A DIY tank stand

Normally, I don’t have time to engage in time consuming DIY projects. Building tank stands is no exception. However, I’m always up for a challenge and I have a need for another stand. I’m running out of isolation tanks…well, at least stands to put them on. I’ve had a rash of cichlid pairings/spawnings lately, and the tanks I typically use for quarantine/separation are occupied. Thus, I decided several weeks ago to set up two new 20g longs to resolve that problem. I would typically just buy a stand but I have something specific in mind that I was confident I couldn’t find somewhere. I shopped around for stand options for dual 20g tanks but didn’t like what I found. Therefore I decided to build one myself.

Read moreA DIY tank stand

A little dive in the sand

I have kept cichlids for a long time and I’ve kept several species of shell dwellers. One of my favorites is Lamprologus ocellatus, a wonderful dwarf cichlid from Lake Tanganyika. If you keep African species and you get the opportunity, invest in a small colony of these little beauties. They are great fun. If you want to learn more about them, Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine published a great article about this fish in 2014.

Anyway, a long time ago I had several ocellatus and bred them. I never replaced the adults when they passed away. A few months ago after deciding to breed them again, I bought several juveniles from a breeder in New York. Assuming that they were all probably siblings and not wanting to interbreed, about a month ago I picked up another juvenile pair from my LFS, who I know doesn’t get fish from the same breeder. I put this new pair into a 20g long to raise them until I can sex them. The tank has aragonite substrate and several shells.

Lamprologus ocellatus burrowed into the aragonite sand. Photo by the author.

I was doing a water change on that tank this evening when one of ocellatus nose dived into the sand rather than seek shelter in one of the open shells. It burrowed until the only thing I could see was its eyes. In all the years I kept ocellatus, that is one behavior I never witnessed. I must say I was pretty shocked. See the photo above with the little guy circled in orange.

Good days and bad days

Experience will show you that keeping multiple tanks increases exponentially the probability of having a water accident. At the present, I have seven tanks going. I do water changes on five of those tanks every Sunday. Last week was no exception. What is typically a smooth process was anything but that day.

Yep, I had not one water spill but two. First, my vacuum hose came out of the bucket while I was cleaning a filter (see how I do water changes here). That resulted in probably a gallon of water into the carpet. All of my show tanks are on carpet. To make matters worse, the carpet is a darker color, meaning I don’t readily see a spill. But my bare feet feel it. Ugh. Shortly after getting that one cleaned up, I caught my foot on a bucket containing prefilter sponges (five of them, to be exact). When I remove these sponges from the tanks, I put them in a bucket, and yes they’re full of water when I put them in there. So naturally the bucket had water in it. Thankfully, it probably didn’t contain more than a couple of cups worth. I tried to step over it and obviously failed. Anyway, that was just another water spill to have to clean up.

The good news is I didn’t flood my fish room, something I have managed to do twice in the past six months.

Needless to say, last Sunday was not a good day working on the tanks. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I turned over one of the filter baskets from the canister I was working on, causing the loose media to spill out all over my work bench.

Anyway, the point is to be prepared to have days like this when you work on multiple tanks. It WILL happen.

Community tank fry identity

So here’s the scenario. You have a community tank containing several species, at least two of which you’re certain you have a breeding pair. You’re doing routine tank maintenance and you stumble upon some really small fry. They’re much too small to identify the species. So how do you know what you have?

Great question. There is no simple answer, but you can possibly identify the fry via the process of elimination. Here’s how:

Read moreCommunity tank fry identity

New fish not so welcome

Image from https://www.zazzle.com/.

Adding new fish to a tank, whether it’s a new set-up or an existing tank, is always exciting. That is until you realize that you’ve got a bad combination of fish, which manifests itself in aggression. How does that happen?

Not every mix of species, size, and/or gender will result in tank harmony. It’s incumbent upon you, as a fish keeper, to understand the problems created when you mix the wrong fish.

Read moreNew fish not so welcome

Intuition matters

Image from http://http://www.asharpeye.com/.

You ever stand, look at one of your tanks, and notice something seems off? I usually get that from my fishes’ behavior. EVERY time I feed my fish, I do a headcount. That might not be easy to do if you have a really large tank with tons of fish. However, my largest, most populated tank is a 75g with ~20 fish, so it’s easy.

Not only do I do a headcount, but I’ve become so used to their behavior, I can usually tell something is going on within seconds. Though fish can get sick and linger for days untreated, they can also expire quite suddenly, especially if they get beaten to death by a tankmate. Typically, however, you should know pretty quickly when something isn’t right.

If you recall my post a couple of weeks ago about new fish, one of the new fish was a Chalinochromis popelini. It was a juvenile, and I wasn’t sure what the gender was. Anyway, I put him/her in a 75g community tank with other juvenile species. When I fed everyone the night before last, I noticed the popelini at the back of the tank, upright and hovering just above the sand. It wasn’t hiding, per se, nor was it being bullied. In fact, I had not witnessed any harassment at all since I introduced him/her to the tank. On the other hand, the behavior was atypical. Usually, it came out and swam around grabbing morsels of food just like everyone else. This time, it didn’t. That concerned me.

Yesterday morning when I checked on the tanks, he/she was dead atop a ceramic tube. There were no physical signs which might point to an unfortunate tankmate encounter. I knew when I saw him/her that evening that something wasn’t right. My intuition was correct.

A fry mystery

While cleaning one of the 75g tanks today, I noticed a single fry hugging the sand. I would never have noticed it had it not darted when I got close with the vacuum.

What species is it? Not sure. However, I’m confident it has to be either a Julidichromis ornatus or an Altolamprologus compressiceps Kasanga goldhead because those are the only multiples (multiple specimens of the same species) that are in the tank.

I guess it could theoretically be a black skirt tetra, since I have five of them as dithers. However, my understanding is they aren’t the easiest to breed and the water is  not conducive, so I’m doubting that’s it.

The other option is that someone hasn’t followed the rules – meaning hybridization – because all the other cichlid species are singles.

I’m going to go with the Julies. I’m pretty certain the goldheads aren’t mature enough yet to breed. I think the Julies are just barely mature enough and, given that I only saw a single baby, I’m guessing this was one of their first spawns. It’s not uncommon that early spawns don’t produce large broods.

I’ll update this post if 1) the baby (and any others) avoids predation long enough to identify or 2) there is another brood with higher numbers so I can identify them.

Some new fish

I visited my LFS yesterday and picked up some new fish, specifically the following:

  • 2 x Lamprologus ocellatus
  • 1 x Chalinochromis popelini
  • 1 x Neolamprologus cylindricus

I already have 4 x L. ocellatus from a different line. Of those, I’m only certain that there is one male in the group. The other three are still too small to accurately sex. The two I purchased today are even younger, so I have no idea what their sexes are. My plan is to have at least one breeding pair from the two lines. Time will tell.

The popelini and cylindricus are both young as well. I added them to a 75g Tang community tank that already has the following (all still very young, except for the Telmat and tetras):

  • 3 x Altolamprologus compressiceps Kasanga goldhead (unsexed)
  • 5 x Julidochromis ornatus (unsexed)
  • 1 x Lamprologus signatus (male)
  • 1 x Lamprologus ocellatus (male)
  • 1 x Telmatochromis sp. “temporalis shell” (male)
  • 5 x Black skirt tetras (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) as dithers

I mentioned above that I already had four L. ocellatus, which includes the one listed above in the community tank. The other three are in a 30g square tank, which they occupy alone.


Fish room or workshop?

Those hobbyists who have a room dedicated to multiple fish tanks usually call it their fish room. Often these rooms don’t necessarily house show tanks, in the sense that the tanks aren’t set up as home decor. Instead, they house tanks of all sizes, racked rather than on individual tank stands.

I don’t have a fish room like that. All of my tanks, except quarantine and breeding tanks, are in rooms in my house as part of the regular decor. They’re all show tanks. However, I do have what I call a fish workshop. Instead of being dedicated to tanks, this room is dedicated to all of my equipment and supplies. I posted about the workshop shortly after moving into the house my wife and I bought earlier this year. Even my initial arrangement in the new workshop was light years better than what I had previously, which was a fish closet.

Well, I’ve redone the workshop since that post back in March. Why a workshop? If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you might recall my philosophy on supplies. I am a just-in-case person, which is reflected in the photos. Yes, that’s a black 75g stand against the wall in the first photo below. What’s inside the stand? Spare canister filters, seven of them to be exact.

Read moreFish room or workshop?

Hobbyists and species preservation

A shout out to Benjamin Hopp, the admin for the African Rift Lake, Victoria Basin, and Madagascar Fish Species Facebook group. He shared an interesting article yesterday about how hobbyists are contributing to efforts to save rare fish from extinction. Titled, Basement Preservationists: Can Hobbyists Save Rare Fish from Extinction, the piece includes comments from Greg Steeves and his participation in the CARES Program.

If you want to learn more about CARES, visit the website. You can also read the interview I did with Greg back in August of 2017.