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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I've decided on starting a Lake Malawi Cichlid tank. I'm pretty excited about getting everything set up, but at the same time quite cautious to make sure that everything is set up properly to promote healthy fish. With that being said I do have some questions before I get everything up and running, and I figured this would be the best place to ask.

I'm setting up a 55 gallon tank (48" x 13" x 21") so all questions will be based off what I need for that.

1. What kind of filter would be best? I was looking at the following model and thought it would be adequate:
http://www.aquariumguys.com/whisperpower2.html

2. How many watts should my heater be? Every website I go to seems to tell me a different answer, I was looking at this 150W model and I figured I would be safe with that:
http://www.aquariumguys.com/ebojager1.html

3. There seems to be a lot of variety with what substrate to use, but from what I understand I need something to naturally increase the pH of the water. Something like crushed coral with calcium carbonate or argonite correct?

4. I'm going for a predominantly rocky setup in my tank with whatever rocks I can find laying around (after they've been cleaned up) but I might want to throw some artificial plants in there (I'm not really into live plants at the time being). Are artificial plants ok to throw in there? Or will my fish dig 'em up only for me to come home from work and find them floating around in the tank.

5. Once I get everything set up, that is the tank with substrate, rocks, plants, filter, heater, etc. How long should I cycle the tank before adding fish? And also how many fish should I put in when I first buy some? I was thinking just two small cichlids at first would be good but I'd like to hear some opinions.

I'd appreciate anyone willing to throw me some pointers. I'm sure these questions have been asked by a lot of newcomers but I just wanted to make sure I had everything answered before I got up and running. I'll post some pics once everything is set up and my fish are in there.
 

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1. Filter is ok but I would go with 2 or something a little more powerful as far as GPH.
3. Yes Coral can help raise you KH and buffer.
4. Depending on the cichlids when there large enough they can move your plants to their liking.
5. cyclying varies depending on your method, the only thing you can do is keep checking your water, your nitrites should go way up and then when they drop you know its cycled. I would put 6-8 at once depending on species so they can all establish at the same time, letting 2 establish territories will only make things complicated when u add more, but if you do add more add 3-4 so not one can get picked on completely and move rocks around to when adding more cichlids so territories are messed up so fish won't bully as bad..
 

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1. I would go with a larger filter. If you like the hang on backs, the Emperor 400 or the Aqua Clear 110 probably would keep the tank a lot cleaner and both get good reviews here.

2. I think the "rule" is 3x the gallons in watts, so 55x3=165watts, I'd go with a 200, but the 150 would probably be ok.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
OK, so the Emperor 400 would be a good filter. I was looking for something simple to start out with and the hang on the back filters seemed to be good idea, a bit less maintenance and definitely cheaper. I'm not opposed to hooking up two filters but I'd probably get a second one later on. I could get a canister filter but they're a lot more expensive and if it's not necessary I'm trying to minimize costs here.

From what I understand a lot of people like to over filter, and I'm sure once I get into the swing of things I'll be doing the same thing.

Let's say I get the Emperor 400 and have that running, I'm not going to run into problems because I'm under filtered am I?
 

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Depends on of you are over stocked with fish or not.
 

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I have a Marineland C-360 on my 58 gallon and I'm very pleased with it. You can get these at a discount by looking on E-bay.

I also used Eco-Complete cichlid substrate, which I like and which helps boost my pH. I also used lace rock to do the same thing. (Most likely the rocks you have laying around won't work to boost pH.)

I would leave out the fake plants. First, they look fake. Second, I don't think they're a natural part of most of the cichlids' environment, and aren't really worth the hassle. The fish are the focus in these types of tanks . . .

Biospira will help cycle your tank faster. I have had quite good experience with this. Do you have the ability to get some filter media from someone's tank? This will also help speed your cycle.

Good luck and have fun! When do we get to help you pick your stock? :)
 

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Re your questions:

1/ I use the Penguin 350B; it is better than the Whisper 60, is plenty for your 55g tank and is also better priced at Aquarium Guys.

2/ I agree with what has been said in getting a 200watt heater as being as better choice. Better still, Aquarium Guys are selling the 250watt stealth for the same price as a 200watt. :thumb:

3/ I'd go with play sand which you can pick up from Lowes for around $6.00 a bag or pool filter sand - 2 or 3 bags would be good. A bit of a pain with regards having to rinse it before putting it into the tank but well worth it in the end - just look at some of the tanks in the Your Tanks section. Sand gives a much better look than crushed coral in my opinion too. That's just me though. :D

4/ Plastic plants may still be 'moved' by your inhabitants. You can try wedging them between rocks or even use silicone to attach them to some rocks. Just be sure to let the silicone cure properly before putting them into the tank. Personally, I wouldn't bother with them.

5/ You can try BioSpira as long as it has been kept refrigerated but you'd be better off trying to get some seeded media from an established tank.

Hope that helps.
 

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Filter - HOB is fine for that tank. Be aware that your biowheel filters are noisier than something like the AC110. I'd get the AC110. More filtration generally means healthier, better-looking tank.

Get the Stealth heater. If the 250w costs the same as the 200w, get it. Stealth is a strong favorite in the hobby.

Gravel substrate is superior in one key way - it won't get sucked into your filter and shorten the life of your impellor. That said, I have pool filter 20 grit sand from Home Depot. The coal slag black sandblasting sand looks really sharp too. You choose.

Fake plants are easy to experiment with and simple to take out.

Cycle with 2-4 cheap fish. It'll take a couple weeks. You can speed that up by seeding the bio in your tank with substrate or decor from a cycled tank. Then, depending on the fish you choose, you add them here and there or put in a colony.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
hollyfish2000 said:
Good luck and have fun! When do we get to help you pick your stock? :)
haha well, once everything is up and running and the tank has been cycled... when that's gonna be? who knows... thankfully I found a dedicated African Cichlid pet shop near my house that I'm going to be buying my fish from, I'll def post some pics of the little guys once I get 'em.

Thanks for the input guys, I realize I'm new to the hobby so as of right now I'm likely going to get two HOB filters (one now, and one later on when I get more fish) and see how they work. Eventually down the road I'll probably get a canister filter, but since they're expensive I'm going to wait until later on.
 

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Another tip I read lately was to use 2 smaller heaters.
That way if one goes bezerk, it won't over heat your tank as easily.
Or if one quits you'll have a back up to keep the tank temp. from bottoming out.
:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Which would be better?

One AC110 or two AC70s?

If I go with the AC70s I would buy one now and one later on, but if I get the AC110 I'd just buy the one unit right now. From what I understand the ACs are great filters (at least they seem better than most other HOB filters because of the customization of the filter medium you can put in) so I'm leaning towards those right now. How do the two AC70s compare to the AC110?

EDIT: actually I'm getting the AC110... better to go overkill I suppose, because if need be I'll just buy another one of those!
 
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