Personal & Lifestyle
piece written on the 13th April 2014 by  

For those of you who are interested in my aquarium hobby, you’ll have noticed some photographs on Instagram showing that I decided to end my affair with high tech planted aquariums and go for something a little more challenging, a cichlid setup.

I really enjoyed venturing into the planted aquarium hobby, balancing nutrients, correct lighting, amazing substrate and CO2 that boosted the plants. The problem was the fish. Normal tropical fish (angels, platties, swords, tetras, etc) are very plain – their personalities are rather dull and they’re more of a means to an end than anything else. As an aquariumist, the focus really should be on the fish and the environment should come second. The problem I had with the planted tank was that the focus was on the plants (one might say duh) and not the fish, but it’s really the fish that I’m most interested in. So, what better move than to go to cichlids.

Cichlids have many characteristics that normal tropical fish don’t, let me name a few:

  1. Incredible personalities
  2. Amazing breeding habits
  3. An interesting history (Lake Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria)
  4. Huge variety
  5. Striking colours

So last weekend I decided to scrap my entire planted tank, I removed all the substrate and packaged it, I took out all the plants and gave them to a friend for Green Aquatics and the fish were given to an aquarium for one of their display tanks. I cleaned the entire tank and found myself once again with a blank canvas. For those of you thinking of going for cichlids, let me share what I had to buy:

  • My tank has a built in filtration system and thermostat, so I had those already.
  • Rocks are from a river in the Southern Suburbs.
  • The sand is from an aquarium (R1,000), but I could have taken from the river (call me lazy).
  • A wave maker (R200) to increase the speed of the current.
  • Water buffer (R100) as cichlids need a high PH of around 8.5 and our tap water is more acidic than that.
  • Stabilize (R100) and Prime (R100) to remove the chlorine/chloromite from the tap water.
  • Food (R100) – seafood & spirulina.

The total cost being around R1,600 – again, if I hadn’t bought this specific sand I could have kept the cost well below R1,000. This doesn’t include the fish of course.

The tank took me about 3 hours to set up, balancing of the rocks is hugely important because if one of them fall against the glass it can be game over. I placed the rocks directly onto the sand despite many people saying it’s best to plant against the glass and then add sand. They say this for stability reasons but I’m yet to experience a problem and this isn’t my first rock tank.

Choosing the fish was the fun part, Sams Aquarium stocks cichlids and so I purchased 4 from there (Metriaclima estherae & Neolamprologus brichardi). The brichardi only lasted 24 hours before I had to remove them and re-home them – they are incredibly aggressive and I’d urge, despite their beauty, beginners not to go for them unless you have a massive fish tank. So territorial that they were dive bombing the other fish in the tank and it was anything but peaceful. They’re happy in their new home now though.

My second stop was at Fish Etc, now the great thing about Fish Etc is that it’s run by a gentleman called Neal who owns a farm just down the road from the shop. He breeds all the cichlids on his farm and they’re, in my opinion, of the highest quality available in the Western Cape. I picked up 6 from Neal (Metriaclima callainos, Labidochromis chisumulae and Pseudotropheus saulosi).


I don’t have a great camera unfortunately and aquariums are incredibly difficult to shoot, but you can get the feel for it and if you look carefully you can see the yellow saulosi’s (front bottom and right at the top), the orange Metriaclima estherae in the middle and the blue cobalts (Metriaclima callainos).

Here’s another photograph I’ve just snapped – the white fish is the female to the orange Metriaclima estherae and you can see the stripped blue Labidochromis chisumulae if you look carefully.


Updated 19.04.2014:

I’ve received a few requests for better photographs of the fish, so here we go: