Watch those rocks!

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Many cichlid enthusiasts, regardless of the species they keep, use various rocks in their tanks. Yes, rocks are typically more common and prevalent in African cichlid set-ups, but rocks can work in any aquarium and nearly any biotope set-up. That’s the good news. The bad news is certain rocks can create problems that other aquarium contents don’t. This post isn’t about rock composition but rather rock shapes.

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I can see you!

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How well do your fish see outside their watery world? Better than you think.

You’ve already heard that cichlids are smart and have their own personalities. What you may not know is they watch you more than you think. Everyone has a story to tell about their fish grouping together and approaching the surface when a human gets within eyeshot of the tank. Or a story about a particular fish whose behavior changes when it see its human. Why? Your fish have learned to associate you (or something your size) with being fed.

However, they know you’re there because they can see you even if you think they can’t. I’ll give you a couple of examples from my own experience.

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Dr. Hans Hofmann interview

Hans Hofmann

In 2016, while looking for a new interviewee for the blog, I ran across the website of a research laboratory at the University of Texas, Austin. I checked out the website, looked at a few of the lab’s publications, and it became quickly obvious to me that the lab’s director, Dr. Hans Hofmann, was someone I needed to interview.

I reached out to Dr. Hofmann, introduced myself, and asked him if he would be interested in doing an interview for the blog. He replied within a couple of days and happily agreed. We began the interview process, but work caught up with him, and we weren’t able to get it completed. So fast forward to the present, and we did a complete reboot of the original interview.

Since receiving his Ph.D. in biology from the University of Leipzig in Germany, Dr. Hofmann has received numerous fellowships and awards for his work at the University of Texas, Stanford University, Harvard University, and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. In addition to running the Hofmann lab at the University of Texas, he has served as Director of UT’s Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics and UT’s Center for Biomedical Research Support. He has given over 130 invited keynote lectures and seminars but has also given numerous public outreach presentations.

Needless to say, getting Dr. Hofmann to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions with me was a real bonus. Outstanding stuff ahead. Buckle in!

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Ugh, the writing!

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Hard as I try to avoid grammatical errors and other mistakes, my brain works way faster than my fingers. The result is often the omission of a word (or words) in my posts. Though I do proof read each post, usually more than once, I sometimes still overlook minor errors. I apologize for that.

I will often go back through older posts, sometimes those much older, and re-read them for my own benefit. Revisiting previous posts helps me recall something I said and allows me to reflect on how the writing could have been better.

In any case, if you’re a first time visitor to the blog, I hope that when you spot a writing error it doesn’t discourage you from continuing to visit. I appreciate all of the blog readers, even those who point out errors or disagree with something.

Successful cichlid keeping doesn’t have to be expensive

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Elaborate filtration systems, complex plumbing, DIY mass air filtration, or popular, mass produced aquarium products. Whatever direction you go for your cichlid tanks, do what lies in your comfort zone. If you aren’t familiar with certain types of products, then use what you know, what you are comfortable with, and what you can afford.

Continue reading this post…Successful cichlid keeping doesn’t have to be expensive

For successful breeding, use what works

Some hobbyists insist on emulating the natural biotope from which their fish originate – blackwater tanks with lots of leaves, twigs, and such for CA/SA species. Or sandy bottomed tanks loaded with shells stacked on top of each other, like the Neothauma snail shell beds in Lake Tanganyika. Nothing wrong with that.

Then again, some hobbyists use everything in their tanks other than what the fish would naturally encounter in their endemic environment. This includes such items as PVC pipe, ceramic pots, porcelain ornaments shaped like pagodas (shout out to my friend Pam Chin).

Whatever your preference, your fish probably don’t care unless they’re FOs (wild caught). So where am I going with this post?

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Chris Carpenter interview

Chris Carpenter

Several years ago at one of the annual American Cichlid Association (ACA) conventions, I overheard a conversation about some shell dwelling cichlids. Being a dwarf cichlid enthusiast myself, my interest was piqued upon hearing the word “shellies.” I wasn’t eavesdropping but I clearly heard something equivalent to “You should check with Chris Carpenter. He keeps all kinds of shellies.” Like any hobbyist who constantly builds their knowledge base, I filed that name away.

In the years since that convention, I have heard Chris’ name mentioned numerous times. In an effort to ensure that my interviews on the blog cover all corners of cichlid keeping, I needed to get someone to talk about shell dwelling species. Because he is widely regarded as an expert on these fish, I looked him up and sent him a note about doing an interview. He promptly replied and happily agreed.


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ACA annual convention

2019 ACA-NECA spash page graphic. Image from

I post about this every year because I think it’s an event that all cichlid enthusiast should attend, at least once. The annual convention of the American Cichlid Association (ACA) is this weekend in Cromwell, CT. Hosted by the New England Cichlid Association (NECA), the convention actually begins tomorrow (18th).

I have been several times. Not only is it a lot of fun, but you will meet some great people (hobbyists like yourselves) and learn some things as well. The speakers this year, as in year’s past, are outstanding. If you’re nearby and can make it, if for just a day, I highly encourage you to go. Be sure and stop by the vendor room. Lots of great folks there and lots of great deals to be had on everything from fish food to hardware to ceramic caves. The list goes on and on.