Subscription Plans

Individual Member

Single (Adult or Minor with sponsor).



Why you should join?

  • Monthly Meetings featuring expert speakers (10 per year)
  • Participation in our Breeders Award and CARES programs
  • Priority registration for Swap Meets (5 per year)
  • Ability to buy fish at our Rare Fish Auction (2 per year)
  • Participation in Bag Exchanges (during Covid)
  • Members-only events such as Holiday Party, Picnic, hobby tours and more
  • Our award-winning website which includes hundreds of articles, a cichlid classifieds allow you to find local fish for sale and special members-only sections
  • Show your support for the top cichlid club in the USA
Duration: 1 Year
Price: $20.00
Family Member

Family (Spouses and children under the age of 18 & all under one roof) - roommates, relatives, in-laws, adult siblings, etc will need to get individual memberships

Single (Adult or Minor with sponsor).

Why you should join?

  • Monthly Meetings featuring expert speakers (10 per year)
  • Participation in our Breeders Award and CARES programs
  • Priority registration for Swap Meets (5 per year)
  • Ability to buy fish at our Rare Fish Auction (2 per year)
  • Participation in Bag Exchanges (during Covid)
  • Members-only events such as Holiday Party, Picnic, hobby tours and more
  • Our award-winning website which includes hundreds of articles, a cichlid classifieds allow you to find local fish for sale and special members-only sections
  • Show your support for the top cichlid club in the USA
Duration: 1 Year
Price: $25.00
Lifetime Member

Lifetime Member

A Lifetime Memebership entitles you to all the benefits of GCCA for your entire life. 

Single (Adult or Minor with sponsor).

Why you should join?

  • Monthly Meetings featuring expert speakers (10 per year)
  • Participation in our Breeders Award and CARES programs
  • Priority registration for Swap Meets (5 per year)
  • Ability to buy fish at our Rare Fish Auction (2 per year)
  • Participation in Bag Exchanges (during Covid)
  • Members-only events such as Holiday Party, Picnic, hobby tours and more
  • Our award-winning website which includes hundreds of articles, a cichlid classifieds allow you to find local fish for sale and special members-only sections
  • Show your support for the top cichlid club in the USA
Duration: Lifetime
Price: $500.00
What is the GCCA? The GCCA is a not-for-profit, educational organization, chartered in the state of Illinois, dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of information relating to the biology of the fishes in the family Cichlidae, with particular emphasis on maintenance and breeding in captivity.

We are a bunch of hobbyist who love cichlids and want to help you get more out of the cichlid-keeping hobby.
How do I join GCCA? Joining GCCA is easy. Simply go to the Join Link on our website and you can apply online and pay with Paypal or a credit card. We have individual, family and lifetime memberships available.
When and Where are GCCA Meetings? The GCCA meets on the second Sunday of each month.
We sometimes have special members-only events such as picnics that are not at our regular meeting place.
We suggest checking our Calendar which will always have the latest information.
What member benefits are there?

Firstly, GCCA members are part of a friendly community of local cichlid hobbyists. There is no better way to learn about the hobby than in the company of dedicated, knowledgeable folks who are currently in the club.
That said, there are lots of reasons to join!

Members-only Rare Fish Auctions
Participation in our 
GCCA imports rare fish from around the world and members can bid on them. We have one to two rare fish auctions per year.
GCCA Bag Swaps
Early Swap Meet Registration 
GCCA members get priority registration for our swap meets for table reservations.
Program Participation
Only members may participate in our Breeders Award Program and Bowl Show programs.

What happens at GCCA meetings? A typical meeting has a short business session, including reports from the various committees, e.g., bowl show, audit and budget, show/auction and publication.
An interesting and informative program is presented at each meeting by either a member or, more often than not, by a qualfied, professional speaker.
There is a mini-auction and a raffle with such prizes as tanks, fish foods, power filters, etc.
A bowl show is where members bring in their best fish according to a schedule of species.
What kinds of fish are available at meetings? Generally, cichlid fry and juvenile fish are available at meetings. Participants in GCCA's Breeders Award Program must submit five fry for each species spawned, so there tend to be a lot of young fish.

However, often there are adult fish and even spawning pairs brought in by our members. Many of the fish are hard to find and not available in pet stores.

Our meetings are often when folks exchange fish, too.
How Does the Monthly Meeting's Fish Auction work? Do you have to be a member to bid? Anybody attending the meeting may participate in the auction. The auctioneer will propose a starting bid. If you wish to bid, raise your hand. Bidding generally proceeds in one dollar increments.

GCCA also holds regular open auctions and swap meets where hundreds of bags of fish are available. These events are open to the public.
How do I bag my fish for meetings?

GCCA recommends that all fish are double-bagged. Cichlids often have sharp spines on their dorsal fins that can puncture single bags easily. Fish bags of various sizes may be purchased from pet shops. Bags are often available at GCCA meetings, too. Very large fish may be brought in five gallon buckets.

To bag your fish follow these steps:

    • Choose a bag that is large enough to hold the fish you are bringing. In general, choose a bag with a width equal to three times the body length of the fish.
    • Fill the bag 1/4 to 1/3 of the way with tank water. Place the filled bag in a small bucket or tub to hold it upright. Some folks prefer to mix one-half tank water and tap water of the appropriate temperature. Make sure you add a dechlorinator if necessary.
    • Net the fish out and place in the bag.
    • Lift the bag up and hold it firmly in the left hand. (Reverse if left handed)
    • Quickly grab the neck of the bag with your right hand so that there is approximately a 60/40 mix of air to water.
    • Twist the neck of the bag several times to form a "rope" to tie off.
    • Hold the bag firmly (I hold it between my knees) and pull to stretch the "rope".
    • Tie the neck of the bag in a simple knot.
    • Take a another fish bag and insert the first bag into it, bottom side down.
    • Tuck in the neck of the first bag.
    • Tie off the second bag as described earlier.
What happens at GCCA meetings? A typical meeting has a short business session, including reports from the various committees, e.g., bowl show, audit and budget, show/auction and publication. An interesting and informative program is presented at each meeting by either a member or, more often than not, by a qualfied, professional speaker. There is a mini-auction and a raffle with such prizes as tanks, fish foods, power filters, etc. A bowl show is where members bring in their best fish according to a schedule of species.
Can I come to a meeting or auction as a guest? Yes, guests are always welcome and there is no charge to attend. If you attend a subsequent meeting, you will be asked to join the group.

Our large community-related events such as auctions and swap meets are always open to the public.
What is a water change? Why is it important? A water change is the partial replacement of dirty aquarium water with clean, fresh water. Changing the water is part of regular maintenance that helps keep a cichlid tank clean for its inhabitants.

Performing partial water changes on a regular basis is the most important thing an aquarist can do to keep cichlids healthy. It is important because removing part of the water helps to eliminate dissolved substances, such as nitrates and phosphates before they buildup to harmful levels. In other words, it serves as a type of preventative maintenance. Unlike land based animals, cichlids are swimming in their own waste so you can see why such changes are necessary.
How often should I do a water change? How often and also how much water gets changed in at one time varies among cichlid hobbyists. A typical regime involves changing 25% of the tank volume weekly. Other aquarists may change a greater amount of water only biweekly. But, exactly how much needs to be changed also depends on the number and type of cichlids kept. A tank that is heavily stocked with fish requires more frequent water changes of larger volume than one with few inhabitants. Certain large cichlids are messy (they poop a lot!) and these fish require a lot more maintenacne.

Certain cichlid species that are less tolerant of disruptions in their environment may fare better if only 10% is changed weekly.

Regardless of how often and how much is changed, being consistent with these water changes is the important thing to learn when keeping cichlids.
How do you do a water change? There are several ways to successfully perform a water change. Some cichlid hobbyists use elaborate plumbing that constantly supplies fresh water to the aquarium. Others prefer a hose that attaches to the sink that utilizes gravity to siphon out the dirty water and add fresh water via the same tube.

Even more common is the useful device called a gravel vacuum. It is a type of siphon sold at most fish shops that consists of a length of clear flexible plastic tubing with a wider end made of rigid plastic. The advantage of using a gravel vacuum for changes is that it allows you to also remove the solid waste that collects in the substrate.

A popular water changing tool for 2-15 tanks is the Python Water Changer which attaches to your faucet to suck water from your tanks and can be reversed to fill them.
What water change procedure should I use if I only have tank or two?

One of the easiest methods to change water involves using an inexpensive gravel vacuum and bucket.

Follow these steps:

    • Unplug all devices in the tank like heaters, power heads and power filters. As the water level drops while siphoning, some of these items could possibly be damaged if not immersed and still plugged into the AC outlet.
    • Place the bucket-- we recommend large 5-gallon buckets-- on the floor in front of the aquarium.
    • Remove the top or hood to help access the inside of the tank.
    • Place the wider end of the siphon in the tank and hold on to it with one hand. Grab the other end of the siphon and gently suck on the end to start the water flow and direct into the bucket.
    • Push the wider end of the gravel vacuum into the substrate to siphon out the solid waste. If the gravel starts to flow up the tube, pull up a little on the wide end so it drops back into the tank. When vacuuming gravel, it is a good idea to only vacuum one-half of the substrate at each water change so as not to disturb the beneficial bacteria which help to maintain water quality.
    • Once you have removed the desired amount of water, pour out the contents of the bucket into the toilet or sink. I
    • Run the water in your sink and use a thermometer to match the temperature of the water still in the tank.
    • Fill the empty bucket. Many municipal water supplies contain measurable levels of chlorine or chloramine, so it is a good idea to use one of the commercial products to remove these substances that are harmful to cichlids. The typical dosage is 1 teaspoon per 10 gallons of tap water added.
    • Carefully pour the fresh water into the tank.
    • Plug in all the devices you unplugged earlier and replace the top or hood.
Is there a faster way to change water than using a bucket and siphon hose? If you have more than a couple of tanks, especially if they are large tanks, it makes sense to buy a water changing system that makes use of a faucet-based water pump such as a Python Water Changer.
The Python and similar systems attach to your faucet. A water-powered pump uses the water running from your faucet to suck water from your tank. When finished removing water, you adjust your water temperature, flick a switch, and fresh water flows back into your tank. Prior to refilling, add water conditioners directly to your tank water.
If you have more than ten tanks to change -- and over 200 gallons of water -- it will save time to use an auxilliary utility pump from manufacturers such as Simer and Blue Angel. These pumps have garden hose threads and can pump up to 1600 gallons per minute. Using one of these pumps can save you over half the time you would spend changing water.
If you have twenty tanks or more, it makes sense to plan ahead and build water changing into your fishroom plans. Tanks may be drilled and drain lines run to floor drains. Once plumbed for discharge, options include continuous drip systems which introduce new water constantly or higher volume systems triggered by timers.
What substrate (gravel) will work well with my cichlids?

An attractive substrate makes the tank look nice, can trap some dirt or hide it, and provides anchor for roots of plants.

Some cichlids use the gravel (spawning pits, etc.) and gravel can help to buffer the water and, in some cases, provide a substrate for nitrate cycle bacteria.

The size of gravel you choose will depend on the type of cichlids you are keeping, whether you want to have a planted tank, and whether you want to breed your fish. Many cichlids dig as part of their everyday routine "for fun." Other cichlids dig as part of a spawning ritual. If you choose large pebbles for your substrate, very small cichlids may become frustrated if they cannot dig.

Sand can be used as a substrate, but it will siphon out easier making it a little trickier, but some species really prefer a sand-- rather than gravel-- substrate.

Some cichlid fanciers only use bare bottomed tanks, meaning that gravel or sand is not always necessary. Bare bottomed tanks allow for easier cleaning often and can have rocks or additional decoration, but plants will have no substrate in which to root and water chemistry may be slightly more volatile as the substrate sometimes aids buffering of water characteristics.

Before putting gravel in your tank, always be sure to rinse the gravel, by placing it in a (clean, no soap) bucket and filling with tap water and stirring a bit, then draining, and repeating this process until the drained water becomes clear-- or close to it.

Be careful in that some gravel will affect the pH of the water over time, especially crushed coral or limestone which will tend to raise pH, and other objects like wood may lower pH. Also, avoid using a substrate with sharp edges which could injure your fish.

With cichlids, many people prefer a more natural look and would then avoid the colored gravel. Gravel of different sizes can be purchased from garden centers as well as pet stores. If purchased from a nonpet store, then be sure to wash the gravel well in case of pesticide residues or other harmful substances on or in the gravel.

Can I keep other fish with my cichlids? Before they are old enough to court and breed, most cichlids will coexist peacefully with other fish of different types. Due to their playfulness and appetite, fish with long, trailing fins and fish small enough to fit in the cichlid's mouth should be avoided.

Young cichlids will establish a pecking order among them, and are generally less interested in other species. Once cichlids begin to approach maturity, they will become territorial and aggressive, and are less compatible with other species and other types of fish.

Unless the tank is very large, breeding cichlids should not be kept in the same tank as other fish, since they will do whatever is necessary (sometimes with fatal results) to protect their young. Exceptions include some peaceful South Americans and smaller West African River cichlids, given enough space, plants, and rocks to offer hiding places for other fish.

The most common non-cichlids coexisting in the cichlid aquarium are scavengers, such as plecostomus which are protected by their bony armor as well as their nocturnal habits.

Some large barbs-- such as Tinfoil Barbs-- are fast enough to avoid cichlids. We've also seen species common in the same habitat (an example would be Thoricthys species and Swordtails) kept together successfully in the aquarium.
Can I use plants in my cichlid tank? What plants work well in a cichlid tank? Yes, but it depends on the type of cichlids you keep and you may have to keep your expectations low.

Since many cichlids dig in the gravel, it is quite possible that your fish will uproot your plants. Some predominantly herbivorous cichlids may eat your plants. Other cichlids will tear up plants "for fun" and are efficient aquatic lawn mowers. If your cichlids chew up your plants, bits of leaves and roots can clog filters.

Some plants require lots of light and some cichlids may not be comfortable with a lot of illumination.

Angelfish, discus, Rams and many dwarf cichlids look great and do great in planted tanks.

I have had considerable success growing  Cryptocoryne wendtii  and  Aponegeton  in most of my tanks even with cichlids that dig. Cryptocoryne is tough, requires little light, and spreads quickly. Young fry and overstressed fish will use the thick "forests" as a refuge. Most smaller Malawian mouthbrooders are OK with plants. Some cichlids, however will defy your best attempts to keep a planted tank.

Another tactic is to put plants into terracotta pots. That makes them easy to move later if your cichlids decide that your prized Amazon Sword is breakfast instead of a decoration!

My advice is to give it a try with a few inexpensive plants and proceed cautiously.
What kind of filter should I use on my cichlid tank? That really depends on what kind of cichlids you will be keeping and the type of setup. If you are looking to set up a nice decorative tank for the family room, I would suggest either a power filter that hangs over the side of the aquarium or a canister filter. Filters such as these can perform large amounts of filtration and keep tanks very clean.

One thing to remember is to make sure you have an adequate amount of biological (bacterial) filtration for your tank. For example, a cannister filter will mechanically (remove loose debris) filter and chemically filter (i.e.. the use of carbon), but it will perform no significant amount of biological filtration by itself. This is because there is no real constant media for bacteria to colonize on this filter.

Most serious hobbyists who are breeders use in-tank sponge filters. These air-driven filters are inexpensive and reliable and are available in a number of sizes.
What is a sponge filter? A sponge filter is one of the simplest and efficient filters ever designed. Sponge filters use a piece of foam as media to trap loose debris and host a large amount of beneficial bacteria. Sponge filters sit inside the aquarium and usually have a tube attached to them that you can attach an airline, and some allow you to hook up a circulating pump to them. Sponge filters perform about 75% biological filtration, and only 25% mechanical. Sponge filters are typically used to add extra biological filtration to an aquarium, or to filter a tank of small fish that produce little debris.

With regular water changes, many breeders use sponge filter exclusively for filtration.
When should I use a sponge filter? Sponge filters are great for filtering tanks containing baby fish. Not only can they easily handle the waste the baby fish produce, but sponge filters actually have many microorganisms growing on them that little fish graze upon between feedings. They also won't suck up your baby fish like a power filter will.

Sponge filters are also great if you own a large number of aquariums. While they are not great to look at and take up space in the tank, the charm of these filters is that there are no cartridges to buy when the old ones get dirty, and speaking of dirt, sponge filters are dirt cheap compared to powerfilters! These filters can handle adult cichlids as well, and since many are powered by air bubbles, you can run many sponge filters off a single air pump/blower.

If you have several tanks, you can run multiple tanks off of a single air pump/blower. Sponge filters are capable of handling a whole tank of adult fish , however the use of multiple sponge filters will most likely be necessary for larger tanks. Since sponge filters aren't very good at mechanically filtering the water, it is a good idea to do water changes and substrate cleanings a bit more frequently. I do water changes about once every 2 weeks on tanks I use sponge filters in. If the tank is lightly stocked, you can probably get away with doing a water change once a month.
Can I use an Undergravel filter (UGF) with cichlids? Yes and No. This depends on the type of cichlid you're keeping. Many cichlids will move gravel to all parts of the aquarium and uncover the UGF plate, which renders the UGF useless. For this reason, UGFs are bad ideas for MOST cichlids. However, for fish like the Cyprichromis that like fairly still water and do not dig, an UGF would be a perfect filter choice. UGFs are also good for raising baby cichlids in as well. Fry and juveniles don't dig all that much, so it is safe to use an UGF to filter a tank full of these guys.

UGFs are definitely out of the question for nearly all South American cichlids. These cichlids dig more than any other group of cichlids. The only adult South American cichlids that won't re-arrange gravel to the point of making an UGF useless are: Discus, angelfish, and the dwarf cichlids such as the Apistogrammas . The only adult African cichlids that really won't disturb UGFs are the Cyprichromis species. The Aulonocara ("peacocks") from Lake Malawi tend to not disturb UGFs if flat surfaces for breeding are available. Other than the mentioned fish, the majority of adult cichlids will move enough gravel around to not make it worth using an undergravel filter.
What kind of filtration should be used for big tanks with big cicllids? Large Central American cichlid pose some specific filtration problems. They eat a lot and therefore poop a lot. They like to uproot plants and redecorate the aquarium. Sometimes they eat sponge filters and attach filter tubes.

Large power filters or cannister filters are a good choice. I use wet/dry filters on my large tanks or a powerhead which pumps to large pond filter which uses gravity to return water to the tank.
What is a wet/dry filter? A wet/dry filter is sometimes called a trickle filter. You place the wet/dry filter which has a large sump underneath the aquarium. A pump in the sump returns water to the tank.
Wet/dry filters require an overflow box or drilled tank to move surface water from the tank down to the sump.
What kind of cichlid should I keep? What do you  like?
GCCA members argue about this endlessly! If you come to one of our meetings, someone will inevitably ask you whether you keep Old World (African) or New World (South and Central American) cichlids. With some cichlid enthusiasts, this becomes nearly a religious issue.
As someone who keeps and breeds both, here is a list of things you should consider:

Do you want to breed your cichlids?  If so, you may want to start with one of the easier beginner fish.
What kind of personality do you want in your fish? Some cichlids are quiet and sedate, others are aggressive and territorial. Cichlid behavior is fascinating to watch and we shouldn't make value judgements that aggressive fish are bad. . . they are just following nature.
What kind of water do you have?  Chicago water is generally hard and virtually all Africans and many South American cichlids are adaptable to it. If you have soft water, you may want to keep cichlid species that thrive in soft water.
What size tank do you have?  If you have a 10 gallon tank, you won't be able to keep large fish. If you have a 200 gallon tank, you have a lot of choices!
How much time do you have to spend with your fish?  Some cichlid species are low maintenance and tolerant of lapses in water quality. Other fish are more delicate and need more rigorous attention.
What kind of tank do you have?  If you have a tall hexagon tank or show tank, you may be better off sticking to fish that enjoy a lot of vertical space such as angelfish. If you have a long low tank, you can accommodate territorial species who "war" over floor space.
What habits do you like in your fish?  Do you want to keep shoaling fish that swim in a school? Do you want to keep outgoing fish that will recognize you when you enter the room? (Yes, some really do!) Do you want to keep fish that stick to the bottom half of your tank? Top half of your tank? Fast swimmers? Slow swimmers?
Are you adding cichlids to a tank with other non-cichlids in a community tank?  Many cichlids are aggressive and territorial... especially when breeding. Some grow big enough to make a quick snack of your guppies and swordtails.
Do you want to keep a several kinds of cichlids or a single species?

One of the best ways to choose a fish is to see it swimming in the tank of one of our members. Fish don't behave normally in pet shops. Some fish which are timid in pet shops are great in aquariums.
So, come to a meeting and ask. You'll probably get invited over to someone's house!
What cichlids do you recommend for a beginner? We'd recommend you start off with the less aggressive species of cichlids, especially if you have small tanks.
Here are some of our favorites which are:
1) Hardy 2) Not very aggressive 3) Do well in Chicago water 4) Don't get too big for ten gallon tank 5) Readily available
Bolivian Ram  Microgeophagus altispinosa  The Bolivina Ram is a small substrate spawning cichlid from South America. These colorful, little fish are peaceful and can be kept in a community tank.  Microgeophagus altispinosa  can show very nice coloration‚Äî blue, yellow, gold, orange, bronze and black. Both male and female have a dot in the middle of the body. Most fins have a red border with the addition of blue on the pelvic and anal fins. A sand substrate is a good idea.
Kribensis  Pelvicachromis pulcher  This dwarf cichlid may be kept in a community tank and only becomes aggressive when spawning. Both males and females are attractive; females have a beautiful cherry red belly. A substrate spawner which appreciates a cave or flowerpot to spawn in.
Multi  Neolamprologus multifasciatus  Multies are tiny, shelldwelling cichlids from Lake Tanganyika which only get up to about 1.5 inches. You'll need a sand substrate and several 1.5" snail shells. Four to six will do well in a ten-gallon tank. It's fun to watch the males move the shells around and compete for females.
Cockatoo Cichlid , Apistogramma cacatuoides   Apistogramma cacatuoides  is one of the most colorful of the Dwarf Cichlids. Not surprisingly, it is also one of the most popular. It's easy to tell the males and females apart and when the female is ready to spawn, she turns bright yellow. There are a number of different color varieties available. 
What cichlids are easy to breed for the beginner? Many cichlid species are easy to breed for the beginners. If you do water changes and feed them, most cichlids will readily breed.

Most cichlids do best in a species tank, as virtually all cichlids can get aggressive during spawning. Here are two examples of cichlids that are fairly easy to breed, but there are many others.

Convict Cichlid,  Archocentrus nigrofasciatum  This substrate spawning fish spawns readily and at a young age. We've seen them spawning in pet shop tanks! The traditional striped and a pink variety are available. Provide a flat piece of rock for spawning. Males are larger and have more pointed fins. Pet shop stock of Convicts is zillions of generation from the wild, so if you are more discerning, find a wild-type with a location noted. Certain locations in the wild produce more colorful fish. As around at a GCCA meeting.

Yellow Labs,  Labidochromis caeruleus  This mouthbrooding cichlid is has different color varieties. Make sure you ask for "Yellow Labs" and not just the latin name as there are white and striped variants of the species. This fish is not too hard to spawn. Males have longer, pointed fins. Provide a flat rock for spawning and plenty of cover for the mouthbrooding female or remove her to a quiet, planted tank when you see her buccal sack (throat area) full of eggs. Females will hold the eggs for 16 to 21 days before releasing the fry. A 20-gallon or larger tank is needed.
What size tank do I need? One oft-quoted rule of thumb in aquarium keeping is to have no more that one inch of fish per gallon of water.

This works fine if you keep little livebearing fish, but most cichlids are bigger, more robust and aggressive.

You will need to consider the following factors when choosing what size tank to purchase:

Do you want to breed your cichlids?  Spawning cichlids will often aggressively defend their "floor space". Longer, shallow tanks are often better than short, tall tanks for this reason.

How often are you willing to change the water?  If you change the water weekly, you can keep more fish than if you change it monthly.

How big will your fish grow?  Some cichlids grow to a foot or more within three years. I once grew a small one-inch  Geophagus brasilensis  to 7 inches in ten months.

What kind of filtration do you use?  If you have a very efficient filtration system that can maintain pristine water quality, you can keep more fish.

What kind of cichlids do you want to keep?  Some active cichlids are much happier with a lot of swimming space. Other dwarf cichlids, such as Tanganyikan shell dwellers, are perfectly happy to stay in a six-inch square territory on the bottom of the tank.

Where do I buy cichlids? Most pet stores carry cichlids and a few specialize in rare and hard to find species. Unfortunately, there are far fewer really good pet stores these days.

You can also buy cichlids on the internet, generally from individuals who sell them, or via <a href="http://www.aquabid.com" target="_blank">AquaBid</a>, an online auction for fish. GCCA also offers an online Classifieds system.

I prefer to buy fish from someone I know and trust.

One of the best places to buy fish is at GCCA meetings where members bring in fish to sell each month.

GCCA also hosts large public auctions and swap meets. You can talk to knowledgeable vendors at our swap meets and see the fish before you buy them.
What size tank do I need? The general rule of thumb in aquarium keeping is to have no more that one inch of fish per gallon of water. Thus, if you had a twenty gallon tank (with no substrate or rocks to diminish the total water volume), you could have five 4-inch fish. This formula also assumes you will change 25% of the tank volume each week. See What is a water change? Why is it important? for more details.

Realistically, however, you will need to consider the following factors when choosing what size tank to purchase:

Do you want to breed your cichlids?  Spawning cichlids will often aggressively defend their "floor space". Longer, shallow tanks are often better than short, tall tanks for this reason.

How often are you willing to change the water?  If you change the water weekly, you can keep more fish than if you change it monthly.

How big will your fish grow?  Some cichlids grow to a foot or more within three years. I once grew a small one-inch  Geophagus brasilensis  to 7 inches in ten months.

What kind of filtration do you use?  If you have a very efficient filtration system that can maintain pristine water quality, you can keep more fish.

What kind of cichlids do you want to keep?  Some active cichlids are much happier with a lot of swimming space. Other dwarf cichlids, such as Tanganyikan shell dwellers, are perfectly happy to stay in a six-inch square territory on the bottom of the tank.

Should I buy young fish or adult fish? If you are interested in breeding your fish, you should consider young fish. Our members generally prefer to buy five or six juvenile fish and grow them up together so that natural pair bonds will develop. If you buy five or six fish, the odds are strongly in your favor that you will have at least one male or female.

Virtually all juvenile fish found for sale at GCCA's monthly meeting mini-auction are tank raised by our members. Each bag is marked with the member's name; you can talk to the "parents" of the fish to find out more about the species and its requirements.

If you have a mixed adult cichlid tank and want to add fish, it might be better to stick to larger, adult fish who can handle the territorial tendencies of the existing inhabitants.
How much do cichlids cost? Cichlids are available in a wide range of prices.

Many common cichlid species are only a dollar or two per fish and are very affordable, while some rare, show-quality fish can be thousands of dollars.

A number of factors affect the cost of the fish:

Rarity of the species or variant of the species  Some African cichlid species look much different based on the location where they were collected in the lake. Especially desirable colors or markings may make one variant more expensive than the other.

How difficult the fish is to breed

How many fry are in each spawn  Most mouthbrooding African cichlids have 15 to 30 fry per spawn. Some substrate spawning New World cichlids have hundreds of fry per spawn. This can greatly affect the price you pay.

How difficult it is to raise fry

The market demand for the fish

Various other factors including marketing hype. Beware of buying fish with "amped up" trade names such as "Super Red Dragon Peacock". These are simply line-bred fish or, in some cases, hybrids!

Can I mix different kinds of cichlids? Cichlid-only community tanks-- usually with non-cichlid scavengers-- are very common in the cichlid hobby.

Experienced cichlid keepers often find unlikely combinations of cichlids which work well by chance (e.g. a shortage of tank space, or a fish jumping into another tank). Aquarists will commonly attempt to group fish of similar geographical origin, e.g. rock dwellers of lake Malawi, Africa, in one tank, as this is a nice way to attempt to simulate the fish's natural habitat (plants, rocks, and other decorations are usually chosen to match this habitat as well).

A common approach to creating a successful community tank of colorful, fast swimming African cichlids is to stock the tank as heavily as filtration will safely allow (thus distributing aggression between many fish so individual fish are less likely to be bullied and persecuted) and providing plenty of hiding places through elaborate use of rocks.

Key to establishing a successful community of mixed slower swimming, deliberate, territorial South American cichlids is to have a balance of power between individual fish and pairs, and to remove fish at the first sign of bullying. As with Africans, providing plenty of hiding places through rocks, plants, and driftwood is useful.

If you're not sure about species pairings, post a message in our forum or ask someone at one of our meetings.

Note: Even if another aquarist has successfully kept two species together, that doesn't you won't experience problems. Within a species, temperament can vary widely, just as it does in the wild.

For example, a few years ago I bought a group of eight, young juvenile  Aulonocara stuartgranti  "ngara flametail", one of the most desirable peacocks in the hobby. These fish are not generally considered very aggressive and very seldom do they do any damage to each other or tankmates.

Once in a while, however, a super aggressive male will develop and that is what I experienced. He terrorized the other fish in the tank killing his rivals, all his females and even doing damange to some mbuna which were sharing the tank. The exception proves the rule!
Why is only one of my cichlids colorful? There may be several reasons that your cichlids haven't "colored up."

Fish must feel good to show their colors  If stressed, sick, or in the wrong water conditions, cichlids may have faded or loss of color.

Dominance  Cichlids usually form a hierarchy of dominance in a tank, and normally only the dominant male of a given species will fully display his colors to their fullest extent. Often times, non-dominant males will seek to hide their colors and appear less threatening, or at least incur the aggression of the dominant individual less often, by sort of masquerading as a female or juvenile.  This can occur with females as well, but is usually more often noted among males. Also, not all species will have individuals that hide their colors. For example,  Labidochromis caeruleus  will almost always appear bright yellow (or whatever their original color) even if non-dominant.

Food  Another reason that only some (or perhaps none) of your cichlids may show their colors well is that they may not be receiving foods that contain the pigments used by the fish to manifest and display the color. There are foods that are known to contain more color enhancing properties, and some of the popular brands of fish food will advertise the inclusion of these substances.

Age Only young adult and adult fish will show their brightest colors. Many African cichlids do not mature until they are about nine months old or more at which time male color will manifest.

Why are my cichlids digging? Just like humans, cichlids will promptly begin to personalize their territory once chosen. To the cichlid, there are several considerations:
How can I make it very obvious at a glance that this is my territory?
My offspring will be close to the bottom. I'd better get ready by clearing out a big space that can harbor debris and bacteria that can harm my young.
I will need to keep my offspring in a protected place, especially at night. A pit or depression in the bottom would be perfect for that.
Mouthbrooders only: I will need to have a clean depression in the bottom in which to lay/fertilize eggs before my female scoops them up in her mouth for safekeeping.
Are their obstacles in my territory that will allow potential threats to my offspring to hide? Are their plants I can uproot? Are there rocks and pieces of wood I can push out of the way?
In the wild, I find food in the sand and gravel, so I'll constantly stir up the gravel to find food as I'm programmed to do.
Of course, cichlids are not constantly breeding, but, intelligent as they are, they are always planning ahead!
What is a dither/target fish? Aggression is a natural component of cichlid behavior, as it is useful in protecting territory and young. Occasionally, this protective aggression will overflow if there is no appropriate target, and a cichlid will attack its mate (can you say "cabin fever"?).

Experienced cichlid hobbyists and breeders will often add other fish --"dither fish"-- in these cases to offer an appropriate target, thus enabling a less abusive relationship within the cichlid pair. Smaller schooling fish such as barbs or rainbows or immature cichlids work well as dither fish, provided they are either fast swimming for quick escape, or are fairly expendable -- should they become lunch.

Dither fish are also used to draw out shy fish, such as discus and angelfish, which will tend to hide and be apprehensive and skittish in a quiet, sparsely populated aquarium.
Why are my cichlids fighting? What can I do to stop it? Fighting in cichlids can either signify a struggle for territory, dominance, an element of courtship, or all of the above. In many cichlids, fighting will have a theatrical, ritualistic quality, with spectacular displays of color and finnage, posturing, and lots of gill flaring Gill flaring, in particular, is an overtly aggressive gesture as it makes the head and thus the whole fish appear larger.

In others, the fight will get down to the nitty gritty very quickly and torn finnage, missing scales and sometimes a seriously injured fish will result. During courtship, some high-bodied South Americans will actually lock lips and attempt to pull each other backward through the aquarium. The purpose of aggressive behavior during courtship is to help each mate evaluate the strength/ferociousness of the other, thus determining his/her worth as a mate and as a worthy partner in defense of offspring and territory.

Research has shown that increased intensity of lighting can actually help reduce aggression in some cichlids. Occasionally an established breeding pair of cichlids will fight with each other-- in these cases, a tank divider through which the fish can still see each other and even breed is often the solution of choice.

Commonly employed methods of managing fighting and aggression include use of dither fish, heavily stocking an aquarium to distribute aggression between many fish vs. one or few targets, providing plenty of space and hiding places, reducing temperature somewhat, removing bullying or bullied fishes, and removing breeding fish from the community tank.
I think my cichlid is sick. What do I do?

Generally, cichlids do well if the water is changed regularly and tank and water conditions are kept clean and similar to their natural requirements. However, if there are factors stressing your cichlids (which can include overcrowding, high nitrates, nitrites, measurable ammonia, aggression, insufficient dark time, incorrect pH, incorrect temperature, poor foods, too much or too little food, etc.), their immune system will be compromised and they may become prone to disease or injury.

While we can't cure your fish on-line, here are a few things to consider:
 Is the fish really sick? It might be "pregnant" if a mouthbrooder, or may be stressed from other causes, such as aggression, poor or toxic water conditions, etc.
Do a water change. It certainly can't hurt, and may likely help. A 50% water change with dechlorinated water of the same temperature and chemical makeup is a great idea.
Determine the cause as best you can. Read about symptoms to various diseases, see some of the resources below. Choose a method of treatment, which may include isolation, water changes, and/or addition of medication.
Avoid the cause of the disease in the future, and keep your water conditions good for your current and future cichlids.
General signs of a sick cichlid can include:

Not eating
Lethargy, no energy
Visible lesions, sores, or holes in the fish
Constantly clamped fins
Standing on head or back
Hanging with head (mouth) to surface of water (indicates suffocation, perhaps insufficient oxygen in water)
White spots on body and/or fins; most likely ich
Bloating and swelling
Torn or ragged fins (occasional small tears can be normal among aggressive species)
Bulging eyes
Very frequent scraping on sides or decorations in tank

Sometimes, a cichlid will appear to be sick when the problem is aggression or poor conditions. If the fish is a female mouthbrooder, look to see if the throat is bulging slightly, which can indicate that the fish has spawned and is carrying eggs (thus not eating and tending to hide). Or, another fish may be come extremely aggressive during a breeding period, which may make other fish cower. Fish can be injured from attacks from aggressive other fish, and this can result in missing scales, torn fins, and when an eye is hurt, a cloudy appearing eye. Most of these problems will heal given time and safety for the fish,
The most frequent pathogens for fish include parasites and bacteria. It is not a good idea to medicate a fish without having some idea of the cause of the problem. Doing so with the wrong medication can increase stress and cause unintended harm for the fish. Consult a book or one of the websites listed below to determine the likely cause based upon symptoms.
Some people will isolate a sick fish in a "hospital tank", which allows you to treat that fish without affecting the other fish in the original tank as well as providing some safety for the sick individual during a time of weakness. This can also save money, as you will usually need less of the medication to treat a smaller hospital tank than you would the original larger tank.
Common treatments include adding aquarium salt, antibiotics, antibacterial agents, antifungal agents (such as malachite green), and antiparasitic agents (such as copper based compounds). Care must be taken with each. With antibiotics, as with people, the dose must be given over a period of time-- often 5 to 7 days-- rather than a shorter period, because a shorter treatment can result in not killing all of the infectious bacteria and allowing a resistant strain to develop and making your next treatment all that much more difficult. Follow the directions on the container, and consult the resources below.
This is one of the advantages of belonging to a fish club such as GCCA, where you have the combined experience of many people to consult for diagnostic help.
It is important to keep watch over the tank so that you can observe any behavioral and obvious physical changes. Also, if any individual fish die, you must remove them immediately or ammonia will build up in the water, which will further stress any remaining fish. Keeping the water clean, and doing regular water changes is essential to help nurture the fish back to health as well as to dispose of pathogens in the water column and dispose of any residual or decomposing medications. If you have multiple tanks, be sure not to use the same materials (such as nets, rocks, etc.) in another tank without at least washing (if not otherwise sterilizing) these materials, otherwise you may spread the pathogens to other tanks and other fish.
Useful books on fish disease/health:  Andrews, C., Exell, A., &amp; Carrington, N. (1988). The Manual of Fish Health. New Jersey: Tetra.  Untergasser, D. (1989). Handbook of Fish Diseases . Neptune City, NJ: TFH.
Other general books on cichlids usually contain a chapter on fish health and disease and a few that you might consider include Enjoying Cichlids by Ad Konings, or The Cichlid Aquarium by Paul Loiselle.

How do I tell if my cichlid is male or female? Good question. Undoubtedly it will be one or the other!
First it is nearly impossible to tell the sex of fry. Some maturity is necessary to see the signs of gender indication, in species that have gender indication. For instance you know you have a boy and girl angelfish only when you see hatched fry. Other than that, angels can be very difficult to tell.
In general the following can be used as markers in helping determine gender. However, as with the English language, for every rule, there are exceptions. Further consulting of a good reference book is recommended.
Males are usually larger than their female counterparts.
Males tend to be more colorful, especially with Rift Lake Cichlids. Females, as a rule, lack bright colors, to the point of being mundane (better to protect the fry).
Males tend to develop pointed finnage. This usually occurs with the tip of the dorsal fin and the tip of the anal fin. Females tend to have rounded or blunt dorsal and anal fins.
In some species, males develop a bump on their forehead. This is called a nuchal hump. In some species, both males and females have humps, but the males are generally larger.
Males tend to be the most aggressive of a group of fish, trying to clear and hold a territory.
Mouthbrooding cichlid males tend to have several large spots on their anal fin, called egg spots. These are used to trick females into thinking they are eggs, starting the breeding process. Although some females may have a spot or two, most do not.
How do I breed my Cichlid? First, knowledge is power. If you are trying to breed a particular fish, consult a good reference book, a knowledgeable pet shop or a local aquarium society-- like GCCA!. Many fish have very specific requirements; others will breed at the drop of a hat, under the most adverse conditions.
Generally, the following are required for breeding to occur:

Good water quality
Regular feedings
Quality Food
Suitable habitat; large enough with appropriate type spawning sites for the type of fish being kept
Start out with more that a pair. Provide multiple choices to the fish since over attentive males can kill a single female
To help control male aggression, a few target or dither fish are appropriate

Again, knowledge is power. If you have fish that grow ten inches, make sure you have tank space. If the fish needs sand substrate or breeds in caves, make sure you provide them.
How do I breed my African Cichlid? Although many books cover cichlid breeding, a lot of knowledge about how to breed cichlids is "in the village", spread throughout the hobbyist community. I've learned way more about breeding cichlids from other hobbyists than books and the internet combined!

GCCA has many Cichlid Profiles on our website which include detailed information about how to spawn cichlids. Each fish featured has been spawned by one of our members and we tell you how.

Here are some general guidelines:
    • Most Malawian Cichlids are mouthbrooders. This means that fertilization and fry development takes place in the female's mouth. Most mouthbrooders are harem spawners, in which the male mates with as many females as he can. The male only participates in the fertilization process, and not in any post spawning care of the eggs or the fry. Males generally clear out and hold a territory, then flash, and display to the females, trying to entice them to his territory.
    • The easiest way to breed Malawian cichlids is to obtain a group of 6 to 8 juveniles and grow them up. This will allow the development of multiple males and females and generally allow aggression to be spread out on the group and not on an individual, reducing stress levels.
    • Most mouthbrooders like to spawn on a flat area of rock, in a deptression, or the aquarium bottom. Follow the basic guidelines supplied in "How do I breed my Cichlid?" FAQ, provide plenty of rockwork, caves and hiding places, and generally, they will spawn.
    • The first signs that a female is holding fry in her mouth is that she does not eat. You can also see a visible bulge in her lower jaw, called the buccal cavity, where the eggs are kept. They will generally hatch in 3 to 5 days and be free swimming in 14 to 20 days. During this time the female does not eat, so go easy on the rest of the tank. Otherwise, she might disregard her duties and eat too!
    • After about twenty-one days, the female will release her fry. Some species will continue to guard the fry for a few more days, even letting them back in her mouth. After that she will lose interest and might even determine that her children might be a tasty snack!
    • Fry can be stripped from the female, a process in which the babies are removed from her by holding her under water and gently prying her mouth open to release the fry. It is best to do this well after the fry have hatched, but prior to her releasing. Depending on the fish, 10-14 days is usually the best time to strip.
    • Helpful Hint: watch for dramatic changes in the weather. I have found that doing a large (50%) water change on a night when barometric pressure is falling rapidly helps induce spawning.
    • Tanganyikan Cichlids are mix of substrate spawners and mouthbrooders (Tropheus, Frontosa). For substrate spawners, most Tanganyikans are secretive cave or crack spawners. Provide flower pots, stacked rockwork, terracotta caves and so on.
    • It is unlikely you can tell when most Tanganyikan substrate spawners have laid eggs, but when you see a female (and maybe a male) guarding a territory, eggs may have been laid. Since substrate-spawning tangs are secretive, you might not see the babies until they are free swimming.
How do I breed South American (New World) Cichlids? There are so many different species of New World cichlids that no one answer can suffice. Follow these general guidelines should work well with most cichlids that breed in pairs.

Always use a larger tank than common sense will dictate.  Many cichlids are extremely aggressive fish as an everyday temperament. Imagine them when they want to spawn! I like long tanks for breeding cichlids. The greater the distance between male and female, the better. For example, I want to breed a pair of 4-inch fish and have the choice of using a 29-gallon or a 30-gallon tank. I would go with the 30 because it is a longer tank. If the male is beating up the female, a divider in the tank works well. Give the male 2/3 of the tank and the female 1/3. Put a hole in the divider that the female can fit through but that the male can't. When the male gets too aggressive, the female can hide on her side of the tank.

Know the fish's habitat and duplicate it as best as possible. Everything from giving them spawning sites to duplicating natural water conditions.

Keep your water quality high by performing at least a 40% water change, weekly.

Feed the best quality food you can afford. Before you can breed a fish, you have to get them in breeding condition.

Provide a good spawning site like a flat rock, flower pot, etc.

Why do some aquarists "strip" mouthbrooding cichlids? How do you strip a mouthbrooding cichlid? Most mouthbrooding cichlid females will hold fry for 14 to 28 days. During this time, they may become ematiated because they don't eat while holding fry. There are several reasons to strip mouthbrooding cichlids:

To increase the brood size since the female may eat some portion of the spawn if you allow her to go to term.
To prevent females from eating/spitting out or losing the spawn prematurely.
To extend the life of the female and her productivity so she can have more broods in a shorter period of time. In an active tank, some stubborn females will continue to hold fry until they expire rather than release fry.

How to strip a female:
Get a clean one gallon bucket or container, a turkey baster, a clean toothpick and a net. Have a tank ready for the fry.
Siphon some water into the container. About 3-4 inches or so.
Net out the fish.
Wet your hand and hold the fish in your left hand if you are right handed.
Gently use the toothpick to pry open the female's mouth and keep it open. Be gentle and do not insert the toothpick more than one-eight inch or so or you could damage the fry and/or female.
Hold her under water and move her back and forth in the direction of her body and she should spit out the eggs.
Put the female into a recovery tank or back into the main tank if there is enough cover for her.
You can pour the fry into your grow-out tank. If they are eggs, you may want to use the Turkey baster.

What to do with the eggs
When you strip the fish, you may find that the eggs may be in one of three states of development:

Free-Swimming These fry have absorbed their yolk sac (or almost all of it) and can swim well. You can place these directly into a grow out tank.  
Heads &amp; Tails These fry have a prominent yolk sac showing and are not swimming yet. Sometimes fry at this stage are called "belly whompers". These fry may be placed in a 2 gallon or larger container which has a very smooth surface to prevent damage to the fry. Add a small heater and small sponge filter and keep the light low until the fish have developed.  
Eggs These fry have not hatched yet. To get them to hatch successfully, they need subtle movement and must be kept in low light levels or they will not develop properly. Some aquarists "bubble" them in a egg tumbler available from Jehmco. I like to use eight quart Rubbermaid Space Saving Square Containers. They are smooth and nearly indestructible.
When should you feed newborn fry? Fry are born with yolk sacs that give them all the nutrition they need for the first part of their lives. How long the yolk sacs last differs from species to species. They can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Keep a close eye on the fry and when the yolk sac is gone, start feeding.

For the first couple of meals, underfeed. You want the fry to recognize it as food. Too heavy and you will foul the tank. After you see that the fry are eating-- round bellies-- increase the amount daily. Be careful not to overfeed. If you feed something like newly hatched brine shrimp, there should be no free swimming shrimp an hour after you feed. If there are, ease up next time. Pretty soon you'll be able to judge how much is right.
What do you feed newborn fry? Feeding newborn fry isn't difficult. Keep this simple rule in mind-- The smaller the fry, the smaller their mouths, the smaller the food. Some cichlid fry are so small that the first food should be infusoria (green water) which essentially paramecium-sized. Other larger fry can go directly to baby brine shrimp (newly hatched or frozen) or a brine shrimp replacement such as Cyclop-Eeze. Another alternative is to feed microworms.
How do I hatch baby brine shrimp? Hatching baby brine is relatively easy. You can go the your local pet store and buy a hatching kit which includes brine shrimp eggs and a hatcher and follow the included instructions. Purchase a brine shrimp net if one is not included in the kit.

You can also build a hatcher of your own out of a one-gallon jar with an airstone or as I do, use an inverted 3-liter bottle with air feeding from the narrow neck. I cut the bottom out of the bottle and save as a cover. To hatch brine shrimp in a homemade set-up, follow these steps:

    • Put in 72 ounces (9 cups) of water, mark a water line, and add one ounce of non-iodized salt.
    • Add 1 to 2 heaping teaspoons of brine shrimp eggs. Cover and turn on air. The amount of eggs varies by the amount of shrimp needed. 2 heaping teaspoons can feed a whole fish room of fry. Try 1 teaspoon, wait 24 hours, see what your hatch is and adjust from there. Brine shrimp generally hatch in 24 hours at 80 degrees F.
    • To harvest the brine shrimp:
    • Turn off the air supply and shine a light on the side of the container.
    • Wait about fifteen minutes.
    • The hatched eggshells will float to the top and the brine shrimp will go to the light. There will also be sediment on the bottom. Siphon the shrimp into the brine shrimp net and rinse thoroughly.
    • Feed. If you have too much, put the extra baby brine shrimp in some water, pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.
Jehmco offers a variety of brine shrimp hatchers that work very well. I add a small heater to keep the temperature at 82F and the eggs hatch in about 17 hours.
Any alternatives to hatching baby brine shrimp? Although I personally feel that there is nothing better than newly hatched brine shrimp to get your fry off on the right foot, there is no shortage of great foods out there that can substitute for newly hatched brine shrimp. The first is frozen baby brine shrimp. You can also feed microworms, whiteworms, infusoria, Cyclop-eze, flakes, liquids, etc. Whatever fits in their mouths, they will eat.

Some care must be given to some fish, such as  Tropheus , that should be weaned to an all-vegetable diet ASAP. There are several vegetable or spirulina flakes that can be ground within your fingers and pulverized for fry.
How do I wean fry off of one food onto another? Transitioning fish from one food to another stays basically the same for fry or for adults, although adults are easier. If you withhold food from adults and then present them with something new, they will eat. Adults can go days without food.

Fry are more vulnerable. They don't have any real amount of stored body fats to speak of so starving them isn't the best plan. If you are weaning fry from baby brine to flake food, I find that the best way is to feed the new food first and then feed the baby brine. They will eventually get the idea and vigorously eat both.

One technique that has worked for me is to start the fry off on baby brine shrimp, then switch to brine shrimp flakes. I assume that the flavor is similar.

Once your fish are no longer fry, I find it best to change what you feed them often. They tend to be less finicky as adults. I feed all my fish three or four kinds of food weekly. Foods range from earthworms to adult brine shrimp to several different flake foods. The flake food range from spirulina flakes to growth flakes to brine shrimp or earthworm flakes. Sometimes I mix 3 or 4 flakes together and feed that. Variety is the way to go. Would you want to eat the same thing at every meal?
How do I raise baby cichlids? There are many methods that work, here is mine! Most important is quality food. I feed twice a day during the week (flake food in the morning and baby brine in the evening) and 3 times a day on weekends (one extra feeding of flakes). Never feed more than they can eat.

Keep the temperature and the water quality constant. For very young fry which are still in small tanks or containers under five gallons, a daily 50% water change (same temp and makeup) is a good idea.

For fry in growout tanks of give gallons and up, I follow the same schedule as for my adult tanks (25-50% weekly).

Special care is needed for raising very large spawns. Some Central American cichlids lay hundreds of eggs. I raise these in a ten-gallon tank and do 50% daily water changes since there are so many fry. They need to be moved to bigger tanks quickly or their growth will be stunted.

My fry tanks have only one sponge filter, but I do use a sand substrate.
Why are my cichlid fry dying? If you do weekly water changes and feed quality foods, this question shouldn't come up. It is inevitable that sometimes fry die. Is it 1 or 2 out of 100s? Or is it 5 or 6 out of 20? If it's the former, I wouldn't sweat it. A few dead fry is not out of the realm of normal. Especially with some inbred strains, genetics plays a large part. If inbreeding causes mutations such as curved spines, bent lips, etc. then it only stands to reason that some fry will be born with conditions that will not allow them a long life.

However, if you are finding an inordinate amount of dead fry, something is wrong!

Water Quality Make sure you keep up with water changes for your fry tanks. Check the temperature!  

Overfeeding Live baby brine shrimp can kill your baby fish if overfed. Baby brine are shrimp and have exoskeletons with sharp edges which can tear open your fry from the inside. This is a particular problem with mouthbrooder fry.  

Cannibalism Common in predatory species, if you suddenly see one fry get much larger than the others, remove it!

How do I hatch mircoworms? What are they?

Microworms are a nematode  Panagrellus redivivus . Another name for Microworms is "Sour paste nematode" which should give you an indicator about how to raise them.

Here's what you'll need:

Starter culture of microworms. Someone in the GCCA always has some.

2-cup plastic container with lid. A clean margarine tub works well.

A packet of Active Dry Yeast

Gerber Baby Oatmeal (available at any grocery store)

Setting up the Culture 

Mix 1/4 cup Baby Oatmeal, 1/4 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon yeast in the container.

Wipe down the sides of the container using a wet paper towel so that the sides of the container are clean

Poke 8-10 1/8 inch holes in the top of the container

Add a teaspoon of starter microworms culture.

Place the lid on the container and keep at room temperature.


Feeding the Microworms and Renewing the culture

The worms will multiply rapidly and after about 7-10 days the worms come out of the culture mediaum and crawl up the sides of the container. When they do, you just wipe them off with your finger and stir them into the top water of your aquarium.

A good, active culture can yield about 1/4 teaspoon of worms to feed daily.

The culture will likely be viable for about three more weeks. When the culture starts to turn dark or smell really bad (OK, they don't smell that good to begin with), start a new culture.

I like to start new culture every two weeks and I usually keep four total going which provides backup.

Note: There are many different ways to raise microworms and there are different culture mediums which can work. I like to use Baby Oatmeal because it is vitamin fortified. My thinking is that the worms cultured in this medium are more nutritious.

What happens at a GCCA meeting? A typical meeting has a short business session, including reports from the various committees, e.g., bowl show, audit and budget, show/auction and publication.

An interesting and informative program is presented at each meeting by either a member or, more often than not, by a qualfied, professional speaker.

There is a mini-auction and a raffle with such prizes as tanks, fish foods, power filters, etc.

A bowl show is where members bring in their best fish according to a schedule of species.