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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am about to upgrade my Dempsey to a 125 (or similar large tank - can't quite decide), and want to give him some roommates. I'm going to re-scape the tank and plants when I do and focus on lots of smooth river stones, driftwood, and plants that anchor to driftwood or plant between rocks so they're harder to uproot. The end result is something between a river bed and a limestone pool like the cenotes all over the Yucatan where you might find Dempseys in the wild. Lots of open sand in the middle.

To that end, I'm thinking Geophagus altifrons, a group of 5 or so. I already have a pleco that my Dempsey doesn't really bother (chases him off every once in a while but no aggression), but I'm thinking about getting another/more catfish.

I'm open to pretty much anything that can hold its own against a Dempsey without either of them getting hurt. I also looked into a group of severum. Open to any suggestions as long as it's an eye-catching fish. Bonus points for reds and yellows.

PS. Any inverts that might be ok in this environment would also be great. Thanks!
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Being a former geophagus breeder, and present owner of a Dempsey i would say no.

Your dempsey may handle the pleco for now, but eventually it will mature, and will not tolerate almost anything you put with him/her unless it's just as "naughty" as it. I've owned mine now since 2008, and just recently has reached the stage where he will not tolerate my hand in the tank, and attack. Also mind you temperature affects the mentality of a dempsey too. So i plan ahead and let the temp drop to 68f when i do my tank maintenance. <-random info

Both types of cichlids should be able to sift, it's in their nature, especially Geophagus, which means earth eater.
Being a fish guy, i think denying them that isn't optimal for their well being. Also at some point the Dempsey will just annihilate, and kill the Geophagus given enough time.

Plant choice's for them i've always been a fan of big rooted plants like swords, and big attached anubias. They are difficult for them to be dug up. Some will tolerate stem plants, i've done it, but it can take some patience, and persistence, and observe the area's where they always dig up, and just don't plant there. I have my jack with dwarf sag, java ferns, jungle vals presently, and it's working.

There's definitely some bad ass planted Geophagus tanks out there. I'd check out youtube, and see how others are doing it. I can't wait to setup my own again someday.
 

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One thing people do with substrate-moving fish is place eggcrate (the lighting diffuser stuff) on top of a couple inches of substrate, plant through the holes, and add substrate on top. Plants grow with their roots under the eggcrate, making it hard for them to be uprooted, and the diggers can only get down a couple of inches before hitting the eggcrate.
 

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A dempsey gets more irate (territorial) as it grows, so you could add another 5 or so and opt for a breeding pair, if that sounds interesting (just remove the others and be careful when you clean the tank!). Big cichlids are hard to work with sometimes...

Bump: A dempsey gets more irate (territorial) as it grows, so you could add another 5 or so and opt for a breeding pair, if that sounds interesting (just remove the others and be careful when you clean the tank!). Big cichlids are hard to work with sometimes...
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Being a former geophagus breeder, and present owner of a Dempsey i would say no.

Your dempsey may handle the pleco for now, but eventually it will mature, and will not tolerate almost anything you put with him/her unless it's just as "naughty" as it.
Could I keep it with a green terror, or other very aggressive cichlids?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
One thing people do with substrate-moving fish is place eggcrate (the lighting diffuser stuff) on top of a couple inches of substrate, plant through the holes, and add substrate on top. Plants grow with their roots under the eggcrate, making it hard for them to be uprooted, and the diggers can only get down a couple of inches before hitting the eggcrate.
This is really clever!

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Rather than fight the digging at floor level, I might look more at placing the plants on higher ground. Fish rarely dig up high so plants in/on things seems to work better for me. With the big guys, they may want to give a god pull so I try to fix things solidly. Some hollow wood is supper for this but if no natural hollows are handy, some drilling/cutting can get you some that will work. A fabric like old T-shirt,etc. can er wrapped and tied around the roots at the right size and shape to force into a crack or hollow in wood or rocks. Once in the hole, it tends to expand and stick. If you find it gets pulled, nails,screws or wires may help hold it against the worst guys?
The fabric works much like the planting pots for outside and once the roots grow out through the fabric and into the wood,etc. it is good to go.
For protecting plants down on the bottom, I find a shield cut out of thin plastic like milk jugs works for me. Think shield with the roots under and the plants through a hole? But choosing the best spot works better at times as the fish certainly have more time to uncover things than I have to recover them!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Rather than fight the digging at floor level, I might look more at placing the plants on higher ground. Fish rarely dig up high so plants in/on things seems to work better for me. With the big guys, they may want to give a god pull so I try to fix things solidly. Some hollow wood is supper for this but if no natural hollows are handy, some drilling/cutting can get you some that will work. A fabric like old T-shirt,etc. can er wrapped and tied around the roots at the right size and shape to force into a crack or hollow in wood or rocks. Once in the hole, it tends to expand and stick. If you find it gets pulled, nails,screws or wires may help hold it against the worst guys?
The fabric works much like the planting pots for outside and once the roots grow out through the fabric and into the wood,etc. it is good to go.
For protecting plants down on the bottom, I find a shield cut out of thin plastic like milk jugs works for me. Think shield with the roots under and the plants through a hole? But choosing the best spot works better at times as the fish certainly have more time to uncover things than I have to recover them!
This is all great advice! I do intend to leave large swaths of open sand, but I'm new to planted tanks and don't have any experience with diggers.

The river rocks are mostly a decoration/plant anchor combo and most of the plants will be attached to the driftwood.

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Could I keep it with a green terror, or other very aggressive cichlids?
Results vary, green terror is just as bad so it's possible. I have a friend that keeps a dempsey, 2 terrors, redtail catfish, gar, arrowana, midas, firemouths together as he's into huge predatory tanks, but he has his in-tank drama, and sometimes injuries he has to treat on them.

You have to become the physiologist, and sort out issue's with observation. Wet pets definitely have their own personality, you could end up with a angel.v
 

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Observation and adapting is about the only way to go here. The dempsey is not my first choice as they are a special problem being both big as well as aggressive. But then that wasn't the question???

For some other things that may help, tank layout will be important, too. The big guy will like his space so do some things to try to help him find it in the space you want for him. A 125 is good size but doing some extra on setting may help. He is likely to want a space to hide but also come out and look around. A hiding hole like under a slab of wood or rock in a back corner with a clear spot in front may look good to him? But then a "divider" of plants or decor, can help to define the space for him. He won't necessarily stay there but may make it "home base" so that he doesn't feel the need to control the whole tank. Lots of smaller hides for the other folks all around will help almost any other fish. It can be good for two things. One to protect them but also to modify his action. He is likely to chase when they run but if they duck and cover where he can't go, he may not bother nearly as often. But I find fish can go many places that look too small so don't make any of these spots too large as it just wastes space.
A PVC pipe with sand , etc. stuck in silicone can work and be hidden as well as a large stack of rocks when it is a fish like a pleco going in.
I do "jumbles" rather than stacks as it makes the variety of spaces without me making an unnatural looking stack.
One big for the big guy to love and lots of small for the others?
From there it is an "observe and adapt" challenge for you to fight or enjoy depending on your outlook. It can be a challenge but then is there much fun in the easy stuff?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for the advice everyone. With adequate hiding spaces, are there any suggestions for fish I can try with him? Terrors? Convicts/firemouths? (I know they're smaller, but they're mean.) Jaguar? (Is this too mean/big?)

How about black belts or a group of severum (distributed aggression)? Or gar? I know this will depend on my fish's individual personality, but I want something that will fare well long term - if there's such a thing as long term for tank mates.

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There are lots of theories out about the subject. For me, I fall back to looking at fish as having some traits in common with people. When dealing with people we sometimes find those who are aggressive. When placed with others of like levels of aggression, it results in terrible conflict. I don't want that in my tanks. Neither do I want to set up one really strong with one really meek. Being totally scared full time is a sure path to stress and disease if not killed outright.
For a dempsey, I would look at pairing not with an equal where total full time war might result, but others who are not full time scared nor looked at as a threat that has to be eliminated. Not a threat, not scared silly but one with the attitude and ability to hide when needed?
Some cichlids like Ellioti or other mid range in size but some spirit?
I also have paired large cichlids with others like black skirt tetras who are fast and agile while still knowing when to get out of the way. Given a group, they can be a bit confusig and get out of the way easy so that the big guy soon feels it not worth the effort to chase too long as long as they learn to stand back when he says. He may not see them as being a threat nor worth much bother.
Kind of like folks you may have met or worked with? Can't get rid of them but you may find ways to work around them and still go about life? Once they find you are not a real problem, they may just ignore you.
Setting up space for each can help just like for you and me. Give the gangs the ghetto and they don't bother with the nicer most of the time.
 

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I had a 240 with oscars, dovii, Jaguars, salvini, synspillum, , Red Devils and black belts. I had fish breeding and cry growing out. I did this in two different tanks with different fish raised from juveniles. My approach seems to have broke all the rules but it worked.

Basically, in the end, it all depends on the personality forr the fish , and how you handle the new introductions. With a new tank, you could establish the new fish first, and then move the Dempsey, which would put him on the back foot so to speak.

You can try a variety of things, just be aware that it might not work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
There are lots of theories out about the subject. For me, I fall back to looking at fish as having some traits in common with people. When dealing with people we sometimes find those who are aggressive. When placed with others of like levels of aggression, it results in terrible conflict. I don't want that in my tanks. Neither do I want to set up one really strong with one really meek. Being totally scared full time is a sure path to stress and disease if not killed outright.
For a dempsey, I would look at pairing not with an equal where total full time war might result, but others who are not full time scared nor looked at as a threat that has to be eliminated. Not a threat, not scared silly but one with the attitude and ability to hide when needed?
Some cichlids like Ellioti or other mid range in size but some spirit?
I also have paired large cichlids with others like black skirt tetras who are fast and agile while still knowing when to get out of the way. Given a group, they can be a bit confusig and get out of the way easy so that the big guy soon feels it not worth the effort to chase too long as long as they learn to stand back when he says. He may not see them as being a threat nor worth much bother.
Kind of like folks you may have met or worked with? Can't get rid of them but you may find ways to work around them and still go about life? Once they find you are not a real problem, they may just ignore you.
Setting up space for each can help just like for you and me. Give the gangs the ghetto and they don't bother with the nicer most of the time.
Thanks. I think I'll try some convicts and/or firemouths and see how they fare.

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Both of those should be in the right area. I just kind of run my course with convicts as they seem to be breeding constantly at the time. I might have a totally different outlook now but what I found at the time was they bred, I had more fry than wanted but no way to swap or sell. It could just be a bit of my personal aversion as much as anything. They certainly should have all the right stuff to fit in, though.
I fully admit to liking things that are not seen as often but then that is obviously not what others see. I also never look at my tanks as anything other than works in progress that adapt and change frequently. No big reason to sweat over some choices as it is really nearly impossible to predict. The biggest downside to me changing out fish is the amount of rock I have to unload!!!
 
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