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Fish Keeping Tip Sheets

Central America Rocky Lake Environment

About the Environment
The Central America Rocky Lake Environment consists of the region’s deep water lakes, as well as the rivers which flow from them. These lakes are extremely rocky, and contain steep sides. The water is hard, alkaline and cooler due to its depth. The rivers have similar conditions as their source, but they gradually pick up decaying plant material from side streams making the water slightly acidic. Large grade dark-brown to black gravel is recommended to recreate this niche.

Water Conditions
Indigenous Fish Species
Rare or Unusual Fish Species
Indigenous Plant Species

Temperature
72-76° F

pH Levels
7.0-7.5

Water Hardness
Very Hard, 200-450 ppm

Firemouth Cichlid
Red Devil Cichlid
Managuenses Cichlid
Black Belt Cichlid
Convict Cichlid
Salvani Cichlid
Jack Dempsey Cichlid
Columbian Catfish
Quetzal Cichlid Echinodorus Latifolius

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Recreating the Environment
A 30 gallon tank is recommended to recreate this particular niche. A smaller size could be used, but with fewer fish. Fill the tank with two (2) inches of water. If an under gravel filter is being used, put the filter plate in the bottom of the tank at this time. Rinse the substrate (gravel/sand) and add it to the aquarium. Note: If using an under gravel filter add 1.5 to 2 pounds of gravel per gallon. If an under gravel filter is not being used, then add 1 to 1.5 pounds of gravel per gallon.

Once the substrate has been added, fill the tank half full of water. Next, add large rocks and plants to recreate your Central America Rocky Lake Environment. Refer to our diagram, in this handout, on how to landscape this niche. Don’t forget to protect the roots of your plants as you anchor them to the substrate. A safe method is to gently ball the roots into your hand and make a loose fist. Using this fist, burrow a pit in the substrate and gently unfold your hand allowing the roots to spread out. Gently cover the roots with enough substrate to hold them down.

Finish filling the tank with water. Place the heater in the tank, but do not turn it on at this time. Allow the heater glass to acclimate to the water temperature in the aquarium for one (1) hour before plugging it in. You can camouflage the heater behind the rocks.

New Tank Water Conditions - Understanding the Nitrogen Cycle

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Filtration System
Equip the aquarium with a filter system. If using an under gravel filter, hook up the air pump or power head (water pump) to the uplift tubes. If using an internal filter, place it in the tank towards the back and hide the filter using rocks. If an outside filter is being used, place it on the outside back of the tank, or under the aquarium. Hide the siphon tube, which draws water from the tank to the filter, with rocks. Put the thermometer in place, add water conditioner to the aquarium, and turn on the filtration system. After testing the pH and water hardness, necessary adjustments can be made by using proper aquarium chemicals to recreate Central American Rocky Lake Water conditions.

Now place the aquarium top in position and make any adjustments (cut outs in back) to accommodate the heater, filter and cords. Turn on the heater and the light. A 10-12 hour light cycle is recommended. Make any final adjustments to the heater in order to stabilize a temperature between 72-76 degrees.

All newly set-up aquariums must go through a filter conditioning process in order to sustain fish life. (Please see our “New Tank Water Conditions” tip sheet for additional information.) It will take the water approximately 4-6 weeks to condition during which time only a small number of fish can be added to the tank. Once the aquarium has been set up and running for a minimum of 24 hours, six (6) 1.5 inch fish per 10 gallons of water can be safely introduced. For this particular niche type, Firemouth Cichlids, Convict Cichlids, and Columbian Catfish would be good choices to start. Over the next several weeks when water quality tests of ammonia and nitrite reach zero, more fish species can be added.

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Feeding the Fish
Feeding the fish will vary depending upon the age of the aquarium. During the first 4-8 weeks, the fish should be fed a small, dime sized pinch of food once every other day. As the aquarium ages and conditions, 2-4 months of age, fish can be fed once a day. When the tank is over 4 months old, the fish can be fed several times a day. Remember to use small quantities of food at each feeding.

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Water Changes
Partial water changes are the single most important procedure you perform on your aquarium. Remove 20% of the water every two (2) weeks and replace it with fresh water which has been treated with a water conditioning chemical.

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Algae
Clean unsightly algae using an algae pad or a magnetic algae remover when necessary. Keep in mind that some algae left in the tank can be beneficial. It provides a food source for some fish, and also creates oxygen for the aquarium environment.

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