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 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.