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Hobbyist Gallery - Dave Laubach

 
 
 
 
 
 
Dave Laubach, USA, e-mail: laubach@volcano.net

This is my 125 gallon (500 liter) MBUNA Tank. I started putting this project together in March of 2004. It has seen 5 aquascape changes before settling on this all rock and sand layout.

I must say that putting this tank together was a bit more than I was ready for. I used to raise MBUNA in the 1970’s and I had no idea that a UGF was a bad idea, since that was what we use to custom build to get the water movement needed. Then I asked about “Silent Giant” air pumps. You would think I was from MARS the way the LFS keeper looked at me. No UGF’s and no Silent Giant pumps. I was lost. This tank came with a sump filter under the stand. I had no idea how it worked because there was no filter media in it, just plastic balls. (AKA Filter Media) And who would invent a filter that if the power goes out (if my butt)  the water is supposed to stay in the sump. (this guy, or gal must be older than me) It only takes 1 mistake with this filter to know what a check valve is used for. You know the first time you fill the tank with water to check for leaks (this tank is used) and water movement. You feel real good about the set-up, so you turn off the power and  start to walk away when you here this loud sucking sound and  you look back at the tank and the water level is dropping and the carpet is changing color and your socks are wet. I ran over looking for the leak (UGF’S don’t make this sound). Well you know the rest of the story; I had the return line to deep in the tank. Only once!     

The sump is one of three filters being used. One FLUVAL 404 and one RIO 1700 sponge filter give me a total change over of 1300 gallons per hour. The water in our area is very soft. 1 GH. And 1 KH so I have to treat it before I do my weekly 30% water change. I use Seachem Cichlid Salt and Buffer along with Kent Trace Elements. The chemistry is:

    pH 8.4;  0 ppm Ammonia; 0 ppm Nitrites;  9 GH; 11 KH; 80 degrees F (26,6 C).

The temperature is controlled by two 150 watt heaters, one in the tank and one in the sump.

The light  bar and hood I built myself. The light bar is hinged and flips up out of the way so the 4 glass plates can be cleaned weekly. I use an Icecap 660 Ballast running 3-4  40 watt  48” bulbs, 1 Marine-Glo,1 Power-Glo,1 Life-Glo 2 and 1 SpectraMax Super Daylight. The daylight bulbs are on a timer set for 12 hours a day, I also have 2 -15 watt  Black Lights that are turned on when the mood strikes.

Before I list the fish that live in this tank I want to explain that by the time you read this and  see the pictures 2 of the fish listed will be gone as they were in the original “ Assorted African Cichlids”  10 for 10 dollars that I used to cycle the tank. They must know something is up because I am having one hell of a time catching them. So as soon as I finish writing this and taking pictures I am going to have to break the tank down to get rid of  the unwanted and move all of the fry into the 100 liter tank. So here are the PLAYERS:

1-     Metriaclima greshakei male, 3 females and a all of their fry.

11- Pseudotropheus sp.” Zebra long  pelvicGaleraya. These fish are wild and just now starting to become sexually mature. Once they start to change I will keep the  1 to 3 or 4 ratio.

1- Labidochromis caeruleus male, 7 juveniles, all his, the 2 females were killed by him. The male and 2 females were the first fish put in this tank after it had cycled for 2 months.

1- Pseudotropeus sp. elongatus male

1- Metriaclima estherae male

1- Synodontis eupterus

1- Plecostomus

I would like to say that I find the wild fish much more active and less shy than the LFS tank raised fish.

I have found that not all LFS”s are the same. I am now driving 400 miles to buy my fish. I walked into this store that only sells “African Cichlids” while on a business trip. I could not believe what I  was seeing, 30,000 gallons of crystal ( GIN ) clear water and a floor you could eat off of. The 3 LFS”s in my area should be ashamed of their stores. I don’t even shop for my dry goods in these stores anymore. Once you find a store that does it right  your HOBBY as a fish keeper gets a lot easier. I buy fewer Meds. And fewer fish, since I am not replacing the 72 hour life span Cichlids I was being sold.

Lastly, I would like to thank Frank Panis for all of the Tech help that was given over the last few months. Francesco Zezza for the under water pictures that I would study until the wee hours of the morning, trying to get the look just right. But none of this would have happened if one man had not given up what was left of his personal life (I didn’t have one to start with) to read every damn one of my questions and answer all of them , day or night or like right now at 1:45 AM on Saturday Night( opps Sunday Morning ). George,  my family calls us the twins, ( although I am older than you ) Thank you from the bottom of my Fish Tank. I would not have finished this if it wasn’t for the good times I have spent in front of this computer talking all things FISH and a few other topics with you. Doc if this one doesn’t set  the record , and it shouldn’t because of it’s shape, I know where there is a 180 gallon vessel with my name on it , that will.

 

MCH Verdict
 
Setting up a 125G tank for Malawi cichlids is never easy. To my taste these standard tanks are all too tight, which severely limits the aquascaping possibilities. Dave took his time (which is obvious from the photos we have seen during this time) and did a very good job with his new Mbuna tank though as it looks very natural. All the essential elements are there: very interesting cichlids, sand, rocks in various sizes and a good amount of light and no plants. The shadows created by the overhanging rocks and the differences in height are lovely and the rocks themselves also look dull enough so they won't divert the attention from the cichlids. Furthermore, green algae adds a nice touch, and it will indeed be appreciated by the Mbuna that graze on it Maintenance schedule and water parameters seem to be perfectly balanced and the addition of these salts to keep water parameters perfectly in control shows that Dave knows what he's doing! The only minor point that I see in this tank is the filter inlet that's visible. I never heard of the Pseudotropheus sp.” Zebra long pelvicGaleraya before, but I assume that it's the Pseudotropheus sp. Zebra Long Pelvic "Gallireya Reef" that I found online. If I were you Dave, I'd avoid keeping these newly discovered (2004?) cichlids together with the other Mbuna to avoid diluting by crossbreeding. Wild fish always make my heart run faster and I would definitely set up a separate tank to breed them and keep them with pride. Great job and I liked the humor inside!

This is a great tank (possibly one of the best I've ever seen). The huge rock pile (along the rear glass of the tank) reminds me, quite convincingly, of the rocks we were used to dive along when in Lake Malawi (ages ago, regrettably). The pictures of the fishes (as well as the water parameters) are evidence of the work of a really careful aquarist. I examined this tank in almost every detail and you have to go into too much trouble to find something “artificial” in sight in the whole set-up (you will end up with, only, the filter intake which is quite common in tanks!). I also like the species chosen by Dave and I would like to mention that Pseudotropheus sp. Zebra long  pelvic Galeraya  is really rare in the hobby. On the other hand, I am a bit concerned about the two (lone) males but when reducing - as planned - the number of fish when they reach sexual maturity it won’t be difficult to add the missing females. The fact many fry are found in this tank and the observation by the owner that his wild caught fishes are less shy/more active (when compared to tank-raised specimens) further supports the quality of his work. Finally, I appreciate both the maintenance schedule and the technical set up (and I think that both can used as an example for many hobbyists !). A really good job which makes me anxious to see the result of Dave’s next attempt.

Dave has spend an enormous amount of time and energy on this tank to recreate the original look of a Lake Malawi shore. I have never met in all my years in this hobby somebody so determined to do things the right way, down to the finest detail. Water chemistry was important to him. Lighting was important. The color and shape of the rocks was important. The fish were important. Does the result justify the time and efforts Dave put in this tank? Definitely yes. It is the first time that I see a true rock pile reaching the surface of the water (meaning : not a 3D background) as well as mbuna actually grazing algae on a rock (actually, it is the second time, the first being Walter Deproost's tank). The fact there are fry in the tank is a sign that he must be doing something right. I like the overall look of it and I can't refrain from congratulating him for using natural elements as every aquarist should do. Sand and rocks, it's all it takes to create this look. The fish seem to be in top notch condition and the water chemistry should set an example to all Malawi cichlid lovers. The lighting is strong - as it should be in mbuna tanks - and the only artificial thing visible is the filter intake (right back corner). I would think that with so many rock piles, it should be easy to hide it behind one of them. Stocking level is appropriate for the size of the tank although I am confident that soon he will have to thin his population due to the many fry that will "flood" it. The maintenance schedule is excellent as is the filtration system. All in all a really nice and correctly set up tank which could be used as an example for those who wish to keep mbuna. If recreation of the original biotope is what we should be after, then this tank does exactly that in a most convincing way. I am tempted to reduce my rating a bit, just to see Dave building that 180 gallon tank he saw ! 
Overall rating by MCH :  87/100

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