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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Most articles about setting up a cichlid tank recommend creating "a lot of caves." But when I browse pictures of cichlid tanks, I see a lot of rockscapes that don't really meet the definition of "caves." For example, the tank below is beautiful, but it does'nt have a single "cave" as far as I can see. The aquarium gallery is full of pictures of cave-less tanks like this one. So, for mbuna, how important is it to have actual caves? Or, is it good enough just to have rocks without caves?

rock2.jpg
 

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The fish use the crevices between the rocks throughout the rockpile as caves. The caves that are constructed with walls and a roof by hobbyists don't look natural and may not be confined enough to be the ones chosen by your males.

That said, the tank above looks like a hap and/or peacock tank. Lots of swimming area. Mbuna would like more rocks to create more cave options between rocks. Think in terms of breaking the sightline of the male on the substrate. Walls are more important than the roof. But the pile of rocks on top of the first layer creates hiding places and swim-throughs for the females to escape male pursuit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Think in terms of breaking the sightline of the male on the substrate. Walls are more important than the roof.
OK, I see what you mean. Thanks!
 

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What DJ said. The tank you've pictured is beautiful, but it's what I would use for my haps and peacocks, never mbuna. My mbuna tank is about 75% rock work, end to end, bottom to about 3/4 of the way to the top.
 

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Ahhh well..... the picture thing?



Does this one say, at least a FEW words?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks! Since we're on the topic of rocks, I have a few more questions:

It looks like a lot of people use lava rock, lace rock, and other kinds of rocks that are very coarse and jagged. Aren't smooth rocks safer for the fish? What type of rock is best? And where can I get my hands on a large quantity of it in various sizes?
 

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I am one who likes the smooth rocks better, but lots of people like lava rocks. Go to a landscape supplier for large quantity in large enough sizes.
 

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I use Feather Rock in my 220G tank and bought it locally 10+ years ago. Unfortunately the place went out of business.

The disadvantage to using it is that it floats when dry so needs to either be boiled or heated in the oven (smelly) and then immediately submerged in water until it cools. It is rather sharp to handle but I haven't seen any injuries on any fish.

I agree either try a landscape supply company or see if there is stone yard that sells rocks near you.
 

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I stack with those big and gnarly pieces of Mountain Lace Rock (MLR) in my tanks. And yes, it is a bit coarse. But, not excessively so. And, I've never had a fish roughed up by getting slammed or rushing into MLR.
The lava rock is similar to MLR, but there are a couple things specific about it to be aware of.
1) It's really dusty and dirty! Scrub pieces with a stiff nylon brush and blast freely with a garden hose to rinse thoroughly before placing pieces of it in your aquarium. Plus, its hard to find big pieces of the softer, red-looking stuff.
2) The larger-sized dark grey or black lava rock pieces often sold in garden centers or plant nurseries, are some seriously nasty pieces of work! I wouldn't pick any up without work gloves on. Seriously, we're talking 20 grit levels of abrasiveness here! Those things are most definitely NOT recommended for placing in your aquarium.
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Another thing you could consider is this stuff called 'Texas Holey Rock'. Its a bit pricey to purchase the big pieces ($$$). But, they're really nice looking rocks, and just beautiful when built up in a pile. 8)
 

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Smeagol said:
Thanks! Since we're on the topic of rocks, I have a few more questions:

It looks like a lot of people use lava rock, lace rock, and other kinds of rocks that are very coarse and jagged. Aren't smooth rocks safer for the fish? What type of rock is best? And where can I get my hands on a large quantity of it in various sizes?
I bought mainly Florida rocks and they have, in my opinion, two main advantages. First, they help buffer PH and second, they are easy to stack because the rough (but not too rough for the fish) edges allow them to hold in place. If they were very smooth (I have one of those) I wouldn't feel as confident they wouldn't fall.

I'm a cichlid newbie and that's my limited experience.
 

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Personally, I don't like lava rock myself. I've never used it. My rocks always come from nature - I live in a place where we have more natural environment than city, and lakes and rivers everywhere. When I need rocks, I go for a walk ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Keeping in mind the species I hope to keep (acei, yellow labs, maingano), is there a minimum size for caves? Obviously, I'll try to create various sizes of caves, crevices, nooks, crannies, whatever you want to call them.... But just as a point of curiosity.... once they are grown, how big of a cave opening do these fish require? The species profiles only show the maximum length, not the maximum height, of a species. Seems like the height of a species would be useful info when it comes to providing caves. For that matter, do mbuna ever get themselves stuck by trying to squeeze into a hole that's too small for them?
 

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I have never had a fish get stuck in rocks...a conch type shell is another story.

To get an idea of a good height, I have terra cotta plant saucers with slate tiles on top and I swear a dozen full grown mbuna and Synodontis fit in there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
DJRansome said:
I have never had a fish get stuck in rocks...a conch type shell is another story.

To get an idea of a good height, I have terra cotta plant saucers with slate tiles on top and I swear a dozen full grown mbuna and Synodontis fit in there.
Whaaaa? How do they get in saucers if the saucers are covered with slate tiles? And I've seen terracotta saucers from 2" to 20" -- which size are you talking about?
 

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I do use the lava rocks. A few major reasons. My wife wanted black rocks, I needed a lot of them, and they are free. The kids and I took a trip and collected maybe 700 pounds this summer from the top of the Oregon Cascades. They are the sharp black basalt rocks. I was concerned about them being sharp, so I did sandblast them to take the edges off and clean them up. I have not had a fish injure themselves on the rocks. Turned out to be a fun trip and free rocks. Still working on that main tank. Right now the rocks are spread around quarantine tanks and the garage and the side yard and the back yard....and the living room. It was a lot of rocks. I'll post pictures in a month or so if anyone is interested.

As for fish getting stuck in them - I did, and we still can't really believe it. I came home with six chindongo saulosi, but in the morning, there were only 5 in the tank visible. Fearing the worst, we began the tear-down. We got to the last rock, which was sitting on the glass directly, and when we lifted it, she popped right out and swam around the tank like "that was weird." She's been perfectly fine since.
 

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Smeagol said:
DJRansome said:
I have never had a fish get stuck in rocks...a conch type shell is another story.

To get an idea of a good height, I have terra cotta plant saucers with slate tiles on top and I swear a dozen full grown mbuna and Synodontis fit in there.
Whaaaa? How do they get in saucers if the saucers are covered with slate tiles? And I've seen terracotta saucers from 2" to 20" -- which size are you talking about?
They are about 6" in diameter and the tiles are 4x4. The corners sit on the edge and there are gaps between the straight tile and the curved saucer. My point that they like tight places.

At one time I was stacking my rock piles on top of the saucer/tile construction...it gave me a solid base, some height and more caves.
 

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SenorStrum said:
I do use the lava rocks. A few major reasons. My wife wanted black rocks, I needed a lot of them, and they are free. The kids and I took a trip and collected maybe 700 pounds this summer from the top of the Oregon Cascades. They are the sharp black basalt rocks. I was concerned about them being sharp, so I did sandblast them to take the edges off and clean them up. I have not had a fish injure themselves on the rocks. Turned out to be a fun trip and free rocks. Still working on that main tank. Right now the rocks are spread around quarantine tanks and the garage and the side yard and the back yard....and the living room. It was a lot of rocks. I'll post pictures in a month or so if anyone is interested.

As for fish getting stuck in them - I did, and we still can't really believe it. I came home with six chindongo saulosi, but in the morning, there were only 5 in the tank visible. Fearing the worst, we began the tear-down. We got to the last rock, which was sitting on the glass directly, and when we lifted it, she popped right out and swam around the tank like "that was weird." She's been perfectly fine since.
I'm interested. Please do post the pics when ready. Thank you.

Regards,
Stu
 
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