Cichlids with a 'schooling' fish - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 13 Old 01-05-2009, 10:51 PM Thread Starter
Cichlids with a 'schooling' fish

Hello everyone,

First time poster here.

Currently, I have a 10 gallon fish tank in which I have only kept a small school of Tetras.

I recently acquired a 55 gallon fish tank from my in-laws and want to give cichlids a try. I have heard great things about them and am looking forward to seeing some of their antics. The only thing, I would still like to keep a 'Schooling' fish (e.g. Tetras, Barbs, etc.) in the 55 gallon with the cichlids. I have heard that barbs are used as a 'Dither' fish for many cichlids, is this true?

Does anyone have first hand experience of keeping a 'schooling' fish with cichlids? Also given my tank size of 55 gallons, does anyone have any recommendations on which cichlids I could get and if what (if any) I can get for a schooler.

Any help would be much appreciated!

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post #2 of 13 Old 01-06-2009, 12:21 AM
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I keep Dennison barbs with rams and have had absolutely no problems. I would think most dwarf cichlids would be fine with barbs or tetras, providing the barbs and/or tetras are bigger than the cichlid's mouth.

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Last edited by aunt kymmie; 01-06-2009 at 12:21 AM. Reason: adding a PS.
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post #3 of 13 Old 01-06-2009, 02:34 AM
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Well, you won't be getting African rift lake cichlids if you're looking to keep anything like a community tank. Many of these fish can be extremely aggressive, but they also require hard water and a high pH that just isn't suited to most schooling fish (barbs, danios, rasboras, tetras, corydoras, loaches, etc.)

So, you'll be looking at New World cichlids or African riverine cichlids. The latter group is a small one - usually only kribensis and jewel cichlids are available. Jewels can be very nasty but can be kept with fast moving fish. I have a single jewel with some tiger barbs and it has been working out. I wouldn't attempt this with multiple jewels as they'd get exponentially meaner if they decided to breed. Kribs are much more peaceful. Even if they breed, a 55g will provide enough room for schooling fish to get out of harm's way.

New World dwarf cichlids behave much like kribs. Generally peaceful, but can get aggressive when breeding. This applies to apistos of all types, rams, nannacara, etc. There are a few mid-sized New World fish that could work - festivums, keyholes, rainbow cichlids, angels. Convicts would probably be just too aggressive. You might be able to do a single green terror or Jack Dempsey, but your schoolers would have to be fairly large and very fast, like giant danios (torpedo barbs would also probably be ok, but I wouldn't risk a school of barbs that are $30 a pop with a $3 Jack Dempsey that might eat all of them). Any of the geophagus on the smaller end of the size scale should also make good community fish, so long as their tankmates aren't incredibly tiny (i.e. neons).

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post #4 of 13 Old 01-06-2009, 12:20 PM Thread Starter
Thanks for the excellent feedback! I really like the look of Firemouths, Do you think Firemouths would mesh with Rams or Keyholes, along with the "schooling" or "dither" fish?
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post #5 of 13 Old 01-11-2009, 09:01 PM
I think firemouths are often overlooked because they are so common, but they can be truly beautiful fish. I once had a spawning pair that looked amazing. But they were also very territorial, wouldnt allow any other cichlids or catfish in my 55 with them. The schooling fish should be fine, I think I had some silver dollars with mine,but rams or keyholes will probably be constantly harrssed. After a few spawnings and many, many little firemouths, I traded them off because the male was abusing the female so badly between spawnings and I didn't have tankspace to separate them. The guy I sold them to kept them together despite my warnings and 2 weeks later the female was dead of spousal abuse.
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post #6 of 13 Old 01-12-2009, 09:31 PM Thread Starter
Today I brought the wife to the fish store, we stopped to look at the cichlids and she liked "the stripped one" most. Ofcourse this was a convict.....

I know everyone says that convicts shouldn't be kept with any type of community fish, is it possible to keep 1 or 2 (probably 2 females to prevent the aggressive nature during breeding) of these with a few 'school' of rams?
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post #7 of 13 Old 01-13-2009, 03:53 AM
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I wouldn't. No matter how different they look, cichlids can always recognize another cichlid. Convicts are incredibly mean fish, so usually they can mix well with cichlids much larger than themselves. Mixing them with something small like rams would likely result in a lot of dead rams.

In a 55g, though, you could probably get away with a decent sized school of giant danios and some sort of catfish for the bottom. A synodontis of some kind or raphael catfish would work.

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post #8 of 13 Old 01-13-2009, 04:48 AM
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Just to clear the way, rams prefer to be the most dominant fish in their own tank. Failing this, they will simply hide away and refuse to even eat as they are likely outcompete for anything including food and territory. Discus and angels are however compatible along with Bolivian rams but temperature would become the issue as Bolivians prefer the cooler side whereas blue rams and discus prefer the higher end. Angels can do well in both with the minimum at 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

I regret getting my raphael by the way. This is a couch potato and I see it only once every week or even every few weeks. I also have a Trachelyopterus galeatus that I saw for the first time in six months. Dunno what's with their brains. They just live behind their hiding places and doze off.

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post #9 of 13 Old 01-13-2009, 12:27 PM Thread Starter
Excellent, I was thinking the same thing with keeping the rams and convicts together, I just wanted the opinion of people much more weathered in this hobby than myself.

How does this sound for my 55:

2 Rams ( The newb, in me wants them not to breed)
1 Keyhole
About 6-10 Serpae or Black skirtted tetras
2 or 3 clown loaches
Maybe a common pleco or snail for clean-up and algae control.

I know the Clown Loaches and Pleco's get pretty big, but that should take more than a year or 2, hopefully at that time I can upgrade to a larger tank, or they can go to the petstore.

Would this be over stocking?
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post #10 of 13 Old 01-13-2009, 03:47 PM
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You could always get a smaller species of pleco like a bristlenose, rubber lip or clown pleco. That way, you'd never have to worry about upgrading tanks or rehoming fish.

The same goes for the loaches - a smaller species of loach would be more appropriate as you could keep them in there permanently. Generally you want at least six of any species of schooling loach (which is most loaches). Botia kubotai would be a better choice.

Serpaes and black skirt tetras are both known to be fin nippers so they might not mix too well with the angel. Beware that you might also get unresolvable aggression issues between the various cichlids, even though all of those listed are on the more peaceful end for cichlids. If you're set on the serpaes or black skirts, you could substitute a gourami (pearl or opaline are both very good looking fish) or festivum for the angel.

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