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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there,
I've had aquariums growing up as a kid, mostly just the usual mollies, guppies, neons and later kept oscars. Never african cichlids before. A friend of mine got me into africans and I found myself with a relatively cheap setup to get started with. Up till very recently this has been very rewarding and enjoyable. These fish have so much more personality! I would love to continue with this hobby and learn more to hopefully avoid whatever issues I'm having currently.

Let me first say what my current setup includes:
30gal hexagon tank
crushed coral substrate
1 large dried coral with a few smaller pieces
a large molded fake rock formation (hollow) with many holes
150W heater
aquaclear 50 powerhead
marineland 350 magnum canister filter (overkill, I know)

I put the tank together around the holidays, threw in two feeder fish (comets) to start the biological cycle and about a month later moved the comets out and got my first fish. My maintenance routine is to replace the canister filter media/carbon/zeolite once per month, and staggered by 2 weeks, do a 30% water change, also once a month.

I admit I didn't do much in the way of research on the various species, and instead relied on information from a friend and the local fish store. This is what I originally stocked the tank with, all were quite small, 1-1.5" in length:

M. cyanerhabdos, "electric blue johanni" (currently 2")
Pseudotropheus crabro, "bumblebee" (was 2.5")
Pseudotropheus socolofi, (currently 3")
Melanochromis auratus, (currently 3")
Labidochromis caeruleus, "yellow labido" (currently 2")
Nimbochromis venustus, (was 2.5")
Aulonocara (?), "eureka red" is what he was listed as, (currently 2")

You'll notice I have 'was' listed twice above. About a week ago I was away for 8 days, stopping in only for a night in the middle to check on things. Everything seemed fine. On my return 4 days later, last Sunday, I came home to one less fish in the tank. This was very odd to me, as they're all normally out in the open, quite active. I found the venustus dead inside the plastic rock formation, a couple days old, though I doubt it could have been more than 3.

In a bit of a panic, I did a filter change on the canister and powerhead filters, my reasoning being that replacing the carbon/zeolite canister with fresh fill would help pull out some of the ammonia contamination in the tank. In retrospect, I'm thinking I probably should have just done a water change first...

Every other fish seemed fine. Nothing to speak of in terms of odd behavior. Gills looked clean, no discoloration, nothing else I've read that point to ammonia poisoning.

I figure it was a freak occurrence, and spoke with my friend who said it might have been an aggression issue, since everything else seemed fine. Water was crystal clear.

Fast forward to this past Friday, two days ago. I come home form work and find it odd that the bumblebee isn't out in the open. This was one of my favorites, very little if any aggression towards the other fish, though he would "attack" my arm if I tried to do anything in the tank while cleaning. Very active, not shy, always the first out during feeding time. I found him in the bottom of the same fake rock formation, very recently dead.

Up till now I did not own a water test kit, and this time did a 30% water change--again, I admit in a panic, wondering what could be hurting my fish.

That evening I went back to the local pet store... which, for me, is a bit over a half hour away (other than the big chain stores which don't seem to have the knowledge I'm looking for). I spoke with one of the guys there who told me I should have brought a water sample to them from before the water change (I'm learning...). Oh well. I picked up a water test kit (pH, ammonia, niterites, niterates) and a bunch of fake plants, which I previous had none of. The hope was that if it was an aggression or territory issue, this would give the less aggressive fish a place to hide.

I know using the test kit isn't all that accurate as to telling what may have happened since I did a water change, but the numbers I got were the following: pH 7.5, ammonia came back as 0.6(mg/L I believe?), nitrite 0.1 or less, nitrate was about 50mg/L. Water is still at a happy, constant 82F. I did the ammonia again today and it seems slightly less. I'm barely registering in between the 0 and first bracket for color, which is 0.6.

I'm a bit on edge now, so probably jumping at nothing, but now the yellow lab. is acting odd, won't eat, hiding behind the powerhead. Any time he does come out, the socolofi and auratus are chasing him back into hiding. I'm worried I'm about to lose another fish.

The pecking order in the tank is the following; the socolofi at the top, followed by the auratus. After that, the others got along quite well with no issue. The soco. and auratus would generally pick on the other fish, but not to any great amount. Oddly, the electric blue johanni seemed to be immune to being picked on, with the soco. putting up with him being quite close. For the moment, the "eureka red" is almost mostly ignored by the two larger fish. The bumblebee and venustus also got along well with everyone else when they were still around.

I found your forum here and read up a bit on older posts, then went through and read quite a bit in the library section as well as the individual information pages on the fish in my tank. I wonder if the auratus is killing my fish.

I'm also wondering if my setup is already too small for my fish. I think I'm lacking surface area for the fish to get away from each other and probably lacking in hiding spaces for the less aggressive fish. I'm not opposed to getting into a new tank, as I think most of my other equipment would also work there, though due to living in a relatively small condo, I might be limited to a 55gal or so until I move later this year. Ideally, if my current tank could hold up till the fall, I would love to move up to an 80gal long tank at that point, but I have a feeling this isn't the case.

Any thoughts or help would be appreciated, or at least help calm my nerves. I would really love to get back to the enjoyment side of this hobby where I was two weeks ago. I'll post pictures of the current setup later this evening. Thanks for your time... I appear to have written quite a bit.
 

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When you changed the filter media it likely caused a spike in ammonia and nitrite however their levels seem low. However your nitrates are rather high. Do a 50 percent water change and retest tomorrow. You want those down to 10-20 ppm at the highest. It will slowely poison your fish.
 

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When you changed the filter media it likely caused a spike in ammonia and nitrite however their levels seem low. However your nitrates are rather high. Do a 50 percent water change and retest tomorrow. You want those down to 10-20 ppm at the highest. It will slowely poison your fish. Edit sorry for double post I'm on my iPod hit back button causing dp. However wanted to add, your set up is too small and you will need atleast that 55 you were talking about. However if your going 55 you should just get a 75. They take up just as much space and they're cheap. You have much more options with a 75 over a 55. I have an apartment and have a 55 bowfront and a 90 .
 

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feralcoder said:
Let me first say what my current setup includes:
30gal hexagon tank
The story begins and ends here. It is simply too small for the fish you have, and as you've found out they are too aggressive for such a tank. The tank just doesn't offer the room to adequately get away from the aggressors. If you removed the main problem maker, another would simply take it's place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the quick replies.
Fair enough. I'm looking into larger tanks. It might be a week before I can move on that, so I hope things remain stable until then.
Do you see any issues with replacing the venustus or bumblebee? Should I look into finding a new home for the auratus? Any suggestions for additions after I get things stable again?
Thanks again.

Edit: Now that I'm thinking about it... how difficult will it be to move to the larger tank? I assume I can transfer the current water volume and biomass to the new tank, but it will only be a fraction of the larger tank's volume. Any gotchas here I should be aware of? Tips?
 

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get the tank, then the fish :thumb:

If you want to keep mbuna, think 55 gallon or larger. If you want to keep your agressive mbuna (auratus and bumblebee) think 100 gallons and looooooots of females to one male. The venustus... it grows large, 8-10 inches, and it eats mbuna. If you go giant tank (and I do mean giant) - like some of the people here have :drooling: - then you might be able to keep him with mbuna. It's not a good idea long term.

Once you've decided on a larger tank, I can reccomend the cookie cutter setups in the library here
http://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/q ... e_list.php

If you're going to stick with your 30 gallon hex, perhaps consider switching to a different kind of fish. The cookie cutters will help there again - use your footprint as a rough guide (the length, not the square footage.)
 

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Thinking about it, I can't say anyone has had success with auratus long term. There was a thread about it somewhere on this site where they concluded that. Long term here means two years in a stable tank.

They're pretty. I'm trying to keep one female amidst a bunch of yellow labs and cobalt blues, but I'm reserving judgement on whether it works for another 18 months or so :?

If you're interested this http://www.cichlid-forum.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=208962&postdays=0&postorder=asc&&start=15 is the thing I read on auratus.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the links, nina_b.
Yeah, I see the auratus doesn't have a very good reputation. Go figure, they're a very nice looking fish. I'll see if the local fish store will take him back. I guess I don't need another venustus. I'm sure with so many different types of cichlids I can find other things that look interesting.

I'm checking my local craigslist and a few other places. I hope to have a 75gal in a week or two, and hope that the few fish I have left can behave until then.
 

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feralcoder said:
Thanks for the links, nina_b.
Yeah, I see the auratus doesn't have a very good reputation. Go figure, they're a very nice looking fish. I'll see if the local fish store will take him back. I guess I don't need another venustus. I'm sure with so many different types of cichlids I can find other things that look interesting.

I'm checking my local craigslist and a few other places. I hope to have a 75gal in a week or two, and hope that the few fish I have left can behave until then.
=D> =D> =D>
 

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Get your ammonia and nitrite down to zero and your nitrate below 20ppm.

Add rocks every day until you get the new tank to constantly shift territories.

M. cyanerhabdos, "electric blue johanni" (currently 2")
Pseudotropheus socolofi, (currently 3")
Labidochromis caeruleus, "yellow labido" (currently 2")
Aulonocara (?), "eureka red" is what he was listed as, (currently 2")

In a 75G I don't think this is a good mix either. Do you want all-male or mixed gender groups?

For all male I would go either mbuna or peacock/hap but not both. For mixed gender I would get rid of the peacock and do 1m:4f of the socolofi and labs, and 1m:7f of the johanni and call the tank stocked.
 

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Good tip about shifting the rocks around! That's always worked great for me.

Don't change the media in the canister, that's what's causing the ammonia. Just rinse off the filter pad in tank water and maybe change the carbon.

You may need to do 50% water changes at least weekly. If the temp and PH of the new water are the same as the tank, you could change all of it if you wanted to. The goal is to change enough water to keep the nitrates 10-20ppm, and that will be a lot in your tank.

The easy way to set up the new tank would be to buy a new filter for the 30, run them both simultaneously for a few weeks, then simply put the canister on the new tank. The biofilter is in the media in the canister and on the stuff in the tank, not in the water. Then put the wimpiest fish in the 75, followed by the next, on down to the meanest.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I didn't quite have rocks in there, but I'll rearrange the coral and the plants and whatnot, should have the same effect to keep them confused from claiming territory.

As far as rock goes, I'm seeing that quite a few of you have a natural rocky looking landscape. I have access to quite a lot of smooth, chunky, river rock, though I'm not sure what kind. Very smooth, not very porous at all. I could take a photo if anyone thinks they could help with that. I've read that there is problems using certain types of rock in aquariums with these guys. I also have a bit of slate around. Should I try any of this or just stick to what I can find at the local pet store? I've also heard a bit about cichlid stones--the fake hollow natural looking stone caves (or a combination of all of the above?).

My friend is going to help me set up the new tank. He suggested that I buy more crushed coral substrate and load it into the current tank. I assume this is to gather up some of the bacteria over the course of the next week?

My tap water here is pretty high pH (high 6-7.0), and I'm careful about regulating the temp to be close to what the tank is at when I add any.

I'm not completely opposed to buying another filter... and while I'm happy to go to a larger tank, funds aren't unlimited. I've been offered some tank water from another established african cichlid tank in good health to make up some of the difference in volume with going to the larger tank. I'm hoping I can get by on that and do the swap all at once. Thoughts?

As to what I'd like out of the assortment of fish, I'd probably be happier with all male for the diversity, though I worry about how I would go about getting all males. Aren't they hard to sex when they're small? If possible, I'd like a diverse set of color among the fish... blue, green, yellow, red or things in between. I'd love to keep the soco, even if he is a bit of a bully, he has the most personality. I like the johanni for its look, and would like to keep the yellow lab. If I understand correctly the eureka red is a different type of fish and probably won't work out? Is this due to them becoming more aggressive with age? Or not enough to hold its own?

I suppose I wouldn't mind a mixed sex setup if I could get maybe four different varieties somehow in the mix?

Going to keep the auratus for a bit after I get the new tank. If he continues to be a problem, I already found a home for him, so it won't be much trouble to send him on his way.

I'm open to suggestions, trying to stay open minded. Really appreciate all the knowledge you guys bring to the table and your willingness to share it.
 

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The river rock should be good, some people boil it before putting it in. Pile it high! The smaller the passageways, the easier the little guys can get away.

Your PH is super low at under 7. It should be 7.8 to 8.2ish, mine is 8 out of the tap so I don't have any experience changing it.

Don't use much old water - there isn't much beneficial bacteria in it, but there are nitrates.

Can you not leave the 30 set up?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I've spent the last hour looking at photos on this site of setups... I'm liking the rock look, and from what I understand it's the natural habitat of these guys. I understand that most people put styrofoam or some other type of material down on the bottom glass before piling on the stones. Someone mentioned using a drop ceiling lighting grate even? I'll have to check the hardware store.

In the tank I've got crushed coral and a few nice pieces of dried coral to buffer the pH up, haven't had a problem yet (with pH at least), it's a nice solid 7.5 at least, even after water changes.

Gotcha on not using too much old water.

In theory, I *could* leave the 30 set up... but it would require buying another filter. As I mentioned above, money isn't unlimited... and that filter wasn't cheap. I'd really like to avoid having two tanks up and running if at all possible. I'm not quite that addicted (yet)...

Edit: I'm looking into sources for styrofoam... the local big box home improvement store sells lots of large pieces for insulation. I assume I have to be careful what material it is?
 

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The crushed coral will help with the PH, but maybe not enough if you have to change lots of water. Check out the buffer recipes in the library, you can up the hardness for next to nothing, which will buffer the PH to 8ish. Filling one of the trays in the canister filter with crushed coral should help it dissolve faster, and make a bigger bio filter.

I got some of the light diffuser egg crate stuff for $10 at lowes, I only have a thin layer of sand in my 150 tall and some big rocks, so it was worth the peace of mind.

How could you possibly not want more fish tanks? I'm limited only by what the boss allows room for! You could keep the 30 set up with a $10 foam filter and the power head you already have, no need for anything more expensive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
On the topic of removing nitrates. I'm worried about changing too much water right now if I'm going to be moving to a larger tank. Would it be a bad idea to pick up some cheap plants to throw in the tank this week before the move? In theory, those should soak up nitrates pretty well. I'm not overly concerned with the fish eating them, just need them to last a couple days to help bring the levels down.

I read that you need to sterilize plants before putting them in an aquarium to avoid worms and snails. 1.5 cups bleach to 1 gallon water, soak for 5 minutes, then soak for another 5 minutes in dechlorinated water. Sound about right?

I noticed that products to remove nitrates generally don't get very good reviews here, so trying to avoid those, and 3-4 plants cost about the same as many of those products.

I'm hoping the yellow lab. can survive the bullying for a few more days, he's been hiding behind the powerhead and hasn't been noticed as much, but would really like to be able to move them all to the much larger tank this coming weekend to hopefully bring down his stress levels.

brinkles - I might end up setting the 30g(hex) back up after the move for a different set of fish, but as it is, I was already moving about my condo last night with tape measure in hand trying to figure out where I can fit a 4' long tank. Furniture is already going to be moved. My living room is not what you would call spacious. I'm planning on moving this fall, and, well, the less tanks I have to transport across the state, the better. I would also then need another powerhead. It's just not going to work for me right now.
 

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Do a partial water change to remove nitrates. The beneficial bacteria do not live in the water, so you have nothing to lose except toxins. :thumb:
 

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The boss lets me begrudgingly keep a 10 in the living room, but my 75 grow out is in my garage! It's good to have an ugly tank with nothing in it for quarantine, hospital, max security pen, etc., so if you can do it after you move, go for it. You can take a bully out of the main tank, rearrange the rocks, wait a week, and he'll be a little tamer.

Plants are a whole other project, they'll produce nitrates if they start to die off, they need good lighting, many won't survive high ph, etc. I have some java fern and anubias that is giving me trouble in my new tank right now.

Don't be scared to change water! You don't need it for the new tank. Just get the temp + hardness right and remove chlorine, and put the fish in. I've stopped putting the water from the bags from the fish store in my tank, I just float the bags to equalize temp, catch the fish in my hand, and toss them in. Around the house, I just catch a fish and put them straight from the net into another tank. I used to try to save the old water, but I've learned that it isn't a help at all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
First, thanks for the reply, DJRansome (and brinkles who snuck in while I was typing up this short novel of a reply...)! Secondly...

So I got home tonight with a new toy! It's a 60 gallon tank! I was going back and forth between the 55 and 75. I liked the profile of the 75, but the depth was too much for where I wanted to put it... it would partially block a doorway, which is a no-go. Friend told me that the 60 gallon size exists at the height of the 75 and the depth of the 55. I was sold!

On the 30 gal setup, I ran the tests again tonight before and after water change. Before, nitrates still in the 50s. Ammonia is completely gone now though, hurray! pH is still sitting around 7.5.
40% water change and... I wonder if I'm just doing something wrong with the test kit, still looks the same color of purple, matches up with the 50mg/L bar on the sheet. I'll check again the next few days. :(

Now, my problem is you people have far too much information posted up here, too many how-tos, DIY instructions... shame on you all! I have this horrible craving to do a foam and quickcrete background, though that will take a week or two at least to do properly. I'm a bit concerned about the permanency of it, but that feeling might pass. Failing that, at the very least I'll be painting the back of the tank with some blue or black latex paint--another thing I never would have thought of, but like the look of in so many of the photos.

Another thing I'd like to try is switching from crushed coral substrate, which looks ok... but not amazing, and going to the fine black/white eco-complete cichlid sand. That is, if I can find a place local that sells it... I'd like to avoid paying shipping on 40-60lbs of sand if I can avoid it. If I understand right, this is even better at buffering the pH in the water than crushed coral? It seems like the best I can get out of the coral I have is around 7.5 or so pH. I'm hearing that this eco-complete stuff can bring you up to low 8s?

Oh, and I threw a java fern in the 30gal as well, hoping it might soak up some of the nitrates. Gave it a 3 minute bath in weak bleach water to kill pests first then soaked in some dechlorinated water for a while. The fish were immensely curious about it. They didn't go for it like they do when I feed them romaine lettuce. It's still sitting there, uneaten, but they can't seem to leave it be, very curious about this new thing in the tank. If its gone in the morning I won't complain, but if not... maybe I'll consider a couple of those for placement in the 60 gal when I have it set up. I'll keep in mind what you said about the nitrate going up if they start to die. I swapped out the 18k light for the 5.6k 'daylight' bulb my setup came with while I've got the fern in there. It's an experiment for me as much as anything else. The scientist/engineer side of me says 'this should work, well, lets see.'

Also... I learned a very long time ago, and still believe it to be true... aren't you supposed to never introduce LFS water into your system? I've always floated the bags till temp equalizes, then slowly add some of my tank water to the bags, let them rest, watch for any odd behavior, then scooped the fish out with a net and discarded the possibly questionable water. Maybe I'm overly paranoid.
 

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My fish don't eat the java fern, but they constantly stick their noses in it looking for who knows what! Tie it to something with fishing line, and it will stick and spread, and be easy to take out. With good light, you'll be thinning it out eventually!

The back of my tank is painted black, the 2d backgrounds look really fake to me.

Fine sand gets sucked into filters and eats the impellers, so turn off the filters when you're messing with the tanks, and don't put the intakes close to the bottom.

Congrats on the new tank!
 
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