11 Steps to Setting Up a Cichlid Aquarium

Before buying cichlids, you have to make sure that they have a nice home already – the tank/aquarium should have been prepared beforehand.

Here is some of the basic equipment you would need:

Aquarium/tank – don’t settle for anything less than twenty gallons. Cichlids need a lot of water, especially if you’re planning to get numerous fishes.

A larger tank also requires less maintenance because there’s more water and is also a good choice if you have a mix of aggressive and non-aggressive/weak cichlids.

The aggressive ones can chase the less aggressive cichlids around the tank, but the less-aggressive fishes can easily maneuver out of harm’s way.

Tank heater – a tank heater can help make the tank’s temperature consistent

Air pump – the air pump is responsible for oxygenating the water (oxygen is dissolved in the water). Alternatively, you can use air stones that can also be purchased from local pet shops.

Tank filter – there are 2 main types of tank filters; we recommend the sponge variant because it’s simple, can easily be maintained and has a proven track record no matter what type of fish is in the tank.

Tank cover – the glass cover for your aquarium/tank should be easy to lift; it doesn’t have to cover the entire length and width of the aquarium’s opening. Apart from preventing your other pets from ‘fishing’ the cichlids, the tank cover is also used to prevent fishes from jumping out of the aquarium.

Cholramine antagonist/remover – a chloramine antagonist protects fish from chlorine that is added to countless water systems around the world. In its dissolved state, chlorine possess no immediate threat to cichlids.

Food – do some research as to what kind of cichlid you have/are planning to buy. Some cichlids are exclusive meat-eaters while others thrive on plant material only.

Setting up a tank is easy:

1. Before filing the tank with water, clean it first with a sponge and a mild soap. After wiping the walls of the tank as well as the bottom, rinse the glass tank thoroughly with running water. Make sure that all the soap is rinsed out. Soap is poisonous to fishes.

2. Choose a permanent place for the new cichlid tank. It is unsafe to carry around a twenty gallon tank especially if it has already been loaded with water.

3. Fill the aquarium to about ? capacity.

4. With a pH testing kit, measure the pH level of the water. Cichlid fishes thrive in alkaline water. If the pH level of the tank is too low, you can place limestone or even sand in the tank to make it more alkaline.

5. Install the tank filter in one corner of the tank. The air tube (the one that leads to the motor/air pump) should be placed in between the sponge and the larger plastic tube of the filter. Plug in the motor and see if it’s working. If you see bubbles and some movement in the water, the filter is moving as it should.

6. Next, install the water heater. Choose a spot at the back of the aquarium and place the heater there. Set the heater to 28 degrees Celsius and you’re done.

7. If you want to install aquarium lighting, use regular lights (not too bright please). The background of the aquarium (if you want to use one) should be as neutral as possible; if it’s too colorful, the cichlids will not feel comfortable in their new environment.

8. Allow the aquarium to ‘settle’ for a full day before adding your cichlids. This will also give the chlorine enough time to naturally evaporate.

9. When you visit the pet shop, opt for male-female pairs, as this will reduce the chances of aggression in the new tank.

10. Don’t forget that new tanks have to be cycled. Cycling refers to the natural nitrogen cycle that encourages the growth of bacteria that can break down fish waste in the water. This is why you should always start with only 1 or 2 fishes at most, with a new tank. If you start with a whole bunch of cichlids, there’s a big possibility that many of them will die in the tank prematurely.

11. Avoid mixing different fish species in one tank. A twenty gallon tank might look significant to the fish owner, but it’s really small compared to the natural habitat of wild fishes. Some cichlids may prey on smaller fish, like neon tetras.

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