Setting up a new cichlid tank is always exciting, especially when you get to pick up all new components for the tank AND the fish for it. The endless combinations available for filtration, lighting, heating, and water flow make the whole planning process fun. Furthermore, the unlimited decorating options just add to the creative possibilities. This is how it should be. However, don’t overlook tank maintenance in your planning process. What does that mean?
Before you go planning to put 200 rocks in the 150g tank you’re in the process of setting up, remember you still have to clean the tank regularly. How do you plan to remove detritus and other waste from underneath those rocks? Sure, you can arrange a water movement system such that most waste gets “blown” to a certain part of the tank. Still yet, if you have a substrate of any kind, you’re going to have to move those rocks, wood, pots, pvc, decorations, and any other movable objects in order to vacuum underneath them. Waste WILL collect under such items.
Planted tanks, especially those heavily planted, don’t present quite as many problems from the detritus that doesn’t get vacuumed up during cleaning. Therefore, this advice applies more to typical African set-ups where live plants aren’t a featured item.
So make your maintenance routine part of your set up planning. The excitement of the tank turning out to look just how you envisioned it is awesome until that excitement is tempered by the realization that those 200 rocks make cleaning a nightmare. If you don’t mind spending a lot of time cleaning, then 200 rocks isn’t a problem. But if you want to minimize the maintenance effort while making the tank look how you want, decorate it to clean it.