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I Love This Aquarium! Mixed African Cichlid Fish Tank Scape

By King of DIY on

Speaker: Imagine with me if just for a moment, your fish are supposed to land in about 12 hours, but you're looking at a tank that all you've done is plumbed it, got the water running. It's not cycled. It's not scaped or anything like that because originally, the plan was to move Susan from this tank to that tank, but late at night, I think it was 10:00 PM fish were to land at 10:00 AM the very next morning. I had an epiphany. I think they would look much better in this tank. When I was facing a challenge, I never really gathered any custom, scaping supplies or anything specific for this tank, and I knew I was stocking this with three different species that required three different environments.

Here's how I did it. First and foremost, I had to drain the tank so I could get my arms in there, and the rocks that I was going to be adding would raise the water level simply due to water displacement.

I decided I was going to do a bit of a rock pile that would run almost the entire length of the tank using big rocks to create the outline, followed by a bunch of tiny rocks because one of the fish that I'm putting in here, the julidochromis or the Regani, some of you might even recognize the name as being a Julie, is a cave dweller. It needs caves for a couple of reasons. One, to find cover, and two, they breed in caves.

With that said, I was focusing on trying to create a cave structure, keeping the rocks out from the background because I didn't want them piled on there. I wanted the fish to be able to swim around the entire rock structure, not only for increased territories but to also create visual blocks. This is very important within a cichlid aquarium. If you have the entire tank with the fish being able to see each other at all times, they have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. They could be chased, killed, you name it, so we want to create visual blocks when we can.

With the initial rock structure created, I realized, "Okay, I've got the Regani covered. These guys are going to love this scape, but of course, we are also adding in the multifasciatus which is the shell dweller. These guys get the name shell dweller because they dwell within shells. They live in them, they breed in them, they stay close to them and if you ever find them in the wild, their natural habitat is literally just sand and shells. Nothing else.

You guys will remember this. We did this almost three years ago in the office aquarium build where I built an aquarium, I think was about eight feet long. It wasn't very deep, maybe 12 inches deep, 12 inches tall, very unique. I used offcuts of acrylic by the way, and then we just added some sand and some shell dwellers. Within months, they were breeding like crazy, so they do need these shells.

I didn't want to scatter the shells throughout the entire aquarium, simply due to we're creating territories. We want to give these fish areas that they can retreat to and are typically going to be found in where they're not going to cross paths too often, even though they will within a closed system.

The shells go at the base of those trailing rocks. That was kind of the purpose to keep the slope going down like this. We've already created two territories at this point, the rock and caves for the Regani and then, of course, the shells.

Now we are adding in the gold head compressiceps as well. Now, this is a fish that will occupy caves and what not, but mostly just stay close to them. They're more of a midwater swimmer as they grow, but do like and do appreciate areas to hide, as with many fish. I knew these guys would pretty much fill out the rest of the tank, add more activity to all levels. Plus they're an absolutely fascinating fish, not to only watch, but observe, especially their growth, their body structure, and shape. It's tremendously fascinating.

Now, I knew I wanted some more greenery. The layout and the scape of this was pretty short, and I wanted to fill in. Now, you guys might remember a couple of years ago, I got some anubias. I still have that. I can't kill anubias. Give it some light, put it in a fish tank, it's probably going to survive. It just might grow slow, and I had quite a bit of it. I took a bunch of it and simply stuck it into the crevices of the rocks.

Now, over time, this will grow and overcome the rocks and it's going to look absolutely beautiful. I can't wait for that to happen. Just stay patient. Have some vision with me. I know it's not looking great right now, but one day it's going to look entirely incredible.

Once the fish arrived, I remember I told you guys, I also got some java ferns. I added java ferns within the aquarium just to add a little bit more greenery, bring it more to life and of course, give the scape even more hype. I think that ultimately looked fantastic. Once this tank matures, we have some of the fish breeding, and spawning, and the plants are growing in and quite lush. It looks absolutely phenomenal, but we cannot add fish to an aquarium without it being properly cycled.

I'm not worrying about quarantining these fish because technically, this is going to be a quarantine tank where all the fish are coming from the same source and going into the same tank and I can monitor and treat. I'm not introducing them to a system with an established stocking, but the tank still needs to be cycled. You guys know that when I shut down a tank, I take all of its cycled media, transfer it to another aquarium to keep the bacteria within that media alive.

I took one of these ceramic blocks that's said to support about a 100-gallon aquarium or more. Toss that into the filter, and then I took enough bio balls or these big ceramic balls that was enough to also support another hundred gallons of stockings. We got 200 gallons minimum of cycled media within the sump. I get to show you right now, even with all of that media, my stocking will probably never maximize it per se.

However, this does give me an immediately cycled aquarium. It's almost like I just did a big water change, 100% water change. Bacteria lives on surfaces, not within the water column. You can change out all your water, add fresh, as long as it's not drastically different from the water that's coming out of your tap, like the pH and hardness and whatnot, you're not going to shock the fish and they'll probably enjoy it. A lot of the times it even triggers breeding.

With that said, we then got the fish in. Some of them weren't looking fantastic and I was a little bit worried. After coming off of a 24-hour flight, I knew I had to unbox them immediately. I know some people are like, "Hey, get them in the water. You can't hold them out of the water too long, or they've already been in the bag for so long," but I'm thinking, "Well, I have to temperature acclimate them first." I heat the room to heat the aquarium. I'm technically temperature acclimating them. Then, of course, we added them.

That's going to be in the next video where I show you, one, did the layout of the aquarium work? Did they adapt and go everywhere we think they did? And of course, what was the survival rate? I know everybody wants to see that in today's video and right now, but of course I need for these guys to settle in. I need to make sure they're all okay. I need to make sure they're eating, and then we'll have our conclusion in the very next video.

If that's something you want to see and you're not subscribed to this channel yet, make sure you do because I can absolutely assure you, you will not want to miss or miss following along with the progress of this aquarium. For the next few videos, you will hear me say this, this is now my favorite aquarium. Wait till you see the next one I did.

About King of DIY

Joey is THE King of DIY, and when he built his gallery of aquariums he chose the Custom Aquariums rack system with 120-gallon tanks...a lot of them!

Joey Mullen is also known as the king of DIY, uarujoey or the DIY fishkeeper on social media. Providing education and inspiration for aquarium enthusiasts on YouTube, he is also the author of The Ultimate DIY Handbook; for the DIY Aquarist. His channel is about educating all levels of fish tank hobbyists who are passionate about caring for fish and keeping an aquarium of their own. Joey's aquarium rack systems were custom made by our professional fish tank engineers, here at Custom Aquariums.

Please watch the King of DIY's videos for some helpful information and great tips on diy aquarium keeping.

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