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hello, so i found this forum and think is awesome. i just acquired a 125 gallon tank that i want to stock with african cichlids. im not sure how many, but i would like to have a nice colorful variety (aggressiveness permitting), so my question is what would be an ideal filtration system for it. I know canisters are good, i was looking at the Fluval fx5 (kinda pricey though), what do you think i should get, or make..(im really handy with DIY stuff, i just finished building a stand for it...)..thanks for any and all info, or any recommendations you can give to a newbie!
 

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Hello and welcome. I cant help you much with the filters, but I just would like to tell you that you should plan to have alot of plants (live or fake) and hidey holes as cichlids love to hide. also, you need to make sure you cycle the tank, and get the temp up to a good one, do research on the fish you want, and make sure your water levels, nitrates, nitrites, ph, and ammonia are good, or youl have spent money on your fish for nothing. If you really want to buy fish, and your lfs (local fish store) doesnt have anything that looks cool, try livefishdirect.com or Aquarium Fish: Tropical Freshwater Fish and Saltwater Fish for Home Aquariums to buy fishfrom. these websites also give advice on the fish, like their food, type of fish, aggressiveness, ph level needed, behavior, water temp, etc. all youd need to know before buying a fish. hope this helps!
 

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If you're going to have plants, I definitely recommend fake ones as most African cichlids will eat and/or destroy live plants. Not to mention that the high pH and hardness will be tough on many species of plants. Personally, I like the more spartan look with big heaps of rock as your only decor. Let me find an example...

This one is interesting, with big, round rocks:
http://www.malawimayhem.com/images/gallery/3853justin%20tank.JPG
Here's another:
Malawi cichlid tank image by nicksweeting on Photobucket

As for filtration: I find myself making this recommendation a lot, but I really support it so here it goes again. I don't personally own an FX5, but I've heard bad things about them. First, the price: $300 is about what they run for. Next, you get the fact that the flow rate through this sucker is absolutely enormous. The problem here is that you don't get much contact time between the water flowing through the filter and the filter media. I've seen a lot of information (including a thread on this forum in the DIY section) about people messing with FX5's to increase the capacity of the filter media compartment to improve filtration. Were it me, I would instead spend that $300 on two Marineland Emperor 400 power filters and two Marineland Magnum 350 Pro canisters. This would give you a much higher total flow rate, better water movement throughout the tank, more total media space plus the added biological filtration you'd get with a total of four bio-wheels. Of course, you could substitute similar filters such as Aquaclear power filters for the Emperors or the smaller Fluval canisters for the Magnums.

Of course, if you're really good with DIY projects you might consider building a large sump type filter. These are really some of the best biological filters you can put on a fish tank as you can basically customize it to have huge amounts of contact time with biomedia. You might also want to add a couple of strong power filters set up for simple mechanical filtration. It would be a fun thing to do, but in the end might end up being more expensive (and certainly time-consuming) than just buying filters.

Just FYI, filters are a heck of a lot cheaper online than in brick-and-mortar stores.

About the fish: it's really best not to mix fish from the different lakes, so I suggest picking a lake and sticking with fish just from that one lake (the reasons for this are largely tied to incompatible personalities between fish from the diffferent lakes). If you want a variety of colors, Lake Malawi fish are probably the way to go. Lake Tanganyika has less brightly colored fish, but they come in a more interesting variety of body shapes and sizes and have unique behavior. It's really a matter of preference, but also be aware that Malawi fish are generally easier to find.
 

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thank you guys for all your help. so i finished building my stand, i just need some hardware to hang the doors and make them functional..lol. iamntbatman you mentioned two marineland 350 canisters. i have seen these and found them for about $125, if i decide to get these, do you really think i need to add the other little filters? wouldnt these two canisters provide adequate filtration? and since it seems i am getting these, how do you recommend i position them. both intakes on same side of tank or some other combo? thanks in advance...
 

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i would arrange the filters so that the there are no dead spots in the tank because cichlids like to have a gentle current
 
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