75G Geophagus

A home for my South Americans –
75G SA Community Tank with Geophagus

I had a very nice 29G South American setup for some years. It was used to trial certain things like an UGJ system and a real rock background, which I later used in my 240G. It has also been a joy to watch over the 4.5 years that I had it, it won Cichlid-forum’s Tank of the Month Award in March 2005, and I very successfully bred Bolivian Rams in it.

Bolivian Rams with fry

Bolivian Rams with fry in my previous SA tank – a 29G.

Eventually I got 6 Geophagus sp. ‘ Pindare’ which moved into this tank. I got them at the OCA Extravaganza 2006 from Jeremy Basch a.k.a. Fishboy20 on Cichlid-forum. Jeremy is a guy who knows his South American cichlids, and Geophagus in particular, and I believe my Pindare were from the first spawn of this species in the USA. They are not reputed to be hard to spawn though, and have been popular in the hobby in Europe for some time. When I got them these fish were the size of pinheads, and I teased Jeremy about selling me guppies – nobody could have seen a difference at that size! Anyhow, he didn’t cheat me, and these guys grew at an astounding rate! Within weeks they had overtaken my Bolivian Rams fry, who were several months older than them. Considering that they are one of the smaller Geophagus species with a maximum length of about 6″, this surprised me, but due to their extremely peaceful temperament they were happy in the 29G until February 2008. They even shared the little tank with a pair of Bolivian Rams, 3 Hypancistrus sp. (L333), and a prolifically breeding group of red strain guppies. The Pindare might have gobbled up the one or other tiny guppy fry when snapping at a food pellet, but they never seemed to actively pursue the guppies.

I actually bought a 125G tank to be used for my South Americans, but the tank became my 125G Tropheus setup. To resolve the South American housing crisis, I acquired a used 75G Allglass tank with all the trimmings – cabinet, hinged glass tops, light, two Penguin 350 HOB filters, heater, gravel, and rocks, and printed background. I found this setup via the OCA Forum, and it came at $170 delivered to my door, which I thought was a steal. I am actually using the Eheim 2217 from my 29G to filter the 75G, and reckon it will do a nice enough job. To alleviate the need for an additional power head or air pump, I am using an Eheim diffuser as filter outlet, which means there is no UGJ system in this tank. The heater is also from my 29G, and it is a Hydor ETH 200W, which stands for ‘external thermal heater’, meaning it is not inside the tank, but in the return line from the filter to the tank, and hidden from sight. I am very happy with these heaters, and have recently installed the 300W model in my 125G Tropheus setup. For the 75G, for now I am using the provided light, which only allows for a single T12 strip, but I will eventually fit a with a double T8 strip light, like I use for my other tanks.

Most of the fish and plants in this tank, and even the wood decorations, I had in other tanks for a while. Especially the Pindare, Keyhole cichlids, and B. Rams are of a nice size already, which makes for an established look from the get go. The stocking list for this tank includes:

6 Geophagus sp. “Pindare”
4 ‘Geophagus’ sp. “Bahia Red”
8 Mikrogeophagus altispinosus – Bolivian Ram
2 Cleithracara maronii – Keyhole Cichlid
2 Apistogramma cacatuoides “Double Red”
5 Apistogramma iniridae
3 Hypancistrus sp. (L333)
Breeding group of Ancistrus sp. – Bristle Nose Pleco
Breeding group of Xiphophorus montezumae – Montezuma Swordtail

Plants are Java fern (the standard leaf form as well as narrow leaf, Java moss, Anubias, and a group of Amazon sword plants. The substrate is pool filter sand, and the decorations consist of wood that I found locally here in Ohio, and had in other tanks for some years.

Update March 2013

The Geophagus and other South American cichlids are long gone, and the tank has temporarily served as Malawi setup with two species of mbuna (Metriaclima lanisticola and Labidochromis caeruleus), as well as a grow out tank for some Frontosa fry.

Metriaclima lanisticola

Metriaclima lanisticola

Metriaclima lanisticola

Metriaclima lanisticola

Metriaclima lanisticola

Metriaclima lanisticola

Some pictures from the time with the M. lanisticola. I picked them up at the auction of the OCA Extravaganza 2009. I was drawn to them because of their shell dwelling behavior. I love Tanganyikan shellies, and didn’t know that this behavior exists in Lake Malawi until this bag of fish came up for auction. In all the pictures of M. lanisticola I have seen on the net, they look like very drab, brown fish. As you can see, mine are quite colorful – especially the dominant male.

At the time of taking the pictures, I had only got one single fry, but that changed quickly, and the colony became quite prolific, as did the Yellow Labs sharing the tank. They are at about the same level of aggression, meaning together with I. sprengerae they are about the least aggressive mbuna there are. The whole shell dwelling thing with M. lanisticola is a bit overrated. Possible some Malawi nut could no longer cope with the fact that only Lake Tanganyika has shell dwellers, so they made the whole thing up. Kidding aside, they breed like any mbuna, meaning it would be hard to stop them from breeding! The adults of my colony showed no interest whatsoever in shells, pipes or caves. Only about 1/3 of the fry were shell dwelling at a young age. Curiously, the other 2/3 of the fry preferred to hide in floating plants at the top of the tank!

That said, M. lanisticola has another intriguing characteristic that in my opinion makes shell dwelling look pretty ordinary – they can do a complete sex change! No kidding, Dr. Jay Stauffer was able to show this in a peer-reviewed, scientific paper! In a nutshell, his research group took proven females, that is fish that had laid eggs and carried them in their mouth, and put them in a separate tank. Eventually breeding was observed and fry were obtained from a tank containing only such proven females. This shows that at least one fully functional female had turned into a fully functional male. If you are interested in the paper itself, it is available here. The paper refers to the fish as M. livingstoni, which is an old name for M. lanisticola.

At the time of writing this in March 2013, the tank has become a lifebearer setup featuring Xiphophorus montezumae ‘Rio Ojo Caliente’, Poecilia wingei (N-class Endlers lifebearers), and Aspidoras albater. The video shows what the tank looks like today.

75G Lifebearer setup with Xiphophorus montezumae ‘Rio Ojo Caliente’, Poecilia wingei (Endlers lifebearers, Adrain HD wild type strain #2, N-class), and Aspidoras albater. Low tech planted with Echinodorus sp., Valisneria sp., and Java fern (regular and narrow leaf).




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