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First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby OuiBonjour » Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:39 am

Hi there!

I'm doing my first cichlid tank and I'm going for a 40 gallon (36'') Multifasciatus species tank.

I've been suggested to take 4 Males and 10 Females, but I think I'll just get 3M-7F or maybe 2M-6F.

I ordered 40 pounds of Carib Sea ACS00820 Marine Sand and 100 XL Escargot shells.

Since my tank is big for a species only tank, I've been suggested to put a big rock in the middle and make 2 different colonies, one on each sides.

I plan on making the big middle rock, a couple of medium rocks and a rocky background, all DIY with some styrofoam and cement. I will try to make my middle rock at least 12-14 inches high so that the juveniles use a little bit more of the medium and top part of the tank while exploring. I will leave the DIY rocks and BG to cure for a long time before putting them in the tank.

I'm also ordering some Aragonite (which I believe is crushed coral) to raise the PH and hardness since my tap water is only 7.6-7.8 - I'm not sure yet if I should mix it with the sand or put it in a meshbag in the filter.

For my filter, I have an HOB Aquaclear 50 with a small sponge around the intake. I'm not sure if it will be enough, or if I'd be better with a big sponge filter instead (or both ?)

As for the heater, I'm not sure yet, but I was thinking on a cheap one I found at Walmart : Penn-Plax 300 W . Should I get another one ? I want to keep the water at 78 F

At first I had a lot of question, but I asked most of them on another forum (not sure I can name it) before I found this one. I should've started with this one first, as now I don't seem to remember all of my questions lol Anyways, since it will be my first tank of the sort, I'm open to any suggestion you might have about my setup !

At first I wanted to get some tank mates but most people suggested me to stay with a Species Only tank. However, if you have tank mate suggestions, I'm open ! However, I don't want one that will eat my fry, and also if it's a tank dweller we have to keep in mind those will be fake DIY rocks so maybe it's not the best (?) and maybe I should only get surface/open water fishes ? Any suggestion there ?

For the fake rocks, I'm going to use this technique (minus the fake grass) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQkNzYK5-wU&t=478s
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby DJRansome » Wed Jul 15, 2020 8:39 pm

OuiBonjour wrote:I ordered 40 pounds of Carib Sea ACS00820 Marine Sand and 100 XL Escargot shells.
Sounds like a LOT of substrate.

OuiBonjour wrote:Since my tank is big for a species only tank, I've been suggested to put a big rock in the middle and make 2 different colonies, one on each sides.
IDK if I agree with this. I might put them closer to the sides/back for interest. One big colony is what I have heard recommmended for multies.

OuiBonjour wrote:I'm also ordering some Aragonite (which I believe is crushed coral) to raise the PH and hardness since my tap water is only 7.6-7.8 - I'm not sure yet if I should mix it with the sand or put it in a meshbag in the filter.
I'd put it in the filter.

OuiBonjour wrote:For my filter, I have an HOB Aquaclear 50 with a small sponge around the intake. I'm not sure if it will be enough, or if I'd be better with a big sponge filter instead (or both ?)
Go for 8X to 10X gallons per hour turnover.

OuiBonjour wrote:As for the heater, I'm not sure yet, but I was thinking on a cheap one I found at Walmart : Penn-Plax 300 W . Should I get another one ? I want to keep the water at 78 F
Five watts per gallon, so I would go with two 100 watt heaters.

OuiBonjour wrote:At first I wanted to get some tank mates but most people suggested me to stay with a Species Only tank. However, if you have tank mate suggestions, I'm open ! However, I don't want one that will eat my fry, and also if it's a tank dweller we have to keep in mind those will be fake DIY rocks so maybe it's not the best (?) and maybe I should only get surface/open water fishes ? Any suggestion there ?
Other Tangs will eat fry. The tank is not long enough for cyps that like the open water. I would do altolamprologus or julidochromis, but some fry will get eaten.
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby OuiBonjour » Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:46 pm

DJRansome wrote: Sounds like a LOT of substrate.


My bad, when I said that I ordered, I meant that it was in the cart, but I'm waiting for a payment on my card to arrive before I buy them - So I can still make changes! The bags are 9,1 KG and I though about getting two. Should I get only one instead ? Also, I'm not sure how to clean sand beforehand. I already cleaned a lot of gravel but never did sand.

DJRansome wrote:IDK if I agree with this. I might put them closer to the sides/back for interest. One big colony is what I have heard recommmended for multies.


Okay. The person who told me that said that whatever the size of my tank, multis usually only colonize a 1x1 square foot area. If they don't mind, I would much rather put a bunch of smaller rocks but keep all shelled regions "connected" to get only one colony. (Unless I go with some of the tank mates you suggested below, then I'll split in two for 2 biomes and leave 6 inches of free sand in the middle (and/or maybe the big rock could be an idea then?)


DJRansome wrote:For my filter, I have an HOB Aquaclear 50 with a small sponge around the intake. I'm not sure if it will be enough, or if I'd be better with a big sponge filter instead (or both ?)
Go for 8X to 10X gallons per hour turnover.[/quote]

I'm not used to calculate by gallons per hour. Would my HOB Aquaclear 50 be enough for a 8-10x gallon turnover ? Or what else should I add ?


DJRansome wrote: Other Tangs will eat fry. The tank is not long enough for cyps that like the open water. I would do altolamprologus or julidochromis, but some fry will get eaten.


Okay thanks, I'll check into them! When you say some will be eaten, would there still be enough to make a big growing colony ?
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby DJRansome » Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:29 pm

For the filters, you look up the GPH for your model. Google can get you all of this information. Aqua Clear 50 says GPH is 200. Eight times 40G is 320 GPH. Ten times 40G is 400 GPH. I would get 2 of the Aqua Clear 50 filters.

People who mix multifasciatus claim their colonies grow in spite of predation from other species like julidochromis or calvus.

You do NOT want a live marine sand for a freshwater tank. There is a substrate calculator in the Cichlid-forum Library, for one inch of substrate it says 25 pounds of sand. Consider buying 100% silica pool filter sand. It has a consistent 20 grain size which makes it work well when siphoning. It looks natural. It is clean and it is very inexpensive. Buy it at a local pool and spa chain store.
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby OuiBonjour » Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:30 pm

Also, how many Altolamprologus should I put in my tank, and what changes should I make in my tank arrangement ? Do they need rocks on one side ? Is there a way I could arrange everything and lessen the chances (or amounts) of fry being eaten or avoid aggression and fighting ?
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby DJRansome » Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:43 pm

I don't think you will see aggression. Get six of each calvus and multifasciatus. The calvus will form a pair and you will rehome the fish that are rejected from the tank before they are killed.

I would do a rock pile on one side and the pile of multi shells on the other with six inches of open sand in between.

Don't forget to allow six weeks to cycle your tank with ammonia before adding fish.
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby OuiBonjour » Thu Jul 16, 2020 12:29 am

Okay thanks! I will get another Aquaclear 50.

And I will replace the seasand for 100% silica pool filter sand.

As for the thickness of the sand, 1 inch is a little thin, no ? Especially since they like to dig and buy shells and make hills. I thought going with 2 inches minimum, maybe 3. Would anything bad happen if I put to much sand ? I know they tend to make hills that can reach the intake, but if I remove the extender the intake is pretty high.

I'm still thinking about it for the Calvus, I'm afraid I might not be able to resell them once they formed a couple, and since we'll be making our own rocks I'm not sure if we'll be able to make some that will be good enough for them. However, since the multis are so small, I like the idea of having bigger fish too. We still have to think this one out.

My 40 gallon was already cycled as it was a Sub-Tropical tank previously. I removed all gravel and driftwood and all water, but kept 5 gallon of its water in another tank and moved the filter there too just to keep it running so that the bacteria in it don't die. Once I'll be ready to put the sand and water in the 40, I'll bring the same filter back with its bacteria. I know I lost a lot of bacteria from the gravel that I remove, but with those from the filter it should kickstart the cycle pretty quickly I think.

Do you think the cycle will need to be redone from the start, or it will continue as it was previously like nothing happened ? Either ways, I still have my API full kit so I'll test it everyday until I'm sure it's back to normal before adding the fish.
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby DJRansome » Thu Jul 16, 2020 7:56 am

The problem with a deep sand bed is it is hard to clean and toxic pockets can form. I have found myself putting less and less substrate in tanks over the years. For me three inches would be for plants only. Did you have sand that deep in your tropical tank?

How long was the established filter running without fish? If a month or less you should be OK as long as the bioload before is the same as the new bioload.
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby sir_keith » Thu Jul 16, 2020 10:39 am

There are many ways to do this, and rather than get into a point-by-point discussion, I'll just show you a little Multi species tank that I set up some tome ago, here-

IMG_0647R1.jpg

The tank is a 48" 40L. It contains about 50 pounds of Aragonite substrate, and ~100 escargot shells. Filtration is by means of an AC50 and two large sponge filters with powerheads and diffusers. Originally the Aragonite and shells were just distributed randomly, but the fishes did the excavations shown in the pic. There were 8 or so Muliti's initially; more than that now. You can't see any of the fry in the pic because they are so tiny, but there are many of them. A low-maintenance, entertaining tank. Have fun! :fish:
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby OuiBonjour » Thu Jul 16, 2020 3:19 pm

DJRansome wrote:The problem with a deep sand bed is it is hard to clean and toxic pockets can form. I have found myself putting less and less substrate in tanks over the years. For me three inches would be for plants only. Did you have sand that deep in your tropical tank?

How long was the established filter running without fish? If a month or less you should be OK as long as the bioload before is the same as the new bioload.


In that same tank, before I emptied it up, I had around 3-4 inches of gravel. There were probably some anaerobic bacteria there at some point because my nitrates were at 0 for a couple of month before I started getting between 3 and 5. However I was only vaccuuming the top layer as to not disturb or release any gases to the surface.

However I understand that with shell dwellers it's a different story, as they'll keep digging. So they could dig into a gas reservoir. I will put a thinner substrate for sure. But how can we make sure that there wont be any toxic pockets in the hills that they'll make while digging ? Should I always vaccum deep down everywhere in the sand to make sure there's no "undisturbed" area ?

As for the filter, it worked for several months with a fully stocked aquarium, then for 2 weeks with only 5 bloodfins, then 1 days with no fish in the same tank, and the next day I moved some water and the filter in an empty 5 gallon tank to keep it running and it's been running for 4 days I believe. However, I remember today that I forgot to put a source of Ammonia since there's no fish so I just added a bunch of fish food in it 5 minutes ago. Do you think the bacteria could have died with 5 days without ammonia ? I'll continue to add fish food in it every day, and it will stay there for at least 2 weeks before I'm ready with the other tank. Most probably more so.
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby OuiBonjour » Thu Jul 16, 2020 3:21 pm

sir_keith wrote:There are many ways to do this, and rather than get into a point-by-point discussion, I'll just show you a little Multi species tank that I set up some tome ago, here-

IMG_0647R1.jpg

The tank is a 48" 40L. It contains about 50 pounds of Aragonite substrate, and ~100 escargot shells. Filtration is by means of an AC50 and two large sponge filters with powerheads and diffusers. Originally the Aragonite and shells were just distributed randomly, but the fishes did the excavations shown in the pic. There were 8 or so Muliti's initially; more than that now. You can't see any of the fry in the pic because they are so tiny, but there are many of them. A low-maintenance, entertaining tank. Have fun! :fish:


Your tank is so nice, I love when they make their own hills like that !

Is it better to start with the sand all even and let them decide, or we can start by putting hills even though they will change it all ?
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby sir_keith » Thu Jul 16, 2020 3:38 pm

OuiBonjour wrote:
...Your tank is so nice, I love when they make their own hills like that!

Is it better to start with the sand all even and let them decide, or we can start by putting hills even though they will change it all ?


It makes no difference whatsoever: the Multi's will rearrange everything to their liking no matter how you set the tank up initially. Hey, it's their tank! :D
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby DJRansome » Thu Jul 16, 2020 5:19 pm

I would not add fish food...just makes rot and dirt. You are good if you add fish within a month.
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby OuiBonjour » Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:23 pm

Okay. So even without any source of ammonia to feed on the bacteria will stay alive for up to a month ?
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Re: First Cichlid tank - Multis

Postby DJRansome » Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:10 am

Yes...at least a month.
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