African Cichlids
Setting up your african cichlid tank

When choosing where to place your african cichlid tank, try not to put it in high traffic areas, such as your front entrance way, or where there is a door that is always opening and closing. These areas are not suitable because of the vibrations of the closing door and because of all the people walking by. Another bad place is in direct sunlight. If placed in direct sunlight soon you will have a tank filled with algae. Some good places are in your family room or bedroom. I have two tanks in my bedroom and One in the family room.

First rinse out the tank to get out the dust and loose debris. If the tank is used and has algae and other crud on it use a razor blade to scrape it clean. If using an under gravel filter you can put it into the tank now, although UGF's aren't recommended for cichlid tanks. This is so because cichlids have a tendency to dig and uncover the plates.

Next you need to rinse the gravel before putting in, again to get rid of dust and loose debris, so your tank is not cloudy right away. You should have 2-4 inches of gravel, sloping from back to front, being deeper in back. Or if using a UGF make sure you have enough to cover it.

When filling with water place a plate or bowl in the bottom of the tank and pour onto it. This is so you don't displace the gravel when pouring the water into the tank.

You can either place ornaments and rocks before or after you pour the water into the tank. However I recommend before, so you don't have to worry about water displacement when placing your rocks. Also you want to make sure that all your rocks and ornaments are not dependent on gravel for support. Since cichlids dig so much, they could knock down piles and other ornaments, thus possibly causing injury to your fish, or worse yet, causing your aqauriums to crack.

Make sure if your keeping mbuna that you make alot of caves and crevices for them to hide in. Granite is an excellent rock to use when building structures. It doesn't give off as much minerals, and since African cichlids like hard water, it does not matter for what they do give off. Just be wary off rocks with shiny specks as these are minerals, and could poison your water depending on what mineral it is. Granite should be readily available at your local landscaping store. Or you can take walks around streams rivers and mountains where granite is usually available, depending on your area. When using rocks you should make sure they are free of bugs and things like that. What I do is scrub them to get all the algae and scum off them. Then you should either bake them, or pour boiling water over them to kill bacteria.

After all the water is in you can insert the heater into the water. Let the heater sit for 20 min. to let the internal thermometer adjust to the tempature before plugging in.

You should now be ready to put the hood and lights onto your tank. For lighting fluorescent bulbs are better than incandescent. Incandescent bulbs give off heat, so they change the water temperature by heating it. You don't have to have a hood, but you should have a lid of some kind, to prevent the fish from jumping out, as has been known to happen with cichlids. It also helps to keep the heat in, thus slowing heat loss so it keeps down your electrical bill, by not having your heater to run as much. Every little bit helps!

When adding fish start off first with a cheap fish to get your cycle going. I use cheap little feeder goldfish. Otherwise if you add too many fish they will overload your biological filter and they could die. Your tank cycle takes about 6 weeks before your ammonia and nitrates go down to normal levels. You can speed up this process by adding something from an already established tank, such as some gravel or an ornament. The bacteria needed will come on the objects transferred. You can also buy bacteria in a bottle from your local pet store which does the same thing. Never add more than 3-4 small fish or 1-2 big fish at time, or you could overload your biological filter and risk losing some fish.

Tank conditions should be: PH 7.6-8.3, Temp. 77-82f