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Designing and executing an aquarium project for a 2.800 liter Malawi community tank - Part 2

 (Notes on the design. construction, set up, aquascaping as well as the composition of the livestock).

By Andreas I. Iliopoulos

 The right part of the artificial rocky reef finished.

On the left side I made a pile of about eighty centimeters high. The upper stone is over sixty centimeters (60 cm) high and it was placed very carefully over the initial pile, using also styrofoam pieces, so the rock wasn’t leaned directly to the vertical glass plates. I secured styrofoam plates (and rocks) in place with the help of lot of silicone. All the procedure was slow, as I had to wait till silicone dried completely.

On the left side I used something very very useful to start with. It was a large module, measuring one meter (1 m) of height and about sixty centimeters (60 cm) wide. This module is made from glass fibers and concrete. These particular kind of modules are appropriate for constructing fake rocks and are used from the hotel designers to create natural looking rocky environments round the swimming pools. They are about twenty millimeters (20 mm) thick and have several dimensions, shapes and structures and one can put them together to construct large rock imitations.

The tall glass fibers and cement module in place.

The same thing I did myself, so I skipped using many rocks to make a tall pile, work that should be done very carefully to be secure as well as beautiful. Behind this module I could place the water pumps and they would be unnoticed from the viewer. Many other stones and rocks secured the lower side of the module, giving the impression of a solid rock wall and large rocky debris round its “root”, giving – as I believe – an impressive result.

 Placing the substratum.

 Lastly, I painted the outer three (3) backsides of the tank with dull black paint and this was the final result.

 The three (3) sides (back, right and left) painted black, along with the rock piles give a natural and deep look.

I had to wait a couple of days then, to allow silicone to dry and stop smelling till I was ready to fill the tank with water. And the desired day had come.

 The water has filled the tank and the pumps are running. A water circulation of sixteen thousand five hundred liters per hour (16.500 l/h) is adequate for this tank’s total volume.

 The left (upper photo) and the right (lower photo) views of the tank, on the very first day of water circulation.

The livestock

And this is the critical, amusing and challenging part of the project. Upon this very part depends the show that a show-tank “performs” and even more important the compatibility of the species that are gathered together within the same closed system, viewed from several different aspects. As you may have noticed, I mentioned that I should house both m’buna and haps, so choosing the right species is a very important issue.

First comes the issue of species competition, that isn’t simple at all, as there is a number of parameters to be considered. In this case the parameters “space” and “volume” were working for me, so I found it easy to decide about the bioload. The problem was to make a decision about the composition of the community. I planned to keep m’buna in there because I would like to create a chromatic combination of blues, yellows and oranges, which are the colors on Atlantica Hotels’ logo.

Blues and yellows are easy to obtain. So I decided that the the following four (4) species made good candidates: Labidochromis species “yellow” (for the bright yellow animals of both sexes), Pseudotropheus socolofi for the light blues of both sexes of the species, Iodotropheus sprengerae for purples and copper coloration, while I should use Labeotropheus trewavasae for the light blue color of the ♂♂ and the elongated shape of the animals of both sexes. Since I planned to house m’buna in this system I had to deal with aggression as well.

I believe these species will do fine together, but to be on the safe side I made some arrangements related to population, as biodiversity was solved. I also planned to introduce in the community three (3) species from the haps’ group, so I shall use Cyrtocara moorii, Sciaenochromis fryeri and Protomelas taeniolatus – one ♂ with two ♀ – both for size and color. Maybe another trio of Dimidiochromis compressiceps or of Nimbochromis sp., shall be used as well, to control the m’buna population, which I expect to multiply in numbers in this environment (see the next table).

Genus

Species

Number of ♂♂

Number of ♀♀

Total

T.L. (cm)

Labidochromis

sp. “yellow”

4

6

10

12

Pseudotropheus

socolofi

3

7

10

12

Iodotropheus

sprengerae

4

6

10

10

Labeotropheus

trewavasae

2

8

10

14

Cyrtocara

moorii

1

2

  3

25

Sciaenochromis

fryeri

1

2

  3

22

Protomelas

taeniolatus

1

2

  3

25

Table showing the (intended) fish load

I shall introduce juvenile or semi-adult specimens and I shall introduce all of them in the tank at the same time to prevent any aggression formed by the animals defending any territories formed already. Until this system works as I dreamed (if this ever happens) I’ll try to keep you informed.

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