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Becoming - 55 gallon tank upgrade

This is a discussion on Becoming - 55 gallon tank upgrade within the Freshwater Journals forums, part of the Aquarium Photography category; --> Thank you again for your input, Byron! If we get that far, it's good to know that I have quite a few options! I ...

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Becoming - 55 gallon tank upgrade
Old 02-15-2013, 12:37 PM   #431
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Thank you again for your input, Byron! If we get that far, it's good to know that I have quite a few options! I have frozen Daphnia on-hand already (GREAT to know that it'll be small enough for the little ones. I had read somewhere that they'd be too big for them to eat for a week or three), and the Hikari fry food, as well as flake that I can grind up - so that's 3 food options available! If we get that far, I'll also try to hatch some baby brine, as I imagine that live food would be best. Still wondering how many of those leaves to add to the tank, and if it would disturb momma if I did. . .

JUST a water change makes sense. . . I can do that!

These fish are very cooperative thus far - it's been a joy to watch them. The female is doing most of the guarding directly over the eggs, while the male is patrolling the perimeter of the 'nest.' He stays close, for the most part, and they've been taking turns. . . . they seem to signal to each-other most of the time when they switch positions - a crest flare, a quick lip-lock, or they'll kind of. . . brush against each-other, then the female will take a short turn away from the eggs, while the male fans them and guards the inner circle. IF they get so far as to actually have fry, I don't know if this collaborative spirit will continue, or if the female will prefer to do things alone at that point. Hopefully I get the chance to find out :)

If not, I'll be setting up the 20L, with leaf litter already in place, and see where we go from there!

I'm still doubting that we'll get this brood to free-swimming, but hoping hoping HOPING! If all goes well they should hatch today or tomorrow, from what I've read!!!

Thanks again - everyone - for your help, input, and advice!!!
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Old 02-15-2013, 02:37 PM   #432
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Wiggle wiggle!


Can you BELIEVE it!?!! When I took the cover off the tank (I keep a blanket on the tank until noon, as we keep very odd and random hours in this house - and the rams do seem to cherish their routine), I looked in and to my dismay, momma was guarding only two eggs, I was so super sad, thinking that they might have hatched and been eaten in the night - but not surprised. By the time I put the light on at 3, mom was no longer guarding the nest, and all of the eggs were gone. *cries*I was trying to figure out where Papa was. . . and I found him - guarding a pit full of lil' squirmy BABY RAMS!!!!!

This is waaaaaaay too cool! Unfortunately (for me), the new pit was dug in the foliage WAAAAAAAY in the back of the tank, behind where the eggs were - between the biggest rock that made their original nest and the sword plant to the left of it. . . I can see them, but only just. Seems to be a pretty good spot defense-wise, though - my babies are proving to be very wise parents!

C.Cat and Liz are still very much working together, taking turns guarding the nest and putting the babies back into the pit when they manage to wiggle out of it - wasn't expecting that! Awwww! So CUTE! The 'off duty' parent is keeping guard while digging a NEW pit very close-by - just a bit farther to the left, but in line with the original one (and OF COURSE just at the root of another one of my crypts! ALL of my crypts are going to melt after this, and I have NO problems with it whatsoever! *giggle*)

So now. . . we enter the next phase on this amazing journey. . . Grow, babies, grow! Grow and be safe!

Last edited by Chesh; 02-15-2013 at 02:42 PM..
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Old 02-15-2013, 02:53 PM   #433
Gorgeous tank! Hopefully one day soon I can create a beautiful tank and environment such as you have.
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Old 02-15-2013, 03:00 PM   #434
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Man, making me want to get a pair of rams. lol I doubt they'd like a tank with platies, mollies, swordtails and guppies though. Haha.

*EDIT* Oh yes, since they're doing so good keeping the babies where they need to be, looks like you wont be able to catch any of the wigglers. =p Consider that a good thing at this particular point! They're learning their parents are awesome.
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Last edited by Sylverclaws; 02-15-2013 at 03:03 PM..
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Old 02-15-2013, 03:01 PM   #435
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Originally Posted by DesOneLo View Post
Gorgeous tank! Hopefully one day soon I can create a beautiful tank and environment such as you have.
Thank you so much! I'm sure you'll get the tank of your dreams eventually! Believe me, if a NoOb like me can do it - anyone can! Lots of research, a zillion water changes, a bit of trial-and-error, and LOADS of help from the 'pros' on TFK - you can do anything! Let me know when you've got things started, I just love watching other people's tanks grow :D

Originally Posted by Sylverclaws View Post
Man, making me want to get a pair of rams. lol I doubt they'd like a tank with platies, mollies, swordtails and guppies though. Haha.
These are my favorite fish, lol, so OF COURSE I'm going to say - if you get the chance, get them! They're AMAZING creatures - even BEFORE they spawned, I was head-over-heels in love with them! Now it's even worse. . . lol!

But no. . . the water requirements of rams -vs- Livebearers is too different, unfortunately. You'd need soooooooft water for the rams, so have to set up a dedicated tank and figure all that fun stuff out. I did have Mollies in with these babies when I first got them in the 29g (The Mollies have since moved to their own tank where I've made the water harder for them - much easier than going in the other direction, lucky for them! I *think* there are pics in my tank logs from when Becoming was in the 29g *once again I say - I REALLY need to update those logs! Those tanks have ALL changed, lol!). Even if their water requirements WERE the same, I didn't feel that these guys did very well in community together at all. There was no fighting or anything bad like that, but Rams eat slowly - picking small bites up from the substrate, and taking their time chewing. And, as you know, Livebearers are sooooo greedy! The rams NEED less food, because of how their digestive system works, but even so, I always felt I was overfeeding the Livebearers in order to get enough to the rams at the bottom. Not the best match there, I'm afraid.

Mollies were my first fish, and I STILL adore them. They have loads of personality, and in my experience, really enjoy interacting with their keepers and keeping an eye on the outside world. . . Rams? Are like that to the 1,000,000th power. Absolutely. Only not as playful, far more fussy/sensitive, and a bit more on the snarky side! lol! Their worlds are so much more intricate than Mollies, with the territories and vying for position in the hierarchy - all that fun stuff. . . I love 'em both, but the rams are on top! YOU remind me of myself when I first brought my Mollies home a year ago, so I'm positive you'd love the B.Rams as much as I do. . .

That said? With the water you have in-tap, you could host a number of amazing and vibrant hard-water cichlids. And all cichilids that I know of practice brood care, each after their own. . . they *DO* tend to be on the aggressive side, so keeping them with livebearers might not be an option, but still! Something to consider and look into for the future, perhaps??!!!

I know you aren't really being serious, lol! But I thought I'd put the info out there for anyone else who might have a similar idea. . . :D

Now... pardon me, but I MUST run! There are BABIES in my tank! *SWOONS!*
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Last edited by Chesh; 02-15-2013 at 03:19 PM..
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Old 02-15-2013, 03:08 PM   #436
Originally Posted by Chesherca View Post
Thank you so much! I'm sure you'll get the tank of your dreams eventually! Believe me, if a NoOb like me can do it - anyone can! Lots of research, a zillion water changes, a bit of trial-and-error, and LOADS of help from the 'pros' on TFK - you can do anything! Let me know when you've got things started, I just love watching other people's tanks grow :D

I have an old 55 gallon tank that I inherited from my FiancÚ and I plan on one day soon restoring it. Still too new to do anything now. Just doing my research, asking questions and learning. Will keep you posted.
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Old 02-15-2013, 04:40 PM   #437
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Actually, I was serious. ^^; Serious thinking anyways, they peeked my interest when I saw a couple at Neptunes a few months ago.
My water actually isn't that hard. In fact I'm looking into natural ways to heighten it slowly. I got my water tested at the shop I like to go to, I have so much trouble reading the PH properly! x.x Funny colors, I can't tell them apart. x.x Apparently my waters PH is only about 7.2-7.4. Would that be soft enough for them? lol My twenty is no longer going to be used for my platies as planned, don't have enough left and don't plan to get more. c.c I'll keep a couple babies from my nursery group in the 55, but I think I've lost my oomf for all of that with my livebearers. I adore the ones I have left though, but I have plenty of room to keep what I have left in the 55 and then-some. lol It'd be nice to do something new.

Would a single pair of rams be happy in a planted twenty gallon tank, or do they need more room than that? I have -heard- you could keep two breeding pairs in something as small as a 29 gallon tank, so would two be ok in a twenty? You'd think, even though smaller, they'd want more room than that though. lol If I do decide to go for something new, I'd do more research, but I'd like to have some tips and info before I actually dig in. =p I admit I've been interested in blue rams for a while, but being chiclids, I never really dug into it too much. When I was still learning fish and got my first tank a few years ago, someone scared me away from all Chiclids, saying they will destroy your tank and break heaters and such, and that they're mean and like to jump from tanks, a lot of negative info on them, but when you watch them in shops and in office tanks, they're really nice looking fish, aggressive as SOME can be.
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Last edited by Sylverclaws; 02-15-2013 at 04:43 PM..
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Old 02-15-2013, 10:42 PM   #438
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DesOneLo - this sounds like it's going to be fun! Good luck, and yes! Let me know when things start moving!

Sylver-*chuckles* I meant serious about putting them in with all your Livebearers, lol!

I know you like to read, and I think everyone knows how much I like to write. . .especially about my rams *giggle*. . . so I'm going to throw down one of my notorious Chesh books for you, and see if that'll help you get started? Just remember. . . you asked for it - and I'm an insane fish-keeper *bats lashes and cracks knuckles* Most people would tell me "It's not that serious!" and I'm still learning, too - so you'll have to take it for what it's worth, lol!
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Old 02-15-2013, 10:50 PM   #439
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Wink Bolivian Ram care guid from a crazy person - part 1

All of this is pretty much based on my PERSONAL experience with these individual fish, so first and foremost - do you own research before you make a commitment to their lives. I've read everything I can get my hands on about my little 'Livies, and I spend a lot of time in front of my tank watching their behavior - but that in no way means that I'm right, and I'd hate to be responsible for any misinformation that I may type leading to the demise of someone else's finned friends. . . so there's your little disclaimer, lol! If anyone out there reading has more to add, or wants to correct something that I've gotten wrong - please feel free! I'm still learning!

I can't really say much for the German Blue Rams - though they're related, and similar in many ways, GBR do have slightly different requirements - just not the same fish, so you'll have to look into those yourself, if that's where you're heading. What I DO know about GBR is that they're more sensitive (and easy to kill) than Bolivians. I have a thing for the understated beauties, as opposed to the bright and flashy fish - so it makes sense that the 'Livies captured my heart. .

Both fish require soft water, Ph is one thing, but to find out the hardness of your water will require that you figure out the Gh (general hardness) and Kh (carbonate hardness) of your tap water. Of the two the Gh is the most important as far as the fish are concerned. API sells a Gh/Kh test for around $8, but your local water company may be able to give you this information over the phone. Byron has posted a wonderful article that really helped me in understanding - you can find it HERE. Regardless of what fish you end up with, the hardness of your water is an important thing to know!

A few important things to keep in mind with regard to Mikrogeophagus altispinosus:

* They need a sandy substrate. Though they swim all over my tank, their 'domain' is in the bottom 1/3, and they are perpetually nomming on the substrate for food. As your Mollies pick at plants and decorations all day for algae, BR will pick up mouthfuls of sand, sift through it, and spit it back out again in search of snacks. The first part of their Latin name - Mikrogeophagus - says it all; mikr (think micro), means small or little, geo (think geological) means earth; and phag (I got nothing, fail at Latin!) means to eat. Little Earth eaters are what they are - they can't function as they have evolved without it! Gravel can also potentially cause them physical harm.

* They need a well-planted tank. I've had these guys, for one reason or another and from time to time (QT, illness, etc) end up in a tanks that aren't exactly lush with vegetation. While they managed with fewer plants, there is no question that a well planted tank is necessary in order for this fish to feel comfortable. Plants are also very important if you end up keeping more than one, so that they will be able to pick (and defend) their individual territories. They also really appreciate the shade offered by floating plants.

* Rams seem to do best in a tank that includes a shoal of small 'dither fish,' like my JellyBean Tetra. It seems to lend them a feeling of security, which in turn allows them to lose any potential shyness and really shine. These babies will come to rule the tank in which they live,and because of this, I wouldn't keep them with any other territorial or aggressive fish - including other cichlids. They seem to live in complete harmony with peaceful bottom-dwellers, though. They've never given my loaches a problem, and there are many people who keep them in with Cories, and for the most part, don't seem to have any issues.

* Feeding rams, especially in community, can be a bit of a trick. Because of their preferred feeding method of 'earth eating,' it's best to feed them with very small sinking pellets (I use New Life Spectrum's Cichlid formula in the 1mm size). Rams are slow to eat, they chew each bite, spit out the excess, and then go back for more. They often shove bottom-dwellers out of their way at mealtimes (nicely!), but they aren't really aggressive eaters, so be careful not to keep them with 'greedy' fish, as it could prove difficult to ensure that the rams get enough to eat. My rams will eat from the surface with no problems, but most people say that their BR don't. I don't feed them that way, anyway, because it isn't natural for them, but I thought I'd put that in. And, of course, rambabies need their protein, and will love you forever if you can supplement their diet with wet-frozen goodies and/or live foods. I've read of people having issues with getting them to eat, but this hasn't been my experience - except that it *can* take them a few days to settle into a new environment, during which time they may be too shaken to have much of an appetite.

* BR are sensitive little dudes, these guys will not be able to handle a cycling tank. Clean water is important for all fish, but BR are more sensitive than many, and any flux in parameters will send them scurrying into the corner, pale and stressed beyond belief. Be positive that you can maintain your tank perfectly, and that you can keep things stable for them before bringing rams home. I'm not only talking about keeping ammonia and nitrites out - be sure that your nitrAte levels are stable, too, and if you do find that you need to soften the water, I'd suggest using RO water (which gets very expensive), so that you can be certain that your Gh will remain stable, as well. Using peat, bogwood, leaves, etc will soften your water, but it can be difficult (if not impossible) to ensure that your water hardness remains consistent, and rams need that consistency in order to thrive.

We were speaking about water changes the other day, and I do weekly water changes from 30 - 50% - it really depends on how the tank is that week. It works for me, they've had no issues with my routine, but I think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that my nitrates have always been on the low side because of the floating plants. That said, if I had the time, I'd do 3 15% water changes a week, rather than one large one, simply because rams are sensitive to flux in nitrAte levels, and frequent, smaller water changes is the best way to keep things steady. I feel the same way about ALL of my fish/tanks, though. It isn't just the 55. I sincerely wish that I could maintain them all in this way, as I feel it's the best way to keep things as consistent as possible - unfortunately, it simply isn't practical!

Along the same lines, it's far better if the tank is not only CYCLED, but ESTABLISHED before you add these fish. If you would be setting up a tank that included other fish, I would recommend that the rams be added at LEAST a month (ideally 3, or even more!) AFTER the last of the other fish have been stocked. As you add more fish to a community tank, the nitrate levels will rise to compensate for the additional waste. Plants really help in keeping this stable, but some flux will occur, so it's best to only make the babies go through ONE flux (when they are added), rather than several changes as you stock. Try to avoid shifting plants and decorations around, or re-scaping, too often, as this will interfere with

* Another good reason to add the rams last is that, in my experience, they simply do NOT like change! My rams are very much about their routine, to the point that they get stressed out if there are too many strangers in the house, or if the 'normal' activity in the house shifts - and that isn't even in their tank! I've had situations where one of my other fish have gotten injured, so I left the tank lights off. My rams were showing mild signs of stress because their 'day' hadn't started when it was supposed to! It isn't (usually) extreme, but if you pay attention like I do, you'll notice! The same applies to re-arranging things. I try to leave things alone as much as possible so as not to disturb their territories, adding plants has never seemed to bother them, but moving plants that are already in the tank upsets them. Sometimes they get mildly upset with me if I prune the wrong leaf!

* A note about rocks. . . I've read in various places that BR like caves, and will choose a cave as territory like some other types of cichlid do. In my experience, this has NOT proven to be the case, and I've actually gone out of my way on several occasions to create caves for them - they didn't seem to care! They do prefer (by all accounts, including my own) to spawn on flat, smoothish rocks, but I've read many instances where they have laid eggs on plant leaves or even the tank walls, so adding the rocks may not be necessary.
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Old 02-16-2013, 12:00 AM   #440
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Bolivian Ram care guide from a crazy person - part 2

As far as stocking, based only on my personal experience, I would say that, yes, 4 BR would be okay to keep in a 20g (obviously depending on what else was in there, and other factors that I'll get into below), provided that it's a 20 long, and not a 20 high - I kept 4 in a well-planted 29g with no problems for quite some time, and the footprint for a 20L is the same. Rams tend to hang in the lower levels of the tank, so the height won't really be an issue for them. I suspect that you'll find many sources that say they'd need more, but their territories are very small, and I've never had a problem. More space is ALWAYS better if you have it, of course, but I think you can rock the 20!

BUT you said that you'd like to keep 'two pairs' in the tank. . . the concept of 'a pair' can be a bit tricky as far as these fish are concerned. You can't just go out and buy a male and a female and have it come out alright. BR usually mate for life, but they have to choose their own mate! If you were to get a random pair, they may tolerate each-other for some time (or not), even spawn (or not), but ultimately, if they are not a truly bonded, self-chosen pair, things WILL end badly for one of them at some point. (This is one of the reasons why I'm so over-the-moon excited that my two favorites have chosen to get together )

To make things even trickier, it can be difficult to sex a BR as a juvenile (especially if you're new to the species and haven't seen the difference for yourself yet), and juvies are what you'll usually find in shops. Most people choose to buy 6 or so young fish, and when they hit maturity and a bonded pair is formed, the 'extra' fish are then re-homed.

Which brings us to the question of how many. . . lol, this is one of my favorite topics, and a bit of a debatable subject among fish-keepers.

BR, like most cichlids, are very territorial little guys, though their aggression is very mild, comparatively, their hierarchy is very important to them. Though aggression doesn't usually get out of hand, they can and will fight to the death if they so choose. I've never experienced this, but from what I've seen, this is often the case when two or more males are put together, though it can happen with a bad male/female mix, too. Even if obvious bullying and fighting isn't an issue, it is often the case that the stress put on the sub-dominant fish by the dominant one is enough to kill the poor little thing(s) slowly. This is very often the case with un-bonded m/f 'pairs.' Based on so many personal accounts that I've read (on this and other forums), this type of 'stressed to death' situation seems to happen very frequently when a human chooses a male and female 'pair.'

Because of issues like these, the 'general rule' is to keep one single BR, or one bonded pair per tank. I'm honestly not sure if there would be any issues if you had two truly bonded pairs in the same tank - I'm inclined to think not, but I've haven't experienced this for myself yet - though I AM hoping that I get another pair at some point - I'll report back then, lol!

Another reason for keeping them as an individual specimen or single bonded pair is based in a study that was done (I've only heard of one, and haven't been able to find it to read for myself), which showed that BR in the wild live a fairly solitary life, only meeting up with others of their kind for mating and child rearing before going off on their own again. . .

But there is another school of thought on BR stocking (pun intended!), which is that Bolivian Rams do BEST when kept in a shoal of 6-8 individuals. In my (limited) experience, I agree with this theory, and I've been working toward that eventual goal.

When kept in a group, as I have them, the aggression is spread out, so no single fish gets the brunt of the dominant fish's territorial nature. My rams DO spar, but they DO NOT bite each-other. They DO NOT nip fins, and they have never physically harmed one-another in any way. When they were first introduced to the tank, there was quite a bit of lip-locking, fin-flaring, and chasing as they vied for dominance, established their territories, and figured out their own hierarchy. No fish were ever injured, and none of them were stressed enough to hide. Once all of that was settled, they calmed down. There is, to a lesser extent, a bit of this behavior that goes on during feeding time, and it intensifies when the tank is re-arranged, as new territories must be picked out and haggled over - but the rest of the time they more or less spend swimming together as a group and playing nice. The only time they ever use their 'territory' is when they retire for the night - I wouldn't even know they HAD specific places, except that each fish is consistently in the same spot every day when I uncover the tank.

To watch them is astounding. These fish absolutley communicate on a continual basis using their coloration. The dominant fish is always the brightest, and each fish is slightly paler based on where they sit in the hierarchy. The black spot on their flank seems to be a very important signal to the others, as well, as is that pretty little mow-hawk of a topfin. The lowest in the ranking keeps his spot fairly pale - seemingly to show submission - and is left alone - but even he brightens up and flares for all he's worth when it's time to 'fight' over dinner.

All territories and rankings aside, their coloration shifts by degrees throughout the day depending on how they're feeling and what they're doing - and the other fish react to the coloration of the others very obviously. It truly is astounding to watch how they function and communicate in a group - they have a language, no doubt about it.

I recently introduced a new fish to the pond. My 2nd male. . . he was supposed to have gone in with another female, but she didn't make it though QT. I was very nervous about how the established group would accept him. There was another round of 'Who's the King,' and he (obviously, being younger than the rest and new) was not. He had a bit of trouble finding a spot of his own, so I screwed with everyone's territories by re-arranging quite a few of the plants, and adding some more into the tank. Everyone then was so busy finding their own new territories, things settled down, everything went back to normal, and he's been accepted as a part of the shoal ever since. . .

Random stocking thoughts based on my experiences with these fish:

* I think that its BEST to get all of your rams at the same time, if you intend to keep them as a group (or even if you're waiting for a pair to form). Even though everything was okay in the end, the newcomer did have to go through a bit more stress than I wanted to put him through because he was the new kid on the block.

* 3 seems to be a bad number with rams - even if they're all females. Every time I've ever had only 3 fish in the tank, it ends up being 2 to 1.

* I feel that ideally there should be 2-3 females for each male. Right now I have 2 males and 3 females (it was a female that died in QT before she made it into Becoming), but it's okay, since one of those m/f are a pair - they're out of the equation

That's all I've got right now. I still have so much to learn, and definitely will be paying attention to see how the dynamic shifts now that I have a breeding pair. It is quite possible that EVERYTHING could change, and I'll end up with only a single pair after all! Time will tell on that one, I'm hoping that things will return to a new kind of peaceful normalcy, and everyone will continue to be happy together. I'll be sure to keep you posted!
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