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Cichlid Aquarium
~Pooja Chakrabarty

Setting up a Cichlid Aquarium

Before you get home your new cichlids, you need to set up their home: the aquarium. The setting up of this aquarium for your cichlids will require a fair amount of work. Not only will you be required to assemble all the equipment, but you will also need to do some research on the cichlid that you are planning to get home.

To set up a cichlid aquarium you will need to assemble the following equipment: the tank (A 20 gallon tank is ideal. For a beginner, a larger tank is preferred for they are lower on maintenance. Moreover, a larger tank would give more space to aggressive cichlids, and the weaker ones would then be able to avoid their aggression); gravel; a heater; an air pump; a filter (Sponge filters are especially suited to clean the water in smaller tanks, and they are very low maintenance); a cover for the tank (This does not necessarily have to fit like a glove or be airtight. It is merely to prevent the cichlids from jumping out); a thermometer; a chloramine remover (only if the water is rich in chloramine, which keeps chlorine dissolved in the water….needless to say that chlorine is harmful for your cichlids); food for the cichlids.

Don’t put a whole crowd of fish in a new cichlid aquarium

Setting up the cichlid aquarium:
(a) Rinse and clean the tank thoroughly without soap, for soap can be fatal for the cichlids.
(b) Place the tank where it will remain permanently. Don't attempt moving the tank around when it has more than two inches of water in it. Not only would the tank be heavy, but this would also be unsafe. Moreover, the stress placed on the silicone on the tank might cause it to leak.
(c) If the pH level of the water is too low, it can be combated by placing in the tank coral sand or gravel. Alternatively, limestone and other rocks can also be used.
(d) When adding the sand or gravel ascertain that these have been washed properly and slowly add it into the tank. Don't just drop in a lot of gravel together, as your tank might get damaged.
(e) Add water till the tank is three-quarters full.
(f) Set up the filter in a back corner, and put the airline tubing in place between the filter and the air-pump. Once you turn on the air-pump, the filter should start working.
(g) Set up the heater along the back wall of the tank, and set it to a temperature of about 24 to 26oC. It is advisable to use a heater as this will help avoid fluctuations of temperature in the water. Keep your cichlid aquarium away from sunny areas of your home, as overheating of the tank may kill the cichlids.
(h) As far as lighting a cichlid aquarium goes, stick to full spectrum lights that are not too bright. Being able to replicate the correct spectrum of light would go some way in determining how healthy your fish turns out to be. Excessively bright lights would in fact disturb them. Similarly, the background should be made out of neutral colors so that the cichlids feel comfortable and at home.
(i) Now fill the aquarium with water, but not right till the brim.
(j) Wait for one whole day at the very least so that the temperature gets stabilized, and so that the chlorine present in the water evaporates.
(k) Only after 24 hours have elapsed should you go to get your cichlids. When choosing your cichlids get a male and a female.
(l) Don't put a whole crowd of fish in a new cichlid aquarium. The natural nitrogen cycle takes a little time to get started in a new aquarium. Hence, it is preferred to start with only one or two fish.
(m) Also, try not to mix different species and place them in the same tank. Some like the angelfish feed on other cichlids like the neon tetra. Also, different species would have different needs as regards the conditions within the tank.
(n) Don't flood your cichlids with food on the first few days. Start small, and only when your cichlids start exhibiting a desire to eat should you increase the amount of food you give them.
(o) When decorating the aquarium, remember that this will be the home of your fish, so try to reproduce the conditions that prevail in their natural habitat. For instance, mbuna cichlids live in rocks, and therefore would be happier in an aquarium filled with rocks than in one filled with plants.
(p) You could also place plants in your cichlid aquarium. Find out which plants are found in the natural environment of your particular cichlids. Don’t just randomly pick out aquatic plants and place them there.
(q) Change no more than 25% of the water every week.
(r) At the same time rinse the filter thoroughly.
(s) Clean the glass of your cichlid aquarium about once a month…without soap.

Normally if the conditions in the cichlid tank remain stable, the fish do thrive. However, at times, despite following all the rules to take care of the fish, they may die. Don't let this put you off. With practice and experience you will be able to have a cichlid aquarium that is filled with many of these colorful finned creatures.

[Permission for using the above picture has been given by Jeff Rapps of Tangled Up In Cichlids.]

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