A Lake Tanganyika primer

Latest cover of Cichlid News magazine. Image from http://www.cichlidnews.com/.

If you’re looking for a good summary description of the lake, including some historical information on cichlid collection there, check out the latest issue of Cichlid News magazine. Wolfgang Staeck has written a very nice little article about the lake titled “The aquaristic history of Lake Tanganyika and present threats to its ecology”.

The Cichlid News is subscription only, but it often has articles that you won’t find anywhere else. If you don’t already subscribe, I would encourage you to do so. For a mere $24, you can get the digital version emailed directly to you as a PDF file four times a year ($26 for the print version). The articles are written by knowledgeable cichlidophiles, many of whom are hobbyists just like you. Each issue typically has four or five articles plus a “What’s New Across the World” section that lists both newer cichlid species and species with increasing demand in the hobby. Complete with full color photos and a short fish description, this section might just facilitate interest in a species you’ve never kept. The current issue profiles 10 different species.

Check it out!

Cichlid threat discrimination

Hypsohrys nematopus. Image from https://www.fishpedia.fr/. Photo by Robert Allgayer.

Have you ever wondered if bi-parental cichlids actually distinguish threats to their brood based on the threat agent? In other words, are cichlid parents able to determine and rank the threat level of other fish (conspecific or not) to the brood their protecting? The short answer is Hypsophrys nematopus (formally Neetroplus nematopus) can. It’s not out of the realm of comprehension that other cichlid species can do the same.

Conducting an experiment in-situ at Lake Xiloá in Nicauragua, a group of scientists exposed 23 breeding pairs of H. nematopus to territorial threats of equal-sized agents from three species: bigmouth sleepers (Gobiomorus dormitor), convict cichlids (Amatitlania siquia), and a species of molly (Poecilia sp.). The nematopus level of aggression exhibited toward these fish in the experiment varied but was conclusive for each species of interloper, suggesting that nematopus can distinguish levels of threats based on the threatening species and vary their own aggression accordingly. However, the aggression you see in your own tank from breeding pairs of cichlids may or may not be similar. While many cichlid behaviors in closed systems (e.g., fish tanks) may mimic natural behavior in the wild, that is not a given for every cichlid species. Remember, this experiment was conducted in a natural setting, not an artificial one like an aquarium.

For more information on the experiment and its results, you can read the paper from Behavioral Ecology here.

Citation: Sowersby, W., Lehtonen, T. P., Wong, B. B. M. “Threat sensitive adjustment of aggression by males and females in a biparental cichlid.” Behavioral Ecology,  ary037. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/ary037.

A dwarf among dwarves

Biotoecus opercularis.. Photo from https://www.ciklid.org/.

So you think your cichlid is a true dwarf species? Probably not when compared to Biotoecus opercularis. Typically maxing out at less than two inches in length, this little South American jewel is not commonly available in the hobby. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a nice soft water dwarf cichlid outside of the Apistogramma or Mikrogeophagus genera, this might just be your fish.

Check out this piece about the B. opercularis at Reef2Rainforest.

Alternative shelter

Various types of alternative or artificial shelter. Photo by the author.

Unless you’re opposed to having your tank(s) appear unnatural, nearly anything that is chemically and biologically inert is fair game for use as shelter for your cichlids. This includes items such as ceramic pots, various aquarium ornaments (e.g., ships, pagodas), artificial plants, ABS/PVC pipes and fittings, etc.

Most cichlids will take advantage of items already in the aquarium as places to hide or seek shelter such as submersible heaters, sponge filters, and filter return tubes, but you should supplement those items with additional material. Try what you like. In fact, if you’ll make notes of your cichlids’ behavior, you’ll quickly learn what they’re preferences are as well (e.g., do they prefer the white PVC or black ABS plastic, do they prefer a particular size of ceramic pot).

Also remember some cichlids are quite particular about where they’ll lay eggs. Cichlids may be egg scatterers, cave spawners, shell spawners, or even plant or gravel spawners. If you want to be successful breeding, find out what kind of spawners you have and make an effort to accommodate them. Giving them multiple options (types of caves, plants, or shells) increases the odds that they will find something acceptable and spawn for you.

J. R. Shute interview

J. R. Shute 

To date, all of the interviews I’ve conducted for the blog have been with aquarists who are involved with cichlids in some capacity. Today’s interviewee is different. Because I am a real proponent of fish conservation, I’ve been looking for someone to interview who is heavily engaged in the practice. Many of the core values of fish conservationists span all types of fish, cichlids included.

J. R. Shute is co-director of Conservation Fisheries Incorporated (CFI), founded in 1992 by he and co-director Patrick Rakes.

Over the past 25+ years, CFI has worked with more than 60 species of rare and imperiled fishes of the southeast United States, some of which are considered the rarest in the country. Recently, J. R. and Patrick were awarded the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Director’s Conservation Partner Honor Award in recognition of “Outstanding Performance”.

A few weeks ago I asked J.R. if he would be willing to do an interview for the blog about CFI and the organization’s efforts. He happily agreed and, after giving me a personal tour of CFI’s facility a few weeks ago, we completed the interview.

Let’s get started!

Read moreJ. R. Shute interview

Mitigate vibration, reduce sound

If you’ve followed the blog for a while, then you’ve read some posts about sound in the aquarium and its effects on the inhabitants. I am a huge proponent of sound reduction in aquaria.

Quite simply, sounds are products of vibrations. Thus, anything that vibrates can create audible noise, depending on the frequency and the sensory capabilities of the recipient. All power filters produce vibration, hence sound. This continuous sound propagates but can’t dissipate in closed systems like fish tanks. So whether you use sponge filters, canisters, sumps, or HOBs, you’re generating noise in your aquarium.

Read moreMitigate vibration, reduce sound

A new heater to market

Image from http://thegoldfishtank.com/.

A few days ago, I was fortunate to be given a prototype of a new submersible heater under development, which will eventually be released by one of the major aquarium equipment companies. It’s made of carbon fiber with a thermal shutoff, a patented out-of-water safety shut-off, and patented thermostat. I also passed along a couple of improvement suggestions, which I hope will be implemented.

Stay tuned for more information about this heater. At present, there is no set date for it to hit the market.

The variables DO matter

So what exactly does the title of this post mean? If you’ve done your due diligence with regard to cichlids, then you’ve undoubtedly read they are naturally aggressive and more so than many other tropical fish in the hobby. However, your experience may not reflect that. Why? The variables.

Members of each cichlid species carry innate behaviors, but like humans, every cichlid has a personality. Yes, mbuna species are known to be pretty aggressive in aquaria, but the breadth and depth of that aggression depends on many things. The species, gender mix, aquascape, tank size, tank mates, water temperature, time of day, and amount of light are all variables that can determine how a specific cichlid behaves, including how aggressive it might be.

That cichlid your friend has that is a nightmare might be a whole lot friendlier under different circumstances. The challenge for you as a cichlid keeper is to be able to identify those circumstances and understand them. How do you do that? Just pay attention.

Juan Miguel Artigas Azas interview


Juan Miguel Artigas Azas 

Where do you go for information about cichlids – species profiles, articles, etc.? If you’re like many cichlidophiles, you use multiple resources to satisfy your craving for cichlid knowledge. However, if there is one resource that I would recommend to any and all cichlid keepers, it would be the Cichlid Room Companion (CRC). As one of the largest, oldest, and most comprehensive databases for cichlid information, CRC is perhaps the best online site for cichlid aquarists. Today’s interviewee is the man responsible for it.

For those of you who’ve been in the hobby for a long time, Juan Miguel Artigas Azas really needs no introduction. Not only is he the creator of CRC, but he’s also an expert on Central American cichlids, especially those from his native Mexico. In addition, he is a regular speaker at various tropical fish events around the world. If you’ve ever attended the annual convention of the American Cichlid Association (ACA), you’ve probably also seen him and his extremely informative presentations. Without further ado, let’s gets started.

The Cichlid Stage: As a long time aquarist, how did you first become interested in cichlids?

Read moreJuan Miguel Artigas Azas interview

Interested in discus?

Alenquer Red Discus. Image from https://www.azgardens.com/.

Discus are some of the most colorful cichlids available in the hobby. Though few in species (only three formally recognized), there are multiple types, strains, groups, and classes used to distinguish them. If you’re a fan of discus, then you might consider joining the North American Discus Association (NADA). Founded in 2004, NADA is a non-profit organization whose goals naturally revolve around promoting this beautiful, mostly peaceful fish. Membership is very reasonable at $10 per year. Also visit their Facebook page to see the latest news about the association.

If you want to see some of the most awesome discus assembled in one place, you might also consider attending the 2018 Discus Show being held this year in New Jersey July 12-15.