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Well then.....
Now THIS, is something that comes up on Cichlid-forum quite a lot,
I would think that many tens of small 4-6 inch fish would just make the tank look messy and not that nice. After all, unlike smaller tanks my tank isn't really designed to be enjoyed by examining the fish up close but instead by sitting back and enjoying it as a large scene collectively.
Best answer? Trust your instincts on this. Because even though a 600 gallon tank DOES change things a bit in the usual games we play as aquarists in stocking schemes with balancing aggression and other problems... compared to the wild - nature itself - your aquarium is actually very small. This same problem comes up just as often in larger, New World stocking schemes. My advice is always,
LESS, IS MORE.
It may help to think of this situation as a bit like art. Where FOCUS on intentional things, can reveal the actual masterpiece within. Let's use some imagination to help out here!
And so, place yourself in the water column of that big African Rift Lake. Somewhere above a clear sandy bottom, near a rocky escarpment (invisible to the life forms around you). A look around would reveal that this little place you have found yourself is NOT densely populated. Fish just swimming and crawling 'willy-nilly' everywhere.
Nope.
But, your attention might be directed at that flash of light and color above the open expanse of sandy bottom.
Featherfin Cichlids!
Impossible to resist - those Cichlids (esp. the displaying males), are eye magnets!
Good: NOW you have established the centerpiece species for your tank. Stock lavishly with them!
And, making your stars that much more visually compelling in the mid to upper levels of the water column, are the 'supporting cast'. Dancing and weaving (warily) about amongst those Featherfin, 'Rock Stars' is the Cypichromis, 'supporting cast'. Smaller and brightly colored - they do not disappoint.
-
Looking for details now... your eye will inevitably be drawn to the rocky escarpment. Think small, shy and wary. There are no loudmouth Cichlid clowns or bullies here! You'll see a hint of movement, a possible flash of design and muted color - and that is IT.
The REAL SHOW of your 600 gallon tank should always be about those oh-so-impressive Featherfin Cichlids.
I personally believe that diluting from that focus (as in all larger tanks, where more numbers of the same species are needed - NOT more species), will diminish your aquarium. Cause it to lose focus, and be less visually comprehensible to the viewer.
Go with and emphasize the visual power (represented by the Featherfin Cichlids in this case), and the tank will benefit as a result. :cool:
 
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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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@sir_keith : still admiring that picture you posted up of the Cyathopharynx furcifer. Always been my favorite looking Tanganyikan Cichlid. And, at over 8 inches in adult-sized length? Whew! That rather dramatic Featherfin species is really something else! :oops:
 

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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
Well then.....
Now THIS, is something that comes up on Cichlid-forum quite a lot,

Best answer? Trust your instincts on this. Because even though a 600 gallon tank DOES change things a bit in the usual games we play as aquarists in stocking schemes with balancing aggression and other problems... compared to the wild - nature itself - your aquarium is actually very small. This same problem comes up just as often in larger, New World stocking schemes. My advice is always,
LESS, IS MORE.
It may help to think of this situation as a bit like art. Where FOCUS on intentional things, can reveal the actual masterpiece within. Let's use some imagination to help out here!
And so, place yourself in the water column of that big African Rift Lake. Somewhere above a clear sandy bottom, near a rocky escarpment (invisible to the life forms around you). A look around would reveal that this little place you have found yourself is NOT densely populated. Fish just swimming and crawling 'willy-nilly' everywhere.
Nope.
But, your attention might be directed at that flash of light and color above the open expanse of sandy bottom.
Featherfin Cichlids!
Impossible to resist - those Cichlids (esp. the displaying males), are eye magnets!
Good: NOW you have established the centerpiece species for your tank. Stock lavishly with them!
And, making your stars that much more visually compelling in the mid to upper levels of the water column, are the 'supporting cast'. Dancing and weaving (warily) about amongst those Featherfin, 'Rock Stars' is the Cypichromis, 'supporting cast'. Smaller and brightly colored - they do not disappoint.
-
Looking for details now... your eye will inevitably be drawn to the rocky escarpment. Think small, shy and wary. There are no loudmouth Cichlid clowns or bullies here! You'll see a hint of movement, a possible flash of design and muted color - and that is IT.
The REAL SHOW of your 600 gallon tank should always be about those oh-so-impressive Featherfin Cichlids.
I personally believe that diluting from that focus (as in all larger tanks, where more numbers of the same species are needed - NOT more species), will diminish your aquarium. Cause it to lose focus, and be less visually comprehensible to the viewer.
Go with and emphasize the visual power (represented by the Featherfin Cichlids in this case), and the tank will benefit as a result. :cool:
This is a vivid picture that you have painted and it appears beautiful in my mind! You, sir, have a way with words! I will attempt to have the featherfins as the focus fish in my tank!

The Aragonite I use is listed in the Freshwater section of the Caribsea website; the package looks like this-


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.


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.



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-


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...
Thank you for the information about the sand! I have decided to go with the Caribsea Fiji Pink sand (0.5-1.5mm) as it's not possible for me to get the cichlid sands here locally. Getting marine live sand helps me avoid having to wash 200lbs of sand as well since it comes prewashed.

For stocking the tank, I'm wondering if the following species mix would work out. Exact numbers of each to be determined.

Feature fish
  • Cyathopharynx furcifer/foai
Which locality variants would be recommended? Based on pictures from the distribution website and what was available last month from the supplier, I was looking at the Malago variant of furcifer, but I note that foai isn't listed on the distribution website so I'm not sure what is what.

Dither fish
  • Cyprichromis sp. leptosoma jumbo
  • Paracyprichromis nigripinnis
If possible I would like to have 2 distinctive types of dither fish dancing around the upper reaches of the tank. Without mixing species, I am hoping keeping fish from 2 different genus would work out. Or would different species of Cyprichromis work as well? I can keep leptosoma jumbo with zonatus perhaps? For the leptosoma jumbo, my supplier has the tricolor Mpimbwe in stock now, but they look more like the picture of black bee that you posted rather than the Mpimbwe picture on the distribution website. They are farm bred, so probably easier to get a large school than wildcaught ones.

Sandsifters
  • Enantiopus melanogenys Kilesa
  • Xenotilapia nigrolabiata Red Princess
I really love the patterns and colours on these 2 variants of sandsifters so I really hope to be able to keep them.

Others
  • Altolamprologus compressiceps
  • Julidochromis dickfeldi Midnight Blue/ marlieri Kasanga
I really like the bright orange forms of Altolamprologus compressiceps like the Kugungu variant, but may have to settle for the Mandarin variant instead that doesn't have the blue lips and pearl like spots on the fins. The blue forms of Julidochromis are also very attractive to me. These fish would likely stay near the rock clusters and the Altolamprologus would aid in fry control since as I mentioned earlier I am not into breeding these fish and raising fry as this is a display tank.
 

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A range like that will make it difficult to siphon and may cause a problem with your filters sucking up the fine sand and grinding the impellers.

I will leave the stock feedback to sir_keith as he has kept more of these fish than I. Seems like the foai and the cyps would fill the tank.
 
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