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Hi guys/gals, I'm new to the forum here but thought I would run a few questions by you all. I've been more into the marine side of aquaria for the last 10 years or so but I'm quitting that side of the world and migrating my 210 gallon tank (7ft x 2ft x 2ft) into a Malawi cichlid tank in the next couple of weeks. I've found a new owner for all of my angels and big 12" Niger trigger, so they will be well taken care of in the future :)

Mainly questions are focused and geared toward Nitrates (NO3) before I even get started. My main filtration on this tank on the marine side for over 3 successful years was 80% all skimmer (no carbon, nothing, nada) and 20% refugium (macro algae in Mudd filters) because I learned the hard way that canisters were not for saltwater because they were nitrate factories, and I saw that first hand. Is this different in the freshwater world?

I'll be using most of my existing equipment I have been running, and some stored in closets for years. (2) Amiracle Mudd Filters (Medium sized), basically one for each overflow and both connected via 1" PVC bulkhead for equal water levels. I had bought 2 of these 4 years ago because I got them on clearance for about $70 each with everything included, lol. They work great, and I'll be replacing the live sand in there of course, with Eco-Complete plant substrate to grow freshwater grass-type plants and other stuff that will not grow high. Some idea of nitrate export anyway....

With a huge ASM G5 skimmer, that's about all I needed, but now with the skimmer gone, I'm scratching my head as to what to really filter this tank with. From previous years (back in my Mega-NO3 days) I have a Eheim 2229 (or 2227, can't remember) wet/dry canister that's full of Eheim's pro-substrate media, Fluval 404 canister, and I think I even have a couple of Emperor 400 filters some where lying around. The more reading I've done though tonight, it seems as long as I keep the pre-filter sponge clean (3x a week) the Eheim should not be that dirty inside and should only need cleaning about once a month, and shouldn't become a NO3 factory??? I have a shower stall in my basement, so water changes are not a problem, but would love to have a plan for 30% water change every 2 weeks and maintain a nice "easy street" NO3 level for my Malawis? (10ppm, maybe, experts weigh in ???)

I currently do about 50%-60% water change weekly in my 46-gallon bowfront that has my baby Malawis in there right now..and that tank stays about 2-5 ppm now, but only has a Emperor 280 hang-on filter on the tank..more info on those guys later.....

Water circulation...whoa marine side of life for the tank is Tunze Turbelle stream pumps at each end of the 7-foot tank. I'm definitely pulling one out since I don't want my Malawis feeling like they are in a hurricane, lol. Even though Tunze's are not forceful and provide gentle currents :) The return pump on the marine system currently is an Iwaki MD-55RLT, and I'm debating keeping that, or putting my original Mag7 pumps back in each of the amiracle sumps.

Lighting...well the 6-foot, 3x250w 14k halides are definitely coming off to save money on my electric bill, lol. Probably will go back to old-school, all-glass triple tube lights...gearing towards the 50/50 and 420 actinics since they make my exisiting Malawis in my 46 gallon look so pretty.

The substrate in the tank will be Eco-Complete Cichlid gravel and maybe a little bit of natural gravel...probably about 75/25 ratio of the live Eco stuff. The tank will be 'cycled' initially with a Red Empress adult male (about 5 inches) and 2 beautiful male peacocks (about 3.5 inches, think they are called H-stripes???) that my local LFS is holding for me. I chose these because they are supposedly a little more laid back, and they shouldn't just 'attack' my smaller guys that are waiting in the 46-gallon bowfront once the big tank is cycled and ready. for those existing Malawis in that 46g tank. A 3.5 inch male Borleyai? (definitely the Alpha boss right now), a 2.5 inch electric blue (2nd in command), 2 red zebras, and a 2.5 inch Venustus Nimbo (definitely want another one of him..pretty guy)

Also have a 10 gallon tank with smaller guys: a 1 inch OB peacock, and (3) 1-inch golden labs.
I keep all water in those cichlid tanks at 78F, PH 8.3 with Seachems Malawi buffer.

Ok guys...give me some pointers on the kinda see what animals will be growing in there...and I have a lot of space. Kinda leaning towards using the Eheim as major bio filter, and using something S-I-M-P-L-E for mechanical like hang-ons; since I will be letting refugium work do some filtering as well with whatever plants I can grow in those Amiracle filters...

Is the Venustus Nimbo that I have pretty safe for temperament as far as cichlids go? I've seen pics of Nimbo Fusco...that no one ever has in stock..but I figure that might be for a reason? Meaning he's a pretty mean ******* when he grows up?

Thanks for any info guys/gals...

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I have the same size 210 that you have. I use a fluval fx5, a emp 400 and a w/d sump using the overflows at each end. My ammonia is 0, nitrites 0, and nitrates about 5-10. Change the emp cart about once amonth, have only had the fx5 for about a month--checked it and didn't need cleaning yet. The w/d runs itself other than a filter pad in the drip tray that I change about once amonth. The difference is I have ca/sa cichlids, Oscars (which are PIGS), Jaguar cichlid, Midas and Frontosa. I don't know much about africans in general so I don't know if my setup is the best for them, but it works for me.
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