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onemanswarm 02-06-2012 10:52 AM

Help me fix my friend's tank!
A good friend asked me to help him improve his aquarium. He was talking about decorations, but after doing some homework, I'm much more concerned about stocking issues.

Tank: 55gal
Filter: Magnum 350 canister filter
Maintenance: Weekly 50% WC with Prime conditioner
Temp: 77
Parameters: Unknown. Waiting until I can get over there with test kit.
Decor: Black sand with fake plants, some rocks, and ancient ruins decor. Minimal hiding space.
1 Common Pleco 9"
1 Red Tail Shark 4"
1 Jack Dempsey 7"
2 Yellow Lab 4"
1 Red Peacock 4"
1 Convict 4"
2 Electric Blue Johannii 4"

I know this list looks bad, but somehow it's been working for 2+ years. He's got a Jack Dempsey mixed with Mbuna mixed with Malawi mixed with a shark and a pleco. That said, the fish look great and they seem to get along remarkably well. The only rule he's followed in stocking the tank is the 1:1 inch-to-gallon ratio, so he thinks he's in good shape with about 45" of fish.

Recently, he asked me to come up with a budget and a plan to help him decorate his tank. I was planning to float some water sprite, stack some nice rocks, and add a big hunk of driftwood for the pleco, but now I wonder if he has bigger problems on his hands.

I hesitate to even discuss the stocking issue because he does really love these fish. Aside from the hodgepodge assembly of seemingly random tankmates, he takes very good care of them! He's not going to accept the suggestion to remove any of these fish from this situation.

That leads me to my question: Since I'm 99% sure he'll tune me out if I even try to talk about restocking, what can I do with a reasonable decor budget in order to make things better for his fish?

sam7152004 02-06-2012 12:00 PM

plants are a great inexpensive decoration that can alsohelp regulate the water paraments. I would be careful with the driftwood though. I didn't do my research and I put driftwood and my ph tanked and I lost almost all my fish! so if he realy likes his fish please be careful with the driftwood.

thekoimaiden 02-06-2012 12:32 PM

I second that Stephen.

It's great of you to help this guy, but you should check the hardness of the water before you add the driftwood. I know nothing about the cichlids you mentioned, but if any of them are hard water fish they're not going to like driftwood in the tank.

onemanswarm 02-06-2012 12:50 PM

Thank you both for the advice. Checked AqAdvisor to get a sense for the acceptable hardness and got 10-15dH or 178-267ppm). I'll see where he's currently at before making any decisions on the driftwood and I'll proceed with caution.

Questions: How crucial is it for the pleco to have some driftwood in the tank? Can the driftwood be treated in some way so that the pH doesn't crash?

CAangels16 02-06-2012 04:38 PM

Instead of using driftwood, try using some rock, I have seen rock been used in chichlid tanks and it looks really cool. You can make a lot of different designs with it, plus as opposed to driftwood it helps keep the ph of the tank up.

fish monger 02-06-2012 06:56 PM

I'd use mostly rocks and create the missing hiding places. Other than that, maybe 4 or 5 large plants (fake might be the best choice) just to add some natural looking contrast. If the fish are healthy and your friend takes great pride in them, I wouldn't mess with the list.

rrcoolj 02-06-2012 07:09 PM

I would look at rocks to decorate in order to create caves and caverns. The problem I see with the stocklist is these fish are not full grown. The jack will get to 10" and the other mbuna will likely hit 6" in time. It is going to become very tight. I don't usually suggest this but since this guy is so attached to his fish and if they are in fact getting along meaning nobody is hiding in the top corner of the tank then it may be best to just let it go as is. It isn't THAT bad. I would suggest at the very least getting rid of the commone pleco. They can get to 2ft in time and will defiantly outgrow the tank. That fish is the only one though.

Tazman 02-06-2012 07:48 PM

Common Pleco 9" - sorry but that gets way too big for that tank.
1 Red Tail Shark 4" - NOT good as it needs different water parameters than the other fish
1 Jack Dempsey 7" - Very aggressive if it wants to be
2 Yellow Lab 4" - Likely to become dinner for either the convict or JD.
1 Red Peacock 4" - Should not be kept in with JD, Convict, Johanni or the Yellow Labs, this is a peaceful fish and will soon enough get stressed due to the other more aggressive fish, yellow labs are too active for them
1 Convict 4" - Aggressive and should not be kept with a JD or Johanni.
2 Electric Blue Johannii 4" - If they are both male, they will fight to death.

Decoration wise....ROCKS ROCKS AND MORE ROCKS. You want to break up lines of sight as much as you can and create caves for the smaller fish to hide in.

Cichlids like rocks and plenty of caves...sand is the preferred substrate.

Plants that wont get eaten by the cichlids would be Anbuias, Java Fern and definitely not Water Sprite, they will eat it.

If your friend doesnt want to have deaths and a lot of fighting then he has to make some changes to the stock list or get at least a 75g tank.

It is like a mini world war 3 waiting to happen if the JD decides he wants to be aggressive. The peacocks, labs will go first then it will get really very ugly.

What is working now, will NOT work in that size tank for much longer..

onemanswarm 02-07-2012 09:04 AM

Thank you all for your insights; I truly appreciate the information. I know he's asking for trouble keeping this mix of fish, but I also know he won't even consider parting with them unless they are giving him good reason to. Because of that, I'm going to proceed with a two part plan: 1) Move forward with the re-scape in the hopes that additional caves and hiding places will keep aggression at bay, and 2) Introduce my concerns to at least make him aware that there is potential for problems down the road.

1) How deep would you recommend making the substrate (sand) in this tank?
2) Any threads/articles dealing with best practices for constructing cichlid caves?
- Thinking middle to back for aesthetic reasons unless there are benefits to building a cave range on a
diagonal (e.g., front left to back right).
- Is it better to build a long, deep range with adjacent caves? Or to stack them high?
- Assuming that they're sold bulk by weight, is there a type of rock you'd recommend for best value?

Thanks again!

Tazman 02-07-2012 09:28 AM

Substrate, I would go quite deep, say 3-4" as the fish like to dig it up.

No real articles on building caves as such that I am aware of but have a look here, will give you some ideas

Best to make caves and structures that break up line of sight from one side of the tank to the other. With a fairly small tank you wont be able to put a lot together, as it will leave no room for the fish to swim freely.

For rocks, look at either Lava rock or these. Almost any rock provided it is washed, cleaned properly and has no metals in it can be used. In 75g tank I have 95lbs of various rocks.

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