75 Gallon Tank Upgraded tropical community tank, an American cichlid as a centerpiece?

lxsllvn

Just upgraded to a 4ft, 75g planted tank and it's almost time to start adding fish. I'm struggling to find some (or a) larger fish who won't destroy all the plants and won't terrorize the group of ~15 platies and 2 small plecos who will be moving into the tank as well. It's actually preferable if they eat the platy fry, but I want the adults to live out the rest of their days comfortably.

Plants are just in 1/3rd of the tank, except for some Abubias attached to a large piece of driftwood that spans the whole tank. Sand substrate. We have very soft, acidic water. Not great for platies, I know, but it hasn't stopped them from breeding like mad!

My ideal tank would have a couple large schools of smallish fish and 1-5 larger, personable fish as a centerpiece. Except for the platies, I don't mind stocking the rest of the tank around the large guys.

I'm drawn to the American cichlids but I'm not a fan of angelfish! My LFS keeps firemouths, Thorichthys ellioti, Guianacara darcya, keyholes, Cryptoheros cutteri, t-bars, Acarichthys heckelii, and festivums. Any suggestions from this list? I'd rather see the fish in person first but I am not against ordering if there's something perfect out there.

I love the heckelii but I've heard very different things about group numbers and aggression. Would a single individual be unhappy? Or get big enough to devour the platies before they die of old age?
 

redmare

I've never kept them, but geophagus are high on my list! I think the redhead tapajos can work well in that size, and would love the sand substrate. They're so beautiful and I love their behaviour.
 

TClare

Heckelii get very big so a group would not be possible. I really enjoy my festivums, they are one of my favourites, but they might or might not eat plants (mine haven’t yet). Keyholes are nice. I am hoping to get some Guianacara very soon, not kept them before so can’t really comment. The firemouths would be the most geographically appropriate to go with platies. Not sure how they are with plants.
 

lxsllvn

I've never kept them, but geophagus are high on my list! I think the redhead tapajos can work well in that size, and would love the sand substrate. They're so beautiful and I love their behaviour.

I also love those! I'm a fan of Primetime Aquatics on Youtube and Jason has really sold me on them. I would be really happy to have any of the Geophagus-like species, but I've read most of them do better in groups, although he does say you can keep one.... But if keeping one is a marginal case, I'd rather avoid it. Maybe a Satanoperca spp. would be happy alone?

Heckelii get very big so a group would not be possible. I really enjoy my festivums, they are one of my favourites, but they might or might not eat plants (mine haven’t yet). Keyholes are nice. I am hoping to get some Guianacara very soon, not kept them before so can’t really comment. The firemouths would be the most geographically appropriate to go with platies. Not sure how they are with plants.

Do you know if a Heckelii would be happy as the only one of its kind? Although perhaps my tank is too small anyway -- made a mistake converting from metric and it's actually 240L/63.4 g, 121x41x55cm.

The Guianacara at the store was with the firemouths (and Congo tetras) and was definitely the boss of the tank! I know my local water is far from ideal for the firemouths, though the ones here might be like my platies and have adapted/acclimated to it. I'll have to ask where they're bred.

Here's my tank so far, two days old. Water still a bit cloudy from the sand, even though my poor boyfriend rinsed it for literally an hour. Fish store keeps the plants together with a gang of fish and I'm dosing with Seachem stability. Plan to add some flat/round stones, a couple of caves, and perhaps some java fern and/or a lily near the onion.
242671391_494028079013957_5507357358925693627_n.jpg

Oh, and I missed a couple species readily available to me: Amatitlania nanolutea, Blue and EB acaras, and Hypsophrys nicaraguensis. The nanolutea seems like it could be a good option... Maybe keyholes are the safest bet though - cute little guys, but I'm shallow and wish they had the gorgeous colors of a Geophagus!
 

shattles10

I recommend the electric blue acara. One of my favorites in my tank
 

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TClare

Your tank is going to be really nice, whichever you decide on, and your shop has a nice selection of fish! The Acarichthys would probably be OK on its own, but full grown would be too big. However, it would probably take quite a while to reach full size. I actually have a tank exactly the same size as yours, with 5 festivums, a severum and an apistogramma, it is my favourite tank. But they are still juveniles and I probably will not be able to keep all of them in there indefinitely. It would be better to keep a group of smaller cichlids. If you want a really lush planted, peaceful tank, the keyholes would be the best option. The others will probably do quite a bit of rearranging, and might get a bit aggressive if they decide to breed, but if you don’t mind this, go with which appeals to you most. The nanolutea are an interesting option, apparently they are are quite peaceful and can be kept in a group. Colourful too.
 

lxsllvn

Thanks for your feedback everyone. That blue acara really is a cutie. Hopefully my store will have them in stock soon and I'll get to meet some in person.

Well.... We went to the shop yesterday to get more plants and as as fate would have it, the store had a trio of reedfish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus) and my boyfriend fell in LOVE. He's definitely less into fish (he likes fish a 'normal person' amount, as he put it), so I'm thrilled we found something he's excited about.

Turns out the reedfish ticks all of my boxes, too: they should thrive in our water conditions, are fairly large, personable, and apparently quite peaceful, and will do well with plants. So I'm hopping over the Atlantic and now looking at a loosely west/central African tank .... with platies and plants from everywhere.
 

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