Frank's cichlid chronicle 1

Well, I though it would be a good idea to keep an online diary, just like George does with his Discus & marine tanks. So ladies and gentlemen, for all of you who are interested: Frank's cichlid chronicles will take a start right here! One important warning though: As I'm notorious for having a capricious nature, plans and future information in this diary are subject to change without prior notice!

1. From the very first beginning till the present in a nutshell:

Like many other people, I got introduced to cichlid keeping with a Malawi Mbuna setup. This sounds very logical, as most of these fish show vibrant colours, even when they're still very small. They have an attractive territorial behaviour and can be kept in relatively small tanks. Some species tend to develop real aggression though, and chase other fish till they die from stress. Their continuous activity can sometimes be too much for the owner who would rather have a comforting setup instead of a whirling bubblegum tank. After a while came the Haps. These cichlids are unattractive before a certain age, but after a year or more, the male's adult colours show up and their appearance certainly surpasses that of most Mbuna in my opinion. At first I kept these cichlids all together in one tank, as more people do. This wasn't the way to go, and soon I decided to separate Mbuna and Haps and gave them both their own tanks, what helped the haps very much to unfold their own specific behaviour, without having to cope with the aggression of the Pseudotropheus & Melanochromis gang. About this time a new Belgian Malawi cichlid shop opened it's doors, and I kept many different species with varying success. I lost many wild caught cichlids because they seemed to be extremely sensitive to diseases, so after a while I decided to stay with captive bred cichlids, still Malawi cichlids only. I also built some giant plywood tanks in my cellar fish room, but especially last year, the enthusiasm faded a bit. A big part of this half heartedly attitude was caused by the absence of tanks in my living room.  I also took the wrong path of wanting to earn some extra money with raising cichlids. This is no criticism to people who do this, but in my case it wasn't very stimulating. On top of this came the fact that I have 2 young children that need allot of attention and "absorb" very much of my energy and free time. This doesn't seem to be very exceptional, as I see many people contacting us, telling that they started with the cichlid keeping hobby again, now that their kids have grown older.

January 2003:

After rethinking of my cichlid keeping hobby and setting my priorities towards MCH and my personal family life and also after getting inspired by my aquatic friend, who started his 1600L tank again as an Amazon biotope, I decided to really change this situation! From now on every tank in the house would have to meet " enthusiast & show" standards! This new era would be marked with the build of a brand new 750L Amazon tank in my living room. It would also stimulate me to gather more knowledge about keeping plants and cichlids in perfect harmony. After all, my plant experiences have been very limited by only keeping Malawi cichlids all of the time.  So, after a while this setup reached the final stage and just recently, when I went to the shop to buy some extra accessories for it, I was informed that some very interesting juvenile Tanganyika cichlids would arrive soon: Enantiopus melanogenys sp. kilesa and Cyathopharynx furcifer "Cape Kabogo"... yes I had seen the Enantiopus sp. kilesa before, and I remembered them as very cute and active little sand dwelling cichlids who built very characteristic nests. I also witnessed the building capacities of the Cyathopharynx furcifer in different cichlid shows, and I was very impressed by that too! Guess what happened... indeed.... I bought a nice group of both species! So now what? Run an Amazon tank, 2 Malawi tanks, 2 Tanganyika tanks and also my wife's wet dream: a marine tank??? Well, this could cause a dilemma! No need to tell that all these different biotopes require different water parameters, so I'd need a reverse osmosis unit and storage room for all this water! At the moment I have 4 operating tanks while the fifth is almost ready. The originally planned 4000L kitchen tank will be delayed for some years, as the kids, yes the kids need a play corner! You simply can't have it all and it would be too egoistic after all!! There will be a new tank on that location, but with only half the originally planned floor space: 120cm x 160cm, so I will end up with 6 operating tanks. One of them will be kept empty for emergency cases though, so I'll have to cut one possibility. I won't give up Malawians, but will keep them on a smaller scale, what's actually very relative: they will have the 3000L plywood cellar tank. The Mbuna will be housed in their actual setup: a 200L aquarium. The 800L plywood one will become the kilesa + other Tanganyikan cichlid tank. The 750L glass living room aquarium will be decorated as an Amazon tank and the new smaller (still 1600L) kitchen tank will be the Cyathopharynx furcifer + other Tanganyikan cichlid (Altolamprologus calvus, ...) tank. The marine setup? That project is most regrettably going to be dropped... Sorry Hilde! (I still have to find a way to make amends to her for this)  

The young Enantiopus sp. kilesa in my aquarium: these very attractive sand dwellers came here to stay!!!
February 2003:

After getting all materials together, the construction of the 750L Amazon tank proceeded real fast in a very short time. Only the coating of the 3D background that contained xylene set me back for a while. Several waterchanges were needed to get rid of this nasty chemical.
I also did some rearrangements in my fish stock like I announced last month. Some of the larger Malawi Haps were donated to my friend Joeri, and some of them were sold. What a change!!! I now have a much more peaceful Malawi community. Of course the juveniles Haps that came out of the 800L plywood tank (that was emptied in order to welcome the Tanganyika cichlids) add a sense of mild overcrowding, but that's not really disturbing though.
2 weeks later the juvenile Enantiopus and
Cyathopharynx were transferred to the 800L tank. This was the right decision as they didn't feel very good in the temporary 240L tank. Especially the Cyathopharynx were extremely skittish in there.  With much more hiding spaces, a larger open sand area and a rocky corner at their disposal they really flourish in their new home. At this very moment 2 Enantiopus males already have built nests in different corners in the tank.

One of the halfgrown Cyathopharynx furcifer males gets dominant traits. At the same time first colour appears on the fins. Nest building wasn't noticed... yet.

March 2003:

Time to move on with the 750L Amazon tank. I'm really taking my time to be sure nothing can go wrong with this setup. I even replaced the Eheim 1060 pump with an additional 2329 canister filter to reduce the noise. Also the fact that it will be a planted tank means that it doesn't need the vast water movement, so this move is justified. Hopefully the flow will remain sufficient, so all the dirt gets sucked into the filter. Bogwood was added, so it could get completely soaked. All filter media was placed in the right compartments and after a last complete waterchange the cycling could begin. I also bought myself a reverse osmosis apparatus to obtain soft water, what's needed for most South-American fish. This water will be added after the cycling is completed (when nitrite readings are completely in the safe zone) I think the first fish (most probably 12 Coryodora sterbai) will swim in this tank at the end of April.

Finally the Cyathopharynx furcifer dominant male started doing what it was expected to do: building a nest! I was very impressed by the male's skills. Of course this fish is still young, so this holds some promises for when it is completely adult! I also discovered that I have at least 3 females, because they carried eggs after a few days courting and spawning.

Nest building is noticed... NOW.

April 2003

This month started bad... I discovered that the special PU foam 3D background had shrinked with 2cm and came loose on the right side! What a disappointment! After emptying the tank, removing all filters and equipment it was time to lay the aquarium on it's back, and fill the gap with new foam. After not being very convinced with the flow results of the 2 Eheim 2329 canister filters, I decided to give that Eheim 1060 circulation pump another chance, this time internally. Again this lead to noise complaints by my wife. I wasn't happy with the result either, so I decided to try something else: a circulation pump that's normally used for drinking water systems. Of course this is no aquarium pump, as it can't be used in the tank, but what a difference with the Eheim! While the Eheim vibrates and hums, this pump is whisper quiet! Everything need to be reinstalled now, so we can move on with the Amazon project!

A friend and me also tried to cut stones for decorative reasons: see picture to get an idea.

Stones cut in 2: when the sand is added they will give a very natural look.

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