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Thread: Setting up a tank for the Retroculus lapidifer

  1. #1
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    Default Setting up a tank for the Retroculus lapidifer

    Well, yesterday I finally got the 150 lbs. of sand for the 125. It took a couple of hours to wash it all because I had to carry it up from the basement sink, and I only washed about 20 lbs. at a time (weighed a bit more after it was wet), but I now have about 2 inches of sand in there. Started the R/O running into the tank, will likely take about 3-4 days. When it is close to full I will put some straight well water to add just a bit of hardness. I also plan on using Peat in the filtration to acidify the water.

    As of now there's about 4-5 inches of water, and it looks like it will not be very cloudy when the tank is full. Plan to put two smaller HOB filters on the tank, and a circulation pump inside to provide the current. I had one large HOB on it before, and I think it was inadequate. I don't like canisters; anything that could spring a leak and drain the tank just scares the bejezus outta me. I've heard too many stories about broken latches on these things.

    It took several days to clean the tank from its previous condition. The glass lids were a mess, even after scraping with a razor blade there was a bit of calcium clouding left. That may never come out. I have glass to make new lids, but it's rather thin. I prefer the heavier glass of the current covers. The gravel was filthy; took half a day to wash, and there were still tons of snails in it. That was one of the reasons I didn't want to re-use it.

    The real problem was scraping the red algae spots, particularly from the back glass. Turned out they came off best using a razor blade, but it was still a lot of work and the back glass was hard to reach. The red algae appears to be some sort of freshwater coralline algae. It first appeared in my 90 gallon tank, which eventually was completely covered. I did find that I could mostly clean the rocks and such that were covered by it with a combination soak. First I put a lot of peroxide in a 5 gallon bucket and soaked the rocks for a day or so. I then added about a cup of bleach, which resulted in a serious foaming action, followed by leaving it for a week in a dark place. Some of the rocks still appear to have a slight red stain, but I am certain the algae is dead.

    I will get a photo of the tank as is, don't have any as it was because it looked nasty. I am expecting that I will have the Retroculus into this tank before the end of the month.
    Happiness may be the door to Heaven,
    But Pleasure is not the Key.

  2. #2
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    Here's a couple of shots of the tank with sand. The outside of the tank will be cleaned after it is set up, no sense in trying to clean until I'm done making a mess. I've also added a recent shot of one of the Retroculus to show how they blend into the gravel. You can still see how he is coloring up, though.
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Name:	Retroculus lapidifer juv 04.JPG 
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    Happiness may be the door to Heaven,
    But Pleasure is not the Key.

  3. #3
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    "The red algae appears to be some sort of freshwater coralline algae. It first appeared in my 90 gallon tank, which eventually was completely covered"

    Any chance you might have a pic of this? I'd really love to see it.
    Good job on the tank, keep the pics coming

  4. #4
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    Well, here's a crop from another picture (it's blurry because it wasn't the focus of the shot) that shows the general color and shape, and how the spots start growing together. I expect it to show up here and there, but now that I know it peels off with a razor I will try to control it better. And it does peel off like scraping a sticker off a window, staying in one piece and rolling up. I considered sending some pieces off to find out what it is, but didn't have any idea who to send it to.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Happiness may be the door to Heaven,
    But Pleasure is not the Key.

  5. #5

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    Sounds really cool.

    Are you using just sand or are you mixing in some larger pea gravel with it? From what I understand they bury their eggs with the pea gravel in pits. I am using a blend of pea gravel and sand in my Retroculus tank. The current pushes the sand all to one side and exposes the pea gravel and I just have to push it back periodically.

    Andy

  6. #6
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    I plan on adding some stones at a later date, they are a long way from breeding size yet. I have a certain idea in my mind as to what I am looking for, and haven't found what I want. When the eternal winter ends (we're getting another 5-9" today) there are some local places that I think can provide the river rock gravel that I'm looking for.

    How big is the tank, how strong is the pump you are using, and how are you directing the current? My belief is that, if I aim a circulating pump straight across the front of the tank from several inches above the bottom, it shouldn't move the sand that much. I also plan on a more moderate current than what I've seen some people using, based on what I'm observing now in the 30 gallon tank and some of the research I've done. Of course, I'm still working from theory, and will likely have to adjust on the fly. That's what I do.
    Happiness may be the door to Heaven,
    But Pleasure is not the Key.

  7. #7
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    I've never had a problem with double posting before. Why did it do that?
    Happiness may be the door to Heaven,
    But Pleasure is not the Key.

  8. #8

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    It's a 120 gallon (48 x 24 x 24) tank with a Coralife 2600 gph circulation pump running on the right side blowing down the length of the back of the tank.

    I have some large rounded river pebbles and a weighted down tree trunk in the back (mainly for my Gold nuggets to hide in), and the front is all open.

    The Eartheaters (I have a similar setup right next to it with Satanoperca and Geophagus in it) will pick up a mouthful of sand and the sand drifts to the right. It's not so much the current pushing the sand but the action of it drifting with each sifted mouthful from the eartheaters that causes it to shift. Having to move it over periodically is worth it to see the fish all lined up in the current and feeding. Makes me think that's what it would look like in a river.

    Andy

  9. #9
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    Hmmm, forgot about the fish sifting the bottom. Oh, well, we'll see what happens. I think your pump might be a bit much for a 4 ft. tank, I'm only planning about a 500-600 gph pump across the front in the 125, which will be open. The long 30 that they are in for now has a small 140 gph Rio+ 200 pump aimed across the open front of the tank. Current in the wild is going to be in the open areas where they hunt for food, the shoreline will have wood and rocks that break the current so they can get out of it once in a while. Nests appear to be built in the eddies, not in the full current. Still trying to figure out how to produce that.

    The group jumps out into the current at feeding time; I give them frozen brine on occasion, but they really prefer Xtreme Cichlid Mini pellets; Aqueon pellets get mouthed a few times before they finally eat them. When they are full, they often sit on or above the driftwood and slate in the back, but when I see them out in the current, I know they are looking for food. A couple are growing faster than the others, but I don't have any that aren't showing growth. I think the fast growers are likely males. I think having a group of 10 makes them much less likely to pick on any individual. However, it is starting to make for a crowded 30!

    Substrate in the 30 gal. is #30 red fllint, not as fine as sand, but about as small as any gravel you can get. Tom Wotjech used to use it in all his Geophagus tanks because they can sift it almost as easily as sand. I considered re-using the same that was previously in the 125, but it's full of snails. However, I haven't seen any sifting in the 30. I hope that will change when I get them in the 125 with the sand.

    I also lost some of their tankmates. There were 7 Fundulus notatus in the tank with them, killies that stay at the surface. I forgot to feed for two days in a row, and 5 of the Fundulus were found dead when I went to feed the next day. Not sure what happened, but I changed out the box filter and changed some water to avoid ammonia problems. Could be the tropical temps were too much for the North American killies to go two days without food. Could have been the three Bedotia gaeyi got ornery, or even one of the larger Retroculus. Though I think if a Cichlid had killed them, it would have been for food, and there would have been no carcasses. And the Retroculus only recently started coming near the surface for food because the Bedotia were pigging out before the pellets got down to them. I have a group of Astyanax aeneus, a Central American tetra, that I was planning to use in the 125 rather than the Madagascar Rainbows.
    Happiness may be the door to Heaven,
    But Pleasure is not the Key.

  10. #10
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    Well, after the previous discussion I decided to do some experimentation. Went down and bought a Marineland Maxi-jet 900. It converts from a powerhead to a circulation pump, with a propeller that replaces the impeller. This is rated 900 gph, decided to go a bit larger because of what Narwhal72 said. Glad I did, but it definitely had an effect on the sand! Got two photos of the pump and one where you can see the waves in the sand from the current after only 15-20 minutes. Aimed it upward a bit more, seems to help, but the wash is acting a bit strange. I think it will work out, but Andy was right that I'll have to move the sand back occasionally.
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    Happiness may be the door to Heaven,
    But Pleasure is not the Key.

  11. #11

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    The flow seems to be fine and the tank is now in it's third year so it doesn't seem to cause any problems. One thing about the prop style circulation pumps is that the water flow is spread out over a very wide area so the velocity of the water is a lot slower at the outlet compared to a traditional powerhead. So even though it's a lot of water movement it's not like a washing machine for the fish.

    Snails are an interesting question. One odd thing that I have noticed is that I have absolutely no snails in either of my 120 gallon tanks. Even though they are connected via a central system to 8 x 15 gallon tanks that are infested with bladder snails, MTS, Ramshorns, and some small snail that I am not able to identify that reproduces so profusely that it actually covers the glass and bottom of some tanks. My only thought is that the Geo's must be feeding on them as you will not find one in either tank and by all rights they should be just as filled with them as the other tanks. Especially the little ones.

  12. #12
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    I've been watching what the currents do with just the sand in there. I moved the head to point upward a bit, and the sand ripples on the front went away - but new ones formed in the back coming toward the pump! Once I get some wood and rocks back there I think that will be a different problem, but it is interesting to see them form across the back, then curl toward the pump at the end. Every once in a while I'll see a swirl of sand, like a small whirlpool. Going to get the filters today, then we will see how that affects things over the next day or two.

    Turned on the well water today, had about 4 inches to fill to the top. Once it was within a couple of inches I was able to restart the overflow tube. That runs to the basement and down to the sump. Water changes will be a matter of hooking up the tubing to the R/O, and/or turning on the valve for the well water. I had this system hooked up for just the well water before, and it resulted in a lot of stuff coated with calcium, such as the glass cover, the HOB filter, and the overflow system. Cleaned what I needed to; the filter is probably going on a 40 breeder tank downstairs after I clean it (an older one, not the new one). 125 will get two new HOB filters. Tank is a bit cloudy now, some of that could be from the well water. We don't drink or cook with it, that's why I kept the R/O running when the fishroom wasn't.

    I have to look for some good pieces of wood. The bigger ones I had were eroded away by two Clown Plecos that have lived in the 125 almost since I got the tank, 10-12 years ago. I had them out once before while the tank was being reset, but that was only a couple of months. Had a 18" tall stump shaped piece, it is now just a foot long chunk and a couple of long slivers. They really do chew a lot of wood!
    Happiness may be the door to Heaven,
    But Pleasure is not the Key.

  13. #13
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    Power filters are on the tank, an Aquaclear 70 and a Marineland 200. Why two different brands, you may ask? Because the Aquaclear has the intake on the left, while the Marineland has the intake on the right. (think about it) I will have pictures later, after the tank clears (I hope). Both intakes are only 2/3 of the way to the bottom, but only one is round so that I can make my own extensions. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but they are both quality filters.
    Happiness may be the door to Heaven,
    But Pleasure is not the Key.

  14. #14
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    I have a start on decorating the tank. I still need one or two big center pieces (or off-center pieces) to fill it better. However, I am thinking about bringing up some of the fish. Rather than start with the Cichlids, I may bring up some of their tankmates. I've decided that the Astyanax aeneus are a good match; they are fairly active, tend to stay higher, and have started to show more color than I was expecting.

    Attached photos are the pieces I've put in the tank so far, and one of the male Astyanax. He was shot with no flash so that the color was visible. When I use the flash all you see is the silver reflection.
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Name:	125 slate and wood 01.JPG 
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Name:	Astyanax aeneus male 01.JPG 
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    Happiness may be the door to Heaven,
    But Pleasure is not the Key.

  15. #15
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    Looks good

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