03-12-2009, 12:18 PM
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I avoid sand due to the issues in keeping it clean without sucking it up and down the drain when I do water changes. Sand is also too dense for most plants to grow in easily and you don't get the same benefits of nitrifying bacteria as you would with gravel. The dense situation blocks oxygen and circulation where it is needed for the biological filtration.
For substrate I actually prefer pea gravel found at Menards. It's cheap, its pretty and natural looking, and makes for easy cleaning and good bio filtration!
As for keeping the center bare for viewing space... you might not believe it, but filling in that space will actually create for better viewing of the fish. Every space in the tank is going to be claimed by the fish in it. A space between 2 objects is a territory, so a big open space is 1 territory... so whichever fish has claimed that territory for itself, the others are then intruders. This can harbor the viewing and invite aggression in otherwise peaceful fish, and it can take aggressive animals and open the door for further aggression.
If, however, that space is filled in to create territories, the fish have not only the added advantage of many fish claiming many parts for territory, but they also feel protected by shelter and are more likely to spend time in these spaces.
I have always taken a different approach to African cichlid tanks because they spend so much of their time in their territories, both defending them and hiding inthem. My customers would often complain that after decorating the tank the fish spent too much time hiding when someone approached... this is typical of these fish. To allow the fish their needs and good viewing, I suggest building rock structures along the front of the tank creating the territories more along the front between glass and rock instead of along the back and between glass and rock where nobody can see them. this actually works very well in most situations.
When I teach someone how to decorate an aquarium I spend a lot of time stressing the importance of decorating all 3 levels of the aquarium, bottom, mid range, and upper/surface. Again, this avoids 1 fish from claiming an entire space for itself which can cause much aggression when feeding time comes around or when the fish begin to grow and need more space for themselves. The more aggressive a particular species the more important to keep a tank well decorated.
Because we know that stress causes illness in fish, avoiding it is in the best interests of the fish. Agressive tank mates cause a lot of stress. Fighting for territory causes a lot of stress. Not feeling safe and secure causes a lot of stress.
Last edited by bettababy; 03-12-2009 at 12:21 PM..