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Hello All,
I will be setting up my 29 gallon with a bunch of Saulosi or a combinations of Yellow labs and Demasoni (I know..29 gallon !! I will move to 55 once I have more space). A few questions on the substrate:
1. What substrate will be good to start with on a budget. Any suggestions on Pool filter sand? Where can I get them here?
2. How much (lb) I will need for a 29 gallon (30" X 12") tank for 2.5-3 inch substrate depth.
3. Will black substrate enhance the yellows and blues?
I live in Toronto, Canada ...

Thanks,
Souvik
 

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Pool filter sand can be purchased where you buy swimming pool and spa supplies. In the US we have chain stores for pool and spa like Leslies.

Please wait until you have the space for the 55G before you start a tank with Malawi. The 30" tank would be good for some of the Tanganyikans. If you cannot resist the Malawi avoid the labs and demasoni, go with the saulosi and plan to upgrade within 6 months.

There is a substrate calculator in the Cichlid-forum Library, but you need to fill the tank with rocks so there will not be much floor space left for substrate. Pool filter sand is sold in 50 pound bags so you will have enough for dozens of tanks with one bag.

I found a dark substrate tends to make brightly colored fish turn sooty. The fish changes his pigment as much as possible to blend in with the substrate. Also the blue barred fish are dark and may disappear against a dark background and/or substrate.
 

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When I started out with Mbuna I did Yellow labs and Demasoni in a 30" tank. It didn't work. Had 5 yellow labs which quickly became 1. Not certain on the ratio but at least 2 were female. The dominant Male shredded them all in short order, and ended up on his own. Had a group of 12 Demasoni, which "worked" to a certain degree, plenty of breeding but the fish didn't live very long nor get full sized before dying. For a while I had a cycle of fry growing up as adults died but eventually the m-f ratios failed and numbers soon decreased and if you don't have a decent sized group then your group quickly becomes one especially in a small tank. I wouldn't try it again.

I have had yellow labs in a few tanks with dark substrate and it works well, I think the Dems would have looked better on light substrate
 

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I get my pool filter sand at Canadian Tire. They sell it in 20lbs or 50lbs bags, and it's nice sand.

Agreed on the dark substrate - I've done both over the years, and I honestly prefer white. The fish still really pop (I make the banks of all my tanks black though, the contrast is nice).

I have a 40 long mbuna tank that I just ordered a group of saulosi for today. It has white pool filter sand and a black background.
 

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The fish that really illustrated the substrate issue for me were leleupi. I had them in a tank with black sand and decided to sell them because they were sooty and dull as they matured.

I netted them and put them in a holding tank overnight for convenient pickup by the new owner the next day. They went in sooty.

Next morning over the light substrate they were brilliant! Too late, sale was agreed-to.
 
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