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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Haven't been around here in a while. I had a 60g African tank (and another years ago) but switched it over to Australian rainbows. I didn't really feel the size/dimensions of the tank worked with Africans. It didn't lend itself well to interesting movement.

Anyway, I'm thinking of breaking down my huge saltwater tank and making the switch to not my first, but first BIG African tank.

Pics here: http://www.rickysinger.com/

The tank is completely custom and I designed it to make keeping it as simple as possible. But, it's still costly to maintain and a lot of work keeping big messy fish. It's also getting difficult to even find big fish and when you do , they're usually very overpriced.

Unloading the big fish and switching to smaller saltwater fish is an option, but even so, it'll take a lot of fish to stock it and from a conservative $30 - $50 per fish, it'll add up quickly. And, really the best looking and most colorful fish tend to be too aggressive to keep..even in a big tank.

When I look at the colors of the Africans, I've always felt (as mentioned in an article in the library here) that I couldn't have that diversity of white/blue/yellow/orange of even the most common cichlids for anywhere near their relatively inexpensive cost. Plus, I like a heavily stocked tank.

So anyway, I'm really just thinking out loud here and looking for opinions, especially from anyone else who has made the switch. I'm really beginning to feel that I'd spend more time enjoying my tank if I do so.
 

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Hey, you've got a pretty sweet tank there, mind if I ask how much the final cost was not counting fish?

I really enjoy africans and I think in a lot of ways they beat out saltwater.

As far as your concern about the colors, I've had no problem finding great examples of white/blue/yellow or orange cichlids even just in the malawi range.

In your size tank you could house just about anything you wanted as far as groups of fish and not really have to worry about cross breeding (with the right stocking) and aggression would be minimal too.

As far as colors, some great examples which would work together would be:
Yellow: Yellow labs
Blue: Demasoni or Johannii, or Maingano or blue dolphins, or fonts
Orange: A. Rubescen,

As far as white I know there are a few totally white fish out there but I can't think of them off the top of my head.

And for each fish I listed there are many many more which show great color as well.

Given the right stocking list, and 'scaping you could have a *very* full tank of fish, and it probably would cost much less than how much your salt water fish cost now. Especially if you buy the fish as juves.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I don't know what the final cost was but it's easily over 10k.

As far as the colors, maybe I wasn't clear in my wording but that's one thing I'm not concerned about. The diversity of colors available on Africans is fantastic and at a fraction of the cost of saltwater fish.

I guess my real concern is if I'm going to miss the big saltwater fish. Other than that, I really see all positives by making the switch.
 

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That is a very nice tank! Unless you are tired of saltwater, it seems like you might take a loss on the fish and decorations you already have.

If you want to stock it with adult African cichlids, they will cost some too. If you go with juves, it will be much cheaper and you get to watch them grow.

My suggestion is to go to the Cichlid convention in Atlanta and look over the types of cichlids in the fish room and contest sections. I went to the convention when it was in Chicago and picked out the fish I wanted from having seen them there (and figuring out which will work together). Just remember, they will look better in your tank since the lighting isn't all that great at the convention making the fish look paler.

Once you decide on the fish you want, there are many good on-line retailers and cichlid clubs that you can purchase fish from. See if there is a club near you and go to one of their swaps or auctions.
 

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Beautiful tank:) I really like the puffers and dragon eel.
If you want Africans I think that your current filtration would work well. The skimmer would probably not do too much in freshwater, but it would aerate the water effectively:)
Since you have 450 gallons you can get pretty much anything that you want. For blue there are lots of excellent choices, cyaneorhabdos , Maylandia callainos, socolofi, demasoni (I find them annoying, too much aggression but in a 450....), blue dolphin, accei, s. freyeri, taiwan reefs (not all blue but pretty), Phenochilus Tanzania--these get big and spectacular and the males and females look great. For a 450 a large group of these would be awesome:) , frontosa (although they will eat most of these eventually).
Lots of yellows, but you can not really beat good quality yellow labs. Saulosi are also very nice.
Cherry red zebras are nice too, but they are really more orange than red. They may hybridize with the labs, but in a 450 you have the room to keep enough of each so that may not be a problem and how would you catch the holding mothers to get the fry to sell anyway?
Super Red Empress look really nice as do the "new" dragonblood peacocks.
For white I would go with albino socolofi, beautiful white fish.
I always like to add shoals of smaller fish to my African tanks and with a 450 you are virtually unlimited in your choices. Accei school---kind-of, but you could do really large schools of rainbows like the new guinea red rainbow, trifasciata and Boeseman's Rainbowfish or large barbs such as mascara barbs, red lined barbs and tinfoil barbs. Cyprichromis would also look great in a large shoal, but I do not know how they would hold up with some of the more aggressive Africans.
 

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That's a beautiful tank!! :D All your tanks are gorgeous!!
IMO I'd keep it as saltwater, just cut back on the number of fish you keep in there! Less bio-load, less waste to deal with. Less mouths to feed too!! Cut back on the amount of food you're giving them. Feed them every other day as opposed to daily. Add some live rock in there to help with filtration, which will help to keep nitrates down.

I was in the same boat a couple of months ago. I was seriously thinking of getting rid of my saltwater tank (a 75g). But after alot of thought I realised that I would miss my SW fish so they're here to stay! I'm glad I kept them now :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Actually I do have less fish than shown and feed every other day. Always have. I also have a denitrator filter to help with the nitrates. One of the problems though with puffers is that they chew and spit out the food, making for a real mess. I gets lots of copepod blooms that are really difficult to deal with and make the water look cloudy. The acrylic is always swarming with them. Drives me nuts.
 

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hmmm, thats a pretty sweet tank you got there, nice big fish too. :eek:

i was thinking though, if you did like 12-15 frontosa, that would just be amazing......
:thumb: :fish: :dancing:
 

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If you trade in your marine stock, wouldn't that be more than enough to fully stock a 450g? I mean marine fish like the ones you have sell at the LFS here for big $$$, but I don't know what your market is like either.
I would totally DIY a background, tons of caves with either lace rock or 4-6 inch beach pebble, then fill it full of a giant school of demasoni, Lab. Sp. "Mbamba" or SRT's, albino socolofi and a small pack of zebras for crowd control 8) I say go for it.....
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The money I'd get for the big fish would not be enough to restock the tank with smaller saltwater fish. Figuring the size of the tank and easily $30-$50 for smaller fish, the money would go quick. The small fish are pricey and there will undoubtedly by fish loss as well. And as far as smaller fish go, I think the Africans offer better and more contrasting colors....and you can keep a lot more of them too!!!

It's a funny thing with big fish. Problem for one is the shipping costs are huge. If the fish dies, the store gets the money back for the fish but not the shipping. The shipping for that one big box is big bucks so many stores don't want to chance it. Then factor in the tank space needed and feedings costs. That same box could hold many smaller fish that overall they will make much more money on. So you'd think the stores would pay decent money or credit when you bring in a big fish, but they pretend like they're doing you a favor and that big fish are hard to sell and expensive too feed, which is partially true...but still. I get a kick out of some of these local stores that mark up the big fish hundred of dollars and you literally see the same fish there for months on end. It's no wonder so many go out of business.

Finding affordable big fish is really difficult it not impossible lately. I often spend a whole day, starting at the furthest point I'm willing to drive to and work my way home checking every store. I may find fish, but as mentioned already, they're often very overpriced. Once in a while, you find a deal...usually a trade in or perhaps a big fish that a store is just tired of all the food it eats and wants to get rid of it or perhaps something they brought into the store from tanks they have in peoples homes and service.

Problem for me has also become that I can't add anything small or it will be murdered. I bought a puffer a few months back that I thought was big enough. It was a $125. 2 days later I came downstairs and half it's face, including one eye were completely gone. Quite an expensive meal...I don't even eat that well! :)

So realistically, it's come to the point that any fish I buy is going to be easily over a $100 and big puffers are easily $170 to over $300. And as you all know, no fish is a guarantee and most of these are wild caught and sometimes you bring them home and they never eat and eventually die. Or, you get a new fish that gets murdered by one of your old ones.

There are some big fish that are cheaper, but they're ugly and boring. I don't need an expensive saltwater tank to keep big messy, boring fish like that. And there are some for less but in many cases the better looking fish are too aggressive to keep anything else nice with or too fragile to really do well in an aquarium.

The big eels have become difficult too. You know the saying when you go fishing, big bait catches big fish? Well it's true. The eels (and fish too) will not eat food that's too small. It's very difficult to find big things that they will eat. Smelts used to be good, but for at least a year now, they're hard to find. And there's frozen stuff at the bait shops, but it tends to not be "clean" and I worry about using it to feed my fish.

Anyway, I am fortunate to have a store nearby that I'm very friendly with and would take all my fish. They will give me a good credit based on what they sell them for and they're very cheap on fish so the cost of stocking with cichlids will be neglible. That really doesn't factor into my decision at all. They'll gladly take all my decorations and sell them for me as well.

I'll have plenty of equipment I won't need and can sell on ebay that'll bring decent money too.

The only real expense I see will be aquascaping. I'm undecided on a background. Although I have one on my smaller tank and have seen many incredible ones on this forum, I'm actually partial to the black background. I prefer the increased depth it gives, especially with the moonlights. Right now I'm thinking a large driftwood centerpiece, tons of lace rock and some plants.
 

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I dream daily about a tank filled with fish like that (especially the eels!). Good to be brought back to reality that even with a lot invested in such a tank, maintenance still exists. Still, I'd do what I could to keep the tank going, but that's probably because I never had it.

I personally am more of a haps fan than mbuna and the types and colors of haps you could put in there are endless. I'm sure you could put some tangs and mbuna in there too given the size.

With a tank 1/5th the size I 'm far more limited, but I can definitely say that the
prot. pheno tanz,
red empress,
red fin borleyi (kadango),
electric blue fryeri,
nimb. venustus,
and morrii (blue dolphin)
all make great fish which are very visually appealing and very active. If only I had room for more than one of each! Also, I'm a big fan of the the
protomelas taiwan reef
(i also have the albino taiwan reef but mine never managed to show the beautiful light orange body)

The best thing is that even the females of most of those fish look very nice. I don't know enough about the few freshwater eels which exist except that their diet is a bit different and they're a little slower, but in a tank that size i'm sure you could create an area they felt comfortable and feed them too.

ok, that's enough vicariousness for one day. good luck
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Yah, I guess the size that I've grown these fish to although rewarding, has become part of the problem itself. When one dies, it's either too costly or difficult to find and replace in an acceptable size.
 

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Surely you are going to take a hit on your current livestock if you sell/trade them but it is either take a hit now or spend way more money to feed/maintain them when they get bigger. The sooner you get rid of those big stomachs the sooner your wallet will fill back up. Plus with a freshwater setup you can add an automatic water changing system without fear of dropping the alkalinity of the tank and killing all of your livestock. Then that will require less maintenance on your part. You would of course have to clean the substrate of any debris/detritus and clean out the filters but you wouldn't really have to do much of anything else.

As for changing it into a cichlid tank you could just use all of those fake coral decorations to add more color to the tank for the time being so you don't have to buy rock and other interior structures. You would then just have to change and clean the salt water out and then swap the bio media in your sump to fresh cut cubes or some other type of media.

Or you can try and sell/trade off your big fish and then get smaller fish. It ultimately comes down to you as we cannot say how you might feel down the road if you completely switch to freshwater. But that would be one awesome cichlid tank with whichever species you decided to go with. :thumb:

I really dig that bumble bee grouper.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Yah, surely I'll take a hit on the old livestock and getting new livestock, but it'll still be less than moving on with the saltwater. Like I said, the local LFS has great prices...way cheaper than any other store around here...like assorted Malawi are 3 for $10. And they'll save me money on top of that.

It's a drain and clean process so I'd do all the aquascaping now. I've got plenty of substrate/rock etc. around already from when my in wall was set up for Malawis to at least make a small dent.

FYI that bumble bee grouper was traded in a while ago already. I thought I'd get a few years out of it before it got too big but boy was I wrong. It was less than a year before I brought it back to the shop where I got it and even the staff couldn't believe how much it had grown...and I don't overfeed.

I know it's hard to say how I'll feel down the road, but it's nice to get the feedback from everyone. I think many of us also reach a point where we got bored of a tank and look to make changes. I see so many threads of before and after around here as proof of that. I guess I'm just trying to make sure that it's not a boredom thing convincing me to do this...but then again, there's nothing wrong with that being part of it.

One of the things that appeals to me about going back to cichlids is the movement within the tank and throughout the aquascaping. There's alot of activity going on and it's fascinating and relaxing to watch. With the big fish there's not anything interesting to watch. They just swim back and forth waiting for food. The puffers, although probably one of the most pet-like fish you can have, are usually just swimming around the feeding area..waiting...or literally just lay on the bottom or perched on a coral somewhere...they're very lazy.

One of the things I loved about my cichlids in the past was what went inside the rockwork where I couldn't see. It was always interesting to see a fish enter one spot and see it pop up out of some hole or crevice on the other side of the tank. My past cichlid tanks were no bigger than the 60g so this will certainly be awesome for sure.
 

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With a tank that large you could create your own lake malawi!!! I would set up the tank to mimic a specific biotope from the lake and stock it with the mbunas and haps from that area.Keep the black background and build a large mound of rocks at the back of the tank to create a "reef-like" home for the mbuna you could then place larger rocks in the front ,but not to many so you have plenty of open water for the haps. If all else you could break down the tank and give it to me :lol:
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I'll probably do some large mounds of lace rock so I can create lots of caves and hiding spots. I've seen some nice large rocks at the local landscae/pond supply but the problem is I don't like large solid rocks due to all the water they displace. I've seen some really large rainbow rocks at the LFS that are filled with tons of holes that might come into play.
 

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Its obvious from the pics of your tank that you know how to set up an awesome tank :thumb:
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Hey, thanks to all those who replied to this thread. I made the switch and just put some quick info and pics in the My Tanks Section. Hopefully it will be up soon.

I'll start a new thread with more info and pics when I have more time or get my website updated.
 
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