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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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...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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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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Sounds like a great plan. On to the questions-

(1) You'll get different opinions here (ask me how I know), but yes, coral sand will help buffer (i. e. resist changes) your parameters between water changes. Personally, I use Aragonite substrate in all my tanks, which greatly increases their stability between water changes (I also use Seachem Cichlid Lake Salt and Tanganyika Buffer). Since you are doing daily dosing with bicarbonate, this may not be necessary, but the only argument I can see for not using Aragonite is that it's relatively expensive. I very much doubt that's an issue here.

(2) This is totally a matter of personal taste; I greatly prefer blue-ish illumination like marine tanks over the typical yellowish freshwater lights.

Good luck!

Purple Cabinetry Interior design Floor Shelving

 

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I answered this question yesterday in a different thread (75 Gallon Tropheus Setup), so I'm just going to plagiarize myself, below-

HistPhil13 said: ...Thoughts on mixing color variants if I go the colony route?...

"Bad idea. Very bad idea. They are not 'color variants,' they are geographically and genetically distinct populations that for the time being are grouped together as a single species. Irrespective of the taxonomy, hybridization between the different forms compromises their genetic integrity, and ultimately results in the loss of the distinct parental forms. This has been an issue with Tropheus for many years, for example, but so far serious hobbyists have been able to avoid genetic homogenization, the few man-made, 'line bred' strains (Kiriza Gold, Red Bishop, etc.) notwithstanding. Buy pure specimens from a reputable source, and avoid any sort of hybridization."


I had thought about the fact that you are unlikely to be raising and distributing fry from this setup, but that really doesn't change my opinion: I don't think we should be hybridizing natural populations. Here are my biases going into this highly personal view- (1) The first concern is scientific/philosophical. I am a geneticist, and have a high regard for the integrity of biological species (and populations) and their genetic heritage. I would never do anything to compromise that, irrespective of the ultimate fate of the hybrid progeny. (2) The second concern is aesthetic. I do not believe that 'maximum visual impact' is necessarily achieved by having a potpourri of fishes. Is a mixed colony of Cyprichromis leptostoma Utinta and C. leptostoma Mpimbwe more attractive than each colony individually? I don't think so, as pure colonies of each population are striking in and of themselves. Obviously, this is a highly personal view, but when I think back on all the really impessive tanks I've seen over the years, most of them had a limited number of species.
 

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In such a large tank, once established, my ultimate goal would be some of the larger, holy grail Tanganyikans that require a great deal of space, notably Cyathopharynx...

Water Fin Organism Underwater Fish

...and Benthochromis...

Water Fin Fish Terrestrial plant Marine biology

But these are sensitive and demanding fishes, and even with all your experience with reef tanks etc., it's probably best that you start out more gradually with Tanganyikans. That doesn't mean you can't have some stunning fishes. For sure, Cyprichromis, and if you can find them, a large (20+) school of Cyprichromis sp. 'leptostoma jumbo' Tri Color Black Bee would be stunning...

Water Fin Organism Mammal Underwater

There are so many options for the sand floor that it 's difficult to suggest anything in particular without knowing what your leanings are. So many choices!
 

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Wow those first 2 pictures you posted are amazing. I don't mind working up my way to them over time, but I would really love to have both species in my tank eventually! Can you share more about them please?

For the Cyprichromis, are they the same as the Cyprichromis leptosoma jumbo tricolor Mpimbwe I mentioned above? They look really similar but the ones at my lfs have a neon blue edge on their dorsal and anal fins.

Based on what I've mentioned above do you have any other suggestions for me?...
(1) Well, perhaps this is the time to make a couple of important points about your stocking plans. First, you can't mix Tanganyikans without carefully considering their behavioural requirements. Those two are really beautiful fishes, but their temperaments are so different that they are unlikely to coexist happily, even in a really large tank. These kinds of incompatibilities make it difficult to assemble a Tanganyikan 'community.' You need to decide which fishes interest you most, make a few choices, then build a community around them.

Second, I'm not sure how much help we can provide here, because most of us have no experience with such a large tank. Certainly I feel more than a bit uncomfortable generalizing from my own experiences, all of which have been with tanks one-quarter as large or less.

(2) There are tons of different Cyprichromis populations (see Distribution maps of Lake Tanganyika cichlids), and subtle difference are common, so you need to know their collection point to be sure. I have both Utinta and Mpimbwe, and both are beautiful.

(3) There are a number of tribe Ectodini fishes that occupy the mid-water column, most notably, the featherfins. There are also some mid-water Xeno's (e. g. X. spilopterus) and other lesser-known featherfins (e. g. Ectodus descampsi).


...sir_keith may have a recommendation on both the aragonite and the foai...which I was told would need the whole bottom...no calvus, no synodontis...
I use the basic Caribsea Aragonite in all my tanks; I have never tried any of the other versions.

Yes, C. foai will want the whole bottom of most tanks, but as I mentioned above, I have a feeling that many of our generalizations might be suspect in a 600g tank.
 

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...In terms of sand, are you able to tell which one you're using from this link: Marine Substrates - CaribSea. Even under aragonite sand they have different sizes. I am looking at the Fiji pink sand, as the Oolite is way too fine for my liking. Do you think sandsifters would do ok with that?

...In terms of species mix, as mentioned before I would really like a lively and vibrant tank... A friend of mine recommended that I just go with Frontosa, Altolamprologus and the Benthochromis tricoti and just stop at that. However, I am rather interested in the sandsifters, Cyprichromis, gobies and other fish like Julidochromis and maybe some single specimens of Neolamprologus. A large community basically...
The Aragonite I use is listed in the Freshwater section of the Caribsea website; the package looks like this-

World Font Wood Gas Landscape

I believe the nominal grain size is 1-2mm; you can get an idea of the grain size from this pic. This size is ideal for Tanganyikan sandsifters.

Organism Fin Marine invertebrates Fish Underwater


I had to chuckle at your friend's suggestion because if you are looking for a 'lively and vibrant tank,' the absolute last Tanganyikans I would choose would be frontosa, Alto's, or Bentho's, all of which are mellow and borderline lethargic. Frontosa's in particular are mopey in the extreme (they're popular because they get large), so no, I would not go in that direction.

One issue you have is that most Tanganyikans in the hobby are not large, but if you want some reasonably sized fishes that are active and interesting, by all means consider the featherfins (I may have held back on this suggestion earlier simply because they are my favourites.) The largest are Cyathopharynx, but their territorial demands are extreme, as you noted, so the best option might be Ophthalmotiapia. There are lots to consider, summarized here- Ophthalmotilapia

Amongst the Ophthalmotilapia, O. boops are the largest and most aggressive; most of these are black with blue streaks, and take a long time to color up. O. ventralis are somewhat less aggressive, but still plenty feisty, and this group includes some really lovely fishes, especially the various pale blue populations. O. nasuta are the least aggressive in the genus; I particularly like O. nasuta Kipili 'Gold' and Chimba 'Tiger.' I kept a breeding colony of 3m:5f wild-caught Kipili Gold's in a 125 for some years; here is a pic of one of the co-dominant males. This fish is 5-6"TL. I now have two F1 colonies from the original stock, and they are just as pretty.

Water Fin Organism Underwater Fish


Any of the featherfins could be centerpieces in your tank, but it's not just the fishes, it's also the nests. The males dig crater nests in the substrate, and if you leave enough open space, you will have several co-dominant males and their nests as centerpieces of your tank. Lively and vibrant? Absolutely. And to anticipate a question- no, I would not mix any of the Ophthalmotilapia.

Jumbo Cyps would be perfect for this tank, as mentioned previously. I'd skip the gobies, which just hide and/or sit on the bottom most of the time and can be nasty, as there are so many sand/mud bottom dwellers that are more interesting, e. g. Limnochromis or Triglochromis. I particularly like Triglochromis otostigma-

Vertebrate Water Organism Fish Fin

These beefy 5-6" fishes are biparental mouthbrooders, and dig long tunnels in the hard mud bottom to spawn in the lake. They can be quite the diggers in captivity (only at night, apparently), but this is usually confined to a small area. They are also able to swim forwards and backwards with equal ease (useful for backing out of a narrow tunnel), which is quite entertaining.

So, more food for thought...
 

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(1) Well, if you're jumping right into Cyathopharxnx, there's a reasonably good summary on this board (Cyathopharynx furcifer). They all handle similarly as far as I know, so which population you chose would be a combination of what you like and what's available. I would suggest that you spend some time online looking at people's fishes, not so much the pics, but the videos, which show them in more realistic color; there are many really stunning forms. I'd guess (and it is a guess) that 3 males and 6+ females would be a conservative goal for your tank.

(2) Cyps and Paracyps don't mix well, and Paracyps are not good dither fish. The Paracyps are not open water fishes; they are shy and like to hang out in close proximity to rock caves, and Cyps make them nervous. So this won't work.

Different Cyp species will hybridize in captivity, so the safe bet is a large school of a single population.

(3) Xenotilapia nigrolabiata Red Princess is a Holy Grail Xeno, so good luck finding them. I've never been lucky enough to keep these beautiful fishes, so I can't say anything about them.

Enantiopus kilesa are good tankmates for the smaller featherfins, but I do not know how they'd fare with Cyanthopharynx. Ordinarily I'd say give it a try, but do you really want to be netting fishes out a a 4-foot deep tank with regularity if it doesn't work out? I will point out that this plan might be considerably less dicey with Ophthalmotilapia rather than Cyanthopharynx.

(4) A few Alto's and/or Julies sprinkled around the tank might work just fine, but I have never kept these with either featherfins or Xeno's.

One final note, if you're going to keep featherfins in this tank, and especially if you're going to keep Cyanthopharynx, 200 pounds of sand won't be nearly enough substrate once they start nest building. Search YouTube for 'Cyanthopharynx spawning' to see the elaborate nests you can expect.

Good luck! (y)
 

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One or two featherfin nests will leave you with large areas of bare bottom if you start out with a 1" layer; I'd go with at least twice that amount. Given enough substrate, the featherfin nests will be so deep that you can't even see the fishes inside them. There are lots of YouTube videos showing this.

This is an apples to oranges comparison, but the two lower tanks in the pic below both started out with ~1" of substrate, and the one on the right has been rearranged by a single half-grown (~3") pair of Triglachromis otostigma. When they were finished, the 'pyramid' was twice this height, and there just wasn't any more gravel to move.

Plant Light Purple Rectangle Organism
 

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...After taking all your advice into account, this is what I think my final stocklist will be...
  • Cyathopharynx foai Sibwesa / furcifer Resha x9 (3m 6f)
  • Cyprichromis leptosoma jumbo tricolor Mpimbwe x25
  • Synodontis granulosa x6
  • Altolamprologus compressiceps Mandarin (What's the recommended number and sex ratio?)
  • Enantiopus melanogenys Kilesa (What's the recommended number and sex ratio?)
  • Xenotilapia nigrolabiata Red Princess (What's the recommended number and sex ratio?

(1) On the Cyanthopharynx, you can't go wrong either way. By all means go with captive bred specimens if they are available.

(2) Excellent; that should be a lovely school of fishes. I'll look forward to seeing a Cyp colony with that much space.

(3) I'd skip the Synodontis altogether (see below).

(4) I've never kept Altos with any of these fishes except the Cyps, so don't have an informed opinion here.

(5) E. kilesa- Super social fishes with highly ritualized intraspecific aggression. You'll want at least 12, and double that number wouldn't be too many. Sex ratio doesn't matter.

(6) X. nigrolabiata- Lucky you to be able to get these. I have never been able to acquire them, so have no firsthand knowledge.

...I'd like to hear from sir_keith on your behalf about the combo of the Synodontis with those bottom dwellers you are currently planning. I am surprised they will be happy together...
They won't be happy together; the best that could be hoped for is uneasy coexistence. I would never keep catfish with my Tanganyikan sand-dwellers.
 

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I'd get everything right before adding any fishes, and then endeavor to keep the water chemistry constant, as stability is the key. I endeavor to keep my tanks at 10-15 dGH and dKH at pH 8.8-9.0.
 

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You're right: those hardness parameters are fine, and if I had an established tank I wouldn't fuss with them. That said, when starting fresh I like to be in the middle of the 'acceptable' range, so as to have some leeway. As far as pH is concerned, it is definitely my impression that tribe Ectodini Tanganyikans are much happier at pH9 than pH8.

I am keeping Triglachromis with Ophthalmotilapia and Xenotilapia, respectively, with no issues, but the Trigs are only half grown. I have kept adult WC Trigs in the past, and they don't seem to occupy all that much space on the bottom, but we shall see.

I believe the fish in the pic (not mine) is C.foai Sibwesa.
 

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Is very possible, perhaps even likely, that the pic I posted is C. furcifer Resha/Magara. So many of the featherfin populations are similar.

Two suggestions. (1) You will need more E. kilesa. These are highly social fishes, both in the wild and in captivity, and IME they do best in groups of 12 or more. (2) Callochromis macrops are super aggressive, and the Cyanthopharx need to be the dominant fishes in the tank. These two things are incompatible.

Good luck!
 
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