Friday, July 15, 2016

Aquarium Cleaning

In this post, I'll describe how I clean my aquarium and what tools I use in the process. First, let me start by saying that cleaning an aquarium is really not difficult. If you spend half an hour every week (or sometimes every other week), you can have a crystal clear aquarium that is fascinating to watch. First, I would like to share with you the main tools that I use during a cleaning session. Here is a snapshot:

The tools in the picture are:

  • A 10 liter water bucket (I use two of these). This is for siphoning out the dirty water.
  • A long hose used to fill the aquarium directly from the tap. The small orange-gray piece in front of it is used to connect the hose to the tap.
  • A siphoning hose setup (on the right) - for siphoning.
  • A pink bucket to put the stuff inside the aquarium such as stones and plants during cleaning (yours doesn't have to be pink for sure).
  • A kitchen sponge and and an aquarium sponge with a long handle. These are to clean the aquarium glass from inside.
  • Two towels for cleaning the glass from the outside (as the last step of cleaning). Another large towel to spread below the tank to prevent water leaking on the floor.
  • A glass cleaner (for outside cleaning).
  • A water conditioner (also works as a dechlorinator)
I start the cleaning process by washing my hands to make sure that I don't pass any potentially harmful bacteria into the water. I repeat this process at the end to prevent the opposite. Next, I remove the stones into the bucket following by cleaning the inside of the glass using one of the sponges. This step is not required every time. I use the green side of the sponge for harder to remove algae but be careful not to scratch the glass. The green part of the sponge may scratch the glass if you apply too much pressure. Also if sands gets stuck between the sponge and the glass that may scratch the glass as well. So I try to be careful especially when cleaning the bottom part of the aquarium.

Next, I siphon out the water the from the bottom of the tank into my 10 liter water bottles making sure to collect most of the fish waste. I use a manual siphon for this purpose. But I added a valve to it so that I can stop the water flow when needed without requiring to restart siphoning. This is especially helpful when my first 10-liter bottle fills up and I have to switch to the second one without leaking water. Below is a picture of that piece. You can find something like that from the gardening department of any hardware store:

My tank is about 150 liters (40 gallons), so I typically change 30 liters, that is 20% of the total water volume once a week. If I got lazy and did not change the water for two weeks, then I change around 40 or 50 liters of water - but not more than that. Once the water is emptied I hook up the long hose to the kitchen tap thanks to this small connector and I turn on the tap:

At this point I add the dechlorinator to the water. It is suggested that the temperature of the new water matches to what you have in the aquarium. If you want, you can use a digital thermometer to ensure that is the case. Personally, I try to do it manually by checking with my fingers. It has not caused me any problems so far. But if you have a smaller tank, aiming for a more exact match may be a safer thing to do.

Once the tank is filled back up again, I turn on the lights to make sure that no missed algae remains on the glass surface. If I see some, I gently clean it with the sponge (I turn off the lights again just to prevent any risk with the electricity).

After closing the tank cover, I spray some of the glass cleaner on a soft fabric and clean the aquarium glass from the outside. This surely is the most fun part as at this point I enjoy the satisfaction of being almost finished.

Once the cleaning is finished, the water may still be somewhat hazy. This is okay as we have agitated the sand (or the gravel) and there are lots of floating particles around. In about 4 to 6 hours all of this stuff will be picked up by your filter and you tank will be crystal clear.

Here is a youtube link to a video of my aquarium several hours after cleaning it:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Fish Behavior

In this post, I will give some information about the behavior of the cichlid species in my tank. I will talk about the three behavioral aspects namely aggressiveness, feeding, and mating.


In general cichlid species are known to be aggressive. But they are also good at taking aggression. So it is okay to have some healthy aggression in a cichlid tank - it is part of their nature. But this aggression should not cause some fish to hide all the time in a hidden corner and eventually get weaker and die. One of the ways to avoid this in a cichlid tank is a technique known as overcrowding. If you have more fish than normal, the aggression is likely to be scattered resulting in less severe aggression (and stress) over any single fish.

Also, most tanks will have a dominant fish which we may fittingly call as the "boss". In my tank, the boss is one of the male mpangas. He usually gets what he wants in the tank, but he is not extremely aggressive. I would say that the second boss is a male pindani. He could even become the first boss if he was as large as the mpanga. We will see what happens as they grow up. After the mpanga and the pindani, a larger male electric yellow could be considered as the third boss. He is even sometimes not intimidated by the challenges of the second boss. They sometimes fight tooth to tooth with no clear winner.

I also have several demasoni, allegedly one male and two females according to the seller that I bought them from. However, it is hard to tell apart their gender especially when they are juveniles. The females are smaller but I'm not sure if is because of their gender or age. In my tank, the females don't really mess with anybody and the male sometimes makes mock fights with the electric yellow and the pindani. But nothing serious really.

Among the other fish that I have, yellow tail acei, firefish, and the ahli are really not aggressive at all (ahli being the least aggressive). Even when they behave aggressive it is only toward their own species (and in the form of chasing females). The convict cichlids, being two smaller females, are also not aggressive. However, they are very sturdy and not stressed at all by the larger and different species around them. They sometimes chase each other though.

In summary, based on my experience, I believe that I have a pretty balanced tank. There is some chasing around but nothing deadly. I must add, however, that at one point I had a male auratus in my tank. That guy chased most other fish around until they were too scared to come out even for feeding. So I returned that fish to the local fish store, and I believe that was a good decision. So for anyone who wants to keep an auratus, please make sure that you have a very large tank, and compatible fish that can deal with high levels of aggression.


I must start by saying that cichlid will eat most anything that you throw at them, like most fish would do. However, you have to be careful about what and how much you feed them, as otherwise they may die due to bloating. See this excellent article on the topic. The fish that I have in my tank have a mixed bag of diets. Pindani, mpanga, acei, and demasoni are all herbivores. Electric yellow and convict are omnivores, and firefish and ahli are carnivores. So at one point I was concerned about how to feed them appropriately. Later as I was watching a youtube video I learned about this awesome brand of food called the New Life Spectrum. I tried it and I loved it. The food is very well-balanced to satisfy the nutritional requirements of different types of cichlids. It simply looks and feels high quality. The best of all, it does not quickly dissolve in the water ensuring water clarity. I usually feed my fish once a day (mornings) about a teaspoonfull of this food. Also, I usually let them fast once a week, which I believe helps their digestive systems to clean up any residual waste.

Besides devouring their meals, different types of cichlid enjoy different kinds of snacks throughout the aquarium. Yellow tail acei are the best algae eaters. They literally try to scrape off the algae that grows on the rocks and on the aquarium glass. Pindani, on the other hand, prefer my plants. Although I have cichlid proof (well, sort of) plants such as Anubias and Java Fern, pindani still eat them slowly but steadily. Especially when the new leaves are fresh and tender, they make the most damage so the leaves never grow up to their full potential. They manage to eat fully grown up leaves as well.


The last thing I will discuss in this post will be the mating behavior of my fish. After every cleaning up of the aquarium, most males will pick some spots around the rocks and dig up the sand to make nests. They will then try to attract females by shaking violently in front of them. If the breeding happens, the females hold the fertilized eggs in their mouth for about three weeks, until the babies hatch and are old enough to swim on their own. They eat almost nothing during this period, which in my opinion, is a miracle. They usually get weaker during this period though. I actually had a pindani female, who died soon after giving birth to her fry due to getting to weak to survive. The male aggression toward the female also makes things worse during this period. But in any case, if the female was strong enough to begin with, she will usually get back to her original form after releasing the fry.

As for the fry, I did not have a survivor yet who was born in the main tank. The adult cichlid are too fast for a new born baby. Also, while some cichlids do care for the young, I haven't seen this happening in my tank yet. They eat their own fry as well (so much for parenthood). You can certainly separate the holding female to a special container to protect the babies, but this brings about the problem of what to do with them when they grow up. Because you will have around 20 - 40 extra fish to find room for, per pregnant female. Selling them could be an option but it is really not worth the effort unless you are breeding some really rare fish. So in general, I let the nature run its course. At some point, I believe some babies can survive as there are many caves and crevices in my tank. Most importantly, if my java ferns grow as big as I see in some pictures, they could be perfect hiding spots for the baby and young fish. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fish Species

As promised in my first post, here is the list of the current cichlid species in my aquarium with their pictures that I personally took:
At one point I had a male Melanochromis Auratus, but it was so aggressive that I had to return it back to my local fish store. Also you may notice that most of my fish are from Lake Malawi but I have two convict cichlids from Central America. This was due to a misinformation that I got from the seller at the local fish store, who told me that those are from Africa as well! I should have researched better before buying my fish. But, in fact, now I quite like their colors, behaviors, and compatibility with the other fish so I don't feel bad for having them (also as both are female they are not likely to propagate!).  Below are some pictures of my fish:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Hi There!

This is my first post so I'll provide a brief history of my aquarium adventure. I have been into aquariums for about a year and a half now. For about a year I had a 15 gallon (nano) tank, initially with some Guppy fish in them. Later I tried adding different community fish species such as black molly, sword tail, neon tetra, ... with mixed results. Mostly of the new fish that I introduced died and the owner of my local fish store told me that most fish are not compatible with Guppy as it has certain kind of parasites! Not sure if this is true as I found scores of articles about mixed community tanks. Comment below if you know more about this.

I've always been into cichlids so I decided to give them a go in my aquarium. Most local fish stores in my home town (Ankara, Turkey) only has two types of cichlids commonly known as the Electric Yellow (Labidochromis caeruleus) and Pindani (Pseudotropheus socolofi). So I bought them and put in my community tank. At that point I had only two Guppies left, and not surprisingly, they died a few days after the introduction of the cichlids.

After having the cichlids for a few months, it was clear that this aquarium was too small for them. So I decided to buy a larger aquarium and purchased a MinJiang brand aquarium from the fish store. I paid it a hefty price of 1000TL which is about 350$. But apparently that was still a good deal. The aquarium is slightly longer than a meter and it takes 160 liters (about 40 gallons) of water. Initially this aquarium seemed huge. But now I got used to it and it actually looks small. Here is a picture of my tank as it is now:

I have about 20 fish in my tank and as you can see I have decorated it with natural rocks that I bought from a garden store. I have two Anubias plants (Anubias barteri var. nana) and two Java ferns (Microsorum pteropus). I also have an artificial plant that you can see on the right. Finally I have two pieces of Mangrove roots and I'm using a type of white sand that I also bought from the fish store. In a later post I'll share more information about the types of fish, plants, and materials in my aquarium including things like the filtration system that I'm using.

To keep this post short, I will conclude by saying that I'm very open to learn new things about how to maintain a healthy and vibrant aquarium. I would love to read your comments to keep this blog more interactive. Having this blog will be a learning and sharing adventure for me, and maybe I can inspire some interested people to get into this hobby as well.