South American Cichlids • African and South American Cichlids together

Discussion regarding only South American Cichlid species. (Oscars, Geophagines, Discus, Apistogramma, Green Terrors, Angels, Severums, Pikes, etc.)

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African and South American Cichlids together

Postby monster » Wed Jan 12, 2011 1:21 am

I know that some people are against keeping African & S. American Cichlids together, but outside of personal preference, I've never understood why. Thoughts/comments? Thanks.
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Postby DeadFishFloating » Wed Jan 12, 2011 5:34 am

They come from different types of water. Lake cichlids come from high PH water with a lot of disolved minerals. Many South American cichlids come from river systems with low PH readings and low mineral content.

There is a school of thought amongst my local aquarium society members that high mineral content is the root cause for many intestinal problems that occur in soft water fish.

It's not about personal preference, it's about providing your fish with the optimal conditions to thrive.

I could take you out of Houston and dump you in the rain forest highlands of New Guinea. You would do what you had to, to survive, but you would not thrive. Odds are, that you would live a far shorter life than you would if left in your natural habitat. It's similar for any animal, they will do what they have to under adverse conditions to survive. But they won't show their best colours or behave normaly, in such a situation.
Dwarf Cichlids. Big personalities in small packages.
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Postby Bluetangclan » Wed Jan 12, 2011 9:12 am

You can get away with it if you are extremely careful. I have done it a few times in the past with mixed results. In a 90 gallon tank at my parents I have put Obliques, Frontosa, angels, silver shark, yellow Labs, Leopard bushfish, clown loaches, peacocks, H. electras, and various plecos(which dont really count since they blend in well). I wouldnt put any of the giant SAs in here but the above mix has been in there with no changes for over a year and a year and a half and some stuff like the shark, front, loach, and bushfish are well over 6 years old. Now a brief description of this tank, my dad loves collecting driftwood on the barrier islands when he brings the dogs out so he pretty much has an unlimited supply and it shows. He fills the frikkin thing up and when he gets bored with it, he takes it out and adds new. He also has quite a bit of rocks. So essentially every few months, the entire tank layout changes completely. No one really has a chance to form territories. None of these are very aggressive in the first place except the angels and i guess they realize they better not start anything. No one notices the slow moving leopard. The labs breed all the time, but they get picked off usually before they hit an inch or so, probably by the Front. The main aggressors are the Obliques and they almost totally concentrate on each other.

Now on my tanks, I had 4 acei in my older Troph tank. One Acei was having issues(abrasions, fin damage) so I netted him up and tossed him in my discus tank to eat algae and heal up. And heal up he did. He turned psycho, went after discus three times his size, picked mercilessly on a twice his size Jack Dempsy, my rams hid in terror. After a week he was healed and I caught him and threw him back in with my Africans which were now down to 1 Acei left. The two paired up immediately and havent had any issues since from them.

So moral of the story, lots and lots of terrain in the tank, keep things mixed up, watch them like a hawk. PH and such isnt as big of a deal unless you are dealing with wild caughts and there is no way in #%$& i would put an expensive WC in a mixed tank.
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Postby ahud » Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:49 am

I disagree that PH and other water qualities do not matter. Very bad advise IMO.

BlueTangClan,

What is your PH in that tank?
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Postby Similis » Wed Jan 12, 2011 12:30 pm

ahud wrote:I disagree that PH and other water qualities do not matter. Very bad advise IMO.


Agree 100%.
There are keeping fish and keeping them right. As a responsible aquarist it is your duty to
provide optimal water conditions for your fish. Some SA and African Cichlids will live together
ok but they will never reach their full potential and one species will always be under some
level of duress.
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Postby Number6 » Wed Jan 12, 2011 1:28 pm

Bluetangclan wrote:PH and such isnt as big of a deal unless you are dealing with wild caughts and there is no way in #%$& i would put an expensive WC in a mixed tank.


There is quite a bit of merit in this statement and I will agree with it. Over emphasis is placed on water chemistry without much detail. If one isn't careful, one gets it into the head of new aquarists that all New world cichlids (or all South American cichlids) need soft water and all Old world cichlids need liquid rock.

I've kept many a South American cichlid (wild caught) in water with moderate hardness and a pH of 7.6 and kept wild caught Malawi and Tanganyikans in that same water.

Can water chemistry be completely disregarded? No. Can fish be put into water that is outside their tolerance range? No.

Is there an overlap in many species optimum ranges to allow one to have unorthodox mixes? YES. I'd say your chances really do increase with all tank raised cichlids as well.

I disagree completely that there are no species of South American cichlids and no species of African cichlids that (if mixed) will not thrive. I agree that it is a challenge to mix, and one shouldn't even try if they don't have the means to correct their problems, but that is as far as I will go.

Monster, mixing continents is a challenge and often it is a challenge where you will be on your own as far as recognizing problems, correcting them, preventing illness, etc. For the average aquarist, I'd suggest that they may find the challenge too much or the risks to their wet pets are too great to be 'forgiven' so they should avoid. If you have the ability to setup additional tanks in a hurry should the need arise, and you have specific mixes in mind, then post your question and see what information you get back.

My most unorthodox success? Severums and Julies. Amazon- meet Lake Tanganyika.
Both species thrived!
Bred me out of house and home!
My WC cichlids are gonna be caught on rod n reel!
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Postby ahud » Wed Jan 12, 2011 2:25 pm

Number6,

While I agree that PH does not need to be on the dot, you can not say that it does not matter. A PH of 7.6 is a happy medium and I do not doubt that you could keep a great number of species happily. On the other hand, my PH is 6 and I could not keep Rift lake cichlids happily. I would probably have problems with a lot of the central Americans as well.

To say fish are tolerant of a variety of water conditions is acceptable, but PH does matter.
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Postby Number6 » Wed Jan 12, 2011 3:13 pm

ahud
neither I nor Bluetanglcan said pH doesn't matter. pH does matter in my opinion, however...
pH considered alone does NOT matter. The two statements are not contradictory since it is obvious that my point is that we shouldn't be looking at pH alone when we say that pH matters.

Many moons ago, I began to suspect that it's not the pH itself that matters, but the other water chemistry.
I put it to the test...

I got some items together that would force a change in pH without touching KH or GH.

I took apistogramma, mbuna and Julies... I then repeated the experiment for someone with a Discus. I took the fish from water with a pH as low as 5 and moved them to a pH of 8 and back.
Sometimes it was quick, other times I left them there for a duration (days even).

No fish deaths, no illnesses, all "subjects" went on to live happy a long lives producing many children. The Discus produced no kids, but that is a different story!

So... why do we all say pH matters? and I will always say that it basically does. It is the cheap thing to measure that tells us what is likely going on in the tank. What is ammonia doing? what will happen to substrate? what is the GH and KH likely at? what about TDS?

What focusing on pH does do is cause an over emphasis on some summary measurement. I've had folks tell me they cannot inject CO2 into a planted Tanganyikan tank because it will drop the pH too much. :x

They just don't realize that the pH is neither sensed by the fish nor reacted to. Of course they can inject CO2 into their cichlid tank and no, the fish won't croak...

So yes... pH matters, but as bluetang mentions... it's just not that big of a deal if one has the abilities and will to adjust the environment to help both species to thrive. I (personally) think that bluetang's post was a bit generic to be taken as advice, but the point is still valid in my opinion. With Tank Raised cichlids, the pH isn't "that big of a deal" and you might find yourself within the range of pH that will allow a diverse mix to still thrive. The devil is in the details...
My WC cichlids are gonna be caught on rod n reel!
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Postby ahud » Wed Jan 12, 2011 7:15 pm

If you consider PH as an indicator than yes I agree with you, but to tell a beginner PH does not matter or that it does not play a big role than I disagree.

Like you said PH is an indicator and that is why is matters. I would not post on a forum that PH does not really matter and someone new to the hobby mix all sorts of fish with different water requirements.
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Postby monster » Wed Jan 12, 2011 8:11 pm

I appreciate the advice from all of you. I've kept cichlids for almost 20years, and have never run into serious issues with fish health. Still, the point about a fish not "thriving" is taken. Admittedly, I've almost never worried about the PH of my tank. I know that some of you may cringe, or consider me a bit irresponsible, amatuer, or not serious about fishkeeping (understandable). I watch my fish very closely and their health is important to me. Next time I go to the fish store I plan to pick up a ph kit. Thanks again for the feedback. I'm excited to have my tank up and running again.
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Postby Similis » Wed Jan 12, 2011 8:27 pm

Are you telling us Number 6 that the fish felt no ill effect what so ever.
What about pH shock or pH scald. I dropped the pH fairly rapid once when I kept Discus.
In fairness they were doing well in a pH of 7.5 but I dropped it down to 6.5 with a water change.
Without going into too much detail it was a disaster. Being a novice at the time I blamed it on
a disease and treated unsucessfully because of it.

I have moved fish from a low pH into a higher one without too much trouble but doing it the
other way round is way more dangerous.

Does the pH of the water not effect the way they breathe.

Though fish can be acclimatised to different pH levels, it is in the best interest of the fish,
especially if they are wild to be kept in as close to their natural conditions as possible.

I know most of the fish we keep now are far far removed from their wild cousins but I think
what you have said is just a tad irresponsible. Especially for beginners.
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Postby Similis » Wed Jan 12, 2011 8:35 pm

One way pH does effect one species ( indirectly though it might be ) is the Altum Angel.

These fish come from water with a really low pH. As low as 4.5 in places.
The pH is so low that bacteria cannot survive in it. Hence they have a really poor immune system. Once taken from the wild and added to a
tank environment they usually die. They just cannot fight off infection.
It can take six months to gradually acclimatise these fish properly.
The survival rate is extremely low.
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Postby Number6 » Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:53 pm

Similis wrote:Are you telling us Number 6 that the fish felt no ill effect what so ever.
that is correct. When I changed nothing but the OH- and the H+ concentrations, nothing happened. It is remarkably hard to do and I had to purchase buffers etc. There was one change that was impossible and that was to take water with a high pH and high KH to a low pH... if you add H+, it will eat up the KH.

Similis wrote:What about pH shock or pH scald.
What hobbyists call pH shock is known as Osmotic shock. It is not the result of fish being impacted by pH but by the sudden increase or decrease of items in the water column that influence osmosis :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osmotic_shock

Similis wrote:I dropped the pH fairly rapid once when I kept Discus.
Did you change the GH and KH as well or literally, just the pH?


Similis wrote:Does the pH of the water not effect the way they breathe.

See Osmotic shock.

Similis wrote:Though fish can be acclimatised to different pH levels, it is in the best interest of the fish,
especially if they are wild to be kept in as close to their natural conditions as possible.

I disagree. There are conditions of a natural environment that are unimportant. This hobby exists because hobbyists strive to figure out which aspects are important, which are unimportant.

Similis wrote:I know most of the fish we keep now are far far removed from their wild cousins but I think
what you have said is just a tad irresponsible. Especially for beginners.


Please quote the portion of any of my replies that you think is inaccurate, misleading or harmful. Without taking what I said out of context, you won't be able to find anything. Nor has bluetangclan (IMO) said anything dangerous or misleading.

Personally, I think that telling a beginner to worry about pH is highly inappropriate and a good way to cause problems. I have seen it frequently on multiple forums (even this one) where a beginner was sent out to purchase test kits, buffers, salt mixes etc. The effort to test water, add buffers, salt, etc. often has one classic result... fewer water changes due to money, time, complexity. Bouncing pH is often a result of these wonderful additives!

My advice to new aquarists is to have the local fish shop test their tap water for them (often a free service) and pay most attention to GH and KH. Depending on what they find, they can solve it with a simple buffer like baking soda. Cheap, simple, straight to the point. Most frequently, they need to add nothing for the species of fish they own.

To keep this tangent tied into the original post, what we have found re: pH is that even wild caught fish have a range of pH that is optimum. There are South American species and African species that have overlap to their ranges. The key point to all of this is that the needs of the fish come first before the "wants" of the owner. Prior to attempting a mix of South American and African cichlids, you will need to do a ton of research, figure out if you can provide for both species at once, and you must have the means to undo any damage or mistakes you make. Some species cannot be housed together, either due to diet, water chemistry, territory, etc. though this is a problem whether you stick to a continent or not. One can hardly mix Anomalochromis thomasi and a soda cichlid now can they?
My WC cichlids are gonna be caught on rod n reel!
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Postby Bluetangclan » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:11 am

Since someone asked, my African tank is right near a PH of 9. I actually raise it when I do water changes. its easy to get that high since my water table is naturally an 8.3. Thats what I keep my discus at.

Its less an issue of what it is and more an issue of keeping it stable. I dont waste my time with chemicals and such because unless you start with the right mix and temp every time, it will be difficult to keep it the same. Stability is the key for long term care, not what it actually is. I am willing to bet(not going to try it) but I think over time I could acclimate my discus to the same PH as my cichlids and likely not lose any.

Note that when you ship fish, the PH in the bag changes as it cools so it gets even more out of whack if you acclimatize them with the drip method or any of the other methods that involve adding water you are effectively hitting them with different PH. I asked both of my primary breeders(I talk to them both regularly) one discus and the other Africans, and both of them laughed at most of the methods out there. Just float the bag and let the temp equalize then toss them in so the fish's ordeal of transit ends quickly(which is much more stressful for the fish than PH change), both used almost the same words. I did the same thing when I did reefs. If a fish dies doing this, it likely wasnt going to make it anyway no matter what method you used.
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Postby Similis » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:33 am

The biggest danger when acclimatising fish after a lengthy transport is raising the pH of the
water in the bag causing the Ammonia to become more toxic. This is usually the biggest cause of
deaths when shops order fish in.

I ordered 70 wild Corydoras in from Columbia last year and one of the species were decimated
in the bags. I had 4 bags containing 20 Narcissus and the water looked like pure milk.
I though all were dead but there was still some movement in a couple of the bags.
Long story short.. I never just put the 4 fish that were still alive straight into a bucket of tank water
where the pH was 7.5. They are still alive today. I did the same with all the other Corys and never
lost one. If I had added water to the bags I recon I would have a lost a #%$& of a lot of fish.

I am not saying that fish cant be acclimatised to different levels of pH but not all fish have the
same level of tolerance. That is why I think it is best to try and match as best we can the
natural water parameters of the fish we keep.
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