Feedback on my 55 Gallon Malwai Cichlid please! And a few questions.

  • #1
I come to you folks very humble, because I did literally EVERYTHING wrong when I first got into aquariums. I found a from Wal-Mart and purchased it three years ago, and proceeded to inflict a fish genocide over the next year or so. I'm in Tucson AZ. Our general water parameters out of the tap over the past year (per the city's water quality report) are

- A PH of 7.8 or 7.9
- Hardness of 150-240 mg/l (!!!)
- A nitrate content of anywhere from .85 to 2.2 mg/l.

So naturally, I go straight to Petco, see the pretty Tetras and various other Amazon community fish, and proceeded to murder almost all of them through a combination of my rushing the cycling process and not conditioning the water past putting in whatever dechlorinator was cheapest. I know, I know. I just listened to the Petco guy. I did eventually learn the basic rules for a happy tank (AND found a really great LFS after reading about the issues with the big box stores) and managed to keep a fairly happy pair of Angelfish and some Cory cats alive and healthy for about a year, but then gave the fish to a friend who wanted to start his own tank. So my tank shut down for about a year and I've recently decided to try again, but this time I really want to do my homework and do it right the first time.

Our water seems pretty amenable to MalawI cichlids, and I love love LOVE bright colorful blue, red and yellow fish. So I think that I might try an all-male Peacock/Hap tank. I'll be re-using the tank itself along with the Marineland heater that came with it, and obtaining the following equipment.

  1. An old Aquatech 5-15 HOB filter someone gave me, which I believe is just a re-badged Penguin 100 without the Bio-wheel thingy.
  2. A Sunsun HW403B Canister filter (Seems to be the most affordable canister filter that has some good reviews online. Some seem to come as duds with leak issues or whatever but once you have a unit up and running they seem pretty decent)
  3. I'm filling the Media trays with
    [*=2]Coarse-fine-fine filter pad in the bottom
    [*=2]Two 100ml Purigen bags in the middle along with a bunch of pot scrubby things from the dollar store
    [*=2]1 Liter of Seachem Matrix in the top tray (with another fine filter pad underneath it lining said tray, I don't see the point of putting Matrix in a media bag but it should help if/when it starts to disintegrate)
  4. Two Power-Glo 18000 Kelvin fluorescent lights for the hood, to replace the standard daylight ones we have in there (Apparently they're great for colorful cichlids)
  5. Cheap gravel, some fake plants, a large cave decoration, and however many Terracotta pot caves I can fit in there without it looking awful. Later on I'll try to get some acceptable rocks, learn how to boil/disinfect them, and try to make a nicer looking cave system, but for right now I'm just trying to give everyone places to hide if need be.

As for water treatment stuff, I'm getting

  1. Seachem Prime
  2. Seachem Cichlid Lake Salt
  3. Seachem Stability to see if it'll help speed up the cycling process at all
  4. Seachem Paraguard, API Melafix and Pimafix for any sick fish I end up with
  5. Seachem Ammonia Alert Disc (I have an API Master Test kit as well, but the Ammonia Alert disc seems like it might work well as a backup, and clearly I'm a Seachem schill. Prime was what basically saved my fish when nothing else seemed to be helping back when I had my old tank, and their support staff on their website seems knowledgeable and genuinely helpful, so they've won my loyalty I suppose)

So here's my questions:

- I like the UV filter aspect of the Sunsun filter, but I realize as it's set up it'll be a marginal clarifier at best. I'm wondering if I could increase it's effectiveness by purchasing a 13 watt UV lamp and plumbing in a 5/8 ball valve to the inlet hose. (Or outlet. Does it matter?) That way if/when I feel like I need to really disinfect the water, I could just reduce the flow-rate (The HOB filter should help keep the turn over acceptable) in the canister.

  1. If I wanted to replace the (undoubtedly garbage) UV bulb that comes with the Sunsun with whatever the most effective/powerful bulb it can accept is, what kind of bulb would that be? Any suggestions for a reputable seller?
  2. Do I put the ball valve in the outlet hose, or the inlet hose?
  3. Is there a maximum amount I can lower the flow rate without hurting the filter?
  4. Will any of this actually help make the UV function work any better?

- Is there any kind of water treatment/support product I should have but I'm forgetting? I'm aware that some of this stuff is not really necessary with an immaculately maintained tank, but I've stuck with things that are highly rated or believed to actually be effective (as far I can tell from reviews) and anything that can help, I'm interested in. I know the Pima/Mela fix and the Paraguard won't work miracles but if I get in trouble, they're better than nothing. I had some expired Maracyn II laying around, and I was going to get some more of that as well, but it appears to no longer be produced.

- And finally, what kind of fish do you guys recommend? I know it's an old, done-to-death question, but searching online has given me a million different answers, so maybe someone can recommend some that'll do well in this particular tank, since I've provided tons (way too much) info about how it'll be set up.

  1. I'm not really interested in any Mbuna as I'm already playing with fire by doing an all-male tank, and my understanding is Haps and especially Peacocks are going to be easier to care for and less wildly aggressive
  2. I'm looking for bright blue and red coloration, and maybe yellow (especially if anyone thinks a yellow Lab is do-able with the haps and peacocks)
  3. Something I can get at Petco or Petsmart would be preferable as well. I know, I said I switched to a great LFS, but he only carries Tanganyikan and dwarf South American cichlids. Pretty much every other non-horrible LFS here is saltwater only, so I'm stuck with what the big box stores have (buying them online seems way too expensive)

Seriously, thanks for any input anyone can offer!

TL;DR - If fish ever become sentient and form some kind of war-crime tribunal, I will need to go into hiding based on my prior fish-keeping experience, so now I'm overthinking everything and need someone to tell me I'm not setting myself up for failure again.

Claire Bear
  • #2
Hi, I think half the battle is deciding what type of fish, then colors interested in and the rest as they say, easy pea-sy!
This is where most of my fish have come from-cichlids and they have all been super healthy!

  • #3
+ 1 on Live Fish Direct. I bought all my Cichlids from them also and never had a problem all were very healthy fish. Thanks
  • #4
I'll be interested in following your progress as I'm doing my own Cichlid tank build at the moment as well. We have a lot of the same Ideas. A stupid question on my part is when you use scrubbies in your filter what type are you using? Would Poly whatchamacallit do the same thing (yeah I know but its late and I don't feel like looking up the spelling lol) The only fish I've bought from Petsmart Cichlid wise has been a couple Yellow Labs and they are definitely healthy and colorful. The rest I have gotten from a couple real good LFS privatelyowned in my area. I have read a lot of people love the live fish direct and Live Aquaria. I think it seems too expensive too but it almost would be worth it to be able to get exactly what you want and not be tempted to impulse buy what you come across in the local stores...ok so I'm talking about my impulse buys lol, that's why my mbuna tank is now going to be a mbuna , peacock and hap tank
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
Thanks everyone! I'll be sure to check in with updates. In terms of the tank setup and water treatments, do I seem to be on the right track? Anything to change or add?
  • #6
Google Daves Rare Fish and South East Cichlids. Both are great online retailers with some of the best African Cichlids around.

With a 55 gallon I would stick to just Peacocks and Haps as they can get quite large. Maybe go with 2 Peacock species and two Hap species with three to four of each to start. A pleco and a few dwarf cat fish sounds like a fun tank.
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
So things are moving along pretty decently thus far. Everything's all set up and running.

- I am definitely a big, big fan of these Sunsun canister filters. No idea if the UV part is garbage or not, but it moves plenty of water, no leaks, and it's silent. It's early of course, but so far I'm a fan.

- Filter is set up this way way: Bottom tray has two white filter pads to act as mechanical filtration, middle tray has 200ml Purigen and two old media bags I filled up with some activated carbon I had left over from back in the day, AND the two big pieces of filter floss I had from my old Aquatech 30-60 HOB from our tank 2 years ago. They've been dry as a bone for 2 years so there was no bacteria left in there I'm sure, but they should be great bio media. Top tray has 1 liter of Seachem Matrix on top of another white filter pad.

- I am in the middle of cycling currently, I started on the 20th doing a fishless cycle by just dropping a chunk of leftover steak from Texas Roadhouse in (classy, right!?) and the ammonia hung out at what I thought was about 4 PPM for the first 5 days or so. However after re-checking the API chart it was more like 8 PPM. I got more than a little ridiculous dumping in bacteria in a bottle products, I've dumped in 300 ml of Tetra Safestart, an entire bottle of Seachem Stability, AND half a bottle of StressZyme. However, it's clearly doing SOMETHING, because we're already well into the cycling process.

After taking out the gross chunk of meat and switching to Great Value Ammonia (which yes, has surfactants in it, I CANNOT find completely clean ammonia here in Tucson so I'm just going to do a 100% water change at the end and according to quite a few other reports I should be fine) I've been able to control the process a bit better. I ran it up to 5 PPM Ammonia last night, went to bed, and I woke up this morning to 0 ammonia and about 5 PPM Nitrite. So I'm already at stage 2 and hopefully the Nitrite-eating bacteria will grow half as fast (which is still pretty freaking quick). Considering it's only been a week and I had NO established filter seeding, the bacteria in a bottle clearly did something!

I'll post a photo next, and my ideas for tenants for this place.

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