Tang Tank: Aquascape

I am in the process of redoing the Tanganyikan Tank aquascape. For some reason, I did not set it up properly initially. I purchased some elephant skin rock, which matches the cichlid stones perfectly. I also removed the fluorite substrate (which was a nutrient sink), and replaced it with aragonite sand. I am still debating how plants may look in this aquascape, but overall, it is looking much nicer. I will take a photo in a few days, after the cloudiness of the tank has cleared. Already, I can see a buffering effect of the aragonite, which should help bring the pH from a very low 7.5 to 8.5 or higher. I also started dosing SeaChem to help buffer and raise the pH. I’m hoping with the changes in the water, the fish will breed. These Neolamprologus brevis appear to be mature now, and I have two males and three females. So far, they have not been very aggressive toward each other, or towards the Neolamprologus leleupi


The Breeding List

The Breeding List is a list of species I have successfully bred and raised fry, and future species I would like to try.

Successfully Bred:

  • Gold Angelfish (Not recorded)
  • Cherry Barb (Not recorded)
  • Guppy (Not recorded)
  • Swordtail (Not recorded)
  • Molly (Not recorded)
  • Convict Cichlid (Not recorded)
  • Black Skirt Tetra (2012)

To Breed:

  • Multifaciatus brevis
  • Angelfish
  • Apistogramma cacatuoides
  • Apistogramma borelli
  • Bolivian Ram
  • Julidochromis marlieri
  • Neolamprologus leleupi

Evaluation of the Hobby

The past year and a half for the aquarium hobby, personally, was a rough one. I did eventually get my Tanganyikan cichlids, which started out in the 40 breeder, but I moved them to the 20 long instead. (There was a never ending bloom of algae and muck in the 40.) My 40 breeder has since remained empty, and I have a 20 long sitting on top of a 10 gallon. For some reason, I thought what I really needed was a reef tank, or a very large (120+) tank. But the thought of a reef tank wasn’t all that appealing, the work involved seemed too great. The large tank size would be wonderful, but I still had doubts in my mind about our local water quality. (Nobody wants a 100+ gallons of muck!) All of these experiences and thoughts brought the hobby to a standstill. There was even a moment where I felt as if I had already “taken care of everything,” and that “there was nothing new.” The lack of a quality LFS does not help either. One of the best in the area has since closed, and most LFS’s are too far away, or specialize in reef only. This led to the extended pause. In this time, I have evaluated what makes me excited in the hobby, and res discovered so many species I have never even attempted to keep.

There are many different reasons why aquarists get into the hobby, and they each have their passion. I don’t believe I have found my passion quite yet. But I have at least found the path that may lead to it. Here are the topics I’m hoping to delve into further, as I start again on the path of an aquarist.

Biotopes: Biotope aquariums have always inspired me. Each tank could be a different environment, in a different country, with different fish. Each with a different story and unique look. All of my future display tanks will be in a biotope setting. With my rather large range of tastes, I will have to either cut down on the environments/species I want to keep, or go smaller. A few that really intrigue me include:

  • South American black water river, Amazon
  • Central America, Yucatán Peninsula
  • Africa, Lake Tanganyika
  • Uruguay River
  • Southeast Asian black water
  • Orinoco River Basin
  • Africa, West African River
  • Central America, Costa Rican

Breeding: I’ve had some success breeding simpler fish, including angelfish. It was a very rewarding experience for me, and something I had rediscovered. So far in my aquarist career, I’ve breed 7 different species of fish. I’d like to add more to that list. Some of the species I would like to try include:

  • Dwarf cichlids (Rams, Apistos)
  • Tanganyikan cichlids
  • Angelfish (again)
  • Killifish
  • Tetras
  • Danios

New Species: I’ve rediscovered some species I have wanted to try, and may be more suitable in species only tanks. Being older, I think I have the discipline now to run a true species only tank. Many of the cichlids are new to me, including New World cichlids, dwarf cichlids, and many African species.

Behaviors: I realized I have not seen all of the unique types of behaviors fish can have, especially when in a species only tank. This one is part Breeding and part New Species.

New Source For Fish: With the closing of the only quality freshwater LFS, my area has become a desert for fish. Wandering through rows of interesting fish was one of my biggest forms of inspiration. This may have been one of the biggest impacts on the hobby for me. Unfortunately, the other LFS’s here are too expensive, or are only big box stores with nothing unique. I have since found a place in OR, The Wet Spot, that I ordered my Tanganyikan cichlids from. I calculated their shipping costs, and it is still cheaper to order from then vs buying at the local big box stores. They also have an amazing selection of fish, and a wonderfully friendly staff. My LFS is now in another state, but I at least now have a source of quality fish. Fishroom videos on YouTube are now my inspiration to find or rediscover new species.

Custom Water: This is a strange topic, but one that has haunted me for my entire aquatic life. When I was in my first home, the water there was well water. It was rather good, but had hints of sulfur and was super hard. This limited what types of fish I could keep. When I move again, the same thing, the city water was ok, but stil chlorinated and too hard. In my current situation, the water is very hard, and actually has nitrates and nitrites, as well as other chemicals in trace amounts due to the agricultural area. I’ve since setup my RODI unit properly, which will allow me to create pure water, effortlessly. (And in the process, harvest the waste water for other uses.) This allows me to now have a blank canvas to create my water, to suit my fish – an idea that I have never explored before. Soft water loving fish are not a possibility, as well as liquid concrete loving fish, like Tangs.

These are just the key items I’ve discovered in my moment of reflection about the hobby. Since I’ve explored these options, I have found my passion for all things aquatic, returning. I have not felt this way for well over 7 years. There is still a lot of work and equipment needed to get from where I am now, to where I want to be, but this is a strong start. I’ve never felt more invigorated to jump in and get my hands wet!

Always Changing

Just when I think I’ve made up my mind, a new thought occurs. I’ve always wanted to give African Cichlids another try, specifically Tanganyikan cichlids. After reading about them in Ad Konings’ excellent book, I have been waiting for the right time to give them a shot. Roughly 15 years of planning, I believe that time has finally come.

I perused the very small stock of Tanganyikan cichlids at my one remaining LFS, unfortunately mainly mbuna. My Wife convinced me to not settle, but to get what I really wanted, so I bit the bullet and decided to place an order of fish online. I searched high and low for the cichlids I was interested in; some shellies, compressiceps or calvus, and possibly a julie or a luleupi. The only place that had all of the in stock, with a wide selection of Other Tanganyikans, was The Wet Spot. I asked them a few questions, and soon, placed my order. Stay tuned for the shipment and photos of the new tank members!

As a side note, the photo above is what my 40 gallon currently looks like. The wide sand bed will be for the snail shells.

Update: Water Quality

I tested my tap water again today, and found there were no phosphates, which is excellent! This leads me to believe the algae bloom I have had trouble with in the tank, was due to the build up of organic material in the fluorite bed. I am very happy to have removed that organic sink, replaced with a sand bed. With regular water changes and the addition of SeaChem PhosGuard, I think we can have pretty high quality water for the fish in the future. By the end of the week, the tank water’s phosphate level should have dropped to near undetectable levels.

All Things Change

It seems I always end up changing my mind. The West African tank idea, is no more! I’ve decided to switch over to a new theme, and further explore cichlids, a fish of which I have limited experience. I’ve kept, bred, and raised successfully, a batch of angelfish and Convict Cichlids before, and Angelfish continue to be one of my favorite fish to keep, but I haven’t really had much exposure beyond that. I’ve kept Oscars before, and German Rams, but with limited success. (Though I was able to raise the oscars to full size, and they lived their normal expected lifespan of about 13 years.) I had a small dabbling with Malawi and some Tanganyikan cichlids as well, but that was an attempt I would not consider successful. And finally, with water being a rarer commodity around here, I decided to not use as much RO water as possible. This means settling for our extremely hard water (which also has phosphates!)

This led me to Central America, where the water is hard and clear, and there are some of the most beautifully colored cichlids in the world. I’ve never really kept any Central American cichlids, except for the Convict Cichlid. They were an interesting experience, but one I would not want to redo. I also thought about housing larger fish, something more dramatic and bold vs the schools of tiny fish I had been chasing after for many years. (And which I was never really successful at either.) And the final decision breaker, was finding a biotope that met these qualifications, but also had readily available stock of fish at the big box pet stores. Increasingly, the price of this hobby is increasing, and the number of quality LFS’s is decreasing. One of my favorite LFS’s closed down a few years ago, and I still haven’t quite found a decent replacement. This leaves me PetCo and PetSmart, less than ideal, but it could be worse. With limited tank space and number of tanks, I also wanted to try and avoid mail ordering online as well. (Plus, ordering from Live Aquaria now has sales tax on top of shipping!)

All of this led me to the Firemouth cichlid. They are an old stalwart in the hobby, are decently sized, but do not require an enormous tank, and are gentle enough to house other fish with them. The Central American biotope, or theme, is one I have never done before, and it has a distinct look and feel to it. I visited the local PetSmart yesterday and was able to see they stocked both the Firemouth cichlid, but also Pictus catfish, Buenos Aires tetras, and the Green Swordtail. While some of these fish are not technically found in Honduras, I think they fit the theme of the tank very well.

Set in my decision to move forward, I ended up redoing the entire aquascape of my tank, and giving it a well deserved make over. I removed all the old substrate (where I mixed sand and Fluorite together – bad idea), cleaned out everything, removed many of my old plants, and placed in some new rocks. Below is the end result.

The start of something new.

The start of something new.

The driftwood on the right, I may remove, or just remove the Anubias nana. I may also remove the Crypts and put in its place, some Vals. The existing fish, except for the upside down catfish, will move to another tank. It is a work in progress, but the inspiration for a new tank is finally here, and I am ready to delve deeper into the world of cichlids.

40 Gallon Retrofit

I was suddenly inspired recently to give some serious love to my current 40 gallon tank. I am in the process of converting it over to a West African river biotope. But before that can happen, I have to get the hair algae under control. With a little bit of patience and elbow grease, I got to work this past Sunday, removing all the plants and hardscape, scrubbing everything clean, tossing handfuls of crypts, bolbitis, and java fern. I performed a 60% water change, cleaned out the filter, and vacuumed the substrate. I’d say the effort was successful for now. For reference, I have to run the RODI unit for about 3-4 hours to get enough water to perform this much of water change. With a bit more woodwork, I think I can begin stocking the biotope – with the understanding, there will be some visitors temporarily.

Current stock levels:

3 Black Skirt Tetras

2 Congo Tetras (female)

2 Rainbowfish

1 Hatchetfish