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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been keeping South American cichlids for over 15 years, and have been very used to keeping my water as soft as possible with very low pH. Recently, I have been thinking of keeping Tanganyikan cichlids instead, and would like to set up my 600 gallon (7' x 3' x 4') tank for this. The tank has a remote 125 gallon sump with about 20 gallons of Sera Siporax filter media, and 2x Abyzz A200 run at 60% as return pumps. I have a 24/7 constant water change system that changes 3-5% (25-30 gallons) of ro water daily. This system worked out well for my South American setup as doing water changes with ro water was needed to keep tds and pH low, but it would pose a problem for a Tanganyikan tank since that would constantly dilute the water and change the parameters over time.

If I would like to keep my awc system as it is, would I still be able to keep Tanganyikan cichlids, perhaps by daily dosing kH and gH buffers daily/hourly into the tank to maintain water parameters? E.g. Can I premix the diy rift buffer or Seachem cichlid salt into a liquid form to dose daily/hourly together with a separate dosing pump for kH? If not, can I instead mix up separate solutions of Mg, kH, and K or Na to dose separately with rift lake trace solution (e.g. from Seachem)? I intend to use aragonite sand so that would help buffer the kH and calcium levels as well. Alternatively, could I run a reef style calcium reactor to supplement the dosing?

I would also do a large 50% water change monthly with the rift buffer to reset parameters similar to how planted tank hobbyists do it with EI dosing method.
 

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Wow, that sounds like an awesome system.

I’ve never used r/o before so my advice might not be right, but if you have fairly hard water from the tap, could you use that instead of the r/o water, and incorporate that into your system instead?


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I think all the options you posted are reasonable, it's just a question of how you want to go about doing this. And the aragonite substrate will certainly help buffer the system to appropriate levels. But why fuss with RO water rather than tap if your goal is hard, alkaline water?

That said, another important variable is what sorts of Tanganyikans you plan on keeping. The more commonly kept genera (Lamprologus, Neolamprologus, Julidochromis, Altolamprologus, etc.) will be fine in dealing with small changes in water chemistry that occur gradually, but you might have to be more careful with sensitive fishes like Opthalmotilapia, Xenotilapia, and other featherfins. Bigger fishes (e. g. Cyphotilapia) will get you into waste/nitrogen cycle issues not unlike those posed by Neotropicals, so at this point the big question is which fishes you plan on keeping.

Good luck; it sounds like an awesome setup. (y)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Wow, that sounds like an awesome system.

I’ve never used r/o before so my advice might not be right, but if you have fairly hard water from the tap, could you use that instead of the r/o water, and incorporate that into your system instead?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
I think all the options you posted are reasonable, it's just a question of how you want to go about doing this. And the aragonite substrate will certainly help buffer the system to appropriate levels. But why fuss with RO water rather than tap if your goal is hard, alkaline water?

That said, another important variable is what sorts of Tanganyikans you plan on keeping. The more commonly kept genera (Lamprologus, Neolamprologus, Julidochromis, Altolamprologus, etc.) will be fine in dealing with small changes in water chemistry that occur gradually, but you might have to be more careful with sensitive fishes like Opthalmotilapia, Xenotilapia, and other featherfins. Bigger fishes (e. g. Cyphotilapia) will get you into waste/nitrogen cycle issues not unlike those posed by Neotropicals, so at this point the big question is which fishes you plan on keeping.

Good luck; it sounds like an awesome setup. (y)
Thank you for your responses! My tap water is actually also on the soft side. I used ro water due to my previous blackwater inhabitants requiring the super low tds and pH water (for reference, they were doing well in water with pH slightly under 4.0). Due to non-forward thinking when I set up my tank and awc system, I cannot easily change the system and so I need to work around the limitations.

I read the article on salt, and I was thinking that if I dose the various macro elements (kH, Magnesium, Potassium) hourly using a dosing pump, and trace elements daily based on the ppm from that article, I wouldn't have too much issues with parameter instability? Or would that be insufficient? With 3-5% daily wc (so 20-35% weekly) and a monthly 50% wc on top of my already large filtration would I still run into nitrogen/waste issues?

I do hope to be able to keep the more exotic species. I will need more advice on stocking once the basic setup and water issues have been solved, but I am hoping to keep Cyprichromis (almost compulsory given that my tank is 4' tall so I need lots of activity in the mid and upper levels of the tank), Altolamprologus, Julidochromis, sandsifters (Xenotilapia/Enantiopius) and featherfins in a community setup.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I took values from this article: Aquarium Salts

Based on the Lake Tanganyika values, the macro nutrients I need are:
HCO3 + CO3 = 6.02-6.81 meq/L = 301.5-341ppm
Na = 57-63.6ppm
Ca = 9.2-17.6ppm
K = 18-35.5ppm
Mg = 39.2-43.3 ppm

Assuming I change 25 gallons of water a day, the following mixture doses will yield in 25g of water:
  • 380g of NaHCO3 mixed in 5L of water, dosed at 600ml/day will give 300ppm of HCO3 and 113.06ppm of Na
  • 2kg of MgCl mixed in 5L of water, dosed at 40ml/day will give 40.84ppm of Mg
  • 1.2kg of KCl mixed in 5L of water, dosed at 20ml/day will give 25.17ppm of K

If I dose the above together with Seachem Cichlid Trace daily, would it be sufficient to keep water parameters stable day to day, with a 50% monthly water change using actual reef buffer to normalize any parameter drift?

Also, given that my coral sand will buffer the kH, should I dose less NaHCO3?
 

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Sounds like you are on top of the chemistry for this. As mentioned by @sir_keith , stability in your water chemistry will be key. Esp. with the more sensitive Tanganyikan Cichlid species you are interested in keeping.
I can only offer a few things for you to consider. Though I'm sure with a system built out as technical as this one will be, there will be some additional aspects to consider and plan for.
  • Dual water pre-treatment reservoirs. Recommend both reservoirs at 225 to 250 gallons in capacity. Having one in active 'dispenser mode' (25 gallons daily?), while the second reservoir is filling with RO and getting prepared with the dosing recipe for use, makes sense. A system like that could also offer some system redundancy in case of unexpected problems.
  • A third water reservoir. This one at 350 gallon capacity, would be reserved for your monthly, 50% water changes.
  • Make up/evaporation loss water. In these larger capacity aquariums, pure RO water is typically added daily to the system to make up for water evaporation loss. Amounts (in gallons) will vary depending on daily, water evaporation loss rate. That daily make up amount of pure RO water should be accounted for, to maintain water chemistry stability in the system.
Otherwise, this looks like it will be a really nice system once set up and placed in operation. Will require a bit more planning and 'tech' than its previous incarnation, as a Black Water (New World) aquarium system. But the results of the effort, should be worth it. :)
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Sounds like you are on top of the chemistry for this. As mentioned by @sir_keith , stability in your water chemistry will be key. Esp. with the more sensitive Tanganyikan Cichlid species you are interested in keeping.
I can only offer a few things for you to consider. Though I'm sure with a system built out as technical as this one will be, there will be some additional aspects to consider and plan for.
  • Dual water pre-treatment reservoirs. Recommend both reservoirs at 225 to 250 gallons in capacity. Having one in active 'dispenser mode' (25 gallons daily?), while the second reservoir is filling with RO and getting prepared with the dosing recipe for use, makes sense. A system like that could also offer some system redundancy in case of unexpected problems.
  • A third water reservoir. This one at 350 gallon capacity, would be reserved for your monthly, 50% water changes.
  • Make up/evaporation loss water. In these larger capacity aquariums, pure RO water is typically added daily to the system to make up for water evaporation loss. Amounts (in gallons) will vary depending on daily, water evaporation loss rate. That daily make up amount of pure RO water should be accounted for, to maintain water chemistry stability in the system.
Otherwise, this looks like it will be a really nice system once set up and placed in operation. Will require a bit more planning and 'tech' than its previous incarnation, as a Black Water (New World) aquarium system. But the results of the effort, should be worth it. :)
I wish I had the space for this redundancy! Unfortunately I only have space for the current 100 gallon water reservoir that's being kept topped up constantly with ro water. My awc peristaltic pump fills the tank from this reservoir 24/7 at a rate of 90ml/minute, and I currently use a 200gpd (about 527ml/minute) ro machine to keep the reservoir always topped up. I have a 400gpd ro machine too that I purchased for the system but have not yet installed. In this way, the reservoir will always have enough water for the awc since the ro water is always being replaced at a rate more than 5x the rate of the awc. I also draw evaporation top up water from this barrel, with my auto top off being programmed to only trigger every 6 hours so there's also no chance that the auto top off will ever drain the barrel empty (I have redundancy built into my auto top off both via a separate float switch and programming). I have a separate breeding rack for South American dwarf cichlids and I do water changes for the tanks on that rack from this reservoir too, but the volume of water changed never brings the reservoir below 1/3 volume. The 50% monthly water changes I intend to do with dechlorinated tap water as I don't have enough reservoir space for 300 gallons - but my tap water is only slightly different from ro water (70 tds, negligible kH and gH below 3). If absolutely needed I'll run the water through di resin for the water change.

That's the best I can do for redundancy planning to keep the tank on "auto" mode with regards to the water. But this is also why I need to dose the replenishment buffer directly into the tank instead of preparing suitable wc water beforehand for direct water changes. It's unfortunately the only constraint I have to keeping Tanganyikan cichlids, but it's a big constraint.

Based on all your responses so far though, it seems that dosing directly into the tank to replenish the minerals lost from an ro water wc will be ok? My thought is that since only 90ml/minute of water is being changed, and I can dose the minerals back in hourly, the amount of fluctuation in water parameters would be very minimal. Add to that the monthly 50% manual wc to reset parameters in case they drift, things should be ok?

Prior to this post, I've never even had to do any manual water changes and I've maintained sensitive blackwater cichlids in this tank for 2 years (altum angels, panda uaru, multispinosa pikes). I figure that with the additional 50% monthly water changes, the water should be good enough for even the sensitive Tanganyikan cichlids too?
 

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Well sure, they'd love that, but it is not necessary, especially in a large tank. Ophthalmotilapia will coexist quite happily with Xenotilapia; large Cyathopharynx may be more problematic.
I would want the Cyathopharynx, LOL. But at the time I was asking about Opthalmotilapia along with fish like calvus and julidochromis. What say you?
 

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Be careful. The water chemistry of a Tanganyikan Lake aquarium approaches the level of a full marine/salt water aquarium. Black Water themed tanks are much more forgiving in maintenance and water chemistry management. Kept acidic in PH, with very soft water and consistently clean, the dissolved organics are nowhere near as toxic to the fish in a Black Water tank, because the PH is kept so low.
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And no - I am NOT a fan of mixing water chemistry additives directly in the tank of a Tanganyikan themed aquarium. To avoid any water chemistry swings in hardness or PH, the water is almost always carefully pre-mixed first in a separate reservoir, prior to addition into the aquarium (For my own 33 gallon 'long' tank, I utilized a plastic, 44 gallon Rubber Maid trash can for the chore with a Model 7 Mag Drive submersible pump/vinyl hose to transfer the pre-mixed water over). You are going to be assuming quite a bit of risk with just the single 100 gallon reservoir available to support this tank.
Certainly more risk than I would be personally be comfortable with. :oops:
 

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...I am NOT a fan of mixing water chemistry additives directly in the tank of a Tanganyikan themed aquarium. To avoid any water chemistry swings in hardness or PH, the water is almost always carefully pre-mixed first in a separate reservoir, prior to addition into the aquarium...
Well, that's the conventional wisdom, and for sure it is the best and safest way to go. That said, I don't pre-mix my water changes because I just don't have the facilities to fuss with ~1000 gallons of water. Four-plus decades of keeping Tanganyikans, and it still works for me. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Be careful. The water chemistry of a Tanganyikan Lake aquarium approaches the level of a full marine/salt water aquarium. Black Water themed tanks are much more forgiving in maintenance and water chemistry management. Kept acidic in PH, with very soft water and consistently clean, the dissolved organics are nowhere near as toxic to the fish in a Black Water tank, because the PH is kept so low.
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And no - I am NOT a fan of mixing water chemistry additives directly in the tank of a Tanganyikan themed aquarium. To avoid any water chemistry swings in hardness or PH, the water is almost always carefully pre-mixed first in a separate reservoir, prior to addition into the aquarium (For my own 33 gallon 'long' tank, I utilized a plastic, 44 gallon Rubber Maid trash can for the chore with a Model 7 Mag Drive submersible pump/vinyl hose to transfer the pre-mixed water over). You are going to be assuming quite a bit of risk with just the single 100 gallon reservoir available to support this tank.
Certainly more risk than I would be personally be comfortable with. :oops:
I can understand the concern for perfect parameters always and in an ideal world I would definitely do as you advised. I have kept sps reef tanks for several years which are super demanding on parameters being stable. Here's my 180 gallon reef before i decommissioned it to move to a new place where I set up my current 600 gallon tank:

Purple Blue Plant Violet Underwater


In fact, I got the idea to dose macro nutrients directly into the tank from my reefing days. When keeping sps, there is significant depletion of calcium, magnesium, kH and trace elements from the coral growth. Kind of similar to what is being depleted from my ro water changes in a Tanganyikan tank. Reef hobbyists dose back what is being consumed via calcium reactors and dosing pumps to keep parameters stable as water changes cannot keep up with the depletion. I thought that since the reefers do this dosing method for almost exactly the same macro nutrients and the sensitive sps thrive, Tanganyikan fish should be similarly comfortable?

I also hear of many hobbyists who do water changes by draining the tank, filling it with tap water and simply dumping the buffer into the tank while filling and letting it dissolve via the flow from the filling water. Doesn't that create much more parameter instability on a weekly basis?

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your advice and again I would definitely follow it in an ideal world, but just throwing it out there that this might also be possible when I'm facing the constraints that I have outlined above?

Well, that's the conventional wisdom, and for sure it is the best and safest way to go. That said, I don't pre-mix my water changes because I just don't have the facilities to fuss with ~1000 gallons of water. Four-plus decades of keeping Tanganyikans, and it still works for me. :)
Do you do nutrients dosing in a similar manner to what I'm attempting?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
No, because the parameters don't change that much between water changes. But I'm not running a constant flow system.

Difficult to make out, but are you writing from Singapore? My partner spent most of her childhood there. 🦀
Oh wow small world! Indeed I am from Singapore, how did you tell?

When you mentioned you don't premix your water changes, did you mean you just fill the tank and put the buffer into the tank directly?
 

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Oh wow small world! Indeed I am from Singapore, how did you tell?

When you mentioned you don't premix your water changes, did you mean you just fill the tank and put the buffer into the tank directly?
I recognized the flag under your name. I sometimes fly the Singapore flag on my boat when my partner is aboard, and we enjoy Singapore Chili Crab (made with local Dungeness) often in Summer.

Yes, I'm probably going to get some grief for this here, but when I'm changing water, I just add the buffer/salts in small aliquots as the tank is filling, say about 10 gallons-worth at a time. Sometimes I add pre-dissolved concentrates, but the solid reagents are so soluble that they can be added directly, in which case I sprinkle them over the water surface. And with all the agitation from the incoming stream of water, mixing takes place very rapidly. I do think the sensitivity of Tanganyikan fishes is oft overstated.

Good luck with your project; the tank looks amazing, and I hope you'll post pics once it's up and running. :cool:
 
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