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A new Hobbyist joins the club - part I

by John and George Reclos

About a month ago, a close friend decided to enter this fascinating hobby. She (Margarita Tsakiridou) was very enthusiastic about it and she seemed the kind of person who would take it very seriously. The tank would be a rather small one (100 liters, measuring 80x40x30 cm) nevertheless she decided that she wanted to see the cichlid behavior and - if possible, experience the spawning of those beauties. Due to the limiting tank size options were very few but, after checking some books, she decided to start with dwarf cichlids in an "Amazon-style " tank. The tank was supposed to divide her living room from the dining room (three sides open) and it was the first step in this hobby. If successful, she would soon move to a bigger one.

The room before the tank.. just another room..

We started with some small plants, an internal filter with peat (by replacing part of the sponge with peat), 2 x 20 W lamps (a full spectrum and an ordinary cool white one) on a timer (10 hours of light per day), a heater, sand as a substrate, some stones, plants and a piece of bogwood. The filter and the sand bed had been matured for a long time before installing them in her tank. The tank was setup by John (yes, my assistant has recently been promoted to a co-Master) with small plants which would adapt in the conditions of the new tank. Plants included some Cryptocorine sp, Hygrophila corymbosa, Ricia fluitans, and some Anubia sp. Since fish would be introduced a week later, Margarita would have to add some drops of ammonia to keep the useful bacterial colony alive. What really gave us a hard time is the furniture. Those modular things always give us a hard time..

Johnny placing the plants in the tank.

The first remark is that we were impressed by her commitment. Looking at an empty tank is not the best part of fish keeping but she fully understood the necessity for cycling and adaptation time. She also followed religiously the ammonia additions and the water change scheme (20% weekly). After setting it up the tank had the usual hazy appearance which was mainly due to the sand - see photo below.

The tank after being setup with that hazy look, common whenever we add sand as a gravel.

A week later, we introduced the first fish. Since dwarf cichlids were to be present in this tank, we chose a small schooling fish as the first fish to enter the tank. Adding it after the cichlids were introduced could result in hierarchy problems. The species chosen was Hemigrammus rhodostomus a small, very peaceful and very beautiful fish while a trio of Microgeophagus ramirezi (1 male / 2 females) were ordered and would be in Athens in two weeks time.

The same tank one month later. Note the growth of the plants.

  This is how the tank looks one month after setup. The plants are growing, the fish are thriving and Margarita is happy. In fact the water parameters are so good that her M.ramirezi spawned 2 days after being introduced - the eggs were eaten by the female within hours. They spawned again a week later - this time the female only ate the eggs 36 hours later. This is what we call progress. The H.rhodostomus have almost doubled in size while the colors are really striking - nothing to do with the faint colors we had seen in the petshop. Yes, indeed, Margarita fully justifies the title of the first ever hobbyist to have a tank set up by MCH. We are really proud of her and the tank and we hope this will be just the first of a long series of bigger and bigger tanks.

The same tank three months later - January 2003

The same tank three months later. There is no CO2 injection in the system just peat filtration and some liquid fertilizer. A second 18 W fluorescent tube (full spectrum 5500 K) was added in the meantime.

See next pages for photos of the fishes.

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