Hobbyist Gallery - Lee Nachtigal
Lee Nachtigal, Connecticut, USA e-mail:
This is my first cichlid aquarium, and it’s getting me back into the hobby as I had not had an aquarium for the past 15 years or so. This aquarium finished a fishless cycle on January 2nd and then I stocked it with some fish on January 5th. (Still more to come).
Currently, it’s happy inhabitants are:
6 juvenile, Melanochromis johanni’s less than one inch in length,
1 older male johanni about an 1 ½ inches in length,
6 juvenile Pseudotropheus zebra cobalts (a.k.a. Maylandia Callainos) approx 1 -2 inches in varying sizes – it appears that 2 of them have eggspots.
As the fish mature, I have people who will take any excess male population…I also I have plans in the works for a 90 gallon tank. (The addiction takes root!) I also want to stock a trio of Pseudotropheus elongatus Chalosia or Chewere, as well as a trio of Cynotilapia afra Cobue or Lumbila
55 gallon Mbuna Tank made by All-Glass. Dimensions are 48X12X18. After water displacement from rocks and substrate I have about 44 gallons of water.
Two Lighting Hoods: Using standard 15 watt 6400k fluorescent tubes (although I’m looking for some nicer 50/50 daylight actinic ones)
Filtration accomplished by Emperor 400 Biowheel and a Whisper 60 Power Filter
Heating with a 300 watt submersible heater – keeps it steady at 78 degrees F.
Substrate is crushed coral, natural color.
Rocks I used are from a local landscaper. They mainly consist of non-reactive sandstone and slate. Also, some of the larger nicer rocks I collected myself from the Dead Sea in Israel.
Maintenance schedule --1 to 2 water changes a week of about 25-30% of the water. I treat the water with sodium bicarbonate to get pH at 8.0-8.2, and kH to just about 10.
I feed my mbuna Omega One Super Veggie Flakes and crushed wakame as a supplement. Waiting for algae to begin growing on the rocks, although it looks like they are finding something to eat on them as it is…
Taking into account the actual size of the cichlids it holds, the tank looks quite impressive. Nice rockwork & layout, subtle lighting. When the mbuna will grow to their final size, this setup could turn out to be a bit on the small side though. The mentioned 90 Gallon would be a welcomed solution for this future "problem". The cichlid selection is very nice and no overcrowding is noticed. Filtration is top quality and the water change schedule is also a guarantee for a very healthy environment. The only really annoying element in my opinion is the use of crushed coral, even more so since bicarbonate is added with each water change to raise the pH.
Not a bad tank. After noting that the supporting system and the maintenance schedule seem to be OK and the appearance of the fish seem to confirm it (although I hope Lee will resist the idea of adding more fish - she said "still more to come") I would like to emphasize one negative point and two possible improvements:
1) What I can see (again) is the use of crushed coral as a substrate, which is a nasty surprise, especially since Lee stated that he used MCH pages as a reference guide. A bit of contradiction here ? Sand should be the choice of reference for this type of tank.
2) Focusing on the aquascape itself, I would raise the "stone wall" much closer to the water surface. After all M'buna are not supposed to be "free water swimmers" and this would definitely add more "suitable" living space for his fishes ...
3) Another point would be the use of some more rounded stones which would have been a better choice - and a more natural one - you may take a look at pictures taken during dives in lake Malawi to see what I mean
Here comes another tank which seems to me to be set up "by the book" in the sense that it is a Spartan tank suitable for rock dwelling fishes. Nice look indeed, a bit understocked (what a nice surprise), excellent maintenance schedule, many rocks, filtration is exactly what the tank needs, the selection of the species in the tank could hardly be better (both in terms of compatibility and color) and then .. Then we come to the substrate which is crushed coral - even if she took care to opt for the natural looking one. As a general comment, I will never quite understand why hobbyists go a long way to recreate a natural biotope for their fishes and then they choose one or two elements which are completely "foreign" despite the fact that the natural element is cheaper of even free. If the addition of the crushed coral was to improve the aesthetics or the water chemistry perhaps I would agree with it. However, in this case, it doesn't. Sand would definitely look better, while the KH and pH are taken care by regular additions of bicarbonates, so, what's the use of it ? Of course, this belongs to the technical part of the evaluation but still affects my opinion. It would have been an almost top score tank if the substrate was sand.
Note: the bottom picture was received after the reviewers had sent their verdict. Lee followed some of the recommendations and sent us this photo which is a far more impressive tank - look at the rockwork. Since I added this note, I would like to tell you that Lee used crushed coral to buffer the water. Now that she found out that this can also be done with sodium bicarbonate she regrets that. However, changing the substrate now is not easy.
Overall rating by MCH : 74/100