Cichlid Room Companion

Internet lectures

Keeping them alive and breeding them

By , 1996. printer
Richard Brown, 1996

Classification: Captive maintenance.

" Fishroom talk taking place on 1996-Jun-26 "

Apistogramma says: 17 listeners and counting....good crowd.

JuanMi shouts: Cichlid meeting third call We are starting

JuanMi has muted audible commands.

Juanmi says: Good night Ladies and gentleman, I want to thank Richard for letting us start again the series on cichlid room meetings with his presentation "Keeping them alive and breed them" I am sure you will enjoy.

Richardb says: Thank you Juan.

Richardb says: Thank you for inviting me to speak to you tonight. I guess this is a little unusual for a cichlid meeting, because I'm not going to talk about cichlids, although this subject applies to cichlids just as much as any other aquarium fish, probably more so in some ways. I know that I'm probably going to be telling a lot of you what you already know, so those in that category please bear with me.

Richardb says: My topic, as Juan has already mentioned, is "Keeping Them Alive and Breeding". I'll basically be outlining my personal aquarium maintenance procedures, covering water quality, filtration and nutrition. These are the methods that have worked best for me over the years. I'll also mention a few general points on breeding that I've found useful. Please feel free to ask questions or make comments at any time.

Richardb says: I think that Juan invited me to speak about this because I do have a lot of rather old fishes, many in the 12-15 year old range, so I must be doing something right <grin>. I don't use any secret methods to keep them alive and healthy for this long, just simple techniques and a little common sense and understanding of their basic requirements.

Richardb says: Firstly, I'll cover water quality. Because fishes live in a liquid medium, they are constantly surrounded by, and ingesting, their own as well as their neighbors' waste products, unlike creatures that live in the air, where this is not a problem.

Richardb says: In a river, lake or ocean, the ratio of water to fish is far greater than in any aquarium, and the concentration of waste products remains very low, but in the aquarium, the ratio of water to fish is far less, and waste products can quickly build up to a toxic level, causing disease, growth retardation and so forth.

Richardb says: Hence the need for regular partial water changes. The sole reason for these is to keep the level of dissolved waste products as low as possible. Now I know that biological filtration, and the conversion of ammonia to nitrites to nitrates is very important, but even if this process is occurring at a very efficient level in the aquarium, the end product, nitrates, still build up to levels that will adversely affect the fishes' health.

Richardb says: I personally change up to 50% (sometimes even more) of the water in my tanks weekly. I know that this amount is probably far in excess of what is actually NECESSARY in most aquaria, and could prove difficult for a lot of aquarists who have to cope with chlorine and various other "nasties" in their water, but I'm rather fortunate in having my own rainwater supply here (and our rainwater is still very pure). With a good water supply, I believe that you can't overdo water changes, the more the better.

Richardb says: While I'm siphoning out the water, I usually take the opportunity to vacuum the gravel a bit. This removes any debris which may have collected there, and also moves the gravel about and aerates it to prevent the build-up of anaerobic bacteria. Many of you cichlid keepers probably don't have to worry about this, considering the landscaping habits of a lot of cichlids. Their digging in the gravel has the same effect, aerating the gravel and stirring up debris so that the filters can pick it up.

Richardb says: Years ago, I used to carefully siphon out water a bucket at a time, then replace it the same way, even boiling up water to add to the buckets of cold water to bring the temperature up, rather than use hot water from the tap in case there may be copper in it. Whew! Too much work, and not really necessary. I changed my methods long ago, and have had no problems and saved heaps of time.

Richardb says: I now simply use a garden hose, run it out the back door and into the kitchen sink outlet to siphon out the water, then connect it up to the cold water tap to refill the tanks. I usually pour in a few containers of hot water, from the hot water tap, as they're refilling, in order to avoid too much of a temperature drop, but I often have drops of up to 10 degrees F, and no problems. I wouldn't really recommend this though if you have any doubts, it's just that I know my tanks and fishes well enough to know that I can get away with it.

Richardb says: I usually add about half a teaspoonful of sea salt per gallon of water to all of my tanks. Now I know that this is a controversial subject, and there are those aquarists who swear by it, and those who wouldn't have a bar of it, but I believe that it is beneficial in helping to prevent disease and stress.

Richardb says: This could start a whole debate in itself :-)

Richardb says: Next, I'd like to touch on filtration. I only use external power filters, like Whispers and Aquaclears, with filter media that can quickly and easily be rinsed out or replaced. My reason for this is that I like to remove the waste materials from the system as quickly as possible, rather than have them remain in the system. Once again, this is all part of keeping water quality high.

Richardb says: Another aspect of these power filters that I like is the fact that they create a strong water flow in the aquarium. This has a number of beneficial effects, such as distributing oxygen around the tank, constantly changing the layer of water in contact with the atmosphere to assist in the exchange of gases, maintaining an even temperature throughout the tank, and moving solid debris around so that the filters can pick it up.

Richardb says: The other thing with water movement is that the fishes seem to enjoy it.

richardb exclaims: In order to be able to cheaply replace my filter media on a regular basis, I make my own filter bags for the Whisper filters, using the acrylic fiber fill matting that can be bought by the square yard from craft stores. Cut to size and sewn together on the sewing machine, I can get about 50 filter bags for around $3-4, pretty cheap!

Richardb says: This is the same material that SW aquarists sometimes use between their UGF plates and substrate.

Richardb says: I never use carbon or any of the other fancy filter materials that are available. Except for special circumstances, I don't believe that they are necessary, just a waste of money.

Richardb says: That's about it for filtration, simple and straightforward, and your tanks stay crystal clear.

Richardb says: Next, I'd like to talk briefly about nutrition. My philosophy is "variety". The greater the variety of foods that you can feed your fishes, the more likely they are to obtain all of the nutrients essential for good health. BTW, this applies equally to us, variety in the diet is very important.

Richardb says: In other words, you are what you eat :-)

Richardb says: I feed my fishes all kinds of foods, from various commercial flakes and other dried foods, to live foods such as brine shrimp and whiteworms (which I culture), frozen brine shrimp, bloodworm and beefheart, cooked green peas (a favorite of mine) and spinach, and things from the kitchen like raw or cooked fish, prawns, chicken, etc. I try to make it a rule to never feed my fishes the same thing twice in a row.

Richardb says: One thing with fish flesh, etc., use non-oily fish, or you'll end up with an oil slick on the water surface which will inhibit the exchange of gases.

Richardb says: As far as breeding techniques, this is very much dependent upon which species we're talking about. Although I've bred a number of cichlid species, I'm by no means an expert on them, and am in no position to be telling you about breeding them. I could probably tell you all about how I go about breeding Australian Rainbow fishes and various other species, but this IS a cichlid meeting, so all I can really touch on today regarding breeding, is a few very general points.

Richardb says: Firstly, you need to have healthy fishes if you are to breed them successfully, so, hopefully, what I've already said regarding water quality, filtration and nutrition will help in achieving this.

Richardb says: A lot of species will breed at the drop of a hat, but others may need to be encouraged, and one common method of doing this is to condition the prospective breeders by feeding them up on as much live food as possible for a period of time, before attempting to breed them. This often brings them into breeding condition.

Richardb says: As far as raising fry (where there is no parental care), I have found that bare glass bottomed tanks are a real advantage. This enables uneaten food and waste to easily be siphoned out of the tank on a regular basis (preferably daily), in order to keep things hygienic. The odd rock or plastic plant can be included as "furniture" to give the fry some shelter and a feeling of security.

Richardb says: A portion of the water should be changed preferably on a daily basis while siphoning the tank bottom. The higher the water quality is kept, the quicker the fry will grow, as built up waste products in the water definitely retard growth.

Richardb says: The inclusion of some snails in rearing tanks can often prove useful, as they will quickly devour any uneaten food that happens to be laying around. This enables you to feed the fry generously and not worry too much about the odd bit of food that doesn't get eaten by them.

richardb asks: With some species, particularly Australian Rainbows (oops, sorry, there I go again ;-) , the growth rate of individuals in a batch of fry is very uneven, so the faster growing fry should progressively be moved to other growing tanks to allow the slower ones to catch up, although there are often runts that never grow properly (feeder fish?). I haven't found this condition in any of the cichlid species that I've bred (or any other species for that matter), so perhaps it is confined to Rainbows?

Richardb says: One little technique that I've used for rearing mouth brooding cichlid fry in community tanks is, having collected the fry from the mother's mouth, to raise them in a plastic ice cream container, with sections cut out of the sides and covered with fly screen mesh, and strips of Styrofoam glued around the outside lip of the container. This floats in a corner of the community tank. The mesh covered sections allow a constant flow of water through container, and a large number of fry can be reared in a fairly small container without the need for a separate rearing tank.

Richardb says: Well, I think that just about covers what I want to say, so if anyone has any questions, comments or criticisms, I'd be glad to hear them. Thank you for your attention.

Juanmi says: We will now open the ground for questions

JuanMi has released muting.

Juliah raises her hand.

richardb asks: Yes Julia?

Juliah asks: I was wondering if the sea salt RB mentioned was the regular aquarium salt or something like Instant Ocean, for SW aquariums?

Richardb says: It's just plain sea or rock salt Julia, but you can use the marine stuff. I mentioned adding sea salt, that's as opposed to table salt Julia.

Juanmi says: Richard, I have used salt in my tanks for many years with many favorable effects on my fish, I read that the salt acts as an irritant for the fish skin and that promotes mucus coat excreting, and that in turns make the fish more resistant to high concentrations of chemicals, How do salt affects plants, I mean in the small proportion you use?

Richardb says: I've found that the concentration of salt I use doesn't seem to affect the plants I have, although some may be less tolerant Juan,

Juanmi says: thanks Richard, I was reluctant to add the salt to my planted tanks

Richardb says: Well, I would say if you have any doubts that your plants can tolerate it, to be very careful. It's just that I haven't found that amount to be detrimental with the particular plants I have.

Allan raises his hand.

Allan asks: Do you think undergravel filters are useful at all? How about with Powerheads? Or do you believe that they are an accident waiting to happen?

Richardb says: Personally, I don't like UGFs Allan, because I like to clear waste out of the tank, and they retain it in the tank.

James raises his hand.

richardb asks: Thanks, yes James?

James asks: You mentioned before that you only use carbon, etc., only on special occasions, may I ask what those special occasions are?

Richardb says: Well, to remove toxic substances, or medications from the water. Under normal circumstances, I don't believe it's necessary.

James nods his head in understanding.

RgrMill raises his hand.

richardb asks: Rgr?

RgrMill asks: How do you measure circulation rates and how much would you recommend?

Richardb says: I don't really measure them, just whatever the filter puts out, although in planted tanks I try to divert the water flow so as not to disturb the plants.

apistogramma asks: what is the hardness of your water before adding salt? Richardb says: About 50ppm Ted

apistogramma asks: 50 ppm is pretty you suggest that those of us with much harder water (200-400ppm) also add salt?

Richardb says: Yes Ted, I don't think it would make a great deal of difference.

MattM raises his hand.

MattM asks: this might sound stupid but what is filter media?

Richardb says: The foam blocks or acrylic material that traps the waste matter.

MattM nods his head in understanding.

Beaker says: I've been raising a batch of jewels recently, a portion had defects of course. do you think the defects were genetic (I'm sure some are) or an environmental deformation.

Juanmi says: I have experienced defects in fry when the fry is not properly fed, they need to eat twice each day, at least one, with good quality foods

Richardb says: Yes Beaker, it could well be a nutritional problem.

Juliah raises her hand.

richardb asks: Julia?

Juliah asks: How often would you suggest cleaning the filter media? And how much water would you change at one time (20-50%)?

Richardb says: Well, I'd clean the filter media weekly if you have power filters that enable you to do so (canisters are different), and I change up to 50% water weekly, although this is probably not actually necessary, but beneficial.

apistogramma asks: how is a canister different?

Richardb says: Well, they're designed to be cleaned out much less frequently, and to use biological action to a greater extent.

Bmj raises his hand.

richardb asks: Bmj?

Bmj asks: Do you feel water level or temperature control have any factor input in inducing breeding?

Richardb says: Definitely, depending on species Bmj. Raising or lowering water temperature can often induce fish to breed.

Allan raises his hand

richardb asks: Allan?

Allan says: I have two large tanks with UGFs with power heads in addition to outside power filters. Would you recommend that I quit running the powerheads or even tear down the UGFs completely? I change 50% of the water per week in the water per week in the 125g (Malawi) tank, and 25% weekly in the 55, and the water looks really good.

Richardb says: Personally, I'd only be using the outside power filters, but a lot of it is a matter of personal choice.

Allan says: Ok,

Jstark raises his hand

richardb asks: OK, Jstark?

Jstark asks: I noticed from your web page that you do not mention siphoning the gravel in your planted tank, do you notice any difference in the health of the fish, relative to the tanks you vacuum the gravel in?

Richardb says: Good question. I do vacuum around the plants as much as I can, but obviously no where near as much as the other tanks. I have burrowing snails in that tank, and I believe they help to aerate the gravel, but the fishes all seem healthy.

Jstark says: There is a difference between simply removing water, and disturbing the gravel whilst doing it...

JOM raises his hand

MattM raises his hand.

MattM asks: how do you change water do you siphon it or what?

Richardb says: Yes, I siphon it out using a garden hose Matt.

JOM asks: richard?

JOM says Richard what do you think about the python system.

Juliah cheers enthusiastically for Python!.

Richardb says: I haven't actually used that JOM.

Richardb says: Sounds good though.

James raises his hand.

Jstark says: I am buying a Python.

JOM says I've been using it since its inception so to speak

JOM says I used to do water changes everyday but cut them down to every other day & or every 4 days

JOM nods his head in understanding oh Yeah..

Juliah says: I trust Python with all my heart :)

richardb asks: James?

James asks: About the filter media (or floss on my power filters), is it wise to change the whole thing, as in throwing it away and replacing it, or keep rinsing it until the thing has a hole?

Richardb says: I rinse them out until they don't appear to be operating at full efficiency, then change them, just play it by ear really.

Tonga says: I rinse mine as much as I can, and I've been told to rinse in lukewarm water to keep from killing the bacteria

Richardb says: I don't worry too much about that Tonga, but it's fine to use luke warm water if you want to preserve the bacteria as best you can.

Juliah nods her head in agreement.

James nods his head in understanding Thanks.

Richardb says: Well, if there are no more questions, I'd like to thank you all for your attendance. Thank you very much, I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

Juanmi says: Thanks to you Richard, this talk will sure be of great help to many of us

JuanMi applauds Richard

rickdf says: good talk rb thanks

James applauds for RB

Allan says: thanks for the info, richard.

Bmj applauds

Juliah applauds loudly...

Allan applaud

James applauds RB, again :)

Richardb says: Thank you friends.

Juliah cheers enthusiastically.

JOM gives richard seal of approval <><

Richardb laughs.


Brown, Richard. (May 27, 1996). "Keeping them alive and breeding them". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on October 18, 2019, from: