View Full Version : Lab_Rat's 55g Planted African Cichlid Tank

01-02-2010, 03:27 AM
Since I've decided to attempt a planted tank with African cichlids (yes, a bit foolish I know but I've got the lighting for it) I figured I'd start a journal to keep track of plant growth/destruction by cichlids. I'm trying to avoid any species that are known to destroy plants (so no mbuna in the tank if I can help myself).

Lighting is 4x54w T5HO with blue LEDs. Right now I only have the four bulbs on for a couple of hours, only two are on for the remaining lighting time. Am going to set up a DIY CO2 since my water is so hard I'm not worried about a pH crash. Currently dosing Flourish, Excel, Trace, P, K, and have root tabs by each sword plant

Substrate is flourite black. I need to add some more when I have cash, right now it's piled around the plants.

Filtration is a Rena Filstar XP3 and an Aquaclear 70. No chemical media at this time.

Flora: A bunch of swords (not sure what they are, maybe I'll try to ID them sometime), Anubias nana and coffefolia, some vals that have been mostly eaten, a couple java fern leaves, water lettuce

Fauna: Astatotilapia latifasciata, Aulonocara stuartgranti Maleri Island, Altolamprologus calvus Congo Black, Synodontis petricola, Synodontis lucipinnis, Ancistrus cirrhosus, olive nerite snails

Tank when first planted, 12-12-09. Was my entry for the XTMO competition (which won, woo hoo!)

Tank as of 1-1-10

Left side 1-1-10

Right side 1-1-10

Lady Hobbs
01-02-2010, 03:28 AM
Looks great. Love the holy rock.

01-02-2010, 03:30 AM
Great looking tank. Seems to be doing well.

01-02-2010, 03:30 AM
Aulonocara stuartgranti Maleri Island dominant male

Aulonocara stuartgranti Maleri Island female on left, possible sub-dominant male or colorful female on right

Astatotilapia latifasciata


01-02-2010, 03:32 AM
Altolamprologus calvus Congo Black


Ancistrus cirrhosus


01-02-2010, 03:34 AM
Thanks Lady Hobbs and Rich! I'm excited to see what happens when I add DIY CO2. I'm hoping to create a sword jungle in there.

01-02-2010, 04:14 AM
Beautiful tank. Love the distinction of the three colors. thumbs2:

01-02-2010, 04:17 AM
Awesome tank!

01-02-2010, 04:32 AM
Wow the aquarium looks amazing! Everything works really well together!

01-02-2010, 05:00 AM
your tank looks awesome. good luck with the plants.

01-02-2010, 11:39 AM
Great tank, Labby!

01-02-2010, 08:17 PM
I love the colours in your tank! Black and green. Hopefully mine will look like that someday.

01-02-2010, 08:19 PM
So, that's what you've been up to lately! Beautiful tank Labby! thumbs2:

01-02-2010, 08:30 PM

Everything blends very well; clean, neat, set-up. Nice camera work, too!

01-02-2010, 10:44 PM
Thanks everyone! I'm quite happy with it so far.

Here's a shot with the blue LEDs on. It's not a great pic but the tank looks pretty cool IRL. The synos are much more active when the regular lights go off and the moon lights come on.


01-02-2010, 10:52 PM
Cool! We really want moonlights in our 90 gal. Are those DIY?
Were looking around, but cant find any blue LEDs around here.

01-02-2010, 11:02 PM
They're part of the lighting fixture, not DIY. I think Petsmart carries the blue LEDs.

01-02-2010, 11:03 PM
Looks great.

01-10-2010, 06:45 AM
I added a bottle of DIY CO2 last week, am running the line into the intake of the canister. Not sure if it's doing much. I've started getting some holes in some of the sword leaves so I think the plants need more nutrients.

Tank on 1-9-10:

The water lettuce from candice&jeff has gotten some nice roots on it. Thanks Candice! You can see it in the upper right corner.

01-10-2010, 06:50 AM
Tank loos great, Labby! thumbs2:

02-26-2010, 05:00 AM
Updated pic:

02-26-2010, 05:56 AM
Definatly the nicest african tank I have ever seen :22:

02-26-2010, 05:59 AM
Gosh, everytime I get one of my tanks the way I like it one of you guys posts a beautiful tank and fish like this and makes me want one just like yours. I guess I'm just greedy.//

02-26-2010, 06:11 AM
Thanks guys! :22: I'm happy the africans haven't totally destroyed the plants.

03-14-2010, 05:31 AM



03-14-2010, 02:42 PM
Looks great! Definatly some lucky africans :11:

03-14-2010, 08:18 PM
wow... absolutely amazing tank... where did you get the holy rock?

03-14-2010, 10:01 PM
Excellent looking tank!thumbs2:

03-15-2010, 04:19 AM
Thanks everyone! Got the holey rock from a local landscaping company...one of the benefits to living in Texas hill country.

03-15-2010, 04:52 PM
Thanks for the update! Tank look wonderful. :ssmile:

04-11-2010, 06:21 AM
I had a bunch of plants that needed planting, so I decided to re-arrange the 55g a bit. I pulled out the two large swords from the foreground so I can now see my fish again. They're going to be for sale, anyone need swords? :hmm3grin2orange:

I've planted a couple more baby swords, will let those fill in. Also some dwarf sag, some lilies, some onion plants (just sprouting, are in the back), some stem plants, etc. Right now, the vics have been busy uprooting the new plants (jerks) so I'm trying to distract them with food.



Some of the plants:

04-11-2010, 06:22 AM
Left side:


Right side:

04-11-2010, 06:25 AM
Lookin good thumbs2: . I like the improvement; should be better when it fills out more too.

05-05-2010, 02:42 AM
Some pics of fish I picked up at the auction a couple of weeks ago. Sold 9 of my zebra obliquidens and picked up 2 ahli and 5 red shoulder peacocks.





05-05-2010, 02:43 AM




05-05-2010, 07:33 AM
Fish look great labby, and the tank has grown into quite the jungle :22:

05-05-2010, 03:19 PM
The change is good. Enjoy the new additions.

05-05-2010, 03:46 PM
Nice looking fish. Great pick ups.

05-17-2010, 03:09 AM
Pulled a lot of the water lettuce, it didn't like the new cover on the tank and it's a pita with the HOB filter.


05-31-2010, 05:26 AM
Did a massive trim tonight since I couldn't see any of my fish due to the massive amount of plants. Removed almost a 5g bucket full of plants, mostly swords. Here's the result, not sure if I'm happy with it yet.


05-31-2010, 02:41 PM
i definitely like the last picture lab rat cuz i think it's a lot nicer now that you can see the fish... regardless you have an incredible tank very well scaped!

05-31-2010, 04:32 PM
Think of it kind of like doing the yearly landscaping for spring.
Looks kind of "naked" for a bit....

Then when it starts growing back in "WOW" thumbs2:

Think in a bit it will look better than ever.

Very nice!

06-02-2010, 12:08 AM
Tank looks amazing! Are you using co2?

06-02-2010, 03:41 AM
Thanks guys!

I have a DIY bottle of CO2 that I am not good about replacing, so for practical purposes, not really. I do want to go pressurized, I just haven't had any spare cash to invest in a quality regulator.

06-02-2010, 10:28 AM
Tank is looking good. Nice job on the trim.

09-24-2010, 02:09 AM

10-03-2010, 12:43 AM
The fall HCCC auction is tomorrow, and I know I'm going to buy some fish, so I had to clear some out to make room. I just tore down the tank to catch the fish I wanted to take.

So far going to the auction:
4 synos (they're cool fish and all, but I don't see them much and I'd rather save the bioload space for cichlids)
2 male red shoulder peacocks
1 female red shoulder peacock
1 female sunshine peacock
1 female ahli
2 zebra obliqs (I think male, going to have to sex them before I bag them)

Should lighten the load on the tank. I'm hoping to come back with calvus and peacock males. I'm going for all male peacocks.

Also, about had tragedy strike. I had to pull the holey rock out to catch the synos. That stuff is heavy, and I shook the rock, pulled it out, then dunked it again to get all the fish out. One of the calvus decided to stay in the rock as did the male BN, unbeknownst to me. So I took the plants and rocks out, caught all the fish, went to put the rocks back in, and saw the calvus laying on the towel. He looked dead. I picked him up and laid him back in the tank. After a couple of seconds he came back to life and swam off. The plec was alive and kicking on the towel, seemed pissed off with me. Hopefully both will be ok. I thought I'd checked the rock well, obviously not well enough.

10-03-2010, 01:02 AM
It's surprising how fish can live outside of water for a while. I once had to release my cherry barbs from a bag and I accidentally spilled it so some of the water got on my hood/on the floor. I assumed all the fish got in the tank since there weren't any on the floor so I just watched them for a while until about 5 minutes later I moved the light back and a cherry barb was sitting inches away from the light bulb, right underneath it. :14: It must have been really stressful to be in so much light and out of water but its still doing fine today :P

And good job on keeping so many good looking plants in there with all those africans :11:

10-04-2010, 03:25 AM
Thanks, the africans actually aren't as hard on the plants as the american cichlids are. Now they've destroyed vals, swords, some onion plants, and dwarf sag, but at least they leave the anubias alone.

New additions to the tank are Julidochromis marleri burundi, Altolamprologus compressiceps "orange", and a male ahli.

11-19-2010, 05:56 AM
Stupid cichlids have really started destroying my plants. Bit the leaves off all but one of the onion plants, and have torn up a bunch more.


11-19-2010, 07:05 AM
Tank still looks great even if the cichlids arnt being nice to the plants :11:

11-19-2010, 08:38 AM
That is really odd. In my tanks the only plant that seems to ever be safe is the onion...

Looks great though.

11-19-2010, 03:47 PM
Thanks guys!

You'd think they'd leave the onion plants alone, but noooo, must bite them off at the base of the plant. They did the same thing to the large vals I tried in there as well. Doesn't matter how large the plant is either, they seek and destroy. I probably won't add anymore in there until I figure out if I'm moving in May or not.

12-03-2010, 08:07 PM
do you suppose I can put in anubias with my peacocks, given your experience with yours? I need a hardy plant that doesn't require a ton of light( just 9 hours a day from the lamp that came with the tank), or much extra maintenance for that matter. I'd prefer also plants that can be planted in the sand. might just ask what the previous owner has in his tank that survived these fish as well to get an idea.

01-25-2011, 02:48 AM




01-25-2011, 02:49 AM
do you suppose I can put in anubias with my peacocks, given your experience with yours? I need a hardy plant that doesn't require a ton of light( just 9 hours a day from the lamp that came with the tank), or much extra maintenance for that matter. I'd prefer also plants that can be planted in the sand. might just ask what the previous owner has in his tank that survived these fish as well to get an idea.

Anubias are awesome. I'd definitely try them with your peacocks.

01-25-2011, 04:10 AM
Nice tank are thoughs peacocks? im not verry good at telling apart chiclids yet.

01-25-2011, 04:21 AM
Some are peacocks (the blue/reddish orange ones and the pinky white one), some are haps (the vibrant blue ones), some are victorians (the yellow and black striped ones), the torpedo shaped ones are julies, and the funny shaped ones are calvus and compressiceps.

06-15-2011, 03:37 AM
Tank is now no more. End of journal.