05-31-2013, 03:14 PM
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You never gave us your water perimeters hun. Would you mind?
Cichlids are usually not beginner fish IMO unless your water chemistry is naturally suited to their needs. Anytime you have to alter your water chem to suit your fish it's usually either a bad idea or an undertaking suited for expert or at least intermediate aquarium enthusist.
Sand is a great substrate. Although gravel may look cleaner, it is actually far from it. Poop, uneaten food, and any other type of matter falls into the cracks between the rocks where bottom feeders cannot get to it. There, it sits and rots becoming a nitrate factory. You could try vacuming with it, but if you have rooted plants, how can you dig into gravel to get the junk out without distubing the roots? Itz's why I have sand. Everythin sits right on top for easy cleaning and if you get multiple colors, the debre wont show up.
So, what type of sand? Right now, you may be thinking of looks, but one day you might want a soft bellied species and can't get it because of your substrate. I mean, who wants the freakin headache of changingout a substrate including stressing out all your fish? Believe me, it's no fun So which sands would I recomend? Here are my experences with a few...
1. Pool Filter Sand: This has the texture of a facial exfoliant and I looked at everal brands, so it's not for soft bellied fish or inverts. It took me a couple hours to clean using a hose. My plants grew well in it, but I believe it contributed to my brown algae outbrake, so I changed it out. Plus, I wanted to add bottomfeeders.
2. Play Sand: This has the texture of driveway dirt. Not as dirty as soil, but you better be ready for some cleaning! And remember, all brands are NOT created equal. Rather you will be spending 2 hours or 12 cleaning it depends greatly on the brand.
3. CaribSea Supernaturals: This namebrand has a texture like beachsand. It does require rinsing (like any sand) but it will take you less than an hour (took me 20 min). Only drawback is it's price.
On a side note, although I have not had it, sandblasting sand is in fact made to be abrasive. Are you sure that would work for your tank?
Now, on to fish. In a 55 gallon, you can house a variety of fish. Once you find fish that suit your water chem, you can start narrowing the list down. The best way to maxmize the space in your tank is to divide up the swimming levels and use at least 2 of them. Have bottom dwellers and mid level swimmers or something that will be working th walls while your other fish work the middle.
Then once you have an idea of what swim levels you want to fill up, decide what size of fish you want. Big fish plus small fish usually equals the smal fish becoming lunch. You need to decide about what size the average fish will be in your tank and rather or not you want a schooling species. Some species are amazing when in groups, but skidish or violent when stocked in too small of groups. And keep your filter in mind when choosing as the current may be too strong fo some species.
Now what about compatability? The species you select must all survive together in the same water at the same temp with the same plants/decor and the same filter. So you shouln't put a fish that lives in water that is 72-76F with one that lives in water that's 78-84F. Even if you split the difference and make the water temp 77F, they are both living outside their recomended rane which isn't good for either one. It's like giving a kid the adult dose of a medication. Sure it may work in a pinch, but there's a reason why you shouldn't do it if you can help it. And you shouldn't put fish together that as a rule of thumb do not get along. You might as well just hand th shop owner a fistfull of cash and walk out without the fish than buy them, deal with the fighting, and have to either spend money on treatments to heal the injured fish or euthanize it. That is, if the agressor didn't just eat what was left of the other fish before you were the wiser.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure ;)