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Plants in the African Cichlid Aquarium


  1. Set up question
    by livings-at-unislc.uucp (Ross Livingston) (Thu, 27 Aug 1992)
  2. Set up question
    by (James B. Harold) (Thu, 27 Aug 1992)
  3. [F] Live Plants w/ African Cichlids?
    by (James D. Lamm) (10 Feb 1994)
  4. Plants and African Cichlids
    by (Grant Gussie) (Mon, 03 Oct 1994)
  5. Plants and African Cichlids
    by (Kaufman M.E.) (4 Oct 1994)
  6. Tanganyikan Cichlids and Plants
    by (Wed, 3 May 1995)
  7. Plant Digest
    by David Randall <> (03 May 95)
  8. Cichlids:
    by (Grant Gussie) (Mon, 03 Jul 1995)
  9. Plants in mbuna-tank
    by BILL.EDWARDS/ASU.EDU (Bill Edwards) (Mon, 06 Jan 1997)
  10. Africans and plants
    by bae/ (Beverly Erlebacher) (13 May 98)
  11. Plants with African Cichlids
    by Dave Gomberg <gomberg/> (Thu, 29 Oct 1998)
  12. mixed species tank
    by Frauley/Elson <fraulels/> (Sat, 22 Jan 2000)
  13. Hard headed ...oops, water.
    by Thomas Barr <tcbiii/> (Sun, 25 Mar 2001)
  14. hard headed... oops, water
    by K9AUB/ (Mon, 26 Mar 2001)
  15. Hard water and BBA
    by Thomas Barr <tcbiii/> (Tue, 27 Mar 2001)

Set up question

by livings-at-unislc.uucp (Ross Livingston)
Date: Thu, 27 Aug 1992

I received this response from Greg and he said I may want to post it
to get different opinions, so, here it is.  I'll try to explain any parts
where it may be unclear what we were discussing, and will edit for space.
From: frazier-at-CS.UCLA.EDU

This response ended up being a lot longer than I intended it
to be - I kind of spewed.  You might want to post this whole
thing onto the net, to get some counter opinions, etc.  This
info is all very subjective, there are bound to be disagreements
with some of the things I've said.  Anyway...

   From:  Ross Livingston <>
here Greg was saying that there are basically 3 approaches to plants
in aquariums, 1) Lots of plants, few fish, low water flow, plants grow
nice and slow. 2) 'high-tech German style' with all the fancy chemicals.
3) No fancy equipment or supplies, just experiment and find out what works
in your setup, that is, which plants will live.
   >     >The second route is the high-tech German style
   >     >plant tank.
   > I'm not interested in spending $$ just to have to work more!  I do love
   > the look of a great plant tank, but mine will be a fish tank.

I am hoping that, when I am rich and have tons of idle time,
I'll have the chance to play around and find a compromise
between the Dutch and German styles.  My wife has a real
hands-off philosophy, and since my interventionism is very
intermittent, for something to work for us it has to be able
to go weeks on end unattended (except for feeding).
   >     >providing.  Unfortunately, at this moment, all I have
   >     >are hygrophilia, java fern, java moss and water sprite.
   >     >These are four fundamentally unkillable plants.  Vallisneria
   >     >also falls into that category, although it seems to be
   > So I guess these will be possible starting plants for me to consider?

Definitely.  Java fern, especially - it is a very slow grower,
but given bright light has a knack of looking really excellent.
   > Will two 24" tubes be enough?  How about 2 18" tubes?  Do I need special
   > tubes, other than what will be provided by O'Dell or Perfecto (haven't 
   > decied yet)?

A 55g tank is 4' long, right?  Use two 48" bulbs.  That is
what we had over our cichlid tank (note the past tense - it
was sold before our last move).  The java fern did great, and
we had an excellent crop of hair algae (don't laugh - it was
really attractive, and the fish loved it as a hiding place.
Our rainbow fish laid eggs in it.).

I'm probably going to stick with the 2 2' tubes that come with the hood
included in the combo (Perfecto) or the two 18" tubes with the O'Dell.
I'll just have to find plants that agree (even if they end up being plastic
in the end!
   > Another thought I had, was to create a desert type of a feeling
   > in the tank.  That is, some nice sandstone, and dead wood from local
   > deserts.  This could be really exciting, and without the plants.

This can create an awesome effect - especially when combined with
a judicious amount of java fern (do I sound like I'm a fan of
java fern? :-).  This is definitely "the" style for African cichlid
tanks.  You can also try adding some potted valisneria, or other
plant.  Using potted plants is nice, cuz you can put some potting
soil in the bottom of the pot, and then gravel on top, and the
potting soil won't pollute your tank.  Also, if things go poorly,
or you want to do some serious pruning and replanting, you can
remove the entire pot from the tank.  The pot itself can be something
simple, like the bottom 3" of a milk jug.  Some nicely arranged rocks
or driftwood will hide the pot (Vinny Kutty hides his pots with
java moss).

   > One more questions still on plants, is substrate, in the context of aquar-
   > iums, a finer dirt or sand that sits under the gravel?  I've never seen it
   > defined but get the idea that it's along these lines.  Do you buy it in 
   > fish stores?  I guess if it's how I am guessing, you don't use it with an
   > UGF, right?

Substrate is whatever you put on the bottom of your tank.  A
rich substrate will be one that contains a lot of nitrates,
phosphates, etc. - usually some mixture of potting soil, clay,
peat, or whatever.  These don't work too well with a UG.
Most tanks have simple gravel substrates, which work fine with
a UG.  Plants prefer a fine substrate, but not too fine - for
example, I have heard people say that sand is too fine for
plants.  I currently have some hygro growing in a pot that has
1.5" of sand over 1.5" potting soil, and it's doing fine, but if
it was 3" of sand, I can imagine there being problems.  A good
gravel is between 1/8" and 1/4".  What we get is #3 sandblasting
grit, which is sold by a local aquarium store.  It's fine enough
to keep most of the ditrius on top (unless you have a UG filter),
but coarse enough to allow a UG filter.  Plants seem to like
it fine (at least, they did until they all died! :-).
   >     >will eat your plants.  And, when you get right down to it,
   >     >Tangynikan cichlids are the neatest ones, anyway.  Rift lake

   > Also, aren't these generally a little smaller?  I don't want anything 
   > getting too 'cramped' in my 55g.

I believe that there are more small cichlids from Tangynika than
the other lakes - check out the Julidochromis species.  Handsome
fish, and a lot of fun.
   > Definately.  I have a friend who breeds them for local stores and he told
   > me that for one particular species, the average male/female ratio of a fry
   > is something like 1/16 or something like that.  He's tweeked the pH so that
   > his last fry had only 3 females.  Amazing.

That is amazing.  You can get good money breeeding cichlids,
although I can't imagine really making a profit in this hobby
(at least, not while still having fun).
   >     >These cichlids love rock formations and caves.  Piling rocks
   >     >in a glass aquarium is tricky business - you might want to
   >     >construct something "fake" and then put it into the aquarium.
   > The rocks and caves idea is right along my 'desert' idea.  Have you
   > ever seen a tank set up like this?

Yes - some have looked faky and stupid, but some have looked
excellent.  It will definitly put your interior decorating
skills to the test.

Anyone else ever see something like this set up?  How was it?
Next, Greg was explaining how it's best to set up the aquascaping before
putting it in the tank.

   >  I'm not sure what you mean by
   > 'construct something "fake"' though.  Do you mean connect the rocks
   > with wire, etc, before putting them in the tank, or using fake rocks?

Both, actually.  What I'm suggesting is try to avoid a literal
pile of rocks in the corner of the tank.  When we set up our
tank, we did just pile rocks, mostly granite, in the two corners
of the tank, with large pieces of lava rock as the base of each
pile (much lighter than granite).  It worked, but it is a bit scary.
If you fix the rocks together (I'd use silicone), you can create
more of a "wall", thus having your aquascape take up less of
the tank volume than a "pile", and creating less of a ditrius trap.
Driftwood is also much lighter than granite (duh).

   > What are your feelings about a UGF?

My wife and I fight about UG's all the time.  Well, that's an
exaggeration - we don't really fight, and it's not all the time.
Anyway, I don't like UG's.  Tiff will defend them with statements
like "Ditrius wouldn't collect in them if we would remove dead
plant leaves before they mealt."  Yeah, and there'd be no national
debt if we'd just stop deficit spending!  Anyway, I'm kind of
unhappy with UG's, and will strongly lobby for a reverse UG for our
next tank.

How about the rest of you?

   > I plan on getting a Fluval 303 and was 

Look out - I'm even less happy with cannister filters.
This is mostly cuz I'm a lazy slug, and I hated cleaning out the
cannister filter.  Really too much work for my blood.  Obviously,
that is not a universally shared opinion...

Anyone else share his opinion?

   > going to use a UGF driven by two Penguin 1140 Power Heads.  I've had peopl
   > tell me NO, don't use a UGF with Africans.  I'm not so sure these people
   > have even raised Africans before.  What do you say?  If I shouldn't use
   > one (UGF), will the fluval be enough filtration?  If I should, how much
   > gravel do I need to keep it buried?

The more gravel you  put over a UG, the harder it is to vacuum.  It
also presents problems in that you will want your rockwork to rest
on the UG plate, rather than on the gravel (otherwise, a digging
fish could cause a rockslide).  However, if you have a small amount of
gravel over your UG plate, it will be easy for a fish to expose
the plate and eliminate your UG filter.  The cure - put a small amount
of gravel over the plate (1/2"), then cover this with platic/
fiberglass window screen.  Now, you can put your rockwork down,
and some more gravel.  Problem - you can't properly vacuum gravel
if it is trapped under a screen.  Solution - reverse under gravel
filter.  I don't know if you are familiar with these - reverse UG's
take water that has already passed though a good mechanical filter
(like the output of a cannister filter), and pump this water under
the UG plate.  This allows the gravel to perform bio-filtration
(which it is great for), but avoids the problem of having it collect
ditrius.  Even better, if the flow is high enough, ditrius will never
settle on the bottom at all, but will eventually get sucked into
your mechanical filter.  Don't want the flow too high, of course.
I've never build a reverse UG, but have read several accounts on
the net - if you are interested, post a request, you should get
one or two first-hand accounts of building/using a RUGF.  Get
the powerheads - you'll want them for water circulation in the
tank.  RUGF's are kind of bad about depleting the dissolved O2.
   > So IYOI, since I'm ordering the equipment SOON and can deal with the
   > 'which plant' item later, should I get a UGF and some power heads or
   > look into something else (trickle, wet/dry).  Thanks for all your help.

If you are willing to go the trickle filter route, it is something
to consider.  Somebody on the net (Steve Shine?) uses a trickle
filter + foam fractioner on his rift lake tanks, and reports great
success.  He describes it very much like a low-tech marine tank
(I think he's even one of the guys that adds some marine salt mix to
his water).  I would never recommend buying a trickle filter to
anybody - what they charge is highway robbery, as far as I'm concerned.
If you are willing to build your own, I think it would definitely
be a good way to go.  I especially like the idea of having a sump
under the tank, into which things like heaters can be placed.  With
the return pump in the sump, and a passive syphon/overflow water
drain/prefilter from the tank, you can have a tank with zero
<electrical> gadgets in it - very desireable, from my point of view.
You can even direct some of the water return to a reverse UG,
to help keep the gravel clean (or have no substrate at all, of
course).  As you can see, I'm bubbling with ideas, and can't wait
to have money to spend on all this (what, save for my kids'
education? :-).


Ok, now, what do you all think?  Considering I'm getting Tangynikans, in
a 55g, and hope to keep SOME live plants, but probably not a lot as I'll
be relying on some nice rock work for embellishment, what are your recom-
mendations?  My original plans were to use a UGF with 2 power heads, and
a fluval 303.  I've though of doing RUGF and driving it with the Fluval.
I've thought about doing it normal UGF and driving it with the Fluval.
Anyone ever try this?  I guess I'll soon just have to bite the bullet and
order some stuff and learn as I go.  I've sure appreciated all your suggestions
so far.  They're always welcome.  Also, thanks to those who have mailed me
about my water.  Sorry I can't respond but mail to some of you bounces.

Ross Livingston, Unisys Corp.  |  Phone   (801) 594-6217
322 North  2200 West,   D1V03  |  Fax     801-594-4861 / 801-594-6708
Salt Lake City, UT   84116     |  E-Mail

Set up question

by (James B. Harold)
Date: Thu, 27 Aug 1992

In article <1992Aug27.060046.11343-at-unislc.uucp> livings-at-unislc.uucp (Ross Livingston) writes:
>From: frazier-at-CS.UCLA.EDU
>Both, actually.  What I'm suggesting is try to avoid a literal
>pile of rocks in the corner of the tank.  When we set up our

Thought I'd emphasize here that you do need to be careful
with rocks in African tanks.  The fish will happily dig around
and under the rocks, leading to the possibility of rock falls
and cracked glass.  

>   > What are your feelings about a UGF?
>How about the rest of you?

A point to consider:  if you are getting _really_ small fish
(like the smaller shell dwellers) and you want them to dig,
you might want to skip the UGF (i.e., you might want sand instead
of gravel, which is too fine for a UGF).  In my current Tanganyikan
tank I wanted L. brevis to be able to dig, so I put down 
sand as a substrate and ran the UGF as an RUGF.  The intent
was to prevent the substrate from going anaerobic, not so
much to provide filtration.  Seems to have worked so far...

>   > I plan on getting a Fluval 303 and was 
>Look out - I'm even less happy with cannister filters.
>Anyone else share his opinion?

Yep.  I tend to clean my UGF the most frequently (because I
do it with a Python at every water change), power filters
next, and canisters last, with the differences due mostly
to laziness on my part.

>However, if you have a small amount of
>gravel over your UG plate, it will be easy for a fish to expose
>the plate and eliminate your UG filter.  

I've always wondered just how big a deal this was.  I had
a UGF running on a 55g mbuna tank for years, and of course
the inhabitants frequently dug down to the filter plate.  But
I always found copious amounts of detris in the gravel when
I cleaned.  Certainly the area that's been cleared isn't
going to contribute, but I always seemed to continue to get flow
through the rest of the gravel.  *shrug*  Depends strongly
on the tank, gravel size, etc., I would suppose.  Certainly
I wouldn't want the UGF to be the only filter in this case
(but then I would never want a UGF to be the only filter...).

By the way, has anybody out there _used_ the new UGF's that
are advertised in FAMA?  They have an angled plate which
is supposed to concentrate debris toward a tube, through
which it could be extracted.  These strike me as potentially
very useful in tanks with messy inhabitants...

>Get the powerheads - you'll want them for water circulation in the
>tank.  RUGF's are kind of bad about depleting the dissolved O2.

Agreed.  I have 2 powerheads attached to sponges in my 55g with
a canister driven RUGF.  They give me backup filters and provide
O2, water movement, etc.  And, IMHO, you can never have too many
powerheads :-)

Finally, if I didn't mention this in e-mail, anybody considering
getting into Africans should consider joining the American
Cichlid Association.  The Trading Post (distributed on
alternate months) lists people who have fish to sell, fish
often unavailable through stores.  There are ups and downs
to mail ordering fish:  you may not know anything about
the individual, there's air freight to consider, etc., but
it's still definately worth looking into.

James Harold

[F] Live Plants w/ African Cichlids?

by (James D. Lamm)
Date: 10 Feb 1994 wrote:
:      I have a 55 African Cichlid tank.  I was wondering if any of you add 
: live plants to your African Cichlid tanks.  If so, what kind do you have?
: The reason I ask is that of the plants I have added in the past, they've
: all been ripped up by the fish.
:      I have a Magnum 330 and undergravel.  My pH hovers around 8, Ammonia
: Nitrite are 0, and I add Aquacichlid to buffer pH and add salt.  My
: is crushed coral and lighting is 2 18" stock bulbs.  I have prodominantly
: Malawi cichlids.

I have a 38 gal with several kinds of African Cichlids, and I have had some
success with live plants. I no longer use an undergravel filter (it not
only makes plants difficult, but Cichlids, especially Africans, love to
dig. I have great success with hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum),
hygrophila (hygrophila difformis), and Java moss (vesicularia dubyana).
These offer enough green, they grow very fast, and the Cichlids either
leave them alone (they're tough plants) or the plant growth outpaces
their eating habits. Speaking of eating habits, give your Cichlids some
food with greens in (Tetra's DoroGreen works fine) and they'll leave your
plants alone for the most part.

Jim Lamm

Plants and African Cichlids

by (Grant Gussie)
Date: Mon, 03 Oct 1994
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

Here is a short article on the subject I worte for the Calgary Aquarium
Society in 1992. I hope someone fnd it interesting.

Plants in the African Cichlid Aquarium
There Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

by Grant Gussie, CAS

I have seen a few people show surprise, shock, or just plain disbelief
after I  told them my African cichlid tanks have plants in them. Yes, real
plants. And quite a few of them, too. Maybe they aren't the green
explosions some CAS members manage to produce, but my plants have at least
grown to the point where it's a trifle difficult to see all the way to the
tanks' back. 

 I now have two 50 gallon and two 20 gallon planted African cichlids tanks.
If you are wondering how you can grow plants with such notorious
vegetarians as African cichlids, the answer is that not all African
cichlids are the same, and not all plants are the same either. So, after a
little trial and error, I've been able to hit upon a combination of plants
and fish that keeps the plants away from the fish's digestive systems.
One of my 50 gallon tank has about one dozen Pseudotropheus zebra and 
Pseudotropheus socolofi, along with a 10 inch sailfin plecostomus. Most of
the African cichlid's reputation as plant destroyers is due to the
activities of these Pseudotropheus and their relatives. These guys are
omnivorous; in the wild they eat mostly algae (and any critters living in
the algae) from the rocks of Lake Malawi. The plecostomus is from South
America and is a purely vegetarian algae-eater. The cichlids and the pleco
will devour soft plants; in fact they are fed regularly on par-boiled
zucchini slices (their favorite food). Most of the living plants I've tried
to keep with them were also eaten, but I've found one that they leave
alone: jungle val (Vallisneria spiralis). One side of the tank has a thick
stand of val planted in individual clay flower pots. 

I found it absolutely necessary to pot the plants. If the plants were not
potted, they were uprooted on a continuous basis. I use small (three or
four inch diameter) red clay pots (they are available everywhere). A pebble
is jammed into the pot's drainage hole to keep everything from falling out
the bottom. I then put in an inch of peat moss mixed with a pinch of
"micronized iron" (very fine iron filings). The pot is then filled with
normal aquarium gravel. The val is planted quite thickly (it doesn't seem
to mind crowding) because if any bare gravel were visible in the pots, the
Pseudotropheus would pick at it until the plants were uprooted. 

The tank is illuminated by three 3 foot fluorescent tubes of the Philips
Colour 84 variety. The tank is therefore brightly lit, but the val has
covered almost all of the tank surface, effectively shading the tank. I
must admit that the light filtering through the plants gets a rather
unpleasant greenish cast, but I can live with that. I also have to admit
that I don't particularily like val (it reminds me of crab-grass), but so
far, that's all I've been able to grow in this tank.

Algae is at a bare minimum in this tank, despite the high illumination and
the heavy fish population. The fish eat it as fast as it grows. Five
gallons of water are also changed daily to keep nitrate levels down. Every
week I add a chelated iron supplement and a teaspoon of potassium chloride
to the tank. 
My other 50 gallon tank has six Electric Blue Haps (Sciaenochromis ahli,
formerly known as Haplochromis ahli), six Electric Yellow Labs
(Labidochromis sp.), and six Kande Island Peacocks (Aulonocara kandenis).
These fish are carnivores and will not eat even the softest plants (they
turn their noses up at zucchini too). This tank is planted with temple
plants (Nomophila stricta) and Cabomba sp. These plants are also potted and
are growing so well that I've been continuously removing rocks to make room
for more pots. 

This tank has some brown algae, probably because it has no plecostomus
(they love to eat temple plants). The tank is also relatively dim, having
just two fluorescent tubes. Brown algae is supposed to like dim light, but
the situation seemed to just get worse when more light was added. I have
controlled its growth by changing 10 gallons of water daily. African
cichlids are robust and gluttonous and produce a lot of waste, so I would
strongly recommend massive water changes to keep nutrient levels down. If
this is not done, any tank with adequate illumination for plants will be
overrun with algae. This may seem like a lot of work, but I've worked out a
system where I can change 10 gallons of water in just  a few minutes.

My two 20 gallon tanks are for fry. They are planted with Cryptocoryne
affinis and Amazon sword plants (Echinodorus sp.) The crypts have always
done well, while my success with the sword plants has been spotty. Right
now, they're all doing great, but they could probably all die back by next

The plant pots are about four inches tall, so they are quite difficult to
bury in gravel. I therefore arranged the rocks around the pots so they are
kept hidden. The pots also create little crevices and caves for the fish to
live in, so they don't mind the arrangement at all. I have finally removed
all the gravel from my tanks, leaving the rocks and plant pots sitting on
bare glass. I found this system works very well; it is much easier to keep
clean and the fish cannot undermine the rockwork. There are so many rocks
and pots in my tanks that the bare floors cannot be seen, so the gravel
isn't missed.

So if you want to keep plants with African cichlids, it can be done, but I
have the following bits of advice: put your plants in pots; change lots of
water; and most importantly, learn about the diets of your fish before
purchase and only choose the toughest plants to live with those dreaded

Plants and African Cichlids

by (Kaufman M.E.)
Date: 4 Oct 1994
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

Erik Olson ((e-mail)) wrote:
: Jack Peters <> writes:

: >There are some plants that Africans will leave alone.  Anubias are good.
: >Sagittaria and Vasilneria (spelling?) are also supposed to be good.  I've
: >also heard that they will tend to leave Amazon swords alone as well.  The

Well, I personally plant cryptocoryne species (typically wendtii) in my
tanganyikan tanks after seeing it in a very successful tank that had
a spawning colony of Tropheus moori in it. The plant there was doing
great. Just imagine - a plant surviving in a reasonably well lit tank
full of vegetarian fish, said plant supposedly notorious for liking soft
water and growing well in liquid rock that had a lot of salt in it.

My crypts do well potted in such tanks, I pot them in all my tanks as
they're easier to move when you're chasing fish.

So much for what you read in fish books/AGA journals/Sexton's old postings :-)

Don't anthropomorph-|copyright 1994, All rights
ize computers. They |reserved. Permission for reproduction by USENET and like
don't like it.      |free facilities explicitly allowed. No other reproduction
                    |rights are granted or implied.

Tanganyikan Cichlids and Plants

Date: Wed, 3 May 1995

>>>Jeff Stuart <> writes: I'm
thinking about setting up a 30L for Tanganyikan Lake cichlids, and would
like to include a few live plants.  I will probably have two fluorescent
tubes (one color-enhancing and a Triton) -- with such a shallow tank I
shouldn't need more.  What type of plants will be compatible with
Africans?  Due to the nature of African cichlids (a fondness for digging
in the gravel), special substrates for growing plants probably won't be
possible, unless I stick with plants in pots.  I'm guessing that things
like valisneria, java fern, and crypts would probably fair well.  Thanks
for any suggestions. 

I ahve been keeping and breeding Tanganyikan cichlids for over 10 years. 
And I have always included plants.  There are only 2 that I use -- java 
moss (Vesicularia) and java fern (Microsorum pteropus). I keep minimal 
substrate in these tanks - only a thin layer of crushed coral as a pH 
buffer and to add Calcium to my soft water. With these plants minimum 
light is acceptable (although not optimal). But, I think that the fish 
are happy. The 15 gallon tanks are always full of plants and babies of 
Neolamprologus leleupi or various Julies (one species per tank). These are 
my low low maintenance tanks - filtration is by sponge - usually working (every so 
often I notice that the airline got clogged) - water changes are seldom 
(10- percent every few months). I think this is where the density of 
plants comes in handy. Every so often, I thin the plants (and with it I 
remove nitrates and other nutrients that would have accumulated). And I 
siphon the mulm during the water change. :-) The mulm build up is 
actually my sign to do the water change.

I used to have a colony of Neolamprologus tretochephalus in a 125g 
(also with java fern, and 60 watts of total lighting), but this fish 
tank is now a plant tank with 280 watts and a few fish (livebearers and 
Crossocheilus siamensis)

- --Neil

Plant Digest

by David Randall <>
Date: 03 May 95


 Subject: Plants compatible with African Cichlids

 I have a small tank set up for Tanganyikan shell dwellers.
 I have found that Java Ferns attached to rocks work well, as do several
Anubias that I plant in between rocks, where it's hard to dig them out.

  E-mail from: Karen Randall, 02-May-1995


by (Grant Gussie)
Date: Mon, 03 Jul 1995
Newsgroup: alt.aquaria

In article <3t7gi5$>, (COV )

> Hi
> It's me again, I was thinking about keeping Cichlids now, instead of
> the Tetras, I herd that they are much more hardier and fun to watch.
> I was thinking of Cichlids from 8-12" in length.  I have a 55 Gallon
> tank.  Atr this point I have four nice size pieces of wood in there,
> and I have very fine gravel.  I was thinking of getting plant however,
> after reading some of the FAQ's I dont think that would be wise, how do
> you feel about this?

A 55 can only hold two ciclids of oscar or red devil size. But a pair of
oscars or other large South American wouldn't likely  work, since unless
you are lucky enough to get a mated or other unusually compatible pair
you'll end up with one dead fish. Green terrors and Red devils almost
always have to be separated.

You can plant a cichlid tank if you bury an eggcrate just below the surface
and use robustly rooted plants. Valisneria and onion plants work well. So
do some aponogenetons but they are often eaten. Floating plants are almost
a necessity.

> Should I buy more rocks because I have very few, also, I wanted
> Cichlids that would like a PH of 6.8 - 7.0.  Also, I wanted them to be
> hardy.  The only ones I came up with are the Oscar and the Jack Dempsey
> and the Red Devil, do they sound OK?
There are plenty of good South American cichlids...all of which are quite
hardy. A tank based on dempseys, firemouths, texas cichlids, etc would be
fine. There are literally dozens of available species. My personal
favourites are green severums and oscars, but oscars get quite big...two
per 55 gallon tank. If you want smaller dempsey or severum sized (rather
than oscar sized) fish you can have 6 fish in your tank (a good number).

> Please if you know cihlids lets be penpals, because I need help with
> them, and the cichlids here cost from $20 up to $250, much more than
> small Tetras would cost.
> I don't want to lose any of these expensive fishes.

Small South American cichlids cost much less than $20..small severums cost
$3 to $5 in North America.

Get six to eight 2 inch fishes and a school of 8 or so giant danios or
rainbowfish. I would recommend six 2 inch severeums, 8 red rainbowfish, and
an Ancistrus for a nice display. Use a tank planted with Valisneria,
duckweed, and riccia. For the plants you'll need very bright
lighting...four 40watt bulbs for a 55 gallon would be good. Use your
driftwood, and only a few rocks. Dont forget to put an eggcrate in the

For filtration use an oversized powerfilter with a biowheel...I hear that
the new emperors would be good (haven't used them though). 

Plant the tank and cycle it with two of the rainbows for six weeks (don't
worry if the plants dont seem to do well at the start, valisneria often
takes quite a while to recover and thrive after replanting). Add the rest
of the rainbows and the Ancistrus. Then after another month add the
severums. The severums will be full grown within a year.

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Plants in mbuna-tank

by BILL.EDWARDS/ASU.EDU (Bill Edwards)
Date: Mon, 06 Jan 1997
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria.freshwater.cichlids

On 28 Dec 1996 14:14:27 GMT, "Jacob Sch├╝tz" <>

>Is plants like Vallisneria a good thing in my mbuna tank?
>Will the poor little critters eat or tear them apart?
>Any resond will be helpful

Hi Jacob,
To answer your question in a word: YES. I have a variety of plants
in a 90 gallon tank with Mbuna (all live in harmony). I have vals,
sags, anubius, crinium, java fern, aponogetons, african tigers (I
can remember the scientific name), crypts (not flourishing), and
others. I have 200 watts (VHO), CO2 injection, daily plant
fertilizing. Lots of plant growth, enough algae to keep everyone
happy. I feed once a day. No plants are eaten (at least to the point
where you would notice damage).


Bill Edwards             *   "Thru the gateway,
Arizona State University *    off the repeater,
Department of Sociology  *    over the firewall,
Tempe, Arizona         *    nothing but 'NET'."

Africans and plants

by bae/ (Beverly Erlebacher)
Date: 13 May 98
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria.freshwater.plants

In article <>,
Jmccann88 <> wrote:
>What type of plants do African cichlids usually eat, and which are they used to
>seeig in their natural enviornment?  

Mbuna usually eat algae and included critters, this layer on the rocks
is called "aufwuchs", a German term that can be translated as "surface
growth" more or less.  There usually aren't higher plants in mbuna habitat.

There are beds of Vallisneria spp in the lakes, and fish adapted to live
in them.  Lake Malawi has bed of a reedy emersed plant that I can't remember
the name of.  There's a lot of papyrus in the shallow areas of L.Victoria 
and its satellite lakes.  

D.compressiceps lurks head down in plant areas with its narrow profile
and greenish stripe helping it blend in.  There's one cichlid that
has the specialization of positioning itself sideways in the water and
running val leaves through its mouth to eat the algae and other goodies
off them.  I'm sure there must be plant eaters in all three lakes, too.

I've got a couple of Labidochromis spp with Vallisneria, Java Fern, Java
Moss, watersprite (Ceratopteris), Amazon frogbit (Limnobium laevigata)
and duckweed.  The plants seem to be doing fine, but Labidochromis are not
big plant eaters.  In nature they mostly pick invertebrates like snails 
out of the aufwuchs.

For enthusiastic herbivores like many Pseudotropheus, try floating hornwort
(Ceratophyllum) which can easily grow faster than the fish can eat it.

Plants with African Cichlids

by Dave Gomberg <gomberg/>
Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998

One of the great generalists in the hobby, Al Castro, writes:

The question of plants with African cichlids is a lot more complex
than some may realize.  First, and foremost, Africa is a huge
continent with a vast variety of habitats but for aquaristic
purposes, there are those fish from the Great Rift Lakes of Eastern
Africa and a vast assemblage of very interesting fish that do not
come from the Rift Lakes.  Remember, Anubias and Bolbitis
heteroclitus are both African plant species and they take "normal"
waters as do most non-Rift Lake fishes.

The very popular Rift Lake cichlids that so many shops carry are
from three major lake systems and they pose some problems for
aquarists interested in plants but these problems are easily

The least problem seems to be the "new batch" of cichlids from Lake
Victoria.  The water in the lake is not outrageously alkaline nor
salty so that a wide variety of plants can fit into the tank.
Floating plants are simple ( and who cares if some get eaten ).
Bunch plants are generally too tender to withstand the abuse
presented by heavy bodied cichlids so this type of plant should be
used sparingly but they can give an interesting contrast to the
heavier bodied specimen plants.  Put bunch plants in pots so that
they can be rotated in and out of the aquarium as needed.  Specimen
plants of a wide variety can be used, especially if potted, but it
would be foolish to put expensive plants in with cichlids that may
decide that the decorations might be just the thing for a midnight

Lake Tanganyika poses more of a challenge because the fish only
thrive in clean, warm, hard alkaline water.  Temperatures of 75 to
80 are not too difficult on the fish nor the plants but when the pH
reaches 8.5 to 9.0, it is much more difficult to find plants that
can tolerate the occasional robust body plowing through as the
plants become brittle.  Increased hardnesses have a similar effect
on the plants.  There are a few plants that do tolerate these
conditions, namely; several varieties of Vallisneria, Ceratophyllum,
Microsorium ( Java fern ) and the nearly indestructible Anubias
varieties that grow so slowly they may have died but haven't figured
it out yet.  As with keeping the Victorian species, specimen ( or
rooted ) plants that are kept with Tanganyikan cichlids should be
kept in pots to protect the roots from any digging that the cichlids
may attempt.

Lake Malawi poses the greatest difficulty for setting up a planted
aquarium.  Most people automatically think of the group of cichlids
called "mbuna" when they think of Malawi cichlids.  These are a
large assemblage of rock dwelling species with mouths adapted to
scrape the sheet algaes off of the rocks in the lake.  And they are
normally fed a diet high in vegetable matter.  Tell you anything
special about these fish??

No, not really!  I had a tank at Steinhart Aquarium ( 320 gallons )
that was devoted to these fish.  For many years it had live plants
in it.  Granted that they were hardy plants but they were, none the
less, plants.  It was a tall tank and I had success growing both the
jungle Val, Vallisneria gigantea and the much shorter Vallisneria
spiralis.  I also used Ceratophyllum demersum and/or the floating
form of water sprite, Ceratopsis cornuta as surface cover.  The
water sprite did not fare particularly well initially with the mbuna
because they seemed to like the taste of it but I eventually added
some of the red-tailed goodeid, Xenotoca eiseni, to the tank and any
time the cichlids ventured into the upper portion of the aquarium to
eat veggies, the goodeid would dart out of a clump to bite the
cichlid in the nose.  It didn't take the cichlid long to learn that
they didn't eat plants with the goodeids in the neighborhood.

Just so that you know, there are other types of cichlids in Lake
Malawi.  There are many, many other types of cichlids in Lake
Malawi, maybe too many types of cichlids in Lake Malawi.  It is much
easier to keep live plants in with these other types of cichlids if
you remember that all cichlids like to move gravel and if you plan
on putting plants with them, put the plants in pots or find a way to
affix the plants to rocks or driftwood.  Lake Malawi has water with a
higher mineral content than the Bay Area and it has a pH in the mid
to upper 8's but many plants tolerate these conditions and, if they
aren't eaten, do well in a Malawi tank.

Hope this helps you more than it confuses you.

Al Castro

- --
Dave Gomberg, San Francisco  
- -----------------------------------------------------------------


mixed species tank

by Frauley/Elson <fraulels/>
Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2000
To: apisto/

Kathy Olson wrote:
> Gabriella,
> Satanoperca in a planted tank, yiks!!!
> I had some beautiful little satanoperca fry I brought back from Brazil,
> but figured if I put them in Erik's planted tank...the marriage would be
> threatened.  So, instead I passed them onto Lee Newman.
> Kathy

I had Satanoperca sp (hobby jurupari) spawn in a planted tank a few
years ago, and do no major damage. A little excavation, yes, but they
limited damage to open spaces. I now have a smaller Geophagus ("sp red
shoulder) close to spawning in a heavily planted tank, and not one plant
has been uprooted. 
Lee Newman got lucky, I think. he got the overgrown Apistos...
(geophagus/satanoperca are beyond the scope of this list, but they are
such honorable beasts....)

PS  if anyone's worrying their apisto-mania is unhealthy, leave the
worrying to me. I just went out in a -40+ windchill across 15km of black
ice to get a pair of hippolytae and some iniridae type things. After
all, I hadn't seen them...

Hard headed ...oops, water.

by Thomas Barr <tcbiii/>
Date: Sun, 25 Mar 2001

> recently moved back to a place with very hard water - the 1999
>Quality Report lists the weighted average hardness, as CaCO3 at
>439. They 
>also state "water hardness ranged from 130 mg/L to 680 mg/L 
>grains/gallon to 39.7 grains/gallon). To assist residents in
>water softeners, the average hardness was 25.7 grains per

>I'm getting ready to set up my aquarium again and have a few
>about this:

The LFS and myths are good at telling folks that need to soften
or not use the rock hard tap waters. Please don't blame them as
they are just trying to be helpful. 

Why use the softened water? Use the tap. It will work. My CaCO3
sits at a steady 430ppm(or mg/l). I add dechlorinator to it and
add it to my tanks. Hardness has nothing to do with anything
growing plants unless it is too low(less than 3KH/GH => to about
50ppm or mg/l). 
 CO2 does. Any notions otherwise or blaming the hardness is
well... full of poppycock. They have some other problem and are
blaming this hardness issue for their problems. My GH and KH are
pretty hard as well, much like yours. Plants don't care about
soft or hard etc. That's a myth. I'm sure if you add 1000ppm or
something or 10ppm or something or added saltwater etc well yes
then it would matter. But my point is you can grow plants as
easily in hard as soft(maybe better even in harder) if you use
CO2 gas. 

I have never seen a plant that has to be a soft water plant to
grow well.
If anyone "thinks" there is such plant **I dare** you to

If the CO2 requirements are met then they are fine. This is
simply obtained by using a pH/KH/CO2 chart.
I find quite a number of folks that have these
items(Softening/RO/Acids/DI/snake oils/high tech filters even
cables etc) but balk at spending a dime on a good CO2 set up. 

Tom Barr

hard headed... oops, water

by K9AUB/
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001

Tom Barr writes:
> I have never seen a plant that has to be a soft water plant to
>  grow well.
>  If anyone "thinks" there is such plant **I dare** you to
>  respond:)
Well... I didn't really wish to engage in mortal combat with you, Tom, and I 
left my sword at the dry cleaners.  But I would like to comment that I've 
never had any success growing Cabomba in my rock-hard Nevada water, and 
that's with as much as 25 ppm CO2.   I've also had great difficulty with 
certain Echinodorus, such as E. ozelot.  I know lots of people such as 
yourself who live in an exceptionally soft water area say that hard water is 
no problem, even though you don't have to deal with it on a daily basis...  
However, I live in a hard water area, and I can tell you that I've had 
nothing but problems growing plants in it.  Those problems go away quickly if 
I dilute out my water with 1/2 or 2/3 distilled water.  Now, while you have 
the sword to my throat, you might please explain why my experience does not 
match your theory?

Hard water and BBA

by Thomas Barr <tcbiii/>
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001

> Tom Barr writes:
> > I have never seen a plant that has to be a soft water plant
> to
> >  grow well.
> >  If anyone "thinks" there is such plant **I dare** you to
> >  respond:)
> > 
> Well... I didn't really wish to engage in mortal combat with
> you, Tom, and I 
> left my sword at the dry cleaners. 

It needn't be mortal:)

 But I would like to
> comment that I've 
> never had any success growing Cabomba in my rock-hard Nevada
> water, and 
> that's with as much as 25 ppm CO2.   I've also had great
> difficulty with 
> certain Echinodorus, such as E. ozelot.  

Try another. Been there, done that, easy stuff. One came up with
some Crypt nurii which is hell to grow in the long term below
the water line regardless of hardness. The closest canidate yet
is EustralisStellata. That is always a topic when Steve and I
get together. So I have also had it going along fine then it
crashes as well in hard water also. He does testing to see
what's going on like myself. He has extremely soft water very
pure etc and adds KH and GH to get it to about 4-5 or so. It's
like reconstituted RO water. The ES does well then crashes for
some unknown reason for him also. Many Germans reported this as

I know lots of people
> such as 
> yourself who live in an exceptionally soft water area say that
> hard water is 
> no problem, even though you don't have to deal with it on a
> daily basis...  

Au contair. I live in Goleta CA, although I'm in the Bay Area at
the moment doing some tanks. The tap at my home tanks are at a
GH of 24 and KH of 8. The PO4 is 0.06mg/l. I grow all that stuff
easy. Would you like to buy a nice big blood red rubin sword
from my tank? Perhaps some Red Cabomba? I do add lots of K
(30ppm) to my water(to at least 1.0ppm) and a fair amount of
TMG(Fe is about 1.0ppm so)Several folks have reports of good
success with SeaChem so I may switch later.
I do not have much NO3 in my water although I did add some
before I left. I maintain low NO3's and high everything else.
Much better luck doing this for myself. I can overfeed my fish
too. It just turns into plant food:)

> However, I live in a hard water area, and I can tell you that
> I've had 
> nothing but problems growing plants in it.  Those problems go
> away quickly if 
> I dilute out my water with 1/2 or 2/3 distilled water.  Now,
> while you have 
> the sword to my throat, you might please explain why my
> experience does not 
> match your theory?

There could be a number of things.
CO2. Maintain a good CO2 level and this will not happen. Not
just one single morning reading but a good watch over the course
of the trial. I study, write, read etc in plain veiw of my
digital moniters and test often other things. At a glance I know
what my CO2 is (20ppm min to about 35ppm max). Both plants like
NO3, K+ and PO4. You could've missed something there when you
did your water changes. DIY CO2?
There may be high Na in your Vegas water. You might not have any
PO4. There are many other things besides hardness. Many folks do
not test nor rule out the other factors and attibute things to
parameters that are not the cause. My plants grew like caca at
first but I started adding PO4 since previously I had lots in
Marin. I was conservative at first and had moderately good
responses. I add a large amount to raise it up to the levels in
the old tap(1.2ppm) waters and a bit higher even. My plants
strated doing much better once again like in Marin which has a
KH of 5 and GH of 9.
My GH shot up greatly down here while my PO4 plumetted. So was
it the GH or the PO4? Clearly, testing showed the causitive
agent was in fact, my PO4.                 

I've seen swords growing in salt estuaries next to pickleweed.
It doesn't get much harder than that. Most every SFBAAPS memeber
has seen the weeds growing in the sewer next to my old place in
Marin. A 3 foot sword plant and all over the place they appear
like weeds.That sewer drain gets salt brine at high tides.
Swords are tough customers. I dount Na is your problem. It's
possible but seems unlikely.

Need more details about the set up and tap. What's the GH and
What else do you add? Is KNO3 added? Is this added after a water
change? Is it DIY CO2?

How come others can do fine with swords etc in hard waters?
When we do special things like add Distilled water etc we often
take a little better care of our tanks sometimes...
I use to add RO water. My problems went away when I stopped
using it completely. Keeping CO2 in a good range and the
nutrients is the key. Every store owner in town said I'd have to
get an RO or buy distilled water etc. I just keep bring in the
plants to trade and smile.
Tom Barr
And :

> From:
> Subject: The dreadded (gasp!) BBA
> I've noticed an outbreak of BBA in my 30 gallon tank 
> during the past couple of weeks and was wondering if it 
> could be related to the fact that my DIY CO2 generator 
> died a couple weeks back and I haven't had a chance to 
> recharge it?  I'm thinking that without the CO2 the 
> plants metabolism has slowed down and they aren't taking 
> up the excess nutrients they used to? 

You figured out your own problem:)

>Please don't give me the "nutrient lecture", 
> I'm well aware!  ;)
Add some SAE's, like 4-6 of them. Feed your fish once day. SAE's
cannot live on BBA alone:)CO2 is a nutrient. End of lecture:)
Tom Barr

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