I was interested in cichlids since the age of 10 or 11. There was a pet store in San Pablo California named Wet Pets Pet Center that started it all for me. My parents took me there for a visit after my persistently asking them to (I was a turtle keeper at the time). I’ll always remember these two pink/peach colored fish that strangely engaged with me as I walked up to their tank. At the time I had no idea what species they were or for that matter even what a species was. Fast forward three years my best friend J. Hill talked his mom into getting a 55 gallon tank, this thing was huge to us we’d only had 10 gallon aquariums before that. After getting his aquarium all set up we started to select fish! We picked…
1- Red Devil
1- Jack Dempsey
1- Green Terror
Way overstocked I know (now)
Long story short this was how I got introduced into the cichlid keeping world. However I didn’t start keeping fish myself until a few years ago. When you first get started into the hobby you eyes are wide open and you want to buy everything to make your aquarium look great and serve as a proper home for the fish you decide to keep. Over the last couple of years I honestly bought way too much stuff that I didn’t need for my tanks but on the other hand there were a couple of items I forgot to get. From my experiences I can help you so you don’t have to make similar mistakes. Now on to the valuable information.
Everything you actually need to start keeping cichlids
Your aquarium is the obvious ingredient to start keeping fish but you need to know which size is going to work best for you. Most people buy an aquarium and want to upgrade desperately because they go with one that’s too small the first time. I’ve gone through it by co-worker David has gone through it so it’s best to typically buy a little bit larger of an aquarium than you think you should get. Smaller 10 and 20 gallon aquariums really limit the amount of fish you can have. Most people in the hobby start with a 55 gallon and quickly want to upgrade either because they are having aggression issues or just want to keep more fish. A reasonable sized aquarium that might keep you happy is a 90-100 gallon, if you can make it work with your budget, floor plan and significant others do it!
Thoughts: As large as you reasonably accomodate
With a tank 90 gallons or more and some messy Cichlids you are going to need a FILTER and a freaking good one! I recommend using a HOB (hang on back filter) and a canister simultaneously. Personally I like the Aqueon brand of HOB filters and then for canisters I like Fluval. Bad experience #1: The most disastrous event in my fish keeping hobby was a faulty clamp/fastening mechanism on a Sun Sun filter. One day while i was at work my filter hose disconnected from the clamp/hanger that hangs over into the tank. I came home to 25-30 gallons of water pouring out onto my carpet (mind you this was on the 2nd story of my house). Once everything was said and done AAA ended up covering THOUSANDS of dollars worth of damage to my floors and walls. Guys get a nice filter and make sure to check those hose connections weekly if you are using a canister filter.
Thoughts: Hob and canister
From my experiences I go back and forth on aquarium decor mostly because every expert will say you need hiding places for your fish to curb aggression. However I see lots of fish keepers like DIY Fishkeeper on YouTube and others who keep their tanks with literally nothing inside. Some decor is very pleasing to the eye but minimalism is best and better for maintenance. Also sometimes having decor inside like large rocks, caves and driftwood make the fish more territorial over these items. They feel that when another fish gets near their space they gotta get them away by any means necessary.
Thoughts: Less is more!
The rest of these things I’m going to just list as I don’t have any strong feelings as to which direction to go:
Heater: You need this! I got a great one on amazon and haven’t had any problems what so ever.
Thermometer: You could go without one but it is important to make sure your aquarium temperature is conducive to your specific species needs. Be careful with the classic glass style thermometers my fish crash up against them and break them all the time get a nice digital one.
Lighting: You’ll want to be able to light your aquarium to show it off. All of my tanks came with pretty nice lighting kits if you don’t have any lights again amazon is going to be your friend check these sweet light kits out.
Water Testing Kit: If you’re just starting out you are going to want to invest in one of these bad boys. I’ve woken up to tank full is dead fish when I was trying to cycle my very first aquarium set up. It was depressing! Testing your water daily to make sure ammonia, nitrate and nitrite stay in check in a newly setup aquarium is a major key.
A Chemical to Keep on Hand!!!
Speaking of cycling an aquarium I couldn’t be more thankful for really a fix all product. It’s good for treating tap water and actually good for lowering ammonia, nitrate and nitrite between water changes ladies and gentlemen seachem prime!!!
As a backup: It’s always good to have a spare aquarium you can easily set up for emergencies, quarantine or to treat sick fish. I’ve had fish jump out the tank that need their own space for a while to be nurtured back to health. Other fish that got ich or hole in the head disease where I needed to isolate them for a little while. In the hobby sometimes you just never know, being prepared with a spare 10 gallon tank is smart.
I know all of these things seem to be a lot to worry about but they aren’t these are really the bare minimums you need to successfully run your aquarium. Once they all get rolling you don’t even really notice any of these moving parts, you get to focus on what should be the focal point your fish!