Qestion about Large planted tanks - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-02-2019, 08:05 PM Thread Starter
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Qestion about Large planted tanks

So I started a 20 gallon planted tank in March. It was touch and go for a while, but over time I have dialed it in and it is running great. In fact, I am seeing an unbelievable difference in the maintenance on water changing requirements on this tank as compared to my other non-planted tanks. So much so, that I am thinking that planted tanks are the way to go.

Having said that, there is weekly maintenance on my 20 gallon planted. Consisting of removing algae from the tank. I have dialed it in lately so that process only needs to be done once every two weeks. To do this, I have to change out some water as that seems the only way to effectively clean a tank of algae. If it wasn't for that, I am sure I could go months and months with only replacing evaporation. Now this process is pretty easy on a 20 gallon, but I wonder what it would be like on a 75 gallon, 125 gallon or a 200 gallon? These tanks are 20 to 25 high and I would certainly have to have a stool to do any detail aquascaping.

I have a 75 gallon with Mbuna in it and I am about sick of them. Every two months, one of my fish gets killed over night or sometimes in the 15 minutes I leave the room. Just senseless violence. Anyways, I was to plant it and wonder what differences I will encounter with a tank this size as opposed to my little 20 gallon.
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-02-2019, 09:30 PM
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Sounds like a game I've played and might throw some light!
I started with African cichlids and love them , so I slowly worked over into keeping planted cichlids tanks and gradually got bold enough to move plants into my 75 and then the 125.
First thought would be to change up the current tanks to avoid the fight as that is certainly a problem due to tank setup and fish choice!
But first some thoughts of what larger tanks do as they have both good and bad points. No "perfect" tanks in my world!!!
Bigger tanks are more stable, so fish tend to live longer as we can do things that would upset a smaller tanks and the bacteria, water temp and all the other parameters are less prone to sudden changes---if we don't do it.
Water changes are one that I feel "require" more/better equipment set up than small as I do not want to do the bucket brigade. So how is the space? Got room for a reserve water supply? That is by far the best thing I did as it is my first choice for any problem that begins to show up. Many ways to go on that, depending on space and how each of us may need to treat water for the tank.
I had hard alkaline water, making African cichlids a natural choice as I am not a fan of fighting my water. So a plastic food grade barrel was a cheap and easy thing to add to the fish room as it was also usable as a place to set small tanks. I simply punched through the wall to get water from a pipe before the softener and added a tap to fill the barrel. Then I let it come to room temp and when doing water changes, I use a plastic tube and pump to run to the other rooms to refill. I also have drains that make it easy to drain old water to the garden outside.
Lots of options to make water changes easy but it does take some thought on what might work best for your setup. I had 13 tanks and "HAD" to but you may only find it something you "WANT"! I like it easy.
A tall stand for viewing in the space I had, meant a small ladder to reach over into the tank for work but otherwise, I found the large tank much the same except somewhat more "acreage" when cleaning glass. I found it very worthwhile as the larger tank gave me lots more options for fish and part of that involves setting the tank correctly for each type.
Which gets around to fish choices! Not all Africans are the same and not all mbuna are the same, so learning to sort more carefully is a key point for my tanks. Pick any animal and you will find there are those who tend to be killers and those who don't. Whether it is fish, dogs, chickens, or people, we have to look closer at each and sort who we want to keep as friends?
I start with this article as I find it has very good, reliable info and I choose my fish with an eye on the potential aggression levels as stated. From there I set the tank and planting to allow for the natural tendencies of the fish. Part of the planning is not planting where they tend to dig and I do not keep the natural born killer sorts that we find so often in the local shops.
I think of tank setting much the same as I choose where I live.
If I set up a tank like a ghetto and stock it with roughnecks, I expect to get a much different neighborhood than if I set a tank with lots of nice green space and fill it with some of the more "respectable" sorts. I DO NOT overcrowd to reduce aggression as that sure doesn't work with any other animal I see---especially humans!
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-02-2019, 10:01 PM
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Originally Posted by soonergaret View Post
Having said that, there is weekly maintenance on my 20 gallon planted. Consisting of removing algae from the tank. I have dialed it in lately so that process only needs to be done once every two weeks. To do this, I have to change out some water as that seems the only way to effectively clean a tank of algae. If it wasn't for that, I am sure I could go months and months with only replacing evaporation. Now this process is pretty easy on a 20 gallon, but I wonder what it would be like on a 75 gallon, 125 gallon or a 200 gallon?
Much depends on what you mean by planted tank? Low light slow growing plants like anubias/ferns/crypts, or a high tech tank full of fast growing stems?

If it's high tech, a large tank is pretty labor intensive, and would benefit greatly from large regular water changes.

So before you get started, define what is it you want to accomplish. Then seek out tanks with similar goals and see how they do it. The journal section is a great place to start. And don't be afraid to reach out to folks here, most are glad to share their experience.

Good luck!
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-03-2019, 01:48 PM Thread Starter
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First thought would be to change up the current tanks to avoid the fight as that is certainly a problem due to tank setup and fish choice!

Some of the fish species I bought only to later find out they are basically ticking time bombs. I also had no idea about the M/F ratio, or the con-specific aggression, etc. I have had to work way too hard to keep some kind of peace in the tank. Peace meaning deaths only sporadically, but it is obvious some of the fish are miserable and as such it is not a pleasant tank. I should probably try to rehome some fish and start again but have no idea how to go about doing that.

I DO NOT overcrowd to reduce aggression as that sure doesn't work with any other animal I see---especially humans

I overcrowded a bit to start but my goal with this tank was not simply to keep aggressive fish from killing each other, it was to have a symbiotic peaceful community with different villages. I knew mbuna could be aggressive but not relentlessly aggressive as I have been dealing with. Knowing what I do now, I think I could create a nice mbuna tank that works but I am in a mess at the moment. Fish stores should not even be offering some of these fish and I am amazed they do.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-03-2019, 03:12 PM
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I will go way out on a limb and try guessing what mbuna you have!
Since you have killers, I would expect to find at least one Melanochromis auratus as they are so common and sell very well to the unsuspecting newish folks. Then there is probably a collection of Pseudotropheus and maybe some Metraclima who are both pretty high on aggression but mixed in with some of the Labs who are not. The way these get sold is that they are often returned and that makes them cheap, so the "starter" fish are often the worst fish for new folks to handle. Those are often sold in the "mixed cichlid" tanks at the LFS.
So my suggestion might go two ways. Sort out who is the problem, first by checking the expected aggression charts and then by watching what is going on in the tank. Either decide to swap out the problem fish or perhaps, it is time to move to fish who are less trouble while getting into planted on a larger scale. There is no one perfect set for all of us, so we have to be honest with what we really want to do.
Perhaps some changing in the tank setting, combined with swapping out the worst offenders will let you stay with mbuna, but that does present some challenge, while totally starting over might get to a peaceful spot quicker.
My personal favorite setup is a large 125 gallon tank with large open water fish like some of the Protomelas types, combined with lots of rock for some of the peaceful mbuna like yellow labs. I like the big blue and the small yellow colors but more I like that each has their space and doesn't really bother to fight for the other guys space. Some fish are "city folks" and some are "country"?
If you feel you would really like to stick with the mbuna, several of us on the forum can give some suggestions but if you really want to go another direction, I can see that fits, at times. It is always best to do what fits you and not worry the issue of what others like. The game is lots easier when it's fun!
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-03-2019, 06:56 PM Thread Starter
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I do have an Auratus, but she is a single and I think its a female at least. SHe is not the rowdiest at the moment. I have some three snow white Scolofili and 2 of the three must be female because one is constantly holding and the other has not been killed. I had two electric Blue Ahi, I know totally out of place in an Mbuna tank. The both lived peacefully together for three months until I left the room for two hours and come back to find on beat to hell and hiding in the corner. Took him out and moved him to hospital tank. I had to get a Hospital tank to basically handle this one aquarium and it's a revolving door. Anyways, the Electric Blue was my favorite and he died over night from his injuries. I have a couple of Acai, a red zebra, Electric Blue Johanni, 2 pseudotropheus Crabro, 1 Cobalt Blue Zebra, 1 unknow type. Anyways, a mess is what it is.

I would say the male Snow White causes the most problems. I do not believe he was the one who killed the electric Blue, I think is was the other Electric Blue based on my observations of the tank.

I have spent more time and money trying to these fish to coexist to the point that the tank is enjoyable to watch. To put all that time and energy into a project and then not even enjoying the end product is starting to wear on me. I know my wife is about sick of the time commitment this tank is requiring of me. My other tanks are high functioning machines, so this one has been quite a reality check.

I have a 20, 40 breeder, 75 gallon, and 125 gallon. I am starting to feel like once the 40, 75, and 125 have run there course I will reinvent those tanks with plants and maybe some South American fish. My Final tank will be a 200 gallon with some Haps and a couple of species of Mbuna. I like to scape my tanks with some Rock as it adds to the character of the tank so I want Mbuna in the tank but also like the body shape and colors of the Haps. The 200 is in planning stages, but I think that will be my only non-planted tank eventually.

Honestly, I get a lot of enjoyment watching my 20 gallon with cardinal tetras. I am almost tempted to plant the 200 and fill it with 200 cardinals, But that is awfully expensive considering they don't live the longest. However, I am almost certain that a setup like that would get more interest from anyone that see's it than other options and I like it as well. It's just hard actually going thru with that and devoting such an expensive set-up to only small schooling fish.

My next planted tank will include some type of carpeting plant, and I would like to try that without Co2. I might do Co2, but I want more experience under my belt before I go there.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-05-2019, 01:54 PM
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I do have to agree that the shops do not do the best of telling us when we are buying the wrong fish. It's almost like they want to make money and don't care if we have to come back to buy more fish?
Common fish are those you mention and zebra are one that I will not keep as they are too much trouble. A female Auratus is a ticking time bomb as she will become super aggressive as she ages. Is she dark brown yet? I do not keep them, even though they do look nice.
It is a terrible choice to make on which fish to keep and deal with the trouble or to swap them now before they kill more. Over the long term, I have decided it is still better for me to do things like swap fish now, even if it loses money, rather than wait.
Kind of like a foot with gangrene? We really hate to cut off the foot but the alternative is even worse!
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-05-2019, 02:17 PM Thread Starter
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I put the blame mostly on me for not being informed. Unfortunately, learning the hard way seems to be the way I learn. I have learned much about keeping the Mbuna types and I have to say it is quite complicated. The time and effort of creating a relatively peaceful Mbuna tank really surprised me, and I really wasn't looking for such a challenge. Thanks for the advice
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-05-2019, 05:17 PM
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Most people started out with Mbuna as first African cichlid because they are colorful and cute at young age, and cheap. But soon it turned into a killing field, and most got sick of them. There are more peaceful Africans such as Haps and Tanganyikan, and they are also good companion plants. Just avoid female Haps to prevent breeding frenzy that will destroy plants. Tanganyikans are mostly small egg layers, so even breeding frenzy has limited destruction power.

I have successfully converted my 75 cichlid tank into a planted cichlid tank. I purposely stay out of substrate plants to prevent cichlid digging, and use mostly epiphytes attached to rock with a few stems and rosette in pots hidden behind rock. Itís a mobile system, so I can easily move rocked and potted plants around to rescape to my liking. Once I had success in my planted 75, I expanded planting into 125 to take advantage of the experience and the surplus plants available from my 75.

For fish only tank, start with the largest tank you can afford for stability. For planted tank, the opposite is true. Start small to acquire the skill and high plant mass to fill the tank you can afford before moving big.

To be successful, you have to be selective on both plants and cichlid that will get along. For instance, keep only tough texture plants such as ferns, Anubias and Buce, and avoid powerful cichlids over 6 inch. That said, I keep a 10 inch Frontosa in my planted 125 who is amazingly plant friendly.
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-05-2019, 05:55 PM
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I put the blame mostly on me for not being informed. Unfortunately, learning the hard way seems to be the way I learn. I have learned much about keeping the Mbuna types and I have to say it is quite complicated. The time and effort of creating a relatively peaceful Mbuna tank really surprised me, and I really wasn't looking for such a challenge. Thanks for the advice
Yes, it can be quite a challenge and I do have to agree that we are the actual cause of many of the LFS items. We often are guilty of impulse buying which does lead them to sell us things we should not buy!
It does take some time to get things down to a point that fits what we want. Part of the fun to have a challenge but then we need to keep it from becoming a problem which is a fine line, at times.
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