For you American cichlid fanatics out there I’m looking for some suggestions, advice, and/or experience. I have been slowly selling off the discus and other community fish from my planted 220 gallon tank and am looking for something completely different. I have or have done most of the usual community fish and loaches. I have done some Malawi cichlids and now have some Tanganyika cichlids. I now have my first Victorians (Hap. Sp. 35). I even did natives at one point. But other than the lone Oscar that ate all of his tank mates 20 years ago I have never done any large CA/SA cichlids. After quite a bit of research I am leaning heavily towards the new set up being centered around either a pair of amphilophus festae/cichlasom festae/red terrors or a pair of aequidens rivulatus/gold saum/white saum/green terror. I like the sound of the “personality” associated with the American cichlids. I’m planning to start with 6-12 and thin the herd as they grow to hopefully end up with a breeding pair at the end.
As far as other fish to include in the tank my only thoughts would be to look for inhabitants that would benefit the ultimate goal of eventually getting to see the pair breed (i.e. do I need some sort of cleanup crew as in my experience the bigger the fish the more messy the eating habits and hence a desire to have other fish that will take care of the uneaten specks of food scattered throughout the tank).
The tank has built-in overflows so filtration consists of a 40 gallon long tank built into a custom sump. I run it with about 35 gallons of water in it. The sump has 4 hydor V sponge filters and a few other miscellaneous sponges as well as a small section of bio balls and a reticulated foam block. Mechanical filtration is provided by filter socks and I run a mag 18 on the tank so between 1000 and 1200 gallons per hour of turn over given head height to tank. I have an 8 bulb T5HO light and CO2 available and was thinking of floating water lettuce on the surface (or something similar) and then using java fern on drift wood or maybe even making a wall of the java fern with some cork board (any guesses where I got that idea?).
For food I have several tanks available to grow marbled craws, cherry shrimp and live bearers, I buy frozen food from Chawks and I have been making my own blend of frozen food for a couple of years now. I would consider pellets but quite frankly it’s as cheap or cheaper to buy from Chawks and to make frozen food myself and my fish have responded very well to a diet almost exclusively of frozen food over the last couple of years.
So, any thoughts on why I should choose one or the other? Any suggestions for how to care for them or recommended tank mates (again with the hope to see the breeding rituals and parental care in mind)? Or even a suggestion for a different central species of fish (focusing on “personality”, a moderately large fish and interesting/vibrant coloration)?