrylic tank and would like to know if I should purchase with or without filtration. Here is what filtration package includes....The package includes overflow box with pre-filter sponge inserts, centipede returns, wet/dry filter with bio-media, and system pump for maximum flow rates (at least 7-8 times per hour), as well as all tubing, bulkheads, and connectors. Is this needed for the fish I intend to keep or am I going overboard? <Sounds good. Definitely not overboard.> Or would hang on filters be good enough. <No> Thanks and sorry for the stupid questions I have only been in hobby for 4 months and wished I would have read more and purchased a bigger tank from the start. <If I had a dollar for every time I heard that. -Steven Pro>

Cichlids With new Owner And New Problems I just had another rescue project dumped on my hands: an old 55 gallon with over 16 cichlids in it. Two 6 inch green Severums, three 3 inch green Severums, about eight flag cichlids, some unIDed cichlids that remind me of earth eaters but aren't, and 3 un IDed Geophagus. But two of the smaller Sevs are sick. One is injured, both noggin and mouth (mouth doesn't seem to close right and is white) and the other has pop eye and mouth fungus. Currently in a hospital tank being treated with Furanace (following instructions on bottle), but your site says to use Epsom salt for the pop eye (I was looking at the parasite page). Is this the same stuff as under my parents counter in the bathroom? Magnesium sulphate plus seven waters? is this alright to use? I just want to make sure before I go putting these wonderful and gentle fish in danger. <Your South American Cichlid Tank probably was in desperate need of attention before you got it. A 55 gallon is too small for all of these fish. I suspect that the water quality was pretty poor and this definitely contributed to the problems you are now facing. Make sure you have a good filter that pumps at least 200 gph. Check the nitrates. Anything above 20 ppm will mean trouble soon. Nitrofuranace is good for external bacterial infections. Epsom salts help change the osmotic balance in the water and deter bacterial growth. I would also use Metronidazole for anaerobic bacteria that are causing the Popeye.-Chuck>
New Tank New Owner New Problem II Thanks chuck I will get something with Metronidazole in it either tonight or tomorrow, as soon as I can. Yes the tank was in horrid need of help when I got it, that's why I said it was a rescue project. He had a penguin 170 on her with even more fish than its got now (I just couldn't take all of them) It now has a magnum 350 (currently with micron cartridge) that has no BioWheels. But I also put a fully cultured penguin 330 that was running on my 80 just to keep the bacteria culture going. The nitrates dropped from some 25 ppm down to 12 over night. The fish are swimming around and look absolutely great (except for a cloudy eye here and there and plenty of fin rot. The tank was also completely coated in algae and after I moved it I spent hours cleaning it. I'm currently treating the main tank with rid ich for the cloudy eyes on one of the 6 inch green Severums. I have access to four or five 55 gallon tanks with biology teachers I trust at my high school and I can thin out the heard quite a bit after break ends and I get them in health. There was actually black mold on the light fixtures. Thanks for getting back to me, its always greatly appreciated. Mind if I include some pics? < Go ahead.> The tank in my house after being cleaned. The light bulbs are horribly dim, I'm getting new ones today. Its funny, he never had a good place for the flags to hide (there are 7 of them I believe, hard to count) so when I put that flower pot in there from one of my other tanks, they all crammed in there. The largest of the Severums. You can see the fin rot and cloudy eyes, not as bad as the pic makes the eyes look though. This was from yesterday, looks much much better today, and he's getting more friendly like the other Sevs are. The two sick Sevs in quarantine. I know I know, there's algae on the glass, but this is a really old tank and the scratches make it nearly impossible to get it off. The water quality is perfect, I promise. The water is yellow colored from the meds. The one in the front is the one with the bad lips. Can you see it? any suggestions? I don't think they are infected, perhaps injured? malformed? < Sorry, didn't get the photos. Sometimes injuries get infected and fungus. When this happens the tissue usually doesn't grow back.-Chuck>
New Tank New Owner New Problem III  & Sending Photos TO The Crew Thanks for getting back so soon. I had copy pasted the photos into the email, and I guess this didn't work. Is there a proper way to send them to you? < Try sending them as an attachment. Check the WWM homepage for tips on sending photos.> If I sent them even one as an attachment the file would be over 900 kb. Is this ok? < Not shrink it down. Check the website for size.> I figure I might as well learn how to send you pics so I can do it better next time. You guys always provide me with the best help. < We have nothing to sell but the truth.> <<Whoa! Scarce can I name salvation but fearful thunder echoes in mine ears... I don't use words/concepts I don't understand... RMF>> If this is the case with the Sev's mouth, should there be any measures taken? < Watch it closely to see if it starts to grow back. Redness means an infection. White stingy matter means its growing back.> It seems to have a little bit of a hard time eating, though it is eating plenty, picking at the decoration too. < This is a good sign.-Chuck>

Caring for Convicts I have adopted 8 African Cichlid's known as Convicts. <Mmm, actually, these are likely Central Americans: Archocentrus nigrofasciatus. You can see pix, info. under this name on fishbase.org> They were left without care and little food for an extended period of time and have lost a lot of their color. New to the hobby, I am not sure what they really need. I have a 30 gallon tank that I change 25% of the water every two weeks, I feed them flake and pellet twice daily.  <All fine, but the size of the system. This is too small for these fish at the size they are/will become> I have never checked the pH or the ammonia level (I think your supposed to) and so far there have been no casualties or ill fish.  <Not necessary to check, but that these values, overall water quality just be tolerable...> I feel that some higher power must really be watching over these fish because there has to be more to it than this.  <Do you consider yourself "higher"?> I want to provide the best care I can. I really enjoy them. Please advise. I would be most appreciative. Sincerely, Doris <Please do read through the scant present freshwater coverage posted on this part of our site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWtopicsHP.htm on set-up, maintenance, cichlids... and do write back if you have questions, concerns, suggestions. Bob Fenner>

Re: Caring for Convicts Thank you very much for the information. And, I do not consider myself (higher), I was implying that God must be watching over them, but since everyone does not have the same belief system I chose to use the words (higher power). Again, thanks for your time and the quick response. <I see. Thank you for your kind caring for this precious life. Bob Fenner>

Filter system for 125 gallon fresh water tank Sir, I recently got a 125 gallon tank that is a real move up from the 35 gallons I am used to. I realize that my filtration needs will be different, but am unsure what I should be doing. I plan to have 2-3 good sized Oscars in the tank with no plans at present to try live plants. Any suggestions? Peter Hughes <If you can afford it, I would strongly urge you to consider a trickle filter. It is the best possible filtration for your intended fish and it makes maintenance very easy. -Steven Pro>

Filtration for a 300 Cichlid Tank Thanks for the opportunity to ask..... and forgive the length of my query.... <No worries> I am acquiring a 300 gal. tank for use in raising some of my Central American Cichlids. The tank will be reef ready (unless I change the work order soon) as my first intention was to create a 75 gal. W/D for primary biological filtration (I had considered a fluidized bed for primary or supplementary use, but I don't think they are very dependable if the electricity goes out, etc. since I'd likely lose the whole colony). The two overflows (I may add a third; what is your opinion?) <More would be better> will initially drain into a micron filter bag then trickle over bioballs. Also in the sump would be areas for carbon, poly filter, etc. should I ever choose to utilize them (what is your opinion on continuous use? affect on trace elements? HLLE?). <No problems on continuous use> Given the size of my fish (many over a foot in length), I have seen the need in the past to utilize additional mechanical filtration in such setups. I have considered having additional holes drilled in the tank so that I can pipe in some form of added mech. filtration from under the tank (some sort of inline setup like an Ocean Clear or Rainbow-Lifegard). <Look instead to larger surface area "spa, swimming pool" canister filters here. Aquanetics, pool/spa supply places offer these... and at least one extra set of filter cartridges... clog quickly, need to sterilize, let air-dry in-between use...> Pipes would reach from the floor of the tank to varying heights (capped with prefilter sponges) to better strain debris from the middle and lower layers of the tank. Return pipes would also be plumbed in to create currents to stir the debris off the floor so that it can be captured by the overflows or the mech. filters (sort of a closed loop deal). Alternatively, I would simply hang several Emperor filters from the back, varying the heights of the intake tubes, and go it that way. <Too inefficient for such a system...> I guess my real concern is the danger from leaking, etc. from the plumbing from under the tank. Should I be concerned? <Yes. Enough to thoroughly investigate, do a good job designing, installing... making provision should there be a leak> Do you have any suggestions for additional mechanical filtration or water movement? <A fractional horsepower (small) spa pump... and the matching mechanical filtration for it as mentioned above... plus perhaps fluidized bed biofiltration (on the discharge side of the mech.), plus thought to surface skimming, water change valving...> Please know that I haven't finalized my decision on any of these issues. From reading your site, it's clear that wet/dries may not be the way to go for a marine tank since live rock/sand is so beneficial, but there is no such option available to a fresh water tank... right? <There are many> Also, a skimmer would not perform very well in fresh water from what I've heard. Do you believe one would be worthwhile? <No, not here.> I guess my basic question would be... what do you suggest as the best option(s)? I suspect I'll be changing water often to deal with Nitrates (I'd planned on splitting one of the return pipes to allow water to be drained faster). Many of my fish are wild caught, and I want to provide the best possible water quality. Would you favor what I've described? <No. Too puny for this size, type of set-up. You need very good water flow (maybe ten times volume) and the rest of the gear to be able to accommodate this flow> Would you choose an all inline system (mech., chemical, micron, <Not too small here... for instance, diatom filter sleeves will clog almost daily...> heater, fluidized bed, etc. modules from Rainbow -Lifegard)? <I don't favor most all their gear... there are better choices in similar lines elsewhere> What would a public aquarium utilize? <Ahh, good questions. Likely fluidized bed, a sump (overflow) with a mechanical (filter bag like Emperor's) on the discharge (in-sump) end (to change daily), an in-line heater (look at Aquanetics "fire-plugs" here), maybe a UV sterilizer (if they were bringing in, switching out much imported/wild livestock...> I guess, like everyone else, I am looking for the lowest maintenance, most effective system. <Agree> Thanks again for your help and patience! Chris <And you for your participation. Keep looking here, and write back if/when you're more sure of what you plan. Bob Fenner>

Filtration Howdy, <happy New Year> I found your site and read for a few hours yesterday learning a TON of information regarding my new 30 gallon freshwater tank.   <excellent! keep learning and sharing> The basic setup that I have is a 30 gallon Power Filter, 100 watt heater, thermometer, ammonia chart (which changes color in the presence of ammonia), 2 plastic plants, and one large plastic magma/lava rock formation.   <hmmm... no mention of a primary biological filter here? Just a power filter? Even if it takes foam block instead of pads (some biological that can be preserved by rinsing instead of replacing)... the lack of a stable bio-liter like a large canister or UG filter is dangerous if true here. Certainly will fail with large or messy fishes> I have (2) small 3 inch Tiger Oscars, and one 4 inch blue channel catfish.   <Oh, no! All three are huge as adults and grow quickly... this tank isn't big enough for even one of these fishes in the 12-18 month picture. Please trade these fishes in and get more appropriate sized specimens for a 30 gall (adult size 3-5").> When I first got my tank I had read differing ways of cycling the tank for the first time and the leading websites, not yours, recommended just starting the tank with 2 to 3 small, hardy fish. Let me start by what I did wrong: WAY overfed them, tried a bunch of different chemicals (store-bought) to deal with the ammonia problem.  This led to ICK which I am now treating with CURE-ICK. <do be careful here too...the Oscars are tough, but the catfish is scaleless and will overdose on most medications easily> Today I literally cleaned my whole tank with a light bleach solution and a 100% water change.  I know this will now need to start the new cycle again and is but a temporary solution but I wanted to get all of the scuz out of my tank and start fresh - and hopefully a little wiser. <and do buy a better filter ASAP. A large Fluval or Eheim would be quite helpful here. Much less stress for you and the fishes too... less work as well> The questions that I have are as follows: How often should my fish be fed on a normal basis?  Every day or every other?   <actually... 1-3 small feedings daily> This is what my LFS recommended because of my ammonia problem. <Your ammonia problem exists because they didn't advise you of a proper and stable biological filter> How MUCH should I feed my fish?  A friend claims the stomach is about the size of the eye. <hmmm... and old rule of thumb that isn't true but works reasonably well to guide beginners to not overfeed. Indeed... a tiny feeding 2-3 times daily is best> What other type of filtration would you recommend besides the Power filter that I have?  Please try to give me the best solution under $200. <absolutely, my friend. My advice (instead of a UG filter since cichlids dig in the gravel) is to get the biggest canister filter that you can afford that uses foam blocks (no HOT magnums here... go for Eheim or Fluval). Inside use all foam blocks or noodles for complete biological filtration)... and even slip a small course foam block on the intake in the tank to act as a bulk pre-filter (this will tremendously reduce the need to service the bio-foam in the unit. Carbon and chemical media can be kept in the power filter instead which is easier to service more frequently (but is lousy for bio-filtration)> Erm, anything else that you can help me with would awesome and thanks again! Awesome website!!! Jim Howrie <thank kindly, Anthony>

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