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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

Longtime lurker here just got a 72 gallon bowfront (more than twice the size of the next largest tank I've had), and I'd like to do something different. I've been a fishkeeper for almost 20 years but never got into cichlids.

I've always had small mixed planted community tanks with success but now I'd like to try a biotope tank- at first I was thinking of a South American planted tank with Rams being the featured guest but I've since been thinking of a Lake Malawi/Tanganyika tank instead. I've tried to do some research, scoped out my local fish stores, but I still can't come to a decision.

If anyone can volunteer their opinions of the pros and cons of one or the other I'd appreciate it. I think I need to decide on the fish first- I've always thought Rams were attractive fish but I think I am most interested in larger, attractive fish with personality. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
 

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i've never kept african cichlids but i think that they need hard water for the most part.

i personally like south american dwarf cichlids (which is my vote for your tank, they are awesome), they tend to prefer softer water.

check out this site, it has some pics of some cool cichlids. http://www.unclenedsfishfactory.com/ look at the tabs at top of the page, there are some that say images.

how hard is your tap water. if its already nice and soft, go for a soft water fish. try to match the fish to what you already have available
 

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While it can be done, it is hard to do an African tank with plants WELL... Africans are voracious and will rip the plants to shreds.
 

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I have a 55 gallon african cichlid tank and i love it. I wish i had a bigger tank for them since they are very active. You can't go wrong with either yellow lab cichlid and acei cichlids. You have to keep their ph around 7.8-8.2 and if your water soft then you need to use crushed coral as a substrate. I would atleast look into getting 2 filters for you 72 gallon, because these fish are really messy. I am currently growing jungle vals and anubias and my yellow labs leave them alone. I really like african cihclids because they hold eggs/fry in their mouth and they dig pits in the sand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I live in Phoenix so the water is pretty hard/alkaline, which is how I got the idea of going with the Africans instead. Of course, with some peat/CO2 the pH should lower enough (hopefully) to support South Americans. And yes, I know if I keep Africans I will be having a plant free tank.

That is what intrigues me- I always wanted a large planted tank but the idea of a rocky labyrinth tank is different and appealing to me as well.

It is hard to get an idea of a fish's true personality and beauty when you just look at pictures or 20 of them crammed in a pet store tank with no decor. I think once I figure out exactly what fish I get I will have a clearer picture.

Please throw your 2 cents in!
 

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look on aquabid.com for deals. I scored 6 yellow lab 1" for 11 shipped! A good forum for cichlids is cichlid-forum.com You can get an idea of what you will be getting into.
 

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I always sit an stare at the Africans when I go to my LFS. There is just something about them that makes me go "I want an African tank" every time.

With a 72g bowfront I would go the rams since the africans will fight a ton in a tank with that small of a footprint.
 

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I was in the same situation, so I said "BOTH" :) I'm doing discus in my 90 with red eye tetras and something else, and a lake Tanganyika setup in my 56.

I've always been one to have the fish that are cooler than my LFS has, I racked up so much money in store credit years ago when I was selling the offspring from my discus as an example. So I think it would behoove you to look past the LFS a bit (they can special order things frequently anyway, they just don't want to hold onto a bunch of oddball fish that people don't really know much about). ANYWAY on that vein I suggest you take a look at Tanganyika and Victoria if you want to look at the African side of things.

Just to tell a bit, my African tank is going to have multifasciatus on the sand (shell dwellers), Julidochromis sp. (cave dweller) in a rock pile in the corner/back, and Blue Flash cyps. One place to look is livefishdirect.com (no affiliation, just a pleased customer). When I've had lake tang before, I ran the tank at 8.8 to 9.0 pH, and 12-13 dKH (a bit harder and more alkaline than saltwater reef). PM if you have any specific questions :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I appreciate the feedback so far... If I go African I am leaning towards Lake Tanganyika. I agree with the comment about aggressive African fish. I am more inclined to understock my tank though.

In terms of lighting- what do you suggest for a Lake T tank? If it is 90% rock (maybe I will throw in some Anubias), do I need special lighting other than a regular fluorescent bulb/hood? What about lighting to accentuate fish coloring?

Of course if I go South American I know I will need to go hard core with the lighting...

Please keep your suggestions/opinions coming!
 

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Most fish from Lake T. have a bit less color, other than a few like the blue flash cyps and maybe lelupi (orange or yellow). But lake T fish are also less aggressive especially shell dwellers for the most part. Julidochromis types are not TOO bad, though they will fight a big if the population climbs too high. I have a 56, 30 long x 18 wide x 24 tall, so like a 90 but only 30" (like a 29 gal).

The thing that's cool is the shellies live in one part, the juli's another (the rocks) and the cyps hang out up top. Clavus are nice too, and don't get too big and have a few color choices.

As far as lights, I like T5s being a reefkeeper, I like a 50/50 actinic /white bulb and then a 10000K and then a 6700K
 

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... at first I was thinking of a South American planted tank with Rams being the featured guest but I've since been thinking of a Lake Malawi/Tanganyika tank instead. I've tried to do some research, scoped out my local fish stores, but I still can't come to a decision...!
You sure do get some colorful fish with African cichlids, but as pointed out they really tear up plants. They also love to dig. It's almost like you have a constant construction project going on. If you see a biotype tank of them it usually had lots of rocks and few plants.

The South American tank with rams would have an advantage of fish that are not as prone to digging and tearing up plants.

The choice comes down to one basic question. Where do you want the emphasis to be? If you want the fish to be the focal point, then go with the Lake Malawi/Tanganyika tank. If you want the plants to be the focal point then go with the South American tank.
 

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Don't overlook the African riverine cichlids like Kribs, Butterfly cichlid, etc. They are african and plant-safe, not to mention really beautiful and active.
 

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My 46 bow was a Tang tank before I changed it to planted. I loved the shellies (I had Occies). I could watch them all day. The only problem was a lack of color. I liked the tank but my wife and kids thought it was boring. The next time I do one it will be a 100 gal long. That would give a lots of area for the shellies. Throw a few calvus/comps in there for population control.
 

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Decide which fish appeal to you more and what type of set-up you want to do.

Are you planning on having heavily planted aquarium? If so then amazon would be a better choice. However, you might be surprised at how attractive a rockscape can look, and is much easier to to keep.

Doing something different than before also has advantages. As the saying goes, "variety is the spice of life".
 

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I used to keep african cichlids from lake malawi before I started planted tanks. The key is to over stock your tank so that the aggression is evenly spread out. I probably had about 20 or so in my 55gal.

Here's a pic, this is when they were a little younger and smaller. Mine were ridiculously vicious, they tore apart any feeder fish i threw in there, even crayfish. I usually fed them spirulina pellets though but they did like the occasion meaty food.
 

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The "African's will tear up and destroy plants" comments are about as accurate as saying "Oscars need feeder goldfish" and "Fish will only grow as large as your tank". Yes, if you use plant eating types, such as mbuna and Tropheus, they'll eat your plants. So if your interested in Rift Lake cichlids and plants, just stock those that won't touch them. For Malawi, I've seen heavily planted tanks stocked with peacocks that were gorgeous. As for Tanganyika, most the shellies, Cyprichromis, julis and lamprologus types will live happily with plants as long as their other needs are met. Just be smart with your stocking and Africans and plants will get along just fine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I think the point of my original post is starting to get lost. I understand that some (most) Africans can not be kept in a planted tank. I understand that Africans are usually more aggressive and my tank is not big enough for large Africans.

I am really trying to figure out if I would like a planted tank (which I've done before) with Cichlids (probably South American) or if I should try an African Tank with a reef-like labyrinth of rocks for the fish to dwell in.

I think the best way for me to figure this out is to decide on the fish first. I would like medium (4-6") fish that are attractive and have personality. I know many Cichlids are territorial and my tank may not be able to be "fully stocked" which I am okay with.

I appreciate all the helpful suggestions. I am slowly getting all my supplies and equipment (Craigslist FTW), and I am finding myself leaning towards an African Tank, I think mainly because it is different.
 
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