Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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fishdad1 08-17-2008 10:46 PM

New tank ideas
 
I am looking to add another tank to my home and need some suggestions. I am looking at either a 55 or a 75 gallon tank; either one done with as a freshwater community, stock open for suggestion, or a cichlid tank, with suggestions needed for algae eaters and bottoms feeders. I have only had 10-12 gallon tanks so far and have not had anything this big, so I also need suggestions for tank size, filtration and aeration equipment, lighting, and decor. I am a cabinet maker so I can build the stand myself, I am planning on making a custom one for my daughter's 10 gallon soon. I really would like to do the cichlid tank, because they are probably to most gorgeous freshwater fish, but I have no experience with them so I was also thinking about a community tank with at least one shark. If you have any suggestions please let me know. Thanks.

onefish2fish 08-17-2008 10:50 PM

id suggest black gravel or black sand with a large school of neon tetras, and if your feeling brave, live plants
id say avoid the "shark" because they all tend to get big and i know bala sharks require a school im not sure about Red Tailed Black Sharks.

iamntbatman 08-17-2008 11:14 PM

By "cichlids" do you mean African cichlids? If so, then I think you could do a really nice setup in a 75 gallon tank. The fish themselves are actually quite hardy and can be some of the easier fish to keep, as long as you set up the tank correctly.

You definitely need to overfilter the tank, since you'll be stocking it heavily in order to "spread out" aggression.

You want crushed coral or aragonite sand. This keeps the water hardness and pH high, which African Rift Lake cichlids need in order to thrive. You'll want to add plenty of holey rock or lava rock in order to provide hiding places for all of the fish.

You won't be keeping any live plants in the tank, since the fish will eat them. Therefore, lighting isn't important; any old fluorescents will do.

As far as algae eaters, you won't need any for an African Rift Lake cichlid tank. Most of these fish are voracious algae eaters themselves. As for a bottom feeder, a good choice would be the synodontus eupterus catfish (often called the featherfin catfish) as this fish comes from the same lakes and can therefore handle the hard, alkaline water and also because it can hold its own against the grumpy, grumpy cichlids.

I think it would be a good idea to look at the different species of fish available and pick a few species you like. You can certainly do a "mixed" setup of fish from Lake Malawi and Lake Tangikaya, but many people like to focus on fish from just one of the lakes in order to create a more natural tank.

KarlS 08-18-2008 03:57 PM

If you are going to go with a cichlid tank may I suggest looking into Blue Acaras. I wasnt ever able to find them in my neck of the woods but wow, are they ever a beautiful fish. I would how ever like to warn you that they can be aressive from what I've heard, as for size they get about 7".

iamntbatman 08-18-2008 04:13 PM

Right, I had completely forgotten to add the second part of my post! I also meant to add something like this:

There are plenty of other kinds of cichlids to choose from. In a tank as large as 75 gallons, you could probably get away with two breeding groups of dwarf cichlids like apistogramma, rams, or kribensis. Just be sure there are plenty of hiding places, especially at opposite ends of the tank. In a tank like this you could also have other schooling dither fish such as tetras to fill the mid to upper levels of the tank. Dwarf cichlids also don't bother plants so you could have a beautifully planted tank with these fish.

You could go to the opposite end of the spectrum and get a single large cichlid. A 75g tank would be appropriate for an oscar or other similarly sized fish such as a jaguar cichlid. These fish are large, messy and aggressive so finding suitable tankmates could be problematic. Also, the larger cichlids tend to destroy plants, so you'd want to use rocks and driftwood for most of your aquascaping. A 55g tank would be appropriate for a medium sized aggressive cichlid such as a Jack Dempsey or green terror. You could house a pair of convicts in a 55g easily.

The blue acaras Karl mentioned are medium sized but much more docile than the Dempsey or green terror. You could house one in a 55g with tankmates too big to be eaten.

All of these fish can do well in lower pH, softer water than their African Rift Lake cousins, so you wouldn't need the crushed coral substrate. Sand or gravel would work just fine for any of these fish, but keep in mind the bigger ones will redecorate to their liking.

Tyyrlym 08-18-2008 05:15 PM

If you're buying new and have the choice I'd buy the 75 gallon. The length and depth are the same but it's five inches deeper which will really help with setting up the large rock piles you'll have with the cichlids.

fishdad1 08-18-2008 06:37 PM

Thanks for all of the great info so far. Yes, I was thinking about the African cichlids but I didn't know which ones to go with. I do definitely like the idea of having a lot of fish in the tank but again I don't know what to put in there, because I would like to put like 4-8 small cichlids in there with a bottom feeder and maybe some schooling fish to use as much of the tank area as I can. I saw that I will need to over-filter the tank, what does that mean and what equipment will I need?

iamntbatman 08-18-2008 09:27 PM

Unfortunately I don't think you'll be able to have much in the way of schooling fish if you keep African cichlids. Most schooling fish available in the aquarium trade are tetras, rasboras, barbs or loaches. Most of them require a lower pH and softer water than the African cichlids need. Also, due to the aggressive nature of the cichlids, smaller fish would likely get eaten or simply killed.

I could be wrong here, but I believe in something like a 75 gallon tank 4-8 African cichlids is too few. Because they're so aggressive, fishkeepers have learned that heavily stocking the fish spreads out aggression so that no particular fish is picked on. The fish receiving the aggression gets "lost in the crowd" and the aggressor gives up. This is a tried and true method for keeping these fish. For example, one of our moderators SKAustin had the following stocking list in his 55g Lake Tangikaya setup:

1 Cyphotilapia frontosa BurundiŁ
1 Cyphotilapia frontosa Kavalla Island CongoŁ
1 Altolamprologus compressiceps "Sumbu Shell"
3 Altolamprologus compressiceps (Yellow)
3 Altolamprologus calvus (White)
1 Altolamprologus calvus (Yellow)
1 Julidochromis transcriptus
1 Neolamprologus buescheri
4 Lamprologus meleagris

As you can see, that's a lot of fish! Building up a lot of rock work can provide you with a beautiful tank that's full of color with those fish.

Overfiltering means that instead of just getting a filter rated for your tank size, you'll want to provide much more powerful filtration. Getting additional filters and/or filters rated for larger tanks is beneficial when keeping large and messy fish.

fishdad1 08-19-2008 04:43 PM

Okay so I am gonna have to stick to just the cichlids and a catfish if I do a cichlid tank. I can be happy with that, I just wanna make sure that I everything right.

So I will have to have more than one filter on my tank is what you are telling me. Could I use two HOB filters that are rated for larger tanks or do I need a canister filter alone, or some combination of the two? Also, is there anything special I need to do for a canister filter or does it work on the same premise as a HOB, I have never used one before so that is why I ask? Also, I have never used an undergravel filter but I have a friend who swears by them. Any thoughts on them or explanations on how they work or what I need for one?

The more I look at the different species of cichlids, the more I narrow down ones that are appealing to me. Here is a list of what I have come up with so far:

2 - Neolamprologus brevis
2 - Labidochromis caeruleus (Yellow Labs)
2 - Pseudotropheus Socolfi
2 - Aulonocara jacobfreibergi
2 - Altolamprologus calvus
2 - Julidochromis transcriptus
2 - Chalinochromis brichardi
1 - Neolamprologus brichardi
4 - Lamprologus meleagris
1 - Synodontus eupterus catfish

If anyone has any suggestions about this list, either good or bad or if I should add or subtract any, please let me know.

iamntbatman 08-19-2008 05:12 PM

You certainly don't have to use canisters, but they do provide a lot of room for filter media so they're useful. They're a little different from HOB filters. You have more control over what sort of filter media you want since they usually have several baskets inside that can hold whatever media you use. They work by pumping water out of the tank through an input hose, through the canister full of media, and back through an output hose into the tank. They're really not any more complicated than a HOB filter.

Herefishy, one of the more experienced members on the forum, uses what he calls "layered" filtration on his tanks, especially his African cichlid tanks. This means a combination of different filter types including HOB filters, canisters and reverse-flow undergravel filters.

Lemme run through undergravel filters for you: you have a plate that sits on the floor of the tank under the gravel. (You can't use sand with one of these things, so with African cichlids you're gonna want crushed coral gravel if you use an undergravel filter). At the back corners there are lift tubes, which are just plastic tubes. There are three ways to operate them:

1) You can get airline tubing, air stones, and an air pump. You put the air stones at the bottoms of the lift tubes and connect them to the tubing and air pump. The pump pumps air through the tubing, which comes out of the holes in the porous air stones. These bubbles rise up the lift tubes. This creates a small amount of water current along with the bubbles up the lift tubes. This creates a light flow of water down through the gravel and into the filter plate to go up the lift tubes. The water flow through the gravel keeps bacteria in the gravel oxygenated, which allows it to be a more productive part of your biological filter, breaking down fish waste in to less harmful substances.

2) Instead of the air stones and air pump, you can attach powerheads (which are small, submersible electric water pumps) to the tops of the lift tubes. The powerheads manually suck up water through the tubes. This results in a higher water flow through the gravel so that the filter is more efficient.

3) Reverse flow: You use powerheads as in the second method, but you buy reverse flow kits for them. These kits make it so the powerhead pumps water down through the lift tubes. Usually the reverse flow kits have a sponge prefilter for the powerheads, which prevents debris from getting stuck in the powerhead and also provides more surface area for bacteria to grow on. The water is pumped down the lift tubes, across the filter plate and up through the gravel. Again, this allows for more bacteria in the gravel to metabolize fish waste. However the reverse flow kits push waste and debris up out of your gravel, which reduces the need for gravel vaccing the tank. The debris is suspended in the water in the tank where it can be removed by other filters (such as the HOB's or canisters).

A 75g tank with reverse flow undergravel filtration along with a couple of big HOB filters or a big HOB and a canister would be a very well-filtered tank that could handle a big bioload like the stocking list you have there.


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