Setting up a Cichlid
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
(a) Rinse and clean the tank thoroughly without soap, for
soap can be fatal for the cichlids.
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.
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.
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
(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
(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
(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.
Clean the glass of your cichlid aquarium about once a
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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