Watching the Cichlids

Now that the Evil Fry-Eating Rusty and all the big fish are gone, the Eensie-Weensies are quite brave about coming out of their crevices! They’re only about 3/8″ but already part of the school of saulosi fry. I should have some rusty eensie-weensies in another three weeks, Momma Rusty is holding – don’t know which of the new rusties is the proud father, but I’ve got my suspicions. And there’s a 1″ saulosi male who’s doing a great job at coloring up – no blue yet, but his black stripes are quite bold, considering his rival outmasses him by about 300%. He’s got his own corner and hangers-on, even. I do hope I can get at least three saulosi males colored-up in this tank – it is 75 gallons, after all! And I have a great many more males than just three. If a mere half the 19 I bought are males, I’d count it an uncommonly good M/F ratio. Usually more than half are male.

Surprisingly enough, taking the rocks out to catch the larger cichlids and letting them get dried out seems to have dealt a fairly severe blow to most of the BBA in the tank. There is a lush patch of it on one rock, and today I tried spot-treating it with H2O2 – bubbled quite a bit, but no change yet. Some of the fish have been nibbling, though.

The rusties are greedy little fish – they come up to the surface to get first dibs on the pellets, and end up with fat little bellies! If that keeps them from acquiring a taste for saulosi fry I’ll be happy, though. It seems enough pellets fall so that the other fish get a chance at food too – and I’ve never been so pleased that NLS is a “messy” food, because the dust feeds the fry.

The three acei are growing well – maybe it’s just the bigger tank, but I could swear they’ve put on length since I moved them over to the 75! They’re still only about 2″, though, which means they’re not going to be a concern size-wise for a good long while.

Cichlids sure are waste-producing factories! There’s always a few spots to the lee of rocks where a pile of fish waste builds up. And I just vacuumed in there, too! The filter sponges on this tank are always covered with reddish muck, far more than in the planted tank, although they’re fed the same food. (But I suppose the planted tank does get fed less.)

I’ve decided not to worry overmuch about the sword plants in this tank – the substrate is aragonite, which is great for buffering but doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrients to root feeders like swords. I’ve tried Flourish tabs, but I think the lack of N and P is getting to them. Given how much waste the cichlids produce, I don’t want to have to dose N or P (though I have some P dry supplement if needed) to this tank. There is about 5 ppm N and 1 ppm P in the water column just from the fish, tested today from pre-water-change water. I’m a bit leery of trying something like DIY osmocote root tabs; perhaps I’ll just wait and see. I’ve been trimming leaves affected by algae, and some of the trouble may be the weak lighting until recently; one T-8 and one T-12, even with fairly decent reflectors in the stock 48″ hoods, is not very much. Been doing some reading, and I’ve come to the conclusion that trying to go to T-5 bulbs would be a mistake; T-8 NO and T-8 ODNO ought to be enough for a 75 low-light, low-tech, no CO2 approach. It puts me in the vicinity of just over 1 WPG of T-8 lighting. I think I’ve found a US source for the much-praised Aquarelle bulbs, too, so I’m going to have to call the company tomorrow and get a shipping quote from them. I’m actually going to be in the same state for a few days, unfortunately a five-hour drive away (opposite sides of the state, naturally) but maybe shipping in-state would be cheaper than shipping halfway across the country, especially for an unwieldy package size like 48″ long. One can hope.

Perhaps it’s too soon, but I was hoping that getting rid of the 6″ cichlids in this tank would inspire my full-grown saulosi male to fully color all the time, but even a week after they left, he only “bars up” occasionally, usually during feeding. I think the addition of new fish stressed him, even though they were all far smaller than he!, and it’s been less than a week since then, so I’m trying to be patient while he stays a pale blue with yellow edging and no stripes. If he’s a laid-back Tank Boss, that’s pretty good, too. The big male acei I used to have was an excellent tank boss until he was supplanted by the growing red zebra, who was too aggressive to make a good Tank Boss. (I’d be worried about the faded colors, except he’s not showing any other signs of distress, so I think it’s psychological. Yes, cichlid keepers have to evaluate their pets’ psychological health.)

I’ve decided that what I’d like to do for plants in this tank is to focus primarily on epiphytic species such as anubias and java fern – all species that are good for low-light conditions. The corkscrew vals and sword plants can thrive of fail as they wish; I won’t be moving heaven and earth (or running 30′ of CO2 tubing around half the perimeter of the house) to try to do more than the most basic of planted tanks. I recently scored some narrow-leaf and windelov java fern from Petco’s “plants in a bottle” section, and while I put a few rhizomes (Petco’s bottled java ferns are always multiple rhizome sections bundled with black thread) in the planted tank, most were tied and superglued to pebbles for this tank. That gives me three varieties of java fern (counting plain old regular) and an anubias I bought, also from Petco, because a few of its leaves had a variegated pattern on them. While plants aren’t exactly biotope-compliant in a mbuna tank, I think the aesthetic value they bring to the rockwork more than compensates for the loss of authenticity. (That, and most mbuna tanks people do are really ugly – and the pretty ones all have 3D backgrounds, which I don’t have, don’t have the money to buy premade, don’t have the patience to make myself, and don’t want to sacrifice the tank volume for. If I had a 180 long, it’d be a different story entirely.)

I also have a subterranean saulosi juvie – this one found a sufficiently large entrance to the fry pile and can be regularly seen excavating sand from it. It’s amusing, since with the addition of many more conspecifics in near their own size, the eensie-weensies take the opportunity to ditch their caves on a regular basis. This one is constantly down there instead!

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About pancakeloach

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