True story. Craig and I had 2 fish tanks in our old apartment before we bought our house and moved. I knew I wouldn’t be willing to devote the time/effort of maintaining the tank with a whole house to deal with, plus the idea that if something were to happen and 100 gallons of fish water were to end up all over the floor of our house, WE would be on the hook for having it cleaned made the decision to sell them off (at a great loss!) fairly easy.
We had 2 tanks, a 75 gallon tank (48″ long, 18″ deep, 21″ tall) housing a variety of colorful cichlids called mbuna, and another 29 gallon cube-shaped tank housing some less colorful, but more behaviorally interesting fish from another lake. Let’s talk about the 75 gallon tank first, as that’s how I got into fishkeeping as a hobby.
I went to New York for a week to participate in AFSP’s Out of the Darkness walk, because a few years prior, my brother had committed suicide (that’s a whole other story). While I was gone, Craig had decided to get me a “gift,” something bright, colorful, and alive. A fish tank! He had gotten a really nice 7 gallon tank and put a few fish in it that Petsmart said would do fine in a 20 gallon tank once they got bigger. Craig had a 29 gallon tank stored at his parents house from when he was a kid, so we were good to go. I was thrilled to have the fish, and we set about researching how to provide the best possible environment for them. Turns out that the fish we got are aggressive, and require a minimum 75 gallon tank. So we bought one, and got some more fish. I got to do tons of research on water chemistry, fish interactions, substrates, rock choice, etc. It satisfied my greatest urges to compulsively overresearch everything, and gave me something to tinker with.
The fish tank was also such a pretty thing in our living room, it brought life to the apartment and served as a way for me to begin developing an interest in photography.
The type of fish that I had this tank stocked with is an African cichlid from Lake Malawi called Mbuna. Within this type of fish, there are a great many species. The most interesting thing about them is their breeding habits. They’re mouthbrooders. What that means is the females carry developing eggs around in their mouths for weeks at a time, foregoing food to ensure the success of her genetic material. Pseudotropheus Crabro (my first fish) is also called the bumblebee cichlid, because they’re yellow with black stripes. My dominant male was named Horatio, and when it came time to do the deed, his sexy color would come out, and he would go a deep dark brown-black.
You can see Esmeralda has a mouth full of eggs. In the photo below, you can see the eye of one of her babies!!!
Perry the cat also liked to watch the fish. He would sit there and watch them for HOURS. It was very funny.
Our other tank was a little 29 gallon cube with a couple different types of fish from Lake Tanganyika, another of the African rift lakes. These varieties were not colorful, but had such interesting personal habits that they were great to just sit and watch. The two types of fish that we kept in here were Julies and Multies.
The Multies are also called shellies, or shell dwellers. They use empty shells to lay their eggs in to protect the babies from predators (Julies). The multies get downright nasty when anything gets near their shell-bed.
The other type of fish that we kept were the Julies. They never seemed to thrive in this tank, but were so interesting. They orient on surfaces, but not on gravity. It was not uncommon to see them just hanging out upside down against a rock. They’d occasionally raid the shells of the multies and eat a bunch of their babies, but got beaten up quite a bit when that happened.
And the last fish in that tank was a plecostamus, or a pleco, who pretty much just cruised around and ate algae, but never enough of it to keep the tank looking fresh!