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I am extremely new to aquaculture. I really like the idea of having a hardscaped/planted aquarium, probably 40-55 Gal, with cichlids. I've read that cichlids can be a terror to plants though. Any suggestions on plant/cichlid pairings?
 

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Any suggestions on plant/cichlid pairings?
Loaded question with so many variants of Cichlids. I've kept Dwarf Lake Tanganyikans in a modestly planted tank (java fern/moss, crypts, vails) with decent luck. I gave plants to my buddy with Lake Malawi & Victoria mBuna with poor results. Most smaller South & Central american cichlids do well with planted tanks.
 

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I love a challenge and that makes cichlids and their behavior a must for my interests. So the question, after keeping and breeding African cichlids, what can I do to make the tank look less like a giant pile of rocks! Live plants, of course!
It certainly can be done but it helps a lot if you get to know the specific type of cichlid and what they most likely will and won't do. There are cichlids for every water and every tank, but it takes more thought than just getting the "pretty one". There are cichlids of every sort, just like there are people of every sort. Some to trust, some not. So start easy with those you can trust out on the street and not those who have to be kept in pens!!
Tons of options but way too many options to choose without knowing a bit more about what you might like.
Do you like the regal look of angelfish as a starter cichlid? Like big fish or small? Want to breed them if they do most of the work? some of them hold the eggs in their mouth until they hatch, so you can't get much easier than that than as all you have to do is catch the female and let her spit out the fry!
More info on what you like and we can shoot you lots of ideas but for right now, all I can say is, " go for it!" and be ready to adapt as needed.
Note: Big boy in my pic is a protomelas type at 9 inches and loved the planted tank idea!
 

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South American Cichlids I have/have had that can be with plants ( with certain qualifications of type depending on species).

*Discus can go with all types of plants. Do not eat them or disturb them.

*Biotodoma cupido and wavirinii- They are earth-eaters, so will do some moving of sand. However, fast growing stem plants, nothing to delicate that doesn't like their roots disturbed, will do fine. They do not eat plants.

*Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus) very little disturbance of plants and substrate, do not eat plants.

* German Ram Mikrogeophagus ramirezi -- same as altispinosus.

*Geophagus (sveni and neambi-- these are the two sp. I have- 8 in a 180 gallon) They do not eat plants at all. They move significant amounts of sand on a daily basis. I was told by many that I would not be able to grow plants with them. Many plants have not done well because they are constantly getting sand dumped on them, the roots shifted by sifting of geo's, or just didn't root and floating in water column.
These are the plants that have thrived: Valisneria of all types, Swords, Crypt Spiralis-- all other types of crypts, and I have planted many, did not do well. (Delicate stem plants did not do well). Plants attached to driftwood and rock all do well: anubias, ferns, buce, moss.
 

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After some thought, I know that I asked more questions, rather than giving any answers that you might have looked to find. So some things that have worked for me?
Cichlids are highly intelligent fish, so we can use that if we agree to work with them instead of against them as many do.
There are many who report that cichlids dig too much for planted tanks. So we can learn where they dig and plant in other places! Most digging, almost by definition, will be done in the bottom, so if we plant on things and up higher, we reduce the odds of the plants being dug up. The African cichlids known as mbuna (rock fish) will often do lots of digging under the edges of rocks but very little when we use wood or rocks to place the plants higher. We can plant between things where the fish don't get too dig. If you like this group, look to those who do not eat algae as a way to avoid those who eat plants. I love the lab group like the common yellow lab but there are many in that group which work well with plants, if the planting is done with care.
Many of the peacocks do not eat plants but do dig when spawning. So we leave them spaces open for spawning and plant in other places. Cichlids are smart enough to not dig where it is difficult so adding some rounded small stone that slides into the hole is one way to move the digging away from plants, if we don't want to only plant higher. But then we can also choose some of the open water types that only need space for a nest site and really don't come to the bottom much. The Protomelas group is fine for me.
Some that I have kept in planted tanks:
https://www.cichlid-forum.com/profiles/species.php?id=1061
https://www.cichlid-forum.com/profiles/species.php?id=1257
https://www.cichlid-forum.com/profiles/species.php?id=713
https://www.cichlid-forum.com/profiles/species.php?id=715
https://www.cichlid-forum.com/profiles/species.php?id=1911
https://www.cichlid-forum.com/profiles/species.php?id=1360

Some of the SA and CA groups are okay as well but I have hard, alkaline water, so tend to like the African group better. So many types, so little time and space???
My all time fav?
https://www.cichlid-forum.com/profiles/species.php?id=91
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Wow, thank you all so much for your time and input!

PlantedRich, great idea about planting on rocks or wood where they won't naturally try to dig. The Malawi cichlids caught my eye, I have to admit, so this gives me hope.

Discusluv, Discuses are beautiful and were also going to be on my short list, however, not sure if they would tank well with Malwai cichlids?
 

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Discus and Lake Malawi will not do for several reasons. One first is the water preferences are almost totally different and then the attitude and action is so wrong. discus are great but they are generally considered a bit more difficult than many fish. That leaves me to recommend looking further at the vast number of types, sizes and shapes of African cichlids. Not just the lake but those are often the ones which we can find much easier and also cheaper. Looking at cichlids, compared to other fish, they first seem expensive but then the overall lifespan of the cichlids ifs often much better. Things that leave a less durable fish dying will just make a cichlids go grumpy and set in the corner. That can give us far more warning that we need to do something. For the newer person, that time can be a real lifesaver. Hard to treat fish who just show up dead!
There are some definite things to picking good starter cichlids from the African group, though. First is to not fall into buying from the tank labeled " assorted" as these are often the mixed breed or really aggressive fish and that is not where we need to start. There are groups of African cichlids which are generally much nicer , therefore much easier to get the feet wet.
Some great info here:
https://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/
This specific article in the library is one which I often referr to and advise all to consider scrolling/reading down to the charts on expected aggression:
https://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/haps_vs_mbuna.php
I rarely find it off and it really does help to get the right fit.
Sorry, would love to throw up some pictures but I'm no longer able to do that. Exceeded my limit.
 
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