A very long post about cichlid behavior

Discussion in 'Aquarium Stocking Questions' started by stiglitz, Apr 21, 2012.

  1. stiglitzWell Known MemberMember

    In advance let me apologize for how long this post is going to be.

    Hi, i recently bought a 55 gallon tank off of craigslist that came with:

    8 inch Midas/Blood Parrot mix
    5 inch Black Convict
    10 inch Jack Dempsey
    5 inch Jack Dempsey
    13 inch Pleco
    10 inch Pleco
    6 inch Chinese Algae Eater
    Canaster Filter
    HOB Filter
    Under Gravel Filter
    Automatic Feeder

    I've had this tank for about a week, and my water parameters are:

    0ppm ammonia
    0ppm nitrite
    10 ppm nitrate
    7.6 pH
    78 degrees Fahrenheit

    I know, this tank is VERY overstocked, but he listed all of the things above and was only asking $150 for it, and I couldn't walk away from the offer.

    This is my first time owning Cichlids, and right off the bat I can tell that their behavior is a little too aggressive.

    First off let's start with the Plecos. There's nothing wrong with them that I can see. Their behavior is normal, and they get along with all of the fish.

    The Chinese Algae Eater is normal as well, all of the fish get along with him and he doesn't harass any other fish either. I'm a little worried about him though, because I've read when they mature they can become very territorial and aggressive; the last thing I need is another territorial dispute in my already overcrowded tank. Now, onto the Cichlids.

    The 4 Cichlids are in a bit of a territorial dispute. The Midas and Convict are a team against the two JDs. The Midas/Convict's territory is the back left corner of the tank behind a pot decoration, and the JDs' territory is in the center of the tank, inside a large decoration.

    (Keep in mind that the JDs could be a mating pair, but I am not completely sure yet. I would post a picture of them, but at the moment they are inside the decoration, so it wouldn't be a clear picture. I will post one ASAP)

    The only time the JDs come out of the decoration is to either
    a) eat
    b) harass the Midas/Convict

    Whenever the JDs go over to the M/C's territory, its a head to head "stare off". The larger JD is more up in their face while the smaller one is by his/her side, but not as confrontational. The M/C pair do the same, the Midas is trying to shoo off the larger JD while the Convict is trying to shoo off the smaller JD. This doesn't go on for very long mind you, only for about 2 minutes max. This doesn't happen very frequently either because the JDs are very shy and stay in their decoration most of the day. However, when it is night time, the larger JD is VERY active. During the weekends when I'm still awake at 2am, I'd go downstairs to check on them, and the JD is always sitting directly in the back left corner with the Midas and Convict. It's very strange. During the day they seem to hate each other and stand their ground on their territory, but when it's night time and the JDs are more active, they'll just sit together and not do much. My mother comes home from her job at around 2am as well, and she says she sees the same thing on week days when I'm sleeping.

    So what I'm trying to say is, the M/C pair and the JD pair are very aggressive towards one another, but for some reason they swim among each other during the night like best friends.


    What should I do in terms of this aggression and how can I stop it?
    I was thinking about leaving all of them in the tank for a month since I've only had them for a week, and see if their behavior gets better.

    Which fish should I remove?
    I'm planning to remove the 13 inch pleco as well as the Chinese Algae Eater.
    For now let's assume that the JDs are a mating pair. IF I removed one of the JDs, how would the remaining one react? Do you think he'd get more aggressive or less?

    Would it be okay to re-do all of the aquarium decorations?
    I really hate how the tank looks. I was planning to replace all the decorations in a month or two and completely change the way the tank looks. If I did this, would this stress any of the fish? Especially the JDs. Since they've picked their territory in that decoration, what do you think would happen if I removed it? Would they just find a new territory, or what?

    Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it. I'm sorry for how long this is. I think we should have a specific section in Fishlore just for me since I type so much :(

    P.S if any moderator comes across this, can you please move this to the Cichlid section, I meant to post it there and now I don't know how to move it.

    Last edited: Apr 21, 2012
  2. JoannaBWell Known MemberMember

    Personally, I think that $150 was not a bargain. You now got yourself a medium sized aquarium with more fish than it can support, and several of those fish are either too aggressive or too big for this aquarium. In addition to that even relatively peaceful fish can grow aggressive when too crowded, and many of the fish are not peaceful fish by any definition. The pleco are peaceful, but these are common plecos and they grow to be 2-3 feet long and thus this aquarium is not for them - and the smaller of the two is already too big cor this aquarium as well I think. You now have the job of finding new homes for your fish (and not just one new home for all of them), and thus you got yourself a lot of trouble for the bargain price of $150.

  3. stiglitzWell Known MemberMember

    I have a pet store that takes fish and they re sell them. It's not a big chain like petsmart or petco, it's just a small building that takes animals that people can't take care of and re sells them. They mostly have fish, but they also have rabbits and a few birds. I know this place very well and they can be trusted with the fish that I give them. Thanks I'll take that into consideration. I'm thinking about just redoing this entire tank, meaning new decorations and getting rid of every single fish :( It's too bad, they're so pretty. But we'll see, thanks for reading.

  4. iZaO JnrWell Known MemberMember

    The simple fact at the end of the day is that the tank is not overstocked but overcrowded. While i agree $150 is not a bargain for all the trouble, better the situation be in your hands than in the hands of someone who clearly did not understand the gravity of their actions. The next fact is that yes you see aggression, which these fish are naturally. The ONLY reason they are displaying such behaviour is because of the overcrowding.
    No territory can be established and this is what they are fighting for.

    I would keep some fish, as some of those can work in a 55g.

    1 Midas/Parrot hybrid
    1 Jack Dempsey

    These two will work well in this tank. Usually i wouldnt say keep the hybrid, but please dont release this species into the world of trade. We who breed cichlids try our best to keep the gene pools as tip top as we can, and things like that ruin it all.

    What models and brands filters did you get?

    As for your questions.

    How to solve aggression, theres only one step. Rehome most of the fish. Keeping them for longer will eventually end up badly.

    What fish to remove, i say remove all but keep the two i said above. The JD can be chosen over the others or vice versa, but thats it. For fish this size 2 fish is still pushing it. Dont keep the plecos or the CAE.

    As for redecorating. Do what you like, after the fish that need to be rehomed have been rehomed. Territories will be easy to restablished in a much less overcrowded tank.

    Any other help needed?
  5. stiglitzWell Known MemberMember

    I see. Yes, if i have to get rid of all fish except two, I would never get rid of the hybrid. She's so beautiful.

    Canister: marineland c-220
    Under Gravel: Unknown

    Response to your responses to my questions:

    Alright. I will rehome all of the fish except JD and hybrid ASAP. Which JD should I remove? The larger one or smaller? I took a trip to that small petstore i was talking about that i gave fish to in the past, and looked into it more. They're basically like a pet thrift store. They take most fish that people give them, they put them into a quarantine tank to make sure they carry no diseases, and they put them in a fish tank with similar fish and re sell them.

    Final notes:

    After I've removed all of the fish except JD and hybrid, am i allowed to add anymore fish? And if so, which would you suggest?

    Only issue that comes up with removing all the fish is my parents. The owner that i bought the fish off of claims that they have been together for more than 5 years, and my parents think that it's wrong of me to remove fish that have been together for so long. They enjoy watching the territorial disputes among the cichlids and think it's normal. It's going to be tough to convince them to rehome most of the fish. There was an african cichlid in there as well but he did not do so well, and when i gave him away my parents thought i was crazy.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2012
  6. JoannaBWell Known MemberMember

    I have more bad news for you: the problems with parents not understanding this hobby do not go away even when you grow up. I am 38 years old. My mother is visiting from out of town. She cannot understand why I limit myself to such small fish in the 30 gallon aquarium that I have. She has admired an aquarium in a restaurant which houses a grouper where the fish is almost the size of the aquarium she told me, and she asked why I will not get a real fish like that. I said that I don't believe a big fish like that can survive any amount of time in such a small tank, and how can she be sure she always sees the same fish there - maybe they die and get replaced at night? I suggested that she would not want to live her life in a closet either. I said that while one could figure out the number of people who could live in one home by figuring out how many people could take 3-minute showers one after the other until the hot water runs out, and how many people could lie down on materasses in each room to sleep at night without leaving any space, etc. Surely, this would not be the way to figure out housing arrangements for humans, so why should we stock our aquariums to force the fish to live like that? The aforementioned living arrangements would make any even usually peaceful person cranky and stressed out and likely to argue with the others. But if you chose roommates who had the right personality to join gangs, professional boxers, etc, and made them live in such cramped quarters, someone would get murdered sooner or later. Also even with humans, while two young kids can easily share a room (my six and three year old sons do), this will become more problematic and less advisable as they grow older, and depending on compatibility of personalities or lack thereof siblings who got along great as kids may actually have a falling out when older, and it then would not be wrong to get them separate bedrooms because they are used to sleeping in the same room for the first few years of their lives. Same principles apply to fish. Alas my mother still thinks that I am crazy, and disapproves of my aquarium and my over-conservative approach, and frankly I don't think I will be able to convince her. However, she has stopped arguing with me about it, since this is my aquarium not hers, and she has realized that arguing will not change my mind. You have a much more difficult situation because you live with your parents, and their not understanding may be more of an issue in your case than it is in mine. In my case it is my husband whose understanding is more important to my peace of mind, and luckily even though this is not his hobby, he does not object to my choices for the aquarium, and he accepts that I now know much more than he does about what is right for aquarium fish, so I am lucky that he understands that.Good luck with your parents, but as my example with my mother shows, it may be that the best you can hope for is their giving up on arguing against you, even though they may continue to believe that you should handle the aquarium a different way.

    PS: I noticed that you have goldfish in a 10 gallon tank listed in your profile. I know you said that you would not want to part with that hybrid, but the goldfish would be much better off in a larger tank - have you considered the option of rehoming all the aggressive fish and treating the 55 gallon aquarium as a new home for your goldfish? Goldfish are very messy fish that need clean water. And I know you probably do not want to consider this option, since I am sure you like your new fish very much too. What are your chances of getting another big aquarium for the goldfish? How many goldfish do you have? If just one, you could get more goldfish in a 55gallon.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2012
  7. iZaO JnrWell Known MemberMember

    The biggest thing is to show your parents actual research. I was not too long ago in the same boat and it wasnt easy. Showing them proof and evidence of research and a good reason why you would say that some fish need to be rehomed seemed to work well for my folks. Of course in this situation it is a good thing to do but obviously dont go too far with the limits. Show your parents this thread if need be.

    Although territorial disputes among fish are a commonplace amongst fish in an aquarium, many dont know the difference between a fair grounds territorial dispute and one that is simply chaos. These fish will be fighting not only over territory but mere space to move about. As for what fish you can put in the tank further after the rehoming, there arent many. But before that is settled please do find a new home for those fish.
  8. stiglitzWell Known MemberMember

    Thanks guys. I understand the situation I am in and will do my best to convince my parents to let me rehome my fish. I will surely be showing them this thread, but before that I will be doing a lot of research, and going to pick the best article I can find to show them. If anyone knows any good websites, please share.

    I forgot to update my aquarium info... I researched further and found out commons were too big for 10 gallons, so I gave them to a friend. He's much more experienced with fish than I am. They are currently homed in a 29 gallon and will be moved up to bigger tank sizes until they're ready for a pond. They're in good hands! I re did my 10 gallon and it is cycling right now. Once I get good water parameters I'm going to add a beta :)

    Actually, I might not add fish.. I've been thinking about it, and I think that if I set up this tank the right away and make it look great, the JD with the Midas/parrot hybrid would look nice together. I am tempted to give away the hybrid and just keep the larger 10 inch JD as a center piece, but if I gave the hybrid to a pet shop, they might breed it and that wouldn't be good. I'm not completely sure what the whole idea is about mixing cichlids, but I've read a little about the controversy with blood red parrots.
  9. iZaO JnrWell Known MemberMember

    Blood Red parrots were a mix between 2 cichlids and arent actually a true species. This is destroying the good quality gene pool is what some people will say, and i am one of them. Giving them away to someone who understands the same is okay, but not to someone who will sell them to anyone who doesnt know any better.

    Once the tank is setup nicely and all is calm again, then more stock can be looked at. There are options, not many albeit, but there are.

    Good luck and keep us posted
  10. stiglitzWell Known MemberMember

    Just gave away all fish except the JD and hybrid! :) Waiting a week or two for them to get settled in, then going to redo the tank.

    I decided that I just want to make my 55 gallon an african cichlid tank. So I gave my hybrid to the same friend that i gave my goldfish too. The JD went to the pet store. cheers
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2012
  11. iZaO JnrWell Known MemberMember

    I love african tanks.

    I have a 55g one at the moment now. If you need guidance setting it up dont be afraid to ask!

    Heres Mine:

  12. stiglitzWell Known MemberMember

    I might be making a forum post about it; right now I'm just inboxing users for help since African Cichlids are much different from the fish I've kept in the past. Expect a PM from me ;D
  13. jerilovesfrogsFishlore VIPMember

    africans need many many rocks and places to hide in...good luck

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