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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This thread will provide a short history of this tank as well as serve as a before and after thread of the remake along with lots of pics.

This tank has been set up since 2008. Originally it was to be a hap tank. In the end it housed haps , peacocks and other smaller Africans. I've hated this tank from day one since being finished. I never liked the decor , the rock, or the final fish that i chose. Although it has housed some beautiful fish in the past, the tank as a whole has never given me any joy. Hence the decision to re-do it. I have already started the process to change it to a "mostly" Central American tank. I say "mostly" because there's no telling what I will end up with as I'm not a stickler on correct bio-type tanks. But for this one, my goal is to stay as close as possible to centrals.

When I acquired the tank in In 2008, i did a refinish of the stand from pine to black. That can be found here: viewtopic.php?f=30&t=176698

I got this tank off of Craigslist. With the intent to purchase it, i ended up getting it for free! Here's the story : viewtopic.php?p=1179337&highlight=#1179337

I purchased 430 lbs of rock for this tank back in 2008. I've heard it referred to as "zebra rock". I don't know why, but I've hated this rock from day one. It's nice heavy rock, good for building larger structures, it's just the overall color that i don't like. Unlike the norm, I tend to dislike tanks that have all matching rockwork, so I know that serves as a large part of my dissatisfaction with this tank. A couple of these rocks are 60-65 lbs each. I'm not looking forward to removing them :roll:

The substrate is 100 lbs of Black 3M Color-quartz T grade.

This is what the tank looked like back in 2008. It has remained unchanged until the last 6 weeks. I will post more later.

 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Iggy Newcastle said:
Kinda funny that this was one of your responses after scoring a free tank back in 08....

can't go wrong with some monster central americans.
:popcorn:
As I was reading my old posts, I saw that and I thought the same exact thing :lol:
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Current stock list:

1- 9" adult vieja synspilum
1- 7.5" adult vieja synspilum
2- 5" young adult vieja synspilum
3- 3" Hypsophrys Nicaraguansis
3- 4" RotKeil Severums
1- 7" Blue Acara
1- 8" synodontis ocellatus
2- 3" albino bush nose

My thoughts on my stock list so far:

The acara will probably go. No color on it, not exciting me. Probably why I got him, so cheap at auction.

I really want to add a 8" Hypselecara temporalis (chocolate) cichlid that I have in another tank. He's pretty laid back. Any thoughts on adding him after the decor change? I want him in this tank badly. So far there's isn't much aggression at all. The large syns seem laid back so far also. I don't know if I have a male and female or not. Any thoughts? Below is a good pic of the larger supposed male syn and a not so great pic of the smaller supposed female syn. If adding the chocolate is a really bad idea, I may set him up in a tank in my living room with some smaller colorful community fish.

As the smaller synspilum mature, I realize I may have issues. I will thin them to 2 if need be. They are from different blood lines so I wanted to see how they all color up.

I'd like one more single Vieja specimen, possible or not in a 180? I'm thinking I should rule out Argentea .... I read they can be more on the nasty side? Thoughts?

I'd like to add a single Red Spot Severum to add some bright color.

Although African, my synodontis will stay. He was really pissed at the Syns for awhile because they were invading his cave. He started running the entire tank. It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen. In the past he came out to eat in the evening and for the most part I never saw him again until the next evening. I never would have though that behavior out of him. But all has calmed down now.

Below are more pics. Some good, some not so good. Please advise on sex of any of the fish in the pics, I have no experience in sexing these species. The full shot tank pic is how the tanks looks as of today. Some of the zebra rock has been removed.

pic 1- Full tank shot
pic 2 - The largest syn. possible male?
pic 3 - Hypsophrys Nicaraguansis showing a little color
pic 4 - The largest syn and one of the smaller 5" syn behind him
pic 5 - The possible large female syn
pic 6 - Rotkeil Severum
pic 7 - Chocolate
pic 8 - smaller 5" syn

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I'd throw the chocolate in and see how it goes.. If the sevs are doing alright I don't for see any problems with the chocolate, unless for some reason it becomes targeted by the syns.

As for sexing the fish.. vieja are often tough to visually sex. I'd say check their vents. If you see something pointy sticking out occasionally (when they are excited or have a stomach full of food) it's most likely a male.
pic #3 -- 100% male Nic
pic #6 -- Looks to be a female Sev as it has no facial worming..

You may be ok to add another species of Vieja, but you will definitely want to narrow down the number of syns as they grow. You could also run into problems if two pair up and decide to spawn..
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
One thing I like about this "re-work" was the price. Most of the wood was collected from the beaches of Lake erie, and I had one nice piece left from a tank I acquired a few years ago- ALL FREE. The rocks were collected from a nearby river - FREE. The plants are from the craft store- 15.00. Slate used to anchor the wood is from Home Depot. I struck a deal for the broken pcs, total cost of slate was about 3.00. Stainless screws- 6.00, but I have plenty left for future projects.

Here are some pics of raw materials I started out with:







 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Here's the tank after the makeover yesterday. The entire makeover was done with fish remaining in the tank and with the heater and the FX5 running on low almost the entire time. It took me 8 hours to complete. A large portion of that was spent getting the slate mounted to the driftwood properly so that it would sit right in the tank. Which included a trip to the hardware store for a masonary bit that I thought I had but did not ;) The large piece has a full piece of tile on the left bottom under the substrate. The right portion at the top is tucked under the trim and I drilled a hole through the trim to mount a single stainless screw through it to keep it in place.

One thing you may notice right off the bat is the substrate change. Before, the tank had an all black substrate (3M T-Grade Colorquartz). I wanted to lighten it up a bit and give it a two tone color. Since they don't make Colorquartz any longer I purchased 50 lbs of white Estes PermaColor Trowel-Rite. I had planned on adding the entire 50 lbs, making the substrate a 2 part black to 1 part white mix. But in the end, I only needed about 10 lbs of the white to get the result you see here. I've had thoughts of adding a small crushed shell mix to make it more textured and similar to some of the cichlid mixes you see at LFS's. But I'm quite happy with it at the moment as it is.

The large piece of driftwood in my previous post above was about 92" long. I cut it down to around 70" . I thought at first there was no way i could get it in the tank in one long piece since there are 2 center braces and I only have roughly 2 1/2 feet on one side of the tank and 2 ft on the other but much to my surprise I was able to slide it with no issues. As of now the tank has 3 pcs of wood. The large piece all the way across the tank. One piece on the upper left that is floating on top. And a smaller forked piece middle right. You can't see it in the pic due to the sand level, but the piece is forked and the bottom extends out almost as far as the top fork.

The plants turned out ok. The one on the right was supposed to hang down in the tank more and create shadows in that corner. I moved the heater to the right corner also to help hide it amongst the shadows. I think I read somewhere you can dip plastic plants in hot water and then they will sink. I have to check into this. One way or another I will work on the plants a little. In the future I plan on painting my filter intakes black. I think once more shadows are added they will disappear with black paint. The plant and wood in the top right hide the FX5 output very nicely.

I'm not happy with the lighting and never have been. This tank just has the 2 single T5 bulbs in it. I tried my 50/50 light on this tank, as happy as i am with it on my african tank, it looks like terrible on this tank. But the lighting on this tank just looks too "white" and a little too bright for me. I have the feeling LEd may be what i'm looking for, but at the moment I have zero budget to spend on new lighting. So for now this lighting has to stay. I may try is a different spectrum bulb for now.

I added my large chocolate cichlid in the tank once the makeover was complete. Since all the fish were caught off guard of the aquascape being changed I knew it was prime time to add another fish. So far it worked out even better than I had hoped. With the makeover and addition of another larger fish. The tank has become much more active. The larger syns were quite bashful and a little skittish. Often retreating when I approached the tank for feeding. Now they are coming to the front of the tank and even swimming in the middle and sometimes top part of the tank. The personality of the chocolate has changed dramatically also since he's in a large tank now. Even the 2 pleco's are all over the place loving the wood. The severums love utilizing the top portion of the tank and hanging near the plants and overhanging wood. The last two weeks prior to the makeover I've had 2 pcs of wood floating in the tank and right away I noticed it made the fish feel more secure with something on top of the water. Much like adding rock work to the top of the tank for africans. As you can also see in the pics the smaller syns have been flaring up at each other a bit. they have been doing this for the past 2 weeks even before the makeover. They aren't fighting, but i know the biggest thing I have to keep an eye on are the 4 Syns in this tank. I may only end up with the 2 larger ones down the road. They seem very chill! But the colors on the 2 smaller ones have really brightened up and changed.

For the first time since I've owned it, I can say that i LOVE this tank! :dancing:

Let me know your thoughts.















 

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Night and day transformation! =D> Setup looks 100% better, great job. Driftwood and plants look good, as well as the fish! Only thing I can't say I am fond of is the substrate but hey, just my opinion.. and you know what they say about those. :roll:

Great to hear your fish are feeling more comfortable in their new surroundings as well. It's a wonder what a scape can do in terms of bringing out a fish's true behavior, personality, and even looks!

Those young syns are looking awesome! :thumb:
 

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CjCichlid said:
I've always gotten mine from Hobby Lobby or Micheal's.. often times they have weeks where the plants will be 50% off so be sure to check when the sales are!
I don't have a Michael's near me, but I stop by Hobby Lobby occasionally and have yet to see plants like those above. :-?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for the compliments.

Mine came from "Pat Catans". This was one plant that was 6 ft long. It was designed to hang width wise. It's long enough that it could hang from the back of the tank, the entire width of the tank. They had them hanging vertically in the store. I cut it into pcs for the tank. Price was, it was not as cheap as most pay. But it was really long, so I still have a lot left. There's no wire in it.
 

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Nice I like the new much better than the old! (not sold on the sand tho)..

Meh.. mine is a long way from looking so nice.. added 2nd coat of paint on the back tonight...
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
FedEXguy said:
Never heard of Pat Catans, so I'm going to have to be on the lookout for a similar plant, I like it.
"Garland" was the word I was looking for to describe the plant earlier but i couldn't think of it. That's why it was so long. I found this video of a guy using some just like it, but a different kind of plant. It will give you an idea of what to look for. Someone posted a pic of a tank with a single plant in the middle that looked similar to what i have. I think it was a Marineland bamboo plant. I think I asked him what kind it was, if you check my posts you will probably find it.

Apparently the guy in this vid bought it for a buck a foot, which is less than half of what I paid. I was impatient and didn't shop around though.

 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
skurj said:
Nice I like the new much better than the old! (not sold on the sand tho)..

Meh.. mine is a long way from looking so nice.. added 2nd coat of paint on the back tonight...
Good luck. I'm excited to watch your thread also. You're on your way! As you've discovered having the tank in your possession is a huge start :thumb:

Yeah I knew, all you "purists" would comment on the sand :D Actually, I thought you'd take it easier on me with this one.. I do like the mix but it's not 100% of what i was going for. One thing I did was add white sand in different increments inside the tank. Originally I was going to go more white than black. To see what looked best I added the white sand directly to the tank on top of the black sand and mixed it up a little. I added a lot of white in one area, just a little in another etc.. Then I watched the fish swim over it in each area. When they swam over the whiter mix, they got too pale for my liking and lost a lot of color. The only ones that looked better over the lighter mix were the Severums. Before, I thought my fish were looking too dark with just the black sand. So in the end I like the mix I have. But i think I will add some crushed shells or small river stones to the mix to give it more texture. Similar to what many of you have with bigger chunks of rock mixed in your PFS, but with a different color base of course.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Below is the current stock as of today. Besides the fact that i will probably not house 4 adult syns in the future, what would you guys recommend for an addition...(species wise)? I'm thinking of adding ExCichlasoma pearsei.. thoughts?

Anything else you think would fit in nicely?

1- 9" adult vieja synspilum
1- 7.5" adult vieja synspilum
2- 5" young adult vieja synspilum
3- 3" Hypsophrys Nicaraguansis
3- 4" RotKeil Severums
1- 8" synodontis ocellatus
2- 3" albino bush nose
 
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