South American Cichlids • new to cichlids - prepping for new tank, likely SA

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

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new to cichlids - prepping for new tank, likely SA

Postby capetomb » Sat Nov 03, 2018 12:16 pm

Hi all. Long time listener, first time caller.

I’m in the very early stages of setting up a new tank. I’ve had a 36g bowfront for the last year, set up as a general community tank. I would still consider myself somewhat of a beginner, but ready to take on a bit more, including cichlids. I’m looking to upgrade to a 75g, taking advantage of upcoming black Friday sales. I have a bunch of different questions/thoughts and would love your input!

• My water runs about 7.5 PH, and very soft.
• I’d like to start getting into some cichlids, but would prefer the more peaceful of them, at least for now. With my water parameters, I was thinking South Americans would be my best bet. I do like Africans, and wouldn’t mind having them, but don’t want to try to modify the soft water all the time.
• I really like the look of an Mbuna tank (i.e., mostly rocks) and would like to try to replicate that as best as possible, even if doing SA cichlids. Is that an issue? I don’t mind a couple plants, and have some anubias and java ferns I can steal from my current setup. A hunk or two of driftwood is fine too. Heavy on the rocks is what I’m getting at, I guess.
• Filtration: Haven’t decided on specifics yet. Maybe a couple 304Bs or a couple fluvals. I have a Fluval 306 now and like it, so I might do a couple of those or some other combination.
• Stocking: this is where I’m open to thoughts. I’m not really interested in breeding yet, so one thought was to get some single individuals of a few different species. So far, I like: Keyholes, Blue Acaras (or Electric Blue, I like both), Firemouth, RH Tapajos, and Angels. Can I get away with something like one of each? I was thinking about one pair, and leaning toward the Acaras. I would throw in some dithers (preferable SA, to maintain the theme) and a clean-up crew (pleco and/or corys?) I’ve done some research on all these and I think most would be okay together. A firemouth seems to be the wild card, although I’d love to see it work out. I’ve run some numbers on Aqadvisor and it looks like I can probably get away with one each of the above cichlids plus a pleco and some dithers. Or if I do a pair of something, I might have to drop one or two off the list. I think the water temps are all compatible for those as well. Thoughts? Any favorites among those? Are there obvious choices I’m missing (trying to stay on the more peaceful side, and appropriate for my level of experience).
• Substrate would probably be pool filter sand, with the limited plants and all.

Thanks in advance!
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2018 1:08 pm
Location: Cape Cod, MA

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Re: new to cichlids - prepping for new tank, likely SA

Postby Dinho » Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:24 pm

Hi capetomb,
I'm new to this forum too and thought it only polite to reply to someone with similar 'fishy' interests to my own.
My interest has always been with New World Cichlids and I have previously mixed Mexican/Central and South Americans though now keep only fish that originate South of the Panama/Columbia border.
Everyone knows about Cichlid aggression and my experience has proved that you can help to keep it in check by keeping temperature at the lower end of the scale and also by 'overcrowding' a little. A reasonably large tank with cover and hiding places helps, along with monitoring of water conditions and a good water changing routine.
By the sounds of it, your water will be ideal for keeping South American Cichlids. Driftwood/Bogwood will be an excellent addition as they will leach tannins into your water, something the SA's will appreciate. Rocks are good too, I have them in my tank, they will help to provide cover and hiding places. Lastly plants - my experience of 'live plants' is not a good one as my SA's have always played with them, ripped them up - and also eaten them. The purist will probably disagree with my choice of 'plastic plants' but they are indestructible, very lifelike (if you get the right ones) and only need cleaning every so often.
I'm just awaiting completion of my custom built tank (approx 150 UK galls) but I'll be running 2 external filters on it. My current external is an Aqua One Ocellaris 1400UVC and I've purchased a Fluval FX6 to run in tandem. Fluval filters are very good, I've had them in the past and currently run an internal U3 alongside my Ocellaris, though I'm abandoning internal filtration with the new tank. So your choice of Fluvals is a very good one.
Your choice of fish is also good, the Firemouth is more of a Central American Cichlid, preferring slightly harder water but with most now being tank bred, there's no reason why you couldn't add one to your mix.
Others I can heartily recommend are Severums, especially the beautiful Rotkeil version, they really are gentle giants. Uaru are another I particularly like and never have I known such an intelligent and inquisitive fish - but - they also grow big. Others you could consider are the Yellow Acara (Aequidens metae), Threadfin Acara (Acarichthys heckelii), Festivum (Mesonauta festivus), any Bujurquina species and Bandit Cichlids (Guinacara Stergiosi/Geayi). All those are peaceful and reasonably sized.
My clean up crew consists of Corydoras and Bristlenose Plecos but I'm also considering some Brochis catfish and 'not too big' L numbers for the new tank, so your choice of clean up crew is also a good one. My Cory recommendation would be a small shoal of Corydoras Sterbai - stunning little catfish.
Re water temperature, I'd recommend 79degF, that's always worked for me.
Substrate is down to personal choice and preference, mine is 'old school' fine gravel, sand is too messy in my eyes but I can appreciate why many prefer it. Just make sure that your filter intake is sited well above the sand, a friend of mine once got sand through to his impeller and he reckoned that led to his filter breaking down.
I hope my reply is of some help to you and I wish you all the very best of luck with your 'Cichlid adventure'.
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2018 3:39 pm
Location: UK

Re: new to cichlids - prepping for new tank, likely SA

Postby capetomb » Tue Nov 06, 2018 10:13 am

Hi Dinho:

Thanks so much for the response and suggestions! I suspect I'll have lots more questions as the build gets closer in the next few weeks.

Good catch on the Firemouth being CA. I like them, but I also like plenty of other actual SAs, so I'll look to swap that out for something else. The Festivum looks pretty cool and seems like a good fit for my situation, so that will definitely go on the list to consider. One good part about dropping the Firemouth--when I reran my stocking options in aqadvisor, a lot of the dither fish compatibility warnings went away.

I actually have some Sterbai Corys in my current tank, that I'll be happy to move over to the new tank. I'm looking forward to adding a few more, now that I'll have the room.

It will be tough trying to decide what the ultimate stocking is. I like so many, but the numbers on aqadvisor add up fast! I certainly welcome any and all opinions!

One other question: I'm definitely considering a Geophagus RH Tapajo, but have read differing advice on numbers. Some say 5-8 while other sites indicate they do fine on their own. Any first-hand experience?

Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2018 1:08 pm
Location: Cape Cod, MA

Re: new to cichlids - prepping for new tank, likely SA

Postby rafini » Thu Nov 08, 2018 9:03 pm

Hey Capetomb I would like to give my input on SA cichlids also. I too wanted to keep earth eaters a few years back.
My tank wasn't exactly brand new, but it was very far from mature, it was cycled for at least a couple of weeks when I added my Geos.
I have been keeping fish for 16 years and almost always having several species of cichlids, although focusing more on the central American and African species.

I purchased 5 Surinames, 5 Tapajós and 3 Acarichthys heckeli. I Also had a Jurapari that I rescued from a mixed cichlid tank at the lfs.
My water is very hard and alkaline, the type of conditions that would let Mbuna thrive. The fish I acquired were locally bred and I assumed would be more accustomed to my water. I also thought that keeping it consistant and not altering the PH too often would cause less stress.

The red head Tapajós were the first to go, one by one. then the Surinames. The heckelii lasted a while longer and only the jurapari thrived.
There was no aggression or issues with tankmates and they were in a 120g aquarium.
Everything I had read about the Tapajós indicated they were almost the perfect cichlid inhabitant. I was just quite shocked and after spending a fair amount of money on that stock I decided to not try them again.
All fish were eating well and growing and coloring up nicely I just couldn't keep them alive, even with 3-4 water changes a week.

I'm not saying you should steer away, they are beautiful peaceful cichlids. But I found them to be delicate at least in my non mature and hard water conditions.
I have had success in the past keeping Guianacara though and I thoroughly recommend them if you can find them, they are often named "bandit cichlids"

Good luck and keep us updated!
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 5:10 pm
Location: Calgary

Re: new to cichlids - prepping for new tank, likely SA

Postby capetomb » Sun Nov 11, 2018 3:08 pm

Thanks for the feedback Rafini! Sorry to hear things didn’t go well for you. Your scenario is what I’m afraid of happening if I tried Africans in my water parameters. I’ll definitely check out the bandits. They look pretty cool! It looks like they want some company, so I need to decide if I’m going to do a few of one species or one each of several different species.
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2018 1:08 pm
Location: Cape Cod, MA

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