Setting up a cichlid aquarium

Rather than a “what to do” checklist, this post is going to focus more on what not to do. Keeping cichlids is different than keeping a goldfish or betta fish in a bowl. Sure, you can buy a single cichlid and keep it in a small tank. But most cichlid keepers don’t operate that way. Even if you’re an experienced cichlid keeper, these recommendations still apply. Of course, you have the freedom to do what you want, but please put your fish before yourself. It’s not about you. It’s about the fish. Here are a few “don’ts” that are guaranteed to save you time, money, and headache.

  • Don’t be in a hurry – mistakes happen when you get in too big of a hurry and, very often, your fish pay the price.
  • Didn’t research what kind of fish are compatible with Oscars? Don’t worry. Your Oscars will solve that problem for you – they’ll eat it if it fits in their mouth. Same goes for other large carnivore cichlids. Don’t expect one species to be compatible with another. Though many are, all bets are off if you have a breeding pair and they spawn.
  • Don’t be haphazard in your plan. Make sure you’ve thought about what species of cichlids you’ll be housing in that tank. Or, better yet, your tank size should dictate what you keep. Cichlids come in all sizes, shapes, colors, temperaments, environment needs, etc. Tanks come in all shapes and sizes too. Make sure the tank and the fish match.
  • Don’t buy in to “water is water.” Not all water chemistry is the same, regardless of the fact that the water looks clear. Soft and slightly acidic water looks exactly the same as hard and slightly alkaline water. Municipal water looks just like well water but you’re foolish to think the chemistry is the same. Cichlids come from all different water parameters and yours may suffer if kept in water they haven’t evolved for.
  • Don’t think about you, think about your fish. For example, thinking that gravel looks really cool, buying it, then covering your tank bottom with it before buying the fish that will live it can be a big mistake.

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