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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've had a fish tank for many years. At the beginning of this year, I re-homed my tropical fish, and switched my tank over to cichlids. In the last few months, I swapped out that 65 gallon tank w/FX4 filter (Cichlids were in this setup for a while), for a 93 cube, and a custom sump setup. My apologies in advance for some many questions, a couple that may actually belong in other sections...

1. Is my pH levels. I have soft water (run through a softner, the city water is hard), and the tap water at my house has a low pH, so I originally used Malawi Victoria Buffer from Seachem to bring the pH up to about 8.2, but it settled out to 8.4. It's sat at 8.4 ever since, never had to add any more. Even if I change 35-40 gallons of water to try and bring it down some it will temporarily come down to 8.2, only to be back up to 8.4 the next morning. I use API Stress Coat, when doing water changes and I've found adding this alone to my tap water raises it's pH levels (to a cup as a test). My pH is always stable, my fish don't seem to be bothered by it, but from what I've read it is on the higher end, should I be concerned? It seems the water conditioner maybe the cause of this, is there another one that is preferred?

2. I've always used aquarium salt. Although about half of the recommended amount on a regular basis. I wanted a sump setup for numerous reasons, one of them was to add plants. However it seems that the salt greatly limits my choice of plants. So I've thought about phasing out the salt. I picked up a TDS meter, and maybe I don't have as much salt in my water as I thought. My tap water reads 290, my tank reads 580. I know a TDS meter is measuring more than just salt, but this seems to indicate these levels are pretty low right? Should I phase this out? Is this just personal preference?

3. I've always done weekly water changes. So my ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels always site basically right around zero, not at zero, but very low. Particularly with the really low nitrate levels I'm worried about having enough "food" for plants. Perhaps this is where I just need more fish, or to let things go longer?

4. I was looking at fertilizers for the plants. From my searching it appears the preferred ones are NilocG Aquatics Thrive or The Flourish Excel line, however do either of these bother the fish? Both claim to be fish safe...

5. I'm actually getting some food making it down into my sump where the plants would be. Which lead me to the thought of possibly putting something down there to eat any food that got down there, shrimp maybe? I have a bunch of flow through the sump though, which made me even think about maybe catfish, but I don't really want to have to get under the cabinet and actually feed fish all the time. I figured shrimp might be self sufficient? Would they be bothered by the low amounts of salt that is in my water, or the flow? Suggestions on what I could do about this or what I could put down there?

A couple pictures of my setup, there are two Orbit / Current 1050 gph circulation pumps in there (both at half power) to help circulate the tank:



The sump uses Orbit / Current 1050 gph dc pump, that I do leave at full power, the first chamber is activated charocal, along with MarinePure Spheres, along with every other ceramic style media from every other canister I've had.



So I would not buy another rimless tank. They look really nice in the store, they are not functional. Just my opinion. I formed this opinion very quickly. One of several gripes I have is anytime anyone goes near the tank the fish think it's time to be fed and they splash water outside the tank due to the gap between the lid and the tank. To help prevent this I picked up some metal clips for the lid, and then made some acrylic pieces to attach to those clips.



The lid then sits on top of all these pieces. There are three of these, I didn't worry about the back, just the sides and front (front is not in the picture).



I had to modify the stand before I set the tank up. For one I don't have enough room where my tank is to open a cabinet door, so I had to remove the hinges and place the door on magnets, so the entire door could be removed. Two it had no support for any real weight like a sump setup the way it came. So I had to brace the bottom. After doing that, I flex-sealed the entire inside.



Then some peal and stick tiles with silicone around the edges to actually seal them. Then I siliconed around every seam inside, to hopefully seal everything up inside. The cabinet should be fairly water resistant now, and cleans up fairly easily. Not that I have any room in there now with the sump.

 

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Your water softener is adding sodium for you so not much need in adding more salt. Your tap PH could be effected by co2 in your water let it stand a day or so to gas off then check your PH. Could be your PH isn't as low as you thought. Plants hate salt, and the water softener water they like even less there's no minerals most notably magnesium and calcium they get replaced by the sodium ions. If your softener is doing its job your gh should be zero at the tap. If your going to have plants you'll for sure need to add some minerals back it won't take much. I have a tap PH of 8.6 tds around 400 never had an African cichlid not love my water. Four of my tanks are on the softener one has plants, growth is very slow but they do grow. I add a couple ml of seachem fertilizer once a week. My sumps have socks they get food in them every time I feed I swap them out every three days it's a not an issue. Swap them out toss in a bucket every couple weeks plop them in the washer run them three cycles good as new. Hope some of this helps.
 

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1-pH is fine
2-no need for NaCl
3-keep up the water changes
4-fertilize for both nitrate and phosphate and test to keep levels right for plants
5-feed less

A cube is not an ideal shape for some cichlids. Which are you stocking?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you both very much for the feedback.

DJRansome said:
4-fertilize for both nitrate and phosphate and test to keep levels right for plants
DJRansome said:
A cube is not an ideal shape for some cichlids. Which are you stocking?
The cube would not be first choice, however in my house, it's the space I have (if I want them to be seen). I actually originally wanted a 150, but ended up the 93 just fit better. I have a mixture of mbuna's and peacocks in there. I have Nitrate test kit, is Phosphate primarily the only other thing I need to test for (that one I don't have)?

Halfcopy said:
Your tap PH could be effected by co2 in your water let it stand a day or so to gas off then check your PH.
Halfcopy said:
My sumps have socks they get food in them every time I feed I swap them out every three days it's a not an issue. Swap them out toss in a bucket every couple weeks plop them in the washer run them three cycles good as new. Hope some of this helps.
I didn't realize that CO2 would change the pH level, so perhaps that is messing with these tests too. I guess I will set some water aside and test again for my sanity. I did pick up one sock from my local fish store, I guess I will pick up some more.
 

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The 30" length is the problem...stock by length not gallons.
I would choose one species of small peaceful mbuna like saulosi OR Aulonocara kandeense and do mixed gender in a 30" tank.

The Africans will disturb your plants...mbuna will eat them and peacocks will dig them up. Might want to choose plants like java fern that don't need CO2 and can be planted on rocks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
DJRansome said:
The 30" length is the problem...stock by length not gallons.
I would choose one species of small peaceful mbuna like saulosi OR Aulonocara kandeense and do mixed gender in a 30" tank.

The Africans will disturb your plants...mbuna will eat them and peacocks will dig them up. Might want to choose plants like java fern that don't need CO2 and can be planted on rocks.
I didn't make that part clear, the plants will just be going in the sump, just to help with the nitrates. It's just a water quality thing, at least that was my thinking. It was just something I wanted to dabble in. Just fake plants in the tank.

I guess I will show my ignorance and didn't really know or realize there was that much difference in species of mbuna or peacocks. I've just been picking various colors, and placing a variety in the tank. I'm sure I have mixed genders in the tank, as I've already had ones breed, multiple times actually. I guess you're going to tell me buying the "prettiest" fish is not what your supposed to do? :D

It's hard to tell because they won't sit still long enough to get a real count, but I think I have 20 in there at the moment, all medium sized, roughly 3". From what I was told, the peacocks weren't as aggressive as the mbunas, so they had to be at least the same size or larger, so that's the rule I followed when picking out the fish. So with one exception (and he just grew faster), my smaller ones tend to be the mbunas.

I looked up the Java Fern, and this also brought up the Java Moss, which seems like it's a rapid growing, easy, and hardy plant, that doesn't mind salt. Are there pros to the fern over the moss? My local fish store recommended Anubias?
 

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If you are going for water quality, you want something faster growing than java fern or java moss.

The colorful ones among peacocks are males. Mbuna some females are drab and some are colorful.

If you don't have enough females in your tank, you are better off having no females at all. The males can be relentless with the females and a common aggression management technique is to have 1m:4f for peaceful fish or 1m:7f for aggressive fish.

If you want to consider an all-male tank, read the all male article in the Cichlid-forum Library.

FYI 48" in length is often considered the minimum for most mbuna and peacocks.
 
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