Help stocking 20G-dwarf cichlids
I have completely torn down my existing 20 Gallon High, and re-scaped with a fluorite and fine gravel mixture and plants. I plan on adding some sand on top once I finish with all the plants and I am still looking for one big piece of wood for the focal point. While the tank is cycling I need some help deciding on suitable stocking options.
I want a dwarf Cichlid pair as my feature fish. Having looked at my lfs (The Wet Spot, love this place!) I have narrowed my choices a bit, but am open to suggestions as my lfs carries a lot of variety.
I am in love with the Rams, preferably the Electric Blues and Golds but as these fish are very sensitive I am not too sure about getting them.
I like Kribensis and I see that they are a good starter cichlid, but I was looking for something with a bit more color.
Lastly, the Apistogrammas…I stumbled upon these at my lfs and am having a hard time finding information on them. I like the Borellii, the Pandura and Cacatuoides. I have read these are peaceful fish, and am wondering how many I can keep in the 20H.
I have soft water, with a Ph of 7
In a 20g, you are limited to one dwarf cichlid species. With our water (Pacific NW, and I am up in Vancouver) being soft, it is perfect for the rarer species. And you will need some dither fish, or the Apistos may be too insecure and less healthy as a result.
We only (so far) have one Apisto in the profiles [you know about our fish and plant profiles, second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page?], namely Apistogramma cacatuoides [click on shaded names for that profile], because this is probably the most common and most "adaptable" to harder water. Most of the data there applies to any apisto species, with a few exceptions. Some are best in a pair, some in a harem--if you can buy them with male/female obvious. Years ago I got hold of a group of five of what was then called Apistogramma kleii, and let them pair off. It was very interesting; one fish was a dominant male, the other 4 appeared to be females; the male spawned with one of them a few times. When he died, one of the other fish suddenly developed into a dominant male and then spawned with a female. Quite a surprise for me back in those days (early 1980's).
There are some other impressive dwarf cichlids too. The checkerboard species in Dicrossus, Dicrossus filamentosus and Dicrossus maculatus being the two more usually seen, are some of the most beautiful. The Wet Spot gets many of these in when they are "in season" from Peru, Colombia, etc.
For most of these you will want the water more acidic, but that is easy. With the very soft water the pH will naturally fall as the aquarium matures. My tap water is pH 7.0 to 7.2 with near-zero hardness, and if I leave things alone the pH in the tanks runs around 5. This is ideal for these fish, and their tankmates.
Pencilfish are superb, and/or the hatchetfish in Carnegiella. Cardinal tetra. Substrate fish are possible, but if you want a successful spawn (rear the fry) then I would avoid them, as they are the prime predators of eggs or fry at night when the cichlid parents are not "awake."
For info on the other two apistos you mention, try these:
Umbrella Apisto (Apistogramma borellii) - Seriously Fish
Apistogramma panduro - Seriously Fish
The A. panduro is strikingly similar to a species I had in the 1990's, Apistogramma nijsseni.
Thank you for the useful information, as always Byron! I came across the Nijsseni as well, and the two species look a lot alike. I have definetley settled on the Apistogramma, either Borellii or the Panduro/Nijsseni. It will depend on when I go and what they have in stock/who looks the best. Will either of these be fine in a pair or would a harem be best?
I do plan on a dither fish (I was thinking a Rasbora or Tetra, haven't decided which yet), and was hoping for some Cories as well. Would Cories not be a good idea?
A 20g is not a lot of space, so dither fish need to be smallish. I mentioned the cardinal tetra, a group of 6-7 would work. This species requires the warm soft water that most apistos need, and thickly planted tanks with bits of bogwood. Ember Tetra being smaller would work, a larger group (12). The Trigonostigma species of rasbora are fine, particularly the Trigonostigma espei or Trigonostigma hengeli [the latter is my favourite, such brilliant copper colouring, and a bit smaller]. Several of the pencilfish in Nannostomus would do well, Nannostomus marginatus, Nannostomus mortenthaleri, Nannostomus eques (swims at an angle) are all peaceful. Carnegiella marthae for the surface, a group of 7. You need floating plants for any of these, even the cichlids, to shade the light and give security.
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