January '08 - Rockscape Aquariums!
Cichlid maniacs are a subgroup of aquarium hobbyists containing a full spectrum of approaches to their hobby. On one end there are those who strongly defend the philosophy of reproducing as closely as possible all the physical and chemical characteristics of any cichlid's native habitat and strict observation of population compatibility, origin, genetic purity preservation, etc. On the other end are those interested in just having a good-looking tank full of colorful cichlids, without much concern over genetics, compatibility or environmental issues. As in most situations, the majority probably lie somewhere in between, trying to find the right balance between what they would like and what's best for their fishes. The search for this balance inevitably includes the choice of rocks and how they'll be arranged to form the tank decoration, so here are some examples of common options available. Enjoy!
Limestone and other calcareous rocks are a favorite choice for many reasons. They're relatively cheap and easily found in common home & garden shops. They can be found in just about any size and shape, pile up well in many different ways, and even a certain range of colors are available. They also help keep the pH and hardness high (good for African rift lake cichlids).
Luis Kaiute's 210 L Cichlid Tank. (Brazil)
"My 210 L cichlid tank has dolomite substrate and 60 kg of limestone. The lighting is actinic, tri-lux and blue light. The pH is high and so is the GH. It has a power filter and a powerhead for internal circulation, artificial plants and assorted African cichlids."
Flat Slate Rockscape
Flat slate rocks offer a very unique decoration style. They pile up exceptionally well (although lots of them are needed), allowing all sorts of 3D arrangements (although not very natural looking) and the final structure usually becomes very rich in nooks and crannies for the cichlids to explore and claim. The graphite coloration of slate also gives a dark, moody, deep-water feel to the tank. Slate doesn't significantly affect the tank's water parameters.
Mike's 300 L Cichlid Tank. (USA)
Filtration: Fluval 404 & Magnum 350
Heater: Visa-Therm 300 W
Lighting: CoraLife 10000 K & CoraLife Actinic, 120 W total
Substrate: crushed granite (chicken grit)
Rocks: 120 kg of slate
Background: blue fade
Plants: Anubias and Java fern
Feeding: Ocean Nutrition Cichlid Vegi Formula & Nutrafin Spirulina Flake
Other: Penguin powerhead
Water: Temp 26°C, pH 8.0
Rounded Stone Rockscape
Rounded stones and pebbles are generally found in shallow rivers so they're more appropriate to simulate this type of habitat. You don't normally pile them up too high, first because it tends to look unnatural and second because it can be unstable and therefore unsafe. Fake plants will also add to the river effect, as seen in this tank.
DIY Coated Styrofoam Rockscape
One of the most interesting options to those who are up for the challenge is to design and create your own rockscape from scratch! There are several different techniques that can be used to this end, one of them being to carve out your scape in styrofoam and then coat it with resins, paints or cements according to the effect you want to obtain. The tank below nicely demonstrates this technique.
Tolga Cavdar's 120 L Cichlid Tank. (Turkey)
"Please note that my tank is not large enough to house all the species but my fish are still pretty small (about 6 cm) and I'll be able to upgrade to a bigger tank. I don't want to make my children sad ;). The background is made from white styrofoam, coated with a concrete and sand mixture. I wanted to build it in another color but I couldn't be sure that the paints were safe for fish. It is especially good for the Labidochromis species since they love to swim through the artificial caves and tunnels, but its thickness (front to back) is somewhat big and this interferes with the light and makes my narrow tank even narrower. More photos and details (in Turkish) can be found in my website."
If you'd like to submit an aquarium for Tank of the Month, just contact me.
Photos taken by their respective authors and displayed here with their permission.