Questions on Filtration, Substrate and Plants for a new Cichlid tank
In the Process of setting up a 55 Gal aquarium and I've decided I'd like to own 2-3 species of Cichlids, fairly mildly agressive and easy to care for, for a Cichlid novice such as myself. I'm thinking Electric yellow (Labs), maybe Firemouth and maybe another.Also Like to add a Pleco if possible. But have tons of questions that I'd like to ask.
I plan on creating a 3-D rockscape background with foam covered in the cemeant and sealed like Ive seen several youtube videos. Looks really cool and will add some additional nooks and crannies for fish to seek shelter. Also will add some real rocks on the bottom. As far as substrate Im thinking sand, seems like this is the way to go for Cichlids, but Im aware they like to dig and so the rocks need to be placed securely on the tank's bottom with out much sand under them.
What type of Sand is best? read something about Pool washed sand? or should I opt for substrate slightly larger than sand?
The tank I have is currenly fitted with an hang on the back style filter Topfin 60. The tank and filter are approx 6-8 years old so i was thinking might be outdated and I would need something More powerful for the tank I want to set up. With the tank I'd like to set up, what do you suggest? Seems like many people have two filters in their aqarium. Should I use this Topfin60 and purchase a second filter also?
The lighting that the tank has will be replaced. I think they are 15W luminescent bulbs...again 6-8 years old so what type of lighting should I get? Thinking about gettting a timer power strip so the tank lights will be on 12-14 hours a day.
Last question is Plants. I know Cichlids will eat or uproot plants if they can...are Real plants worth it or stick to plastics? And what are your thoughts on one or two floating, broad leaf plants to provide shade?
Any other additonal thoughts, comments would be greatly appreciated!
Off the top, I would not combine rift lake cichlids (the yellow lab) with Central or South American (Firemouth is CA) species. So decide which you want, and then plan an aquascape accordingly. This involves the substrate (sand, fine gravel), plants, and wood or rock decor. There are some ideas in our profiles.
No mention is made of your tap water parameters. If you go with rift lake cichlids, hard and basic (alkaline) water is needed. A substrate of crushed coral/aragonite sand is ideal for this as it is calcareous and will add hard mineral to the water to maintain a good GH and pH. By contrast, for CA cichlids a small riverscape would be ideal, using fine gravel and rounded river rock with some chunks of bogwood. For SA cichlids, play sand works well as it is similar in appearance to Amazonian sands. Both of these are inert, meaning they will not affect water chemistry. And for these fish you want fairly basic (for CA esp) to soft and slightly acidic (SA) conditions.
Plants are possible for any of these, though some cichlids will dig them up but there are ways around this.
Guess I have my work cut out for me and need to do more research on what geographical range of Cichlids I want. It will probably boil down to the more readily avialble species at my LFS. I do really like the Yellow Labs, due to their striking color.
I do recall my KH water test (strips) being hard close to 180 if I recall, and the GH was on the softer side around 40-50. This was when I had the aquarium set up and running. I haven't tested my water straight from the tap, all though thats a good idea. (I will have to wait until the API Water Test Kit (testube kind) comes in from Amazon. I tossed out the remaining last few test strips I had because they were more than 2 years old and I was planning on getting new, more accurate test kit).
As far as Filtration, I decided on the Fluval 406 Canister filter, which is rated for aquariums up to 100 Gallons. Im thinking/hoping this will be adequate on my 55 Gal tank.
Byron, thanks for shedding some light on what to consider, I'll spend my next few days reading up on the different species and whats I have 2-3 in mind, I'll work on figuring out substrate, rockscape, etc.!!
You mentioned "Bogwood" is that a special type of wood? Drift wood?
If the GH of your tap water is around 50ppm, that is very soft, about 2 to 3 dGH. You will have no luck at all with rift lake fish without increasing the GH. This will however be ideal for the South American species, the dwarfs in Apistogramma and other genera, etc. And Central American will manage. My article on water hardness and pH in the Freshwater Articles section may help to explain all this.
Very informative article indeed! I actually read the Water Hardness part 1 and 2 a little bit ago. I will hold off on really chooseing the type of fish I want till I am able to test my tap water. I've ordered the Master Test Kit and the GH/KH test kit (API brand) from amazon and should be able to test by next week.
I could have been wrong about my water., or it was indeed soft in the aquarium, but I was testing with Test Strips. I recall the LFS which is located 1/2 a mile from my house that their water is "hard" and since I live so close, we probably have the same water supply. Again, I'll be able to update and confirm sometime next week.
I pulled the info below directly from my county's water treatment/distribution webpage.
"Typically, our water is "moderately hard" to "hard" (5 - 10 grains per gallon, or 84 - 170 mg/l)."
This water will suit South American and Central American fish very well indeed, about as perfect as one could hope for.:-)
Glad you said that, because I found a left over unused test strip and the results from last night's test said the same thing, my tap water (for fish purposes) was soft-medium, and not the medium to hard as indicated on the website.
So South or Central American Ciclids it is huh.....
Byron, I finally got a chance to test my tap water now that my API Master Test kit and my GH and KH test kit arrived.
The results were as follows pH of 7.4
GH 4 degrees
KH 3 Degrees
Guess this means my water is moderatley soft. I would have sworn it would have been moderateley hard. I even had my LFS which is less than 1/2 a mile from me test their water (paper strip) and their results were practically Identical, yet their Cichlids do fine. So is it a MUST to really boost the paramaters of the hardness up to bout 10-12 Degrees and the pH closer to 8 if I want to keep Cichlids? That would involve a lot of work getting the fish I buy acclimated. I heard that the fish might not grow as big and will most likely not breed in the current water parameters, but to me this isnt a big deal because I wouldnt know what to do with the Fry. What are your thoughts?
I have yet to actually set up my tank and start the cycling process due to some of the flagstone I bought to decorate, might/could contain iron.rust. I boiled the rocks and scrubbed them and noticed a fiew pieces had dark brown/reddish color, but the water did not stain and the color doesnt rub off. Im hoping that its not rust.iron and if it is that its Inert. but waiting to hear back from a geologist to be sure.
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