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African Cichlid hardscape with minimal plants

Essex Peter

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Joined
30 Jun 2021
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13
Location
Essex
Hi All,
It might be a bit disingenuous to post this here, as there are only 3 plants in a 420 litre tank...but in case anyone else is interested in a minimally planted scape for cichlids, I thought I'd share it. Tank is an Oase Highline 400 (140cm x 50cm x 63 cm).
Most of the rock is plastic (which is why I'm ok with stacking the rocks - i wouldn't ever do this with real rock with cichlids that will move the sand a lot). There is only one real rock on the sand itself (near the wood on the right). The plastic rock will quite quickly go greener once it has been exposed to light. The rock on the far left has been in a tank upstairs, whereas most of the other plastic rock has been in storage - you can see the difference. I'm not sure about the left hand side. I'm debating whether to move them and have an open swimming section here.

I might start a journal at some point if there is interest. I know i've found it hard to find threads about african cichlids with plants. George Farmer has a video for one of his Mbuna tanks, but that's about it.

tank1.png



Tank2.jpg
 

MichaelJ

Member
Joined
9 Feb 2021
Messages
470
Location
Minnesota, USA
Hi All,
It might be a bit disingenuous to post this here, as there are only 3 plants in a 420 litre tank...but in case anyone else is interested in a minimally planted scape for cichlids, I thought I'd share it. Tank is an Oase Highline 400 (140cm x 50cm x 63 cm).
Most of the rock is plastic (which is why I'm ok with stacking the rocks - i wouldn't ever do this with real rock with cichlids that will move the sand a lot). There is only one real rock on the sand itself (near the wood on the right). The plastic rock will quite quickly go greener once it has been exposed to light. The rock on the far left has been in a tank upstairs, whereas most of the other plastic rock has been in storage - you can see the difference. I'm not sure about the left hand side. I'm debating whether to move them and have an open swimming section here.

I might start a journal at some point if there is interest. I know i've found it hard to find threads about african cichlids with plants. George Farmer has a video for one of his Mbuna tanks, but that's about it.

Hi @Essex Peter Congrats on the tank! I love it! This is the kind of Cichlid tanks I mostly used to do on and off since the early 80ties....usually BIG tanks, lots of rocks and wood, and a few (if any) plants, Either African Rift Valley or South Americans... Of course, in tanks such as this it's all about the fish ... but nothing disingenuous about posting this here... as a matter of fact, there is a lot of information and inspiration to pick up from here that will apply equally to a tank such as yours, and likewise plenty of opportunities to share with the community, so Welcome to UKAPS! :)

Cheers,
Michael
 

TOO

Member
Joined
4 Jul 2012
Messages
406
Location
Aarhus, Denmark
There is definitely an interesting challenge in scaping without plants. Personally, I would have gone for a much more biotope oriented scape. There are some great examples of Rift Valley biotopes each year at the BADC. The rocks look too white and remind me almost of corals rather than rocks. Their placement also looks artificial as they are stacked on top of each other in an unrealistic way. But again these critiques only make sense if you are aiming for a biotope kind of tank. I am sure this is a great tank for the fish, which is the main thing.
 

PARAGUAY

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Joined
13 Nov 2013
Messages
2,249
Location
Lancashire
Welcome Essex Peter. Oliver Knott has great love of cichlids. You take a look at his YT channel. Some really unusual layouts but there is one well planted with anubias
 

Essex Peter

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Thread starter
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30 Jun 2021
Messages
13
Location
Essex
Hi @Essex Peter Congrats on the tank! I love it! This is the kind of Cichlid tanks I mostly used to do on and off since the early 80ties....usually BIG tanks, lots of rocks and wood, and a few (if any) plants, Either African Rift Valley or South Americans... Of course, in tanks such as this it's all about the fish ... but nothing disingenuous about posting this here... as a matter of fact, there is a lot of information and inspiration to pick up from here that will apply equally to a tank such as yours, and likewise plenty of opportunities to share with the community, so Welcome to UKAPS! :)

Cheers,
Michael
Hi Michael, Thanks for the welcome! I have a background in planted tanks, plus Mbuna tanks with no plants at all. I'm trying to see if I can have some success with java fern (I haven't had success with anything else yet - everything gets eaten pretty quickly in my exprience). What do you mean by BIG tanks? This tank was as big as i could realistically fit in my house - anything bigger would have come with divorce papers...
 

Wolf6

Member
Joined
18 Dec 2014
Messages
557
Location
Netherlands
Hi Michael, Thanks for the welcome! I have a background in planted tanks, plus Mbuna tanks with no plants at all. I'm trying to see if I can have some success with java fern (I haven't had success with anything else yet - everything gets eaten pretty quickly in my exprience). What do you mean by BIG tanks? This tank was as big as i could realistically fit in my house - anything bigger would have come with divorce papers...
Vallisneria gigantea and large leaved anubius worked for me in back in the days. The vallis you plant in a small container/pot with fine grit and you cover that with pebbles to the fish cant uproot it and place it somewhere at the back in a corner. They can eat parts of the leaves but it grows so fast it wasnt an issue in my mbuna tank back in the days.
 

Essex Peter

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30 Jun 2021
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Essex
There is definitely an interesting challenge in scaping without plants. Personally, I would have gone for a much more biotope oriented scape. There are some great examples of Rift Valley biotopes each year at the BADC. The rocks look too white and remind me almost of corals rather than rocks. Their placement also looks artificial as they are stacked on top of each other in an unrealistic way. But again these critiques only make sense if you are aiming for a biotope kind of tank. I am sure this is a great tank for the fish, which is the main thing.
Yes, it does look quite fake at the moment. The white plastic does go green quite quickly, and when covered in algae, it should hopefully look more authentic. I'd love to do a biotope, but the challenge is getting height with rocks without a risk of collapse (aside of simply getting single massive rocks, which then don't have the tunnels/holes that the fish want/need). A lot of rift valley scapes are very shallow, and in my view, having lots of open water in the top part of the tank is both boring (aesthetically) and results in no fish swimming in it (especially mbuna, with a couple of exceptions).

I'll probabaly have to keep my eye open for good rock pieces in local stores, and try and build up something over time (the amount of rock i'd need in one go is probably very expensive).

Thanks for the critique - it's given me more motivation to make things more natural!
 

Essex Peter

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Thanks Paraguay - i'll have a look at his channel. I've not had success yet with african cichlids and anubias, but i'll see what fish species are in his tank
Welcome Essex Peter. Oliver Knott has great love of cichlids. You take a look at his YT channel. Some really unusual layouts but there is one well planted with anubias
 

TOO

Member
Joined
4 Jul 2012
Messages
406
Location
Aarhus, Denmark
Yes, it does look quite fake at the moment. The white plastic does go green quite quickly, and when covered in algae, it should hopefully look more authentic. I'd love to do a biotope, but the challenge is getting height with rocks without a risk of collapse (aside of simply getting single massive rocks, which then don't have the tunnels/holes that the fish want/need). A lot of rift valley scapes are very shallow, and in my view, having lots of open water in the top part of the tank is both boring (aesthetically) and results in no fish swimming in it (especially mbuna, with a couple of exceptions).

I'll probabaly have to keep my eye open for good rock pieces in local stores, and try and build up something over time (the amount of rock i'd need in one go is probably very expensive).

Thanks for the critique - it's given me more motivation to make things more natural!
Thank for taking the critique in a constructive way. It is a good point about the difficulty of creating height with rocks. Also, if you do a massive stacking up to the top it tends to take away a lot of good swimming space. One way around it would be to do a rock background with concrete or some other material. This would give you height without risk of collapse and without taking too much space away.
 

MichaelJ

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9 Feb 2021
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470
Location
Minnesota, USA
I'm trying to see if I can have some success with java fern (I haven't had success with anything else yet - everything gets eaten pretty quickly in my exprience).
@Essex Peter Yes, especially the large South Americans I had back in the day would essentially tear every plant I put into the tank apart - perhaps with the exception of anubias if it would be tied down to a rock or wood. I hope the ferns work out for you - the Malawis will probably take the soft shoots of the ferns. I used to feed mine lettuce.
What do you mean by BIG tanks?
By big I meant exactly around the tank size that you have.

This tank was as big as i could realistically fit in my house - anything bigger would have come with divorce papers...
LOL ... yep, I hear you :) When I rebooted the hobby well over a year ago there was just no way I could sway my wife into a big tank (even though we have the space and I found the perfect spot)... instead I got two smaller tanks (151L each) ... I am still dreaming about that big tank once in a while :)

Cheers,
Michael
 
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dw1305

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UKAPS Team
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7 Apr 2008
Messages
12,320
Location
nr Bath
Hi all,
Nice fish, juvenile <"Tropheus">?
and try and build up something over time (the amount of rock i'd need in one go is probably very expensive).
You can use any landscape rock you like in your tank, your water is going to be very hard and if the rock did make the water harder? It would be a good thing. I like the <"rounded cobbles"> that you buy for landscaping etc.

These are from @doylecolmdoyle <"5ft Bookshelf.....">

img_1405-jpg.146480


Have a look at <"What is this Tanganyika plant?">.

cheers Darrel
 

Essex Peter

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30 Jun 2021
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Essex
I’m definitely going to try and improve the look…but for now (having already spent way too much on the tank), I’ll have to make do with my existing plastic rock. I’ve repositioned some of it, and I think it looks a bit better.

It will take a while, but when the newer white plastic gets as green as the plastic rock on the far left, it should look a bit better. I've got a few smaller rocks in a grow-out tank that I could also add to help transition some of the sections.


F4B25DEC-5172-41A4-BA4B-8D9A55FB7E86.jpeg


F03230A1-CB46-4DC1-A41B-3570B127D109.jpeg

Having some fun with the lighting effects as well!
 
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