dwarf cichlids species are quite hardy and
can usually make excellent aquarium fish. For a beginner there are a
number of great starter species that will provide a good introduction
keeping these beauties. Once you have been successful with a couple of
different species you will have developed the basic skills needed to
handle more difficult species.
that follows is highly
biased. It is
nothing but my opinion and may not be worth what you are paying for it
(nothing!). However, I have been keeping and commercially breeding
dwarf cichlids for more than 20 years and these are the techniques I
use to keep my fish healthy and (hopefully) happy. I do not want anyone
to ever think that I am saying these are the only or even the best way
of doing things. I believe that there are a lot of successful ways to
keep dwarfs what I offer is my way. I hope that you can find something
of use. I present here a very basic primer for keeping and breeding
Apistogrammas and other dwarf cichlids.
cichlids have an established
for demanding extreme
water conditions. While some species may require very soft acid
water, most will do nicely in water that is moderately soft and only
slightly acid, or even neutral. These conditions can be found in some
areas in the tap water but most of us are not so lucky. I use reverse
osmosis (most commonly referred to as RO) water in all of my tanks and
have for more than 20 years.
filters have become quite common and the bottled water
most grocery store machines is RO filtered. RO water is very pure and
of the highest quality. It should contain virtually no hardness and be
of neutral pH. While it is certainly possible to fill your tank(s) with
water purchased from the store, this is not a viable long term
situation for most hobbyists.
possible to keep
possibly breed many species of dwarf
cichlids in hard alkaline water. However, there are few that will
thrive in these conditions. Most commonly the fish will not grow as
well or be as colorful as those raised in softer water. Many hard water
spawnings fail because the eggs do not become fertilized in hard water.
These infertile eggs are quickly eaten by the parent. Attempts at
artificial hatching will result in fungused eggs.
of water you have, frequent water
changes make the
difference between fish that do well and fish that excel! In the wild
most of these fish are exposed to a constant flow of clean fresh water.
Few hobbyists are equipped with constant flow systems so we must try to
provide for our fish the best we can. This means changing the water
often. Many general aquarium books recommend changing 20% of the water
every two to three weeks. I believe that 50% once a week is the
absolute minimum for keeping healthy dwarfs.
I must emphasize that I consider this to be a
If you are spawning adults or growing out youngsters I recommend 40%
every other day or more frequent. It is not unusual for some of my
tanks to get 70% changes daily. However, this is not the norm. I
usually shoot for 40 - 50% four or five days a week.
Although I do not use many water conditioners I
always have Amquel
NovAqua Plus Water Conditioner
in my fishroom. Designed to work together, these two will neutralize
ammonia, chloramine, chlorine and heavy metals. Novaqua adds beneficial
compounds to the water that aid in slime creation and help heal
I usually add a few drops of each
conditioner to every bag of fish I ship. This seems to make a
significant difference in survival rates.
I don't condition my water in any way before
putting it in
the tanks. I
actually run the output from my RO directly into the tank after I have
siphoned out water. I know how long it takes to run certain amounts of
water and I know when I need to check to output. I do not buffer the
RO, I do not add back tap water and I do not heat the water. All of
this is contrary to what most will tell you. I am not disputing them in
any way but am telling you what works for me.
If you are new to
keeping dwarf cichlids I
recommend that you purchase
water testing tools (strips, color kits or meters) and
learn to use
them and under stand what the results mean. This will really teach you
a lot about fish keeping. I recommend that you keep a log or journal
that documents your fish keeping experiences. In this log you can keep
track of the water quality readings overtime and learn to relate them
to what you observe happening in your tank(s). After some period of
you will begin to find that you can tell if something is "off" with
your water. This seems to happen with most hobbiests as we begin to
intuitively understand when our fish are at their best and when
something is not right. Frequent water testing is a great way to start
to hone your intuitions.
number of methods of testing the pH of your water including
Test Strips, meters and test kits. If you are just starting with dwarf
cichlids I recommend trying
5 in 1 Test Strips
. They are simple
to use and give results that are acceptable. They are
not highly accurate and do not do well with low pH water but they are
great for beginners.
problems that often comes with water testing is the desire
to modify the natural conditions of the water. For most dwarf cichlid
hobbiests this means trying to soften the water or lower the pH without
using RO. While it is possible to do both of these to some degree, I
don't recommend it. While I have no problem with those who wish to use
peat to try and modify their water, I strongly encourage you not to try
use chemicals to change your water chemistry. Chemical additives can
produce temporary changes, especially in pH. However, these are
generally of short duration and the water quickly returns to its
original state. It is almost impossible to maintain a stable pH by
using chemical adjustments.
have it. Use good clean water, do large frequent water
changes, test your water and don't tinker too much and you will be well
on your way to having success with dwarfs!
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