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FAQs on Neotropical Cichlids 1

Related Articles: Neotropical Cichlids, Central American Cichlids by Neale Monks, African Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in General

Related FAQs: Neotropical Cichlids 2, Neotropical Cichlids 3, Neotropical Cichlid Identification, Neotropical Cichlid Behavior, Neotropical Cichlid Compatibility, Neotropical Cichlid Selection, Neotropical Cichlid Systems, Neotropical Cichlid Feeding, Neotropical Cichlid Disease, Neotropical Cichlid Reproduction, Convicts, Oscars, Firemouths, Texas Cichlids, Severums, Triangle Cichlids, & Cichlids of the World, Cichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,

Amphilophus citrinellus, one of the Red Devil species.

Mixing cichlids Is it ok to put Parrot Cichlid and Red Devil Cichlid together? <Hello, sooner or later the red devil will kill the parrot. -gage>

Identification of Species <Cichlid> Hi, I have a 4 week old tank 150cmx48x48.  I put the attached species and a pair of Firemouths in the tank to run in the tank. I have 4 of the attached unknown species to me in the tank.  Two days ago I noticed a pair had turned black at the bottom and then I noticed that they were aggressively protecting a batch of fry!! 1.  Can you please identify the fish 2.  Refer me to a website that can provide me with information on keeping this species. <Mmm, this looks like Cichlasoma salvini (Please see note below: Herotilapia multispinosa). You can find numerous references to this species by inserting the name in your search engines. Congratulations! Bob Fenner> Kind Regards,   GRAHAM LIGHT   SOUTH AFRICA

Species ID Correction For what it's worth........ Noticed on your site at this address:        http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/neotropcicfaqs.htm that the fish in the photo had been identified as 'C' (Nandopsis) salvini. It is actually Herotilapia multispinosa. <Thank you for this. Will correct. Bob Fenner>

Filtration Howdy, <happy New Year> I found your site and read for a few hours yesterday learning a TON of information regarding my new 30 gallon freshwater tank.   <excellent! keep learning and sharing> The basic setup that I have is a 30 gallon Power Filter, 100 watt heater, thermometer, ammonia chart (which changes color in the presence of ammonia), 2 plastic plants, and one large plastic magma/lava rock formation.   <hmmm... no mention of a primary biological filter here? Just a power filter? Even if it takes foam block instead of pads (some biological that can be preserved by rinsing instead of replacing)... the lack of a stable bio-liter like a large canister or UG filter is dangerous if true here. Certainly will fail with large or messy fishes> I have (2) small 3 inch Tiger Oscars, and one 4 inch blue channel catfish.   <Oh, no! All three are huge as adults and grow quickly... this tank isn't big enough for even one of these fishes in the 12-18 month picture. Please trade these fishes in and get more appropriate sized specimens for a 30 gall (adult size 3-5").> When I first got my tank I had read differing ways of cycling the tank for the first time and the leading websites, not yours, recommended just starting the tank with 2 to 3 small, hardy fish. Let me start by what I did wrong: WAY overfed them, tried a bunch of different chemicals (store-bought) to deal with the ammonia problem.  This led to ICK which I am now treating with CURE-ICK. <do be careful here too...the Oscars are tough, but the catfish is scaleless and will overdose on most medications easily> Today I literally cleaned my whole tank with a light bleach solution and a 100% water change.  I know this will now need to start the new cycle again and is but a temporary solution but I wanted to get all of the scuz out of my tank and start fresh - and hopefully a little wiser. <and do buy a better filter ASAP. A large Fluval or Eheim would be quite helpful here. Much less stress for you and the fishes too... less work as well> The questions that I have are as follows: How often should my fish be fed on a normal basis?  Every day or every other?   <actually... 1-3 small feedings daily> This is what my LFS recommended because of my ammonia problem. <Your ammonia problem exists because they didn't advise you of a proper and stable biological filter> How MUCH should I feed my fish?  A friend claims the stomach is about the size of the eye. <hmmm... and old rule of thumb that isn't true but works reasonably well to guide beginners to not overfeed. Indeed... a tiny feeding 2-3 times daily is best> What other type of filtration would you recommend besides the Power filter that I have?  Please try to give me the best solution under $200. <absolutely, my friend. My advice (instead of a UG filter since cichlids dig in the gravel) is to get the biggest canister filter that you can afford that uses foam blocks (no HOT magnums here... go for Eheim or Fluval). Inside use all foam blocks or noodles for complete biological filtration)... and even slip a small course foam block on the intake in the tank to act as a bulk pre-filter (this will tremendously reduce the need to service the bio-foam in the unit. Carbon and chemical media can be kept in the power filter instead which is easier to service more frequently (but is lousy for bio-filtration)> Erm, anything else that you can help me with would awesome and thanks again! Awesome website!!! Jim Howrie <thank kindly, Anthony>

Breeding mismatched Convicts Hey, my female "pink" convict and her conventional mate had a successful school of cool looking half-breeds. Is this common? <Not uncommon. These are of the same species> These have a bright red/orange horizontal stripe down most of the body. The dorsal looks like it might not develop correctly. How do I continue the strain and can they inbreed normally? <Mmm, don't know if I'm understanding you here. Inbreeding (successive generations from filial young) and breeding back females to their paternal line are done in aquarium fishes to "fix" strains... with percentage problems in turn. Bob Fenner>                                  Thanks,                                        Chickensam

Bubblegum Parrot Fish. <taste nothing like bubble gum.> A couple of years ago I purchase 3 small (3-inch now) fish and was told they were called bubble gum parrot fish. They have the distinctive parrot fish shape with the "bump on the head" look. I can't seem to find any pictures or information on these little semi-aggressive individually colored purple, orange and pink fish. Can you direct me to a site where I can find information or was I given a bogus name when I bought them. Thanks, Staci <No bogus names, what you have is a parrot cichlid, possibly dyed to make them "cute, attractive, big sellers, etc".  Check out the link below, and treat them well, chances are they had a rough life before they met you.  Best Regards, Gage http://www.geocities.com/parrotcichlid/main.html>

Filtration for a 300 Cichlid Tank Thanks for the opportunity to ask..... and forgive the length of my query.... <No worries> I am acquiring a 300 gal. tank for use in raising some of my Central American Cichlids. The tank will be reef ready (unless I change the work order soon) as my first intention was to create a 75 gal. W/D for primary biological filtration (I had considered a fluidized bed for primary or supplementary use, but I don't think they are very dependable if the electricity goes out, etc. since I'd likely lose the whole colony). The two overflows (I may add a third; what is your opinion?) <More would be better> will initially drain into a micron filter bag then trickle over bioballs. Also in the sump would be areas for carbon, poly filter, etc. should I ever choose to utilize them (what is your opinion on continuous use? affect on trace elements? HLLE?). <No problems on continuous use> Given the size of my fish (many over a foot in length), I have seen the need in the past to utilize additional mechanical filtration in such setups. I have considered having additional holes drilled in the tank so that I can pipe in some form of added mech. filtration from under the tank (some sort of inline setup like an Ocean Clear or Rainbow-Lifegard). <Look instead to larger surface area "spa, swimming pool" canister filters here. Aquanetics, pool/spa supply places offer these... and at least one extra set of filter cartridges... clog quickly, need to sterilize, let air-dry in-between use...> Pipes would reach from the floor of the tank to varying heights (capped with prefilter sponges) to better strain debris from the middle and lower layers of the tank. Return pipes would also be plumbed in to create currents to stir the debris off the floor so that it can be captured by the overflows or the mech. filters (sort of a closed loop deal). Alternatively, I would simply hang several Emperor filters from the back, varying the heights of the intake tubes, and go it that way. <Too inefficient for such a system...> I guess my real concern is the danger from leaking, etc. from the plumbing from under the tank. Should I be concerned? <Yes. Enough to thoroughly investigate, do a good job designing, installing... making provision should there be a leak> Do you have any suggestions for additional mechanical filtration or water movement? <A fractional horsepower (small) spa pump... and the matching mechanical filtration for it as mentioned above... plus perhaps fluidized bed biofiltration (on the discharge side of the mech.), plus thought to surface skimming, water change valving...> Please know that I haven't finalized my decision on any of these issues. From reading your site, it's clear that wet/dries may not be the way to go for a marine tank since live rock/sand is so beneficial, but there is no such option available to a fresh water tank... right? <There are many> Also, a skimmer would not perform very well in fresh water from what I've heard. Do you believe one would be worthwhile? <No, not here.> I guess my basic question would be... what do you suggest as the best option(s)? I suspect I'll be changing water often to deal with Nitrates (I'd planned on splitting one of the return pipes to allow water to be drained faster). Many of my fish are wild caught, and I want to provide the best possible water quality. Would you favor what I've described? <No. Too puny for this size, type of set-up. You need very good water flow (maybe ten times volume) and the rest of the gear to be able to accommodate this flow> Would you choose an all inline system (mech., chemical, micron, <Not too small here... for instance, diatom filter sleeves will clog almost daily...> heater, fluidized bed, etc. modules from Rainbow -Lifegard)? <I don't favor most all their gear... there are better choices in similar lines elsewhere> What would a public aquarium utilize? <Ahh, good questions. Likely fluidized bed, a sump (overflow) with a mechanical (filter bag like Emperor's) on the discharge (in-sump) end (to change daily), an in-line heater (look at Aquanetics "fire-plugs" here), maybe a UV sterilizer (if they were bringing in, switching out much imported/wild livestock...> I guess, like everyone else, I am looking for the lowest maintenance, most effective system. <Agree> Thanks again for your help and patience! Chris <And you for your participation. Keep looking here, and write back if/when you're more sure of what you plan. Bob Fenner>

South American Cichlid Tank I am setting up an 80 gallon tank in my office, and would like to have two Oscars and two Severums (severi?) in it, starting with babies and raising them together.  I realize when they get to be full sized adults that someone will probably have to move, either the sevs or the Oscars, but I think this is not too much biomass for the first two or three years. <They may out grow it faster than that.> I also plan to have a catfish along the lines of a pictus or something that doesn't get a whole lot bigger, and a pleco. This tank will have a lot of rock for hiding places.  It is a ViaAqua tank by TAAM (very beautiful, all glass but instead of right-angle joints with silicone the corners are curved glass, like acrylic but made of glass) which has a (supposed) 450 gph spray bar filter in the hood.  I will also be running a Fluval 404 canister, with Purigen to take care of the Nitrate after the tank gets cycled, which runs at 220 gph with media.  I will also have an air pump and 18" bubble wall for the visual effect and more water movement, and will then hope that they don't rearrange it immediately.  I will clean the gravel once/month with a Vortex Diatom Filter. <I'm not familiar with the Vortex Diatom Filter, but a siphon powered gravel vac should do the trick.> With this approach, I feel confident I can keep ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates at zero.  If I run into trouble, I would hook up a fluidized bed filter, though I don't think that will be necessary. <I would go for a wet/dry filter over the fluidized bed.> My questions are: 1.Do you think Sevs and Oscars can get along?  I'm hoping that brining them up together from childhood will help.  Most of the sites talk about Firemouths and JDs with Oscars, not about Severums. <My Severum and Oscar get along, but there are no guarantees with these fish, I would definitely avoid live feeder fish.> 2.If I can keep the nitrogen compounds under control and the fish get along, is there some other reason I should be nervous about eventually having this set up?   <The Oscars will eventually out grow this tank.> 3.Do you think that potted plants are worth a try?  Or will I just end up picking bits of leaves out of the filter intake? <I would avoid the plants.  My Oscar swims around with a piece of driftwood twice his size in his mouth, a plant would not stand a chance.> I was kind of hoping that starting as juveniles would help them get used to this in their tank. <I would definitely start with juveniles, it will give you more time before they out grow the tank.> Your site rocks. <No my friend, You Rock.> Thanks, Daniel Heller <Best Regards, Gage>

Hello I have a bully, (Neotropical Cichlid) I have recently bought two golden Severums one of which bullies the other. However no damage is caused to the bullied fish, but it is in fear. I have isolated the bully fish I was wondering if you knew of a way of getting the  bully out of it. Also there has been damage to a few of my other fish which seems to happen during the night. I have two catfish which come out at night, doradids, I was wondering whether these or the golden Severums were to blame for it. Thanks a lot <If there was no damage before, and you recently added the Severums, I would guess it was the Severums, or the tank is getting too crowded and some one is getting upset.  What size tank are we dealing with, and what are the other inhabitants?  Bullying in a new tank is not uncommon among cichlids, they need to establish territory and dominance. -Gage>

Jack Dempsey fry Hi Jack...I am proud to tell you that we have JD babies. I took the fry out of the main tank a few days ago.  They look like little tadpoles and are free swimming.  I think I have about 10-12.  I'm feeding them liquid fry food now.  Any further information you could give me on feeding the fry would be greatly appreciated. <After a week more, do start graduating to ground up (between your fingers) dried, prepared foods (flakes, pellets), as often per day in small quantities as you can. If you'd like to accelerate growth you might look into culturing brine shrimp> As this is the 5th batch of babies that we have had, and the parents always end up eating them.  So this time we took the fry out as soon as they were free swimming. How long can I continue to use the liquid fry food, and what should I advance to? <Start phasing out the Liquifry in a week while phasing in the other foods. Bob Fenner> Thanks in advance for your help...Shirley Schiavone...

Baby Jack Dempseys Hello, I sent an e-mail a couple of weeks ago about my Jack Dempsey's becoming proud parents of about 300+ babies. Everything is going OK, and they are growing quickly...but I do not know WHAT TO FEED THEM?????? Please HELP Thanks, BRETT>>>>>> <no worries Brett. Dempsey parents are usually quite good. Babies graze on their mucus when small and then later are fed food crushed and spit out by parents. Still ... all will not be enough for optimum success in home aquaria. Fresh hatched baby brine would be nice when they are 2-6 weeks old. This can supplement small amounts of crushed flak or pelleted foods. When they are around 6 weeks old... a tiny nutritious pelleted food like Vibra-fro is highly recommended. Do not feed frozen brine shrimp at all. Only fresh live if you hatch it (nutritive value). Best regards, Anthony>

Blue Dempsey tank mate I purchased a beautiful Blue Dempsey recently, (3 inches long) and he is all alone in my 30 gallon tank.  He was very expensive and I really want to do right by him (yes, I think he's a male).  But, (this may sound ridiculous), I think he is incredibly bored.  I think he could use another fish to keep him busy/active.  I've been reading that the blue version of Jack Dempsey cichlids are actually quite peaceful, unlike the regular ones.  Do you have any suggestions?  I am unable to move up in tank size at the moment so this may be a factor, and I certainly don't want either fish beat up.  I've been thinking of a Parrot Cichlid (not those horrible hybrids), a Keyhole Cichlid, or a Firemouth.   Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks for your time! <Hello, as far as I know the Blue Dempsey is the same as the Jack with a Sassy new look, so I doubt their attitudes are much different.  Alone he will eventually outgrow your tank, but should be fine if no other Cichlids are added.  Maybe a whiskered cat, Plecostomus, and some silver dollars.  Best Regards, Gage>

Convicted Parents I have 4 pink convicts. A pair just had babies. They are hiding in a seashell. My question is, will the parents or 2 other convicts eat the babies? <Likely not, Convicts are extremely protective parents.> We have left all four convicts in the tank and the mother and father are very protective. Though, I can't tell if they are eating them or not? Should we separate the babies from everyone else? <I would leave them until about 3/4" long. At that time, you should remove for fear of overcrowding.> Like put them in a plastic separator in the same tank with the others? Someone told us that the mother will eat them, and they (the babies_ need the mother around to survive!? Confused & Concerned in Lake Elsinore, Michael & Tammy Fish <Do not fear. Your parent fish will usually feed and take care of the young. -Steven Pro>

Jack Dempsey Fry I have a pair of Jack Dempseys. The female laid eggs inside of an plastic ornamental rock. She fanned them for two days, and now we can see the group of eggs inside the rock squirming around. Not sure what to do next??? My tank info. is such: a 45 gal. with gravel, good filtration, etc. I do also have two smaller Fire mouths in the tank as well. I'm afraid the male Jack, or the Fire mouths will try to eat the eggs, or hatchlings. Should I separate any of them, or all of? How many offspring approx. should I expect? And what are their chances for survival? I thank you for your help. Sorry so many questions at once....Thanks,..........Bub. <Jacks are pretty good parents, the male should not harm the eggs, however he will try to harm the Fire mouths, I would consider a separate tank for the Fire mouths.  The female can lay up to 800 eggs, not all of these will hatch, but you should have plenty of offspring to keep you busy. -Gage>

Black stuff on blood parrot fish (another rant on poor mutated fishes) I have a blood parrot fish whom we just acquired about a week or so ago.  <my friend... alas you got stuck with me answering your query :) I must interject with the hope of discouraging you and others not to keep such abhorrent fish mutations as Blood Parrot fish and Flowerhorns. It is a tragic and shameful disrespect of life what these breeders do to these fishes: they genetically engineer these mutations that are barely compatible (genetically). The overwhelming majority of the fry that hatch are so severely mutated that they cannot breathe or eat (massive gill and mouth/facial deformities... and tail-less in the case of the flower horn cichlids) to even survive days let alone weeks. The very few that do survive often struggle to do so and are rather prone to infections and disease. To add further insult to injury, many of these fishes are artificially dyed (infected with needles, stained and painted). The entire process is just horrifying with hundreds dying for ever one that lives to see 6 months old. I trust that you honestly did not know this history behind the fish and thank you for giving me the opportunity to bring the subject up again on our FAQ post> He was completely orange when we got him but he now has black stuff on parts of his body and fins and now seems to be going into his eyes. I have read that this could be black spot which is fairly common in these fish from what I have read.  <there are some variable pigmentation issues indeed> We have had an ongoing ammonia prob that we are diligently working to correct but in the meantime is there a product to get rid of this infection. The fish by the way acts perfectly fine and is eating very well. I have heard that Maracide could possibly work but the bottle does not specifically say so and it is pretty harsh on fish. Thanks. <I really cannot say where to begin... some of these fishes are so disease prone its like putting a band aid on a dam about to burst. My advice would be to not medicate unless the symptom can be categorically assigned to a recognizable treatment and disease. Best regards, Anthony>

Re: Black stuff on blood parrot fish Hello, and you are correct, we did not know about these fish until after we purchased "him".  <indeed... most people are fooled> Ours seems to be doing well eating wise and acting wise except for the black stuff. I think I finally have our tank getting back on track and the black stuff looks as though it is fading a bit.  <very good to hear! The pigmentation could simply been part of a "night pattern" (stress and fright induced in many fishes> It is indeed horrible about the way these fish came about. Is there no regulation on this sort of thing?  <nope!> How can people just purposely create new species w/o thinking of the consequences?!  <the lure of profits by creating an new and unusual creature... the fish you have is an artificially engineered hybrid of two entirely different genera! Like a monkey-human cross breed...yikes!> At any rate, since we have him, we want to give him the best possible home and life we can.  <agreed> Thanks for your input though. By the way, do you recommend any type of generalized,  high quality, fish food that does not have a tendency to be so darn messy like pellets but better than just flakes? Thanks, again. <sure... while the fish is small and medium, Aquadyne makes a high quality extruded flake and pellet (like cornflakes). Better because it is not baked at over 400F like most foods (vitamin deficient for it). Tetra Color bits are also good quality color enhancing bits if the fish is smaller. Else, in general and as the fish grows larger, Hikari brand cichlid pellets are excellent. They have many fine varieties for many purposes. Anthony>

Re: Ich? I had a problem with my heater in my small 29 gal tank. The water dropped from 82-84o to 70o. It has a Severum and some angel fish. <Both will need a larger tank.  Severums may also get too aggressive for the angels.> I noticed my Severum scratching on things and making sores on himself.  I did a 50% water change and he seemed better the very next day and the angels were more lively.  A few days later I noticed some small white spots on the fins of my angels.  The Severum shows no signs and his wounds are healing.  I have been treating for two day for ich.  I understand from what I have read that it could take up to two weeks or more of treating.  I am still not positive that ich is what I am dealing with.  ADVICE PLEASE!!! Carrie <Sure sounds like Ich.  Ich can be brought on by sudden temperature swings.  I would continue to medicate, following the instructions on the bottle, and check out the link below for more information on Ich.  Best of luck, Gage http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/fishdisho.htm http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fw3setsdisfaqs.htm

Cichlids To all great and knowledgeable aquarist of Oz, I have a few questions. I need a brain a heart... <<Craig here, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain....I am the Great and Powerful....Oh dear...>> Anyways I have a forty gallon planted aquarium with two keyhole cichlids, a green Severum, a Curviceps, and a Festivum. There really is no fighting in the tank between species and they are all still quiet immature, but growing very fast. I love the Severum and the keyholes, is there anything in particular that would be compatible with them and not destroy my plants? Would another Severum cause pandemonium in the tank? Is my tank large enough to house these fish full grown? <<This is my concern. Cichlids tend to be messy compared to some other families requiring more volume, space, better filtration, etc. Proceed with caution. Check out: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/cichlids.htm>> I am unable to find much information on these guys and we all know that pet stores would have you stock a tank overflowing with fish. I would be willing to sacrifice the Curviceps and the Festivum for something different, or if I am at my limit I could let them go. Now to my twenty gallon reef tank, I am having a lot of green algae growing on the glass. About two weeks ago I bought another power compact light, so I know have two with a combined wattage of 88 watts. I know that my protein skimmer is not sufficient, it is a lee's counter current. I had my nitrates and phosphates tested at the LFS, and the nitrates are not to be a worry I forgot to ask him precisely what the levels were) and my phosphates read zero. I do not have a low range nitrate test kit, but a common nitrate kit. I change ten to twenty percent of the water weekly, but the algae is growing so fast that I have to wipe the glass daily. The algae is not growing on any of the live stock, and they seem just fine. Is my protein skimmer just not doing the job or is it just going to eventually catch up and eliminate the majority of the algae. After a week with the new light I replaced the old air stone in the skimmer and that has greatly improved the amount of skimmate. If I bought a CPR back pack would that keep up with this small tank, or are there better ones? Thanks a million Dave <<Well there is nutrient driving your algae growth. The Lee skimmers are not all that efficient and being a small in-tank model they draw water from below the nutrient rich surface. The CPR with the skimmer box or an Aqua-C remora would surely help. I would also advise getting some good quality test kits to monitor ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, calcium, alkalinity, etc. What type of top off water are you using? This could be introducing nutrient on a constant basis. I recommend RO/DI to eliminate this problem.>> <<Hope this helps, Craig>>

Ghost or Glass Catfish and midget clown loach I had a Ghost Catfish and it died this morning it was perfectly fine except some of its tail was bit of by my firemouth cichlid.... <Oh oh... these two fishes are not compatible... the Firemouth (and most cichlids) are way too mean to house with an easygoing species like Ghost Glass Cats> The water conditions are fine and I didn't see any visual problems with the fish. just wondering what could have happened. It wasn't to old either it was only like 2 inches long.  <I suspect that the initial trauma and "dark of the night" was too much for your catfish... Look for more "armored" species of catfishes, like the Suckermouth Catfishes. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/loricariids.htm> Also I have a baby clown loach ( doing fine) but when I got him hw was only like an inch long and he really hasn't grown much at all probably have had him for 4 months now.  <Mmm, loaches are slow growers, but they also need plenty of "high quality" food... Are you making sure yours is getting enough protein in its diet? You might want to look into sinking pellets of sorts here> I had to treat him for ich right when I got him could the medication have effected his growth (used a malachite green based medication. <You're right. Good input, observation. It definitely could have done so.> Thanks for your help bye <Keep studying. Bob Fenner>

Jack Dempseys Hello all at WWM, I have been raising 5 jack Dempseys in a 20 gallon long and am happy to have found a couple that will now be transported to the 125 show tank. These two will be the only fish in my tank though I also wanted a group of small fish to liven the tank up a bit, seeing as how it has nothing but gravel and drift wood. Would you happen to know any small fish, though fast enough to ditch the Dempseys? <Silver dollars would be ok.> I really don't want to experiment and buy any grouper only to have it doomed to the gullet of my Dempseys. Thanks for your help <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Jack Dempsey that won't eat <<Greetings, JasonC here...>> I've got a 5.5" Jack Dempsey Cichlid that I've had for nearly four years that won't eat and exhibits a disturbing reaction when offered food. He will go up to the food, look like he's going to bite it, and then back up and shake his head. He also scratches himself on the gravel sometimes. He's never been anything but a voracious eater in the past and has been growing like crazy since I moved him into a decent sized tank (he grew an entire inch in last month). His colors are brilliant and he looks perfectly healthy, though is very shy (used to eat from my hand, now hides behind rocks). <<How long has it been in this new tank... could just be making the adjustment, or perhaps doesn't have sufficient places to hide.>> I've tried everything I could think of: flakes, pellets, chicken, beef, tuna, bloodworms, live fish. The only thing he's shown any interest in was a baby puffer fish that was in a temporary tank with him for a few hours, and luckily my girlfriend pointed out that puffers are poisonous. <<Lucky is right.>> He shares the tank with a baby Managuense Cichlid that is behaving normally, though they both have decided to move most of the gravel to one side of the tank. <<Any chance of separating these two? Just on the odd chance that the Dempsey doesn't want to share, or perhaps feels a threat from the smaller fish.>> I've been cycling the water very frequently (every four or five days) in case water quality has been lacking. I've also examined him for external signs of disease and even peer down his throat, nothing looks awry. <<Do check your water chemistry... make sure the pH isn't off. You just want to make sure you aren't introducing the problems in your source water.>> It's been about three weeks since he's eaten and I'm pretty stumped, any ideas would be much appreciated. <<You might also try some live bait food, like night crawlers, ghost shrimp, or perhaps even a crayfish. Something to attract interest.>> If there's any information I left out I'll eagerly supply it. Thanks, Nathan French <<Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Jack Dempsey that won't eat Wow, thanks for the speedy response. <<You are quite welcome.>> Answers to your questions: 1. He's been in the tank for about five months. It used to have a small firemouth, juvenile green terror, and jewel cichlid (the first two are currently recuperating elsewhere, the jewel committed suicide but that's another story) but now it's just him and the Managuense. I will try adding some more things to hide behind, I removed a large lava rock when he started getting shy in hopes he'd stop being a "rockfish." 2. I don't believe he's threatened by the Managuense, it's half his size and he routinely bullies it. If they weren't separate species you'd think they are a mated pair, they stay together and attack other fish together. The Managuense has never once attacked him so I'm not worried about it. 3. I haven't tested the water quality and I probably should. <<I agree.>> I've never worried about it in the past because I keep mostly cichlids and they tend to do well in the local water supply (medium-hard, fairly neutral). <<Ever test for chlorine/amine? Do you let your water sit for a couple of days before adding?>> I've been picking up some non-cichlids lately though so it may be time to get a little more serious about water quality. Also you didn't touch on the gravel-scratching behaviour. <<No, I didn't... you mentioned in your previous email that you had checked it over and all seemed well.>> He seems irritated, which is why I suspected parasites early on but just haven't found any. <<Well, you could still treat as if there are parasites.>> I've been thinking of giving him a salt bath, is there any risk to this? <<You mean like the opposite of a freshwater bath for a saltwater fish? I'm not familiar with the procedure for freshwater fish. It would 'seem' like it might work, but I'm not at all sure what the affect would be on your fish. I'll do some more checking around... in the meanwhile, keep up the observation and perhaps consider quarantine and treatment with other treatments if a parasite shows itself.>> Thanks, Nathan French PS: It turns out the (dwarf) freshwater puffers I have aren't poisonous, but still they're too cute to become feeder sacrifices. <<Good enough. Cheers, J -- >>

Pleco feeding Hi, Thanks for your help. I took your advice and got two pleco's to go in my tank with my Oscars and Severums. Everyone is still quite small ( Oscars are already bigger than the rest ). I never see the pleco's eating ( one is Gibbiceps Pleco and the other is a Gold Nugget ), so at night night I place some algae wafers and cucumber slices in the tank. <Good idea. Do you have a bit of sunken "driftwood" in the tank? A very useful adjunct to these Suckermouth South American Catfishes nutrition.> I noticed the Oscars and Severums like these foods as well and my question is : Am I over feeding the Oscars and Severums by leaving large pieces vegetables in tank overnight ? <No worries... these materials won't cause them trouble (unless there's so much in the system that it rots)> I know about the 5 minute rule...but Am worried about the pleco's not having a chance to eat if I don't leave the food in overnight. The tank is a newly cycled tank and is very clean. Thanks, Adam <Do keep an eye on ammonia for a few weeks more... and start in with regular (weekly, biweekly...) gravel vacuum, water changing, etc. Bob Fenner>

Bala Shark & Oscars <<Greetings, JasonC here...>> First of all I really enjoy your web site, over the past 3 years I have started 3 tanks and your website has given me the most helpful information. <<Glad we can be of service.>> I have a Bala Shark in a 42 gallon tall tank with an angelfish, in my second 73 gallon tank I have 3 Oscars and 2 Parrot fish, The Bala shark is around 5 inches, Could I move the Bala shark into the tanks with the Oscars? <<You could... but would you want to? Oscars really do their part to tax a filtration system, and by adding anything to that tank you're going to add to the bioload.>> The Oscars are around the same length as the Bala shark and the Parrot fish are smaller. <<It would likely work for a while.>> My second question involves my saltwater tank that has the ecosystem, Caulerpa a UV sterilizes, some bioballs and TriBased carbon, my Koran angel has started to develop a slight case of lateral line on one side. I have just started to add vitamins to the their food and fish solution from ecosystems. Has my UV sterilizer killed some needed bacteria? <<Hard to say except that it is defiantly not part of the Ecosystem Aquarium as designed by Leng Sy which in my book is a "designed" system - anything else added to, or altered from the original designs will change the results. I would stick with the "system". Only way to know is to take it out of line. HLLE on the other hand is almost entirely nutrition-related. Your best option here is to make sure the angel gets a good mix of foods including something containing marine sponge [like, but not exclusively, Angel Formula] as that is what these eat most often in the wild. Success against HLLE is less likely to come from a bottle than from a well-balanced, natural diet - no terrestrial vegetables.>> Is my carbon removing some necessary trace mineral? <<I doubt that but you should also not leave the carbon in for extended periods of time - so it doesn't become a detritus trap, and the aforementioned reasons.>> Any thoughts would be appreciated Martin Rischall <<You got 'em. Cheers, J -- >>

Cichlids <<Greetings, fellow enthusiast...>> As a new aquarium enthusiast, I began about 2 months ago with a 10 gallon setup and within it, 2 Oscars (tiger and albino), 1 small green puffer, 2 Bala sharks, 3 emerald barbs and one 6 inch Pleco. Shortly there after I realized my over population mistake and began saving up for a larger tank. <<Enough said, then.>> As I saved my money, the fish in the tank started disappearing. Strangely, there was no trace of them, no bodies or parts, they had simply vanished. I was perplexed to say the least. One day while sitting down to an evening meal, I watched my Albino Oscar, chase, attack, and swallow my last Bala shark which brought me to a whole new level of enlightenment. <<Ahh... those Oscars...>> That said, I have learned a lot about Oscars in the time between then and now. I have since purchased a 30 gallon tank and recently moved my Oscars into it. <<Erk, did you miss the part that said these can grow largest than your shoe? For certain this 30g tank won't last much longer than the 10g did. Oscars and Plecos both can get quite large, and I mean LARGE.>> (the only other survivor was the Pleco who is also in the larger tank.) My wife thought that a few more fish would be nice so I have recently acquire a small Jaguar Cichlid and another (much larger) Green Puffer. <<Too much for a tank of this size... Oscars being what they are, your biggest challenge will be keeping the water clean.>> With the exception of some excessive fin nipping by the Puffer, they seem to do well, at least until this morning. My Oscars adjusted quickly to the new tank as did the Puffer. The Jaguar did not, for the first three days he hid in the live plants under a thick and comforting blanket of foliage. Not an abnormal re-action I thought considering the change of environment so I left him alone and just kept an eye on him. My smaller Oscar proceeded to chase him constantly during this time but inflicted no damage. Day three rolled about and the Jag had apparently become more comfortable, he no longer hides unless spooked by fast movement and the table have appeared to turn. Upon my inspection of the tank this morning, my smaller Oscar was hiding in the foliage, since he had never done this before I thought it a little strange. As I watched my tank and drank my morning coffee, I realized why. The Jaguar who was half his size was chasing him, and making the occasional brutal hit. So far I have seen no physical damage to the Oscar and perhaps it is just payback for the hazing he issued the Jag upon arrival, but some of the hits were definitely meant with intent to harm or kill. <<Sure... this is most likely competition for space from a fairly aggressive fish.>> I have watched my Oscars for some time now and know their habits and know that they will chase and sometimes nudge each other forcefully. But I have never seen attacks like these even while they were feeding.  Are these fish, when closely sized, good tank mates? <<Perhaps in a larger tank, where each can have it's own personal space/territory, but the Jaguar Cichlid is a known aggressive fish, chances are good that it would continue attempts to establish dominance over its tankmates.>> I already have a larger tank on the way but I am debating if they should be kept together. All of these fish are on the semi-aggressive to aggressive list so I figured they would be decent matches. <<The Jaguar is probably better housed with something that would be more willing to fight back, like a Fire mouth.>> The new tank will be 100 gallons. <<Ahh good, much better size, but still... probably not enough in the long run. Did I mention these fish get really large?>> Also, where can I find good info on Jaguars Cichlids? I search google and turned up virtually nil. <<The Latin for this fish is Parachromis managuensis, you might try your luck at http://www.fishbase.org or even on Google - I just gave it a shot and came up with quite a bit.>> regards, James Williams MCSE, A+, Network+, CCNP Jacksonville, Fl <<Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Cichlids I was aware that the 30 gallon tank was a short term fix at best, I needed to buy myself some time however. <<Fair enough.>> After Stopping at my LFS and seeing a full grown Jaguar cichlid I have decided you are correct about 100 gallons being borderline for the Oscars, Jaguar, Pleco and Puffer. That said I have ordered my new 225 gallon tank. <<Ahh, much better...>> next question of mine would be, would it be safe to breed both species in the same tank. <<Egads, no. The offspring would be in serious jeopardy.>> I would assume this is adequate size for each Cichlid to have its own territory. <<It is great for the individuals, but once they start breeding, that all changes. Best to have separate tanks if the breeding is the direction you want to go.>> Here's a breakdown of my tank inhabitants in case you need it again.  1 Tiger Oscar - currently 3.5 inches 1 Albino Oscar - currently 4.5 inches 1 Jaguar cichlid - currently 3 inches 1 Pleco - 5.5 inches 1 Green Puffer - 2.5" <<Cheers, J -- >>

Popeye Mr. Fenner: would like your advice on the best way to medicate my 7" Green Severum for Popeye. Came home last night and both of his eyes were popped. He is in a 135gal cichlid tank. Any advice would be helpful. Thanks in advance. <Both eyes? This fast? I would check your water quality and do a massive water change (if your tapwater is okay to do so)... maybe fifty percent... Any other fishes affected? If not, the Severum may have just been brutalized... I would (in addition to the water change) move this specimen to a separate system (no light) of low eighties F., semi-soft, acidic water (upper 6.'s) and wait on any specific medication at this point. Please inform me of your and its progress. Bob Fenner> Shirley

Re: Popeye (involvement, Central American Cichlid) thanks........water quality is as noted: Po4 - 2.5, No3-5, NH3 - 0.1, PH - 7.6, NO2 - 0.1, <Mmm, well, the phosphate's a bit high... I try to keep such systems below 1.0 ppm... and no detectable ammonia or nitrite is strongly advised (do you have sufficient, dependable biological filtration?)... and I would start a slow, steady campaign (if this is to the liking of your other livestock) to lower the pH to near neutral (7 or so)... and use make-up water that has been adjusted to this for water changes...> tank has been set up for about 1.5 years now. No other fish seem to even bother with this fish. I did remove and place in another tank. No other fish are affected. Did about a 33% H20 change. Both eyes are even more protruding today......started medicating the hospital tank with Maracyn-Two by Mardel Labs. What do you think??? <A good choice. What do you feed your fishes? There is some possibility that the condition (bilateral exophthalmia) is nutritional-deficiency related. Bob Fenner> Shirley

More on the love of bizarre cichlids Bob Was surfing thru some Cichlasoma sites and came across a picture of Vieja argentea. Was really impressed by it. Is it popular in the states. I did not get much info about it from the net. Maybe I can import some of it into Singapore and call it Platinum FH or something. Give me your mailing address and I will send u a poster of some of the different Flowerhorn breeds available in the east. <Thanks Perry. Bob Fenner, 8586 Menkar Rd. San Diego, CA 92126> Perry

Jewel Cichlid Babies Hi how is everyone? <<I'm doing well, and you?>> Just a quick question today. I had a pair of Jewel Cichlids. I recently gave them to my sister-in-law because my red tail catfish is growing by leaps and bounds (still working on that huge indoor pond for him) and I was afraid they were going to become lunch. Well, within a week of giving them to her, they spawned and she now has several hundred babies in her 75 gal. They're great parents, herding and defending the babies. The problem is the other fish in the tank. She's got a bunch of assorted African cichlids, a jack Dempsey, and a purple parrot fish. What do you think the jewel's chances are of raising at least a few of the babies in there? <<Not great...>> A pair of jewels I had years ago raised a few batches of babies in a 55gal with a red devil an Oscar and a tilapia. <<Well... maybe. Odds still aren't really in favor of the fry.>> But these Africans she has have quite a different personality. They're like little pit bulls. She doesn't have the funds or the room for another tank and I don't have another freshwater tank to separate the other fish to. <<C'est la vie, I suppose.>> (they'd be lunch for the Red Tail just as surely as the jewels I originally gave her would have been). If you don't think the jewels have a chance of raising the babies in there, I'll figure something out for her, but it's going to be a pain. <<Good luck.>> Thanks once again for your wisdom in all things fishy. Have a great day. Kristen:) <<You too. Cheers, J -- >>

Filter system for 125 gallon fresh water tank Sir, I recently got a 125 gallon tank that is a real move up from the 35 gallons I am used to. I realize that my filtration needs will be different, but am unsure what I should be doing. I plan to have 2-3 good sized Oscars in the tank with no plans at present to try live plants. Any suggestions? Peter Hughes <If you can afford it, I would strongly urge you to consider a trickle filter. It is the best possible filtration for your intended fish and it makes maintenance very easy. -Steven Pro>

Hybridized, modified Cichlids Hi Bob <Hey Perry> Yes it is weird. I think Flowerhorn enthusiasts in Asia keep wanting to see something new. Here is a link to a really brilliant red FH http://arofanatics.com/members/buggy/mycollectionofluohans/ It kind of reminds me of what we have done to the Discus. <Good comparison. At least Symphysodon have all their fins (at this point). Bob Fenner> Perry

Weird Cichlid Wins Kewpie Prize, News at 11:00 Hi Bob There was a Flowerhorn show in Singapore last week. Remember the picture of the Flowerhorn that suffered from a genetic defect and did not have a fully developed caudal fin? Well, somehow it made its way to the final round and won a consolation prize!! <Bizarre... maybe if I cut my legs off I'll get the babes? Bob F> Perry

News on aquarium trade in the east. Better Cichlid Crosses than Parrots! Hi Bob <Hey Perry> Here is a link to an article in a local paper http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/life/story/0,1870,122497,00.html? Its about the latest craze in town - Flowerhorns. Are they well received in the States? I was told there are already some shops in the LA area that are selling them. I am also aware that there are some quarters who call these hybrids monsters. At US$1000 for some beautifully colored ones very few people can resist the temptation to breed them. <Amazing. Did see a bunch of these last year at Aquarama when we were visiting with you in Singapore. And did solicit about for what this cichlid cross actually was/is: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/neotropcichlids.htm Be seeing, hopefully diving, photographing underwater with you soon. Bob Fenner> Regards Perry

The most unethical and most disgusting LH breed (Neotropical Cichlid Genetic drift) Hi Bob U really need to take a look at this fish. What do u think happened? <This is not an uncommon genetic defect... but bizarre that people might exploit same for commercial gain. Bob Fenner> Perry > Reply-to: flowerhorn@yahoogroups.com  http://hualorhan.tripod.com/ > I urge, even if you like LH/FH, this breed is to be avoided. > This fish is very pitiful, cannot even swim properly. > These are the kind of breeders I personally feel should be prosecuted for being so cruel. > This fish is so hideous that it is not funny anymore. > It is worst than other LH which look more like real fishes. > It's like having children without legs.

Color changes, spawning Cichlids Hi Bob (or Anthony) Thanks again for the help getting my 75 running a while ago, going great! So far 2 groups of fry! <Congrats!> I was reading a post on one of the message boards and figured that out of everyone I know of you would be the folks that might have the answer. Here is the question: "From everything I've read (a sh*t load) there is nothing that says how cichlids colour up when they begin to reach sexual maturity. All I can find is expect it from around 2" in size or 6 months in age. <There is actually a bunch known, written about this field/aspect... not easily found...in hobby and scientific literature. You might want to make a trip to a large college library, have a reference librarian give you assistance.> Therefore do they colour up very quickly (minutes/hours/day) or over a gradual period of time, such as fins darkening then the rest of the fish? <Both... some shorter term by nervous effects... others more long-term physiological (nutrition, water quality, social inputs...)> Is the process different for different species?" <Yes! Mmm, you are a promising candidate for the many large (even international) to local Cichlid "clubs"... do take a look over the Net with your search engine/s.> Got any answers? I hope. Thanks, Pete <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Jack Dempseys Dear Mr. Fenner: <Anthony Calfo in your service> I have 2 adult JD's that have paired up. They spawned once but the fry were eaten. Last week they laid eggs again, but gradually the eggs disappeared. Now the bigger JD (I think this is the male) is chasing the smaller JD (the female), she is hiding and appears to be stressed by this chasing.  <he still wants to spawn and she doesn't... he wants more fresh eggs for breakfast <G>> She is also very light in color now.  <yes... a passive coloration> The female has not been back to the corner of the tank that the eggs where in, since all the eggs disappeared. This did not happen last time when they spawned, what do you think is happening? Should I remove her to a different tank.....or remove him? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Shirley <remove the male, let the female re-establish her dominance in the tank and try to re-introduce the later after she has been well fed and conditioned again. Anthony>

Caring for Convicts I have adopted 8 African Cichlid's known as Convicts. <Mmm, actually, these are likely Central Americans: Archocentrus nigrofasciatus. You can see pix, info. under this name on fishbase.org> They were left without care and little food for an extended period of time and have lost a lot of their color. New to the hobby, I am not sure what they really need. I have a 30 gallon tank that I change 25% of the water every two weeks, I feed them flake and pellet twice daily.  <All fine, but the size of the system. This is too small for these fish at the size they are/will become> I have never checked the pH or the ammonia level (I think your supposed to) and so far there have been no casualties or ill fish.  <Not necessary to check, but that these values, overall water quality just be tolerable...> I feel that some higher power must really be watching over these fish because there has to be more to it than this.  <Do you consider yourself "higher"?> I want to provide the best care I can. I really enjoy them. Please advise. I would be most appreciative. Sincerely, Doris <Please do read through the scant present freshwater coverage posted on this part of our site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWtopicsHP.htm on set-up, maintenance, cichlids... and do write back if you have questions, concerns, suggestions. Bob Fenner>

Re: Caring for Convicts Thank you very much for the information. And, I do not consider myself (higher), I was implying that God must be watching over them, but since everyone does not have the same belief system I chose to use the words (higher power). Again, thanks for your time and the quick response. <I see. Thank you for your kind caring for this precious life. Bob Fenner>

Incompatibility (cichlids) Thanks for the advice..  <welcome as always. Anthony> Yeah, I've always just asked the guys at the pet store, will this be too much for my tank?? The place I bought the cichlid from the guy didn't know much about them so I probably should have waited. <agreed> I did get the tiger barb two tiny playmates and am hoping to talk my husband into a bigger aquarium soon. He's being kinda hard headed about it right now. I priced some 40 gal.. Do you think that will be big enough?  <even a 40 gallon wouldn't keep the Severums and Pimelodids together. I have owned Pimelodid catfish that ate 3" feeder goldfish. So your tiger barbs will be a tasty appetizer within the year. Even if the store doesn't give you clear advice...they have to have fish books somewhere in the place if they are worth even shopping. Pick up a book while you are there and confirm adult sizes and feeding habits. Your Severums are measured in weight by POUNDS as an adult. An enormous plate sized fish that has no place with barbs in a 40 gallon, I am sorry to say> I am rather attached to my fish. I've named them all. I have cut back on their feeding after the molly (Cookie) died from nitrates being too high,  but I think I'm the typical woman.. Don't want my babies to go hungry.. I think when I have kids they're going to end up fat.. (here eat eat, you look thin!) Not that there's anything wrong with that..  <hehe...agreed> BUT I digress. As far as the fin nipping I did see my barb (Bob) tried to do that to my red eye tetra (Oscar) but then Oscar turned around and bonked Bob on the side and Bob hasn't messed with him since..  <what an ODD COUPLE <wink>> The tetras I've had for over a year and a half and even w/ my semi-aggressive tank, they seem to be pretty well respected.. Oscar seems to protect the headlight taillight (Ginger) pretty fervently. I did end up finding something to bring my ph down and got it down to 7.2 which I think is fine for them.. <agreed> they were fizzing tablets and the fish had fun playing while they dissolved. So I guess after yet another lengthy email, my questions are do you thing 40 gal is enough and I'm looking at about $500-600 for the new set up stand, filters, heater, etc. Is that a reasonable price?  <wow.. that sounds high compared to the LFS stores in my hometown of Pittsburgh PA> and do you know if I can get an aquarium cheaper on-line? <any good sources for everything but the glass tank (and stand will be too heavy to ship)... look at some of the vendors on this site like Custom Aquatic, Marine Depot, Premium aquatic, et al advertised on the sites Q&A/FAQ pages. Anthony>

Large Cichlid Tank Questions Hi Bob, <You got Steven Pro today. I am part of the WWM crew and taking my turn answering some of the daily queries.> I have a huge question and would like some advise. I currently have a 35 gallon tank and 1-4" Oscar,1-2" Green Terror, 1-2" Texas Cichlid and 1-1" Jack Dempsey. I do Plan on adding 2 more fish 1 red and 1 blue parrot. I know I will be needing a much bigger tank and pretty soon. <I hope it is VERY soon.> I plan on purchasing a 135 Gallon 6 foot aquarium. Questions? 1. Do you think this is a big enough tank for the inhabitants I plan to keep considering these fish will grow pretty large? <It should be OK for the six fish you mentioned, but leaves little to no room for more.> 2.What kind of tank and filtration do I need to keep the cost to a minimum and also maintain ace to a minimum? <You are going to have to do a lot of water changes to keep these guys happy and growing. Weekly water changes in excess of 25% would not be too much. Get yourself a Python water changer and position the new tank near a floor drain and a faucet.> I am looking at clarity plus acrylic tank and would like to know if I should purchase with or without filtration. Here is what filtration package includes....The package includes overflow box with pre-filter sponge inserts, centipede returns, wet/dry filter with bio-media, and system pump for maximum flow rates (at least 7-8 times per hour), as well as all tubing, bulkheads, and connectors. Is this needed for the fish I intend to keep or am I going overboard? <Sounds good. Definitely not overboard.> Or would hang on filters be good enough. <No> Thanks and sorry for the stupid questions I have only been in hobby for 4 months and wished I would have read more and purchased a bigger tank from the start. <If I had a dollar for every time I heard that. -Steven Pro>

Breeding Cichlids Hi Bob!  <Anthony Calfo here in your service> I have a breeding pair of Cichlasoma bifasciatum. They have laid eggs and what I wanting to know was ... what should I do? they are in a 55 gal. tank I only have a few fish none that threatening the eggs. they are very protective of their corner. Are they good parents?  <even if you are fortunate to have a mature and well behaved pair... it is too hard to protect the fry in a community tank. If you want to save any babies you will need to remove them. If you have experience rearing egg hatched fry or want to try... that is your best bet for babies. Besides... it is fun hatching brine shrimp/sea monkeys.> Will they eat the hatched fish?  <possibly> One is a large fish the other is smaller. Which one is the male? <the big boy most likely> They both take care of the eggs. What's there process for hatching?  <hmmm... rather long to explain here. et me look through the archives for a reference and please do the same if you can beat me too it. Raising cichlids from eggs is very straight forward work... no trouble at all. Just a little tedious with live food at first. Best regards, Anthony> PLEASE HELP Thank you Dana

Dear Mr. Fenner... (Cichlid Tank planning) I am going to start a new tank up from starch once again...i am a little nervous. because i would like it to be perfect. <Learn to be satisfied with your efforts... shoot for "near"> i will be keeping S. American, and c. American cichlid of all varieties, it will be a 55 gallon tank. i will make sure the fish are compatible and try really hard to select good looking, healthy fish from the local pet store. <Worthy goals> i am planning on buying a good filter, a Fluval 500 made by Hagen. for the first two months i will let the water cycle and make no water changes during that period of time. after that i will make 20% water changes every week. I wont feed much because i understand that can keep the water dirty. when i get my tank and set it up, i will add the fish gradually, and i wont ever clean both the carbon and foam at the same time. if i do all these steps will i have a successful fish tank? <These are all good ideas... I would pre-store your water for changes> are there any other steps i should do to maintain a healthy, clear fish and tank? thank you in advance... peter k. <To study re the needs, temperaments, ultimate size of the species you have in mind... Read up on their nutritional, water quality requirements. The database fishbase.org may well serve you here. Bob Fenner>

Big cichlids (mixed neotropicals) I have a new tank set up and it has well water in it. I measured the hardness and it is ~28 DH. I know this is very hard and I also have the tank filled with large pieces of limestone rock to make crevices and caves. I currently have a med/lg firemouth cichlid and some Gouramis but I want to add more central American cichlids to the mix. The tank is a 110 high and definitely has adequate filtration. 2 power filters rated to clean tanks up to 100 gallons each and a canister filter rated to clean tanks up to 150 gallons keep the water very clean. DO you have any suggestions?  <Maybe to blend in a bit of not-so-hard water... the Firemouths (Thorichthys meeki) are better in water of about 10 dH... and likely a lower pH (6.5-7.5) than you have> I was thinking about a pair of Jaguar cichlids, and some more firemouths. Also some Salvini cichlids. Would these all work?  <Mmm, actually... the "Jaguar Guapote" species, Parachromis managuensis, though a real beauty is much too much larger, more aggressive for keeping with Firemouths, Salvinis... Do check out the maximum sizes (63 cm. for the Jaguar) on fishbase.org among other references... I would settle on one or the other... easier going or not species here> Thanks so much for all your help and hard work over the years!! <You are welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Sick Albino Jack Dempsey Good afternoon Bob- I am hoping you can help me. I have a sick Albino Jack Dempsey and I can not figure out what is wrong with him. It started like 8 months ago when I notice what looked like something growing inside the tissue at the base of his dorsal fin and his tail fin. It looked to me like some kind of egg cases or something INSIDE his fins. I treated him with both Maracide and Maracyn 2 (2 cycles of the meds waiting like 2-1/2 weeks in between). It seemed to have no effect on him or the stuff growing inside his fins. Since whatever it was didn't appear to be bothering him or getting any worse I just left it alone. <Good observations... many cichlids that are bred, raised out of doors do show up with the trematode or nematode (fluke or roundworm) complaint you describe so well. Not easily cured as this is an internal parasite problem... There are anthelminthics of use... like Piperazine, di-n-butyl tin oxide... I would check with your veterinarian (who deals with fish problems) re what's currently being used> 2 months ago I thought it looked like he might be developing (the dreaded, well for me anyway...)Hole in the Head Disease so I treated him with Hexamit. It appears to have at least halted the growth of what I was thinking was the start of a hole in his head. (His head has always had some holes in it but, this one was one I hadn't noticed before.) <Yes, pores, parts of the lateralis system, nostrils...> Today I noticed that the bases of his fins (which have continued to look like they had something growing in them) seem very "puffy" and not as translucent as they used to be. I have taken a picture of the affected area (attached jpg). Also, I have attached a photo of the fish himself (this photo was taken like 7 months ago it's hard to see but, at the bases of his dorsal and tail fins you can see a "foggy" area that is where the growth was/is it is a lot "whiter" in appearance now). Feel free to post the photo on your site if you'd like, he is the only Albino Jack Dempsey I have ever seen, are they rare in the aquarium trade? <Yes, at least in the U.S.... more common in Europe, parts of the Orient> Sorry this is so long...any suggestions? Thanks for your time! Ann <At this point, to add vitamins to the fishes foods, possibly a teaspoon of salt per gallon (add over a few weeks time, replace with water changes). This is about it. Bob Fenner>

Jack Dempsey I just am wondering if you can tell the sex of Dempseys by their colors or markings. I have 2 and they are very different looking, so i wonder if I have a boy and a girl. How do I tell? <Actually, this is one of the easier neotropical cichlid species to sex; especially if they have grown up with similar conditions and are large enough (a few inches in length). Do take a look at the description listed here: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Plains/3683/malefemale.htm Yes, a whole page (actually there are a few of these) dedicated to the Jack Dempsey Cichlid (Herichthys octofasciata). Males are decidedly more colorful and have longer, more pointed unpaired pins... Bob Fenner>

Cichlids I have a Chocolate Cichlid that is about 4 years old and 8"'s long. I do not know much about them, however I noticed that 'Hershal' was guarding eggs that were attached to the powerhead tubing and had moved all the rocks away down to the filter. I called the pet store and they told me to put Hershal and the tubing in the small tank I have. So I did. Now Hershal is very angry and not even looking at the eggs. Do you think the eggs will hatch? Should I have done anything different? Help Please!!! Mary Ellen Lafayette, La. <You have "a" Chocolate Cichlid, not more than one? Hmm, well, "Hershal" is actually a female... that has laid eggs on her own that are non-fertile, and therefore will not hatch. As happens with cichlids like Hershal there can be "troubles" when moving the parents or eggs or decor about during these times. Hence the "angriness" and disinterest you relate. Going forward, I would leave your cichlid and its eggs (if indeed it does lay again) in place and take care that if/when they fungus that your filtration be sufficient to prevent pollution.  I do want to caution you re trying to find/match a mate with your Chocolate. After so long living on its own, and attaining such magnificent size, it is unlikely that this could be done as these fish do become quite territorial. Bob Fenner> 

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