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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,
I need some advice about stocking my aquarium, now that it is finally finished cycling.

It is 29 gallons, 30 1/4" x 12 1/2" x 18 3/4".
I live in a hard water area, and have well water.
Water test last night showed pH 8.2, KH 8, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0 and Nitrate trace.
It's heavily planted and there are some rocks and driftwood. There are 5 danios living there (they cycled the tank) and, unfortunately, a lot of pond snails.

I am fascinated by shell dwellers and wondered if the tank is big enough: would it be ok for Multies? How many would I start with? How many shells, and where do you get the shells?

The man at the LFS said that they would dig up the plants. Can I move all the plants down to one end of the tank and put sand and shells at the other end for the fish? Or just use floating plants?

What other fish can live with them? The danios can stay near the top, are there any other fish that would stay out of the shellies' way? Also - what can be used for algae and cleaning? Snails? Catfish or plecos, or do they get too big?

Thank you in advance.
 

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They need open sand so definitely move the plants to 1/3 of the tank and leave six inches open sand in the middle and shells to other 1/3 at the other end of the tank. They may still dig them up.

Multifasciatus like lots of shells, 100 would not be too many and 2 layers or more. One big grouping. Not sure of sources these days, but go for whale-eye shells.

Buy six and they will fill the tank.

Sounds like you have the snails already...just don't overfeed and scrape the glass yourself. Too small for catfish or even a pleco really.

With the danios and the plants I would not add a 2nd species.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi, thanks so much for your advice.
I spent the whole weekend reading about them and when I looked at my planted tank, I started to think it might not be such a good idea. So I read some more, and I think I will go for Goby cichlids, as long as my setup is okay for them.
So I guess I will be asking questions about them, soon.
For now, I am headed to the setup forum, to make sure my filter is good enough for any cichlids.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I've been doing some more reading and saw that they are very aggressive???
Maybe back to the shelies idea.
 

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mmerose said:
Hi, thanks so much for your advice.
I spent the whole weekend reading about them and when I looked at my planted tank, I started to think it might not be such a good idea. So I read some more, and I think I will go for Goby cichlids, as long as my setup is okay for them.
So I guess I will be asking questions about them, soon.
For now, I am headed to the setup forum, to make sure my filter is good enough for any cichlids.
Tank is far too small for gobies. I have a pair in a 210g tank that I had to separate a few weeks ago because the male had tried to kill his partner when trying to give her back the eggs.
 

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You do not want Otos in an African Rift Lake cichlid tank. Water conditions and aggression for the Africans are not a fit for the otos.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
THANK YOU!!!!
I so appreciate your help, DJ and noddy.
I am learning a lot here. I think I need to take a class in cichlids!
A post about how to choose fish would have been better, I didn't know how hard it would be. Small tank, high pH, hard water, want fish with interesting behavior...when I google that, I get all kinds of strange results. That was where I got the Otos idea.
 

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Shellies would be great. I'd skip a catfish both because the tank is small, but also another bottom dweller will disturb the ability to observe the natural behavior of the shellies.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I wish I could say "One last question" but I know there will be more.

How much difference is there between the type of shellies? I read somewhere that one of them digs a bit less so that the plants don't get quite as damaged. Do the different breeds have different temperaments?
 

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I read somewhere that one of them digs a bit less so that the plants don't get quite as damaged. Do the different breeds have different temperaments?
1st let me commend you for researching and asking questions before throwing some fish in a tank.
Seriously, bravo.

Now to your questions about temperament, tank mates, plants etc.

How much difference is there between the type of shellies?
There is a difference in size and temperaments. For instance, Lamprologus callipterus, a shell-spawner. The males at 5" are far to big for shells but they collect them for females (sub 2") to spawn in. There are community/colonial driven species like Multifasciatus/Similis & less communal tank species (depending on tank size/number of shells) like the pugnacious Ocellatus. There are also a lot of opportunistic shell-dwellers. These guys are not shell obligate, preferring cave/crevices, but will use shells if they are around. Here are some examples: L. caudopunctatus, N. leloupi, L. kungweensis,
In general shell-dwellers defend there main shells. Some are more aggressive about it and need considerations if you plan on putting them in with other fish. Neolamprologus boulengeri & N. Ocellatus come to mind.
I can't stress enough how the tank setup influences the personalities of these fish. For example to much rock and they wont dig and stay pretty still. While others move their shells into rock crevices to hide them. The substrate defines their digging potential & tank-mates define how shy or aggressive they are.

Tank-mates - In general dither fish are a good idea. They will make the shellies more comfortable/confident. Some do better with mid-water/top-water fish around while others do not and will feverishly defend there territory from other fish. That said you can add non-Tanganyika fish to your tank if they can handle the high pH & hardness. Be vigilant not to add fish that will prey on shelly eggs or juveniles. Catfish for instance can be sneaky night time predators. Altolamprologus calvus & compressiceps are know fry snatchers too.

Shells - There are various land snail shells that will work & can be found online. Helix pomatia shells (escargot) are a very popular and easy to acquire. Also apple snail shells work if sized right. 1-2" shells are perfect for shellies. Males need a couple 2" shells as they are generally larger than females. As far as quantity, the more the better, Multifasciatus for instance prefer shell piles. If I had to give a minimum then 5 per fish. Do not use salt water shells. They are heavier/thicker and cant be moved as easily. Defeating a shelly's behaviors. Also if your substrate is sand, it then allows for smaller shell-dwellers to dig under the shell to rotate it how they want.

Substrate - To each their own really. I prefer to keep my tanks maintenance & chemistry simple. So agronite has helped alot. It raises your pH to African Cichlid appropriate levels, buffers the tank so it stays stable and get the hardness up too. So all you have to do is dechlorinate your tap water (if its hardwater) and thats it. Agronite comes in many forms: Crushed coral/shell fragment size (1/4" pieces), coarse sand (Carib Sea Afrikan Cichlid mix), sugar fine sand, and super fine oolitic agronite sand (Top Fin Oolitic Agronite sand). Oolitic sand has spherical grains that are non abrasive to small fish. It is however very very fine and very easy for your shellies & filter to push around fyi.
If you dont want to use agronite based substrate then I recommend putting some in your filter so it can keep your water chemistry right. Then use any non-buffering substrate you want. Stay away from any amazonian/South American types as they will fight your beneficial agronite.

Water - I will keep this simple. If you have hardwater then great. Just dechlorinate it and use aragonite. If your water is soft grab some Tanganyikan buffer from Seachem. Then end.

Plants - Shellies dig so put your plants in strategic areas where they wont touch them. Not all plats will survive or do well in African Cichlid water. I've found the following do fine: Java ferns, Anubias (all sizes), Vallisineria (corkscrew, jungle & tiger val), Sagittaria subulata (it just stays small), Parrot Feather (illegal in some states) & Hyacinth (illegal in some states). If you are going for a shallow tank I recommend researching semi-emergent & deep water margianl plants. They prefer their roots below water and the rest growing above water.

*note about myself*
I breed various shellies exclusively. I used to breed South American Cichlids and some others.
I want nothing more than to spread knowledge & get people setup up with fish that they can realistically care for.
So if you want feel free to PM me and I will give you my number if you wish and we can discuss your concerns and options. In short, I like discussing fish & here to help if I can.
 

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If you're going with Tanganyikan shell dwellers in this tank, my advice would be- (1) Get rid of the driftwood. In a big tank with Tangs, maybe it's OK (if you really like the look), but in a 29, you don't need the wood fighting your water chemistry. (2) If you want live plants, go with Anubias. They don't mind the hard, alkaline water, and you can tether them to rocks with super glue gel, so the shellies can't dislodge them. Anubias also don't require much light, which brings us to- (3) Not much you can do about biological algae control with shellies except for Nerite snails. I use Nerites together with true Siamese Algae Eaters in many of my Tang tanks, but the SAE's get too large for a shellie tank. Also experiment with lighting; it's not difficult to get lighting down to a point where it's sufficient for Anubias, but not enough to support (much) algae growth. Good luck!
 

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I have never been able to keep the nerites alive with Africans for their full 2-year life span...what is your secret sir_keith?
 

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DJRansome said:
I have never been able to keep the nerites alive with Africans for their full 2-year life span...what is your secret sir_keith?
Well, not much of a secret, really, but what I've observed is that small Nerites have no chance in a Tropheus tank- the Trophs peck at them, and sooner or later the Nerite will end up on its back, so game over (Nerites can't right themselves). Featherfins and Xenos mostly ignore the Nerites, so what I do is grow out the little Nerites in those tanks, and once they are an inch or so, they can be moved into a Tropheus tank. I have Nerites in some of my Troph tanks that are at least 2 years old, are a nice size, and seem to be doing just fine. I'm sure the hard water helps. One curious thing is I don't really have a problem with Nerite eggs; oh sure, there are small numbers of eggs here and there, but nothing like the profusion of eggs that some hobbyists complain about. I have no idea why that is true. I'll put up with a few eggs, because the Nerites are fantastic for controlling algae. I have tons of Anubias in my Featherfin/Xeno tanks, and the Nerites keep their leaves perfectly clean. I'll post a pic or two once I've uploaded them to a hosting site. Good luck!
 

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I have the pecking and "on the back" issue with my nerites as well, but all tanks including Tangs. I got one to live 2 years in the Tang tank. But I kept calvus and Synodontis at that time.

I spent all my time flipping them so they could eat to even get 1 year out of them. I did get a lot of eggs, but I have no problem with white specs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks, everyone, for the awesome advice! I didn't write last week because work got really busy, but I managed to order 6 N similis from (am I allowed to say who?) and they arrived on Wednesday, along with 1 bristlenose pleco and 2 nerite snails. I couldn't be happier with them, I could sit and watch them for hours (which is what I did yesterday) diving into the shells and then peeking out. The smallest one (about 1/2 inch) has a shell next to the glass and I seriously think he might be watching me too.

I moved most of the plants to the far end of the tank and threw out the plants that weren't doing well in my very alkaline, hard water. I used pool filter sand (spent all last Sunday washing it) and there are maybe 40 shells (escargot and a few whale eye snails). The shells are piled up at the end without the plants - should I rearrange so that there is more open sand area for them to dig? I haven't seen any of them dig yet. Also, thanks for the advice about the driftwood, I had no idea it would change the water chemistry and it's coming out today.

Of course I have more questions.
- If I rearrange the tank at all, will they go back to the shells they have claimed now? They seem to use the same ones all of the time - will it be a problem?
- I noticed one of them behaving oddly. It sort of backs up (like a hummingbird) and wags its tail really fast, usually when there is another fish there. Is that aggressive behavior and will they need to be separated? It isn't the biggest one.
- Food. I bought a few different types, but my concern is that they are not getting enough. The greedy danios grab it as it sinks, even after they have been fed with their own food. The smallest food (Golden Pearls size 150-200 microns and 250-500 microns) floats around and doesn't really get to the bottom and the cichlid pellets might be too big for them They pick them up and spit them out. I don't want to put too much food in but I don't want them to starve...they stay down at the bottom, by the shells.
- How can you tell males from females, and does it matter?

Thanks so much again. By the way, the breeder was so nice and gave advice and information (found him on this forum). They arrived safely on one of the coldest days of the winter so far and they are beautiful and look healthy.
 

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Do not name the vendor in the forums.

1-don't plan to rearrange the tank. If you have to for some reason, the shellies are likely to go in the shells and stay there until they are in the new arrangement and have been there a while
2-I have not observed that behavior, but it sounds like aggressive behavior Malawi display. Don't separate unless there is a danger of death (fish driven repeatedly to the surface).
3-Consider removing the danios. Unless the cichlid pellets are larger than 1mm they should be fine. While you use up the existing food, mix it in a little cup of tank water and pour it from a height over the shellie shells. It will get past the danios and down to the shellies.
4-doesn't matter unless there is danger of death
 

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Working frozen brine into the diet always benefited the colony and seemed to initiate more breeding. Keep an eye on that pleco. They can be quite disruptive, and may eat eggs as mentioned earlier. If your focus is to build up a colony through breeding, you may want to remove it. Time will tell...
 
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