I have made the decision to break down my tropical tank at the end of the year and move into the world of cichlids. I have been running my upgraded tropical tank for just under two years now and feel that a change is in order....especially since my other half wants to redecorate, and the colours she wants in our lounge just dont suit the colours of my aquarium.
Therefore, i have been given free reign to work on a new tank design for the new year, to suit the decor a bit more!!! grief....seriously!! ... at least cichlids have some good design options!!
so down to business... i really want to make sure this build is done properly, not like my tropical tank where ive just kind of gone with the flow and figured things out as ive gone along... this time im doing my research!!
I have a 240Ltr Fluval Roma tank I live in cambridgeshire so have some of the hardest water you will find in the UK. the NO3 tap water reading is appx 0.25 I am currently looking at price options for a full water testing kit...im sick of rubbish testing strips and will never endorse them ever again!!!!!
im planning on the following materials: limestone rocks, or possibly lava rock, which i plan on integrating with my current pieces of driftwood. Pool filter sand mixed with live coral sand
Lighting im unsure of as ive yet to research this area, but im thinking of a fairly darker setting, maybe a more deep blue hue etc.... just need to know what kind if lights etc...
Filtration - this area i would really like some extra advice on please because im unsure if im going to have enough for what im wanting to do... i currently have a Fluval 305 external filter an was thinking of purchasing a wavemaker to create a better all round flow to help with moving the waste etc... and also to help with creating more current for fish to swim against. Is the 305 going to be enough filtration on its own, or should i buy a second filter system to assist with water movement etc... or will the addition of a wavemaker be enough for that purpose? Weekly water changes of 30-40% will be adhered to religiously....
Oxygenating the tank - i was thinking that it might be an idea to ditch the regular air stone, and pump air through a couple of misting diffusers positioned in front of the wanted, and yet to be confirmed wavemaker idea, creating a finer, and more spread out oxygen release...does that make sense??? :)
then the fish.... i am going for Malawi Mbuna and have come up with the following list of fish: Yellow Labs Demasoni Cynotilapia Afra Jalo Pseudotropheus Elongatus Sp Pseudotropheus Flavus
Now i believe that all of those are from the same region, and are perfectly suited to living well enough with each other, please correct me if wrong. What im not sure about, is how many of each type, will i be able to have all of those types in a tank of my size etc...
there is a lot to take in here, so i really do thank you in advance for all the advice, if any.... And please, so remember, this is not currently in process, this is all research currently...the plans are to start the build in January 2014, i want to get everything in my head, on paper, in the budgets etc etc etc.... i want this to be as near to the vision i have for a brilliant tank as possible...
As this is only in the planning stages, here's a few tips.
As you have very hard water you don't need to use limestone or coral sand if you don't want to. The water will be hard enough by itself. It's personal choice as to what you prefer aesthetically, but ocean rock isn't natural to the lake.
Live sand is for marine tanks, not freshwater and won't remain "live" in a fresh set up.
You will need a second filter of the same capacity as the 305, or bigger. A wavemaker isn't necessary and two filters should mean you can organise the flow to avoid dead spots. With spraybars, additional oxygenation shouldn't be necessary, and if wanted choose for aesthetic effect as the benefit in gas exchange is the same whichever you use (minimal).
If you want Pseudotropheus demasoni, you need at least 12 as in a smaller group the dominant male will decimate the rest and you can't mix them with anything similar in colour (e.g. the Cynotilapia Afra ).
Cynotilapia flavus and elongatus shouldn't be mixed as they may interbreed.
ok, in regards to the substrate then... i was thinking of something a bit darker so that it wasnt too bright for the fish... I fully appreciate that the ocean rock/coral sand would not be natural to match lake conditions so then what would be the best mix? Whilst i want it to look pleasing on the eye, i want the fish to feel "at home".
2nd filter will be put into the budget then, and i wont waste time on the wavemaker.... sorry, i dont fully understand what you mean by: "With spraybars, additional oxygenation shouldn't be necessary, and if wanted choose for aesthetic effect as the benefit in gas exchange is the same whichever you use."
i am pretty much hell bent on having yellow labs in the tank, as ive seen these before and they are the prime reason for wanting to change to a cichlid tank... any idea of how many would suit a 240ltr with a few other fish? or would i only be able to have a multitude of labs? i would assume by your comments that if im wanting labs and other fish, having 12 demasoni would be overkill, so i should scrap them from the list, as well as either the flavus or elongatus as suggested...
thank you for your advice, its great to have such assistance as ever.
PS: the nitrate levels of my tropical tank have now come down to under 50 finally....i will be doing another water change tomorrow night to help reduce it further, and then start the weekly routine on saturday. ....i will be taking all of my little tank mates back to the shop at the end of the year, but until then they will have the best they can get whilst i still have that set up.... i am looking forward to starting this cichlid tank though!! :)
You can do whatever substrate you like - sand rather than gravel, but colour is up to you.
Air stones and so on don't directly add oxygen. What they do is move water from bottom to surface to allow aeration and break surface tension to do the same thing. A spray bar is usually sufficient for oxygenation on its own, but if you like to see bubbles rising choose whatever style of production pleases your eye.
Because mbuna tend to be aggressive, tanks are generally overstocked as having more fish disperses aggression. Because of the overstocking and their intolerance of organic waste, tanks are overfiltered, which is why I recommend a second filter which will give additional water movement at the same time.
Stock wise, it depends on what you'd like to see. With some species' you can have 3 or 4 of a variety, but with others individual numbers in a group need to be higher. For a nice mix of blue and yellow you could go with 5 Yellow Labs (1 male, 4 female) and a dozen demasoni (2 male, 10 female) for instance.
One think to make sure of is that you have lots of rock - its vital for territory formation, and include plenty of crevices for fish to hide in if necessary. Aggression can be more easily controlled if the subdominant fish can back down into a hiding spot easily.
thank you so much...deffinately answered the questions ive been mulling over for the last couple of days since i started reading up on things. i was reading some of the past posts on here from the cichlid topics, and read some stories where you just sit and wonder how shops get away with the rubbish they do....one story i was reading, where you have once again given sound advice, was a poor girl who had been told she could have over 40 fish in a 165ltr tank!!!!!!! and mixed with regular tropical fish etc... these are the exact reasons i want to research every single detail before i even start purchasing anything.... i want to be able to walk into my lfs and say, i want this this and that!!.... not have them try to sway me with other stuff that doesnt work etc...
one more thing ive read which i wanted to make sure of was that i had read you should add all of your fish at the same time to avoid territorial skermishes etc... is this correct, or should you still stagger the population additions?
FYI - once i do get to start setting up, i dont plan on adding any fish for about a month.... i want to cycle the tank fully and make sure all the parameters are correct before anything goes in... the right way to go about it, or overkill do you think?
It is best to stock all in one go with mbuna so there aren't any fish who've claimed the entire tank as their territory.
The way to do this is to set it all up and do a full fishless cycle with ammonia and use a high level to cycle (5ppm). If you cycle at that level the filters will build up a big enough colony of bacteria to allow immediate full stocking when the cycle is complete. Article here on how to do this if you aren't familiar with the process
brilliant .... thank you so much again.... i shall be printing all of this info off and adding it to my home manual :) cant believe ive got to wait at least 4 months before i can start this project.... so excited though already :)
"Now i believe that all of those are from the same region, and are perfectly suited to living well enough with each other"
What happens in nature doesn't always transfer to what happens in the aquarium. After all pike live alongside roach in our rivers but if it were tried in an aquarium...
Also with regard to stocking, Mbuna are stocked quite highly as mentioned 125 to 133% of normal stocking levels for tropical fish, they are also active greedy fish. Placing a full bio-load like that on a newly matured filter isn't the best way forward in my view. Instead I would recommend adding the least aggressive first and the most aggressive last so that the filter has a chance to carry on maturing and will be better able to cope.
When saying that I believed everything I've provisionally selected should get on well with each other, all I was trying to imply was that I'm not even considering putting a mix of species, like south american cichlids in with tanganyikan, Victorian etc etc etc...which I know a lot of people make the mistake of doing. I was just meaning that all the fish I'm looking at are from the same lake.
Point taken, keeping fish which have such specific requirements has to be done correctly for long term success. I completely agree with you that keeping fish which come from totally different environments together as you mention rarely works in the long run. The point that I was trying to make was that even when the fish live together in the wild it doesn't always guarantee they will do so in an aquarium.
Apart from all the basics which you have already been well advised about I would add be careful when buying the fish. There are lots and lots of hybrids and undersized, inbred fish which lack the true vibrant colour that they are meant to have offered for sale these days. Stick to f1 or f2 fish where possible and to named varieties, avoid at all costs the tanks labelled "mixed malawis". Try to keep one male with three or four females of the same species. It will cut down on bullying and help to prevent hybrids appearing. It isn't just closely related or similar looking fish which hybridise it is most mbuna. I have even seen a cross between Iodotropheus sprengae and Labeotropheus trewavasse.