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.
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!!!
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.