South American Cichlids • Returning to hobby, blackwater, Checkerboards, tank mates?

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Returning to hobby, blackwater, Checkerboards, tank mates?

Postby drfish » Mon Apr 29, 2019 9:53 am

Long story short, I'm setting up my first real tank since I moved about four years ago. I started keeping cichlids by way of Tanganyikans over 15 years ago but this time I'm doing a 180ยบ flip and trying out blackwater. I have a 33 long setup with a mix of collected and purchased botanicals. It's filled with RO/DI water, locally collected sand, and I just put in some Phyllanthus Fluitans to serve as the only plants in the tank. Everything has been boiled, treated, cleaned, etc properly, so no worries so far.

As the tank cycles, I'm trying to decide on inhabitants, my original plan was a nice school of Habrosus cories but I saw some Checkerboards at a LFS and got the cichlid bug back again in a bad way, that lead to the extreme blackwater path I'm heading down. That said, from what I'm reading they are particular little buggers with preferences for pH and temps that limit my options for tank mates. I'd still like to get the Habrosus cories, but it seems like they would be too warm living with happy Checkerboards. That leaves me thinking a bunch of otos may be a better option in place of the cories and maybe a school of cardinals to finish things off. I've seen some YouTube videos where all three species appear to be living in the same place in the wild, so that's something.

Is that a decent enough plan or would you do something different? I'm all in on the blackwater/botanicals thing but I could be open to a different dwarf cichlid if it makes the cories an option again. I would also be happy to skip the cardinals if more than one species of tiny cichlids could go in the tank instead. Any feedback is appreciated. :)
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Re: Returning to hobby, blackwater, Checkerboards, tank mate

Postby drfish » Fri May 03, 2019 7:23 am

Here's a few images of the state of the tank so far. The Phyllanthus Fluitans are sprouting all kinds of new leaves. It seems like they will cover the top of the tank in no time. Also, the biofilm is intense! Sounds like what I'm seeing is normal, though.
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blackwater_5.jpg
blackwater_4.jpg
blackwater_3.jpg
blackwater_2.jpg
blackwater_1.jpg
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Re: Returning to hobby, blackwater, Checkerboards, tank mate

Postby Deeda » Fri May 03, 2019 11:09 am

Sorry I can't help on your stocking questions but I do like the way the tank is decorated. The bio-film on the driftwood is very common and will eventually go away especially if you get fish that enjoy eating it.
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Re: Returning to hobby, blackwater, Checkerboards, tank mate

Postby drfish » Fri May 03, 2019 3:16 pm

Thanks! I want to decorate it much more densely, but my plan is to add 5-6 more pieces with each weekly water change, rather than all at once up front. I need to gather some more sticks and make it all really tangled in there. 8)
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Re: Returning to hobby, blackwater, Checkerboards, tank mate

Postby drfish » Tue May 07, 2019 8:30 am

I think I've decided to skip the cories/otos and stick with just rummy nose and checkerboards. I'll probably add the tetras this weekend and then order the checkboards a week later if things are going well.

I'm thinking 6-8 checkerboards for the tank and 8-12 rummy nose. Does that sound about right to you guys? Filter is a Magniflow 220 with a tray of Seachem Matrix instead of the carbon.
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Re: Returning to hobby, blackwater, Checkerboards, tank mate

Postby drfish » Thu Jun 13, 2019 9:22 am

I added the checkboards yesterday, they seem pretty happy so far. I've ended up with eight of them, six rummy nose and five otos (bought six, but one jumped out after the first couple days).

I'm really happy with how things turned out, but I've only got one decent pic so far. I'll try to get more over the weekend. :)
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Re: Returning to hobby, blackwater, Checkerboards, tank mate

Postby mambee » Fri Jun 14, 2019 2:08 pm

Tank looks great. I love the checkerboards and rummynoses are my favorite tetras. I always have a school of about a dozen in my tank. If you want to add more fish, I suggest a school of pencilfish. They will school in the top third of the tank. Another favorite fish, even though not biotype appropriate, is the glass catfish. You can add a bunch of them and they will school underneath the floating plants.
150 Gallon:
Geophagus, Angelfish
90 Gallon:
Bolivian Rams, Rummynoses, Corys, Dwarf Loaches, Neons, Glass Catfish
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Re: Returning to hobby, blackwater, Checkerboards, tank mate

Postby drfish » Mon Jun 17, 2019 10:22 am

Thanks! I am just super pleased with how it's turned out. I'm considering it fully stocked at this point, though. The tight-schooling of the rummynose is so cool.

I really dig the checkerboards. I get just a bit of a julie vibe from how they move, except it's around botanicals instead of rocks. They've already learned to eat anything I throw in there. They're wild-caught so I was a bit surprised how quickly they caught on. I'll still make brine shrimp for them anyway, since I went to the trouble of procuring a hatchery and it's really easy to use. More pictures and a video ASAP.
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Re: Returning to hobby, blackwater, Checkerboards, tank mate

Postby mambee » Mon Jun 17, 2019 1:35 pm

Hopefully you will get some breeding action soon. I admire your restraint regarding stocking level.
150 Gallon:
Geophagus, Angelfish
90 Gallon:
Bolivian Rams, Rummynoses, Corys, Dwarf Loaches, Neons, Glass Catfish
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Re: Returning to hobby, blackwater, Checkerboards, tank mate

Postby drfish » Sun Jun 30, 2019 6:31 pm

Well, I got surprised by eggs yesterday. Couldn't help but notice the change in behavior of one of the females and all the other fish being forced to hang out on the other side of the tank. As of today, the eggs are moved or gone but the female is still acting somewhat defensive. My pH is still too high for successful breeding AFAIK but I guess we'll find out. I'm just stoked to see this behavior so soon. We'll see what happens next.
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