Aquarium Dilemma

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StudentoftheReptile

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Question for the fish folk...

Our company is in the process of setting up a display aquarium in our lobby in order to promote some of the filter products we sell. Because of my past petstore experience, I'm the designated "fish guy."

The tank has been cylcing for a week, and I've been testing the water. Everything has been testing well, except the pH is a little high (7.5) and the hardness is about 40 dGH. This is unfortunate since I was planning on South American cichlids.

I'm kinda at a dilemma here. Since the issue mostly stems from the naturally hard water coming from the tap, I'm going to be fighting an uphill battle to maintain a lower pH and hardness level, if I want to stick with the types of fish that I and my co-workers have already decided on.

Or...I can go with fish that are more conducive to those water parameters, which means: African cichlids. I despite African cichlids, mainly because everyone and their brother has them.

Any thoughts?
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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African lake cichlids need pH and hardness values even higher than that. That kind of water chemistry is better suited to Central American cichlids, like Jack Dempseys, convicts, firemouths, and the like. They come from waters that flow over young rocks, making them neutral to slightly basic and somewhat hard, but not as much as the African Rift Valley Lakes.
 

StudentoftheReptile

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Hmm...according to my research, the central American cichlids prefer lower pH (like 7.0 or less). You are correct, most of the African cichlids need pH higher than 7.5.

To be honest though, the pH is not what I'm worried about. I've had enough experience with fish to know that if acclimated slowly, many species can adapt to water parameters slightly above or below their ideal range.

It is the Hardness that I am more concerned about, something that is not directly related to the pH. Most freshwater species (African cichids included) seem to like it between 8-15 dGH. I am finding very few fish that like it higher than 25. Mine is currently 40.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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StudentoftheReptile said:
Hmm...according to my research, the central American cichlids prefer lower pH (like 7.0 or less). You are correct, most of the African cichlids need pH higher than 7.5.

To be honest though, the pH is not what I'm worried about. I've had enough experience with fish to know that if acclimated slowly, many species can adapt to water parameters slightly above or below their ideal range.

It is the Hardness that I am more concerned about, something that is not directly related to the pH. Most freshwater species (African cichids included) seem to like it between 8-15 dGH. I am finding very few fish that like it higher than 25. Mine is currently 40.

South American fish (including cichlids) come from acidic rivers where the pH is low and the water is not hard (~5 dGH). Central American fish, though, come from rivers and lakes that lie on young rock formations, so they tend to be neutral to slightly alkaline (pH 7.0-7.5, ~10 dGH).

In Africa, rivers and some lakes tend to be neutral or acidic, and water hardness is moderate to low. However, in the Rift Valley Lakes, there is a lot of rock dissolution, so the water is very hard and alkaline (pH 8.0, 15-20 dGH).

Here in North America, most of our freshwater lakes and rivers tend to be neutral to acidic, although there are some places (like in Florida) where the water passes over limestone, so it is harder and more alkaline. There are some parts of Florida where the water is so hard, that you actually find freshwater and saltwater fishes swimming together ... and it's not brackish! :)

So, with the water chemistry you described (moderately alkaline, but very hard water), you could use North American fish (like sunfish and catfish) or Central American fish (like cichlids and catfish). You could also use African Rift Lake fish (like cichlids and catfish), although I would use a calcareous substrate to drive the pH even higher.
 

StudentoftheReptile

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Well, upon further research, it does seem that some of the species I was originally looking at (Green terror, jack dempsey or P. polleni) are a little more accepting of higher pH and hardness than my initial homework indicated. So I'll probably lean back to that direction.

It really all depends on what the LPS has tomorrow. Every 2nd Tuesday is their buy-one-get-1-free sale on freshwater fish, so hopefully I can find something.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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StudentoftheReptile said:
Well, upon further research, it does seem that some of the species I was originally looking at (Green terror, jack dempsey or P. polleni) are a little more accepting of higher pH and hardness than my initial homework indicated. So I'll probably lean back to that direction.

It really all depends on what the LPS has tomorrow. Every 2nd Tuesday is their buy-one-get-1-free sale on freshwater fish, so hopefully I can find something.

Cool! :)

BTW - LPS = Little Pet Shop?
 

StudentoftheReptile

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LPS = Local pet store ....at least that's typically what it means to most everyone else I meet online.
 

Tom

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This is all academic and book knowledge. It does not matter where they originally came form. All of the common South American Cichlids have been living and breeding for decades in normal high pH tap water, all over the country. I have done Oscars, Dempsey's, Green and Red Terrors, Managuensis, Firemouths, Red Devils, Juruparis, Texas cichlids, Pike cichlids, Severums, porthole cichlids, festivums, etc... They don't care about the pH at all. My pH is 8.0. Always has been, and super hard and mineralized too. Didn't faze them one bit. There are a few dwarf species, like rams, and checkerboards where pH does matter.

Have you looked into specifically Tanganyikan cichlids? I have kept them all, but the Malawi cichlids were never all that interesting to me. The Tanganyikans are magnificent in comparison. Look into cylindricus, lelupi, julidochromis, Tropheus sp., etc... Really really cool and they don't kill each other and tear up your tank the way Malawi Africans do...

South Americans are great too, but man do they wreck your tanks. The fishy equivalent of a sulcata... Beautiful, great personalities, but pretty destructive...
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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Tom said:
This is all academic and book knowledge. It does not matter where they originally came form. All of the common South American Cichlids have been living and breeding for decades in normal high pH tap water, all over the country ... There are a few dwarf species, like rams, and checkerboards where pH does matter.

This is not just academic. A lot of South American river fish (dwarf cichlids, as you said, as well as larger cichlids like angelfish and discus, not to mention tetras and catfishes) either require soft, acidic water, or once did. If they don't now, it's because they've been through many generations of selection to adapt to the harder, more alkaline water found in aquariums.

I have done Oscars, Dempsey's, Green and Red Terrors, Managuensis, Firemouths, Red Devils, Juruparis, Texas cichlids, Pike cichlids, Severums, porthole cichlids, festivums, etc... They don't care about the pH at all. My pH is 8.0. Always has been, and super hard and mineralized too. Didn't faze them one bit.

Yes, many of the larger, more common cichlid species do well in a variety of water chemistry. However, a lot of the ones you mentioned are Central American and native to harder water systems. True, oscars, red terrors, severums, festivums, porholes, and pike cichlids are South American, but Jack Dempseys, red terrors, red devils, and firemouths are all Central American. The Texas cichlid is also in the Central American cichlid group, even though it is found in the Rio Grande Basin.

So origin matters.
 

StudentoftheReptile

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I ended up getting a pair of C. salvini cichlids. I'm about 92% sure I got a male and female, so hopefully they'll do well!
 

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Tom

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Those are bad a** fish. One of my favorites, but very scrappy. Beautiful colors. Good luck trying to add anything after them. :)
 

ripper7777777

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Good looking little guys/gals

That is some pretty hard water, I've known people have issues with well water, have you thought about just buying water.
 

StudentoftheReptile

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Not really. Our company is really off the beaten path, about at least 20 minutes and 15 minutes from anywhere that sells distelled or filtered water. Economically, it isn't really feasible to go that route.

I think I'm going to throw a media bag with some peat in it inside the filter, and I'll probably add a piece of driftwood to help as well.

Attached is a pic of the set-up yesterday. It's a 27-gallon cube. I know, a little small for a pair of adult salvinis. But our LPS has "fish swap" days periodically, and once these guys get too large, I'll probably swap them out for something else in a couple years or so.
 

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Kristina

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My water is so hard it is off the chart. My calcium is over 300ppm right out of the tap, and my pH is EIGHT POINT TWO.

And I have bred Discus in that very water ;) Imported wild caughts, to be exact. So not fish that have been bred in hard water for generations.

The key with hardness and pH is not to mess around with it. Once you get your fish acclimated to the water, they will do just fine. It is when people start adding buffers and other chemicals and the values start jumping around that you are going to lose fish. I vote against using peat or anything else to buffer the water. Well cured driftwood is fine, as long as it isn't leaching a bunch of tannins. Besides, I doubt that peat or dw is going to give you more than a .2 drop in pH.
 
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