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New to cichlids and already had trouble

2005 Views 6 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  bgenie
I posted this question on the African page but just realized as I was browsing around that this might have been a better place to post it...any opinions?

Hey guys...My husband has been telling me that I needed to find a cool cichlid forum for a few weeks here I am! Around December I decided to convert my long time community tank to Mbuna Africans. I had the help of a LFS as I adjusted my pH up a bit and got the tank ready for them. I started with 9 fish in a 29 gallon tank. All was going very well at this point in time. My husband decided not to use a 60 gal tank that we had purchased to start a salt aquarium, and so it became my new cichlid home. I got them transfered over and happy and healthy for a month or better. Then I added a few new fish from one of the big chain pet stores and started a complete tank collapse. All of the fish in the tank including my 9 originals died except one, plus all the new ones that I added. When they died, they had a slight discoloration to their bodies, starting with the dorsal (I think, the one on the back of the fish) fin. Then they would start sitting on the bottom of the tank and breathing really fast. I was told by the LFS that it sounded like a fungal infection and I started dosing with Melafix. I did a full round of Melafix treatment, yet still the fish died. Since completing the treatment (approximately 3 weeks ago) I have done two 20 gallon water changes. The one remaining cichlid and the catfish seem to be doing fine....

Now the questions... What steps do I need to take to make sure that my tank is healthy enough to begin adding new fish? Should I do some sort of treatment to kill and residual "funk" that is in my tank? The Melafix really didn't seem to do much! It really upsets me to have complete meltdowns in the tank like this, so what ever I need to do now to make sure everything is healthy is much preferable to going through another fish catastrophe!

After posting this, I got one response asking me for more information, so heres my response to that as well!

Ammonia-0-0.25...It might have a little bit of a green tinge to it indicating the 0.25, but I wouldn't say that it is full on 0.25. I hope this makes sense.

Nitrite- 0

Nitrate- 5-10...little darker than 5, but lighter than the 10 color.


I have started adding "Doc Wellfish's aquarium salt for freshwater fish". Yesterday is the second time that I have added it, and I have yet to add as much as they say to on the box. The directions say 1 rounded tablespoon per 5 gallons. Last water change I added 2 flat tablespoons for the 20 gallons that I had changed, and today I added 2 flat tablespoons for the 20 that I changed as I wasn't sure how much acclimation was needed for my fish.

Temp: 78 deg. F

Not sure what KH or GH are, so you will have to enlighten me.

Using the hydrometer that I have for my salt aquarium, the salinity is just under 6 PPT and the specific gravity is 1.004. When I have calibrated this hydrometer with the local salt store, it shows up slightly higher than what their super special thing reads (.001 higher). So this may be higher than what the water actually is.

I cycled the tank with the filtration from my original 29 (a hang over the back whisper power filter and approximately 1/2 of the gravel from my 29). The 60 was doing great with the 9 original fish for close to two months before I added any additional fish.

The tank currently has a pro clear aquatic wet dry system with bioballs and the blue and white piece of filter foam. It has an overflow box with a white circular sponge at the back of the tank.

For the most part, the fish were eating until they died. Usually they acted fine- swimming perfectly, breathing regularly and eating fine until about 24 hours before they died. At that point in time, they would sit on the bottom of the tank in one of the little hidey holes and would be breathing visibly faster.

They did have white stringy feces which I did notice, but did not figure it was a big problem...I researched it a bit more after my original posting and found that it could be a sign of bloat.

I never seen any "bloating" on my all! I saw white stringy feces on some of the fish but not all of them. I wish now that I had kept better track of that, but at the time, it didn't hit me as important. I am feeding New Life Spectrum cichlid formula that I was advised on specifically because its good for cichlids and reducing the chance of bloat, but reading nutrition information on the back, I see that it has 34% protein, and a high protein diet is one of the causes....I'm really confused now. I generally fed one small pinch of these small (1mm) sinking pellets once per day when I had all the fish. I just counted the number of pellets in my pinch and it was just under 50, which created a flat (no overlapping pellets) dime sized area on the palm of my hand. So about 3 pellets per fish if the cat didn't get any (which he normally did)! For the cat, I drop about 4 Wardley shrimp pellet formula pellets in every other day. The cichlids would pick at these as they floated to the bottom, but the cat is an absolute vacuum and eats all the pellets within seconds of them hitting the bottom.

Fish that I added and fish I originally had:

Original 9- 3 yellow labs, 3 red top travasa's, 3 socofoli....

Fish that I added- 3 red zebra's- 1 typical, 2 albino; 1 ice blue zebra, 3 kennyi- 2 fem's 1 male.

I realize that this is an incredibly long post, most of which was copied from my other "discussion" on the African forum, but I figured I would get as many details as I had out there from the hopefully have a better chance of making my tank "right" again.

Thanks so much!--Especially those who have gotten to the bottom!
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For now I'd hold off on getting any new fish and just let the tank run with the one cichlid and the catfish. Do extra partial water changes and make sure you're using a good quality declorinator. If your tap water has chloramines then make sure your declorinator properly deals with them. Check out the declorinator link below for more info on declorinators.

It may have been bloat that killed your fish but usually the fish get the symptoms over a few days time and will stop eating for a week or so before they die. Sounds like your fish died suddenly, (suddenly: fish are eating and swimming normally one day, dead the next), so it may have been aggression, a toxin in the water, or a bacterial infection.

I'm not going to be able to tell you exactly what killed your fish however the good news is that most illnesses are the result of the fish being overly stressed and this stress quite often is the result of poor water conditions, improper diet, or aggressive tankmates. So where you're basically starting over you're in a good position to avoid all that.

Take the next few weeks to do some research on the cichlid you have and find out what other cichlids are likely to get along with him--or her-(try to determine its sex, too). You'll find all the info you need here on this forum and if you can't find it, ask. :)
Come up with a 'stocking list' and then get opinions from other members and mods on whether your list has a chance of suceeding.

Make sure you quarantine any new fish for at least 3-4 weeks. Add new fish 3-4 at a time so you won't overwelm your bio-filtration.

Please post back with any additional questions. You should be able to have a fairly nice set up with a 60 gallon tank.

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Hey Robin, Thanks so much for replying. I think because I put "newbie" in my original subject line, I'm not getting very many people reading the post :)...I'll know better next time! I have been using Kordon- Amquel- removes chlorine and cholramines, but does not bind the heavy metals or provide a stress coat. Should I get one of the brands that does both of those things as well?

How long should I wait before adding new fish again? It has been 3+ weeks with just my cat and one cichlid. I was thinking about adding a pleco back in (he didn't deal well with the increase of the pH from my community tank- even though it was done over a two week period), and then a few yellow labs to start things back off. I was going to wait 2 weeks or so between the two additions. Does this seem like enough time?

When I was getting my last tank together, I had done research on the fish I added. All were Mbuna, and were supposed to get along okay. I never really seen a "ton" of aggression. Chasing here and there, but nothing that I would say is excessive for a cichlid tank.

My water parameters were spot on before and during all the deaths. I have a kit and was checking it regularly during that time. I know that the Melafix is hard on the water- and had extra airstones to compensate for the decreased oxygenation in the water, that certainly could have stressed the fish out, but I don't know what could have caused the original stressor unless it was just the addition of 7 new fish and a tank redecoration.

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The declorinator you're using sounds fine

Sorry if I missed it but what kind of cichlid is the one remaining fish? It's important to find out. As you probably already know yellow labs are considered one of the less aggressive species but if the one remaining cichlid is not compatible with labs then you could run into problems.

Yellow labs need to be kept harem style: one male to every 3-4 females. Most people get a group of juveniles--more fish then they need--and then return the 'extra males' once they know the sex of the fish. The only way to determine the sex of yellow labs is to vent them or actually see a male and female spawn.


It was probably the length of your post and not your newbie-ness that kept you from getting more answers. But its good to provide as much info as possible so thanks for doing that. :)
When the fish was sold to me by a supposedly good cichlid guy, he said that it was a red top trevasa (sp?), however this fish is OB in coloration- and shows no signs of turning blue at all, so I really don't know. I could take a picture and post it up in the unidentified forum....

All of my fish before were Mbunas and I had 3 yellow labs at the time... they did fine then. How many labs would you recommend getting "in the beginning" to end up with the harem style grouping down the road?

When the fish was sold to me by a supposedly good cichlid guy, he said that it was a red top trevasa (sp?), however this fish is OB in coloration- and shows no signs of turning blue at all, so I really don't know. I could take a picture and post it up in the unidentified forum....
That would be a good idea.

How many labs would you recommend getting "in the beginning" to end up with the harem style grouping down the road?
You've got a sixty gallon tank. If you're planning to go with just yellow labs then I would get juveniles and maybe start off with 10-15. IMO an ideal final number of labs in that tank would be 8-10. You can go with more than one male in a group that large but you just don't want to end up with two males. The more dominant of the two will harrass the other. Keep it either one or three males and the rest females.

Maybe you can hook up with someone who's got fry. Someone with a breeding group of labs is always looking for someone like you who's looking to get a tank started. Try the trading post here on the forum. I had good luck with it when I need to find a home for some of my fish.
I'm not really looking to get all labs... but I know that they are one of the fish that I would like to have and are pretty easy to come by. I will probably go with a goal of 4-5 with one of those being a male.

Other fish that I am interested include socofoli, kennyi, johanni, red zebras and the red tops. I would like to get a good variety of color...and the blue, orange, and yellow really stand out against each other. Any thoughts on #'s of fish for each breed? or ones that wouldn't work as well? or perhaps fish that I haven't heard/learned about that would work well in a mixed Mbuna tank?

Maybe I should start a new thread with this, since we are pretty far off from the original I need help message....

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