Overstocking American Cichlids

devsi
  • #1
Note: To the person whom I was having this discussion with, if you read this; I do not disbelieve you. Part of my further research is getting more opinions on the matter :) no offense is intended.

I was having a conversation on a different thread and it was stated that overstocking American Cichlids is a good thing.

The comment in question is:

any cichlid are fine alone, but no, if it's any other case it is better to have a lot. Whether africans or americans, small or large, the more the better.

I learnt this the hard way, but since then it worked no matter what. Whether it is mixed species (africans and americans even), or same species.

Turned out that realistically, cichlids are largely the same when it comes to this.

Is this an opinion that is widely accepted/verified as being true?

For example, I currently have three Ellioti Cichlids in a 180 Litre tank. Is it then correct that I would be able to add another 3 Elliotis, 3 Convicts and 3 of something else?

Note: I'm not doing this, because my tank is already well stocked with non-cichlids. This is purely hypothetical for the purposes of my learning :)
 
TClare
  • #2
Not unless you want very stressed and probably injured fish! It is one thing starting with a group of juveniles, that’s often the best way to get a pair. But then, depending on the size of the tank and the fish in question, you will normally have to remove the rest or they could get seriously beaten up. Some American cichlids naturally live in groups outside of the breeding season, angelfish, Mesonauta, most Geophagus for example, they are probably best kept in groups, though again it may be necessary to separate a pair when they start to breed, you have to play it by ear to a certain extent. With the example you give, I am quite sure that putting all those cichlids in a 180l tank would end in disaster, except perhaps while they are all very small juveniles.
 
devsi
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Not unless you want very stressed and probably injured fish! It is one thing starting with a group of juveniles, that’s often the best way to get a pair. But then, depending on the size of the tank and the fish in question, you will normally have to remove the rest or they could get seriously beaten up. Some American cichlids naturally live in groups outside of the breeding season, angelfish, Mesonauta, most Geophagus for example, they are probably best kept in groups, though again it may be necessary to separate a pair when they start to breed, you have to play it by ear to a certain extent. With the example you give, I am quite sure that putting all those cichlids in a 180l tank would end in disaster, except perhaps while they are all very small juveniles.

Thank you :) that's what my understanding was. I thought it was only certain types of African Cichlids (mbunas) that should be overstocked to curb aggression.
 
TClare
  • #4
I should perhaps add that mbuna in the wild live in quite dense populations and I believe typically defend smaller territories than American cichlids. Try looking at some wild footage of both types.
 
Azedenkae
  • #5
For example, I currently have three Ellioti Cichlids in a 180 Litre tank. Is it then correct that I would be able to add another 3 Elliotis, 3 Convicts and 3 of something else?
Hi all, I'm the person in question here! And yes, absolutely, I have learnt over time that overstocking cichlids is best. So yes, 3 elliotis, 3 convicts, and 3 of something else (say myrnae or whatever) would actually be preferable, say over 3 elliotis. :)

That's from my experience anyways.

The thing is, there will be stress across nine cichlids. Of course. But with three cichlids for example... if one of them becomes the bully, it'll just smack around the remaining two and that's way worse. If a pair forms, the third wheel also gets bullied crazily.

With more cichlids aggression is spread around. Same bully, or same pair, but more targets of their aggression. I never thought about it that way when I first started keeping cichlids, but then after I was told this and saw it in action, it made perfect sense to me.

But anyways that's all Imma say. I don't want to dominate the discussion, gonna let others have their turn. ^_^

[EDIT]

But no seriously for all those who disagree (or agree), please do say your piece too.
 
TClare
  • #6
I can see the point of groups helping to disperse aggression, this definitely works with angelfish for example, and Geophagus, which are naturally group living species. There may well be times in the wild in the Americas when cichlids are crowded together in small drying pools for example. But this situation is temporary, there is not much food available and the fish are not considering breeding. In a small tank with plenty of food sooner or later a pair will form then all **** will break loose. Maybe one particular fish won’t be picked on but all the others will, and all will be stressed, in a 180l tank there is no room for fish to escape if they are chased
The other thing is that if you add new cichlids to the 180l where the ellioti are already established that is asking for trouble.
 
chromedome52
  • #7
First, Thorichthys maculipinnis (ellioti is a junior synonym) is actually one of the more aggressive of that genus according to Juan Miguel Artigas Azas. He recommends 300litres for a group of this species. Crowding such fish does not spread the aggression, it increases it. The crowding would have to be at a point where it becomes difficult for the top of the pecking order to establish a territory. This type of crowding is sometimes seen in stores, and to some extent it does work, but the fish are all still stressed. The biggest catch to crowding is water quality, to which T. maculipinnis is a particularly sensitive species. I do know of a person who did 70% water changes every three days on all of his tanks, and it did pay off - but it was a lot of work. Most good stores do massive changes weekly or have centralized filtration systems.

In a home aquarium, some species can be crowded more easily. Often they respond to the crowding by producing a stunted population. This is the most common result. Unless you have a river running through your tank, water quality is going to be your worst enemy from overcrowding.

It is much easier to control the environment for 3-4 fish so as to keep them happy. Bully fish usually happen from insufficient territorial space, even if there's only two fish present. If you have a bully, the answer is a bigger tank, not more crowding.
 
devsi
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
First, Thorichthys maculipinnis (ellioti is a junior synonym) is actually one of the more aggressive of that genus according to Juan Miguel Artigas Azas. He recommends 300litres for a group of this species.
Sorry, just to clarify - you're saying my three Elliotis should be in a minimum 300L tank, and not in my 180L?
Crowding such fish does not spread the aggression, it increases it. The crowding would have to be at a point where it becomes difficult for the top of the pecking order to establish a territory. This type of crowding is sometimes seen in stores, and to some extent it does work, but the fish are all still stressed.
Is it as simple to say this isn't the case for African Cichlids (e.g. Mbuna) as a whole, or is overcrowding entirely dependent on the species of African Cichlids?
It is much easier to control the environment for 3-4 fish so as to keep them happy. Bully fish usually happen from insufficient territorial space, even if there's only two fish present. If you have a bully, the answer is a bigger tank, not more crowding.
That makes sense, thanks!
 
Azedenkae
  • #9
I was hoping for a few more posts before I responded, but anyways.

I first of want to clarify that I do not advocating more fish into a tank than the tank can actually sustain. I guess 'overstocking' when it comes to cichlid-keeping has been somewhat synonymous with just 'having high numbers'. But yeah no, definitely do not overstock any tank, any time.

So with that clarification that I am talking about having high numbers, rather than overstocking, cichlids over, let's get into the heart of my post.

What I am saying is, you don't want 20 convict cichlids in say a 40 gallon tank for example, but you don't want four in there either. In contrast, say one has a 80 gallon tank. Everyone will have different views on how many fish it can hold, but let's say just in terms of water parameters, size-wise, etc., it can hold ten convict cichlids.

The reality is having ten convict cichlids in that would be better than lower number of convicts (aside from a pair, for example). Four convicts and if they are all one gender, well one will bully the rest. Yes there will be space, but they'll still chase particular fish all over anyways, stressing those fish out. Three fish will be stressed out despite hiding locations, because well, healthy cichlid behavior generally is being pretty outgoing. They'll see other fish and they'll become aggressive. If a pair forms, it'll be even worse for the remaining two.

Ten convicts is another story. Whether one becomes a bully (in a same sex tank) or a pair form, aggression is spread across the remaining eight. It becomes less intense for each individual.

This applies if the cichlids are the same species or different.

This is the reason why the whole 2ppm/day ammonia oxidation cycling procedure arose in the first place, ensuring a tank can be stocked with high numbers of cichlids from the get go. Because yes, a lot of aquarists have a lot of issues slowly stocking a tank, until they reach a tipping point and aggression really spreads out - and yes, in larger tanks inclusive.
 
GlennO
  • #10
Doesn’t usually work with Central & SA cichlids IME. Mbuna occur in quite dense populations in nature. Overstocking them in the aquarium further increases the density, disperses aggression and prevents any individual from establishing a territory. This does not work for large aggressive Americans which will try to establish dominance and territory regardless of numbers and increased density will often result in increased aggression. If you put 10 sexually mature red devils in a 90 gal tank it’s quite possible that you will come home one day and find only one or two alive. That's a generalisation. Some species are quite peaceful and even rather social (e.g. rainbow cichlids).
 

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