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Hi all, please bear with me as I pour my sob story out and ask for your help and patience!

Over the past 4 months I have been learning more and more about keeping African Cichlids after a horrible experience with my local pet shop (yes I should have done more research, but I would expect the head fish keeper in my local shop with "20yrs experience" to give me the right advice and not sell me anything knowing there would be issues).

I walked into my local shop with the intent of starting my own community tank but had little to no prior knowledge on keeping (I am an experienced diver but have never kept fish). I spoke with the head fish keeper at the store and told him I was interested but didn't know where to start. He then proceeded to sell me two electric yellows, a blue peacock and a bristle nose on the spot in a 50L TANK (13 gallon)! He sold me a quick start up chemical kit, GRAVEL and food, but NO test kits of any kind. The tank came with a filter, thermometer and light. After losing my peacock quite quickly (within 48hrs of setting up the tank), I did a ton of reading and was absolutely horrified! I quickly drove down to my other local store and asked them if I could temporarily store my remaining fish with them until I got the tank up to the correct parameters. My other store have looked after me ever since, and I now have very happy fish that are due for a tank upgrade!

Now that I'm confident I understand their needs, I'd love to expand my community and create a setup that they'll love. I'm looking at something between 4-5ft in length and a capacity of between 300-500L. I'm interested in hearing about people's experiences with:

Filters for this size tank - what canister brands do you recommend (I'm in Australia)
Thermometers - digital vs. glass
Different substrates - sand vs. aragonite or larger coral gravel (I am currently adding cichlid trace and I currently have a gravel siphon but need to know if this will do or not)
Plants that do well in the alkaline pH
Cleaning a tank that size - how do you do your water changes (I'm currently getting away with siphoning mine out my bedroom window as we live rurally but I've never had experience with larger tanks)

Please be patience with me. I'm not planning on rushing into anything and I'd appreciate some good solid advice. Thanks guys!
 

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riana_jasmine said:
Hi all, please bear with me as I pour my sob story out and ask for your help and patience!

Over the past 4 months I have been learning more and more about keeping African Cichlids after a horrible experience with my local pet shop (yes I should have done more research, but I would expect the head fish keeper in my local shop with "20yrs experience" to give me the right advice and not sell me anything knowing there would be issues).

I walked into my local shop with the intent of starting my own community tank but had little to no prior knowledge on keeping (I am an experienced diver but have never kept fish). I spoke with the head fish keeper at the store and told him I was interested but didn't know where to start. He then proceeded to sell me two electric yellows, a blue peacock and a bristle nose on the spot in a 50L TANK (13 gallon)! He sold me a quick start up chemical kit, GRAVEL and food, but NO test kits of any kind. The tank came with a filter, thermometer and light. After losing my peacock quite quickly (within 48hrs of setting up the tank), I did a ton of reading and was absolutely horrified! I quickly drove down to my other local store and asked them if I could temporarily store my remaining fish with them until I got the tank up to the correct parameters. My other store have looked after me ever since, and I now have very happy fish that are due for a tank upgrade!

Now that I'm confident I understand their needs, I'd love to expand my community and create a setup that they'll love. I'm looking at something between 4-5ft in length and a capacity of between 300-500L. I'm interested in hearing about people's experiences with:

Filters for this size tank - what canister brands do you recommend (I'm in Australia)
Thermometers - digital vs. glass
Different substrates - sand vs. aragonite or larger coral gravel (I am currently adding cichlid trace and I currently have a gravel siphon but need to know if this will do or not)
Plants that do well in the alkaline pH
Cleaning a tank that size - how do you do your water changes (I'm currently getting away with siphoning mine out my bedroom window as we live rurally but I've never had experience with larger tanks)

Please be patience with me. I'm not planning on rushing into anything and I'd appreciate some good solid advice. Thanks guys!
For filters I really like a Mattenfilter. It is available in Germany, originating in the Hamburg area. It is also available in the USA. I don't know about Australia brands for Mattenfilters. With cichlids you sometimes have a fish that needs to be isolated, and by putting a Mattenfilter near one end of a tank, it sections off an area that can be used for isolation but with shared filtration and heating. For a canister filter I like a Fluval FX5 or FX6. Those are available in Australia. Digital thermometers wear out especially if the room light is strong. Glass breaks. You pick which is more tolerable to you. Sand does not need a gravel cleaner because food and waste rest on top. Some fish like shell dwelling cichlids need sand, but so far you have not picked any that need sand. I like the look of chunky marine gravels. You can see when to clean sand. But dirt hides under gravel so you have to depend on a maintenance schedule. So far all these things work for the fish. It's more about matching them to the likes of the aquarium keeper. Siphoning out the window to a lawn or flower garden works fine. You may find it is easier with a Python (brand) refilling system. Although it works both directions, it does waste good water when used to drain the tank. I use mine to refill the tanks, but rely on siphoning to empty.
 
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