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By King of DIY on

Joey Mullen: Let me count here, 123-- Stay still. 1234-- 60. This tank is ready for fish and in today's video, we're going to fill the first aquarium out of 10. This one though, is a 120 gallon aquarium. It's four feet long, two feet wide, two feet tall.

In this aquarium, we're stocking it with Lake Tanganyika Cichlids. In fact, this entire rack here having two 120 gallon aquariums is going to be African Cichlids. We're going to have Lake Tanganyika below and Lake Malawi above.

Now, a quick reminder, we have ten 120 gallon aquariums in this racking system in total. I hope to be able to showcase a different aspect of the aquarium hobby in each one. If you guys remember, I already showed you the unboxing setting up, we even got four of these up and running with water. All of these were made custom by, link in the description below.

I have to admit upfront, I'm feeling a little bit biased. Especially with the first tank. You see some of you might be wondering, "Joey, why are you setting up an African Cichlid tank first? You're not actually not known for doing that." On the contrary, I used to African Cichlids years ago as recently as about five or six years ago. In fact, the fish that are going in this aquarium, I've already kept, but not this species. I kept that species by default because I couldn't find the ones that I really wanted until I started working with Jeff from One Fish Two Fish, my local fish store and he's able to get me whatever I want. If you're anywhere as close to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, you got to stop in that store. I'll leave a link to his website below.

Okay, enough talk. What are the fish that I'm going to be getting for this aquarium? I'm going with tropheus. Some of you guys might be familiar with tropheus, some of you may not. Now, tropheus have a mixed reviews on their level of difficulty and we're going to cover that near the end of the video, but I really wanted to bring this fish to focus because in my opinion, they're one of the most rewarding cichlids to keep and absolutely entertaining. Wait till you see them.

Now, previously I kept tropheus duboisi and that's almost the poster child for tropheus. It's extremely popular and even more so very common and being common means it's one of the tropheus that I was able to get at the time I wanted to start keep tropheus, but it's not the fish that I really wanted. You see, what I really wanted was tropheus ikola. Now, in contrast to the duboisi and many other species of tropheus if you guys kind of look into tropheus, you're going to find that there are so many varieties to choose from. Basically, a rainbow of fish that you can pick from their colors to patterns and everything in between.

I like extremely contrasting colors. I like for example, black diamonds. They're all black with white dots and tropheus duboisi as a small cichlid is all black with tiny white dots but don't let that confuse you or fool you because as they get older, they lose that color pattern and their body remains quite dark, they might get a yellow or white band depending on the variant and a blue face. Very pretty fish, but ikola, they look nothing like what they're going to look like as adults either.

Let me jump back to a few weeks ago when I got these fish. You see, I'd seen them on one list and I had to order them, but they didn't have enough for me. You see, what I'm looking to accomplish here is, I'd like to order in around 40 of them and 40 is too many for this aquarium, but it's going to allow me a couple of factors.

One, there might be some die off as they're shipping from the exporter which they came from Bangkok and that is a very long trip to here in Nova Scotia, Canada and you can expect 10, 15, 20% losses.

I was accounting for the fact that I might only end up with about 30 of these, and out of those 30, I need to select the right amount of males to females. You don't want too many males or you're going to have nothing but carnage in the tank. Again, we'll circle back to some of the care and that sort of thing near the end of the video. I placed an order for 40 of them, but then I got a call from Jeff and he said, "Well, the original people said they have about 20 of them, do you want them?" I have to admit upfront, I have an extreme problem when it comes to denying fish. If somebody says we have too many or we found them. I have a hard time sticking to the first plan. I'll take them of course.

I ended up with 60 of them arriving. Here's the problem, they were packaged so well that none of them died. That's a really weird problem to have and I shouldn't even call it a problem. Clearly, it's awesome, but it's not something I was accounting for to end up with 60 of them. They were all individually bagged with oxygen in each bag, so I had absolutely no losses and that's an ongoing thing that I'm learning with Jeff is that he gets in such high quality fish that I don't have to worry about losses a lot of the times. Now, of course there's always going to be accidents and things might happen, but man, I've ordered hundreds of fish with him now and the only things that we've lost was a couple of rainbow fish out of over 200, so no problems at all.

With that said, when they come in again, we got to pay attention to tropheus as a small fish. You see, I've noticed a lot of people in the comments section of my videos judging a very small fish and saying, "That's not a nice looking fish." They're judging it based off being a fry. We need to let them grow and become adults. For example, the tropheus that you see might have a few little stripes, they're kind of cute, but as adults, they're going to be flat black with a large yellow bar down the middle. Absolutely stunning fish, entirely beautiful to me, anyways. I love that type of contrast.

I'll admit that whole they don't look that great right now or they look kind of plain started with these rainbow fish. Lights haven't turned on yet, but to give you an idea, these guys are just so tiny and they're going to grow to like four or six inches as adults. You wouldn't typically judge a fish based on the size of it is as a fry or a juvenile. You would wait and see as an adult. These are going to turn out absolutely stunning and beautiful. Just like this gallery, it was difficult for me to explain the overall outcome, but over time, more and more of you understood what I was looking to accomplish out here. Even still, we still need more time to complete it, but I can assure you, the visions that I'm having are going to be entirely clear soon.

With that said, I do have a temporary light on this aquarium and that's simply just to make sure that we can see the fish as adding them. This is not the final light. This is not what it's going to look like once we add the proper lighting to it which should be in the next few weeks. However, I also added an air bubbler temporarily just to ensure there's lots of oxygen exchange at the surface because we're going to be adding a relatively large amount of fish to this tank all at once and I want to make sure that there's optimal water quality and parameters within this aquarium.

With that said, you might be wondering how did I add fish to this aquarium so quickly and I've said this a few times now. In the fluid ice filter as well as other filters you can see I already have some media cycling within this aquarium's filter. I also take the pre-filter and you can see all of this dirty gunk, and bacteria, and uneaten food, and all that waste. That is gold.

I'll take that prefilter and that sponge and everything in it, add the cycled media to the tank, but we need to see the bacteria on it still so I'll take that sponge and I'll just wring it out in the tank. Makes an absolute mess of the tank and makes it really cloudy, but this means that I can add fish within hours or even days if I wanted to and that's what I'm able to do right now.

We're only going to be setting up the bottom racks at first, let the air filters establish, then we cycle back and come back to the top. Anyways, enough talk, let's go get the fish. All 60 of them are currently in this little quarantine system. Quarantine systems are very simple, you just need something to put them in, it doesn't have to be an aquarium. It could be a plastic tope, it doesn't matter, it just needs to hold water. All we need to do is be able to observe them. If there's any disease or issues we could treat them in a small area.

Now, if you don't have a quarantine system and you're getting new fish, all you need is a cycled aquarium with nothing else in it. You don't want cross contamination. The only problem there is it's going to make it much more difficult to observe them as well as treat the entire system if something were to happen.

With that said, I've had these guys for about two weeks now, maybe 15 or 16 days. They are all eating, they are all exhibiting healthy traits and I feel good adding them to that 120 gallon system which is a relatively smaller tank system and I can actually treat it quite simply if I need to.

If we take a look here, I just have some really simple lids. These are just corrugated greenhouse panels, an old tank. This is a 70 gallon tank. You can even see it still has pieces of acrylic silicon to it. This used to be a filter, an old shop light, I don't need to light on this. The light is only on here and I only added it for this video so we could see what we're doing, and then a very simple filtration system. Nothing else in the tank, they don't need it. That's something we're going talk about with tropheus in a minute.

Now, the plan here is simple; scoop them out, toss them in this bucket. I'm not going to put them in bags and individually float them because there's just too many. There's literally 60 of them. I'm going to take them from this aquarium here, put them in the bucket, take them out to the gallery and slowly add a bit of water from the main aquarium to temperature-acclimate them and then simply scoop them out and start adding them in.

Before we add them though, they do look quite plain right now. None of them are showing their adult coloration. I mean a few, they're so tiny, the camera's going to have a hard time picking them up, but let's not judge them as is. As you can see, a couple of them are kind of starting to show coloration where you can see the yellow bar trying to form and the rest of them turning black. This will typically happen with the more dominant males first and then the rest will follow. It's going to be really interesting to bring you guys along to watch this transformation with these tropheus. That's an absolute interesting aspect to these guys, is truly seeing them go through their color changes. Just wait until you see these guys. I've got so much to tell you about them. I just had to have them once again.

Let's go ahead and get them. One thing though, it's going to be difficult to catch such little fish in a relatively large aquarium. I might have to drain this down to catch them, but I'm sure we can get quite a few before that becomes too much of an issue. It might just take a while. With that said, when you're netting fish, if you're only trying to catch a certain individual, it would be okay to chase them throughout the aquarium. You do want to make it a little easier on them.

However, when you're netting a bunch of them at once, you don't want to keep chasing the same one over and over and over again. There's something in fish called acute stress. That's like a bunch of minor stressful occurrences that build up in the fish. That's something that's not talked about in the hobby very often. With acute stress, a bunch of these stress factors build up in the fish eventually and sometimes they can die an inexplicable death. You don't know what happened. Everything's perfect in your aquarium, but at times it just comes down to this fish led a very stressful life. That's our fault, that's not anybody else's.

I do find that hobbyists in general do not take responsibility as much as they should or they simply are not experienced enough to realize what they've done, and blame it on the fact that everything was perfect. It shouldn't have happened. There's always a reason why things happen.

Last two, that's it. Look at this. Let me count here. 123-- Stay still. 1234-- 60. Okay. What I'll do now is I'll drain a little bit of water from the main aquarium to temperature-acclimate them. I'm not going to add a tremendous amount at once. Just a few blasts of water every a couple of minutes over the course of the next 10 minutes or so and these guys will be good to go. I can go ahead and scoop them up, add them in.

Let's do it. So much easier to catch them in a bucket. [laughs] When you have a lot of fish that like to flop and get them in the net, you got to pinch the top so they can't jump out. Let them swim into the net, don't dump them out.

A lot of the times fish can have barbels, especially with cichlids with their dorsal fin, they might have some spines on there. They can get caught on the net. Let them swim out, they'll be fine. [laughs] These guys don't want to get out though. They've had enough. Here they go. They'll explore the tank a little bit and hide, but they'll go back to normal here shortly.

They've just been added to the aquarium, and there's a few things I want to talk about. One is, why did I select tropheus in the first place? What are some few things that I like about them? First thing is first, these guys have only been added to the aquarium minutes ago. Some are hugging the bottom. Some are swimming around, but that's to be expected with new fish being added to a tank. A lot of the times they'll hug the bottom or maybe go to the surface of the tank or try to hide behind something or something along those lines, but not with tropheus.

Tropheus are so much different.

They're such an active an exciting fish to watch. Not only do they go through this absolutely amazing metamorphosis of color changing and pattern-changing that you don't get with a lot of fish. They go from their juvenile markings and coloration, to slowly transforming to their adult coloration. Somewhere in the middle, it gets a little blotchy and a little almost like their ugly stage. Everyday you come out here, one of these guys is going to look a little bit different. It's an ever-changing fish until we get to that finish line of their adult coloration that we really really look forward to. That will happen within several months.

In the meantime, everyday I come out here, this is going to be such an entertaining and exciting tank to check out. Not only are they always active, as they grow and get more comfortable, they're going to occupy the entire aquarium. They're not a bottom dwelling fish at all. They certainly don't hide, but they're also like piranhas. When you feed them, man, do they ever go at the food, almost like peacock bass. They're really exciting fish to feed, but you have to feed them a pretty specified diet. They're a herbivore after all, an algae-grazer by large nutritional-wise or they could develop things like bloat. That's one of the downsides to tropheus is that they are prone to bloat. Being prone to it doesn't mean they're going to get it. It just means if you don't give them what they need, this is what's going to happen, so fair warning.

They also need pristine water quality and good water changes. In my opinion, a lot of times tropheus are simply just kept wrong. A lot of people chase pHs and hardness. For me, I keep them in water levels that come out of my tap. Whatever it is out of the tap, that's what the tank matches. All I focus on is keeping the water quality pristine and that's it. They'll take it from there.

These guys after all are not wild-caught, they are tank-raised. Probably a few generations in water qualities and water parameters. Very similar to what I'm offering. Anyways, which is a pH of about 7.6 maybe upwards of 7.8. I'm on a well, so I don't even have to treat my water, but my water levels in terms of pH, it's hard water, will range from 7.4 to 7.8. Which is pretty good for tropheus, but I've also bred discus in it. It goes to show that consistent parameters is far more important than constantly chasing a pH that's always fluctuating. Keep everything consistent.

What about the decor in here? Why not caves or rocks? Technically, the background is so dynamic and all these rocks are offering caves and shadowy places and whatnot. When it comes to tropheus or a lot of different cichlids, if you give them the opportunity to have a territory, they're definitely going to take it. What's going to happen is we will have one fish over here and 20 fish over here. It creates these massive territories.

When it comes to a lot of different African cichlids, ideally, you don't give them caves and whatnot because they tend not to have those in the wild anyways. Now, I'm not trying to emulate wild conditions here, but I am giving them something very similar to what they would be used to which is a fine sand, a few rocks here and there. Of course, the rock background is certainly more for aesthetic reasons. These guys do tend to stay within about 30 meters of the shoreline so it's going to be very similar to this.

The downside to tropheus is that they have a reputation for being a difficult cichlid to keep. In my opinion, I don't find a lot of fish difficult as long as you give them what they need. It's giving them what they need which is difficult, but if you know what they need, it shouldn't be difficult. You should be able to provide it for them, a spacious aquarium. Say something about this is a 120-gallons I'll be able to keep 20-25 in here, no problems. I will have to dwindle it down to having only three males and the rest females something along those lines. That's what you want to shoot for. I wouldn't keep anything less than 10 or 12 of these guys and say, "The minimum size tank may be a 50-60 gallon tank," but buying that many means it's quite expensive. You have to buy them all at once, add them all at once.

These are fish that cost usually even the cheapest species of tropheus is maybe $10- $12 a piece could go upwards of like $50- $60 a piece. For example, ikola, you'll often see them for maybe $20, $25 a piece. Duboisi, the ones I showed you near the first of the video, those tend to go a little bit more cheaper. They're far more popular and raised in larger numbers. It's all about supply and demand. Unfortunately, yes, they're an expensive fish. I want you to consider this. As long as you give them what they need and provide for them properly, they're going to breed eventually. It's going to happen.

When they do, tropheus are always in demand. You can't flood a market with tropheus because they breed in such small numbers. You might get 10 to 30 fry at a time because they're mouthbrooders. You can only fit so many fry in your mouth. What that means is that potentially if you were to breed them and eventually sell them, they might even pay for themselves or you might even have a little bit extra to expand on your hobby. I've talked about this before in my video on how I made money breeding discus. That popularized the whole 'breeding fish for profit' type of thing. If you guys enjoy those types of videos from me and want to get ideas from fish that can actually make you money or can actually pay for themselves or that you could perpetually have some success with, I don't mind making those types of videos. Making money from the hobby a lot of the times can ruin it for you. If you haven't seen that video, I explained why. At the end of the day, I do enjoy making videos that you guys like and I certainly wouldn't mind making that one for you as well.

You might also be asking, "Will this be the only fish in the aquarium?" The simple answer is yes. This is a species only tank. I'm not going to be doing this a lot, but certain fish do best in a species only. You can't add a bunch of tropheus to the same tank. You potentially could, but it's just watering down that species. You're going to get a bunch of hybrids and nobody wants those when it comes to tropheus. These guys just simply display better as adults.

One of the things I was thinking about was maybe I'll add a couple of fancy plecos to the tank or maybe I will add some sort of a Tanganyikan bottom-dweller. I don't know yet. This is a fun tank. I really just wanted to introduce you guys to tropheus once again, I guess for the first time in about five or six years, but I'm just so happy to have them back.

I got to mention this. I'm circling back to fish that I've kept before and I want to keep them again. There's another fish that's already in quarantine that I said I didn't want to keep for a while again. Kept them for like 10 years, 11, 12 years, something like that. I had my fill. Well, they're back.

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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