Author Topic: A Stunning Malawi tank in 5 weeks for Beginners  (Read 3678 times)

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Offline Hood

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A Stunning Malawi tank in 5 weeks for Beginners
« on: July 19, 2011, 05:33:25 PM »
A Stunning Malawi tank in 5 weeks for Beginners


Before we get started I would like to point out that I have to give HUGE thanks to Motorolo and Mattrox for their input on this it is a big article!! I would especially like to thank Motorolo as he wrote so much of this!!  :Thumbup:

So lets begin shall we?

Before even considering on keeping fish you have to decide whether you will have the time and patience to keep your fish in good clean environment and in the correct living and water conditions suited to the species you decide on.

An aquarium requires daily and weekly maintenance, this would be contradicting to the opinions of many others, if you do have a maintenance schedule that includes daily and weekly chores then you would enjoy a stunning tank full of healthy fish.

You should note that it is your responsibility to keep the fish in the best possible conditions, fish in an aquarium cannot fend for themselves, you will need to feed, clean up any muck and debris daily, and do a water change weekly (if you have no other choice you will be caring buckets of water back and forth), if you don’t have the time to do this you should not consider an aquarium.

To be a responsible fish keeper you should be inspired by your fish and strive to give them the best condition possible while mimicking their natural environment as closely as possible. You should also give them the best filtration and food that you can afford.

If you feel up to the challenge and you are willing to set up a daily maintenance schedule you will have a aquarium that you and your family can enjoy.


Week One - Day One - Selecting to correct tank location.

Nothing is more frustrating than having to move our aquarium after you have added the water and worse if fish and plants have been added. It’s better to take a day or two and look over your opinions than to just put up the aquarium without any forethought. Start out on the right foot if you want to be successful.
You will need a tape measure and maybe a bit of imagination, select a location away from any air-conditioning, windows and doors, you should also consider traffic in the area, fish prefer quieter areas, their natural defence instinct against danger is to rapidly move away from any unsuspected movement and noise, this behaviour can cause the fish to swim into the aquarium glass or decor and could be damaging to the fish. Too much movement or noise like someone moving past the tank at regular intervals or a load TV near the tank can cause stress and would not only result in less colourful fish but could ultimately cause stress related diseases and possibly death.

Obviously you would want your aquarium in a spot where it will be seen and not hidden away, so selecting the perfect spot can be a daunting task. The best location for fish is in a large room away from a high traffic area like a door or hallway. Try to avoid windows and air-conditioning ducts as this can cause temperature fluctuations, freshwater aquariums need a stable water temperature and if there is extreme changes in temperature can weaken the fish’s immune systems and increase their risk of diseases (see more on temperature later). Also direct sunlight from windows can cause excessive algae growth.

Make sure the location you select is big enough for at least a 3ft of 4ft tank, (for Malawi Cichlids this is the smallest recommended tank) and that you have easy access to power, water and a drain, you do not want to have to move the tank after it has been filled. Water changes and can be very time consuming if the tank is in a difficult accessible area or too far from a drain of water. This would be one of the major reasons why people neglect aquarium maintenance and could turn a aquarium that was setup for enjoyment into a work. If they correct location is selected maintenance can be completed in 5 minutes per day and 10 minutes one a week to keep you aquarium in pristine condition.

Less favourable aquarium location

These tanks are in high traffic areas, the fish would stress every time anyone moves up or down the stairs.
 

Good Aquarium Location

Against a wall, although there is a door near the tank it should be noted that the tank only has a vieing window in the front and as a result the fish would not see movement to the side.


Author: Simon Abrams (Motorolo)
« Last Edit: July 29, 2011, 12:41:45 PM by motorolo »

Offline motorolo

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Re: A Stunning Malawi tank in 5 weeks for Beginners
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2011, 09:01:44 PM »
Week One - Day Two – Selecting a tank to fit the location and fish.

When shopping for tanks you will be faced with a number of choices, tank shape size (length, width and height), water volume etc. Selecting a tank is not as easy as some would think and the correct approach to this would be to “window shop” for fish first. The tank should be acceptable for the fish you wish to keep, if you buy the tank without considering the fish you might end up with a limited choice when eventually selecting your fish.

This guide is specifically designed for Malawi mbuna and Malawi haps (more on these later) but the tank selection could be applied to most other species.

Have a look at the fish available from your local fish store (LFS) and get the names of the fish you like, next research all the species that you have selected and make sure that they are compatible, remove the species that are not compatible and also note the eventual size of each species as this would help determine the number of fish you will be able to keep in your tank. Also note the aggression of each species and the correct water conditions and tank decor, all the species you select should have simular decor and water requirements.

For mbuna a species specific tank is preferred but most species can be kept together as long as you research aggression levels and keep more compatible species in your aquarium. They require a lot of stone and caves, this should be considered as it could affect your budget. The minimum recommended tanks size for mbuna is 3ft long x 14 inch wide x 18 inch high (150 Litre).

Haps prefer more open swimming space but will also require some rock when breeding, you should give very careful consideration when selecting haps  because some species grow to substantial sizes and the selection of these would affect the tank size. Again consideration should be given for compatible species and also aggression. For haps the minimum recommended tank size would be 4 ft long x 14 inch wide x 18 inch high (200 Litre).

Select a tank that is easy to clean and maintain.

Once you’ve selected and researched your fish and the number of fish you would like to keep you can start considering your tank size, shape and type, remember to keep your space limitations in mind.

There are two types of tanks available, both with pros and cons, The first is complete setups like the ones in the picture below.



These tanks are ere easy so set up and maintain but they can be costly and they do have some limitations. These are great tanks but you are limited to the filtration and lighting built into the hood of the unit, some people would prefer to have options when it comes to filtration (we will discuss these later in detail) with the all in one tanks you would need some modification to the hood of you would like to either change the lighting or the filtration. You are also normally limited by the colour of the stand and hood, these would not always suit the other furniture in the room.

The second option and in my opinion by far the best is to get a standard glass tank like this one:




With this you can also buy a pine stand or full cabinet that can be stained to any colour.

Pine Stand




Pine Cabinet



With this option you have the flexibility of choosing lighting, filtration and furniture to suit your needs, just note that these are slightly more work to setup because the stand and hood might require sanding, staining and a coat of varnish before you move it to its final position.

Cylindrical, triangle and hexagon tanks tend to be more difficult to clean, and maintain but they do look great, if this is the way you would like to go just bear in mind that you might have to spend a few more minutes a day on maintenance the same goes for any tanks with bowed front glass as found in some all in one systems.

Make sure when you select the tank that you can reach and clean all the glass sides where it will be placed in your home, easy access to at least 2 sides is required for easy maintenance.

A third option would be to shop around for a good quality second-hand tank this is a great way to get the tank you want and could end up saving a bit on your budget, however this option can be daunting, finding to size you are after should not be a problem as long as it is a relatively common size, however there are a few things you have to look out for.

First off, make sure the tank has no visible scratches or chips, find out the age of the tank and if it was left empty you make sure you know how long it was stores and where it was stored, for example if it has been sitting empty out in the sun for a year they silicon would be degraded and the tank could fail the first time you put water in it or sometime in the near future.

If the tank includes a stand, make sure the stand is sturdy and capable of holding the tank and water weight.

I prefer to see a tank full of water on its stand before I buy a second-hand tank but this is not always possible and one sometimes have to take a chance.

Ok now that you have considered all the options and selected a tank that is suitable for your fish and that would look good with all the other furniture it’s time to take the plunge and buy it.

Make sure the area you selected for your aquarium is clear of any obstruction and ready for the tank’s arrival, this is especially true for bigger tanks that you cannot move on your own, you need to have it placed I the correct spot before all you’re helping hands leave.

Now that you have your new tank, you need to select all the equipment necessary to keep your fish alive.

Just as a note, most people would like to run out and buy random fish just to get something in the tank.  Don’t buy any fish until you and your tank is ready (normally you will be ready before the tank)

Author: Simon Abrams (Motorolo)
« Last Edit: July 29, 2011, 12:41:14 PM by motorolo »

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Re: A Stunning Malawi tank in 5 weeks for Beginners
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2011, 12:39:57 PM »
Week One - Day Three – Filtration, lighting, aeration and heating equipment.

If you purchased an all in one aquarium then you will only need the aeration and heating equipment, for a standard tank there is a lot more that need to be considered.

Filtration
The options here are limitless, you can use something as cheap as a air driven sponge filter to a something as nice as a top quality canister filter, before you chose you need to revisit the fish you selected and the amount of fish you will be adding to the tank. We will be covering 3 types of filter here, sponge filters, power head filters and canister filters.

You will need biological, chemical and mechanical filtration for your display aquarium, we will go into the details on these a bit more later on for now you should know that they are important to keep the water quality good and clear.

Mechanical filtration – Removal of suspended particles in the water using coarse and fine sponges

Biological filtration - The process of getting rid of toxic ammonia in closed aquatic systems using different forms of bacteria

Chemical filtration – removal of toxic substances other than ammonia and nitrite from the water using carbon or synthetic resin

Sponge Filters



Sponge filters are readily available and extremely low cost and they are very easy to maintain, they are very good biological filters and can filter a large volume of water for relatively low cost. Although they are good for some mechanical filtration I find that they are lacking in this department, for a display aquarium you need the water to be crystal clear and it might be worth looking at other filter options.

Sponge filter work by using air through a lift tube to suck oxygen rich water through a sponge, bacteria in the sponge convert ammonia and nitrite to nitrate (Biological filtration - nitrogen cycle – more on this later) and in this manner clean the water of toxic waste. The water passing through the filter will also carry particles that will be removed by the sponge filter and in this way giving some mechanical filtration.

Where the sponge filter lacks in the mechanical filtration is that it does not create enough current to pick up particles that has settled to the bottom of the tank the filter will eventually remove these particles when they break down enough.

You can also not add any media to a sponge filter to assist with chemical filtration.

Power head filters



 
Wet dry filters



Canister filters



Canister filters are by far the best choice for a display aquarium, you have very flexible options regarding media for biological, chemical and mechanical filtration, selection of these are also relatively easy as they are normally rated for a specific aquarium volume range.

Canisters work by sucking water through various layers of media and them pumping it back into the aquarium. The first layer is normally mechanical filtration and would consist of layers of coarse and fine foam followed by a fine polishing pad this removes all the larger visible particles from the water, next the water passes over the biological media (the surface area where the bacteria live and grow), in this section bacteria convert Ammonia to Nitrite and the Nitrate. The final stage will be chemical filtration, normally carbon, carbon absorbs and locks in all other chemicals and some nitrates (synthetic resin like Seachem Purigen can also be used) as a result the water pumped back into the aquarium should be clean on particles, ammonia and other heavy metals and chemical but will still contain nitrate, nitrate in low concentrations is not poisonous to your fish and will be removed by regular water changes, Ammonia is extremely poisonous as is nitrite although in a lesser degree.

If you select a canister filter, you should buy the best quality filter that you can afford, this is the life support system for your tank and if this fails your fish would be in serious trouble. The biological media is also very important (more on this later) and saving a few dollars here is not worth it in the long term.


Heating



Selecting a heater is relatively easy, as a rule of thumb you will require approximately one watt per litre of water unless you live in a cold climate in which case you might need more, select a heater that is rated for you tank or slightly higher, say for a 150 litre select a 200 Watt heater this equals slightly more than one watt per litre but because most heaters are made in either 50W, 100W, 200W and 300W it would be safer to select the one that is slightly larger than what you need.

Again here chose the best quality heater you can afford, heaters can fail electrically which means that you water temperature can drop to low for the fish to survive in winter or on thermostat failure the heater will cook your fish in a relatively short time.

Aeration



You need an air pump and an air stone or two, the air pump is normally rated for aquarium volume but if it is not the staff at your local fish store should be able to assist you with the selection, again select the best quality pump that you can afford, fish need oxygen to survive and although the air pump does not provide this id does provide the water surface agitation and water movement to ensure that there is enough oxygen in the water for your fish.

Any air stone will work as long as it produces relatively small bubbles.



See this article for more information on aeration and the effects on your fish Click Here

Lighting

Here again you have a wide range of choices but seeing as this is for a Malawi setup we will just cover the relevant choice. Because the regions of the lake where most of these fish come from are devoid of plants except for algae you should avoid adding plants to the tank except maybe Vallis, most mbuna and haps will dig up plants and because most species will also eat plants you plants would not last long. Because there will not be any plants you can use some of the cheaper florescent lighting available from most fish stores. The lighting requirement would be purely based on your viewing experience; fish do not need lighting so when selecting lighting buy only enough to give a good viewing experience. T8 florescent lighting should suffice but you can also look into the T5 options.

Now that you have all your equipment ready it’s time to make the tank look good, check back tomorrow for “Substrate, decor and aqua scaping”

Author: Simon Abrams (Motorolo)
« Last Edit: July 29, 2011, 12:43:20 PM by motorolo »

Offline Hood

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Re: A Stunning Malawi tank in 5 weeks for Beginners
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2011, 03:38:07 PM »
Sorry time has been getting the better of me. I have a bunch more installments, I will get them up ASAP.  :Yes: