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mamatoulouse 03-26-2011 01:41 PM

starting a cichlid tank, any suggestions?
hello this is my very first post, and my very first cichlid tank,
i have a 55g tank it is a blank slate thus far... i know i want to make it an African cichlid tank for sure but everything else is up in the air... i am a fan of the crowding technique... so my question is what size filter(s) should i get to "over filter" it?

i was thinking of diying my own caves with PVC and lava rock
i was thinking of using sand or fine gravel whats better?
i wanted to get a blood red jewel, albino socolofi and cobalt zebra....are they compatible?
i just like their looks but i also would also like other fish as well..
i also would love to know about some live plants that would do OK with the cichlids

so please please let me know , if you have any suggestions or helpful hints i would love love love to hear them!

amberjade 03-27-2011 04:52 AM

I'm afraid the jewel won't work at all - they are from streams, where the socolofi and cobalt are rift lake mbuna. So they have very different water parameters.
You would be advised to choose one or the other as far as the cobalts and socofoli - they are far too similar, and from the same family. So say a colony of either is a good start.
You could put a colony of rusty's in the same tank - they are quite attractive with their rust colour and the males develop a beautiful purple sheen. Look up iodotropheus sprengerae.
You want to stay away from different varieties of the same species, or closely related species, because they will interbreed. Which you don't want - nobody will buy hybrids.
As a beginner to cichlids, especially Africans, stick with the more placid ones. Yellow labs are another good one, and it is possible to put peacocks in with mbuna if there is enough space. Not usually recommended, but it has been done with success. So, you could do 1 male and 5 females of the socofoli or cobalt, 1 male and 5 females of the rusty, 1 male and 5 females of the yellow labs and 3-5 peacock males - just an example.

Right, now that I have confused you, onto the aquascaping - rock, rock and more rock. Lots of caves and tunnels. PVC can certainly play a part. Lava rock isn't that great for mbuna, because they tend to hurt themselves on it. River rock works well, and limestone rock is great too - Texas holey rock for example. Coral sand is fantastic substrate - they love to dig! It helps buffer the water, too. They need hard, alkaline water. As for plants, anubias and vals will grow in the conditions, but they may get dug up!

So there you are. Lots to think about. Check your water and find out its ph, hardness etc, and that is a really good place to start. African tanks require a huge amount of research - they aren't so much difficult fishes to care for, it's hard to get the right mix to start with.

Good luck!
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amberjade 03-27-2011 05:27 AM

Oh, and filtration - for a 55 gal tank, aim for two canisters running 400gph each - minimum. Or equivalent. I personally use one canister and an internal - the internal is good cause I can get good flow and I hooked it up to an air pump as well, so the water is highly oxygenated. :)
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Grimmjow 03-27-2011 06:42 AM

My favorite from malawi are demasoni and from tanganyika are julidochromis transcriptus. Auratus are pretty awesome looking too but personally I like fish under 4 inches and Ive heard of auratus ruling tanks.

As far as plants go Ive heard java ferns, anubias, and vals are your best bets cause they can tolerate the water perameters and they taste bad to them. No real experience with cichlids, just wahat Ive come across in reading.

mamatoulouse 03-27-2011 12:08 PM

ok... i was mostly interested in lava cause it is so light... maybe i will just get some of those ceramic cichlid stone sets and look for interesting, man made aquarium decor... i don't want to have an accident with too much weight /falling rocks.....

also... what types of filters are the best.. and why in your opinions?

mamatoulouse 03-27-2011 12:21 PM

Also... when one says "crowd" the tank how many fish = a crowd?

oh yeah i have no interest in breeding anything and for that matter selling the offspring, honestly i would just leave the fry in the tank and whom ever lived would be kept who didn't would be lunch.... i am sure that sounds awful but its true

amberjade 03-28-2011 12:30 AM

Well, mbuna are herbivores, so they aren't likely to eat any fry. :-) However, if you got the more peaceful mbuna like the socofoli and the cobalts along with some peacocks, the peacocks will more than likely eat any fry - being omnivores.
Over crowding in mbuna tanks is more like controlled overstocking to reduce aggression. A good guide is one fish for every 10 litres, which is around 2.5 gallons.
If you put haps in the mix (which can only be done with peaceful mbuna) you have to allow more room for them. So each peacock needs to have around 10 gallons each.
As for filters, canisters by far offer superior filtration IMO. You can put whatever media you like in them, and they have an amazing capacity for bacterial growth. Like I say, I personally use a canister AND an internal, because I can get fantastic flow with the internal - which is important, because the fish love it! They are from the rocky shores of the lake, so you can imagine what it's like in there! :lol: And being able to hook up an air pump to the venturi outlet of the internal is handy, because the fish are from highly oxygenated waters. You can always do whatever combination you like, but use at least one canister rated for 400 gallons. It will pay off! You still have to do your weekly water changes, but at least it won't be twice a week, 50% changes!

Hope this helps!

mamatoulouse 03-28-2011 02:34 PM

thanks, i am not very familiar with canister type filters.....i suppose i should educate myself! Anyone know any economical brands that are good?

initially i was thinking of getting 2 emperor 400s (marineland) the over the back type(just because i am used to them ), and a powerhead to create some current also i heard i could hook up my air pump to it too..
i am grateful for the fish selection options... i will have to make a little reference guide to take with me when the time comes to actually buy fishes... and hope i can resist the urge to just but the pretties cichlids at the local fish shops...btw there aren't many that have a good selection...
if you have any other suggestions on relatively peaceful malawi cichlids i would love to hear them

amberjade 03-28-2011 07:19 PM

I have an Aqua Nova 1500 canister along with a resun 1800 internal on my African tank, and a sunsun 2500 canister on my SA tank. Oh and an aqua one aquis 1000 on my Asian tank. I'm happy with all of them. They are all quiet. My African tank is a 40gal. Not a size I would recommend to beginners to mbuna!

Some more peaceful mbunas are yellow labs (labidochromis caeruleus) rusty cichlid (iodotropheus sprengerae) yellow tailed acei (pseudotropheus acei) and the dogtooth cichlid (Cyanotilapa afra).

There are different afra colours, because there are different ones from different parts of the lake. They are all on the lower end of the aggression scale. I have the afra 'chewere'.

All mbuna need to be kept as one male to several females, and avoid species that look similar. Even mild mbuna are aggressive! :)
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mamatoulouse 03-28-2011 09:17 PM

Thanks I just recently visited a small local pet shop that also sells fish they seemed to have a fair selection of African cichlids but all the tanks were labeled african cichlid assorted and they seemed to just be separated by size and not by specific fish maybe not the best place to buy fish but its a start
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