I have a 180L tank, its currently housing 3 juvenile fancies which are keeping my filter bacteria alive while I work out where I am going with my tank.
I would like to keep Dwarf Cichlids. I was thinking about Bolivian Rams or maybe Apistogramma.
Water is classed as moderately soft though I do not have readings, pH is 7.2. I have a sand substrate, plants currently are plastic but when I can get hold of some plants tabs I will be getting really plants although will most likely be basic stuff like Elodea.
Other tank stock which i am keeping are 5 unsexed peppered corys and 1 rescued Albino Cory female, I have 2 Nerite snails which I plan on increasing to 5 to help sand turnover along with the corys who look great when their heads are dug in :), 4 amano shrimp which will be increased to may 8 or 10 and 2 Bristlenose Plecs.
I was hoping for 2 pairs of cichlid and then add in a shoal of something small and ditherish - something like Lemon tetras.
My tap nitrate comes out at about 5-10 and with Rams not liking anything over 20 didn't feel it was giving me much wiggle room.
The fancies are not staying and are in place as a placeholder for keeping my filter bacteria alive while I finalise what tropical fish I do want.
At the moment they are also juvenile so I am happy that they are not overstocking but as I said I hope to get the tropicals this weekend and will re-home the fancies, the LFS I use are low stock on fancies so are happy to rehome them for me.
I do have an API freshwater master test kit and my current readings are -
Ammonia - 0 Nitrite - 0 Nitrate - 20 - 30 pH - 7.2 - this was 7.6 with a bag of Coral Sand in the filter to buffer the pH which has since been removed.
Could you test the pH of your tap water both straight from the tap and after 24 hours standing? That's what we should use for stock selection as with no artificial bffering the tank water should settle and remain close to that with regular maintenanace.
Test the nitrate level in your supply too as that will show you how easily a low level can be maintained in the tank.
It would help to have a better idea of gH - your supplier's web site should give you a figure on the page for water quality if you put your post code in. Moderately soft should be fine for most south American dwarf cichglids though, so it's the true pH that will be the important factor.
You'll also be somewhat reatricted by the Peppered Cories. They prefer cooler water than the majority of SA dwarf cichlids and all else aside, that would rule out Blue/Gold Rams, but would be OK for quite a lot of the Apistos and for Bolivians.
OK that converts to 75ppm as CaCo3 or 4 dgH which are more commonly used in fishkeeping.
On that basis Bolivians will be fine and you could keep a group of those, and quite a lot of the Apistogrammas will do OK. If you want more than one species it's important with the Apistos to choose carefully as they are categorised in family groups or complexes within which the species' will interbreed. You need to select from two separate complexes to ensure there is no risk of hybrid fry. This site goes into these in some detail.