No matter what type(s) of cichlids you keep, you do so for a reason. In fact, whether you’ve given it much thought or not, you probably have an objective for the decisions you make with respect to your fishes’ environment. From the fish you keep, to the equipment you use, to the water parameters you try to maintain, it all points to an objective on your part.
Your overall goal should be to provide as healthy an environment for your fish as you can. However, there is more to it. Are you setting up a tank for show, for breeding, for treatment, for quarantine, or all of the above? Ask yourself what you’re wanting to achieve.
If you want to show off a pristine, clutter-free tank, then you probably don’t want it sitting on cement blocks with a home-built, unpainted stand made of 2 x 4s or 4 x 4s. You probably don’t want the tank’s plumbing showing everywhere or dozens of electrical cords either.
If you don’t want your tank(s) located where all your friends and visitors gather for parties or watching television, then all of that other stuff is probably just fine. I’m not sure I know anyone who keeps stacks of breeder tanks in their main family room. Those set-ups are usually reserved for a basement, a back-room, or even an outbuilding of some kind.
So what’s the point I’m trying to make? Before you think about a plan, you should be thinking about what it is you want to achieve. In other words, what’s your objective with each tank. Knowing that should then dictate the decisions you make about everything related to your tank – what the purpose is, where it should go, what size of tank, how it should be filtered, what kind of fish to put in it, what kind of substrate (if any).