Thursday, January 16, 2014

Oh the fun of Cichlids! One hobbyists point of view from in front of the glass


A type of fish found in South American and African lakes.  Colorful, smart, humorous, feisty, and intelligent.  Cichlids are a wonderful fish to keep.  Watching their behavior, feeding them caring for them.  These are the joys of keeping a fish tank full of Cichlids.  Tropical fish of a special order they are.  It is a joy to care for these animals and have them respond to your presence.  They seem to acknowledge and respect their keeper(s).  They have watchful eyes that follow your movements.  They wave their fins in distinctive pattern when you talk to them and pay them attention.  They follow your finger as it streaks across the glass.  They are interactive more than you can imagine from my writing.  This behavior is just what makes me love them so much.  They seem to acknowledge you anytime you watch them.  Here I present to you Cichlidae Lagoon III...

Keeping a fish tank is not easy, requires work, and probably more so than keeping a dog or cat.  Conditions conducive to keeping healthy tropical fish consist of water condition, water chemistry, temperature management, eco-system filter management, nutrition, and environmental lighting and entertainment.  Water changes are required as well as maintenance of the mechanical filter system.
Cichlids like hard water of alkaline nature in the 25-30ºC/ 72-80ºF temperature.

My cichlids are such fun to watch and feed.  They are animated.  They have different personalities.  They are characters.  Much like your group of school friends or work buddies.  Each of them has traits and behaviors that make each of them distinctive and loveable.  

"Pancake" is somewhat reclusive but always has a grin on his face.  He is a beautiful sky blue color with yellow spots on his anal fin. Happy he is hiding in his plastic wood log decoration.  Peeking his head out to see if you are still watching him.  He moves his eyes to keep track of you.  He is my excavator.  He can move about a half pound of pebbles in one 10 hour shift.  He picks up the pebbles in his mouth and spits them out sometimes at the glass making a pinging noise. 

"Elvis" is the trouble maker.  Voted "Most likely to chase the others in 2013" he is trouble waiting to happen.  He hides then sneak attacks the other fish.  He will corner and badger his tank mates.  He will also eat young off-spring as well.  He is my bad boy in black with a bright blue stripes longitudinal along his body.

"Lilly" is my beautiful Mother fish.  She ferociously guarded her babies until they were large and safe enough to manage themselves.  She is albino pink with bright ruby eyes.  She is a wonderful and smart mother.  She had a great gaggle of babies which are all doing just swell.  She is kind and gentle allowing herself to be chased by the males.  But, get near her babies and she will kill-ya!

"Dexter" is the big boy.  He is a Bumble-Bee Cichlid but I think he looks more like a tiger.  Dexter can change his colors in a matter of seconds from almost all black to vivid yellow and black stripes.  He is about 7 inches long, always happy, and inquisitive.  He is my favorite because he seems most interested in me.  Leslie, of Leslie Loves Veggies has her favorite - which is Lilly. Dexter always comes alive when I am near the tank.  I have trained Dexter to eat his special veggie wafers out of a seashell on the bottom of the lagoon.

"Mickey" is one of our Convict Cichlids.  His markings are well like a convict; black and gray stripes all along his body.  He is sweet, shy, and mild mannered.  He gets excited at eating time but he never gets rowdy.  He is the father of the latest brood that came about with Minnie.

"Minnie" is my other female who is a Convict Cichlid who recently had offspring.  Child rearing darn near killed her.  She is looking rather rag-tag after her mouth brooding but she is shaping up nicely now.  She did not eat for over two weeks while she carried her babies in her mouth until she spit them out.  She is a gentle fish that can rapidly evade the advances of Elvis or a fish net like a football player carrying the ball.  Her appetite is back with a vengeance now and so is her regal charcoal color.

Then there is the school of baby fish from two offspring from Lilly and Minnie.  There are too many to count.  They started out at about ¼ inch and rapidly grow length and character.  They have a voracious appetite for little suckers.  Some are blue-gray striped and others are so young they are colorless.  Some are also gray-black but no stripes.

The Cichlids favorite food is Tetra Cichlid Crisps.  These little bi-color chips are full of protein and nutrients.  The fish go after them at every meal.  They also like Tetra Cichlid Sticks.  I toss a few of these half inch curls into the water; Dexter and Lilly can't resist them.  Elvis and Minnie go crazy for New Life Spectrum Cichlid Pellets.  Dexter goes wild for New Like Spectrum Veggie Wafers.  I break these dime size wafers in two, place them in a seashell at the bottom of the tank.  Dexter once bit the wafers out of the gripper tool while I was loading his food seashell bowl.  I can also drill a hole in the wafer, tie thread to it and dangle in the water.  Dexter will chew on the wafer while I hold the thread in-between my fingers.

Cichlids need there rest?  Yes they do.  I don't leave the tank light on all the time.  I turn one light on in the morning when I go to work and then both are on during evening hours.  At night when I go to bed so do the Cichlids.  The tank lights go out and the Cichlids rest.  I don't know if fish sleep but I know for sure they rest.  They each find a favorite spot and chill.  Some like to hang in a plant, some like the log cave, and others like the rock cave.  Dexter is too big to fit in either but he will rest on the bottom.  When they rest they don't move.  I can "wake" them if I tip-toe to the tank- otherwise they feel the vibration in the water from foot steps around the tank.  They will start to move there dorsal fins and start moving about.

Feeding Time Frenzy! When I put food in the tank they go wild.  They are hungry little beasts.
I can float food on the surface and Dexter will swim up to surface, grab food, flip his tail, and splash water out of the tank.  His tail is about two inches wide so he can really douse me with water.  I love the fish.  They are all special with their own behaviors.  They bring much joy and entertainment watching them swim and dart around the tank, excavating, eating, and chasing each other.  All the hard work is worth it for me.  

So what does it cost to keep tropical fish or Cichlids in a tank.
After the initial set up of the tank and all required equipment such as lighting, heater, filter, air pump, chemistry testing kits, the continued expenses are for maintenance and food.  A 5.3 oz canister of food pellets is about $8 dollars.  A massive 9 oz canister of flakes or crisps is about $20 dollars.  Each would last 2-3 months if that is what I fed solely but when diet is varied between flakes, crisps, pellets, sticks, and wafers the canisters can last almost a year.  Filter media can range from $5-8 dollars per month depending on the tank and filter size.  Upgrading is expensive.  I have upgraded tanks twice in the last two years.  I now have a 60 gallon tank on a beautiful wood stand.  The fish are so happy and content they are breeding like crazy.  I got the 60 gallon in October; in December the first school of fry were born.  By Jan. 10th the second school of fry was blessed on Leslie and I.  Its getting quite scary.  Healthy-Happy Cichlids can have offspring two to three times a year.  Each time more fry are born.

So who do I use for supplies?
Mostly PETCO.  I have a local store that really came through for me when I needed help.  As I have stated in a blog post in September 2013, my first fish tank "Cichlidae Lagoon I" started leaking badly.  Petco housed my fish for a little over a week while I acquired a replacement tank.  The Cichlids went to summer camp for the week where they camped with the Convict pair Mickey and Minnie in the stores display tank.  I brought Mickey and Minnie home and the rest is history.  Petco was so kind, so helpful, and also financially assisted me by taking back my leaking tank for full refund and let me keep all the supplies that came with it.  MarineLand (Parent company Unbited Pet Group) also came through financially for me.  They sent me a new air pump, filter supplies and Cichlid food that will last over a year as compensation toward the troubling experience of going through a leaking tank episode.  Both Petco and MarineLand (United Pet Group) were so kind and receptive.  They care about the fish and it shows.  I sometimes will go to Petsmart for an occasional item.  I have nothing against Petsmart.  They are great people.  It is just that my experiences with Petco have been all so good I have a special place in my heart for them.  I would like to send a shout out to Becky, Sean, Chris, and the rest of the staff at the Buford, GA Petco.  They really took care of me and the Cichlids - literally.  What great folks full of knowledge and expertise.  They will readily call a local expert on the phone to get answers to questions they are unsure of.  Incompetence is flubbing and fumbling through an answer or out-right lying through teeth.  Competence is having the knowledge and ability to source information when needed.  Thanks Petco Buford, GA.

I love my Cichlids.  My fish are just so cute.  The fry are adorable.  The Cichlids are so smart and alert; they do not take their eyes off of anyone sitting in front of the tank.  Go visit a local pet store and see the aquarium fish.  They make wonderful house mates and truly rewarding pets.
Watch my youtube video of Lilly, Dexter, and the allusive peeking Pancake all watching me shoot their video.

Scott R. Mayorga A.A.S., BSMT(ASCP)H CLS
Proud fish owner
To learn more about these special fascinating fish visit these websites:
American Cichlid Association


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