Cichlids for a beginner?
I have a 55 gallon tank and would like to start a cichlid tank. I work at Petsmart and obviously know that they are aggressive and what not, just I'm not too informed about which cichlids can be kept together (although I know fish from the different lakes should not be mixed). So here's a list of which cichlids we have and I was wondering which can go together as well as which are fairly easy for a beginner? Thanks so much!
Ice Blue Zebra
Red-Finned Albino Zebra
Electric Yellow Labidochromis
Electric blue Dempsey Cichlid
Then we have a tank of "African Cichlid Assorted" with the scientific name of Pseudotropheus spp. mix. A lot of these fish in this tank look like a red zebra and electric labs... thanks so much!
I think for a beginner interested in cichlids your best bet is the yellow labs which can nicely be mixed with Acei. In a 55 gal I would suggest maybe 6-8 of each.
With cichlids, a slight overcrowding/overstocking is okay as it tends to keep aggression to a minimal.
Remember with cichlids to provide plenty of hiding spots...texas holey rock works great with these cichlids I mentioned. And these guys arent as horrible at uprooting plants as other cichlids...so some cheap plants or fake plants would help as well.
Bumblebee cichlids are actually pretty nasty...and the electric blue jack dempsey (South American Cichlid) can be a real meanie as well...I dont recommend them to a beginner at all...I am experienced with cichlids and I wouldnt deal with them!!!
High filtration is mandatory with cichlids as they are messy. Also, most other fish cannot be housed with them except a medium to large pleco and the ocassional special catfish of medium to large size (which you would need a larger tank for the pleco, catfish, and cichlids).
Its important to know your tank's pH, as most cichlids like a higher pH and this can be acheived by buffering the pH with special substrate, crushed coral, and other ways as well which you can discuss on the forum here.
I hope this information is useful for you. If you have any questions feel free to ask.
The mixed tank is usually just a bunch of random hybrids of different african cichlids. So yes, the could be crosses of zebras, yellow labs, acei, electric blues, and others. I dont always recommend them as you dont know their actual mix and judging their needs as far as food and water parameters is difficult as well as their temperment with others. And they always look nicer in the small overcrowded tanks they are sold from...this is where the overcrowding comes in handy. In a large tank with space, their temperment can be totally different.
stay away from hybrids and mixed tanks. Odds are you have various Mbunas that are crossbred. Its a shame really that professional breeders do that and worse, that stores like Petsmart and Petco sell them that way. Do some research, pick breeds that will not hybridize with each other. Cichlids.com has a great library of cichlids and specialists in the that field. I breed cichlids as well but stick to breeding tanks with very different fish. Trophs with gobies, phenochilius with Ruby greens.
Cichlids in of themselves are not really messier than any other kind of fish. The reason they are seen as such is in order to keep down aggression you overload with fish. That way they cant figure out who they want to pick on and no one fish gets picked on to death.
If you want to get into cichlids with no interest in breeding, just get males. You will get good colors, and no worries of hybridization.
You have tons of options of fish. The only ones i would stay away from as a beginner are Tropheus and a few of the Tangs. Again if you arent breeding you have even more options since you dont have to worry about the babies getting munched on. Frontosas are really nice, male phenochilius are a great peaceful long term fish(They are just electric blue for the first couple years but as they get older, they get cool silvery-blue patches all over at random), peacocks, ahi's, the world is limited only by your bank account heheh. Stay away from petsmart cichlids, I too used to work at one about 7 years ago, and I know what they get and where they get them from.
I have to say I would disagree with keeping all male cichlids. If going all one sex, I would do females as males tend to not only be larger but much nastier in personality. Of course with some of the smaller cichlids, like the yellow labs and such, you wont have too much issue mixing sexes if there are enough in the tank.
Its a pretty well known strategy of putting all males into a tank. All of them color up in competition with the others even though they are different species. With typical overfilling the tank with fish like you do aggressive cichlids anyway, aggression is no more than normal. One of the fish stores I tour through regularly has a great 180 gallon African with all males. Probably 30 or so individual species present all 6+ inches. Yes there is aggression but nothing ever comes of it. Even the Phenochilius(yeah I am biased) does well(its a very passive cichlid as Africans go) and peacock get along fine. I read about alot of people doing this on cichlids.com. Good way of just having colorful fish. Putting a female in would be disastrous I think and knock the balance off.
And you must also consider the tank size... 180 gallons gives much more room for error than the OP's 55 gallon. And he is a beginner with cichlids, and I dont wish to lead him down a path that might be too overwhelming, as owning cichlids can be if you jump in too fast.
Not to sound mean, but what people do on that website is different than I would do, as well as many other fish keepers here on this website. I have raised cichlids, granted mostly South Americans, for years...I got my first when I was only 4 years old...an Oscar. My dad has always loved the larger and meaner cichlids, and I guess its where I got it from, however, my point is that I have been dealing with cichlids for like 22 years now, and I wouldnt do all males, and havent even considered it when you get much more coloring from their natural mating desires when a female is present...and also by using correct temps and water parameters.
Ill agree to disagree with you then. You can pull the same thing off regardless of tank size. Its a pretty good way of introducing a new person how to take care of Africans and the instant gratification of all the colors involved. Africans and their personalities are very different from SA. I only keep peaceful SA's like discus currently. Being a schooling fish, I can have multiple. I wouldnt try the same thing with the other SAs. Africans on the other hand like the company even if they will not admit it and overstocking is good for them provided you do your weekly water changes and have good filtration.
Conditions of the tank do not need to be their natural environment. They need to be what they and their parents have been raised in not what they are in in the wild. I and a another local breeder keep hard water, high PH discus(he specializes, i just dabble). OMG! What a bad keeper I am! Wrong. They are growing great(and have been for over a year), do not require any special additions to the water to condition it and have had zero problem with disease except once when I tried to vary their diet. They grew up in hard, 8.3PH water. If I were to change this, they likely would not do as well. Tap water and dechlorinator if i am changing large amounts, just tap water if I am filling evap water is the only thing I do for them.
Remember most of our fish are second and third generation and are far removed from the wild. Some are just tough as nails and do not care either way. i do add some cheap additions to the water on my Africans, namely baking soda and epson salt, one tea spoon of each per gallon.
For a new person to the hobby, I recommend either sticking with some relatively peaceful ones to get the hang of it or go all male. (note if you go all male, be prepared to add multiple fish at once so no one gets singled out immediately).
Fish to look up that are cool and fall into the easy catagory for beginners.
Peacocks, frontosa, compressops, calvus, the shell dwellers, Trets, haplo's, Electras,
High mineral content in hard water, hardens the membrane surrounding the eggs making it quite difficult for males to fertilize the eggs with this species and other softwater fishes.
Many cichlids can get along when young, such as The Africans most often found for sale at local fish stores.
It is when they reach sexual maturity that they frequently begin to exhibit more aggressive behaivors.This often leads to a bunch of fish with tattered fins and much posturing over territory.
Compounding this problem is that tanks marked "Mixed african's" are often just that, Fishes that have been crossbred with other species and subsequently exhibit unpredictable behaivors and often suffer from physiological disorders.
Best to seek out fish clubs or breeder's to aquire pure strains of the fish that interest you.
I also disagree, my cousin had all male Mbuna species and the dominant one killed all of the others of his kind. The distribution is 1M:4F in any tank for this particular species. Also, with cichlids I agree with LasColinas on the point that if you don't want them to breed to go with all Female because they won't try to kill each other either. The brighter colors means they're trying to display their dominance, and a few invariably will get picked on to death.
Also, Yellow Labs and Pseudotropheus Acei look really pretty together and they don't really mess with each other, they eat the same foods and they compliment each other beautifully. (the acei have yellow fins).
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