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FAQs on Dwarf South American Cichlids

Related Articles: Dwarf South American Cichlids, Rams, Discus, Juraparoids, Neotropical Cichlids, African Cichlids, Asian Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in General

Related FAQs: Rams, Ram Identification, Ram Behavior, Ram Compatibility, Ram Selection, Ram Systems, Ram Feeding, Ram Disease, Ram Reproduction, & FAQs on: Bolivian Rams, Cichlids of the World, Cichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,

Apistogramma; head down       9/17/18
I have a dwarf cockatoo cichlid that has been breeding recently the last batch of fry were about 2-4 weeks ago but on the last week he has been acting strange by going vertical as the picture shows Amy ideas why he is behaving like this.
<I'm surprised if this fish is still alive by the time you get my message, to be honest. Usually this darkening colour and spiraling loss of control implies severe stress, if not imminent death. If the fish is still alive, I'd be doing the following: First, isolate from the other fish (probably best to remove that one, rather than stress the sick fish; if all else fails, a floating breeding trap can be used to confine the healthy fish for a few days). Second, ensure water quality excellent, with low nitrate and generous oxygenation. Thirdly, if after a few hours of improved conditions, the fish becomes more active and shows some signs of looking better, then medicating with Metronidazole would probably be a good idea. It's as close to a cure-all as there is for cichlids, covering a variety of possible problems.>
Thank you
From Josh
<Dwarf cichlids can be easily stressed, often by increasing temperatures, dropping oxygen, and/or elevated nitrate level. In addition, any sort of accidentally dissolved toxins, such as household solvents and aerosol sprays, including things like insecticide, can cause immediate stress and/or death. I've seen this myself with Nanochromis when placing a small piece wood into their tank that came from a garden that had, without my knowledge, been recently sprayed with weed killer. The pair of cichlids were dead within 20 minutes. If just the one fish is sick, and the other fine, then still keep an open mind, but do review environment, and think about how/why this particular fish might be stressed. Let me make an additional point -- Apistogramma aren't really "pairing" fish in the wild, most, perhaps all, are harem spawners to some degree. Usually the female guards the fry, while the male will defend a territory containing the smaller territories of one or several females. The upshot of this is that female sometimes decide the male is a threat, and will shoo him away. In a big tank, or the wild, that's fine, and he'll scoot off; but in small tanks, say, a 10 gallon breeding tank, she might decide that the male is still too close to her brood. She can then become very aggressive, harassing, even killing, the male. Review, an act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Apistogramma      9/17/18
I am putting the fish in a breeding net as instructed, u said would die soon the fish has been like this and it’s colours for a while on further inspection it is the behind of the fish floating up causing him to be vertical
From Josh
<Obviously such behaviour is not normal, and must have some underlying cause. Constipation can cause fish to lose balance, but their colours generally remain normal and their behaviour doesn't change otherwise. So review my last message as a starting point, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>

Dwarf cichlid fry      6/21/18
In my tank my 2 Apistogramma/ dwarf cockatoo cichlids have just had baby’s under a rock so I was unable to catch the female before or see the eggs, I can now see the fry swimming around they female has spawned before when I got her and i couldn’t catch the fry I have a mesh cage and fine net how do you recommend catching them without hearting them or them swimming under the rock or should I just leave them.
Thank you for any help it’s much appreciated
From Josh
<Hi Josh, well done with your spawning here! I'd leave the fry be unless it was trivially easy to capture them and remove them to a breeding tank or perhaps a large breeding trap. Removing and rearranging all the rocks and plants to try to find a batch of fry is likely to stress the cichlid pair. If the fry are actively swimming about and feeding they're probably big enough the parents will ignore them provided there's space enough the fry can avoid interfering with subsequent batches of fry. It's probably best to remove the adult pair to a Spartan tank if you're serious about rearing big batches of fry. Basically, heater, simple cave (like a flowerpot) and a filter -- you can then remove the flowerpot with the eggs into a rearing tank, replace with another flowerpot, and let the process start over. Apistogramma are usually pretty good parents though, so it's well worth leaving them with their fry for something like 3-4 weeks, by which point the fry will be easily big enough to move to another tank without disturbing the adults. Make sense? Indeed, unless a given pair of cichlids are actually consuming their eggs or fry (as happens with Angels a lot) it's better to leave the parents with the eggs and fry because they'll do a better job than most aquarists! So most casual breeders give their cichlid pairs 3-4 'attempts' at breeding first, and only if they completely fail, think about rearing the fry themselves. If you must capture fry from the existing tank, the easiest approach is to use a net (square, not round) to drive the fry into a plastic container (like a cup of some kind) so that the fry can be corralled and removed without stressing them to much. Trying to capture them with a single net is often frustrating for you and stressful for the fish. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Dwarf cichlid fry <Video>      6/22/18   

Thank you for your help I will leave them as this time she has a male to help her protect ( last time male died a few days after being bought and the new male was what I think is called a sneaker male so thought was female) this is a video I got of them.
<Neat! Among Apistogramma it's pretty common for the females to look after the fry and the males to guard a territory that includes one *or more* females. It's called the 'harem' style of breeding. While that doesn't rule out keeping a pair, it can happen that the female becomes defensive at times, driving off, even harassing the male. A rule of thumb with cichlids is that if the male and female look identical (as with Angels and Discus) then they look after the fry equally and in the same way. The more different the two sexes look, the more differentiated their roles will be in reproduction.>
From Josh
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Choosing a S. American Exotic     1/15/18
I finally got some Uaupesi Apistogramma.
<Nice! Apistogramma uaupesi is, I believe, the Apistogramma 'rotkeil' that had some popularity a few years ago. Do bear in mind this is a true soft water species (Rio Negro habitat) and a bit of a 'hothouse flower' so a Discus-style environment is what you need for success. As with any dwarf cichlid, so watch your water quality, including nitrate. Any nitrite or ammonia will kill them, but even moderate levels of nitrate, 20 mg/l, are enough to cause serious health issues in the long term. In other words:
don't skip water changes, and don't overstock the tank! If you have a pair, you do want them breeding, but ensure plenty of caves, including some only the female can enter. Otherwise, the male can be a bit hard on her, and you
don't want to be stuck with a lone male! On the plus side, once they're breeding you should be able to sell the youngsters easily -- these are very desirable fish! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Gourami compatibility question , Apistogrammas are known to blind Corys?       6/29/16
Eeek, I just read that Apistogrammas are known to blind Corys?
<Yep. Never seen it myself, but Paul Loiselle describes it in his book, 'The Cichlid Aquarium'.>
So perhaps this is after all not a good addition?
<I'm wary about cichlids and Corys, yes. Can work depending on the species, especially the bigger Corydoras being more durable than little species. Similarly some cichlids are worse than others. Review.>
Sorry for the multiple questions. I want to be extra cautious about compatibility as it's much easier to choose carefully than to take fish back.
<Welcome. Neale.>

Trying new dwarf cichlids.... half dead already.    4/25/16
Greetings, crew. Im sorry to bother you so much lately. This particular time i just want an opinion on my course of action.
So the lfs brought in a shipment of dwarf cichlids of which i had none of those species: Dicrossus sp (filamentosus likely), Apistogramma borelli, viejita and what they have labeled as diplotaenia.
<Mmm; I do hope they quarantined them for a good two weeks... many "just imported" South Americans die easily. I worked for importers... we had these come in as contaminants... >
I should have known better or rather, waited out longer before buying. I noticed they were all very small... probably ranging from 1 to 2.5 cm. without any apparent colors except for a few... that coupled with shipping stress and possible starvation these fish were in bad condition, i figure now.
But at the moment i only thought of bringing the guys home, and so did i and put them in a 10 gallon bare bottom tank, a few Anubias and rocks for them to hide and so, cycled media and such. Parameters have been around 0,0,0.5 (0.5 nitrates is what the tap comes out like, also). i figured i could grow these guys since i have bred and raised dwarves before with high success (rams and macmasteri), but i didn't take in account possible sickness and shipment.
<The ones you had before... were likely tank-bred for several generations. An "entirely different kettle of fish" hardiness-wise.>
So fast forward the long period of 2 days, i come home and find half of them dead (8 originally, two of each). Only ones left are the two Dicrossus which are hanging near the surface (they did so from the beginning), 1 borelli and 1 viejita. The viejita looks like its about to die too and the Dicrossus aren't moving much (they still react to my presence though).
Ph is 6.7, tap mixed with ro/di. temp is 81 F.
<pH likely needed to be much lower, temp. higher; almost no hardness... look up these species natural environments. On FishBase.org>
Did these guys die from stress and weakening due to shipment or could there be an error in my part?
i figured i could wait a week more and go get the remnants at the lfs (a lot of people went crazy over the dwarves... pretty rare over here) and hope those are healthier? i also was considering parasites or any sickness they could bring along, but i cant notice anything out of the normal... do you think it would be good to use preemptive medicine for parasites and such or are they too young to get through that?
Thanks, crew, hopefully the rest survive, im at a loss on what to do.
<Read, study... be more patient; provide a more suitable habitat. Bob Fenner>

Sick Macmasteri cichlid        1/31/16
Hello crew.
I am writing you because as the title implies i have a sick female macmasteri cichlid. She is in a 25 gal low tech planted aquarium with 7 threadfin rainbow fish and two female guppies. Parameters are : 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 20 nitrates. Ph is 7.4. temperature is 28C (naturally, non heated aquarium)
<Sounds fine.>
they have been doing great up until now. Average temperature across the year is around 25-26C but this last month has been a bit hot, however, there were two days last week that were particularly cold, where water temperature dropped to 22-23C. then it slowly rose back to 26-28 C across the day.
<The high temperature "spike" can cause problems with low oxygen level. Cichlids are sensitive to this. Even though many live in water that can get as warm as 28-32 C, in the wild there will be more oxygen than in an aquarium. Apistogramma species generally are not hardy fish, and Apistogramma macmasteri is no exception. They will not tolerate stress for very long.>
The macmasteri cichlid started flashing against the substrate, darting and has clamped fins since two days ago. The first two days i figured anything she had i would better just wait and put a heater at 28C to keep the temperature stable across day and night. i haven't treated the tank with anything. She is not eating flakes as usual but is still taking bloodworms and Tubifex.
<Don't worry about the fish no eating.>
Today i noticed she has what looks like a swollen gill, and that area looks sort of pale. She still has colored fins but her color is starting to wash around the head, she looks stressed and has clamped fins and darts a lot then decides to just rest being a clump of java moss (she rests upright, not on her side). Im not really sure what this could be, but i have avoided treating with anything before being certain... i finally managed to take some pictures of her ( although bad quality) also i noticed she had a small growth on her upper lip, sort of like a spider web strand, and very small white dot-like growths on her right side near her eye. They are so small they are unnoticeable on the photos, although the washing is visible on her left side. You can also see the white patch and swollen gill on her left.
Thanks again, for all your help.
<The photos aren't clear enough to be sure. But assuming you're in Spain, as suggested by your email address, you will only be able to get antibiotics from a vet. Normally WWM recommends Metronidazole alongside an antibiotic for treating sick cichlids. This combination works well against a wide range of problems. However, if you can't get to a vet, you'll need some other options. I'd be medicating using eSHa 2000 (excellent against early-stage external bacterial and fungal infections) while maintaining perfect water quality. I'd not bother feeding this fish while it's off-colour. I don't think Hexamita is the issue, but look closely at your fish and compare the symptoms against those described on the eSHa website (I've linked to the Spanish language pages, but there are others elsewhere on the site)...
eSHa products generally have low toxicity, are inexpensive, and widely sold across the EU. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Sick Macmasteri cichlid      2/1/16
The medicines i have always used to treat anything fish related have always been Metronidazole, Methylene blue and malachite green (i know, very toxic!). I actually live in El Salvador, and there are very few fish-related products over here... so its not possible to get eSHa 2000 for me at the moment.
What other antibiotics can i use? amoxicilin? (he!) metro comes in tablets, i have always mixed a dissolved tablet with food, but that could be a bit harder now... anything else?
<Well, we go back to Plan A... in other words, Metronidazole plus something like a Nitrofuran antibiotic. This combination is quite reliable, and treats a wide range of microbes including many fungi, Protozoans and bacteria.>
i have been looking at pictures of sick Apistos... it looks like a fungus, and im paranoid it could be columnaris due to the white growth on the mouth (the threadfin rainbows that are with her used to have columnaris back when i bought them some 3 months ago, though i quarantined them).
<Columnaris is, of course, a bacterial infection, and treated in the same way as Finrot. It does tend to be rather more stubborn though. Columnaris typically has a grey, slimy appearance on infected fish, but really, you can't be sure without examining samples under a microscope. So if in doubt, treat for fungi and bacteria together. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick Macmasteri cichlid      2/1/16

Alright, got it. Would Nitrofurazone work? it comes in tablets, do i just dissolve it in the water even if the fish doesn't eat?
Thank you, for your time Neale.
<Getting fish to eat the medication is better, if you can get the dose right (it's worked out going by the mass/weight of the fish). But otherwise: yes, Nitrofurazone is a good choice and can be dissolved in the water. Follow the instructions on the packaging, or else, the instructions given on line by companies like API that produce the stuff for aquaria. Do monitor ammonia and/or nitrite levels because these medications can be hard on biological filter bacteria. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Sick Macmasteri cichlid       2/15/16
Fast forward two weeks, my Apisto didn't make it. She seemed to recover but then suddenly just died. She had been with me quite a while and was a very peaceful cichlid...
<Sorry this didn't work out.>
Anyway, it is to note that the two females guppies ( and also three more guppies that just seemed to appear... Out of nowhere... Im guessing they were spawned by the females when i moved them here 2 months ago) all got the same kind of infection, but on their fins.... Each day after my Apisto died i would find one of the guppies also dead... Medication didn't seem to work. I had a slight ammonia spike due to the several deaths but i continued 40% water change daily and then did a 100% for two days ( in two 50% changes) only two guppies have remained, they are still showing signs of infection but i has stopped spreading... Fish are active... I don't know what else to do really but to keep good water quality. The last death was about a week ago and the fish seem to be recovering. No threadfin rainbow is infected, they are all feeding and acting normally.
<All sounds very depressing. FWIW, my approach would be this: maintain good water quality, removing any ailing fish and either move to a hospital tank or destroy them humanely in the hope of preventing further reinfection. Wait for whatever the problem is to work its way through the tank. Then, after no more sickness, wait a solid 6 weeks, if not longer, before adding anything else. It's very odd that the Rainbows are doing well, because they're fairly sensitive fish, so it is possible that your Guppies and Apistogramma were simply sick when you bought them, both species being intensively and cheaply farmed, unlike the Rainbows. I'd be minded to avoid farmed fish if possible, and certainly quarantine anything new before adding to this tank.>
On a side question, i am setting up a 150 gal. I plan on moving my pair of German blue rams there but also want to get other small cichlids. I already have spawning pairs of other Apistogramma species but i don't really want to deal with fry in this new 150 tank. I was considering either Herotilapia multispinosa or Pelvicachromis pulcher. No f/m pair but probably two same sex of each species ( e.g. two male kribs and two male rainbows) the tank will be moderately planted with some river rocks and driftwood, it is a 60'24'24' tank, could this work ?
<Should do, but I'd honestly keep two females of either species. Less chance of problems, and in the case of Kribs, the females are the pretty sex.>
As always thank you very much, for your help.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick Macmasteri cichlid      2/16/16

Thank you, i just wanted to mention that my macmasteri Apisto had been with about a year with me, and even bred once!( i separated the pair as i dealing with other fry at the moment) and the guppies ( even the two female) were spawned in my tanks with different bloodlines... That's what concerns me, these fish have had very healthy lives but all of a sudden they just got whatever they got... The rainbows are fairly recent though, 3 months or so... It is all very weird.
<Agreed; nothing obviously amiss, but would keep an open mind and see what happens. Regardless, leave the tank be for a good long while before adding anything new. Cheers, Neale.>

dwarf cichlid identification    7/25/15
Can you help me to identify this one? It was bought (online) as being an Apistogramma agassizii male, but it doesn't look like one at all...
<Indeed not.>
it seems that it's a female of some kind,
<Yes, but your guess is as good as mine. Female Apistogramma are fairly similar. While there are some differences, your problem as an aquarist is that while relatively few are sold regularly, Apistogramma cacatuoides and Apistogramma agassizii spring to mind, artificial varieties are quite common, and these might not match the photos in your fish books. On top of this, as you're probably aware, there are "species groups" within the genus, and members of species groups will interbreed given the chance.
While expert aquarists usually don't allow this to happen, casual aquarists might, especially if the pet store had a tank of "mixed Apistogramma" for sale, and it's certainly happening deliberately on some Southeast Asian fish farms.>
but it doesn't look like the agassizii female as well.
<Agreed, not enough red on the fins, but could simply be too young or just lacks those genes.>
This same store is known to mix up their fish a lot and send wrong species here and there (happened with me more than once...).
<Ah, yes, see above.>
To me it looks a bit like the A. borellii female but I'm not so sure yet.
<Nor am I; seems to lack the classic "speckled" appearance of the typical female Apistogramma borellii.>
Unless it's a very pale male of some (ugly and uncommon in the hobby) species, I think it's a female.
<Almost certainly a female.>
It's not too small to not being able to display some more colours if it was actually a male plus it doesn't seem to have some basic male cichlid characteristics (pointed fins for example).
<Quite so. Behaviour should also be an indicator at this stage. Females being less territorial, and often more concerned with food than putting on displays than the males.>
It has no other colour so far than this faint blue on its head. It's in my tank now for about 2 weeks, so I think it has already adapted enough to show its real colour. At first I thought it could be a cacatuoides female, but these are way more yellow even without a male around.
<True, but Apistogramma cacatuoides has been bred into various colour forms, "Super Red", "Gold", and so on that aren't similar to the standard sort in appearance, even among the females. Since Apistogramma cacatuoides
is the default Apistogramma at the moment (with good reason, it's an excellent fish) this is a sensible starting point when identifying mystery Apistogramma. I'd also look at Apistogramma macmasteri, the females of which have plenty of blue on their gill covers and around the eye, but often not much colour elsewhere (though some do have red on their unpaired
<You're welcome, Neale.>

Re: dwarf cichlid identification      7/26/15
Thanks, your answers were quite what was I expecting, actually... it's a hard guy to identify. I am thinking about buying a cacatuoides, to see if it can "trigger" her female colours, as to me it is what she looks like the most.
Mcmasteris aren't very common here (even though I live in Brazil!), I'm not sure if it's one.
<Curious. It is a Colombian species though, and exports of Colombian fish are patchy, at best.>
Once I got (from this same store) some varieties like mamore and some other I can't remember right now but they were more like the bitaeniatas (thin body) and were definitely males. If I had to bet, I'd bet on it being a
cacatuoides without any colour, but all the females I got had some colour, from yellow to orange, plus a bit of pattern on the tail, this one is pretty clear. But at the same time, all these females I got were bought as a pair, so they probably had their "female" colour evident because of the male being present.
<Makes sense. But if this was me, and I was serious about breeding Apistogramma, I'd not breed from this female. I'd keep her in a quiet community tank by herself (or even other surplus females). Breeding two
different species will result in hybrids, and these cause problems down the line for the people who get them. Just like you, they'd be "What are these fish?" Much better to breed exclusively from known species that are clearly
recognisable as healthy, normal members of their type.>
I have 4 ramirezis and this one likes to tease them a bit, but I guess it doesn't make it a "him".
<Ah, do be aware that Mikrogeophagus ramirezi has different requirements to Apistogramma, and it's hard to keep them both - properly - in the same aquarium. Mikrogeophagus need warmer water than some Apistogramma and are more dedicated sand-sifters than micro-predators on invertebrates. Cheers,
Re: dwarf cichlid identification      7/26/15

Could it be a hybrid female already?
<Always a possibility, even with wild-caught fish, but very much more likely if this fish was brought in from a local breeder.>
I considered this possibility, but as I haven't heard of dwarf hybrids that much let alone of them being sold, I thought it would be not much the case, but at the same time, when they make a female Apisto available so easily
(i.e. not listing it specifically as a female and - of course - charging more for it) it's something to be suspicious about...
I'm not sure about their sources, if it's collected or from a commercial breeder, but if I was sure they were somehow collected (and sold by a general supplier, not a breeder) it could have a chance of having some odd
species here and there in a batch.
<For sure. Safest bet would be to keep it away from males, let it mature another couple months, provide optimal diet/water chemistry, and see what happens. There are various cichlid-oriented forums online; you might try
positing a photo on one of those.>
Some similar species they had for sale (out of stock for a long time now in their site) is the A. gephyra, which I also considered and the A. taeniata... they also have listed a very generic "Apistogramma sp." but it's also out of stock for a long time.
<Some undescribed species exist in the genus, the "A Numbers" for example, and the ones traded under make-do names like Apistogramma sp. "Steel Blue". So simply because an Apistogramma is traded as "sp." doesn't mean it's a hybrid, it could be something as yet undescribed.>
They all are in a community planted tank (250L, 55G?) along with some tetras and discus, and I'm not actually planning to breed it unless it happens by accident, and if it does I'll not be passing the fry along. The temp in the tank is now at 29C (I used to keep it a bit lower in the past but didn't like the results... fish were getting too lethargic, not eating well etc.),
<Interesting. My previous comment on temperature was meant to contrast (for example) Apistogramma borellii, which really does best between 22-24 C, and Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, best kept at 28 C. Not much overlap between them in terms of habitat or distribution!>
pH 6.4, very soft water.
<Sounds good. Cheers, Neale.>

All female cichlids       1/30/15
Hi all, hope things are going well. Please tell me a dwarf cichlid that I can keep a pair of without a female that will also get along in a community tank with livebearers. thank you.
Lucv Hall
<Have you searched WWM? Bob Fenner>

Dwarf Cichlids; sel.        1/24/15
Hi, Could you please tell me a very easy to keep dwarf cichlid that will be OK in a community tank as well as able to be kept in a group or pair of the same sex? I have been doing so much reading and I have starting confusing myself. Thank you for your time. James
<Your best bets are: any of the Pelvicachromis species; the Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi); one particular Apistogramma species, Apistogramma cacatuoides; and the Rainbow Cichlid (Herotilapia multispinosa). These are the easiest Dwarfs you'll see traded, anyway. In terms of water chemistry, the Bolivian Ram, Apistogramma cacatuoides and
Pelvicachromis spp all do best in softish sort of water, 2-12 degrees dH, pH 6-7. By contrast Herotilapia multispinosa is a true hard water fish and will not do well in soft water; 10-20 degrees dH, pH 7-8. To be fair, Pelvicachromis pulcher will live in hard water as well, and do just fine, but when it breeds it produces batches of only male fry, which is useless.
To get balanced males/females in your broods, you'll want pH 6.5-7 when breeding Pelvicachromis pulcher. Other Pelvicachromis are fussier, and pH 6-6.5 is better for them, and all Pelvicachromis do best in moderately soft, slightly acidic conditions. There are of course other small cichlids that are quite easy to keep, such as Neolamprologus "shell dwellers" and
the smaller Julidochromis, but these aren't really community fish and need rather special aquaria. In hard water you might also consider Etroplus maculatus. Besides the wild-type (which is greenish, but changes to orange and black when spawning) here's a very pretty bright orange form created in captivity that's widely sold, and despite its reputation as a brackish water fish, Etroplus maculatus lives perfectly well in hard freshwater too.
Either way though, it's a little more bolshy than the species mentioned already, so tankmates would need to be fairly robust animals that swim in the upper levels only, for example Mollies, Swordtails, Barbs, Danios, etc. Such fish would act as dither fish without triggering the territorial behaviours these fish show towards catfish and loaches. Hope this helps.
Re: Dwarf Cichlids      1/25/15

Thank you Neale, I have been reading about the African Butterfly Cichlid.
From what I have read it seems to be fairly easy to keep and won't uproot plants.
<Outside of spawning, yes, that's true. Anomalochromis thomasi is much like Pelvicachromis spp in terms of behaviour and care, though less colourful, particularly when young, and consequently not widely traded. Spawning adults colour up nicely though. Not fussy about water chemistry, and generally tolerant of midwater dither fish and sensible catfish or loaches that keep out of their way.>
What is your opinion on these?
<Nice fish, but sensitive to nitrate, and youngsters are a bit dull and shy. Males get to about 10 cm, females a bit less, making them rather bigger than true dwarfs.>
Thanks again. James
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Dwarf Cichlids      1/25/15

Thank you again Neale. Please give me your opinion,,,,,,,,,,, My tank is 30 gallons, 36 inches long. My PH is 8.0 out of the tap; I know it can be adjusted.
<As I'm sure we've discussed James, fish care less about pH than hardness.
What's the hardness? pH 8 is quite basic, which suggests high hardness. How do you plan to soften the water? That's your challenge if you want to keep soft water dwarf cichlids. I mix my hard tap water 50/50 with rainwater.
What's your strategy?>
I have some driftwood and some lava rock with a sand substrate and several artificial plants. Please tell me which cichlid is pretty, would be easy to keep in this environment with other community fish, and I would be able to keep 2 males or 2 females. If you were making this choice for me what would it be please?
<If hard water was what I was stuck with, a pair of Rainbow Cichlids would probably be my first choice. They're hardy, pretty, easy to breed, and generally very peaceful. In a tank as big as 30 gallon, the potential to keep a variety of Central American livebearers alongside them as dither fish would add to their charm. Green Swordtails would be the low effort
choice, but if you hunted around, there's all sorts of nifty livebearers out there, Limia nigrofasciata being among my favouritest. I'd add a clump or two of Vallisneria as well, as these grow happily in virtually any substrate and under all kinds of light, and would make an authentic addition to a Central American themed aquarium.>
Many thanks again.. James
<Welcome. Neale.>
Re: Dwarf Cichlids      1/26/15

Thank you Neale. The only way I know of for now to soften the water is with a buffer.
<Which as we've discussed isn't softening water. It's changing the pH by adding yet more chemicals. Might work fine for the hardier Pelvicachromis (where pH 6.5-7 is key to successful breeding) and Bolivian Rams, but wouldn't be my choice for Pelvicachromis subocellatus for example, or Apistogramma cacatuoides.>
Would you recommend that or just go with hard water and the rainbows?
<If you have hard water, they're an obvious choice for life alongside livebearers, rainbows, and the less fussy barbs and tetras.>
And what do you mean by "dither" fish?

<Hmm... do read Loiselle for more, but basically, surface swimmers that benthic fish use as "look outs". When swimming in the open, dither fish give bottom dwelling fish a sense of confidence that there are no predators about, so such bottom dwellers swim about in the open. Such dither fish need to be small, peaceful, schooling, and confident. Danios, minnows,
various small livebearers have all been used as such. Avoid anything big and threatening as these have the opposite effect.>
I will start reading up on the rainbow cichlids. If I do not want them to breed and get a pair of the same sex, which sex would be less aggressive?
<Singletons are the safest approach with cichlids, generally causing the least harm. Pairs of females will generally do little harm too. Pairs of males sometimes get cranky and territorial. Proper pairs (male and female fish) will become territorial while spawning. Rainbow Cichlids are not at all nasty, and provided they have a cave to call home, they usually ignore
surface swimming fish. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Dwarf Cichlids... blather       1/27/15

Thank you Neale, so for the livebearers it is OK to use swords and platies
and leave out mollies because of their size?
<Pretty much. You want species about one-third to one-half the size of the
dwarf cichlids being kept. Any smaller and they might end up prey, any
bigger and they're likely to be viewed as threats. So for the smaller dwarf
cichlids, Limia, Merry Widows and so on make ideal dither fish; with larger
dwarfs, Platies, possibly Swordtails if the tank is big enough the Swords
can spread out a bit without becoming aggressive (something males are prone
to do if frustrated). Swords would be ideal for Rainbows, and can work with
the pushier Krib species too, such as the Common Krib. But probably a bit
too pushy for life with Apistogramma, for example. Mollies are a wild card
because of their sensitivity to water quality when kept in fresh, rather
than brackish, water. But they make very good dither fish for Etroplus
maculatus. Just the right amount of "nous" to get along with these
sometimes aggressive, salt-preferring dwarf cichlids.>
Also, what is the best way to sex the rainbow cichlids please?
<No 100% sure-fire as they look very similar, but generally males have
noticeably longer fins, and also tend to be bigger. Watch a group and it
should become obvious which are males, and you may also find a pair
defending a cave or corner. Lovely fish. Do check out images online to know
what good ones look like.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Dwarf Cichlids
Thanks Neale, So just to verify if I go with the rainbows I could have 1
male and 2 female swords or platies with 2 rainbow cichlids in a 30 gallon
tank 36 inches long?
<I would think so; indeed, adding a couple more female livebearers wouldn't
be a bad idea. Since female and male Platies are equally nicely coloured,
they'd be an obvious choice.>
Could I add a single angel and/or a pair of pearl gouramis?
<I would not, though in theory they'd both be compatible in a large,
planted aquarium. But optimising the tank for Central American fish, i.e.,
hard water and a brisk current for Swordtails at least, wouldn't suit
Gouramis or Angels.>
And if I can go with the gouramis I assume it would be better to get 1 male
or 2 females instead of a male and a female? James
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Dwarf Cichlids      1/28/15

Thanks again Neale, last question please. Do I get a male and female, all
males or all females of the rainbows?
<Male Rainbowfish can be surprisingly aggressive towards each other. I once
ended up keeping a single male Melanotaenia trifasciata (or something like
it) in a low-end brackish system where it even sparred with a male Sailfin
Molly! But normally, get a fair sized group, six or more, with more females
than males. Should work, and the more the safer. Alternatively, a single
male and two females can work two, especially in quiet tanks alongside
species that don't interact with them (catfish, for example, or dwarf
cichlids). Sometimes mixing dissimilar species can diffuse tensions
further, e.g., a blue species with a red species.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Dwarf Cichlids
Neale, jut to make sure we are on the same page, by rainbowfish we are
talking about the dwarf rainbow cichlid, correct? James
<I was talking about Rainbowfish. Rainbow cichlids are best kept singly or
in mated pairs, or even harems, as with most dwarf cichlids. Cheers,

Apistogramma issues     9/15/14
Hello crew,
I have a 180L 90cmX45cmX45cm fish tank (28degC, pH 7.2, NH3 0, NO2 0, NO3 10, GH 2-3 - tap water) here in Singapore. The tank is at room temp and covered, though the internal filter seems to elevate the temp by a degree or two.
<That, and the lights.>
See attached picture.
<Looks nice.>
On Friday I added two female A. trifasciata and a male and female A. borellii (all approx 2cm) to the tank which already contained:
18x Cardinal tetras
1x 3-spot Gourami (female)
3x Marbled Hatchetfish
3x Amano shrimp
1x A. trifasciata male (3.5cm, reared in this tank from fry stage)
<All sounds okay, though the Gourami doesn't really fit in with a South American theme!>
There has been significant squabbling between the Apistos, especially the existing larger male who chased and harassed the others equally to the point where he has been separated and will remain so for a few days at least (reminded me of when I kept a fairly vicious pair of P. pulcher in a 4ft tank - great breeders but nasty to everyone including each other).
<Yes and no. Kribs are naturally harem spawners. We sell them as pairs, but that's not really how they're "wired" mentally. Ditto Apistogramma. The ideal for both types is one male with a largish territory and several females within that territory. As you may have seen, females and males are territorial, females to one another *and* to unwanted males, and males to one another and potentially females that don't play ball when it comes to mating behaviour. Adding more hiding places (halved coconuts are ideal, with a mouse hole cut into the edge for in/out access) helps, since these fish tend to operate on an "out of sight, out of mind" basis.>
Subsequently, one of the new A. trifasciata females is now pushing the other Apistos around, though not to the degree that the larger male was.
The other A. trifasciata female in turn seems to be above the A. borellii pair in rank.
I have observed no other issues between or involving the other tank inhabitants.
<Indeed. These dwarf cichlids will be directing their territorial behaviours towards each other.>
I understand the larger male A. trifasciata would have been defending his territory and acting accordingly, but have I overstocked this tank with Apistos (there are at least 5 separate 'caves' on the bottom of my tank)?
<Should be okay, given time; do try removing all the cichlids, moving one set of caves to one end of the tank, another set to the other end, placing line-of-sight barriers between the two ends, and then reintroduce the cichlids *with the lights out* for the rest of the day. This should reset the territories and give them more time to come up with some degree of coexistence.>
Or will it just take time for things to settle down and all stake out their territories, and then a little more time before the larger A. trifasciata male can be re-introduced to the fray? I would love to have all five Apistos cohabitating in this tank if possible, with both species breeding...
Cheers and thanks for your help,
<Welcome, Neale.>

Re: Apistogramma issues     10/7/14
Hey Neale,
Just thought I'd give you an update.
The large male A. trifasciata continued to push the other cichlids around, so I moved him to a larger system until they all settle in and he can then be hopefully moved back in.
The day before I moved him, the A. borellii pair spawned!
Days later, the female seemed to injure/eat the babies in trying to move them around the tank.
<Can happen. As you're seeing, the female takes a large part of the childcare duties. She doesn't always get it right first time. Don't worry, she will eventually, even if she loses a brood or two. On the other hand,
even a good female will "recycle" the nutrients in her brood of babies if she thinks she won't be able to rear them, e.g., by being scared or harassed. Peace and quiet is critical.>
A week later, they seem to have spawned again (female yellow, hiding in cave, aggressive to tank mates that come too close, etc.). I am somewhat surprised, considering how small these fish are...
<Oh boy, yes, like all cichlids, they punch above their weight when breeding.>
One last thing if that's alright. Having moved the three-spot gourami out of this tank, I am lacking a 'centre-piece' fish. I am keen for a singleton angelfish, but am conflicted. Lots of FAQs on this website suggest this could/should work, though Bob's article on angelfish say singletons can wipe out the rest of a community tank if the mood takes them. What would you advise?
<Angels are predatory (towards small fish like Neons) and potentially (though rarely) aggressive to anything that doesn't look like another Angel. There are more docile cichlids, such as Altum Angels (very quiet fish), Festivums (a personal favourite) and even Discus, that you might consider though. Possibly also things like Keyhole Acaras and Port Acaras, though Keyholes especially tend to be rather shy. Problem with any cichlid is that there's always the risk of conflict between your centrepiece cichlid and the dwarfs breeding away at the bottom.>
Thanks so much Neale/crew,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Apistogramma issues      10/9/14

Hi Neale,
Thanks so much for your reply and suggestions. Wow, I could really keep a single discus in this system (180L, 3ftx1.5ftx1.5ft, soft but slightly alkaline water, 28degC)?
<Probably. Farmed Discus are really so much easier to keep nowadays than they used to be. I'd argue a better investment than either Neons or Guppies, let alone disease-prone Dwarf Gouramis!>
That would be my DREAM, though I had always discounted it thinking a) Discus needed to be kept in groups of 6 or more and b) Discus required a 4ft tank at a minimum. If not on a) and b), that'll be my plan!
<Discus in groups need to be 6+ specimens, else bullying tends to occur unless you keep a mated pair. But a singleton can be kept in 180 litres/50 US gallons without much trouble, providing tankmates are as peaceful as the Discus. Wild Discus are a whole other ball game, and are very nervous and intensely social. But the farmed ones, much like farmed Angels, have come from generations of fish kept as breeding pairs in small tanks, and have become rather more robust in terms of personality. Choose dither fish tankmates such as Silver Hatchets that swim at the top and make the Discus feel secure. Get a youngster that's bold in the fish shop, but not too small, around the 8-10 cm size range if possible. Introduce him to a nice aquarium with peaceful tankmates and plenty of shade. Get him socialised with you in terms of feeding, via frequent small meals of yummy foods, so he's more interested in scrounging meals than his predicament. With luck, he'll settle right in. Avoid adding fish thereafter, at least for a few months so you can be 100% sure he's settled. Don't add anything fast-moving or similar in size that will spook him. While farmed Discus are more phlegmatic compared to their wilder cousins, they're still Discus!>
Also, when I said I was surprised that the A. borellii were breeding so well so quickly, it was more because they are no-where near close to full adult size - the male is only around 2cm long, the female barely that.
<Not uncommon with cichlids, and not necessarily a plus. When fish breed at a small size, we don't know if the parents are passing on "dwarf" genes or regular size genes, hence the tendency of many farmed fish to be smaller than the wild sort. Mollies for example can be really big fish in the wild, 15 cm or more, but you rarely see such monsters in fish shops! So ideally, we hold back breeding until we're fairly sure the adults are a proper size, and also by delaying, we can see if there are any other genetic abnormalities showing up too.>
The female is now protecting the small (~10 fry) brood better second time around, and also seems to be allowing the male to 'work the boundaries' of the territory in defense of the fry, as opposed to chasing him away like the rest of the fish in the tank.
<Yes, pretty much what happens. Where cichlids look identical (e.g., Discus and Angels) males and females share tasks equally, but the more they look different, the more often they do different jobs, in extreme cases, one or other sex might not even be involved at all (e.g., as with maternal mouthbrooders such as Haplochromis).>
All very impressive, especially for a dwarf cichlid that is supposedly more suited to more middling tropical tank temps.
<And not really compatible with Discus unless you're super careful. Do review their temperature requirements. 28 C/82 F is about right for Discus, but a bit warm for some, but not all, tropical community fish.>
Thanks and cheers,
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Apistogramma issues
Hey Neale.
Thanks again for taking the time for such detailed replies to my emails.
<Most welcome.>
I think given all you've said, I'll give the Discus a miss. I'm really a 'hobbyist' fishkeeper at best, and I don't think I would/could give this beautiful fish the proper care it requires.
<Understood. Don't be too scared off them though. They're always worth considering, and provided you avoid the really inbred and delicate varieties, the farmed fish aren't especially delicate. Your standard issue farmed Brown Discus (so named for the brownish-yellow-green background against which the blue, green and red stripes are set) is fairly sturdy once settled into an aquarium and feeding well. If there's a Discus club or breeder nearby, that'd be a great place to "chew the fat" as we say here, i.e., to discuss Discus with a local perspective -- what's good, who breeds nice stock, what you can/should expect to pay.>
So I'm thinking I'll roll the dice with an Angel and be ready to move it if things go pear-shaped.
<Cool. Angels are generally a step up in hardiness above Discus, but also a step up in aggression. They also tend to be bred to a price rather than a quality, so are also more likely to carry parasites or diseases (one reason farmed Angels aren't mixed with Discus). Bear that in mind, shop accordingly, and quarantine if you can.>
Really would love a Festivum, but they seem to be hard to come by here in Singapore, plus I've read elsewhere that a) they nibble/shred plants and that b) they do much better in pairs/groups. As a bit of a Festivum aficionado, would you give any credence to a) or b)?
<Most cichlids will nibble tasty soft-leaved plants (such as floating Indian Fern) without doing any serious damage. Festivums are no different. But they don't damage anything more sturdy, and will be just fine with Java fern, Anubias, Amazon Swords, Vallisneria, hardy Cryptocoryne and so on.
They love planted tanks, and really should be kept thusly. If all else fails, stock fast-growing floating plants such as Indian Fern to provide both shade and occasional green food. As for behaviour, I kept mine singly,
alongside a variety of gouramis (Pearl and Moonlight Gouramis). She/he seemed just fine and dandy. As with a lot of cichlids, these fish are social when young, then form pairs as adults. Outside of the breeding
season adults might group together for protection, but to call them "schooling fish" is over-egging the pudding. What they don't like is to be kept with bigger, more aggressive fish -- in the wild, this would indeed drive Festivums, Angels and so on into groups for mutual protection. But in a quiet tank alongside smaller (but not bite-sized) companions they're perfectly happy on their own.>
On the concerns you raised with the A. borellii breeding at such a small size, should I separate them and let them grow up before bringing them back together again?
<Well, you could I suppose, if you had the time and space. If nothing else, giving females some time to put on bulk tends to help with their overall health (spawning seems to be especially taxing on female fish). On the other hand, if your fish are happy, maybe just carry on what you're doing and see what happens. Separating them now, then reintroducing them a month or two later, risks problems with aggression if they don't take to each other. So swings and roundabouts! If it were me, I'd leave things be, and remember for next time there's some mileage to letting fish mature before introducing them.>
Also, I realize my tank is warm, but this is unheated room temperature in Singapore! Short of using a chiller, I can't actually bring the temperature down.
<Probably no need. I assume temperatures go down a bit at night, and if you're in the tropics, tropical fish should be pretty happy! A fan to encourage evaporation can be a plus, or else some folks freeze blocks of
ice then dump them in the tank to cool things down. Amazingly, many tropical fish quite happily dart in and out of the cold water -- Danios are famous for loving this!>
Cheers and thanks again,
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Trouble (?) with an Apistogramma trifasciata female?      1/20/14
Hi crew,
Attached is a photo of an approximately 1cm-long A. trifasciata female. I have raised this fish, plus 4 males (3 of which were moved to another tank 4 days ago), since they were little fry. Despite the appearance, the fish feeds vigorously on flake and brine shrimp and generally behaves as expected. Only a week or so ago it was seen displaying in front of the male (see below) and trying to lure it into a cave.
This fish and an approx. 2cm long male share a 180L, 3ft tank with a female 3 spot gourami, 16 cardinal tetras, 1 bristle nose catfish and 3 Amano shrimp. There is no obvious aggression within the tank - occasionally one of the tetras has a nip at the gourami but her fins are in great shape and there are no outward signs of trauma.
Tank parameters are: pH 7.2, Ammonia and Nitrite 0, Nitrate <20ppm, GH and KH 3.
Is this fish sick or just egg-bound (too young for this?).
<Might be a tumor, some sort of internal blockage... or simply the egg binding... I'd have you read and try using Epsom:
and a laxative food/s... more Artemia, perhaps Daphnia... As the one fish is only affected, am discounting the likelihood of lumenal worms (and suggestion of vermifuge med.s)...>
Cheers and thanks for your help,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: Trouble (?) with an Apistogramma trifasciata female?     1/20/14
Thanks a lot Bob,
<Welcome Mr. D>
Can I treat the whole tank, or must I remove this fish and treat separately? I don't have a spare tank lying around right now...
<All can be treated together with this amount of salt/s>
<Ta ra. BobF>

Mixing a Bolivian Ram and Apistogramma   10/5/13
Hi crew,
Thanks for reading my email.
Is ridiculous to think that a single, reasonably-tempered Bolivian Ram could share a 3ft, 180L community tank with 1m and 2f Apistogramma agassizi, assuming enough hiding spots (caves, wood), moderate planting (Vallisneria, java fern, Amazon sword and floating Frogbit), temp 28 deg C, GH/KH 3-4, pH 7.2ish and Nitrogenous waste where it should be (0, 0, <20)?
<Not ridiculous. I'd bet they'd cohabitate>
One 20% water change per week/week and a half is carried out.
<Mmm, every week if you have the water>
There's a male Apisto in there as of today - a bit of ram chasing Apisto but nothing serious yet - I will monitor.
I'd love the look of the bulky Ram co-habitating with the dainty Apistos if possible.
I have removed a male P. taeniatus already, as though he went pretty easy on the ram for a year, I think I'd be pushing it with anything else.
Other tank inhabitants are:
- 19 x Cardinal Tetra (who fin-nipped my Pearl Gourami into another tank!)
- 1 x Bristlenose Ancistrus (a bit feisty) - would this eat eggs/fry of the proposed cichlid harem?
- 1 x female 3-spot Gourami (generally well-behaved)
- 3 x Amano shrimp (big, healthy)
On another note, could two pairs of different Apisto species (agassizi and
trifasciatus) share this space - a possible future project.
<Should be able to fit in two pair of this genus in this size, shape tank>
Cheers and thanks!
<Welcome, Bob Fenner>
Mixing a Bolivian Ram and Apistogramma   10/5/13

Hey crew, not sure if the below made it through from Thurs night., so I've included it below.
<Ah, did. I just "saved" overnight, hoping Neale (in the UK) would pick up.
Re: Mixing a Bolivian Ram and Apistogramma   /Neale's further input     10/5/13
<<I don't disagree with Bob, but would caution you that -- as always with cichlids -- there are no guarantees so far as social behaviour goes!
Despite being much bigger, a single female Bolivian Ram should not be much of a threat to a pair of robust Apistogramma such as A. cacatuoides, but a male (or worse, a pair) of Bolivian Rams might be a "real and present danger" to any Apistogramma kept with them in a small aquarium. On the whole Apistogramma tend to occupy smaller territories towards the back of the tank, while Bolivian Rams are much bolder fish that hang about at the front of the aquarium, so with luck they'll largely ignore each other if the tank is adequately large and well decorated with things to break up lines of sight. Mixing Apistogramma species works well, assuming the species chosen share similar requirements (there is some variation re: temperature for example) but you do of course run the risk of hybridisation. Finally, I would not mix any dwarf cichlid with Loricariid catfish if my goal was rearing fry. While cichlids generally make excellent guardians by day, they are almost blind at night, and that is when catfish will view their nests as prime feeding grounds! There's a suggestion that some cichlid species move eggs from one nest to another precisely because this makes it harder for catfish to find their eggs, and it's only a small step from moving eggs by mouth to become true mouthbrooders, which is an even better way to keep their eggs safe. Cheers, Neale.>>

Leaf litter      8/11/13
Hey Crew
How are you all doing? I have just returned from a trip in which I was lucky to observe south American dwarf cichlids in their natural habitat. Most of them live in black water pools or stream littered with leaf litter.
My question is what can I use for leaf litter? I live in Zimbabwe and have access to maple trees, acacias Mopani trees mainly, can I use any of these?
<Hello Yasfir. The answer is yes, you can use leaf litter, but with some caution. Leaves fall apart quickly underwater, and create a lot of muck that can block the filter. Such decay can also cause the pH to drop. Some leaves are also toxic, so obviously you don't want to use those and poison your fish. So basically some leaves are better than others. Here in England, Indian Almond Leaves (Catappa spp.) are actually imported and sold at the equivalent of about US$2 for just THREE leaves!!! But these leaves decay slowly, and they also seem to improve water chemistry a bit, encouraging many fish to breed more readily. At a fraction of the cost, some British aquarists use Beech and Oak leaves instead (Fagus and Quercus spp.) and these seem to work almost as well, and obviously cost nothing
because you can collect them yourself. So what about native leaves in Zimbabwe? Well, Maple leaves (Acer spp.) have been used with success, but Acacia spp. are reported, in some cases, to be toxic, so I'd avoid those.
I'm not aware of Mopani (Colophospermum Mopani) being toxic, but you will have to research that. So bottom line, provided the leaf is non-toxic, its leaves should be safe. But even if safe, you may find the leaves fall apart after a few weeks, or may cause the pH to drop very rapidly, especially in soft water. Some leaves last longer than others. Experiment with a few leaves from one species of tree at a time, monitor water quality and pH, and see what works! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Leaf litter
Thanks Neale :)
<Welcome, Neale.>

Apistogrammas spawning    7/6/13
You helped my wife and I out recently when we had some problems with our Apistogramma agassizi dying suddenly, which we managed to resolve with your great help. As we mentioned before, we bought a couple of females and added them to our QT, before adding to the main tank around 14 days later after treating for parasites & bacterial infection using eSHa products.
<Glad to be of help.>
It seems we were MUCH more successful than we expected to be and now have a male & 2 females merrily taking over our community tank and behaving/surviving brilliantly.
So brilliantly in fact, 1 female and the male have paired up and spawned inside our shrimp tubes (which our shrimp never touch!!) and are diligently protecting the area - but what now - we have no idea what we should do.
We'd love to have some baby Apistos, some to keep for ourselves and some to sell to our LFS.
<It's often fun to leave the pair alone for the first few broods. Cichlids tend to make mistakes first time, and hardly any survive, but the practice will improve the parents' care, each time they get better and better, until eventually they get everything right: picking out infertile eggs, removing fungus, moving the fry, finding food for the fry, defending the fry, etc.
It's a real treat to watch. Since these fish will spawn more or less monthly given the chance, you will still end up with lots of offspring after a few months.>
Should we separate them from the community, leave them be, remove the babies once they hatch?
<The easiest approach if you want lots of fry is to remove the eggs rather than the fry. You can remove eggs from water for a few moments, carry them to another tank, and put them close to an airstone to ensure a gentle water current that stops debris settling on the eggs. Adding a half-dose of Methylene Blue is a good way to prevent fungal infections of the eggs. Aim
to get something like a 30 litre aquarium for the eggs so you can rear the fry in it; a common mistake is to overstock cichlid fry, in which case you end up with half a dozen (often the faster-growing males) because water quality just isn't good enough. Feeding can be tricky because baby cichlids need tiny foods, with newly hatched brine shrimp and Microworms being a favourite, but in my experience you can get reasonably good results from Hikari First Bites (which I keep in the freezer between uses to keep fresh). If you can get them to lay eggs on something solid and removable like a flat pebble or the inside of a clay flowerpot, that's the easiest
approach. Moving fry is possible (a turkey baster works well) but fiddly and likely more traumatic. If you remove the eggs, they simply spawn again after a few days, so no harm done.>
Remove the other fish?
<That is, indeed, the alternative, but clearly more hassle.>
Also, what's the behaviour of the female, where she keeps moving the eggs with her mouth (or is she eating them)?
<Often inexperienced cichlids do eat their eggs. But cichlids will also eat their eggs if they decide for some reason the eggs are at great risk, effectively recycling the energy so they can spawn somewhere safer.
Finally, cichlids are meant to move the eggs with their mouths at some point to remove infertile ones and any with fungal threads on. Experience makes a world of difference here, and it is far from uncommon for cichlids to eat early batches but look after later batches extremely well.>
We have a 125l tank and our other fish consist of:
Neon/black neon/Glowlight tetras x6
Harlequin Rasbora x3
Zebra Danio x1
Ghost widow tetra x3 (you mentioned previously that these were a boisterous fish, but ours are very timid and hide pretty much all the time)
Striatum Killifish x2 females
Rachovi killifish x2 (1 male and 1 female - these are beautiful and entertaining fish)
Rock Shrimp x2
Rabbit snail x1
Assassins snail x1
<Snails and shrimps will eat eggs given the chance, and obviously small fish eat fish fry if they can.>
We've not been able to find much information on the web or in the dwarf cichlid books we have, so we really have no idea what to do to ensure survival of as many baby Apistogrammas as possible. Can you offer some advice?
Many thanks
<See above; hope this helps! Neale.>
Apistogrammas spawning    7/24/13

Hi, I hope you can help me,
You (I think it was Neale) responded to this e-mail (below) early in July and I read it, I've now looked back to reference it again, as we have yet another spawning from our Apisto's... but your reply has vanished. I think it might have been cleared as junk by my new e-mail software - weirdly, though, I've looked through your website and cannot find it there either.
Would you be able to re-send me your original reply, point me to the location of it on the website, or respond again?
Many thanks
<Hello Damian; do see here:
It's towards the bottom of the page, but if you search for Apistogramma, it's there!
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Apistogrammas spawning     7/25/13

Brilliant, I found it, thanks... but Aaaaarrrrggghhhhh, what the heck is going on now? Our male Apisto has spent the last 2 days hiding in a cave (since spawning basically) and is now dead.
The female with the eggs  was chasing him after they had spawned, was he bullied to death?
He's died with very similar symptoms to those I described in a previous question, they suddenly go really thin, hide and then die - all's been perfect for a while, and now this problem again, and we've made no changes to the tank other than routine maintenance (no new living additions)!
<Apistogramma are not necessarily pair-forming fish, and in the wild the male may patrol an area within which several females will be rearing his offspring. So, there's not a strong evolutionary pressure for good pair behaviour if male and female are stuck together in a small tank. Usually they're fine, but not always, and it's possible that one fish pestered, harassed or otherwise bullied the other to death. That said, you may simply have had bad luck or the male died for some other reason. Because Apistogramma are typical South American fish they do need soft, slightly acidic water to do well, and except for one or two hardy species, they fare poorly in anything above, say, 10 degrees dH. You're aiming for around 2-5 degrees dH, pH 6-7.>
Our nitrogen cycle conditions are basically fine (0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 20ppm Nitrate). Having investigated a little, I have discovered our pH is very high - somewhere between 7.6 and 8.0.
<Find out what your hardness is. Much more important than the pH.>
This is a new thing which we think is caused by our tap water which I've just tested and is also around the same level (it used to be around 7.2), it may also have been aided by our current weather conditions pushing our tanks to around 28°C (82°F), I'm now trying to slowly reduce the pH with Seachem Discus buffer and am replacing some of the water with RO (not much I can do about the heat until the weather cools down a bit!).
I know they prefer pH between 6 and 7, is it possible that the high pH would cause these types of symptoms (though our females, for the moment, are doing fine!)? Would the �blackwater� additives help too or are they not worth the money?
<Not especially helpful, no. Focus on hardness above all else, as outlined above, and a steady pH after that, the precise value being less important than its stability between water changes.>
We have now removed the female and the eggs and she's in a tank of about 90% RO, 10% tap water (to get the temperature right) and they seem to be doing OK at the moment - although it looks like she may be eating the eggs again.
<Which is far from unlikely if she's stressed. Basically cichlids eat their eggs to recycle the energy for a new batch if they believe that rearing fry right now would be impossible.>
Please help,
<Are you aware of Apistogramma.com? They have a forum and could be very helpful.>
(sorry to keep asking you, but you really seem to have the best knowledge of all this stuff of everyone (we have no local network for this type of fish, books are vague and our lfs's are pretty useless when it comes to support with anything more complicate than a neon tetra).
<Ironically one fish I've never had any success keeping for long!>
<Welcome, Neale.> 

Help - Tropical fish die suddenly (RMF?) <<Agree w/ you>>     6/7/13
You helped me with a problem I had last year and I've suddenly started having another serious problem in my tank. I have a 125 litre tank, with moderate planting, an air stone for oxygen and with readings of:
Ammonia = 0
Nitrite = 0
Nitrate = generally 10-20ppm (I never let it go above 40ppm)
pH = 7.4, GH = 12°D, KH = 5°D
<All sounds fine for a typical mix of community fish.>
I perform weekly or fortnightly water changes (depending on Nitrate reading and general tank inspection) of around 25% and always use Seachem Prime to treat the water before adding. Until recently, I had:
3 Ghost widow tetras
<The albino form of Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, a robust but sometimes nippy and certainly boisterous species.>
3 Neon tetras
2 Female Platies
3 Harlequin Rasbora
3 Yoyo loach
3 Corydoras (not sure of variety).
1 male & 1 female Apistogramma (sold as A. cacatuoides, but we think they're A. agassizi)
<I see.>
All was happy in the tank for well over 6 months with no problems and no deaths and as the wife and I loved the Apistogrammas, we decided we wanted to breed them, so added a second pair. This worked really well, with no fighting and generally a happy tank. Then suddenly after about 3 weeks, we lost the new female Apistogramma, then a replacement female Apistogramma we bought before realising we had a problem, then the 2 platies and our original male Apistogramma. They all died within a few days of each other and all with EXACTLY the same symptoms:
They seemed fine, swimming around normally, then suddenly, for a few days start looking very thin.
<May have been sickly right out of the box… sadly all too common with farmed (especially inexpensive) Apistogramma and other dwarf cichlids. Do bear in mind that these fish are somewhat delicate animals compared to generic community fish… well worth quarantining for 4-6 weeks, deworming, and (in the UK at least) treating preemptively with something like eSHa HEXAMITA to shift any intestinal parasites.>
Then within a day, they hide and can't swim upright properly. Within another day, they float around the tank unable to swim but still able to breath. Then they die. On most of them, we noticed a small red blotch on their underside.
<Ah now, if they react like this within a day or two of purchase, ask yourself what stressed them. How does your water chemistry, temperature compare to that of the retailers? What about water quality? How did you acclimate them to their new aquarium?>
We thought this was parasites so treated the whole tank with both Waterlife Sterazin (10 day course) and Waterlife Parazin,
<Not a huge fan of either of these medications… but if you understand how to use them, and follow the instructions, they should work reasonably well. Do remember to remove carbon, if used in the filter.>
then with eSHa2000 just in case it was Bacterial.
<eSHa 2000 is strictly for external bacteria in particular Finrot, and won't treat internal parasites of any sort. eSHa HEXAMITA is much better for those.>
All appeared fine and we thought we'd cracked it, but then, immediately after finishing these treatments, we lost our original female Apistogramma in exactly the same way, just today. At the same time as getting the 2nd pair of Apistogrammas, we started cycling a breeding tank for them - planning to move them into it once it was ready - it's never been populated - it's just now ready for them and they've all died except 1 male - who's now not looking too good! I'm worried that we're going to lose more to this horrible affliction and am getting nervous about the prospect of getting more Apistogrammas to breed until we understand what's going on.
I've attached a photo of the last female Apistogramma to go this way, just before she died. Can you offer any suggestions or ideas - we've lost some expensive (and our favourite) fish, and it's heart-breaking to watch this happen to them. I would really really  appreciate your help or advice!
Thank you
<Do suspect these fish were ailing when you bought them, they do look very underweight, and if in this condition within a day or two of purchase, I'd be asking the retailer for an explanation. If plump and healthy when you buy them, but gaunt and sickly a month or two later, then the problem is more likely yours… with dwarf cichlids, do review (especially) water quality, including nitrate, as well as oxygenation and water movement at the *bottom* of the tank. Do review diet, social interactions (such as bullying) and other causes of stress. If only the females are dying, not the males, then territorial aggression by the males towards the females may be an issue… adjust stocking density, sex ratio, and availability of hiding places accordingly. Dwarf cichlids are almost never "easy" fish, and quarantining them beforehand is practically essential, especially where farmed, Southeast Asian species are concerned. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Help - Tropical fish die suddenly (RMF?)     6/9/13
Thanks ever so much for your help Neale,
I have a few additional questions after reading your response, if I may?
eSHa HEXAMITA reads like its for Discuss, is this definitely the right thing to use? Or have I found the wrong version of this product?
<Yes, it's the right thing to use. It's marketed for the Discus folks, but it's an anti-Hexamita medication that should work on any cichlid (or for that matter, any other fish). To quote from their advertising: "What fish can I treat with HEXAMITA? HEXAMITA is specially formulated for use with discus and cichlids (and is especially good with discus and angelfish).
However, it can be used with all freshwater tropical and coldwater fish.
HEXAMITA is well tolerated by fish, plants and filters.">
If eSHa HEXAMITA is right (from the last question), would you recommend treating the whole tank (is that safe with the fish we have?) or isolating the final Apistogramma and just treating him with the eSHa HEXAMITA?
<I would treat all the cichlids, ideally in a quarantine tank, but treating them all in the main aquarium should be fine. If you have medication left over (and generally eSHa products are very economical) then do quarantine any new dwarf cichlids, medicate them in the quarantine tank, and only once medicated and feeding well add them to the main tank.>
We plan to review our tank setup, based on your suggestions of tank layout and bottom level movement, plus quarantine for new Apistogramma before adding. At the moment, our QT is only 10 litres, so we don't leave fish in it for long.
<Ah, this is fine for 2-3 Apistogramma for a few weeks.>
What do you recommend as a minimum QT size for a male/female pair of Apistogramma? (FYI, they are generally sold as a m/f pair around us, so figured the QT needs to accommodate them both - unless we can find a good and trustworthy local breeder!)
<Indeed. Do put lots of caves in the tank though, preferably with no/subdued lighting. Try using halved coconut shells, each with a "mouse-hole" cut at the rim, placed downwards so they look like igloos; these are favoured hiding places for Apistogramma and very easy to make and replace.>
I think you're right, our first pair of Apistogramma were fine (they did great for 6 months), but I think that the second lot were ailing when we bought them, and I think one sick fish probably contaminated the rest, causing most of them to die. I don't think the water or bullying had any part to play - our water is consistently good now and we never witnessed bullying after the first couple of days once the pecking order was established.
<One of the things about Apistogramma often overlooked is that most are harem spawners -- including Apistogramma cacatuoides and Apistogramma agassizi -- so in the wild males hold a big territory that includes smaller territories of more than one female. Only a few species are true pair formers. If you can keep multiple females per male, your results will usually be better. Even if they don't fight when kept as a pair, having multiple females per male means each female is less stressed because it interacts with the male less frequently, so overall does better.>
It's a shame, as these are amazing and entertaining fish. Hopefully we can learn from this with your advice, and get it right next time.
Many thanks for all your help.
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Re: Help - Tropical fish die suddenly   6/19/2013
Thank you so much for all your great help and advice - Following your suggestions, we tried eSHa Hexamita and instantly all our problems stopped and our surviving Apistogramma has regained weight and looks much healthier.
<Glad to help, and glad the eSHa product worked well. I like their products and appreciate the fact they're good value too.>
We've now bought a couple of female Apistogrammas, currently in a QT and having just completed a course of the eSHa Hexamita treatment as recommended, both females look healthy and are eating well after 5 days.
How long would you suggest we continue to keep these isolated?
<2-4 weeks would be ideal. In theory, if they've finished the treatment and are clearly eating and putting on weight, you could move them immediately, but you may want to hold off for a while if you've been "messing around" with the display tank -- give it time for the filter to recover, remaining fish to settle back and for any symptoms of any other diseases to surface.>
Would you recommend to also precautionary treat with an anti-bacterial treatment before adding to the main tank?
<No harm if done sensibly.>
And if so, what's a good treatment to try (UK available!)?
<Again, I've found the eSHa product, eSHa 2000, is tolerated well by fish and filters.>
Do we need to clear out the QT of all traces of the Hexamita anti-parasite before treating, or should this be OK?
<Should be fine, but as ever, do one or two substantial water changes (25-50%, keeping water chemistry and temperature steady) just to freshen things up, and allow a couple days at least after the last treatment for any remaining chemicals to be metabolised by the filter bacteria. In reality, medicines don't linger for long because bacteria quickly break them down, so the main thing is to make sure you don't use medicines simultaneously (unless the manufacturer says it is safe to do so).>
We really appreciate all your help and sorry for asking so many questions.
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Display instead of breeding.
Adding Apisto's-Chuck's Take    2/27/13

I'm going to be taking on a lot of projects this year, a community garden, a new job and now the Aquarium. I was wondering if two male Apistogramma with a school of marbled hatchets would be a good idea instead of breeding Apistogramma cacatuoides? Would two males live in mutual respect in my tank size or would it be a bad idea?
< Most dwarf cichlids including Apistogrammas like to hang around the bottom of the tank. The hatchet fish stay close to the surface so they would be safe. Two males would square off over territory but would be OK as long as they were both pretty close to being the same size. A breeding pair can be tricky. Before the spawn the male would be trying to court the female and could get rough if she is not ready. After the spawn the male is pushed away even though he tries to help. The hatchet fish would pose no threat to the fry or eggs. If you have never bred Apisto's before then I would give it a try. They are definitely fun to watch.-Chuck>

Which Apistogramma?     2/18/13
Apistogramma Choices <and sys.> (Chuck's Take)

A. Borelli i
A. cacatuoides
or A macmasteri
I was wondering out of the 3 species which would do the best in my water in a 20 gallon planted tank. I personally like A. Cacatuoides.
< The A. borelli is the smallest of the group with males maybe getting up to 2" TL. They come from the southern part of South America and like cooler water temperature. The A. cacatuoides is the biggest of the group and may get over 3"TL. This one is the most tolerant of a wide variation in water parameters. This fish also comes in a variety of designer colors. Watch for deformed ventral fins in some of the color morphs. The MacMasteri is actually named after Mark MacMaster who was in charge of the Apistogramma Study Group back in the 1970's. This fish has a many geographic color variants.  Your choice can be based on personal preference and the A. cacatuoides would do fine in your tank,-Chuck>
Re: Which Apistogramma?     2/18/13
thanks I think I'll go with the A. cacatuoides
<Good call.>
I already got a sponge filter, pump and tubing. Along with a glass top and test kit, net, aquarium plant substrate, and dechlorinator. I just need the light- a 24 inch coral sun lighting fixture for $73 at a world of fish.
<Don't overdo lighting if keeping Apistogramma… shade-tolerant plants plus floating Indian Fern what you want. These fish dislike bright overhead lighting.>
and a 45.99 syphon at PetSmart.
<Python tank cleaner far from essential!>
Then I'm all set to start cycling the tank, which should take about 8 weeks or so, right?
Whats the best product to help a tank cycle. do you know where I can find ammonia to seed the tank? Would world of fish/Aqualand carry ammonia. Should I use some zebra danios to start the cycle.
<I would not… Danios would be too boisterous for Apistogramma… would choose something much more docile that swims in the middle to upper levels… Ember Tetras, Marble Hatchets, that sort of thing.>
I'm probably not going to be able to set up this tank until April or mid march. PS Do you know of any good local Apistogramma breeders?
<Local to where? Do try your local tropical fish club, or the cichlid association native to your country… Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Which Apistogramma?     2/18/13
Okay then what lighting would you subject. I want it to be high enough to grow plants
<Between 1-1.5 watts/gallon will be ample for a few Cryptocoryne wendtii and Anubias, plus some floating Indian Fern; otherwise, choose lighting according to the plant species being kept, with the proviso that your Apistogramma will expect a shady area somewhere in the tank. They like caves, coconut shells being ideal, cut in half with a "mouse hole" on the side for them to swim through. Java Moss grows well on coconut shells.>
yet not too high for the fish.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Which Apistogramma?  2/22/13

Discus Origins, advertized on Apistograma.com - a forum I'm a part of now,. a new shipment of Apistogramma cichlids came in, and while I cannot get any at the moment ( tank isn't set up and I don't have the money). I was wondering if any of them would do well in my 20 gallon tank with the water I have explained to you. These are all wild collected BTW. Here is the shipment list.
A. mendezi Santa Isabel
A. paucisquamis Santa Isabel
A. mamore
A. uaupesi
A. agassizi Tefe
A. stacki Ro negro
<All of these will expect quite soft water, say, 1-5 degrees dH, and a pH between 5 and 6. Wild-caught Apistogramma are a substantially harder to keep than farmed ones. Farmed Apistogramma agassizi for example is a pretty adaptable fish. >
Some of these fish are very expensive which is why I decided to see if they can live in my ph, etc.. before placing a request for them at a later date once I see pictures of course.
<I would not expect any of these wild-caught Apistogramma to do well in anything other than soft, fairly acidic water. Your friends on the Apistogramma forum should be able to provide specific details for each species. Do look for farmed Apistogramma cacatuoides; it really is the most straightforward and rewarding species for aquarists with "ordinary" water conditions. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Which Apistogramma?  2/22/13

Thank you so much for your help, I'll go with captive bred fish. But now where to get them when the time comes?
<Apistogramma cacatuoides are widely sold here in the UK; places like Wildwoods and the larger Maidenhead Aquatics routinely have them in stock.
Wildwoods does mail order, so they're a good place to start. In your own country things may be different, but your local fish club and/or national cichlid association should be able to help.>
Do you think A world of fish has/can get me some good ones. Or do you think I should go the breeder route.
<There are pros and cons to buying locally-bred fish. If you buy locally, you'll be able to talk to the breeder about water chemistry, feeding and so on, making your odds of success much better. There's also less chance of bringing along diseases ubiquitous to fish farms and tropical fish shops, such as Whitespot. But on the downside, locally-bred fish may well be siblings, so if you get a pair, you'll run a major risk of inbreeding, and that means reduced fertility and less robust offspring.>
I did post an ad on the buy- sell section for a breeder in my area will see what comes of it. Do you think Aqualands any better. both are kinda far but will go if must.
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re Apistogramma sel.  – 2/24/13

I was lost now I'm found
Well After much looking and some help from Angelfish forums I was able to locate an Apistogramma Cacatuoides breeder in the us.
He bids on Aquabid I know he does Triple red I don't know about Sunburst. I also do not know how much he will charge or if he has fish available when I need them. He's called Apistodave. I was getting rather frustrated with myself but I'm glad I found it finely.
<Indeed. A. cacatuoides is such an adaptable species (by Apistogramma standards) it's worth taking a little time to hunt down. There are only a very few other Apistogramma that are as tolerant of medium-hard water and pH levels up to 7.5; Apistogramma steindachneri is one, Apistogramma hongsloi is another, but most of the others are picky about water chemistry, and do need soft, acidic conditions to do well. Apistogramma are rewarding fish though, so I hope you enjoy them. Cheers, Neale.>

Apistogramma; dwarf cichlid sel.     10/20/12
Are cockatoo cichlids relatively hardy
<Yes, with "relatively" being the operative word. They're not as hardy as, say, Corydoras, but they're among the best Dwarf Cichlids for beginners.
They'll forgive things that other Apistogramma won't, which is why they're ideal for those starting out with Dwarf Cichlids.>
I liked the idea of Bolivian rams but I understand after reading on WWM these can be a bit prone to stress if water conditions are not optimal.
<As are virtually all Dwarf Cichlids.>
My tap water has naturally high nitrates above 20ppm with API test. Would a cockatoo cichlid put up with this better than a Bolivian ram?
<Both should do fine with this. 20 mg/l is a good, conservative estimate of where nitrate should be kept at or below. But cichlids can and do tolerate much higher levels -- they're just that bit more disease-prone if other factors aren't good (such as suitable diet and regular water changes). In a clean, well-maintained tank you tap water is probably just fine, and I'd
certainly buy some Apistogramma cacatuoides without reservation -- assuming of course all other factors are good!>
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Bolivian or blue ram    10/21/12
Please could you help is this a blue ram or Bolivian ram?
<The former. Bob Fenner>

Nannacara anomala gender issues     8/5/12
Hi crew,
Hope all are well and thanks again for this wonderful service that you all provide.
<Ah, welcome>
I'm after some gender reassurance regarding my Nannacara anomala pair if that's O.K. I have a sub-adult pair I believe (part of a 3ft, 180L community tank), but the supposed male spends much of his time looking like a female (as in 95% of the time). See my first two photos attached. I'm aware males who are juveniles, sub-adults or non-dominant adopt this colouration all the time, and occasionally my male drops his black line and looks like a subdued version of the lovely pictures of male Nannacara anomala you can find on Google pictures.
<Should be "more male" with the development of the smaller individual>
The male is about 1.5 inches not including tail, and his female companion is tiny, only just an inch or so (3rd pic attached). I guess I'm just hoping that my N. anomala male will end up growing into something lovely like most males apparently do. As a side issue, the male seems to have a deformed tip to his dorsal fin (see circled photos). I'm guessing this is genetic as he appears to be thriving otherwise.
<Genetic or ontogenetic (developmental)>
On another issue, the foam base which separates my stand and tank appears to be shedding somewhat (see pics). Should be concerned and replace it or is this O.K.? The foam was recycled from a school classroom and I don't know its age.
<No images of this attached>
Finally, is there any reason why fresh activated carbon would not remove the yellow-brown tint from the water caused by the copious driftwood in my tank, at least to some degree?
<Only if the carbon were of "low quality" or exhausted. See WWM re use... some types (shiny) are of limited capacity>
Thanks a lot crew,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
P.S. I recently spent 8 days in the Maldives, 170km-odd north of Male. I used a Dicapac waterproof bag to take lots of photos of fish with an older DSLR, of which I've attached a few (thought you guys would appreciate!).
Unfortunately I only made it 20m max offshore (2 kids so no 4-hour snorkeling safaris for me!), but I still found it amazing. Sorry for any naming errors - marine fish are NOT my area of knowledge!
<Ahh! Wondered why these were here. Thank you for sharing. B>

South American Dwarf Cichlid crossbreeding   6/12/12
So I have a female Apistogramma bitaeniata and a male Nannacara anomala in a 12G overfiltered (30G HOB filter) heated (78-82F) with 6 dwarf Corydoras (habrosus and hastatus), 3 guppies(1M2F) and a zebra Hillstream loach.
<Mmm, these last two are misplaced here... need cooler, hard, alkaline water... the loach much more water movement...>
 There are 3 hidey holes (terra cotta pot, barrel decoration and a half log propped on a flat piece of slate), sparse live plants (dwarf chain sword, Ludwigia, hydrophilia, water wisteria) and a piece of cactus wood on a play sand substrate. Regular T8 lights and I dose daily with Flourish (Seachem) and have a 4" air rock providing extra aeration.
<Ah good>
 My readings are GH 180ppm, KH 40ppm, PH 6.5-7, NO2 0.5ppm,
<Should be 0.0... I'd increase bio-filtration, cut feeding>
NO3 20-30ppm,
<Too high... I'd keep under 10 ppm>
and ammonia 0-0.5 (test strips),
<See WWM re these strips... inaccurate, imprecise>
readings taken before my maintenance and tonight is when I do the weekly maintenance (vacuum, 25% water change, and filter rinse).
Now my question is will these two south American dwarves crossbreed?
<Not as far as I'm aware... many Cichlids can/do cross... typically limited to congeners (species of the same genus)>
 I haven't conditioned the female but when I added him to the tank she went from her drab olive coloring to bright yellow, has repeatedly tail slapped him and does this maneuver where she winds her body into an S and springs straight and looks like she is biting him but there is no damage to his body or fins. I'm not sure if the male is interested or not, he has some greening but still has the horizontal black stripe down the middle of his body. I'm not a purist so don't mind if they do but if they don't it's no big deal as long as they aren't trying to kill each other. So should I be watching for eggs or just smile and admire the pretty fish?
<There may not be enough space in this system for much of this behavior... in other words, the interaction may express itself in damage to tankmates.
I'd keep an eye out, oh, and read re the differing water quality needs of what you have stocked here... And separate the players accordingly. Bob Fenner>
Thank you Jenn 

Single specimen cichlids, stkg./sel... dwarf neotropicals 4/16/12
Hello, WWM crew. I'd like to start out by saying how impressed I am.
It seems like no matter what fish-keeping query I type into the search engine, one of your pages pops up. I can't imagine how much time and effort must have gone into all of this.
<Mmm, thanks... much time, effort>
I kept expecting to see some hidden advertising (such as certain products being recommended) and was pleasantly surprised.
<Would (indeed) dilute the "power" of our influence/wishes/direction>
I've spent endless hours reading, and I think I've learned more here than on all other fish websites I've visited put together. Way to go!
My question is about keeping single specimens of cichlids. I am interested in trying out these guys in a future tank, but I don't feel comfortable with the idea of keeping a breeding pair. This is partly because I don't like the idea of bringing large numbers of fish into the world without already having a plan for finding them homes, and also because from the accounts I've read online, it seems to me that lots of people have had their so-called peaceful fish turn into psychotic killers when breeding.
<Can/does happen>
So, I've been trying to find out if a single cichlid (I'd really like some sort of Apistogramma, I love the look of a. Agassizi) would be okay in a community tank.
<Mmm, yes; most Dwarf Cichlids, as species, specimens do fine as singlets... Perhaps not as interesting behaviorally, or colour-wise, but fine biologically>
I can't find much info on this. I've read lots of website claiming that cichlids must be kept in pairs or multiples or they will suffer from loneliness. Is that true?
<Some species are quite social; not so much the S. American dwarves>
I read on a wwm page that female/male pairs are best, but wasn't sure if that was meant as opposed to a single or male/male or female/female.
Thanks! -George
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Single specimen cichlids, stkg.     4/16/12

Fantastic! Just the answer I was hoping for. Yes, I had read that the colour could be less brilliant if kept alone. I was hoping to find out if that is a very significant difference. I saw two pictures of the same fish, one in threat mode and one normal. Is the normal colouration about what a could expect from a solo fish?
 Also, is there some way to 'trick' it into displaying, such as holding up a hand mirror?
<Not continuously, no>
Would the bottom swimmers be likely to attack bottom dwellers such as Corydoras for invading territory or is that strictly a breeding behaviour? (do males even have territories when there are no females present?)
<Not likely if the cats are of size, armored or venomous>
I'm also curious about mixing two single specimens. Again, territory issues, or would they ignore each other?
<Would not>
Any tips on avoiding conflict such as staying away from similar-looking fish? In cases where it's hard to determine sex of one or both, how can I tell if two different species be at risk of hybridizing, would choosing from different genus (genuses?)<genera> be a safe way to ensure that they would not breed?
<Mmm, more reading... BobF>
Re: Single specimen cichlids    4/16/12

I've actually been pondering this idea for some time now. I prefer to do my own research and I've read a lot, but all information I find tends to be about keeping breeding pairs or keeping single large, very aggressive fish.
About the hybrid issue, I ask because I've read that Apistogramma do not hybridize, and I've also read that there's an Apistogramma mariae which is a hybrid, and something called a ''steel blue Apistogramma'' which may or may not be a hybrid...
<I do think I recall a scientific paper stating there hybridiz/sation did occur, or could>
  It would be nice to get some real info for a change ha-ha, that's why I'm asking you guys.
<Mmm, we don't "do" original science, though a few of us here have science degrees>
It's my understanding that Apisto are easy to sex,
<When mature>
 however, I may go with another genus of SA, in which case I could end up with a problem.   I should have asked rather, in general if you wanted to have a community of cichlids, how would you prevent hybridization?
<Different genera are best>
 Cross reference each with each other to see if it's been done? Or is that what you meant by ''more reading''?
<A bit more delving into the (scientific) literature. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/litsrchart.htm
To clarify, you are saying that two different, single dwarf cichlids will not ignore each other. Will they fight/maim/kill, is my real question I guess. So, yea or nay?
<They should not fight, kill each other>
 I suppose if they can't be housed together then the above question is moot.
The more important question is if a (''peaceful'' dwarf cichlid) male will be  territorial with no females around, (to the extent of harming other fish) and no, my community aquarium will not have anything venomous in it.
<Even a peaceful cichlid species (of all types) will become overtly aggressive and territorial when engaged in breeding/brooding>
Thank you, Mr. Fenner! :)
<Welcome George. Bob Fenner>
Re: Single specimen cichlids    4/16/12

Excellent, that's just what I've been trying to find out. Thank you very much. Keep up the great work!
<Will do, B>

Chichlid Environment    12/30/11
Hello!  I am in the process of completing my 20 gallon tall freshwater tank.
<Good. Now, do be aware that "tall" 20 gallon tanks are difficult to stock. They're great for those aquarists who are into plants, and only want to add a few small tetras or perhaps a pair of Angelfish. But if the fish interest you rather than the plants, and you don't want to use the tank for a breeding project, you will have problems.>
The cycling process took about a month after which I added 6 zebra Danios that have been in the tank for about 3 weeks now.
Everything seems stable: Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate all 0.  The tank is stocked with java fern and Anubias (both on separate pieces of Malaysian driftwood), java moss, and corkscrew Vallisneria.
<All easy-going plants. One problem with "tall" tanks is the extra depth combined with the smaller surface area, and this means you have less light getting to the plants despite the need for more light because of the depth. Again, not a problem for dedicated aquarists able to invest in high performance lighting. But the average "tall" tank bought from an ordinary pet store will have problems growing all but easy-going plants like the ones you've just named.>
Until today it also had Anacharis, banana plants, and dwarf hairgrass,
<I'd be very surprised if any of these thrived in this tank, unless you happen to have high intensity lighting, i.e., 3-4 watts/gallon.>
but I did a 40% water change and some redecorating and these plants are waiting to be reintroduced as needed (also need some suction cups to keep the floating Anacharis in place).  As this is my first real attempt at a community tank I want to make sure I have everything right before I add more fish.
<Do read books on plants before spending more money on them. Plants can be a total waste of money if you don't do things right in terms of light intensity.>
Originally, I planned to have a school of Danios and a school of barbs.
<Quite possibly too many fish for this tank, unless you chose wisely. E.g., your Zebras alongside half a dozen Puntius pentazona or some other small Puntius species. If you keep the tank cool, around 20-22 C, then Puntius gelius, the Dwarf Golden Barb, would be an excellent companion for Zebra Danios.>
However, I decided I would like to have a slightly larger school of Danios (as I have grown increasingly fond of them) and a 'centerpiece' fish.  I read your article on stocking small tanks ('Stocking 5, 10, and 20 Gallon Freshwater Aquaria' -- great article) and liked the idea of a pair of Bolivian Rams.  I have been reading more about these fish and want to make sure I have things straight.  It seems they will adapt to a range of conditions, unlike most cichlids, and are a decent fish for the newer aquarist (at least someone who is willing to dedicate time and attention?  I am a stay at home mom and have a decent amount of time for my tank)?
<Right, now, here's the thing. Your "tall" tank has a limited surface area. It might not be big enough for two Bolivian Rams if they don't get on. Get a pair, and you might be okay. The same holds true for Apistogramma cacatuoides, a slightly more difficult soft water cichlid.>
I have been researching GH and KH as my tests have been confusing me.  Upon further reading I believe the confusion is that my tests measure in mg/l instead of the degree values I have seen associated with those ppm mg/l.  My GH is about 120 mg/l (12 I assume) and my KH is about 80 mg/l (somewhere in the 'soft,' 2-5, range).
<Hmm'¦ do read here to understand the conversions between mg/l and degrees dH/degrees KH:
Actually, the units don't matter, provided your test kit lets you determine "soft", "middling", and "hard".>
Is this safe for Bolivian Rams?  PH is acidic to neutral (normally tests at 7, tested 6.5 six hours after water change today).
<Yes, your water sounds fine. Not too much of anything in any direction, which is okay for them.>
I also have a plant substrate and recently read that sand is best for Rams as they sift food from sand.  Would my more gravely substrate eliminate the possibility of keeping Rams?
<Should be okay.>
I am working on the layout of my tank to accommodate the caves and darker lighting that rams need (hence the suction cups for floating plants and possible purchase of more plants) and would like your input regarding caves.  I have two pieces of driftwood that crop out from the glass, creating two 'v' areas (sorry, I couldn't get a pic within the memory constraints).  Would this suffice as a cave for the rams or do I need something more specific and/or bigger-- plant pots, rock caves, etc.?
<Actually, Bolivian Rams are open spawners and not too bothered about caves, though they'll certainly use them. What they like are flat rocks or sandy areas underneath shady plants.>
Also, my Danios currently explore the whole tank instead of being just 'surface' fish.  Will their behavior change when other fish occupy the bottom or will this be an issue when it comes to aggression?
<Danios will swim less in the bottom once the cichlids are there, but yes, they do tend to swim in the middle and upper levels given the chance. If you look, you'll see they have short whiskers, and like catfish, they can and do use these to feed from the bottom. If they see predators though, which is what they'll consider the cichlids, they'll be less keen on swimming at the bottom.>
I am considering buying larger driftwood to add to the environment of the 'upper reaches' of the tank.
<Hmm'¦ no, not such a good idea. Danios need lots of open space. Floating plants, e.g., Indian Fern or Amazon Frogbit, would be much better choices, plus they remove nitrate and thereby improve cichlid health (cichlids are super-sensitive to nitrate levels above 20 mg/l.>
I assume if I have a centerpiece fish I would not be able to have a much larger school of Danios than the one I have now.  Maybe only an addition of one or two more Danios?
I don't need a lot more, but I know the larger the school, the more secure the fish feel and the better behavior they will have.
<Oh yes, and also, the male Danios will be less likely to turn aggressive.>
I think that is all.  Also sending an email about my corkscrew Val.s.
Thanks so much from an excited aquarist!
<No problem.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Chichlid Environment    12/30/11

Hi Neale,
Thanks for the response.
<Most welcome.>
I knew that 20 talls can be problematic, but didn't know all the details.
Good points for me to keep in mind as I move forwards. When we move out of our apartment (hopefully this year) I will be on the market for a bigger/better tank.  I actually had this tank sitting in my parents'
basement from my middle school years when I had a couple goldfish.  :D 
<Fair enough!>
Would it be too much of a risk to try a pair of chichlids?
<Cichlids (pronounced "sick-lids", not "chick-lids") are always a gamble as pairs. Typically, males are more aggressive than the females (though this isn't always the case) and if you have a male and female who won't pair off for some reason, the female can end up being harmed, even killed. Some species are very peaceful and rarely cause problems, Keyhole Cichlids for example, but most, even Angelfish, can be a gamble.>
I would have to order the rams from my LFS as they don't stock them so I'm not sure they would take them back in the case of a problem.  And I don't want to count on getting a bigger tank because that wouldn't be for months at least.  I considered getting a bigger school of Danios and keeping it at that, but would like to get a bigger fish that my 5 month old could watch. 
I assume the limited surface area is a territory issue, not an O2 issue?
<Both. Lack of surface area at the top means there's less oxygen coming into contact with the water, while lack of surface area at the bottom means those fish that "stake claims" to real estate, like cichlids, aren't easy to house. These "tall" tanks used to be called "breeder" tanks because they're mostly of use to breeders who wanted the biggest tank they could fit into the smallest space. Given they'd be keeping just a pair of Angels or something, the surface area issue wasn't a big deal. But as community tanks, "tall" tanks aren't the best choice for beginners.>
If I can go for the chichlids I would need to create a couple good areas for them (hopefully they will pair off and it won't be a problem)?
<Given each cichlid could easily claim an area 24 x 24 inches with its home in the centre, adding caves or whatnot won't make a huge difference. If one decide to drive the other one away from its territory, the weaker one will likely spend all the time hiding in the top corner of the tank, as far away from the other cichlid as possible.>
While still keeping as much swimming space as possible (in a 20 tall it isn't a lot to start with)?
<The habitat in the bottom half of the tank needs to be complex, with a mix of shady areas and open areas. The habitat on the top half needs to be essentially open, except perhaps for tall plants or floating plants.>
Thanks so much!  This is a huge help and gives me peace of mind moving forward.
<Good luck, Neale.>

Pelvicachromis Pulcher or Apistogramma agassizii in community tank?   11/13/11
Hi crew,
After much reading on WWM and more than a few emails, my 4ft, 220L community tank is starting to come together. Thanks for all you've done to make it happen.
I've got the choice to add either Pelvicachromis pulcher or Apistogramma agassizii to the following water parameters/stock - does one suit better than another? I'm going for a breeding pair if possible.
- 28 deg Celsius.
- pH 7.2 (afternoon) - 7.6 (morning).
- ammonia 0 ppm
- nitrite 0 ppm
- nitrate 10 ppm
- GH 4 deg
- KH 3 deg
- 20% water change and gravel vac every 1.5 weeks
- 5x Melanotaenia praecox (1m, 4f)
- 1x Aplocheilus Lineatus
- 9x Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis
- 5x Crossocheilus siamensis (juveniles at the moment)
- 4x Colisa fasciata (juveniles, out of quarantine and into main tank tomorrow)
To add:
- 2x Ctenopoma acutirostre (2" juveniles)
- A pair of either Pelvicachromis Pulcher or Apistogramma agassizii
I realise any fry I get from the cichlids may well be eaten by Aplocheilus Lineatus or Ctenopoma acutirostre after the parents give up parental care.
I have no issue with this - should I?
<No, not really.>
So what do you think? Please critique any other parts of my set up as you see fit.
<I'd go with the Apistogramma. Fewer fry, and generally a less boisterous species. But with this said, very small specimens might be just about big enough for your Ctenopoma to view as prey, so introduce specimens of similar size to the climbing perch.>
Thanks a lot crew, as always,
<Cheers, Neale.>

"alarm substance" freaking out my fish?  7/28/11
Hello Crew,
I've been raising 7 juvenile 1" Bolivian Rams, all healthy and feisty, but a week ago one stayed in the corner by himself, breathing heavily, and wouldn't eat. Tested the water (with a liquid kit) and it was good:
Ammonia, NO2, NO3 - 0,0,5. By morning he was laying on his side and drifting around with the current so I gently removed and euthanized him, and did another water change. The 6 remaining have been freaked out ever since, and taken to hiding. A few would eat a bit, but nothing like before.
They seemed listless and frightened.
<Dwarf cichlids tend to be spooked in tanks that feel too small, so as/when you upgrade tank you should find they settle down. Furthermore, they dislike bright light and open, plant-free tanks, so do bear in mind they want a shady, gloomy tank.>
Tank - 10 gallon cycled
Stock - 7 juvenile 1" Bolivian Rams. Will soon be moved to a 20 long.
(Hoping for a pair to form)
Feed - high quality crushed flake, occasional wet-frozen treats
Twice weekly water changes of 30%
Ammonia, NO2, NO3 - 0,0,5
Temp 79* F.
KH - 280 ppm
GH - 300 ppm
pH - 8.3 (a bit high, but it never fluctuates. I've been keeping adult BRs and tetras with no problems).
<Does sound a bit hard, alkaline. Any chance of lowering this? Mixing your tap water with rainwater or RO water, at a 50/50 ratio?>
I've been reading the WWM site for answers and came across the "alarm substance" article. This made a lot of sense.
<Except that, to my knowledge, cichlids don't produce Schreckstoff; it's primarily found among Ostariophysi, i.e., carps, minnows, characins, etc.>
A previous water change didn't help but I did another last night and added a bag of charcoal in the filter. Lo and behold, this morning they were all back to their old selves, eating heartily and not hiding.
In your opinion, is that what happened to them? If so, this phenomenon is remarkable, and the substances released must be quite strong if water change alone isn't enough to remove them.
<Do beware that post hoc, ergo propter hoc isn't always true.>
Also, is this substance species-specific? I don't believe I've seen it in community tanks, but it seems to make a case for early removal of injured fish, at any rate.
<I would agree.>
Thanks so much for your work and a great site!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Apistogramma cacatuoides tankmates -- 06/18/11
Hi Neale,
I finally settled on Apistogramma cacatuoides for my vacant 29 gallon tank.
<A superb species.>
I had a lot of trouble finding small Tanganyikans at a reasonable price, plus I didn't want a lot of rock weight on the upper tank of a double stand, so I went in a different direction.
Anyway, I'd like to have a school of dither tetras that can tolerate slightly alkaline water with a bit of hardness. I've had black skirts live in my tap water for several years, but they are too nippy (and maybe get too big) for the Apistos. I'm not especially fond of lemons or head-and-taillights, and the water is too hard for Neons or embers. Any suggestions? (Blind cave tetras need a permit where I live.)
<Two species stand-out as being tolerant of alkaline conditions and small enough to work well here. The first is the X-Ray Tetra, Pristella maxillaris. This species is extremely tolerant of hard water (supposedly up to 30 degrees dH!) and naturally comes from a wide range of habitats, from blackwater rivers to slightly brackish coastal streams. It is extremely peaceful and never nippy. The second obvious species is the False Penguin Tetra, Thayeria boehlkei. Despite the "false" part of the name, this is by far the commonest Penguin in the trade. It is easily recognised by the fact the black marking goes up the tail and along the body, whereas the black marking on the true Penguin Tetra, Thayeria obliqua, only goes up the tail.
Again, this is an excellent, if slightly boisterous, schooling fish that works well with dwarf cichlids. If you're happy to try non-South American stuff, then other small, schooling fish that enjoy or tolerate slightly alkaline water include Norman's Lampeyes, Ricefish, Celestial Danios and Threadfin Rainbowfish.>
As an aside, I finally managed to get my hands on a trio of juvenile desert gobies!
<Cool! Keep the tank covered though; these fish are real jumpers. Do also keep them relatively cool. They're easy to breed, so you'll want them breeding in your tank because they don't live for more than a year or so.
If you keep them too warm, they'll "burn out" before you get sufficient offspring.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Next step for Bolivian Rams (Microgeophagus Altispinosa), comp., repro.    4/1/11
Hey Neale/crew,
<Hello Susie,>
Further to recent correspondence with my personal guru to all things aquatic, I've now had my two adult-ish Microgeophagus Altispinosa for 2 weeks. There was some chasing in the beginning and they were both very shy, but then there were signs of them getting along a little better, and coming out to feed quite enthusiastically. However, relations are now a little strained between them.
<Welcome to the world of cichlid-keeping.>
After Neale's very enlightening explanation of how to sex them, they both appear to be male, based on the backward pointing, sharp spawning tube they each display. I've attached a couple of pics, and the clearer one (Bolivian2) is of the one who will happily come to the front, which has a slightly rounder shape and yellowy hue than the other, with fairly distinct black markings, and which is the more aggressive of the two. The second (Bolivian4) is of what now appears to be a somewhat stressed fish, who is a uniform dark grey - the pic is blurry because he won't come to the front when I'm there, I had to zoom in on him. He has a more angular shape, is slightly larger, and is very much hounded by the other one.
<Would indeed agree, these may both be males. Behaviour is often as good a key as any, and when shopping, I like to pick two cichlids that seem to be getting along. Watch for signs of chasing. While not foolproof, two specimens that seem happy in one another's company in the retailer's tank will likely be a pair.>
Perhaps these two are not destined to get along...should I find a female, and switch out one of the males?
<Ideally, remove one of the two males. If you can, remove the more aggressive of the two, so that when you add a female, neither she nor the remaining male are territory-holders. Sometimes males can bully females, simply because they view them as interlopers.>
It seems that such an exercise would be more successful if I add a couple of females temporarily, allow them to pair off, then remove one pair - I doubt 23 gallons is enough for two pairs long term.
But in spite of a fairly exhaustive search and ring around - including online suppliers - there are a) none to be found or b) a few around but no guarantees of getting females, as those available for sale are juveniles and very hard to sex.
<Indeed, a common problem.>
I did find a few at a local store (not one I would usually frequent), but they were very young, small and extremely skinny. And had stringy white faeces.
<Not good.>
I gave them a miss, but have bought some more bogwood and will try to better divide the tank and create more hiding places for now (moving the Vallisneria AGAIN, it will die surely!) - but other than that, what do you think would be my best move? Due to their small size, would it be feasible to add, say 3 juveniles (when I can get some from a reputable source) and see what happens, removing the surplus fish once I have a good pairing. then again, maybe mixing adults with juveniles is unwise and won't work.
What to do?
<If the two males aren't tolerating one another, the best approach is remove one male and be done with it. He'll be fine for months or years on his own. Add a female as/when. I'd suggest taking the male out when that happens, put him in a bucket, put the female in the tank, let her settle down, and an hour or two later, return the male, ideally after having moved some rocks or caves around. With luck, they'll both feel like strangers rather than the male feeling he's "in charge" and they'll get along fine.>
Thanks very much, as ever...having trouble getting any good advice on this, even from MA, who are generally fantastic...
<Glad to help, Neale.>

Re: Mystery fish + Microgeophagus altispinosa..., barb ID,    5/9/11
Hi Neale,
Brilliant, thanks very much for identifying it - Barbus fasciolatus, that's the very fish! Having read up on the species I hesitate to rush out and get a replacement for his lost companion, he might be happier by himself after all.
In the meantime, something is afoot with the rams (Mikrogeophagus altispinosa). From the attached, you'll see that one of the three has dug quite a significant pit in the substrate this afternoon. He (I'm hoping he is a male) is guarding it to a point, shooing away all the fish that like to nose around in it, and doing quite a bit of flaring and chasing and posturing with one of the other rams (which I'm hoping is the female). Pic of the supposed "pair" attached, not really good enough pictures to know for sure, but fingers crossed. He keeps making way for her to come and have a little look around his pit, then chases her away again.
<Is what they do. She won't be accepted into a male's territory until she's ripe with eggs. To some degree, females are merely chased away, while rival males are attacked more aggressively, "with extreme prejudice" as our American cousins would say.>
If I do finally have a pair, I'll be dead excited.....but whilst I had planned on removing the Ancistrus and Corys from this tank, I hadn't planned on doing it this soon - the new tank is showing no ammonia or nitrite, but precious little nitrate, so I think it needs a bit longer to mature. Plus the banded barb in there is still very nervous.
Apart from that I'm also worried that in order to catch and move the disruptive fish from my planned breeding tank, I'll have to take the tank apart, and then re-plant and re-scape (all of which I love doing of course), which is going to disturb the rams and ruin the carefully built spawning area. If they do spawn in the meantime (I don't think they have already), the Ancistrus will surely eat the eggs instantly, having no fear of the rams attacks.
<Indeed, this is typical for the genus, family; cichlids and catfish have worked this way against each other since time immemorial. Still, a healthy, well-matched pair of cichlids should be able to keep their nest reasonably safe, and if you want, you can always isolate the catfish.>
AND.....will the big bossy Ancistrus terrify the nervous Barbus fasciolatus in the new tank?!!
<Hmm'¦ shouldn't do.>
The Ancistrus needs her own special ASBO.
Thanks Neale
<Cheers, Neale.
Re: Mystery fish + Microgeophagus altispinosa   5/10/11
Evening, thanks for the reply. As it turns out, I felt that my hand was forced tonight....I spotted one of the julii Corys in a peculiar position (standing on it's tail), and inspected to find that he had been stripped of his entire tail fin. He's been left with a raw looking stump and some chewed up rays.
<Ah, well, as I think I've mentioned before, these Dwarf Cichlids can be hard on Corydoras. On the whole Bolivian Rams are acceptably well-behaved community fish, but sometimes they cause problems. Be sensitive to the risk, and plan your community accordingly. This is a topic discussed in Paul Loiselle's "The Cichlid Aquarium", a book that really is worth reading when dealing with cichlids. Contrary to popular misconception, no cichlid is 100% peaceful, and none of them make perfect community fish.>
I hurriedly set up a little QT for him, but I don't fancy his chances of recovering.
<We'll see.>
I suspect the big bolshy male cichlid of an attack, as he has been more aggressive to the other species in the tank since he built his nest. So I've charged ahead and moved the other Corys and the Ancistrus to the new tank - I'll just have to be very vigilant in testing the water and doing changes while the filter catches up.
<All sounds wise. Ancistrus generally hold their own with Dwarf Cichlids without problems.>
Thanks for all the help, I'll soldier on and see how things work out'¦..
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Next step for Bolivian Rams (Microgeophagus altispinosa) 4/4/2011
Thanks Neale...but hold the phone. There's been a development.
Since late on Friday night, these two have settled their differences and are currently swimming around as a pair.
<Cool. But do be aware that homosexual pairs are not uncommon among cichlids. Sometimes you see two females laying eggs together! It's quite bizarre.>
Obviously I'm now utterly transfixed and can't stop watching them, waiting to see what happens.
<I bet. This is where cichlid-keeping becomes fun. Once you set aside (grow beyond?) simply shopping for bright colours, and then choose a species that should work in your aquarium and water chemistry, you get to switch gears to the slow but satisfying pleasure of breeding behaviour. Even if you never raise any of the fry, watching them spawn is fun. Watching the parents guard their eggs and then eventually (and apparently proudly!) leading their offspring around the tank is even more than fun, it's a privilege!>
They follow one another everywhere and often swim close enough to be virtually touching. I've seen some head shaking from both of them..substrate picking from both of them...and a peculiar kind of gentle "revolving" up and down around one another. There's been no lip-locking, and no obvious flirting - apart from when one seemed to be rubbing itself against the driftwood in view of the other, I just hoped he wasn't flashing haha. Oops, no pun intended.
<All sounds promising.>
I've looked long and hard and it is possible that now they are getting along, one is showing more signs of a blunt ovipositor than was really visible before...but it's still not 100% clear.
<The female's ovipositor appears within a few hours of breeding, usually within a day. So this is very exciting!>
I've tried a zoom lens to get pictures, but the zoom is not strong enough to show sufficient details. There are subtle differences between the two fish - one is certainly slimmer than the other, with extensions on the tail fin and extending second and third dorsal fin rays, which the larger fish lacks, but I still couldn't say for sure. The parts of the fish which tell the real story remain stubbornly ambiguous, but is the behaviour giving them away?
<Could be.>
Feed time still results in squabbling and they do feed apart, although the rest of the time they appear to be inseparable......I'm saying a small prayer that they are in fact one of each after all. Maybe in other circumstances they wouldn't have chosen one another as a mate, but they are making the best of being thrown together!
<Ah yes, as so many of us seem to do; cue the music to Casablanca'¦ "Of all the gin joints in all the world'¦">
I know it's hard to be sure without clearer pics, but what do you think, would 2 males (or even 2 females) behave like this?
<Does happen, but infrequently. Males rarely tolerate each other for long, so a pair is more likely, else, in the off-chance, a pair of females.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Next step for Bolivian Rams (Microgeophagus Altispinosa)   4/6/11

You bet I'm excited, ridiculously so.....and I'm even more excited that YOU think it's exciting! I'm a bit inclined to get deeply involved in things and keeping fish is no exception - it was unlikely to remain just a passing interest, or just something nice to look at, for long. I thought breeding might be best left to more experienced aquarists, but I've definitely been swept away by the fascination of a potential breeding pair, I'm hooked!
<Cool! Many good books on cichlids out there; "The Cichlid Aquarium" by Paul Loiselle is the classic and can be picked up used for not much money. It's semi-scientific, but accessible, and will massively deepen your understanding of these fish and why people study them in laboratories all around the world. "Fish Behaviour" by Stephan Reebs is another good book; it's not entirely about cichlids, but they're certainly centre-stage throughout. As you'll learn, cichlids are THE classic fish type for scientists, with much pioneering work being done on them by the likes of Niko Tinbergen (as outlined in his famous and extremely entertaining book on animal behaviour, "King Solomon's Ring". Cichlids have behaviour comparable to birds in terms of complexity, but are much easier to maintain, and so they're perfect animals for studying complex behaviour and animal intelligence.>
Having picked myself up from the shock of learning that homosexuality exists among fish, I was slightly disappointed last night - after tearing home at top speed - to find that they'd had another tiff and were at opposing ends of the tank, barely speaking let alone courting. *fade out Casablanca music*. They're still apart this morning. I've stared rudely at their respective vents and have now convinced myself that they are both females.
<I see'¦ I guess you'll have to call them Ellen and Portia.>
There are a number of factors going against breeding (apart from the obvious one of not knowing if these two are Arthur or Martha, although the signs are not great), one being that my pH is inclined to be slightly high at 8.....although I gather that spawning is not unheard of in these parameters?
<Indeed; with cichlids spawning often happens at any pH, but the eggs might not hatch, or you just get one sex rather than both. It's always worth a shot, but don't be surprised if nothing happens.>
I have added plenty of bogwood and the water is nicely tea-stained at the moment, plus the tank is half planted.....I'll get the water properly tested by MA tomorrow, as I want to be 100% sure of the general and carbonate hardness as well. My testing kit is a bit vague on those aspects, although with your help on interpretation previously, I think we established around 5 kH and 10 dH.
<That should be fine.>
I also only have them in 23 gallons/90 litres with plenty of other community fish, including Corydoras...might it be a bit too busy for breeding? I have, somewhat optimistically, added some flat stones in a couple of sheltered spots.....
<Corydoras are liable to be attacked by breeding cichlids, but midwater fish should be ignored if it isn't wildly busy. In any case, you're seeing what we call "new tank syndrome" -- the need to buy just one more tank so you can try out something new! Cichlid-keepers often end up with dozens of tanks, each with a single pair of a particular species. Once you've bred a fish and sold on some 3-4 month old youngsters, it can become addictive. It's an object test of your skill, because if you can get an animal to breed successfully, you must be doing everything right.>
Even assuming I can get past these factors, I'm not sure how much longer to leave these two to it before deciding that love ain't coming to town, and I try to add or replace a fish to see if I can't generate a bit of interest. Guildford branch of MA are getting some of these rams in this week, but they're bound to be juveniles. I guess I'm back to where I started with my initial question about what to do next, only keeping a single male is no longer on the agenda!??
<Indeed. Nothing wrong with keeping a lone male.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Next step for Bolivian Rams (Microgeophagus Altispinosa)   4/12/11

Hi Neale,
Thanks for the book suggestions, I will endeavour to get both of those!
Dwarf Cichlid update. Arthur and Martha were, as suspected by the LFS yet severely doubted by moi, Arthur and Arthur. All semblance of friendship (and advances by one confused male) were abandoned and it was carnage. I took BOTH of them back, to perhaps find larger, separate homes, and exchanged them (at the suggestion of MA) for 3 fairly juvenile specimens (each about 1 inch long).
<I see.>
The young chap at this branch of MA kindly spent a looong time studying them, and picked me out 3 which were round, healthy, starting to colour up, and of these 3, he felt that 2 were definitely male and a female (usual caveat of no guarantees). The third he picked as a wildcard, with the view that eventually, one should materialise as the "odd one out", and I can take him/her back to the store. I just hope I haven't got 2 males and a female'¦'¦
These 3 are remarkably more sprightly, inquisitive and sociable than my last 2. They're into everything, and this morning appeared to be experimenting with "being" another species - watching a ram playing in the bubble stream with the Corys, or solemnly schooling amidst the pygmy barbs, is an amusing sight to behold. They are hilarious, but they're terrible timewasters (like kittens, puppies and foals) - I lost an hour gazing at them last night. Can't wait to order the books.
<Juvenile cichlids are often quite gregarious, and raising them in groups and then removing pairs is the standard way advanced aquarists maintain them.>
Oh, sad news.....I lost that last panda Corydoras from the original batch of 5, unfortunately. He had been feeding ok and was even schooling a bit with the other 2, but he just faded away. I found him one evening last week white as a ghost and barely moving or breathing. When the Amano shrimps tried to drag him under the bogwood as a snack, and he barely had the strength to fight them, I gently fished him out and sent him on his way. He had a big "dent" in his belly? I guess he wasn't feeding as well as he appeared to be. Poor old Sicknote. I'm down to 5 Corydoras, 3 Julii's and 2 pandas, and they often school together.
<Nice to know these ones are forming a group. Yes, dying Corydoras often look hollow-bellied.>
Hopefully our next discussion will be around how I go about raising my new Bolivian Ram fry and what size tank I have to buy.....??
<Oh, the cichlids will likely take care of the fry as/when they appear. All you need to is remove a few, put them in a rearing tank. Something around 8-15 gallons is usually ample. Cichlids will crank out fry given the chance, so don't feel like you have to rear them. A good fry predator can be very helpful!>
You never know, especially as my pH now seems to be down to 7.5 with the bogwood?? :o)
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Next step for Bolivian Rams (Microgeophagus Altispinosa)   4/12/11
Wow you're fast today. Week off??
<Yes. School's out. Catching up on my writing.>
I'm at the offices of a client but trying to distract myself from the prospect of huge exam on Thurs.
Ok.....obviously speaking way, way in advance as I don't have a pair yet and I may not even get any fry, but let's be optimistic.....do you remove the fry once they're free swimming?
<You can. There are really two ways forward. One is to remove the eggs, and hatch them yourself. That's good if you want lots of fry, and a good mix of males and females. The other is to remove the fry once the parents start badgering them, usually a couple of weeks after they become free swimming (i.e., about 3-4 weeks after spawning). The downside is you'll likely have fewer fry, and since male fry grow faster, you tend to get more males than females.>
And what kind of fry predator do I have room for?!! I've got cories, Neons, pygmy barbs, Amano shrimps, a tiny bumblebee goby and a female Ancistrus...'¦.
<I see. Well, some sort of bottom-dwelling predator like a Spiny Eel or Pimelodus Catfish would be the obvious choice for catching fry, while Ancistrus spp. will usually eat any eggs they can find. I keep my Ameca splendens with Ctenolucius hujeta precisely because the Ctenolucius eat all the fry, so I don't have to deal with them!>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Microgeophagus Altispinosa - continuing aggression problems    4/26/11
Hey Neale,
Sorry to bother you yet again, hope you had a great Easter break and got fully caught up on your writing!
The three young Bolivians I got for my 20 gallon tank, in the hope of creating a pair, have settled in very well, and are full of life and colour and youthful exuberance. They are still very curious and not in the least shy, and feed very enthusiastically, so that's all good.
After the first week I wondered if my worst fears had been realised, as I seemed to have 2 males and a female.
One kept a very low profile and the other two spent a lot of time sparring over food and territory.
If the peacemaker (who sometimes got between the sparring pair) was indeed the female, she was being overlooked by the males as they were too busy scrapping to notice her.
<Is often the case if she isn't "ripe" in the sense of being old enough to produce eggs *and* filled with eggs. Females tend to come into breeding condition at intervals of several weeks, and may only do so after being fed profusely on especially tasty treats such as bloodworms.>
The fighting has now become quite intense, there is a bit of gill flaring going on and the "peacemaker" (the smaller and least yellow of the three) has ended up with a split tail - is there anything I can do to help that heal and avoid infection..at the risk of adding pointless things like salt and Melafix? Both of which *cough* I do have kicking around?
<Melafix does have its place as a pre-emptive medication prior to a fish getting sick, so if you have a bottle, sure, feel free to use. If you think of Melafix as the fish equivalent of an antiseptic ointment of the sort you'd dab on a knee of a child that fell over, you have the basic idea right. It's not terribly useful once a fish gets seriously infected, but it can probably help at keeping a wound clean and healthy, and may even speed up healing.>
I have rearranged the tank, adding three clay caves and additional live plants (Cabomba caroliliana, I think), and moved the bogwood around to see if the Rams can better agree on territories. It hasn't quite been 24 hrs so I don't know who has claimed what, or if it has worked yet, but there has always been plenty of hiding places and secluded areas to go around. They all seem to want to claim the whole open swimming area at the front.
<Is often the case. Rams are open spawners, but they do like flat rocks. Try pressing a few flat rocks into the sand/gravel at various places in the tank, and if you can, arrange plants or bogwood roots so each flat rock is hidden from the others. Hopefully, it'll be out of sight, out of mind.>
It's been nearly 3 weeks, they all seem to fight with one another in turn, and I am no nearer to knowing what mix of sexes there are. I'm all for leaving well alone and letting them sort themselves out, but I don't want three miserable fighting cichlids with tattered fins...can I do anything more?
<Not really.>
Perhaps I should move one of the aggressors out temporarily...but my emergency "hospital tank" is too small. It was bought for the shrimp and snails when I was going to treat the whole tank for fungus, its only about 4 gals if that, so no good for a dwarf cichlid even temporarily. I've got an old 3 foot glass tank, but as my beloved thinks it's hideous and won't let me have it in the house, I don't suppose I can keep it in the greenhouse with no power supply, haha. :o)
Even the handful of forums I frequent do not have any suggestions for my Rams, hence my billionth email to you (sorry). Any ideas? I know it hasn't been all that long, but this is attempt #2!
Thanks very much
<Do try and track down "The Cichlid Aquarium" by Paul Loiselle, often accessible via a library loan if you want to try before you buy. It won't necessarily let you fix every problem with cichlids, but you will at least understand what's going on. It's also a great read and full of lovely photos. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Microgeophagus Altispinosa - continuing aggression problems   4/28/11

Hi Neale,
Thank so much for that typically rapid reply......I located and order a copy of The Cichlid Aquarium straight away so I wouldn't forget! I did get myself a Cichlid book after our last conversation, but it was "lighter" than I really wanted and didn't go into much detail.
Okay, so I guess it's a question of patience then.....they might well go on to pair up and spawn in their own time. They are still small so presumably still a bit young. I have various pieces of slate and smooth stones pressed into the sand around the tank, in all the hiding spots where a stone will fit!
<Sounds like a good plan.>
I tend to feed some frozen bloodworms, plus a bit of daphnia and brine shrimp, every night, and New Life Spectrum cichlid pellets of a morning. Is this enough, bearing in mind they have to share it with the rest of the community?
<It's difficult to judge "enough" but provided the fish look healthy and there's no sign of a pinched-in or knife-edge belly, and the eyes are bright rather than sunken, and the fish is active and moving about normally, it's unlikely that fish is underfed. As a ball-park figure, a portion about twice the size of the eye is ample for most fish all day long.>
Its normally all gone within 4-5 minutes, but the Neons love bloodworms'¦.
<Yes, they do, but the thing with bloodworms is they're not terribly nutritious, so should be part of their diet rather than the bulk.>
The split tail of the "peacemaker" has already started to heal, and in in fact he/she (she by the dorsal spines, but vent not visible so who knows) has successfully claimed a new prestigious cave formed by bogwood and plants, and is cheerfully seeing off the other two who previously picked on her.
<I see.>
In the meantime, I have fluttered my eyelashes winningly at my dear husband, who has grudgingly succumbed (having been reminded of his 5 tents, 2 canoes and 35 varieties of torch languishing in the shed) to my getting a 2nd tank. *jumps around with excitement*.
Assuming they ever get as far as a spawn and some hatched eggs (I'm sure they'll be a few failed spawns even once they get started), presumably I can use the pathetic 3 gallon tank for a small batch of free swimming fry for 2-4 weeks with a heater and a sponge filter, before moving them into a new 10-15 gallon tank to mature for another 8-12 weeks.
<Or else, raise some of the eggs in a floating breeding trap until they hatch, and then rear some of the fry there until they're about half an inch or so long.>
I'll set up both small tanks in advance so they are cycled obviously. Does that sound like a realistic (if optimistic) plan?
Haven't worked out how I'll feed tiny fry 4-7 times a day whilst out all day yet, but I'll think of something'¦'¦
<With most of the cichlids, powdered flake food such as Hikari First Bites is adequate. Do close this tightly once opened, otherwise it'll go stale. Otherwise, it's a very good baby fish food. Perhaps not *quite* as good as Microworms or whatever, but easier to use.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Microgeophagus Altispinosa   4/28/11
Ok, thanks for those replies....will give it some more thought and devour the contents of Loiselle's book when it turns up.
Forgive me, but when you say use the breeding trap to hatch the eggs, then raise the fry to half an inch long - do you mean, all in the 3 gal? And then move the half inch fry to the 15 gal? Sorry to be dim, I've read so much on it I've lost the plot somewhere......can't remember what I'm supposed to be doing with each tank now.
<Ah, no; rather, put breeding trap in main aquarium with the adults, and just lift some/all of the eggs/fry out into the trap as needs be. If you have a mature aquarium to rear eggs, then do use that; but using a breeding trap in the main aquarium can be a safer fix than putting the eggs/fry in an immature aquarium.>
I'm also distracted because I lost another panda Corydoras. I've only had these two about 6 -7 weeks, they formed a little group with the Julii's and were both okay yesterday - one seemed a little lethargic but was feeding.
You previously said that 25 C is their max preferred temp, so I resisted the temptation to increase the temp for the Bolivians....I've changed the sharp sand for something softer, kept good water quality, got the pH down to 7.5, there are no fish left to bully them (unless they got caught up with the Rams fighting) and I made sure they got plenty of food. Perhaps I just can't keep them?
<Well, on the whole Corydoras are hardy and easy to keep. But they are bullied by Dwarf Cichlids, so mixing them isn't recommended. If you do try to do so, then a larger, more robust variety might be a better bet, perhaps plain vanilla Bronze Corydoras or even the slightly larger Brochis species like Brochis splendens that look like Corydoras on steroids. But if all else fails, switch to a small group of Synodontis nigriventris. These are comical, extremely hardy, and once settled down, will swim about during the daytime if there's adequate shade. They do well in water across a broad temperature and water chemistry range, and like most Synodontis, they are well able to return any aggression offered them by similarly-sized cichlids. Loiselle rather charmingly compares Synodontis to the prophet Moses, in the sense that any harm cichlids send their way gets visited upon those cichlids with interest! On the other hand, these little Synodontis aren't aggressive in themselves, so don't cause problems, except insofar as they are very effective egg-eaters, but then, so are most catfish and loaches.>
It's dented my confidence a bit, I hate losing fish. I was thinking of setting up the grow-out tank and putting the remaining Corys in there with the Ancistrus, to see how they fare, and perhaps give the Rams a fighting chance with spawning in the main tank.
<Certainly, if you want the Rams to raise at least one batch of fry, you will need to remove catfish of all sorts. Cichlids have a sort of arms race going with catfish, and many behaviours they exhibit are specifically about keeping catfish away from their nests, eggs and fry. This is usually why cichlids bully small catfish in a way that they don't bully midwater dither fish such as Danios.>
Anyway, lets hope the rest of the Corys don't follow suit. If they do, I'll make that my last attempt to keep them!
Thanks for all your help as always.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Microgeophagus Altispinosa/injured neon tetra, chatting   5/3/11

Afternoon Neale, happy Tuesday.
<Hello Susie,>
Ok, understood re breeding trap etc, thank you!
The remaining Corydoras seem fit enough.....I'm thinking that I'll move the 4 catfish and the Ancistrus, and a few Neons, out into the 15 gallon tank, and leave the M. altispinosa in the 20 gallon with the rest of the Neons and the pygmy barbs, in the hope that one day something akin to pairing off and breeding will occur.
<Sounds worth trying out.>
May have to add a few more specimens to get a pair though. If I have any success, and I manage to grow a few fry to a quarter inch in with the parents in the 20 gal, where can they go after that.....will the 15 gal with the few catfish in be large enough to grow them to a size suitable for the LFS? Assuming I'll only grow or succeed with 10-15 at a time?
<Yes, should be fine. But keep up with water changes! Juvenile fish are very sensitive to "old" water (presumably nitrate levels).>

Mikrogeophagus Altispinosa breeding update    6/8/11
Hey Neale,
Hope you are well...further to your helpful responses to my endless questions about Bolivian Rams in weeks gone by, I thought I'd bring you up to speed with the breeding project.
<Sure thing!>
Suffice to say, there isn't one. I've added a further three specimens to the tank (from the same batch and same branch of MA)...removed all other bottom dwellers...created extra territories with larger smooth stones and extra bog wood..fattened them all up with an array of wet frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and live red wrigglers...increased the temperature..let the Vallisneria and green Cabomba go wild and form a heavily planted backdrop..made large, cool water changes....but nothing, nada.
I have a beautiful, crystal clear, planted tank with six big fat fully coloured up Rams - one is surely a female, as the blunt ovipositor is visible - yet none of them are showing the slightest inclination to spawn. They've all selected a territory, there's a bit of sparring but they are amiable enough with one another. They even feed as a group!
<And may still be two young to spawn. Or not settled. Or spawning but eating their fry (or else other fish, including other Bolivian Rams, are eating their fry).>
I'm a bit stumped now. I don't want to keep six of them in 20 gallons indefinitely, it was only ever supposed to be temporary and the tank is not big enough. It's been about 6 weeks since I added and fattened up the smaller specimens, am I being too impatient?
Can the six of them manage alright in such a small space for another few weeks while I hope for some spawning action?
<Do-able, but not ideal, I admit.>
I'm starting to wonder if it's the cramped conditions which are putting them off.
I could rotate and experiment with a few variations of pairs by using the other tank, but that would be a bit hit and miss and would also be rather stressful for them'¦.
<Agreed. I'd tend to wait until I'd found a pair, and then remove the others. Research spawning triggers. For example, pouring colder water than normal into the tank at a water change to drop the temperature down to, say, 18 C, can mimic rainfall, and that's a common trigger. Direct sunlight in the morning is another. Providing live foods is a third. Females typically take longer to get into "condition", at which point they'll be obviously swollen around the abdomen, and may even solicit attention from males.>
Many thanks for any advice you may have'¦.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Mikrogeophagus Altispinosa breeding update   6/9/11

Hi Neale, thank you for the reply!
Well I have experimented with a lower temperature water change, but.....18 C??!!!
<Indeed. But I was talking about general fish breeding here, and yes, that sort of temperature change is exactly what you'd do when triggering spawning in Corydoras. You might try a smaller water temperature change first time around, say, 20 C, for this particular cichlid species. You leave the heater where it should be, and what you'll find is the tank warms up quickly, and no harm will be done. Keeping cichlids colder than 18 C for extended periods (days, weeks) can indeed cause them serious health problems, and will ultimately kill them. But that's not what spawning triggers are about. Do research them! Essentially you're causing a brief change that makes the species of fish think it's the breeding season. That may be rainfall, or a rise or fall in temperature, or extended day length, or too much food'¦ all sorts of things.>
I've been far too careful not to change the temperature by more than a few degrees, I thought it would kill 'em!! I've been lowering it to about 24 C from 28 C, and that made me wring my hands anxiously (as I do). I'm obviously going to have to be a bit more mercenary with my tactics.
<It's wise to be careful. But do also understand that freshwater fish are adapted to experiencing quite rapid environmental changes. In this they're much different to marine fish. If you look at a pond for example, the pH will rise and fall dramatically during the day, and water temperature can fluctuate a lot, too. Rainfall rapidly cools streams and rivers, and dry periods can cause temperature to rise rapidly as the water volume decreases. Each fish species has its tolerances, and to a degree, they'll adapt to changes within them. Constant changes may be harmful to some species, while others, particularly things like killifish, resist changes so well they can live in habitats other fish can't accept. Read, research, experiment.>
There is plenty of bright sunlight in that room in the morning, although technically not falling directly on the tank...'¦
<Oddly enough, it's the direct sunlight that helps most.>
Funnily enough, the large female and one of the biggest probable-males were swimming around together and huddling by a stone this morning, so you never know. I guess being away at work for 11 hours is long enough for them to pair, spawn, and eat the eggs before I even knew they existed? Same with 9 hrs overnight?
I suppose I assumed that if a pair HAD spawned, it would still be obvious that they were a pair even if they ate the eggs/fry........
Anyway, thanks again.....will update as and when...'¦.!
<Do try to get hold of Loiselle's "Cichlid Aquarium" book for more data and science on cichlids. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Mikrogeophagus Altispinosa breeding update 6-10-11

Afternoon.....oh, I HAVE got Loiselle's book, I've read it cover to cover, but it is extremely broad in its reference. I do like to ask questions, but Mr. Loiselle is regrettably unavailable for comment! I have fund some little nuggets of intriguing info in there, especially that it's a myth that rinsing your filter sponges in tap water will destroy every last one of your nitrifying bacteria.....
<Quite so. But it's good advice to give to beginners who're likely to wash their sponges with washing up liquid if you don't warn them first! So the "wash in a bucket of aquarium water" advice is meant to provide a cushion that'll keep beginners from doing anything too serious. Still, I have to admit to preferring to clean sponges in aquarium water given the chance.>
Anyway, somebody call Reuters. I have a PAIR. The large fat female with the visible ovipositor is staying near a stone in a little clearing under the plants and heater (and unfortunately, the filter intake), and the large male she has chosen has dug a little pit just alongside the stone. They are spending a lot of time in the corner together, coming out for food, and occasionally they take it turns to have a swim around.....the male is wisely maintaining a little territory of his own nearby. I guess she's been fickle before. Or maybe she's just a nagging witch?
<Could be either. If you have just the one pair in the tank, neither fish knows that another member of its species isn't going to turn up. So the female may well wait for a better male if she thinks the present male isn't what she likes. At some point she may get less picky, but it's hard to predict.>
So, it appears that asking an aquatics expert why you are failing to achieve a pairing also works as a trigger - for encouraging courtship, anyway?? Bet Loiselle hasn't got THAT in his book has he??
<Indeed not!>
They're not cleaning the stone yet and are being very tolerant of the others for now, but I'll let you know when to pace a corridor smoking a cigar.
<Quite. Often with the Ram cichlids generally spawning occurs quite readily, but it'll take a few attempts before you actually get some fry.>
Seriously, thanks for all your help, I'll try to get pictures'¦..
<Glad for the good news. Do consider visiting the WWM Forum to start up a breeding diary thread, onto which you can paste or link images as you go along. That way you can share what you learn with others. Here on the Daily FAQ we tend to trim down images as far as possible, so it's not the best place for this sort of thing. Cheers, Neale.>

New 55 gallon set-up, Dwarf Apisto Cacatuoides   5/31/2010
I have been devouring your website since finding it about 2 months ago. There is so, so much excellent information. It is wonderful to have a website I can go to and trust the information that is found there.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
I have wanted to set up a dwarf cichlid tank for a few years now. I had a goldfish tank set up for the last 7 years and just recently lost my last one. I completely tore down my tank in readiness for a move and have decided now would be a good time to try the cichlid tank. We are on a well now and had it tested before buying the house. I'm not sure what all I should be looking for, but they tested for chromium, arsenic 0.006, selenium, silver, cadmium, barium 0.030, lead, mercury, sodium 5.42, fluoride and nitrate-N. All were ND, except the three I listed results for. I tested our water from the faucet after letting it sit for 12 hours. The parameters are pH 7.6, dGH 5, kH 4-5 (varies).
<Sounds fine for South American fish.>
I have a 55 gallon tank with a XP2 Filstar Rena (300 gph) and a Marineland Bio-wheel Power filter (280 gph). I also have set up a rainwater keeper if I need to mix it with our tap water and have a tap water filter that I bought from Foster and Smith.
The substrate in the front of the aquarium is silica sand, about one-half inch. I then used an acrylic sheet and hard plastic canvas, the kind crafters use, to make a curved bank divider, about 1 ½' tall with small-size gravel in the back half of the tank. I have a few live plants in pots in the back half and the rest of the plants are plastic. I have Frogbit floating on the top of the water. I have caves made out of coconut shells, flower pots and some ready-made cichlid caves. I also have a few bogwood stumps. I have been trying to come up with a list of inhabitants for my tank.
The tank has been set-up for two weeks now. I used Tetra SafeStart in it after a week and have been putting fish food in daily-flakes, bloodworms, shrimp pellets and algae wafers. I also put a large shrimp in a week ago (which is quite yucky now). My water parameters have been fairly consistent for the last week, since I put the SafeStart in. Nitrite and ammonia have never been above 0 and my nitrate is at 5.0. I did add in 9 gallons of rainwater when I filled the tank and about 40 gallons of tap water. The pH in this tank has fluctuated between 7.2 and 7.4 when I have tested over the past two weeks.
<This is fine. If you have live plants in the tank, pH will vary somewhat through the day as photosynthesis removes CO2, allowing pH to go up; the reverse happens at night when photosynthesis stops and CO2 is allowed to accumulate again.>
The temp has been steady at 78 degrees. I put in the additive for blackwater this morning. I took the old shrimp out and put my two Bristlenose Plecos and 3 Rummynose tetras in the tank. The water parameters are the same as what is in my 10 gallon that they have been in since the move a month ago. The Bristlenose Plecos are both young and about 2' in size. I have only had them for two weeks, the Rummynose tetras for 2 months.
<Very good.>
My problem is deciding what else I want to put in the tank and making sure that my water will be okay for them. I definitely want Dwarf Apistogramma Cacatuoides, 1 male and 2-3 females.
<These will be fine in there. A good, adaptable species.>
I had thought about getting angelfish, but think I have decided against them.
<Probably wise.>
I want to get at least 6 more Rummynose Tetras.
<Yes, by all means; in fact, I'd argue you need at least a dozen for them to be worthwhile.>
The other fish I have been considering are Rosy Tetra, Lemon Tetra, Bleeding Heart Tetra or Black Skirt Tetra.
<All good fish, but Black Skirt Tetras are somewhat nippy, so I tend to recommend against them. Bleeding Heart and Black Skirt Tetras may also be too large and boisterous to allow the Apistogramma to settle down nicely. Lemon Tetras on the other hand should be fine. They do need dark, preferably tannin-stained water to look their best though, so allow the plants to grow over the surface, and add some bogwood to the system if you haven't got some there already. Your carbonate hardness is high enough tannins shouldn't mess the pH too much.>
I have also been looking at Melanotaenia Boesemanni Rainbowfish, but I'm not sure if they would work with any of the tetras I have listed or if the tetras are too small.
<These Rainbowfish need hard, basic water, so wouldn't be a good choice at all.>
Also I think my tank might be too small with having to have a minimum of 6 Rainbowfish. Would any of the Tetras I named work with my mix of Dwarf Cacatuoides, Rummynose and Bristlenose, my water parameters and with the tank being blackwater mix?
<Yes indeed. Do also look at Diamond Tetras, X-ray Tetras and especially Emperor Tetras and Blue Emperor Tetras, two wonderful and very different species.>
If so how many fish would I be able to add?
<With fish this small, the inch per gallon rule is workable.>
With my tap water pH being 7.6 do I need to add the rainwater to bring it down a few points or would my choice of fish be okay with water straight from the tap?
<Will be fine; pH is much less important than hardness.>
One last question I have is about cherry shrimp. Would they be okay with the Dwarf Cacatuoides and the Bristlenose Plecos or would they get eaten?
<The Apistogramma may eat them, but they're inexpensive, so you might try them out and see what happens.>
I appreciate any answers you can give me and thank you for your time. Linda
<Cheers, Neale.> 

Re: Parasite problems (Bob F., comments would be welcome here)<<>>   4/6/10
Hi Neale, I hope you had a good Easter
<Yes, thank you.>
If I may I will provide you with an update, and also news of what for me is a shocking discovery, in the hope that we might move closer towards a diagnosis for my fish.
Firstly, I have treated the whole system with salt as per your article, as if for velvet. The Otocinclus were the only ones to react negatively (a bit of swimming up and down against the glass), but they settled after only a few hours. In terms of what effect the salt is having, after five days I believe that the overall rate of flashing may have lessened. Perhaps there was/is a low level of velvet in the system, which is beginning to be curtailed. Nonetheless, I intend to keep it salty for the full 14 days as you direct.
<Very good.>
However, what has not changed is the ram's behaviour -- in fact this fish is now displaying some disturbingly frantic flashing behaviour, as if something is driving it crazy. It will now only eat one type of food (where before it would take anything), prefers to stay in darkness at the rear of the tank, and while it has not lost weight or its equilibrium, I am increasingly worried for it. Whatever it has, it is worsening.
But the most shocking discovery is that the white, bean/rice shapes that I described to you on the sides of the tetras -- well -- to my horror I have found that they move. I singled out one of the older male cardinals for study and noticed that his 'blemished scales' appeared to change position. I thought it might be my eyes/mind playing tricks, but then when the fish was still for a fair period, I actually saw a blemish slither from a particular position to another. On another occasion, I saw one of these things actually raise or wiggle either a head or a tail. I think they are clearly some sort of flatworm.
<Could be, or some type of crustacean parasite. Both "worms" and crustaceans can seem very flatworm like, but the medications required for these are very different. Dipping in seawater can sometimes help shift them; do see WWM re:.>
Do these observations of mobility and large size (2mm long) narrow down exactly what it is?
<Not really, without determining whether they're crustacean parasites like lice (in which case an insecticide is required) or worms such as flukes (in which case an antihelminthic like Praziquantel can help).>
Is it time for Praziquantel, and if so, can you give recommendations or further reading for the treatment procedure?
<Not used this myself since in the UK it's a prescription-only medication and the vet will tell you the dose. But do read here:
I will make the observation that Ram Cichlids, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, are pretty poor quality these days and notoriously prone to disease. There's also no reason to discount the possibility that what's affecting this cichlid is not the same thing that's affecting the other fish. Mikrogeophagus ramirezi needs very warm, very soft water to live well. Hexamita infections appear to be endemic amongst farmed Ram Cichlids.>
But in an attempt to rationalise the behaviour of the ram (and the similarly unmarked Corydoras and Apistogramma) with the observation that there is a definite (and very visible) parasite in the tank, is it possible that these 'flukes' begin life on the gills, then migrate out onto the skin?
<Could happen I suppose, though gill parasites tend to be very specific in attaching to the gills.>
Thus: could it be possible that the reason the ram has no external sign of these 'flukes' is because it is a large enough fish for them to remain attached to the more profitable gill area?
<Possibly, but doesn't sound very likely.>
Similarly, might it also be possible that the reason the micro-Rasboras are unaffected is that they are simply too small for such a large parasite, and richer pickings are available in other parts of the tank?
<No, doesn't work this way.>
Although I have not had time to research this sufficiently, I am also worried that it may not be one of the two 'standard' flukes, but a digenean trematode, which uses snails in its lifecycle. I mentioned to you that I have numerous snails (including some sort of pond snail species that hitch-hiked in to the tank) and when I treated the fish for this condition before, I am certain there were no snails in the treatment tank. As you pointed out, it could have been the change of tank (from one with snails, to one without) rather than the copper and formalin treatment that knocked this condition on the head the last time around. If it is the digenean, can I use Praziquantel in the same way, or do the snails have to go? <<They do have to be moved. RMF>>
<Snails can carry parasites to be sure, including parasites ones that parasitise humans, but ONLY if those snails were collected from the wild. Farmed snails and those that were born in fish tanks are very unlikely to carry serious parasites because the hosts those parasites need, typically water birds, are lacking. In other words, this isn't likely. It's more probable the parasites infected your fish prior to purchase, or else were introduced via something brought in from the wild, like live food.>
Following on from this, is it likely just the pond snails that are the problem? With a soil substrate it is preferable to have burrowing snails, and so I would not wish for a blanket elimination of molluscs (equally my Nerites are both aged and prized). As a course of action I can foresee a successful (if prolonged) physical management/removal of the small pond snail species.
<Not really viable or even worthwhile, in my opinion.>
At present my overall thinking is as follows:
1) the tank has collected several pathogens along the way through a lack of quarantine, including velvet, invisible and visible parasites. This would explain the lessening of flashing (velvet exiting), but the remaining presence of a visible parasite, and the increased discomfort of the ram
2) the tank is suffering from a single parasite with different manifestations
<Also possible.>
On the evidence, which do you think is more likely?
<Impossible to say without microscope work. Most of our diagnoses via e-mail come down to probabilities, and the fact that certain mistakes (like adding fish to immature aquaria) lead to particular health problems (such as Finrot). In the situation you have here, consulting a vet and/or performing an examination of a dead fish under a microscope would be the only reliable way to identify the flukes, worms or lice your fish have.>
As an aside, I am still testing and not detecting anything amiss in the water -- likewise I have checked my water conditioners and they all remove chlorine, chloramine, copper etc.
Once again I apologise for the length of my correspondence, and the high amount of questions put to you above. I do feel that I am slowly cornering this problem, and your continued help would be both invaluable and highly appreciated.
<Cheers, Neale.><<RMF would treat (either successively or concomitantly) for both "worm" and crustacean possibilities: i.e. w/ an anthelminthic and an organophosphate, barring, as Neale states microscopic discerning of infectious agent/s here.>>
Re: More Re: Parasite problems, Bolivian Rams      4/7/10

Dear Neale and Bob
Many thanks for your further inputs.
<Happy to help.>
Neale - I must point out that the ram in question is a 'Bolivian': M. altispinosus. But I totally agree with what you say about M. ramirezi - to be frank I am sick to death of seeing deformed, weak, washed out, in-bred specimens in the shops.
<A real problem with cichlids generally, whether Ram Cichlids, Mbuna, Jewel Cichlids, Firemouths, and a host of other species.>
Responsible managers should not take them from the wholesalers, who should not import them. Unfortunately, M. altispinosus does not fare much better in the deformity stakes, which is a shame, because a good Bolivian is a
fine fish indeed.
<Agreed. It's a shame that careless inbreeding has led to this situation. Unfortunately, many cichlids breed so readily in aquaria that inbreeding becomes the norm rather than the exception. I can think of few common
cichlids that have maintained a steady level of quality over the decades, and highly recommend people seek out wild-caught or F1 specimens if they can.>
Following from your guidance, and the information/options it has spawned, I am going to seek further guidance from a vet who treats fish, with the view to obtaining an anthelminthic, if this is deemed the correct course following consultation. If it would be welcome, I will inform you of the outcome.
<I'd certainly be interested to hear what the vet says.>
Thanks and all the best
<Good luck, Neale.>

Dwarf Cichlids in a 75g / other 75g set-up questions
Dwarf Cichlid Tank  2/16/10

Crew: Thanks for helping me with my water chemistry a little while ago.
With the help of a little bit of Rift Valley salt mix, I am now keeping my existing tanks at a very consistent pH of about 7.0 (I say 'about' only because I have a hard time seeing the exact color match on my tests, despite having never been accused of being color blind in the past) and hardness of 4 degrees KH / 6 degrees dH, temperature 76 degrees (24.5 C).
Now I am getting ready to upgrade from my Eclipse 37g to a regular 75g (Yay), but have a few more questions:
1) Does the bottom of a regular 75g have enough room for 2 Bolivian rams, 3 Apistogramma cacatuoides (1m, 2f), and a pair of either Pelvicachromis Pulcher (maybe taeniatus if I can find them), keyholes, or Laetacara Curviceps (so 7 in total), provided I have enough hiding places?
<Plenty of room.>
Chuck seems to have thought so in response to others asking similar questions, but since I am still planning this tank, I want to make sure I get this right the first time.
2) I plan on using four 48" T5's (6,700k and 10,000k) and go for the "medium-planted" look (no CO2 added). Will some floating plants provide enough shade for those dwarves, or will this be too bright?
< Depends on the depth of the tank. Deep tank need brighter light to penetrate the water. Tannins from driftwood darken the water and also cut down on the brightness of the light. Bright lights can cause algae problems.>
3) With more space, I want to complete my school of Boesemanni (should be one 'n', right? http://www.fishbase.org/summary/SpeciesSummary.php?id=10489
). My water is obviously a little soft for them, but my existing ones seem to be doing great, and despite being in an incomplete shoal are as nicely colored as any I have seen (pics are not doing them full justice). Is it irresponsible to keep them in 6 degree dH water?
< Just make sure that you give them a varied diet to make up for the lack of minerals available in the water.>
4) I was thinking Eheim Pro 3E 2078 for filtration (490gph max output).
Would that be sufficient, or should I add a sponge filter, too (don't really want to have to deal with servicing 2 canisters if I can help it)
< One canister will be fine if you keep it serviced. I would have a small sponge filter on a powerhead in the tank for a backup in case anything happened to the main filter.>
5) Would you agree that a singleton Hypselecara temporalis is too big for this tank/would stress the dwarfs?
<That are a great fish but would get way too bigs to keep with smaller fish.-Chuck>
Thank you so much for you help and being the only truly reliable source out there!
John < Thank you for your kind words.>

Cichlid hybrids, Neotrop.s, Dwarf S. Am.    2/5/10
Hi guys,
First off thanks again for all of your help. You have really given me some great direction. I have a question that is unrelated to my previous threads but I cannot seem to find species specific examples anywhere so I will bring my question to the cichlid gods. Keep in mind that I am trying to AVOID any hybrids. I have been looking into Apistos and their make ups (families, groups, complexes). Supposedly cacatuoides, agassizi, and borelli are all in different families and therefore should not be able to hybridize.
<No, they're all in the same family, Cichlidae. Indeed, they're all in the same genus too, Apistogramma. Within that genus there are what biologists call "species groups", which are groups of species more closely related to one another than they are to any other species in the genus. Depending on whether you're a lumper or a splitter, a species group is just that, a group of species within a genus, or else a subgenus. Some splitters may even go so far as to create an entirely new genus just for that group. It's important to remember this is all artificial, purely to make it easier to understand evolution, and means very little to the fish themselves.
Certainly won't stop a male from one species in a species group trying to mate with a female from another species in another species group.>
I realize that they may pair off but in theory shouldn't have fertile eggs.
<It's a poor theory. In general, cichlids hybridise readily, and anything in the same genus may (and probably will) hybridise with other things in the genus. Ergo, mixing Apistogramma species in one tank would be bad.>
However nijsseni seems to be in the same group as cacatuoides but a different complex so they can hybridize.
<There you go. My point made.>
How accurate is this and if not which off these can actually form hybrids?
<It's wildly inaccurate.>
Also I know that convicts can hybridize with Severums and Firemouths.
<Indeed, and behold such hybrids as Blood Parrots, Flowerhorns, and any number of farmed Tilapia hybrids.>
So does that also apply to Honduran Red Points? Can any of the following form hybrids as well: Severums, Firemouths, and rainbows?
<HRPs and ordinary Convicts certainly will hybridise, and it's very likely the quality of HRPs will plummet precisely because of this. As I've mentioned many times on WWM, careless breeding of cichlids ruins the hobby for everyone, because you end up with, for example, HRPs in shops that don't have anything like the bright colours their wild ancestors had. In short, the safest approach is to mix species from different genera, so your example of Severums, Firemouths, and Rainbow cichlids (Hero spp., Thorichthys meeki, and Herotilapia multispinosa) should be fine. It's also safe to mix species with very different breeding methods. A mouthbrooder for example isn't likely to hybridise with a nest spawning species. Fish with different shapes and sizes are also unlikely to view one another as potential partners, e.g., Angels and Kribs. The problems come when you have two species with similar behaviour, size, and breeding methods. If they're in the same genus, then they very likely share the same "language" in terms of colours and movements, so hybridisation becomes more likely.>
Thanks guys.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Cichlid comp, lack of detail -- 11/16/2009
Can I put a pair of ram Bolivian cichlids with a pair of convict <cichlids>?
<Short answer is...maybe. If you had a fairly spacious tank with plenty of hiding spaces and broken sightlines, with a pH of 6.5-7.0, it might be possible. Of course, all bets are totally off if the convicts decide to breed. Overall, I wouldn't risk it. Convicts are not on the more aggressive side for cichlids, but rams would nonetheless not be a match for an angry or spawning convict.>
<Will N.>

New FW Tank
Bolivian Rams Stocking Question -- 10/20/09

Hi, quick (hopefully easy!) question, how many Bolivian rams would be happy in a 60 gal corner tank? There will be rainbow fish, Corys, tetras as company.
< Go with at least six. This will almost guarantee you a pair. If conditions are right they will spawn and you will get to enjoy one of the best things about keeping cichlids.-Chuck>
Re: New FW Tank
Rams In A 60 Gallon Tank  10/22/09

6? Really? Wow, that is more than I was expecting. Is there anything I need to think about with a group like this? Can I expect much aggression between them? If a pair forms will they beat up the others?
< Rams are really more about display that with actual aggression and damage. Once a pair form they will push and chase all other fish away. They hardly ever kill anything.-Chuck>
Re: New FW Tank
Dwarf Cichlids In A 60G FW Tank  10/25/09

Hi again. If I were to go with Apistos instead of Bolivian rams how many would be happy in a 60 gal? What sex ratios should I keep and could I mix different species?
< You could still go with 6. If you were not interested in breeding them then go with 6 males of different species. They will set up territories and defend their space. Very entertaining to watch. You could go with three different pairs too.-Chuck>

Re: New FW Tank
Apistos In a 60G 10/26/09

Hi Chuck, You have advised me that I could have six Apistos in my 60 gallon.
You've suggested 6 males of mixed species or 3 pairs. Do I take it from this variety of options that I basically have 6 Apisto 'slots' that I can fill as I wish? I have done some research and have settled on the following as an attractive assortment of 6 Apistos, could you let me know if they'd work in my 60gal?
1 Male Ap. Cacatuoides
1 Male Ap. Baenschi 'Inka'
2 Female Ap. Baenschi 'Inka'
1 Male Ap. Borellii
I really like the females of Baenschi 'Inka'. Their colours remind me of certain rift valley cichlids. I think the combination of the yellow and black striped female Inkas with the blue-bodied/yellow-faced Borellii would
create an effect not unlike the colourful Malawi set ups (with only a fraction of the aggression I hope!) Do Apistos get on ok with Corys? I hope to have a school of six (bandit, panda or sterbai). I've heard some
cichlids take offense at them and bite out their eyes! Thanks again. Keep up the good work!
< The cacatuoides is one of the largest Apisto while the borellii is one of the smallest. The borellii will probably hide most of the time while the cacatuoides is going to be the dominant cichlid and out most of the time.
Almost all female Apistos will turn yellow when they breed. The Cory's will stumble into the Apistos territory and be chased away. The Apistos may occasionally nip a fin or two on the Cory's.-Chuck>

Apistogramma double red breeding!? Umm, Colisa input 1/4/2010
hello WetWebMedia crew! it's Michael again.
<Hello Michael Again>
Doubt you remember me. I had the "undead Gourami" e-mail that my Bolivian Ram got strange mother hen protection syndrome over as it became unable to swim. Sorry it's been so long but wanted to update you. Sunshine never did recover and got worse and worse until she was no longer able to eat. In the end I decided to euthanize her in the freezer :( My Bolivian ram never did seem to recover emotionally in the community tank. I know I know fish don't have emotions
<Actually, I suspect, sense that at least some do>
(I'm sure some science dude is determined to prove otherwise somewhere) but I don't know how else to describe it. After sunshine was removed (and put to rest) my Bolivian never was the same. She became very aggressive and agitated overall. She got so aggressive as to not let any fish swim around-attacking them, swimming hard into the glass, would hardly eat, upturned all my fake plants endlessly (my fiancé©' swears she was looking for sunshine lol), and even started attacking the bubbles from my diffuser once the other fish got smart and hid all day. I decided to move her to a 10 gallon breeder tank I was building up (I removed the Platies I got that were building up the tank bacteria and mulm out of sympathy). She still would hardly eat and proceeded to ram the glass until I got her another sunset honey hybrid for company. after a week she calmed down, hung close to the sunset, and began to eat like a pig. I been talking to the owner of a LFS to find her a home with a breeder, I think she really needs a mate her own species.
Tank water parameters-
ammonia:0, Nitrite:0, Nitrate:10, moderately soft PH: 6.5, temperature 82 degrees Fahrenheit, Culligan filtered water- not the super chlorinated home delivered stuff. 20% water change every 2 weeks. water seems to hold steady with the PH buffer 6.5 with no ammonia or nitrite spike what so ever even with lax water changes.
filter- Marineland penguin 350 with BioWheel.
Tank- 39 US gallon tall, established 8 months
plants- fake, some moss from a former moss ball, green algae on ornaments, some diatoms on the back glass.
substrate- 3/4" of black and blue gravel.
Inhabitants- 1 Trichogaster chuna hybrid sunset, 10 neon tetra (6 were previously in quarantine and added 2 months ago?), 2 celestial pearl Danios/galaxy rasbora,1 Adolfo Cory cat.
<Mmm, like most Corydoras species, this fish lives in groups...>
newly added (over time with quarantine in order added)-2 High Fin neon gobies?(unsure exact species can't find much info on freshwater gobies- got them for free, they were in with feeder fish!) about 2-2.5" long, 1 juvenile pearl Gourami, 3 Apisto cacatuoides double red (2 male 1 female.
was suppose to be 2 female but one was a sneaker male) 4 pygmy cories (about .5"), 4 dwarf neon rainbows (1 male) all about 1.5", 2 bumblebee gobies (was given to me-didn't know they need brackish. Will they adapt?
<Not really, no>
I keep reading mixed messages-some say brackish only. Some say they will be okay in fresh soft water-very confused). And lastly another honey hybrid called a copperfire Gourami.
<Likely another Colisa lalia sport>
I'm sure you will start getting waves of e-mails about them asking what they are. So here's what I can share about them. They seem more close to original honeys.
<C. chuna? Perhaps>
They share the same shape and temperament as wild honeys and are probably only a color morph. There <their> breeding male pigments seem to have been brought out (reddish brown),compared to the oddball sunset honey hybrid which does seem a lalia or labiosa hybrid. Copperfire also have a more flowing and less spiky ventral fin resembling the wild honey I had. The Sunset gouramis also seem sterile
<Might well have been sterilized... a common practice in the far east in the trade w/ valuable strains>
and display no signs of even trying to mate, I could be wrong on this any conformation? Copperfires also seem even less aggressive than the sunsets and more like a wild Honey-VERY timid.
<Thank you for this. Bob Fenner>

Compatibility: Bolivian Ram and Rainbowfish  10/12/09
We are commencing to re-stock a 30 gallon community aquarium. It's been stable with a few fancy goldfish for a couple of years, but we are wanting to convert this aquarium to a tropical community. All residents of this tank have now been moved to new homes.
<Very good.>
We are in the habit of regular water changes. We live in the Seattle area of Washington, USA. Our water tends towards softness, I believe.
<Soft can be good for South American and Southeast Asian fish in particular, but you do want a steady pH. A little information here in terms of water chemistry would be useful. But assuming something like pH 6.5-7.5, 5-15 degrees dH, then most community tropicals should do fine, with the obvious exceptions of livebearers, which prefer hard water.>
We have identified Bolivian Rams and Rainbowfish (Red, turquoise, emerald, etc.) as 2 types of fish that we'd definitely like to keep in this
<Rainbows are schooling fish, so keep at least six per species, and preferably equal numbers of males and females to ensure optimal colouration (if you don't have equal numbers of males and females, the males have no reason to colour up properly!). You usually can't sex most Melanotaenia species when young, but some foolish aquarists keeping Glossolepis incisus try to keep just males, and wonder why their fish don't look happy. In any even, a 30-gallon tank will be too small for most Rainbows, the only exceptions commonly traded would be Melanotaenia praecox (the Dwarf Rainbow) and perhaps the Telmatherina ladigesi (Celebes Rainbowfish). This latter species needs neutral, moderately hard water and doesn't like pH levels below 7, so it might not even be an option.>
Are these compatible in the same community?
<Yes. Most Rainbows like neutral, moderately hard water that isn't too warm, and this is optimal for Bolivian Rams, Mikrogeophagus altispinosus.>
If so, what conditions (temperature, PH, etc.) would be best for them?
<7.0-7.5, 10 degrees dH; 24-26 degrees C.>
Also, how many of each of these should we limit ourselves to?
<A pair of Mikrogeophagus altispinosus plus 6-8 Melanotaenia praecox would work fine in a decent length 30 gallon tank (i.e., not some daft hexagon or something, but a long, shallow rectangular tank).>
Can you please recommend other compatible tankmates for this community?
<Wouldn't add anything more to begin with. Possibly some Cherry Shrimps and Nerite Snails as scavengers/algae-eaters, but that's about it. Catfish tend to be harassed in small tanks when kept with Dwarf Cichlids. So while you could certainly add a school of Corydoras aeneus or similar if this was a 55-gallon tank or even perhaps a 40-gallon tank, a 30-gallon system is just too risky. Dwarf cichlids chase the catfish, nip them, even blind them. Not nice. If the tank was properly maintained for six months and there was enough light to get some green algae growing, a school of Otocinclus might be an option, but they're such sensitive fish I'd not recommend them.
Shrimps and Nerite snails are safer, much more effective algae-eaters.>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Bolivian Ram and Rainbowfish 10/13/09

Thank you very much for your prompt and highly informative response to my previous questions.
<Most welcome.>
According to the test run at our local aquarium shop, our water has a pH of 7.1 and hardness of 2 degrees dH. Will this be a problem for Bolivian Rams and Rainbowfish?
<Yes. Water this soft, assuming it has a comparatively low carbonate hardness as well, less than 3 degrees KH, tends to be unstable. Do test the carbonate hardness, because this really is critical. Read here:
I don't recommend relying on shops to do your water tests, by the way. It's a good habit to get a few basic test kits of your own, so you can keep track of water chemistry and water quality.>
Is there anything we need to do to condition our water?
<Quite possibly. If your water has low general hardness (measured in degrees dH) and low carbonate hardness (measured in degrees KH), it will likely be too soft to keep these fish comfortably. One approach is to add limited amounts of Rift Valley Cichlid Salt mix, as described here:
You wouldn't use the full dose, but around a quarter to a half the dose.
Let's say you started with a quarter dose, that'd be 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon Epsom salt, and 1 teaspoon marine salt mix per 20 US gallons.>
Our tank is the long, rectangular 30 gallon variety. We like your suggestion of a pair of Bolivian Rams and 3 pair of Neon Dwarf Rainbows to begin with. Can we add more fish than this eventually?
If so, would you suggest more Rams or more of the Dwarf Rainbows, or could we add another variety of fish?
<I'd not add more Rams, or they're likely to fight. Certainly, not more males anyway! As for Dwarf Rainbows, yes, a few more is always a plus. The bigger the group, the prettier they look, because they school nicely and show better colours (they're happier!). You might add some Silver Hatchetfish, Pearl Danios or Halfbeaks at the top of the tank.
Alternatively, you could add a retiring catfish like a Bristlenose Plec, but the problem here might be if your cichlids spawn. The catfish would likely be harassed if it didn't have a suitable cave, and conversely, it would eat any eggs.>
Our next questions regard diet and habitat. Are there any special dietary and feeding requirements for either of these 2 species?
<A mix. You can't go far wrong with this: A good quality staple flake or pellet, regular offerings of wet-frozen bloodworms, and occasional treats of things like live daphnia and live brine shrimp.>
For instance, I read somewhere that Rainbows should have some fresh greens such as duckweed occasionally.
<No, not necessary. For one thing, duckweed can easily become a pest.
Rainbows feed primarily on insects that fall onto the surface of the water, as well as zooplankton and small crustaceans.>
Also, I understand that in the wild, most of their diet is live food, so do we need to supplement their flakes with something else?
<I don't recommend you use flake exclusively, if for no other reason than fish get bored with it. All dried foods, whether flakes, pellets, or freeze-dried foods, are also more likely to cause constipation (imagine what would happen if humans just ate beef jerky all the time...).
Wet-frozen foods tend to have a high "ash" content, and this works like fibre.>
And speaking of flakes, I understand that rainbows are surface feeders, so flakes or something that does not sink immediately is best. Is that true?
<They certainly don't want foods that sink right down to the bottom. But they will take food from the surface and from midwater equally happily. If all else fails, ask the retailer to feed the fish in front of you. Whatever they're eating, buy some of that!>
On the other hand, I read that the Bolivian Rams need to be fed a special Cichlid formula. Is this the case?
<Cichlids certainly need a varied diet otherwise become prone to various health issues including Hexamita, Hole-in-the-head, constipation, bloating, and perhaps other things too. Wild Bolivian Rams are substrate sifters -- their Latin name Mikrogeophagus means "little earth eater" -- so what they would do in the wild is take mouthfuls of sand, sift it across their gill rakers, and extract small invertebrates, algae, and bits of organic detritus. In captivity they happily do this, and it's charming to watch. I tend to give my cichlids wet-frozen rather than flake foods, and enjoy watching them sift out the bloodworms or whatever from the sand. It's fun to see. Of course, you might only want to do this a couple times a week, in which case a good quality sinking pellet such as Tetra Min or Hikari Micro Pellet would be a good place to start.>
Will they come up and eat the flakes or do we need to feed some sort of sinking food to the Rams? If so, what do you suggest?
<They won't feed from the surface, no. But they may well eat uneaten flakes that float down to the bottom.>
Regarding habitat, we have 2 or 3 plastic plants and a small cave formed out of a few rocks. We read that the Rams don't like bright light and should have some shade. Will the single cave be enough for the 2 Rams or will they each need their own?
<At least a cave each, ideally more than one.>
Or should there be some sort of special style of plant (such as floating plants) that we need to provide?
<Start with some Java fern and/or Anubias on bogwood roots, and throw some in some Indian Fern and Amazon Frogbit for the floating plants. Easy plants to keep, no need for a substrate (so cheap to grow!), and these will, together, provide plenty of shade.>
Finally, (for now at least) are there any other considerations that we should be made aware of regarding our setup?
<Consider using a thin layer of _smooth_ silica sand (from the garden centre, very cheap) about 1-2 cm deep for the bottom. You'll love watching your cichlids behave naturally, and they'll keep the sand nicely sifted and clean as a bonus. Much prettier than gravel, too.>
Thanks, Jeff
<Cheers, Neale.>

Bolivian Ram compatibility  9/26/09
Hi! Let me just say that all of your advice has been absolutely great! I plan to set up a 16 gallon bow front aquarium with Java fern and Amazon sword plants, along with a small driftwood centerpiece. For lighting, I
will be using A) the light that came with the tank, and B) a full spectrum lamp that will be shining in on an angle (it was not specifically designed for aquariums - will it work?).
<The light shining through the glass? If that's the case, I wouldn't bank on it working: glass cuts out a lot of the light energy.>
They will be on a ten hour timer. My P.h is around 7.5 (I think). I plan on stocking it with fifteen Cardinal tetras, three silver Hatchetfish (moved from another tank), and a Kuhli loach. Is it possible to add a Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) to this set up?
<In theory, yes. The tank is a bit small though. I assume these are 16 US gallons rather than Imperial gallons, so we're talking 60 litres here.
Bolivian Rams are fairly chunky fish. If this was me, I'd perhaps skip them in favour of something smaller but almost as hardy, such as Apistogramma cacatuoides.>
I have this tank specifically for the Cardinals, because my Cardinals always seem to disappear in my 125 gallon tank- Possibly neon tetra syndrome, possibly bullied to death by a convict cichlid defending his territory (Yeah, I know it was a disaster waiting to happen).
<Would put my money on the cichlid, or something else, simply eating them.>
I am determined to keep them alive, so if the Ram will bully them, I can go without it.
<The thing with Cardinals is they swim close to the substrate, and that brings them into the firing line of any territorial cichlids. So while tetras that stay in the top half of the tank make great dither fish for dwarf cichlids, tetras at the bottom of the tank can get into trouble.>
If it would be overcrowded, the Hatchets can be moved into a different tank.
<On the contrary, Marble Hatchets are a good size for this aquarium (Silver Hatchets not so much) and because they stay resolutely at the top of the tank, would be good dither fish.>
Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks! -Jack P.S.- I've looked at quite a few online aquarium supply stores, but can find no Iron for aquarium plants. Any recommendations?
<Wouldn't worry about iron too much. Most any plant fertiliser will contain iron, and used as directed, should ensure good plant growth. Laterite was the classic "iron-rich substrate", mixed with pea gravel, held in place with a gravel tidy, and then topped with a layer of sand for the fish to root about in. It does indeed work extremely well. But Java fern take nutrients from the water, and Amazon Swords can be kept in pots and fed pellet fertilisers as required. I'd add some floating plants, such as Indian Fern, for nutrient and algae control. Like Java fern, they take nutrients from the water, not the substrate. Cheers, Neale.>

New Apisto might be sick? 8/13/09
I recently purchased four Apistogramma borellii from my LFS to add to my 30 gallon (36 in. long) tank that already contains three yo-yo loaches (Botia almorhae, full grown) and a clown Pleco (I forget what "L #" it is).
<The little Panaque should be fine, but the Botia are a bit boisterous for this community, to be honest. Apistos are odd fish. On the one hand, they'll hammer Corydoras, reputedly biting out their eyes. But on the other hand they're small enough that fish of similar or larger size can terrorise them. I'd not keep them with bottom feeders other than the Panaque, and instead use shrimps and snails for algae control (should you need them) and choose suitable mid-to-upper water fish to act as dither fish. Apistos really come into their own with dither fish, things like Hatchets having the right combination of open water swimming-ness together with not being frenetically active (like Danios) in a way that might scare the Apistos.
Funnily enough, Guppies can also work rather well, assuming water chemistry suits. For this, avoid Fancy Guppies and go with the hardier "Feeder", wild-caught, or Endler's.>
My LFS advertised the Apistos as borellis, but looking at the pictures on your Dwarf South American Cichlid page, I think they may be Apistogramma macmasteri.
<Apistogramma macmasteri and Apistogramma borellii are fairly closely related, and they can be easily confused. Hybridisation can cause further problems. But assuming you have good specimens, male Apistogramma macmasteri should have much less blue on the flanks than Apistogramma borellii, and whereas Apistogramma borellii have yellow tail fins, those on Apistogramma macmasteri tend towards red.>
I tried to get 1 male and 3 females because of their social/mating dynamic.
Within a day, three of the Apistos seemed to be settling nicely into their new home. They come to the front of the tank when I am in the room and you can easily tell that there is one male and two females. The male is larger and has a deep bronze color with shiny blue specks near his gills. Three days later I still did not seen the 4th Apisto. I was concerned so I moved some stuff around in the tank and found the 4th one under the base of a fake plant. When I put the fake plant back, it immediately retreated back under. I removed the plant to get a better look at it and it appeared sick.
It was a very pale reddish color and seemed to be gilling heavy. I can't tell if it is a male or female.
<May be a male, and consequently being bullied by the dominant male. If you can, remove to another tank and see if it perks up. If it does, that's your answer.>
My water parameters are: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, <5 nitrate, 7.0 pH. I'm not sure of the exact hardness, but it's the same tap water as my LFS and they said it would be fine; the pH in our tap water was their only concern (I lowered mine to 7.0 with 2 pieces of driftwood - on the high side for Apistos, but again, LFS said they would be fine).
<Neutral, slightly soft to moderately hard water suits most Apistogramma very well. Make sure the tank isn't too warm though; unlike Ram cichlids, Apistogramma often enjoy fairly middling temperatures; 24-25 C suits most species well.>
My tank has lots of hiding places: 2 large pieces of driftwood with nooks and crannies, a 'fake' decor log, 2.5 flower pots, and a handful of fake plants.
<Coconut shells are the bee's knees here. Halve them, scoop out the flesh, use pliers to crack a "mouse hole" around the edge, and then cover with Java moss. Nothing works as well.>
For food, the Apistos seem to like bloodworms the best, but occasionally will eat flakes or leftovers from the loaches' shrimp pellets.
<I'd agree with this. These cichlids are, to be fair, omnivores in the wild that sift the sediment for insect larvae and organic detritus, so they're fairly adaptable given the motivation. A lot of fish will become addicted to bloodworms, so do rotate the foods through the week.>
Does the 4th Apisto seem like a 'clunker?' How long should I wait before returning him?
<Well, you may decide to simply take him/her back now, and pick a definite female. Won't do any harm. Ideally, a female from another batch of fish in another store, so you have a mixture of genes. Batches of cichlids in pet stores are often siblings from a single local breeder, and that'll cause obvious genetic problems with inbreeding.>
Is it possible he is just a submissive male (I have not observed any aggression among the Apistos)?
Any other suggestions for my tank that I may have overlooked? Thanks and keep up the great advice on your site!
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Stocking suggestions Dwarf Cichlid Recommendations -- 03/07/09 Dear Crew, Thanks for producing one of the most interesting sources of information in the world. I completed a fishless cycle in a 200-litre tank five weeks ago. Initial stock living healthily for five weeks: 10 red phantom tetras and five bronze Corydoras. Water: 25.5-26 deg C, pH = 6.5-6.7 (morning-evening), KH = 4, GH = 11, zero ammonia and nitrite. 20% weekly water change, co2 injection using bubble counter connected to sugar, yeast, bicarb potion. Substrate: river sand mixed with aquarium humus, covered with pea gravel plus patches of pure river sand for Corys to play in Decor: well planted, two coconut-shell caves, tallish rock arrangement (with caves) in middle aimed at dividing tank into two territories. My initial aim was to stock with harem of Apistogramma cacatuoides. For reassurance, would above plus another school of Corys and tetras be compatible with Apistogramma cacatuoides? If so, could you please suggest a tetra species? < Most soft water dwarf cichlids hang around the bottom of the tank. Cory's stumble into their territories and are chased away. They don't really cause much damage.> My main problem is that Apistogramma cacatuoides, particularly females, are proving difficult to source in South Africa. For some reason they and other South American dwarf cichlids (apart from rams) have become rare. I have my heart set on a South American tank and was wondering if you could suggest other South American cichlids that would be compatible with my system (I am able to transfer the Corys and/or red phantoms to another tank if necessary) but would like the tank to remain well planted. Please note that I am reluctant to invest in an RO system. <Other dwarfs like Nannacara and Laetacara would work and are usually readily available.> I have done some research and angle fish and red phantoms don't appear compatible. Do you agree with this? If so, why? < Veiltail angels might get their fins nipped. Regular angels should do fine.> Please could you also give me advice on adding black water extract. Is my KH too low for this. If so, what is an appropriate KH? Should one add black water extract slowly of time or all at once? < Instead of the extract try using a buffer. Add it to the water outside the aquarium. When it is stabilized at where you want it, you can add it to the water when you do water changes.> Thanking you in advance, Clifford, South Africa < Their are some great West African dwarfs that are worth checking out.-Chuck>

Apistogramma ID and comp., esp. with Corydoras   02/08/09 Hi I have a 40 gallon community tank Corys, Gourami, Rasbora. I went to one of my local fish store and saw a fish that I thought looked pretty cool was told it was an Apistos cichlid (didn't expand on the name. From what I can find on youtube.com he LOOKS like "cacatuoides" (I know nothing about any types of these fish) except what I found AFTER I bought him since LFS said he would do good in community tank. It has black horizontal line through center of body a black line vertically under eye and very light black vertical lines on body. Tail is bright yellow outlined with black. Only difference (that makes me not sure from what I found on youtube.com if it is cacatuoides) is the yellow/black coloring is nowhere else. The dorsal fin only has one thin vertical black stripe at the front. My question(s) because if first question is negative answer then the rest of questions is none issue --to me anyway. 1 My online research concluded (again, after buying with OK from LFS) that Apistogramma are for tanks ph 6.5 to 7.0. LFS says their ph for their fish is 7.8 red flag???????? My tanks ph is 7.4 do I need to return the fish or will he adapt? He doesn't seem to look stressed or breathing hard so clamped fins etc. 2. From the description above are you able to give me an idea of WHICH Apistogramma this might be, and if the lack of coloration anywhere besides the tail means its a female or can still possibly be male but still young to have more color. 3.Depending on what type of Apistogramma it is what is the common name e.g. cockatoo thank you <Hello. It's not a good idea to buy any fish before confirming the identity of the species, and looking up its basic needs in a book. Cichlids are a particular problem because many species look similar but turn out to have differing needs or behaviours. Apistogramma are notoriously difficult to name. For one thing, the females are all virtually identical, but even the males can be extremely similar. Within species such as Apistogramma cacatuoides there are also distinct varieties. There's no way to name your fish without (at least) a photo, and to be honest even then there's room for error. This said, the majority of Apistogramma are fairly similar in needs: moderate temperature, soft water, low to neutral pH. Social behaviour is almost always polygamous, with one male needing to be kept with 2+ females to avoid bullying. Assuming this was an inexpensive fish, the chances are good that it was Apistogramma cacatuoides simply because that's the species most easily bred. There are numerous artificially bred forms about. It's fairly tolerant of moderately hard, slightly alkaline water. Assuming the hardness is no more than, say, 10 degrees dH and the pH no higher than 7.5, you should be fine. The major killer with these dwarf cichlids is nitrate, and you absolutely must keep the nitrate level below 20 mg/l to have any chance of long-term maintenance. Finally, most cichlids don't have common names, and those that do, the common names are often misleading, being used for other species as well. For example, the "Parrot Cichlid" isn't just that hideous hybrid, but was originally the name of a South American species, Hoplarchus psittacus. So the sooner you get comfortable with scientific names, the easier you'll find navigating the world of cichlids. By the way, do watch the Apistogramma/Corydoras mix: Apistogrammas have been known to attack and blind Corydoras catfish. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Apistogramma and  02/08/09
Hi Thank you for the fast reply. Yeah, I know it was a bad move buying a fish without knowing about it. I usually do a lot of research on the internet before getting something. I had just gone to guy some fish food and it became an "impulse buy" and I have gotten fish here before and this was someone new there. So I can only blame myself. The ratio for male to females is that for multiple cichlids for the bullying? because this is the only cichlid I have. Or is that ratio for just having a cichlid in a tank period? Here is a pic sorry that its not a great one. Hopefully this will help in a possibility identifying the fish. <Hello. The ratio of one male Apistogramma to 2+ females is to do with their social/breeding behaviour; if you have equal numbers of males and females, things don't always work out right, and sometimes the male bullies the female. With more females, he'll be moving between temporary associations with different females, so while mating with one female, the other will get a rest. If a single female has to put up with the constant attention of the male, she'll get exhausted. As she weakens, he'll get frustrated, and he'll try to drive her out of his territory. (Polygamous male cichlids can be "wife beaters"...) In any case, the picture does look a lot like Apistogramma cacatuoides, going by the orange/black flecks on the caudal fin and the long black bar along the midline of the flank. This is lucky, because as I think I mentioned last time, it's one of the best "beginner" Apistogramma. It'll put up with more mistakes than most any other member of the genus. Cheers, Neale.>

Adding fish to existing fish tank (Ram/Cichlid compatibility) 01/19/09 Hi, I now have two Bolivian Tigers, and I would like to add some smaller fish to my aquarium, what kinds of fish should I consider? <Do you mean Bolivian Rams (i.e. Mikrogeophagus altispinosus)? If so, you need to know, these are South American dwarf cichlids. Please do your own research re what fish you can house with them. I don't know enough about your system to help you. These links might be helpful: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/dwfsamcichlids.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/rams.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/ramcompfaqs.htm > Malwina <Best, Sara M.>

Freshwater Sump??? 7/10/08 Hello...I feel like I should know all y'all on a first name basis, I read constantly on your awesome site and have learned sooo much...I work in the fish department of my LFS and take my laptop to work with me so if a customer has questions I cannot answer, I can immediately go to wwm to look for the correct solution for them. I have recently bought a 125 All-Glass system and am planning on setting it up as a planted tank for Dwarf SA Cichlids, such as Apistogrammas, Borleyii (sp?) and German Rams. From what I have read and understood, these species should get along well in a tank of this size with lots of plants and bogwood and rock. Ok, my concern is this... This tank is pre-drilled as I had originally purchased it to set up as a reef tank, but have since changed my mind since I already have a 90 gal reef. Can a sump be utilized with a planted tank? I looked and looked in your freshwater filtration section and either overlooked it or overlooked it. I can think of no reason not to use the sump but then I don't have the answers...I am one of those misleading LFS people, you know!!! Eagerly await your reply, Thanks in advance for being there and making your site and yourselves available to all of us, I have typed up sheets of paper with wetwebmedia.com on it and cut it up into slips that I give to customers so they can have access to your wonderful site. Thanks again for being there. Rj <Greetings, and thanks for the kind words. There is nothing wrong with use sump-equipped tanks in freshwater aquaria. Works very well in fact, providing more space for biological filtration or the use of calcareous rubble to raise carbonate hardness required for Rift Valley cichlids. The only real issue is that the more splashing there is, the more CO2 is driven off, and this can cause you problems if you are using CO2 in a planted tank. Now, one observation I will make is that Mikrogeophagus ramirezi (such as "German Blue Rams") are not compatible with Apistogramma. There are several issues, but the two most important are differences in preferred temperature and differences in water chemistry. Apistogramma prefer moderate temperature (around 24-26 C) and slightly acidic to neutral, soft to moderately hard water depending on the species. By contrast Mikrogeophagus ramirezi does not do well in anything other than hot (around 28 C) water that is very soft and acidic. The mortality rate of Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is incredibly high in captivity, and I simply don't recommend them any more unless you have a special "hot" aquarium for them and can source locally bred or wild-caught stock. So either stick with your Apistogramma, or else add something like the wonderfully reliable Bolivian Ram Mikrogeophagus altispinosus. Cheers, Neale.>

Rams in a hard water area -- 1/28/08 Hi guys, <Hello.> First off, great site. As a relative newcomer to all this, I've learnt a lot from your site, but there are some specific questions I had regarding my slightly shaky knowledge of water chemistry! <Please have a read of these articles on water chemistry: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsoftness.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwhardness.htm A lot of the problems aquarists have with keeping fish alive come down to keeping the wrong sorts of fish in their local water chemistry conditions. By default, beginners should first find out their water chemistry, and then select fish that do well in such conditions. Randomly buying fish and hoping they'll adapt sometimes works, but often doesn't.> I live in an area with quite alkaline water coming out of the taps, with a pH of about 7.5 - 8, and I know the water is also very hard, although I haven't tested it for an exact figure. <Do test, or at least get a sample tested at the fish shop. In Southern England for example, the water often has a pH around 8 and a hardness around 20 degrees dH -- this is harder and more alkaline than the water in Lake Tanganyika! Consequently, many soft water fish DO NOT do well.> I have recently purchased a Juwel Rio 125, which as yet is totally empty, no water, plants or substrate, although I have purchased some soil and lime-free substrate. <Rio tanks are nicely made, so good choice.> I hope to eventually keep a pair of rams, a few Corys and a school of Glowlight, cardinal or black phantom tetras, as yet undecided. <Back to the drawing board, please. Do research the requirements of each of these species and you'll see there isn't much overlap. Rams need very warm water to do well, at least 28 C, which is far too warm for many Corydoras and the Black Phantoms. On the other hand, while Corydoras will tolerate hard, alkaline water well, Cardinals and Rams generally do not.> First off, is this a good selection? <No.> Obviously I am aware that these fish prefer slightly acidic soft water conditions to thrive, so here is where my main question arises. I have read a little about RO water, and so I know that at some stage this is going to have to be involved in my tank setup, and is available from my LFS, but I'm unsure as to the best way to use it to get to the conditions I require for these fish, which I have researched and seem to be around a pH of 6.5 and a hardness of 6-10 dH (does this sound right to you?). <Do read the article on soft water aquaria in particular. I keep soft water fish in a hard water area, and do so by mixing rainwater with tap water, typically at a 50:50 mix to keep things simple. I'd personally forget about Rams; the quality of commercial stock is extremely poor and riddled with disease by the time you buy them because they get weakened by being kept at standard temperatures. Bolivian Rams, Flag Acara and Keyhole Cichlids are much better community tank South American cichlids, and infinitely easier to keep. Do pay close attention to the temperature requirements of the fish too. South America is a big place, and many fish from the continent, such as Neons and Peppered Corydoras, want cooler water than those from warmer waters. Mix the two together and someone will be unhappy.> Sorry if this question is a little broad, if you require any more information I'll do my best to supply it, and keep up the good work! Phil P.S. Please bear in mind I live in the UK, so if you are going to recommend any products those available here would be useful! <Cheers, Neale.>

Apistogramma Sp. Galaxy Info 1/12/2008 Hello , I have recently come about a dwarf cichlid at one of my LFS .I was told is an Apistogramma galaxia ( aka steel blue? ), however I can not find any information on any fish with that name. I am guessing galaxia is a not so common name. They don't stay still long enough to get a good picture of them. The male is gray with a dark horizontal band running from his eye to just at the tail and a vertical band through the eye. The tail is yellow and the dorsal is a light blue tipped with a very thin edge of red. There is also pale blue and red tiny speckles on the cheeks. The females have the same horizontal band but also have vertical ones as well that aren't as visible in the male. They also have the same coloration on the dorsal and cheeks but not as strong as in the male. They are just over an inch long at this time. If you could please help or point me in the right direction it would be much appreciated. Thank You JP < Exporters from Peru come across many unusual Apistogramma species. Anytime there is a slight variation in the color they call the same fish a different name. This same fish has been imported under the name Apisto. sp.( parrot, algodon 1, rio algodon, papagien, galaxy, galaxia and galaxis). It is a dwarf cichlid that gets a little over 2 inches with the females staying much smaller. They tend to like soft acidic clean water. Females turn yellow when getting ready to breed. After spawning in a cave she turns a bright yellow and chase all the other fish away. At 80 F the eggs hatch in about three days. The fry become free swimming in another three days and then need to be fed baby brine shrimp, micro worms and finely crushed flake food. The males don't develop any fin ray extensions on the dorsal or caudal fin. Looks to be a very nice fish when it matures.-Chuck>
Re: Apistogramma Galaxia Dither Fish Recommendations For Apistogrammas    01/13/2008
Hi, Thanks for the reply Chuck. I'm very excited to see them mature now as they are already really pretty. They are in a 10 gallon as of now temp is 80 F and ph is 6.5 with weekly water changes of 30% .I will be moving them into a 20 long sort so they can have more space. It will have a sand substrate lots of wood and planted with java ferns and mosses. Any suggestions for a dither or top dwelling tank mate maybe even from the same area? I read keeping Corys or other bottom fishes would not be so good. Thanks again. JP < Hatchet fish, splashing tetras or pencil fish would leave the Apistos as the dominant fish in the tank. Dwarf Corys would probably be killed by a brooding female.-Chuck>

Sick Bolivian Ram... mis-stocked, salt use, env. dis.  12/7/07 Hi - <Hello Laura> I have an 80 gallon FW tank that cycled for 6 weeks prior to adding fish. I added one tablespoon of aquarium salt per gallon of water when I set up the tank <Why? That is, for what purpose?> and continue to add salt at the same rate when I do water changes. <Again, your rationale?> The LFS suggested I try 3 Bolivian Rams, 2 Rubber Nose Plecos, 2 Botia Angelicus, 3 Kribensis, and 3 Neolamprologus Sexfasciatus. <... suggested? Mmm, these fishes "like" quite different water conditions... some soft/acidic, others hard/alkaline... Mmm, maybe see all these species ranges for such posted on Fishbase.org> They told me the fish would be OK together in an 80 gallon tank with plenty of rocks and plants so I created 3 separate groupings of rocks/caves and plants then added all the fish to the tank at the same time. They were doing great the last 3 months until now. <Okay> The female Ram stopped eating 2 weeks ago. She hides in the plants or hovers near the heater, she doesn't seem to be eating and is getting thinner, her feces are thin and pale, looking more like empty casings than anything else. She doesn't swim with the other Rams the way she used to. Also, today her breathing seems to be more labored and I thought I saw some swelling inside her gills. <Mmmm, could be internal parasite issue... perhaps (a smaller likelihood) the water conditions, salt catching up with it metabolically... even psychological reaction to hassling... by the Botias or African Cichlids...> The only other sick fish is one of the Plecos - it has a strange looking spot on it's tail that looks like a chunky ball right on the middle edge of the tail fin. Could that be a fungus? He seems healthy otherwise - swimming and feeding as usual. <Seem WWM re funguses/infectious disease of FW fishes... and of Loricariids... True fungus is rare... very much more likely here is trouble with your water quality... Again, the salt, too hard water...> I'm sure these problems were created by poor water conditions <Oh, I agree> and overfeeding which I have hopefully rectified. I fell behind on water changes and the nitrates spiked to almost 80. I've been doing small water changes every 2 days for the last 10 days. <Mmm, this may be too much... what percentage are you changing out?> Water quality seems to be ok now - nitrites and ammonia are zero, nitrates are down to 15, temp. is 81 degrees F. I will be maintaining the tank with a weekly schedule of small water changes from now on. <Good> Is there anything else I can do to make the Ram healthy again or is it too late? <Never too late as long as the animals are alive...> What do you suggest for the Pleco's tail? <The same as for the Rams...> Should I treat all the fish at the same time in the 80 gallon tank? <Mmm, no> If I need to move the Ram and Pleco to a hospital tank, can they be in the same tank for treatment? Thanks, in advance, for your advice! Laura <Not advice per se... but systematically this is what I would consider: Moving the soft/acidic animals (the Rams and Plecos) into another system, or the hard/alkaline water (the Africans and Botias)... into another system (they're not compatible physically or psychologically)... Next, giving up on salt... See NealeM's input here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/saltusefaqs.htm Reading before taking anyone's advice (mine, ours inclusive)... The mix you have now, salt use are untenable... won't work. Bob Fenner>

12 G Eclipse Stock up, Dwarf Cichlid sel.  10/29/07 Hello. I bought 12 G Marineland with the heater today. I will plant it. I would like to keep a pair of dwarf cichlids in it. Possible, or not? Any suggestions? You are my favorite website. Thank you, Tanya <Mmm, there are some of the smaller Apistogramma, Nannacaras that might fit here... However, if they or you intend to breed them... you'll need more room. I would take a look on the Net, library re these genera. Bob Fenner>
Re: 12 G Eclipse Stock up... Dwarf Cichlids  10/29/07
Wow!!! This is exactly what I was planning to buy after the research. Cockatoo cichlid. My PH is 7 from tap, 7.4 in not densely planted 3G Eclipse w/Betta and cherry shrimp. I don't have a hardness kit as of yet, but I see some mineral deposits on the equipment. I'll buy the hardness kit in the end of this week. Any luck for me w/blue rams? Couple of them, and couple or 3 panda Cory? Overstocking or not? The tank will be densely planted This is the planning stage of the project and your opinion is very important. Ammonia = 0 Nitrites = 0 Nitrates = .5 Aquarium Pharmaceutical Tests Thank you, Tanya <Tanya, your message arrived somewhat mangled. I've hopefully fixed it, but if not, please re-send. Anyway, The water should be fine for Apistogramma cacatuoides (Cockatoo cichlid). Provided the water is not very hard, these fish seem to adapt quite well to a range of conditions. The ideal is fairly soft, slightly acidic water but neutral to slightly alkaline, moderately hard water is fine. The problem when breeding them in the "wrong" water chemistry is bias in the sex ration. In this case, alkaline pH causes an excess of males, whereas strongly acidic (pH 5.5) conditions results in mostly females. The ideal is around 6.5 to 7. Temperature also seems to be a factor. The cooler the water (low 20s C) the more females, the warmer the water (high 20s) the more males. So you need to play around with temperature as well as water chemistry to get it "just right" for equal numbers of male and female fry. Aiming for slightly soft to moderately hard water at pH 7 and at 25 C should work well. Mixing Apistogramma with Mikrogeophagus isn't recommended, for several reasons. For a start, Mikrogeophagus are apt to be bullies. They are larger than the Apistogramma and will fight over the same resources (food, nesting sites). Apistogramma also don't want the same very high temperatures as Mikrogeophagus ramirezi (which is what you Blue Ram is). Apistogramma are best at 24-26 C, while Mikrogeophagus ramirezi need very warm water, around 28-30 C, to survive for any length of time. Keep Apistogramma too warm, and they will be even shorter lived than otherwise; keep Mikrogeophagus ramirezi too cold and they'll be subject to disease and exhibit poor overall condition. Both species can work well with Corydoras, though again, the high temperatures required by Mikrogeophagus ramirezi will stress many Corydoras species in the long term. Corydoras panda for example want something in the range 20-25 C; in warmer water they may survive, but you'll notice them breathing heavily and making frequent dashes to the surface to compensate for the insufficient oxygen in the water. Not ideal. Apistogramma cacatuoides on the other hand will do well at 24-25 C, and so will the Corydoras panda. However, both Apistogramma and Mikrogeophagus have been known to damage Corydoras catfish when breeding: to the point where the poor little Corydoras have their eyes bitten off! This can be avoided by not overcrowding the fish, but still, there's always a risk when mixing them. What matters rather more with either dwarf cichlid is dither fish. Tetras or Danios are ideal. You need these to make the cichlids comfortable. Also do try and keep multiple female Apistogramma per male; none of the Apistogramma are really "pair forming" fish, and the males behave themselves rather better when given a harem. This is somewhat less true for Mikrogeophagus, which tends to behave fine as a pair. One last thing: a 3 gallon tank of any sort is simply not viable for any of these fish. A trio of Apistogramma would work in a 10 gallon tank, as would a pair of Mikrogeophagus, perhaps with a few Danios for the Apistogramma and some sort of warm water tetra for the Mikrogeophagus, such as Cardinals. Overcrowding cichlids is never a good idea: they not only beat one another up if they feel boxed in, but they're also very sensitive to poor water quality. Dwarf cichlids, doubly so. Cheers, Neale.>

Apistos and Shrimp    5/21/07 Hello,  I was wondering if it would be ok to keep Apistogramma and Caridina serrata together. I have plenty of room for them and they would be going into a planted aquarium. I'm just worried that the Apistos would eat the shrimp. Thank you, CJ < Apistogramma cacatuoides have a pretty good sized mouth. If the shrimp will not fit in their mouths then they will probably leave them alone until the shrimp moult. When the shrimp moult their skin is very soft and leaves them vulnerable to be eaten by fish. If there are plenty of places for them to hide they will be fine.-Chuck>

Dwarf Cichlid Availability   5/20/07 Dear Crew, I found the WetWebMedia site and see that people are active on a chat.  I am wondering if there is a fee/joint protocol? < No fee, just follow the leads of the others on the chat room.> I've had tanks for years, though I still consider myself a novice. < An expert is a person that realizes how little they know.> Currently, I have a 75 gallon tank and am starting with new fish (my Oscar died).    I have 2 Plecos, one albino and one Bristlenose, 2 bottom feeding cats (can't remember name, not like a Cory, more like a catfish body shape, dark with spots, they are an inch long) and 10 Keyholes. I would like to keep a dwarf cichlid tank.  The pet store told me that the pH for Rams  needs to be higher than for the Keyholes, is that correct?   Also, how common are Cockatoo Dwarfs? Thank you so much, Karla McCoy <Rams need a higher water temp than the keyholes. Rams come from open marshy areas where the water temp gets quite high. They need to be kept at a minimum of 82-84 F. They both prefer soft acidic water. Apistogramma cacatuoides are actually quite common on Aquabid.com. There are now many different color varieties that are easy to keep and spawn.-Chuck>

Setting Up A Tall FW Tank, Dwarf S. Am. Cichlid Sys.    2/22/07 Hi Bob/Crew, thanks so much for the advice so far.  After doing some more research I have a couple specific questions.  Again, my tank is a 20Lx18Wx30H 47G tall tank.  I've decided on a 1-2mm sand substrate (Carib-sea Torpedo Beach sand - tan in color) and I've found and ordered the rock I'm going to use to build up a roughly 20" - 25" structure or so - plenty of caves/crevices/swim-throughs (resin lace rock - but looks great, as natural as resin can get).  I plan on having a few live plants, a couple on the bottom and maybe a couple attached to various spots on the rock if I can manage it. In researching what fish I'd like to keep, I think I'd really like to have some Blue Rams, and maybe other dwarf cichlid species.  You mentioned angelfish and gouramis as an idea in your response to my original email, and I read those will do well with peaceful rams, along with danios, loaches, rainbowfish, tetras, and Plecos/catfish.  Given the fact that this is a tall tank, which reduces the number of fish I can keep anyway (compared to an equal size long tank), and only has a 20x18 bottom, how many Rams/dwarf cichlids can I realistically expect to keep in this tank (I'm assuming the limited bottom dimensions will determine the number I can keep, based on territorial space needed)? < Dwarf cichlids are territorial and love tank bottoms. If you get six then they will set up their own little territories.> Ideally, for sure I think I would like to have some Blue Rams and some other dwarf cichlids of some type, along with 2 angelfish.  Then to fill out the tank, however many gouramis (or maybe rainbowfish), tetras, loaches I can add (plus maybe a small Pleco/catfish.  I just don't know how many of each species I can safely add with this tall tank.  So, given the cichlids and angelfish, and then the other fish types I listed (or others if you have any better ideas), and assuming they all can co-exist realistically together, what combinations and numbers would you suggest for my tank? (i.e. 2 Blue Rams, 2 Cockatoo Cichlids, 2 angelfish, 2 gouramis, 8 tetras, ....).  Also, my goal is to get a good distribution of fish at all levels of the tank (bottom/middle/top), so if you don't think my current thinking will achieve that, please let me know. < Six dwarf cichlids for the bottom. The loaches and Plecos will most likely take up most of the bottom too. The angelfish will be found in the midwater area. Big round bodied tetras like rosy tetras will also be found in the mid water area. Most gourami  types stay pretty close to the surface. Start out slow and add fish later depending on your water changes. Keep the nitrates under 20 ppm.> Oh, one last question (I promise!).  With this tall tank, if I have plants on the very bottom, I'm assuming the standard cheapo fluorescent light that came with the tank won't be enough light for the plants on the bottom?  Would a Power Compact fixture work here, or would that be overkill?  Cichlids and angelfish don't like a ton of light, right?  Would this be too much for them?  What do you suggest? Thanks again guys!!! Jeff < If you want to grow any plants at all then the will need light. Try species like Cryptocorynes, java fern and Anubias for now. Add the compact florescent later if more light is needed.-Chuck>

Rainbow Sharks, comp. with dwarf Cichlids sel.    02/17/07 Hi, I have a single rainbow shark living in a 23g, he's (definitely a male) currently living with two dwarf gouramis and a Sailfin Molly, the gouramis and the sailfin molly will be moved out within the next few days, as I finally managed to fix their tank, and set it up and plant it. Anyway I've been trying to find a new tank mate for Kelvin my shark, there are plans in place to move him into either a 4 foot or 3 foot tank when he gets bigger but so far he's all of 5cm long. So I'm after a single fish with personality and was interested in cichlids, but I can't find any conclusive info on the net about any dwarf cichlids that'll live in a 23g and live with a rainbow shark. Any help'd be appreciated. <Mmm... should be of the more "feisty" variety... not the real small Apistogrammas, Nannacaras... Maybe something like the Bolivian Ram...> Oh and the tanks currently got a couple of caves and some plastic plants, I'm going to break up some pots to add more caves and add a few more decorations/caves from the pet store in there too. <Sounds good> Thanks Emma <Do take a look see on the mega-site Fishbase.org using the search term "dwarf cichlid"... and then a cursive look/see on the Net, your Stockists re what they can get from this sub-set. Bob Fenner>

Sick Bolivian Ram    2/16/07 You folks have been so helpful to me in the past.  I am one of those people that has not quarantined new arrivals, and after playing with fire for 2 years, I've finally been burnt.  I brought home a Bolivian ram on Saturday.  It looked like a female and I wanted to have a male/female pair in my 55 gallon community tank.  I have had a male that I absolutely adore for the past year and a half, and wanted a second one so bad.  When the fella was catching the fish I thought I saw a fish come whirling out of the plants, but he assured me that there were no sick fish in the tank.  This fish looked good, so I figured I was mistaken, and I took it home acclimated and released it.  It had a hard time at first because it wanted to hang in the same area as Yellowbelly, my resident male, but he didn't take to kindly too that and kept on nipping it away from his territory.  But nothing severe.  After pretty much staying out of sight for a day, I saw her swimming in a spastic uncontrollable spinning motion and then just laying limp on the gravel. I immediately put her into a 2.5 gallon quarantine tank, at which time she got worse very quickly and developed Popeye and cloudy eye, along with the spastic bursts of swimming.  Everything I have read points to this type of thing being a viral disease or infection, because it affects the neurological system, and that there is no cure for fish with viruses. Now to the question I'm dreading...  How contagious is something like this?  I know I'm going to have to euthanize the poor thing.  But I am so scared that my beloved pets are all going to get this incurable thing now.  Is there anything I can do?  Can you help me conclusively diagnose what it has?  I am enclosing a short clip of the fish's behaviour last night and three pictures of how it looks.  Colors look okay, and no other visible evidence of illness except for the Popeye, cloudy eyes, and a slightly sunken belly.  I feel absolutely sick about this. Thanks, and take care, Mary. < This may be a virus but I think it is probably a bacterial infection. Keep the water quality up in your aquarium and watch the other fish carefully for signs of problems. You could try and save the fish by treating him/her in a hospital tank with a combination  Metronidazole and Nitrofurazone. If your fish are healthy they should have a pretty good resistance to all diseases.-Chuck>

Seeing Red Apistogramma cacatuoides   1/7/07 Hi, my Cacatuoides just recently had a batch of fry, and, do to past failures on account of the female, I wanted to check in on her at night. I had a moon light for my saltwater and figured that would work as well as anything. The first female I saw in the tank, three in total, had a slight blue tint as I would expect under a moon light, but when I found the mother I was surprised to discover that she was a deep red except around the eyes. The male too, was red around his stomach. When I turned on the tank light, however, these areas were their usual yellow that appears when breeding. I guess my question is; are moon lights a similar spectrum to black lights? I also wonder if the fry or the male can see in this spectrum, and if it serves a purpose in their communication. I know the male respects her now when she chases him out of her territory where he never did before. <Saltwater lighting does funny things to freshwater fish. At night it is common for sleeping fish to take on a different color pattern. This usually allows them to blend in with their surroundings. Moonlighting may be similar to a blacklight. When the female shows that black and yellow coloration she is sending a message to all other fish to stay away. Cichlids are pretty smart and the male catches on very quickly that if he comes close to the fry that they will be defended by the female.-Chuck>

Updated Stocking Question For a 75 Gal Dwarf Cichlid Tank  - 10/14/06 Hi, Thanks for the earlier response.  If I don't keep any discus, how is this modified stocking list? I am working on a stocking plan for my 75. How does this look?: Apistogramma (1 male +2-3 females)--maybe agassizi, Apistogramma (1 male +2-3 females)--maybe cacatuoides, [the mix of Apistos depends on what's available at the LFS], German Blue Ram (1 male + 1-2 females, Flag Cichlid (Laetacara Curviceps--1 pair) --Is that too many dwarf cichlids for a 75? < All your dwarf cichlids look good.> For companions: lemon tetras (dozen), cardinal tetras (2 dozen), cories (half dozen), coolie loaches (3-4)--not South American fish, but cool. Maybe a few Otos and maybe a half dozen hatchet fish.--Is that my bioload too heavy? Thanks again, Nate < The dwarf cichlids will hang out at the bottom of the tank. When a Cory or coolie loach comes by they will be chased away by the cichlids. The hatched fish are notorious jumpers so keep the top well covered. check the nitrates. With these fish try to keep them under 20 ppm. If you cannot maintain this level then increase your water changes or reduce the number of fish.-Chuck>

Apistogramma with Infected Nostril 10/10/06 Hi Crew. I have an Apistogramma cacatuoides which has a white spot in one of its nostrils. Since it is where the nostril is supposed to be, I don't think the hole is due to "hole in the head" but rather it is the nostril itself. Moreover, it doesn't seem to look like "cotton wool" so it probably isn't "cotton wool" disease. The white condition looks like it is pus. This fish is quite new. When I first bought it, I noticed that it had a red rash (not a red spot per say) at and around the nostril area. Ammonia and Nitrite at 0, Nitrate at 5 ppm. pH at around 6.6. I treated with a combination of Pimafix and Melafix for 3 days, then continued with only Melafix for the next 2 days. When I was treating with Pimafix, the whiteness seemed to have subsided. However, it has gone bigger since I stopped dosing with Pimafix and only had Melafix. I would appreciate any "educated guesses" as to what this condition/disease may be. Thanks Tim <Apistogrammas make a living by foraging through the gravel and sand for little critters to eat. Sometimes the substrate is a little too coarse and abrasive. As the cichlid pushes his face into the sand it irritates the face and nasal cavities. Something has scratched the internal nasal cavity of your Apistogramma and it is infected. The white is a secondary fungal infection. Treat in a hospital tank with Nitrofurazone. Follow the directions on the package.-Chuck>

Apistogramma With Nostril Infection, Follow-up - 10/11/06 Hi Chuck, thanks so much for your reply. Since I have Triple Sulfa at home, I was wondering if I could use this instead of Nitrofurazone as you suggested. < It is worth a try but the Nitrofurazone has antifungal properties too.> By the way, you suggested in response to an earlier email from me (if you remember) to try some L. curviceps in the same 50 gallon tank together with my Apistos. I now have a pair, and they are indeed a great addition to the tank. < Glad to hear that you like them too.-Chuck> Thanks again, Tim

Discus Tank Stocking   8/14/06 Dear Crew, <Eric> Thank you for the wonderful resource you provide, and for answering my questions in the past. I have recently moved into a new apt. and have taken the opportunity to redo my tank.  Previously it was a planted community, but I would like to give a shot to discus. I do have about 10 years of experience with fish and have done much research but I would like to get some outside opinions on my plans. <Okay> I donated all of the fish and kept the plants, which are an assortment consisting mostly of various swords, java moss, java fern, and Val.s. The only other livestock in the tank are some mystery snails, as well as what I believe are small Ramshorn ( though I am not positive ). I don't mind the snails because as long as I feed them once in a while they leave the plants alone.   <A good technique> The tank itself is a 72 gallon ( nominal ) bowfront. The filter is an Aquaclear 500 ( though I believe their model numbers have changed ) using a sponge, carbon and zeolite bags. Lighting consists of 220w PC (I don't recall the temperature offhand ). The substrate consists of regular gravel mixed with Eco-Complete ( I don't have it in front of me but that's what I believe it is called ) topped off with a thin layer of Tahitian Black Moon Sand for effect. There is rockwork and bogwood as well. Thankfully NYC tap water is good so I don't have to add much in terms of chemicals besides fertilizer which is dosed every few days ( I use Seachem Flourish and Flourish tabs ). Once the plants have taken hold, I am currently planning on stocking the tank as follows ( after proper quarantine ): 3-5 discus bought from a breeder ( who preferably uses tap water so that they are conditioned to my water supply ) <Good> 2 or 3 Bristlenose Plecs ( 1 male ) 1 or 2 pairs of Rams ( are the German and Bolivian Rams different species or breeds ? ) <Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/dwfsamcichlids.htm and the FAQs file linked above. Different species unless the common names are getting switched> I would like to have a group of a small schooling or shoaling dither fish but haven't decided on which. I will probably go for 10 or so cardinal tetras to keep with the biotype. <Of good starting size> 5 Hatchetfish ( I have a cover ) My main concern is the stocking density as I like to keep away from the crowded tank look because I feel it takes away from the natural behavior of the fish. <You are wise here. It does> I am very open to suggestions both as to species and stocking numbers. While I am not setting this up with any species breeding in mind, I do like to see the fish interact and behave as naturally as possible under the circumstances which is why I tried to pair certain fish. Thanks again for your help, Eric <Unless you have plans to move out some of them, I would stick with no more than three discus here. Bob Fenner>
Re: Discus/FW (Rams, Pleco...) Tank Stocking   8/16/06
Dear Mr. Fenner, <Eric> Thanks for your quick reply. I choose to go with 3-5 discus because I have read that they better in schools <If not too crowded...> of at least 5 but I was worried that it would be too many. I think that I will get 5 small discus and wait a few months to see if any pair off, then return or sell the 1 or 2 that are at the bottom of the pecking order. <A workable plan> In regards to the rams, I have been told on a yahoo group, and read elsewhere, that the German rams are a breed of rams (I recall it being Bolivian ) <Mmm, no... are the same Microgeophagus... ramirezi, vs. altispinosa... The Bolivian Ram is a different species... http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=15902&genusname=Mikrogeophagus&speciesname=altispinosus> that were developed in Germany to exhibit the better coloration. If I decide to not go with the rams, would a pair or two of another dwarf cichlid do well in this tank, or should I stick with the rams? <Possibly... there are quite a few species... some too shy, easygoing...> Is the proper stocking of Bristlenose Plecs 1 male to 2 females? Should there be any specific order of stocking? Thanks again, Eric <Best to place whatever sex ratio here, and keep an eye out for possible pairing, remove others if they're being beaten. Bob Fenner>

Adding More Dwarf Cichlids 07/04/06 Hello Crew. One of my tanks is 55 gallons, 39 inches long x 18 inches wide. I currently already have two pairs of dwarf cichlids (1 pair of blue rams and 1 pair of Apistogramma cacatuoides) in a community tank with silver dollars, dwarf gouramis, panda Corys and live bearers. Assuming that bioload is not a problem, do you think that I could add more dwarf cichlids (of different types to what I already have) into this tank for a territorial perspective? Thanks! Tim <Plenty of room. Look at something different like Laetacara curviceps or dorsigera.-Chuck>

Sexing Bolivian Rams   4/30/06 WWM crew, I've had a pair of Bolivian rams (Microgeophagus altispinosa) for several months now alone in a 10G tank.  The tank was cycled before adding them, and they've been the only inhabitants.  I got them when both were fairly young and small, definitely not close to full-grown.  Their tank has a ~2 inch gravel substrate (natural, pebbles somewhere 1/8-1/4" diameter) and a crypt. wendtii and java fern.  They've been peaceful the whole time, but lately one has started bothering the other.  From watching other types of New World cichlids, it seems to me like it could be pre-spawning (occasional chasing, never in the same territory, staring at each other and displaying fins, one turning away from the other after they stare and display).  Anyhow, I've looked for reliable information about sexing these rams, but can't find a lot.  There's plenty of info about for the blue rams, but I'm still a little murky about these guys.  Since shortly before they started this behavior, one of them started to have his/her darker markings get a lot darker.  The other is still mostly paler in the general body area, but this one looks a little more like this http://img89.exs.cx/img89/7272/bolivianram15ed.jpg, except the dorsal spines aren't that dark.  I know to look for the first few dorsal spines, but both of them seem to still be developing some.  Is there any other good, reliable way to sex them besides the dorsal spines, like shape, spots of color, etc while they are still fairly young?  If needed I can get pictures of mine, the above link is just a similarly colored body. I would like to have a pair that could breed at some point, so here's my current thinking.  I'll wait for a while longer to see if any more differences manifest themselves, physically or behaviorally.  If not, I get several other rams and see if a pair forms, then bring the others back to the LFS.  Does this sound like a good course of action?  Also, if I do end up with a pair, would it be a good idea to keep a small school of neon or cardinal tetras as dithers, or best to just have the two?  Thanks for your help! Alex < Larger males are more intensely colored, have longer fins and are somewhat larger than the females. Males have extended rays in the top and bottom of the tail fin.-Chuck>

Breeding Dwarf Cichlids  4/29/06 Within the next month or two I'm planning on buying a 20 gallon long tank for a freshwater dwarf cichlid setup.  There are three basic routes I am thinking of taking: Number 1 - Microgeophagus Ramirezi breeding pair, school of Cardinal Tetras in a planted tank.  Not sure what type of plant, probably mostly Cryptocoryne wendtii.  If not that, some type of Anubias sp.  Also considering, thinking it wouldn't be a good idea to add a small school (~3-4) Corys of some type.  Would you go with the Corys, or just the rams and tetras? < Dwarf cichlids tend to occupy the same areas as the Cory's so I would leave them out.> Also, for the planted aspect, would a layer of ~1-2 inches red fluorite underneath a layer of about 1.5 inches gravel be fine as a substrate, or should I go with some mud? < The Fluorite will work just fine. No mud required.> I'm aiming for close to the max plant population I can have without adding extra CO2.  Approximately how many crypts would that be with a pair of the rams and about 6-10 tetras? < Start with just one. If conditions are right you will have more crypts than you can handle.> Number 2 - Trio of "Lamprologus" ocellatus golds, 1M/2F.  Approximately 2 inch off-white or black sand bottom, maybe 6-10 shells scattered, possibly some lace rock or "Texas Holey" rock.  Would it be a good idea to put anything else in with these guys in only a 20G, maybe a Synodontis of some species or two? < Go with the dwarf Synodontis petricola if any. They will feed on baby cichlids. The lamps may end up picking on them the entire time while protecting their fry.> Number 3 - Pair of Rainbow Kribensis in a planted tank.  Would it be smart to go with anything else in a 20G, or just let the pair breed and raise the fry?  I know the Kribs can tolerate brackish, but freshwater throughout their lives should be fine, especially with breeding, right? <Pelvicachromis pulcher (Kribs) are actually fairly easy to breed and raise the fry. The sex ratio of the fry may be biased by the pH they can easily be bred in tap water as long as it is not too hard.> I'm leaning towards the second option, I have one tank already with a pair of Microgeophagus altispinosa in it and the little yellow guys are just fascinating.  For the l. ocellatus, do they do well with just any male/2 females, or should I get an assortment and let them sort it out for themselves, returning the others? < One male per tank if fine. If you get an extra male he will get his own territory on opposite end of the tank.> I'm looking towards eventually breeding them for selling, but not for a while at least (hence all the breeding combinations).  I should be able to get the equipment within about 3 weeks, but from there there's no rush for getting the rest of the setup (LFS is having a 20G long sale).  Thanks for the book, the website, and the help! Alex < For breeding purposes get as many females as you can with a couple of males. Skip the catfish. Use lots of shells.-Chuck>

Bolivian Rams not eating    4/12/06 I am sorry to ask more questions but this is important and kind of urgent. I am writing down all of my questions and will put them all in one big email and that should be it. But for now... I just got 2 Bolivian Rams on Saturday from PetSmart. I feed twice a day, flakes <Won't likely accept prepared foods till trained on them> at about 6pm after school, and then bloodworms at about 8:30 - 8:45 pm. The lights are on a timer and I am gone for school before they even turn on in the morning and I figured it's better not to disrupt the light for the fish. But my rams have not eaten in 3 days. They have takes little bites of flakes, chew them, but then spit them out. They also taste the bloodworms but then also spit them out. My neons and danios in the same tank have gotten HUGE because all of the food I have been trying to get to the rams. Is there anything that a normal household would have that my rams might eat? <... what re this tank temp., water chemistry? Please see here: http://filaman.ifm-geomar.de/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=15902&genusname=Mikrogeophagus&speciesname=altispinosus> The neons and danios eat almost everything before it can get to the bottom, which is where the rams are, and they never go higher than about half way up the side of the tank. I don't know what to do for them because they have to be hungry by now. My pH is about 8.2, <Way too high...> may that have an effect on their eating? <Oh yes... and tank temperature? Bob Fenner> Thanks - Marc

More Questions About Bolivian Ram Care    4/14/06 1. I have a pH of about 8.2 and I have neons, danios, and a pair of Bolivian Rams. <Too high for the Rams, Neons...> I know that neons like it at a lower pH and so do rams. The neons seem very happy and are actively eating and                  swimming so... to keep the rams happy, is it a good idea to lower my pH? <Yes> If so, I did a little reading on your website - which is very helpful by the way - and I discovered that bogwood combined with peat moss in a filter, should keep it stable and at a comfortable level, is this correct? <Generally so, but I would adjust new water, store same ahead of time, outside the system...> Would driftwood do the trick? <Perhaps> PetSmart does not carry any bogwood or peat moss so do you have any web sites or online stores where I can purchase it because no one around me carries it. <See etailers on the Net re> If I do find peat moss and bogwood, would it be too big of a     shock for any fish in my tank to have the pH be lowered quickly? <Not likely, through this method> If         so, how could I make it less stressful, and still keep them happy? <Adjust the pH, hardness outside the system in their change water... starting with filtered water (many methods) and using acidifiers...> 2. I talked to someone about my rams having "egg spots." I learned that they do not get them, so could they be something to worry about? <Not likely> They are a light blue color. Also about the rams' color, I may have asked this but what types of already frozen foods could I give them to make their colors glow? <See WWM re Dwarf S. American Cichlids, Microgeophagus...> 3. I talked to Bob previously about feeding my rams flakes. He said they "won't likely eat flakes till trained on them." How would I train them if  they don't touch them. <Mix a bit with other palatable foods... slowly increase the percentage> I am sure that's what they were fed at PetSmart because they are not to nutritious there. 4. I was looking over articles about rams and now I cannot find it, but someone from your site said that it might not be a good idea (I think)  if you but stem plants with rams. Why and also, what are stem plants like so I can maybe replace the ones I have already. <See here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwlvstkind2.htm scroll down...> 5. Again about my rams. They look pretty young and really haven't developed their colors yet. One is about 2 inches and the other  has to be around.... I'd say about 1.25 inches. The smaller one has more of a yellow red belly and the big one just has yellow. It's hard to     tell since they have almost no color! May the smaller one be a female? <Might be> It has darker black lines and spots and again... I cannot         really see any metallic scales over the black spot... or anywhere else     on it's body.             -Sorry for such a long email... it's just the people at PetSmart just try to make you buy stuff, regardless of anything. I thought it would be better to make one big email than, about 16 every time I came up with one! Your site is really helpful and you guys do a nice job of keeping up with the waves of emails and post them the next day! 20* out of 10*     -Marc <Keep reading and thinking, questioning Marc. You'll do fine. Bob Fenner>

Lowering pH or rams - 15/4/06 For some more questions on pH for my rams....  - 04/14/2006 <OK. First question: Are you sure you need to do this? Stable conditions are always my first preference.> <<Does need... 8.4 for Bolivians is too high. RMF>> I thought I just might buy either reverse osmosis water or... get gallons of distilled water. <I'd opt for the former, given the choice.> If I use reverse osmosis water, everything in it is gone right? so would I have to add more nutrients or chemicals to keep my plants alive? <To keep you fish alive, even.> I thought if I mix prepared distilled water along with some tap water every water change about every 2 weeks, then it might lower my pH. Do you think this idea might work? <Yes, but I would use RO water, and do *not* chase pH here. KH and GH should be the parameters you are trying to control here. For breeding rams, I would shoot for a *stable* KH of around 4 dKH, and a *stable* GH of around 5 (or measured with a conductivity/TDS meter to be under 100 ppm). Aerate/store the mixture for several hours to a day before testing.> I will just have to find the right amount of distilled water to put in to keep my pH stable. <Easier said than done. Remember to leave the water standing, and don't expect changes to be apparent in KH/GH tests immediately.> Thanks

Apistogramma With Prolapsed Colon  - 03/25/2006 Hi, thanks for all the great information your site provides for the people like myself, it is much appreciated! I have the above mentioned fish in a 55 gallon, with an Apistogramma agazzi, 9 gold tetra's & 3 zebra loaches. All my levels are good, I do approximately 1/2 water changes every 2-3 weeks. I have noticed that the cacatuoides has somewhat stringy feces (not white but normal coloration) in the last few days and also has a reddish colored spiky looking protrusion from the anus (just slightly sticking out).  The behaviour of the fish seems the same, still swimming around like normal, energetic, good appetite, color is good. I want to make sure if there could be a problem I treat it right away, unfortunately I have not been able to find any information on this specific problem anywhere.  Any help you could provide would be very much appreciated. Troy < The colon has been pushed out during a bowel movement. Watch so it doesn't get infected. Keep the water clean and place him in a hospital tank it get fungused and treat with Nitrofuranace. Try feeding smaller portions or a food with more fiber in it to make the event less traumatic.-Chuck>

Breeding Apistogramma cacatuoides  12/1/05 I have a 20G tank with 3 females and 1 male. It is planted, ph is around 6.2.  Water hardness is around 4 kH. There are also 6 Flame tetras in the tank. I have tried but cannot get the Apisto's to breed. Also the temp is around 76f and they are fed a variety of frozen foods (Bloodworms, Brine Shrimp, White Mosquito Larvae).  I also use a Hagen CO2 system and nitrates run around 10 to 15 ppm.  Is there anything else that might encourage them ? Thanks Dean Smith < Raise the water temp to 80 F. Provide numerous small caves at scattered locations throughout the bottom of the tank. These little cave spawners spawn in rolled up dead leaves in the wild. When they spawn the female will turn bright yellow and be guarding the area.-Chuck>

Ram Cichlid Not Happy  9/25/05 HI there.  I have been searching your site to answers to my problem but can't find any.  A little background, I have  45 gal tank with a ram, brichardi cichlid (3 in), and 6 tiny fish that I believe are Scissortails?  They are silver with a black stripe and their tails look like they are  pinching (make sense?)   My problem is that the ram is hanging out at the top of the tank, he has lost a great deal of color, he used to be very vibrant, now he is just dull and colorless looking.  Also his breathing seems to be somewhat labored and he is not eating.   He also has some white spotting behind his eyes, (definitely doesn't look like ich) that actually seems to look better after last nights water change 25%.  This has been going on for about 2 weeks or so. I am not sure what if any meds to give, or possibly he is just lonely (his female died 2 months ago when we introduced the brichardi.  Can you please help????  He was so beautiful and fun to watch now he looks so pitiful!  The brichardi and the other small fish seem to be perfectly healthy.  Thank you so much!  Kay < Your poor little ram is a dwarf cichlid from NW South America. They come from warm soft waters with temps in the mid to low 80's. They defend their territories with little threat displays that are more bark than bite.  There are many cichlids named after the famous exporter Pierre Brichard. Chances are you have Neolamprologus brichardi from Lake Tanganyika. These fish come from hard alkaline waters. They are almost all bite with little bark. They have four canine-like teeth that they use without hesitation. Your poor little ram has been stressed to the point that he has probably developed an internal bacterial infection. Put the ram in his own hospital tank with clean warm soft water and treat him with Metronidazole for the infection. Use Nitrofurazone to treat the bite marks behind the eyes. The key to a complete recovery is early treatment.-Chuck>

Setting Up a Dwarf Cichlid Tank  9/7/05 Hi there, (I'm not entirely sure who to send this to, and yours is the only email address I found on the site) I have a 40 gallon hexagonal tank, and I'd like to turn it into a dwarf cichlid tank if I can. The inhabitants are currently: (1) African butterfly fish (1) Small (inch and a half long, 2 inches tall) angelfish (1) Honey dwarf gourami (1) Dwarf gourami (1) Female blue ram, her mate died yesterday (3) Oto's (1) Common Pleco, about 4 inches long (1) Large apple snail I'm heading back to the LFS later today to pick up a mate for my female ram, and possibly a second pair. Also, last time I was there, the LFS had cockatoo cichlids for sale, and I'm intrigued by them. Nothing I've read online says anything about how rams get along, and I'm lost as to what to do. I'd love to get a pair of cockatoo's, but on the other hand I don't want to damage the well established hierarchy in my tank. If I need to, I also have a 10 gallon guppy tank for my younger siblings, which I could move the gouramis into. Thanks! < Apistogramma cacatuoides is found through out NW South America. Males get about 3 inches and the female gets about half that. Not too fussy about water as long as it is clean and the pH isn't too high. They will establish a territory on the bottom of the tank and square off with the rams. The common Pleco will eat any spawns if your dwarfs try to breed. There are many man made variants around these days. A double red refers to a red color on the dorsal and the anal fin. A triple red has red on the anal fin too. Check Aquabid for other Apistos or go to Apistogramma.com to find out about all kinds of other Apistos.-Chuck>>

Dwarf Cichlids without "A Wee Bit of Power" Hello, I have a 55 gallon tank and I am in the process of  selecting which fish I should buy.  I am interesting in the cockatoo  cichlids, do you know how many I could have in the tank and what other fish  they would be compatible with? <Apistogramma cacatuoides is a great little dwarf cichlid from South America. It will go great with any small tetra, Rasbora or small Danio. Go a little light on bottom dwelling fish like Cory cats. Small algae eaters like Otocinclus will also do fine. You could easily keep a dozen and watch them breed.> I read that zebra danios, harlequin  Rasbora, and Corydoras catfish are compatible, is this true? < The Cory cats hang around the bottom like the Apistos and are sometimes pushed around. The others are fine.> Can fish like guppies or neon tetras be compatible? < Guppies like their water a little brackish. The Apisto's can handle it but the cats and tetras don't like it.> Also, I live in Florida and  with the start of hurricane season, I wonder if we have another power outage  for a week or two if this will most certainly kill my fish.  Do you  know of things I could do to prevent a deadly outcome. < With  a power outage comes a couple of problems. The first is aeration. You need to keep the water circulating. Remove any canister filter. The bacteria will die in it and pollute the tank. Do water changes as need for filtration. Battery operated air pumps are available online and will keep you fish alive. The second problem is heat. It will be all right to let the water cool to the low 70's but then when you change the water add water around 80 to warm things back up. Ultimately you could buy a backup generator from Home Depot to keep things up and going.> Or if I have to  worry if it is only out for 3 days? < The bacteria in a canister filter would die for sure. The fish you will have to watch for stress like breathing hard at the top of the water line.-Chuck>  (Any links on any of this information  would be great too!!) Thank so very very much, Cheraton

MAKING A NEW APISTOGRAMMA I would like to breed a few different color varieties of Apistogramma species together. Do you think I could cross-breed with them an Apistogramma trifasciata, they look almost identical! The reason I ask this is because I know some people do not approve of cross-breeding different species. <With close to 100+ species of Apistogramma already I am not sure what kind of fish you want to end up with. You could line breed certain species and develop new colors. There are already double and triple red cacatuoides and agassizii. These are being mass produced in Asia. I have never heard of a hybrid between two different Apistogramma species but I suppose it is possible. Check with Neil at Apistogramma.com.-Chuck>

A question about tank size for 4-5 pair of SA dwarf cichlids Hello! <Hi Sane, MacL here with you tonight>  I'd like to start a new tank for south American dwarf cichlids. <Ahhh some of my very favorites.> I plan to have: 1 pair of blue ram 1 pair of A. agassizii 1 pair of A. cacatuoides 1 pair of either A. nijsseni (if I could find them in store) or red ram Since some are suggesting that 20g is needed for one pair, I wonder, would a 75g/80g do for the 4 pairs? <Provide lots of hiding places and separate areas for the pairs.> Would they fight each other in the same tank? <I've kept most of what you mention together but it was a larger tank. Each group had their own area though and I think that's important.> Other fishes in the tank would only be groups of small tetras, like rummy-nose and black neon. Could you give some advice on how many tetras altogether should I keep with the cichlids? <I'd run odd numbers of tetras and get enough that they will school. Say nine of each and add them very slowly.>  Thank you, Sane

In search of the Golden eye Do you know where I can purchase golden eye cichlids? <Sure do.  Nannacara anomala, or the Golden eye Cichlid is a rare and wonderful find.  You'll see them from time to time, but most mail order them from a cichlid specific source such as http://www.fishhead.com/.  If they're not in stock at this time of year, most e-tailers will hold one for you when it arrives.  Best of luck finding one! Ryan> Teri Lutz

South American cichlid tank Hello, Would like to get advice:   <Great!  That's why were here :) > Just recently bought a 20 gallon fish tank and would like to have South American Cichlids.  Can you please tell me how many of them I can keep in such a small tank?   <Well, that really depends on what, specifically, you want.  For example, Oscars are SA cichlids, but I don't think you could fit one in a 20g with a shoehorn in one hand and a plunger in the other.  You've got lots and lots of options, though, as there are many SA cichlids that do stay quite small.> And what kind do you think I should invest in.   <My personal favorites are Apistogramma agassizii, A. cacatuoides, and Papilochromis (or is it Microgeophagus?) ramirezi (ram cichlids).  You could easily keep one breeding pair of dwarf cichlids in the 20g.  Which species you keep is largely a matter of your own personal taste.> Also, what community fish can I keep? <With the pair of cichlids, you could probably keep a very small handful of small schooling fish, something like neons, white clouds, or Hatchetfish.> Thank you a lot. Claudia Cavazos <Sure thing!  -Sabrina>

Sick Ram I know this fish is very sensitive so do you think the pea method will work with a blue ram?  Tonight when I came home I noticed my blue ram bloated and looking distressed (dark in color)  he was held down from the top of the tank by sitting under the leaves of my artificial plant and he was leaning to one side.  I have isolated him in a holding tank within the same tank.  I did not want to move him because I did not want to cause him more distress.  I also do not have another tank to move him to.  I just lost my female Kribensis to swim bladder a week ago.  My water quality is good and my ph is 7.0.  He is my favorite fish and I also lost my female ram last week to a fungus on the mouth.   What a bad week to lose another fish.  My tank water has been good for a week.  I do not have tank problems of these types.  Unfortunately a busy week away left my ph level at 6.0 and I did do a 1/2 a tank water change 6 days ago and everything had been fine until tonight.  Any help would be sooo appreciated.    Thank you,     Debbie <Hi Debbie, sorry about your losses.  I think your fish have problems that the pea method is not going to be able to fix, peas will help constipated fish get things moving again, but this sounds more serious.  We need to know your waters Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate levels.  If the other fish in your tank are being affected by the same problem I think it is related to either the PH swing that had occurred (6.0 to 7.0 is  a big change), or excess nitrites or nitrates.  I would go with small frequent water changes, no more than 1/3 of the tank volume, ever few days, and treatment with an antibiotic like Kanacyn, or Spectrogram.  Best of Luck, Gage>

Apistos, water chemistry, and leaf litter Hello, <Hi there, Sabrina here, today> Recently I've read through articles dealing with the natural habitats of Apistos and such. they talk about how they more commonly live in dead leaf litters on the rivers bottoms. Is there anyway to artificially recreate these leaf litters? Most the articles I read dealt with using real leafs, while this sounded to be the best idea, it did sound as it would foul up the water chemistry quite a bit and make the tank a pain to clean regularly. <As for fouling water chemistry, about the only thing that they will do is lower the pH - which would be desirable to Apistos.  As long as you boil the leaves before putting them in the tank, they should be okay.  But maintenance....  yeah, I can see where that would be a pain.> I thought maybe using artificial leaves that you see around in the fall would work but I don't know if they would be safe.  Thank You. <Check out the silk flower area of a craft store, see if they have any there.  it should be fine as long as there's no metal in the 'leaves', and the rest of it is inert, too.  I've known folks to make their own fake aquarium plants using silk plants from the craft store.  I still think it'd be tough to vacuum your gravel, though.>

Dwarf Cichlid aquarium    I'm soon going to start a Dwarf cichlid tank in a 30 long aquarium. My question has to deal with substrate, I want to use a sand, preferably Black Tahitian Moon, but I also want to do most live plants in the tank,<Honestly. sand is a real hassle, especially with fish that will be moving around quite a bit. (they will stir it up and it will be a huge mess). I prefer a stony substrate when dealing with cichlids> is this this a good idea?<nope> Also about how much sand is it going to take to cover and fill the tank to the proper depth (tank is a freebie from my brother, he wasn't sure on the dimensions) also if I needed to could I "cut" the black moon with sand from a saltwater tank (which would be another freebie, but the tank had a fluorescent bulb break in it during transport, so it'd need to be cleaned). <I wouldn't go with the sand, Good luck with everything, IanB>                                                               Thanks for your help

Dwarf Cichlids in a like-sized system hey, it could always be worse, I dreamt last night that I was lying awake in bed and couldn't get to sleep... <Seems reasonable> besides, I wouldn't dream of stepping into Dr. Roy's shoes, he's only got about a 30 year leg up on me, besides being a TV star and all. ;) the BBC's doing another series that he'll be in, so when do we get to see you on the boob tube? <I was on "People's Court" once. Lost> on a different subject...I've decided against doing a nano tank at work but I'd still like something better to look at than the White Stucco Wall of Doom (since my request to move to a window seat was $^!# canned...). So, I have a spare 5.5g AGA bow front at home that I've equipped w/a 23w power fluorescent bulb in the 5000K color range. I was planning on doing a nano FW tank (now there's a switch) that's heavily planted. From what I understand my cousin wasn't able to maintain my old FW setup, and I'd like to rebuild the glory that was in miniature. I've been looking at the info onsite about dwarf cichlids and it's kind of slim pickings. <I encourage you to write up your endeavor, experiences for others, publish in the hobby 'zines, perhaps on WWM after> I was thinking about a pair of Ram's or the Cockatoo Cichlids shown on the web page. Any advice on plants, livestock, etc. more than welcome. filtration would be one of the small HOT filters and regular water changes. <Take a look on Dennerle, esp. here: http://www.dennerle.de/ENGLISCH/e_frameset.htm re South American Tetra Tanks... and Tropica's http://www.tropica.com/default.asp listings of plants, requirements... Many ideas. I would use either the small Eheim hang-on, or the smallest Hagen HO power filter... possibly just a small inside power filter... Bob Fenner> thanks again! Mike
Re: Dwarf Cichlids in a like-sized system
Hi Bob, PF here. I believe it was some months ago that you mentioned a friend/business acquaintance/some guy off the street (I can't remember) was going to do something involving injection molded plastic to manufacture filters of an Ecosystemish nature. Any word on that? <Was likely none other than Leng Sy, Ecosystem Aquarium of "Miracle Mud" fame. Was diving with him a couple weeks back in the Red Sea, and last month in Australia... and he did mention he was still investigating this hugely money-saving (in large volume piece manufacturing) possibility. I'll cc him here and see if he has an update. Bob Fenner, who had a daydream that you wrote a/the series monograph on the seven hundred plus species of stomatopods! Man, I used to dream about money and wimmen... oh well.> Thanks Bob! PF

Homemade Food Anthony or Steve: I have a pair of Bolivian rams (Microgeophagus altisponsa) in a heavily planted ten gallon with a pair of pygmy Corys (Corydoras pygmaeus). I will hopefully add another 4-6 pygmy Corys in the next few weeks, but no other fish. I have had the male Bolivian ram for about a year but I just purchased the female. She is pretty skinny (I think they had forgotten she was in the tank at the LFS; they certainly didn't know what she was) and he is just recovering from a bout of HITH (I have learned my lesson about going to college and leaving my fish at home). Anyways, I hope to eventually breed the Bolivians, so I want to get their weights back up over the next few months. Right now they are eating Omega One Natural Protein Formula in the AM and vitamin-soaked (Zoe and Zoecon) bloodworms, brine shrimp, and Whiteworms in the PM.  <the Whiteworms will fatten them up quick, the brine shrimp is useless, and some more larvae would be nice for roe production in the female like frozen glassworms> The female eats really well, but the male and the Corys are more reluctant. I make homemade mouse food so recently I decided I would like to try doing the same for the fish so I will have a good fresh food to use in addition to prepared foods. I checked out the recipe in TCMA, but it is for SW fish. Would it still be adequate for FW fish?  <yes... very much so. Just adjust for your specific fishes needs (like adding more bloodworms, Daphnia, glassworms, etc)> Is there a recipe for homemade food that would be healthy for both FW and SW fish?  <its not FW vs. SW, but rather herbivore, omnivore and planktivore (or piscivore for the predators <wink>)> For that matter, my fiancé© and I use a vitamin supplement for the FW and SW fish, do we need to buy one for the FW tank and one for the SW (i.e., is there really any difference between FW Zoe and SW Zoe)?  <little or none as I understand it> Also, is there anything special I can do to encourage pair-bonding in the Bolivians?  <yes... play Luther Vandross music by candle light> Thank you so much! <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

Cichlids and Aquarium Set-up Dear Bob, I actually have several questions. First, I want to set up a cichlid tank. (I have done this before, but I experienced a few complications.) I have a 55 gallon tank and, since I live near a beach, I went out and collected my own driftwood for the tank. Now, I know I have to first boil the driftwood before placing it in the tank.  <Maybe more than this... I see you are considering South American, maybe just Dwarf Cichlids below...> But I wanted to know how I could go about anchoring the driftwood into the bottom of the tank, since it floats.  <A few ways... the simplest is to secure it (the driftwood) to something heavy and dense enough (like slate, shale... )drilled through and fitted with a brass screw... A good idea to really soak the wood... Please see: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm> Second, I really am interested in maybe using South American Cichlids (especially the Rams) instead of the African cichlids I had used before. But I really haven't seen many around here. Any suggestions for finding them?  <Yes. Ask your local fish stores to special order them for you, and let them "harden" them by keeping them at the shop for a good week or two... Barring this, contact the etailers of such livestock (some are listed on the WetWebMedia.com Links Pages). Lastly, but not least importantly, do contact the American Cichlid Association (on the Net if you'd like) and their affiliate Clubs, possibly/hopefully in your region, and ask for their input, assistance> I also wanted to know if locating the tank by a heater would be a problem if the ambient temperature of my apartment is kept lower than the desired temperature of the tank. <Mmm, only way to really tell is to set up the system (w/o livestock) and experiment here. The temperature should not vacillate more than a couple of degrees Fahrenheit in a day/night. Bob Fenner> Mel

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