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LAKE ALBERT’S HAPLOCHROMIS “YELLOW BELLY”

by Michael Helford

GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — JANUARY 1999    

Yellow Belly Haps are a somewhat newly available species in our area. Coming from Lake Albert, a less well known Lake in East Africa, there is no written literature about this species that I can find. Recent correspondence with Ad Konings corroborates this lack of available literature. Thus, I thought it might be of some interest to relate my limited experience with this new species over the last year or so.

The males develop a rather bright but light yellow belly and a copper or darker reddish back. The females remain a silver-gray, with a few vertical markings that show only occasionally, apparently depending on their state of arousal. I find the males attractive, and as is usually the case with sexually dimorphic African cichlids, the females look nice but are not colorful. Individuals are quite variable in their individual appearance from moment to moment. The dominant males can be very striking when they display their stronger colors and melanin pattern (thin vertical stripes on face and on fins, especially the dorsal). At these times and when displaying, the male is rather brightly colored. Individuals tend to hang motionless for periods of time near the bottom, near a plant or object, or in the water column, and then make darting movements. I find that they stay closer to the bottom of the tank most often but will feed avidly from flake food on the surface when presented. Most of their movement has that staccato quality, although occasionally (dominant males especially) will make longer movement across a section of the tank with a turn or two, but then they always end the movement quickly and stop. They appear to me as both timid and bold. Timid in the sense that they will shy away quickly when I approach to watch them, but they are bold in that they do not appear very intimidated by larger fishes nearby. They also seem rather aggressive intraspecifically. I have not observed any aggression against other species, save for an occasional warn- ing nip to a very close and smaller individual of another species. But, with other Yellow Belly individuals they occasionally dart at one another, with the dominant males chasing just about everyone pretty frequently for short jaunts.

Northwest of Lake Victoria, the Nile, the longest river in the world, runs into and out of Lake Albert. Thus, the Nile connects Lake Victoria and Lake Albert. The Victoria Nile, as it is called, runs from Lake Victoria and into the Northern part of Lake Albert, and the Albert Nile runs out also from Northern Lake Albert and up into Sudan. Lake Albert is situated between the Western side of Uganda and the Northeastern side of Congo (formerly Zaire). The water in Lake Albert is very hard (700 uS or microSiemens and probably around 13 dH) and is very alkaline with pH ranging from 8.9 to 9.5.

I first purchased four individuals of this species at the GCCA auction on January 31, 1998. They were each quite small, maybe approaching one inch. As luck would have it, one jumped out of the ten gallon that they were placed in (with a brood of sunshine peacock babies, Aulonocara baenschi) and another died of unknown causes. The remaining two individuals were moved to a 55 gallon tank, shared with the following species: Aulonocara hansbaenschi, Protomelas sp. “spilonotus Tanzania”, Fossorochromis rostratus, and Labidochromis caeruleus. These two stayed rather shy, usually hiding among the plastic plants and rocks. They would occasionally venture out into the open and did not appear fearful, but seemed more comfortable hanging back in the cover of such objects. They were all aggressive feeders, and when flake food was presented, they scurried out and grabbed it quickly and had big appetites. These two individuals grew to almost two inches and seemed to thrive until about four months later when they appeared distressed. More frequent water changes and treatment with Clout did not help and both individuals died soon after with gills wide open, suggesting perhaps gill parasites or infection.

In any case, I purchased another three babies of the species at the next auction, the May 31, 1998 Cichlid Classic. This time, one of the three died in the bag before I got it home. The remaining two, fortunately, turned out to be a male and a female. These two were placed in a 10 gallon tank shared with a brood of Copadichromis quadramaculatus. As was the case with the sunshine peacocks, the co-inhabitants got along fine. To my great surprise, these two, at about one inch, spawned. I found the female with her throat bulg- ing, showing the outline of one of the eggs. I was amazed to see such a small fish with a mouthful of eggs. She held the mouthful with commitment however, and I placed her in a small breeding net. About two or three weeks later, she released about four fry— one short of BAP requirements! The fry accepted crushed flake food and powdered Sera Marin tablets without any problem during the first few weeks.

All seemed well until I woke one day to find that one of the Quads had jumped into the breeding trap and all but one of the babies were missing. So, the remaining baby had escaped providing nourishment to the accidental intruder. Although disheartened, I ra- tionalized that the pair would spawn again and this would become just a first failed attempt. But, as if that weren’t enough, the next day I found the female dead, eyes gone, and apparently a victim of the male’s aggression. I moved the remaining baby to another 10 gallon shared with smaller quad and sunshine peacock fry. Although this individual was the smallest of the fry in this tank, she did fine and as of today is ap- proaching an inch in length.

The next chapter of my keeping of this species is currently unfolding. Although I still have the male and his daughter is growing well, I purchased two lots of Haplochromis sp. “Yellow Belly” at the recent November 14 auction. Eight individuals, all around two inches in length, were placed in a bare bottomed 30 gallon along with five one- inch Ngara Peacocks, a sponge filter, and several plastic plants, and rocks. One of the three males died within the first few days, possibly as a result of the dominant male’s aggression. The largest and most active male is showing his colors more strongly, especially vertical lines in his face and forebody. He continues to harass the remain- ing male and to almost continually display for the females. It looks as if one or two of the females may already be holding a mouthful of eggs, but I am reluctant to disturb them, so I will ascertain the certainty of their ovigerous status later. I am excited to work on breeding this species, as it appears to be relatively easy, and hope to observe and raise a full brood of fry soon. 

BREEDING LABIDOCHROMIS SP. “PERLMUTT”

by Rick Borstein 

GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — JANUARY 1999    


After seven years, I finally set up a 150-gallon tank. It was my hope to keep and breed Frontosa and in August of 1997, I visited Elite Cichlids to buy some.

My six-year-old Sam accompanied me and while there I saw a cichlid that was new to me—Labidochromis sp. “perlmutt”. Perlmutt, I learned, means Mother of Pearl in German. The dominant male on display was truly spectacular and sported a gorgeous pearlescent sheen with yellow highlights on the fins. Females, as is often the case with Malawian mouthbrooders, were indescript— a light tan with dark brown vertical stripes. The fish is very similar in form and behavior to Labidochromis caeruleus, another attractive Malawian that I had bred several years prior.

My son loved the perlmutts and we trooped home with the Frontosa, the perlmutts and several Leptostoma cyprichromis “tri-color”. Fortunately, Elite Cichlids accepts credit cards!

Once home, I placed the juvenile fish in a 55-gallon tank that also housed several Melanochromis johanni and Paratilapia nkala. I did weekly 40% water changes and fed a variety of dry foods. The tank is maintained at 78°F and is filtered by a large Supreme Aquamaster filter and a dual Tetra Phas sponge filter driven by a powerhead. My water, like most of the Chicago area, is very hard and great for most African cichlids.

The fish grew quickly and a within four months a dominant male developed the char- acteristic pearlescent coloring that had so intrigued me during my visit to Elite Cichlids. My son named the dominant male “Captain” and indeed he did his best to strut his stuff and “run” the tank himself.

About a month after the male colored up, I discovered a small female holding eggs. I let her stay in the fifty-five for two weeks, then netted her out and placed her in a ten gallon tank with a seasoned Tetra Billi sponge filter. At 22 days, the female released 7 rather large fry which were immediately able to eat baby brine shrimp. I left the female with the fry for a few more days to recover, then returned her to her original tank.

The fry were not prodigious growers for me. This may be because I was not able to feed them twice a day or easily transition them to dry foods. Eventually, I discovered, that they readily accepted finely crushed Tetra Bits and started growing rapidly. After keeping them for three months, I submit- ted them to the club’s Breeders Award Program.

A couple months later, I was able to witness the Perlmutts spawning. As you know, we cichlid buffs live for this— spawning behavior is very interest- ing to watch! After a wa- ter change, I noticed thedominant male and the largest female select and clean a smooth piece of rock in the aquarium. The female seemed to do most of the work while the male kept busy driving away the other inhabitants of the tank. The fish chose an inclined, flat river rock on which to spawn. In typical mouthbrooder fashion, the pair danced around each other a bit, then the female laid an egg and turned (while the egg slowly tumbled down the incline) and picked it up in her mouth. The male fish vibrated while the female bit at his egg spots fertilizing the eggs. Most books describe this at the “T”position.

By this time, the females had gotten much larger and subsequent spawns, as you’d guess, were larger. The largest spawn I obtained was 22 fry. Later fry were also a little more robust and easier to grow out. In fact, I got lazy and didn’t even bother with baby brine shrimp and simply fed finely crushed TetraBits— works great!

If you like mouthbrooding Africans, I think you would enjoy keeping and breeding Labidochromis sp. “perlmutt”. The fish are attractive, not demanding, and fairly


SELECTION & USE OF A MICROSCOPE FOR AQUARISTS

by Bob Blaho 

GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — JANUARY 1999    

The first thought that pops into many readers’ minds may be, “why bother?” The intent of this article is to show you why. We hope to establish for you, whether you have or might have a need for use of such an instrument. We’ll show what choices of microscopes you have, how they function, and what purpose you, as an aquarist, may have for this tool. Some of this material is a compilation from various sources and some is based on personal experience. Some specific sources, for more information, are listed at the end of this article.

First, what is available out there? The answer to that question is also a question. What do you need to accomplish? If you’re looking to gather more information about your aquarium environment, this is one way to do it. Visual information can provide us with facts that we can respond to. The first thing most of us do when we walk into a room, which has one or more aquariums, is to take a closer look at them. We look at what types of fish are in them, what types of plants are planted, and the condition of the fish, plants, or water. In other words, what we can see! The limit, to what we can see, is our eye. We frequently aid (especially as we get older) our eyes with prescription glasses or magnifying glasses. Those of us that do extremely fine detail work use a loupe or binocular magnifier. These are instruments that are simple, inexpensive, and usually easy to use. They let us take that closer look to get the information that we’re after. The lenses we use to see and identify what we’re looking at, come in a variety of choices. Selection of your lens type is usually determined by the level of magnification and detail needed to accomplish your job. As the magnification and quality level rise, so does the cost. Each level of capability has its purpose. The microscope, the com- pound light optical version, is only a multiple lens design to help us see items closer up. Its capability for magnification covers the range of 20-1000X. The electron micro- scope versions which go beyond 1000X will not be discussed. The compound light microscope then is what we’re concentrating on. It answers the question, “why bother?” If you have the desire to take a closer look at your aquatic environment, a need to identify what might not be normally visible, then you probably would benefit from using a microscope.

Selection of your microscope is again based on your needs. The toy versions for children are probably the reason that many people don’t proceed further. Any optical instrument is only as good as the precision and quality of the glass it uses. A microscope should be bought as a lifetime investment, much as a high quality camera system. Buy the best you can afford, to do the job you want, or may want to do. Look for the magnification range you need in selecting your eyepieces and objectives. Buy those models that conform to one of the best recognized standard configurations. These are the Deutsche Industrie Norm (DIN), most common, or Japanese Standard (JIS). Stick with DIN standard compo- nents and you’ll have the best of all worlds. This will enable you to select a greater variety of components for your microscope that will be inter- changeable and expand your capa- bilities (and also its resale value). A typical compound microscope consists of these basic components: an eyepiece lens (ocular), tube, objective lens, stage, stand, condenser, and light source. Look at a drawing or photo of a typical compound microscope and you will have no problem in identifying these parts.

There also is a choice in variety for each of these items. Eyepieces can be monocular, binocular, or trinocular. The monocular variety is the least expensive, since it uses only one eyepiece. Typical types of eyepieces can be Huygenian, Ramsden, Kellner, and Periplan. Each succeeding class of optics increases in quality and cost. Objectives also are available in the degree of optical correction desired. These are achromatic, semi-plan, and planar. Achromatic objectives provide a flat field of view in about 65% of the center of the image. Ramsden eyepieces, often called Wide-Field, are usually used with the achromatic objectives at higher power. A look at a catalog listing selection will quickly establish what you wish or need to afford. The best way to go, is to buy a microscope that comes as a system, so you can expand your choices later. An eyepiece in 10X Wide- Field and turret arrangement with your selection of objectives in 4X, 10X, 40X, and 100X will get you started for most purposes. This gives you the capability of 40X, 100X, 400X, and 1000X. Most of your aquarium work will be done between 40X and 400X. 1000X (oil immersion) is used for more advanced cellular and bacterial work. The stage of your microscope can be plain with spring clips to hold your glass slide or have a mechanical stage that adjusts for the short distances a slide is normally moved. For bright field illumination, the light source can be external, using a mirror to direct the light to the slide, or be built into the base to provide illumination. With either light arrange- ment, alternate types of lighting may be desired. This could be the basis of another article in itself. The question is, at this point, what should one consider as the basic minimum setup? Consider these items:

  1. Make sure that the microscope has a solid stand, with fine and coarse focusing and a monocular tube.

  2. The eyepiece should be 10X to start, with a selection of 5X, 15X, and 20X oculars added as needed.

  3. A turret holding at least three objectives, achromatic in 4X, 10X, and 40X will be sufficient to start.

  4. The stage can be equipped with only removable spring clips or have the mechanical stage to allow more precise placement of the slide. Removable mechanical stages can be added later if desired. This option starts at about $70.00 and goes up in price, based on capabilities.

  5. A light source, such as a microscope lamp or even a simple high intensity desk lamp, unless the illumination is built in.

  6. Beneath the stage should be a condenser lense that can be focused to properly illuminate the slide. A diaphragm to control light intensity and a filter holder should be part of this package.

The Swift M3200 (see Figure 1, next page), is an example of a good starting package. A basic package for the above, new from a catalog or outlet, will start at about $200.00 and can go higher based on quality, choice of lenses, and other options. A good used microscope can be found around college campuses and in papers like the “Trading Times.” This would enable you to buy a better quality instrument at the same or lower cost than a new one. Going up in price range will obtain a binocular, four objective turret, a mechanical stage with built-in illumina- tion, microscope starting at about $500.00 used. A Bausch & Lomb binocular mi- croscope (see Figure 2, next page) is an example with these features.

A good quality microscope of this variety, new, will start at about $800.00 and rapidly escalate based on optics and brand name (Leica-$1500, Zeiss-$2000). Figure 3, an American Optical dual binocular head microscope, is an example of some of the specialized features available. You can expect these additional capabilities to add to the microscope cost.

So now that you’ve selected what you think is the best microscope for you, what do you do with it? You will have to use it and acquire some experience in develop- ing your techniques. Books and manuals are available in most libraries covering just about all aspects of microscopy you may want to learn. Concentrate on devel- oping your basic skills. Use your microscope for checking the quality of water, identify the microscopic plants and creatures that inhabit your aquarium along with your fish. If you have baby fish, which require live food, check for paramecia, rotifers, daphnia, and other micro food cultures in your aquaria. Keep tabs on how the cultures are doing. See what other helpful or detrimental organisms are present. Do you keep egg layers? Pluck an egg and put it under your lens to see if it is fertile. If you see no life (movement) in the egg, it is not fertile. Then just continue with your process of elimination to establish what caused the infertility. Do you have health problems with your fish, plants, or snails? Check to see what’s differ- ent with the healthy versus the unhealthy. Identify your problem hosts so you can take a targeted approach to correcting the situation. The books below can give you more ideas for use of your microscope.

Several books you may want to look at are as follows:

Using the Microscope - A Guide for Naturalists by Eric V. Grave, Dover Publications, 1984

Exploring with the Microscope by Werner Nachtigall, Sterling Publishing, 1996

Hunting with the Microscope by Gaylord Johnson and Maurice Bleifeld, Arco Pub- lishing, 1980 3rd Edition

Diseases of Aquarium Fish by Robert Goldstein, T.F.H. Publications, 1971 Handbook of Fish Diseases by Dieter Untergasser, T.F.H. Publications, 1989 Discus Health by Dieter Untergasser, T.F.H. Publications, 1991
1998 Optics and Optical Instruments Catalog, Edmund Scientific Co., 609-573-6250

These sources will help you develop your techniques and aid in identifying what you’re looking at. The Edmund Catalog will be an aid in establishing beginning choices and prices. As you gain experience, you’ll add to your library those periodicals that cover your areas of interest. The knowledge you gain can be useful not only in your hobby as an aquarist, but also in any other areas where you want to take a closer look at your environment. ■

If this article was of interest to you and you would like more on lighting techniques, slide staining and preparation, photomicrography, or other areas of interest related to microscopy, let me or your editor know. We may start an ongoing series of articles if there is sufficient interest. 

Make a Tank Divider

Make a tank divider with simple handtools for about $10 

Why do you need a tank divider?

  1. One common way to breed large, aggressive Central American cichlids is using the "divided tank method". A sturdy divider is used to separate the pair which then spawn on opposite sides of a barrier.
  2. When you're low on tankspace and have incompatible species.
  3. When you need some extra space for a recovering fish

You can complete this project using only simple handtools in about an hour.

Before you get started…

  • Be safe! Wear safety goggles.
  • This projects involves the use of sharp tools. Be careful! This is not a project for kids.
Step Pictures

Tools Needed

a. Hacksaw
— or — 
b. Backsaw

c. Ruler

d. Diagonal Wire Cutters

a. Hacksaw  b. Backsaw
c.Ruler   d. Diagonal Wire Cutters

Materials

a. Purchase a 2' by 4' sheet of Styrene eggcrate material at a building supply store such as Home Depot. Expect to pay between $5 and $6.This is the cheapest material and works better

You will find this material near the drop ceiling section.

b. 1/2" PVC Elbow (Qty = 2)

c. 1/2" PVC Tee (Qty = 2)

d. 1/2" PVC Pipe (comes in ten foot sections)

e. 8" Nylon Cable Ties 
(Qty = 10)

a. Eggcrate Material  b. PVC Elbow
c.PVC Tee d. PVC Pipe
e.   Cable Ties  

Step 1

Measure the inside width of your tank.

Measure the water depth of your tank (from the bottom of the tank to the water level).

Subtract 1/4" from each dimension to allow for easy placement in the tank.

Measuring the tank   Measuring the tank

Important Note!

Take into account the size of the PVC fittings in your measurements!

Generally speaking, you will need to subtract another 1/2 to 3/4 inch for each fitting. We suggest you first cut the PVC pipe to size using the dimensions in Step 1. Then, press on the fitting(s) and measure the length to find the necessary adjustment. Measure twice, cut once!

Step 2

You'll need to cut 7 pieces of PVC pipe:

A) 2 Verticals

B) 1 Horizontal

C) 4 Legs (8" long)

Use the hacksaw or backsaw. A vise is helpful.

Assembly Pieces  Cutting the PVC

Step 3

After cutting all the pipe, 
deburr the ends using a utility knife, file or sandpaper.

Deburring the pipe

Step 4

a. Assemble all pieces excluding the legs.

STOP! Test fit the divider in your tank.

b. Add the legs, once you're sure everything fits.

NOTE: PVC Cement is not required. A friction fit is adequate and allows for easy
re-configuration.

 a.        b.

Step 5

Using a pair of diagonal wire cutters, cut the eggcrate material to size. The eggcrate should slightly underlap the frame.

   

Step 6

Cut notches in the eggcrate for the base.

Use the diagonal wire cutter.

Step 7

Fasten the eggcrate to the frame using the cable ties.

Use one per corner and one in middle of each section.

   

Step 8

Cut off the excess cable tie.

Installing the Tank Divider

Step 1

Remove the bottom "legs" from the tank divider.

Step 2

Clear out gravel from the bottom of tank.

Place the tank divider in the tank.

Note: We've added a clay tile as a spawning surface for a pair of large Blackbelt cichlids.

Step 3

Clear out gravel from the bottom of tank.

Place the tank divider in the tank.

Insert the four legs securely.

   

Photos by Rick Borstein.

 
 
 

Artificially Raising Substrate Spawning Fish

Great for angels and Central American Fish 

Hobbyists have been artificially raising substrate-spawning fish for many years. This technique is popular for angelfish, Central American Cichlids and other substrate-spawning fish with small eggs.

Some hobbyists feel that artificially raising fry (i.e. pulling the spawn) weakens the pair bond of the fish. This notion has not been explored scientifically. It should be pointed out the the majority of angelfish breeders raise fry artificially.

There are as many ways to raise fry as there are aquarium hobbyists. Review the technique below and adapt it to your specific needs.

Before you get started…

  • Purchase the necessary supplies.
  • Decide where you want to place the hatch tank.
  • Observe when your fish spawn. One day post-spawning, you can pull the eggs (see instructions)

What you'll need…

Step Pictures

Step 1

Fill a clean, small tank or container with six quarts of water from the spawning tank.

We have had good luck with 8 quart clear, Rubbermaid Commercial containers. They are available from Sam's club and restaurant supply houses.

Rubbermaid 8qt clear container  Rubbermaid logo

Step 2

Remove the hatch from the spawning tank the day after spawning.

Avoid exposing the eggs to air. Invert the spawning surface (rock, etc.) inside a cup or container.

Removing the hatch from the tank

Step 3

Place the spawning surface (rock, etc.) inside the hatching tank.

Placing the hatch in the hatching tank.Placing the hatch in the hatching tank.

Step 4

Attach an 18" piece of airline to the air pump and plug it in.

We've had good luck with a Second Nature Challenger I and a Penn-Plax Silent-Air XL1. Any similarly sized pump should do.

Setting up the air pump

Step 5

Attach the airline to a gang valve.

This will allow you to:

  • Control the flow of air
  • Anchor the airline

We've had good luck with Penn-Plax Lok-Tite Gang Valves available here. These allow for precise control of the air flow. Each piece of tubing locks into the plastic hanger to prevent floating and kinking.

Connecting the gang valve

Step 6

Cut a one foot length of airline and attach it to one of the out ports on the gang valve.

Insert the airstone.

Thread the airline over the top of the gang valve.

 

Connecting the airline and airstoneDetailed view of locking in the airline over the gang valve.

Step 7

Place the gang valve over the side of the tank.

Make sure that the airline is not flopping around. It could damage the eggs.

The airstone should be to the side and slightly above the eggs.

Adjust the airflow using the gang valve. It should be a gentle stream of air.

Adjusting the air flow

Step 8

If your room temperature is below 78F, place a 7.5 watt aquarium heater in the tank.

Maintain the temperature at 78–81F. A lid may help in cold rooms.

We've had very good luck with 7.5 watt heaters from Jr. Aquatics. They are available at Walmart for about $7.

Jr. Aquatics Heater  Placing the heater

Step 9

Add 2 drops of Methylene Blue per each quart of water.

NOTE: Methylene Blue stains clothes permanently!

Kordon Methylene Blue   Add 2 drops per quart of water

Step 10

Methylene blue helps prevent fungus. Methylene Blue stains the water a deep blue.

Eggs are light sensitive— do not put a light over the tank.

Your water should be darker than the picture at right.

Methylene Blue in the tank

Step 11

Use a strong flashlight and check the hatch daily.

Most eggs hatch within 48-72 hours.

At 6 to 9 days post-spawn, the fry should be free of the spawning surface at the "belly whomper" stage— not quite able to swim, but hopping on the bottom.

Remove the spawning surface (rock, etc.).

Use a flashlight to check on hatching.Removing the spawning site

Step 12

As soon as the fry are belly whompers, start small, daily water changes.

Remove a quart of water from the tank. Replace it with fresh, dechlorinated water.

As you do more water changes, the water will get lighter and lighter.

Water changePutting in fresh water

Step 13

You may notice some debris such as unhatched eggs in the tank.

Carefully remove the debris using a turkey baster.

Removing debrisRemoving debris

Step 14

When the fry are free-swimming, add a small, seasoned sponge filter to replace the airstone.

We like the ATI Hydrosponge #0. You can get them from Jehmco.

At this point, start feeding freshly hatched baby brine shrimp. Feed until the tummies are nice and round!

Add a sponge filter

Step 15

Prepare a ten-gallon, grow-out tank. Use a sand or bare bottom, heater and sponge filter.

 

Step 16

About two weeks after the free-swimming stage, the fry should be about one-quarter inch long.

Remove the heater and sponge filter and carefully pour the fry into a seasoned ten-gallon tank.

Note: Make sure the temperature is the same as in the hatching tank!

Pouring the fry from the hatch tank to the rearing tank

Step 17

Continue feeding baby brine shrimp.

At three weeks, begin adding finely crushed flake food to the mix. By one month, you should be able to wean the fry off of the brine shrimp.

Weekly, 50% water changes are critical for fry growth.

Lots of fry

 

Paint a Tank

Make your tank beautiful!

It's easy and inexpensive to spray paint the back and sides of your tank. Not only will it look better, but your fish will be happier, too!

Before you get started…

  • Paint outside on a dry, sunny day when temperatures are above 70F and there is little wind.
  • Paint will not adhere to silicone sealant. Remove any excess silicone sealant with a razor blade… not for kids! Be careful and don't break the seal!
  • These instructions are for glass tanks, only.
  • We have had good results with a variety of paints. Krylon brand spray paints seem to drip the least.
  • We recommend the following colors: Black, Blue and Green.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions and be safe!
Step Pictures

Step 1

Place the tank with the front of the aquarium down on a pair of saw horses.

Clean the back and sides of the tank with Windex and a soft, clean cloth.

Step 2

Mask the frame of the tank. We recommend 3M Scotch-Blue™ Painter's Tape for Multi-surfaces available at hardware stores and home centers.

  

Step 3

Apply a strip of masking tape to the front of the tank. This prevents overspray onto the front glass of the tank.

Step 4

Use newspaper to completely cover the top of the tank. This step prevents paint from adhering to the inside of the aquarium.

Step 5

Paint the sides of the tank.

The spray tip should be 6 to 8" from the glass.

Tip: Don't overspray. Avoid drips.

Step 6

Paint the back of the tank.

Step 7

It will take a minimum of three coats of paint.

In between coats, invert the spray can and spray to clean the nozzle.

Step 8

Look through the bottom of the tank to check for coverage. After three coats, you should not be able to see light through the painted surfaces.

Step 9

Allow the last coat to dry thoroughly.

Remove and discard the masking tape.

Enjoy your tank!


Photos by Rick Borstein. Demonstration by Sam Borstein.

Hey~

Some of you here have commented on the background I have started to use for my tanks…. and asked me to do a simple DIY for this easy to complete background that shows well, lasts well, and is much less work intensive than the DIY backgrounds using Great Stuff expandable foam, quickrete, and paint.

It’s very simple really, as a guy who is not a fan of the “Great Stuff Backgrounds” (although very cool, they interfere with my HOB filters and take away too much space from a thinner tank: i.e.: a 55 gallon is only 47” x 12” inside dimension). With the Central American Cichlids I have, they need every inch of space I can give them.

Basically I started to standard spray paint my tanks before installing them, well you know we are always looking for something different, so in a effort to “think outside of the box” I was perusing my local home center looking for paint for my 55, it was wintertime and I had to do it indoors, my garage was too cold (below 50 degrees) so I was going to do it in my basement, as I was looking for your standard gloss black/low VOC Latex, (I like the dark and the way my CA/SA Cichlids color up with the dark background and also use a dark substrate) and I came across a spray can of Rust-Oleum Stone Creations…… I tested it on my 20L and I could not be any happier.

I will say this; the Stone Coat is not something that you could do indoors. I took the tank over to my brother’s car dealership and painted it in the shop (weekend). It has high VOC’s! But the results speak for themselves. If you are able, do it during the spring or fall when the temperatures are not to cool and not too hot, that way the garage is a good place, and as soon as each coat is complete, ventilate your paint area, like I said HIGH VOC’s can kill you!

Stone Coat comes in a bunch of different colors: I am unsure of attaching a link to a Manufacturer, (I will provide the link if asked or you can PM me and Ill email it to you).

So I will just give a quick rundown of the colors I saw. (Percentages are just guesstimates on my part)

Black Granite (N7991) Black (70%) with shots of White (10%), Grey (10%) and Silver (10%) mixed in.

Bleached Stone (N7990) Tan (85%), with a Light Brown (15%).

Canyon Moss (N7987) Black (75%), Grey (12.5%), and a Moss Green (12.5%).

Granite Stone (N7989) Brown (75%), Black (12.5%), and a Grey (12.5%).

Grey Stone (N7992) Grey (75%), Black (10%), White (10%), Silver (5%).

Mineral Brown (N7988) Brown (85%), Tan (15%).

Sienna Stone (N7994) Brown (35%), Tan (35%), Natural Red (5%), Black (10%), White (15%).

Tuscan Rock (N7986) Mustard Yellow (75%), Brown (20%), Black (5%)

Other needed materials:

Clear Coat (V2102938) Fast Dry Hard Hat coating.

3M Blue Paint Masking Tape: (1”) Standard 3M Paint Masking Tape Model Number 2090

I don’t think you need me to tell you to tape off the edges of the tank, cover the top as well; I more or less wrap the entire tank with newspaper except for what I am painting.

This is a 3-4 coat process followed by a quick clear coat at the end to add strength to the back.

1) Using you painter’s tape, tape off entire tank more than 1 layer (newspaper, Chicago Sun-Times works great, I go with 3 layers, never have had a issue).

2) Clean and dry surface of glass (You have no idea how Windex F’s up a paint job should you start and forget/miss a 1”x2” area).

3) Break out your stone coat (I use Black Granite Rust-Oleum Model Number: N7991) and lightly coat glass covering all areas).

4) It is a textured spray paint, resist the urge to touch, (I could not) it will need overnight to dry. Do NOT overcoat, the more paint you lay on the more likely it will not be dry when you want to re coat (dries to the touch in 1-2 hours my ***!)

5) Ready for coat 2? Now try the touch. If it is dry, take a flashlight to the inside of the tank and look for weak coats. Reapply.

6) Retape you newspaper layers

7) Apply the test again for coat 3, and then apply the final coat of Stone Coat.

Cool Now that you have completed the Stone Coat, apply 1 thin but complete coat of clear (I use hard hat coating Rust-Oleum Model number: V2102938) Remember that the Stone Coat is a textured paint, and although you will not feel it yourself, it will chip easy if you do not apply a clear coat of some kind.

I am attaching the images from when I did the 20L. I will add more images to this if asked, as I will be doing this on a much larger scale with my new 110 and 150 in the next month or two.

(Images to follow)

Comments?? Opinions??  Huh?

Making Inexpensive Tank Covers

Make four 10-gallon tank covers for under 5 bucks! 

With just a few tools, you can make durable and inexpensive tank covers using prismatic lens lighting panels. The material comes in 2 feet by 4 feet sheets are used as the lenses for fluorescent fixtures in drop ceilings. You can find it any hardware or home center store.

Before you get started…

  • Be safe! Wear safety goggles.
  • This projects involves the use of sharp tools. Be careful! This is not a project for kids.
Step Pictures

Tools Needed

a. Utility Knife 
— or — 
b. Acrylic cutter

c. Carpenters square

d. Fine-point marker

e. Cutting surface such as a sheet of plywood, not shown.

f. Fine Sandpaper, not shown.

g. Gorilla Glue (optional)

a.   b. 
c.   d. 
g.    
        

Materials

a. Purchase a 2' by 4' sheet ofStyrene Prismatic Clear Lighting Panel. The green labeled material at right is available from Home Depot. Expect to pay between $3 and $5.

This is the cheapest material and works better than more expensive acrylic sheets which warp.

b. Close up view of the material.

  a.   b.

Step 1

Measure the inside frame of your tank and subtract 1/8" from both the width and depth dimensions.

Step 2

Place the plastic sheet flat side up on a hard surface like a large piece of plywood.

Use the ruler to carefully measure across the shortest dimension of the sheet.

Mark a small line with the permanent marker.

Step 3

Lay the square on the sheet at the mark you made in Step 2.

Hold the square down firmly and score the sheet repeatedly with the utility knife (or acrylic cutter).

Continue scoring until you have cut through the material.

Step 4

Cut the corners to add access for airlines and heaters.

Simply score a corner and bend to snap.

    

Step 5

Smooth the edges with the fine sandpaper.

 

Optional Steps

Add a Knob

A knob makes it easy to remove the cover. Purchase the following:

  • Plastic knob
  • 1/2" Stainless steel screw to fit knob
  • 1" nylon washer

Drill a 3/16" hole about 1" from the front edge of the cover and install the knob.

   

Add a Feeding Hole

Use a 2" hole saw to add a feeding hole. A drill press gives the best results, but you can use a standard electric drill if you have a steady hand.

Use a backing board and work slowly through the material.

Add filter cut-outs

For outside filters, carefully measure from the edge of the tank to the furthest protruding edge of the filter.

Transfer these measurements to the tank cover and score the outline of the cutout.

Flex the cuts leading from the edge of the cover in first. Next, flex the cuts parallel to the edge and break out the piece.

You may need to reinforce the cover. See below.

Strengthen large covers

Large covers over 18" may need reinforcement. Some options:

a. Use Gorilla Glue (polyurethane glue) and plastic drywall corners. This is the easiest method. The glue hardens through the small holes adding strength.

b. Use clear corner protectors and stainless steel screws. You will also need to add a small nylon washer.

a. 
  

b. 

Photos by Rick Borstein.

Modest Fish Aquarium Fish Disease Guide 

A very nicly compiled list of fish diseases and treatments.

F I N S : Fish Disease Diagnosis

Nice fish disease chart which includes a series of questions to help you solve the problem.

Tetra Fish Disease Help

Specific to Tetra remedies, but may be helpful.

Animal World Fish Disease & Treatment Page

Good overall help with fish health, disease and treatment.

FishDoc UK

This UK site bills itself as the home of fish health. Lots of good content.

 

A high-quality, fiber-rich food | See other How-To Guides

Tropheus and mbuna are prone to bloating. Providing lots of fiber and vegetable matter in the diet is one of the best ways to maintain good health. Commercial, prepared foods are often lacking in fiber and vitamins.

This food is rich in fiber (shrimp shells, veggies), vitamins and includes garlic to help guard against intestinal parasites.

Before you get started…

  • Purchase needed items and lay out everything required.
  • Never switch fish to a new diet quickly. Introduce a small amount of the food at a time and watch your fish over a period of days to gauge acceptance and consequences.
  • This is not a project for kids. As always, use care when using a knife or a food processor.
Step Pictures

Tools/Equipment

a. Food Processor

b. Paring knife and garlic press

c. 8 Zip-loc sandwich bags

Measuring cup(s)
Measuring spoons
Spatula and a large spoon

a.       b.      c. 

Ingredients

a. 12 oz. package of med-large frozen raw shrimp with shell, thawed

b. Liquid Aquarium Vitamins (HW Multi-vit shown)

c. 8 oz. (1/2 pkg) frozen peas

d. 3 broccolli stumps

e. 2 medium carrots, scrubbed

f. 6 leaves Romaine lettuce, washed and trimmed

g. 2 packets of Knox gelatin

h. 1 clove fresh garlic, peeled

 a.      b.      c. 
d./e./f.       g.      h. 

Step 1

Measure 1/4 cup of very cold water in a measuring cup.

Sprinkle the two packages over the surface.

Mix with a spoon to a slurry consistency.

Step 2

Add 3/4 cup of boiling water to the gelatin mixture.

Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Step 3

Place the frozen peas in a heat-proof bowl.

Add boiling water to cover.

Step 4

Make sure the shrimp are thawed out.

Rinse and add to the food processor.

Step 5

Process the shrimp to a paste-like consistency.

Some small pieces are OK.

Step 6

Drain the peas.

Step 7

Add the peas to the food bowl and process until smooth.

Step 8

Peel the rough outer layer from the broccolli stumps.

Step 9

Cut the carrots and broccolli stumps into 1/4 inch pieces.

Note— if you do not have a very powerful food processor, you may wish to process these first with a little water and set them aside.

Step 10

Tear the Romaine lettuce into small pieces.

Step 11

Add the broccolli, carrots and lettuce to the food processor bowl.

Process to small chunks. You may need to stop periodically and scrape down the sides.

Step 12

Add the gelatin mixture and process until smooth.

Step 13

Force the peeled garlic clove through the garlic press into the bowl.

Add 1 TBS (tablespoon) of the liquid vitamins.

Step 14

Process until thoroughly mixed.

Step 15

Spoon some of the food mixture into a ziploc bag until it is one-quarter full.

Step 16

Lay the filled bag on a flat surface and carefully squeeze out any air.

Seal the bag.

Keep flat.

Step 17

You should have 6–8 sandwich bags of food.

Lay them flat on a piece of cardboard or a cookie sheet.

Refrigerate for 3–4 hours.

Step 18

The food mix should have firmed up to a jelly-like consistency.

Transfer to the freezer.

Feed it!

Do not thaw the food.

Break off small piece of the frozen food and feed your fish.

Always take care when introducing new foods.

Some fish, especially those used to flake foods, take a while to take interest in this food.

 


Photos by Rick Borstein. Demonstration by Rick and Sam Borstein.

 

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