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A New Tank at the Office - II

by George J. Reclos, John G. Reclos & Thomas C. Tsakarisianos

Its been almost seven months since this tank became operational and it is true that it has helped the fish gain size quickly, while at the same time aggression has been kept to a minimum. There are good news and bad news of course. The bad news is that the Paretroplus maculatus reduced their spawning activities despite the larger space they have now. Some spawning activity is still there but nothing compared to their 30-day spawning cycle we have been used to. It seems they spend more time displaying to each other (the males) then working things out with their spouses. This may well be the result of the extra space. When they were kept in the 120 cm tank it is possible that they took the lack of space as granted and decided to make the best use of it (which they did by spawning four times - two different pairs). In the new tank, the presence of other cichlids and many spawning sites may be the reason they rearranged their priorities. The good news is that the Cichlasoma pearsei started displaying to each other (at last) and - guess what - we have two pairs. This is what we call luck. Four fish, two pairs. All the fish have increased their size significantly, the largest of them being a male C. pearsei measuring 26 cm (TL) while the second largest (here comes the surprise) is a male Paretroplus menarambo measuring a good 24 cm (TL). This is the fish you can see in the second photo below. The male P. nourissati has already exceeded 20 cm TL (a really robust fish) while all the others have gained a good 25% in size during the last six months. Huge water changes, good quality food in large quantities and ample space is all they need. Despite the size of the tank, it would be really hard to add anything else in there, the final size of the inhabitants taken into account.

Aggression wise, things have settled a bit. This is not to say that there is no aggression, on the contrary. However, the many hiding spots and the large length of the tank ensure that no fish is harassed to the point that it will refrain from eating, which is always a risk with cichlids. The most notorious fighters are the two female P. nourissati with one of them (the one shown in the picture below - left side bottom) always looking for the other one. The C. pearsei pairs meet each other only occasionally since they have chosen the opposite sides of the tank as their territories. The P. menarambo are the most peaceful in this setup although we have seen some foggy eyes..

Food is given to them three times daily. Large pellets, both sinking and floating (O.S.I. cichlid pellets) are offered in the morning followed by two feedings with Tetra discus from the automated feeder. The water is almost permanently yellow because of the huge amount of bogwood added in this tank, something the fish seem to enjoy. We perform one water change per week, ranging from 50% (during winter months) to over 80% (during summer). During the winter months, 10% of the water is removed while cold water is added very slowly. When the tank is full, the process is repeated. This ensures that there are no great temperature fluctuations (about one degree C) but it also prolongs the duration of the change which usually takes as long as 8 hours to be completed. Since we have to be at the office anyway, this is not a problem of course. Two more 300 W heaters were added in the tank to be on the safe side. Needless to say, a closet in the office has become a warehouse for aquatic paraphernalia with food stuff, nets, conditioners, medications etc... You can even see a discus spawning cone.. a left over from a glorious past !! I would like to draw your attention to the empty cans of OSI cichlid pellets on top of the closet. This tank has been running for seven months and I have already used 6 such cans plus about 5 liters of Tetra bits. Yes, I do feed a lot... It is a good thing that my colleagues respect my addiction and do not make any nasty comments !

By the way, this is the kind of glue we used to fit the background poster in place. I referred to it in the previous page but forgot to take a photo of it. It takes two people to do the job since one has to apply the glue, then the second one will put the poster in place and then the first one will use the special tool to spread the glue evenly between the poster and the glass. The final result is truly impressive and much better than the usual method. Mind you, this stuff is far more economic than it declares. Although we bought two of them (after reading the specifications of the product and calculating the surface we would need it for) however, only one of them was used.

This tank has been really rewarding in many aspects, the decorative one being highly appreciated by visitors who use to spend a good deal of time watching the fish, even though they are not the most colorful cichlids available. It is evident that their size is impressive, while the size of the tank (length in particular) doesn't give the impression of a "crowded" tank. You can click on any of the photos below to see the high resolution pictures.

It is feeding time and almost everybody is gathered at the center of the tank. The only fishes missing are a C. pearsei and the second P. nourissati. It is interesting to note that we have never observed any kind of aggression during feeding time and this is partly due to the fact that they all know that there will be pellets all over the place after a while. It goes without saying that the fish never stay in such close formation - apart from feeding time.

Hard to believe that two years ago it was a 4 cm juvenile. This male P. menarambo has grown to almost full size while the distinct coloration of the species is always visible. However, due to the yellow water it is not visible in the photo.

Two of the Paretroplus menarambo in the tank. The one in the bottom shows the typical coloration while the other one is not (you can see the faint red edge at the tail). The male P. nourissati is visible behind them. The funny thing with this particular fish is that it has fallen in love with the air bubbles coming out from an air stone at the back. Despite the presence of two females in the tank it is always there, guarding the air stone. The good thing is that it always shows the remarkable breeding coloration. In the near future we are going to add a coconut shell with an appropriately sized entrance to see if this will wake up his mating instincts.

All four Cichlasoma pearsei have started displaying and cleaning their pits. The two smaller ones have chosen the right part of the tank while the two larger the exactly opposite side. When we see those beauties preparing their pits and displaying to each other, we can't help but wonder how would this be possible in smaller quarters. We don't say it can't be done, but we question if this would be the correct husbandry. Measuring around 25 cm TL each, they need a space which is about 40x55 cm for their territory and we assume this will get larger as they grow. Mind you that they are deep bodied fish which means their mass is above average and length alone can't determine their spatial needs. In short, they need about 200 liters for their spawning site alone. Being extremely mild in character, they need this place to be isolated in a way, which in turn means more space for the bogwood or stones. We feel that anything less than 250-300 L per pair is too small - even this size is not really recommended. Under those conditions the fish will show an excellent appetite, vivid coloration, minimal aggression against its conspecifics and others and normal spawning activity. The presence of other species of considerable size (like the Madagascan cichlids) helps a lot.

Although this photo will not show much, it is eggs you see on the dark stone under the male's belly. Yes, they made it. This is the pair which formed only a couple of months ago - while the larger pair spends all its time cleaning their own pit. These ones were simply faster. The pit was formed and cleaned in two days while the actual spawning was completed in less than two hours. Surprisingly, it was the male which stayed with the eggs despite the efforts of the female to enter the pit. As you can see in the photo below, the male is visible in the gap between two pieces of bogwood and the female is in the open space at the front of the tank.

This was their first effort and, although we have seen fish successfully guarding their eggs and the young fry, this was not the case. After just hours, the male ate the eggs. This may be a sign of immaturity or of wrong parental care. The fish, despite their size, are still quite young so the former assumption may be the right one. However, we will watch them closely and, if they prove to be regular spawners, we will give them a second chance to make it. If not successful, we will assume that for some reason they will not make it by themselves and will remove the stone with the eggs to hatch them artificially. Nevertheless, it was a nice experience to see yet another large cichlid spawning. No matter how many times your experience this, it is always something which is worth mentioning.

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