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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My 55g planted tank (first one ever), co2 etc. turned out pretty well, but the ridiculous amounts of trimming etc. got to be exhausting and I no longer enjoyed the tank. Plus I took up photography and have been pursuing that ever since. I stopped maintaining it included dosing ferts and co2 and it was just a mess for a year or so. I have a thread here somewhere on it, but the images are broken.

Cichlids are my first love when it comes to fishkeeping and needless to say I've missed them. I've always wanted to do a Tanganyikan Rift Lake tank but was holding off because of the expense of converting the whole tank over to a completely different setup. But I finally got tired of it looking so lame and decided it was time to do something about it, even if it was a revival of the scape.

Well I finally found the kind of aquatic specialty store I prefer and while the freshwater selection wasn't great (they mostly sell Marine), what they did have was mostly less common more exotic kinds of fish that an experienced hobbyist like myself enjoys keeping. My wife saw the adult forms of these Tropheus Moorii 'Ilangi's' juveniles they were selling and loved them (she's never cared for the small fish I typically buy for a planted or community tank). She likes big fish, lol.

At any rate that was the push that caused me dive headlong into this new tank. It's cost a good deal of money and it's not quite done but it will be soon.

While I've kept my share of cichlids, I have never done a tank like this or such extensive rock work designed to be aesthetically appealing. That's mostly because I didn't really come into my 'prime' of fishkeeping or have the resources to be able to accomplish such a task until I was in my early 20's (I'm 26 now) and was graduated from college, married, and finally had my own custom tank that I could do my way. It was at that point that I had decided to do the planted tank and so the tank has been that way for 3 years now.

Tank Details

Lighting: AHS DIY Custom CF/PC lighting with 2x55w GE 9325K F&S bulbs -typically it is recommended to have more subdued lighting but I'm getting my algae jump-started (Tropheus graze on algae and the micro-organisms that live in that algae in the wild, these algae and sediment covered pockets on or in the rocks are called aufwuchs - it is their primary diet)

Rockwork: basalt lava rock (while visiting relatives, I visited a large rock/gravel yard called Whiz-Q-Stone that I had researched before my wife, 4 mo old daughter and I had driven down) hand picked every piece in the hot Texas sun, awesome and exactly what I was looking for ($.14c a pnd! - 130pnds bought, originally had 260, lol, had cut it way down)

Substrate: Carib Sea Seaflor Special Grade Aragonite Reef Sand, AquaQuartz Pool Filter Sand. (about 64pnds in all, sloped, like 2 inches in the front and 3.5 in the back)

Filtration: Rena XP3, I also bought an additional one from a friend of mine that I will be adding on soon. The goal is at least 10x tank turnover rate, I will be over that.

Residents: 6 Tropehus Moorii 'Ilangi' / 6 Tropheus Duboisi 'Halembe' / 13 'Lamprologus' Ocellatus (Zambian Blue) / 11 Neo. Pulcher (Daffodils) / 6 Cherry Barbs / 3 Zebra Nerites

To be added: Various Julidochromis (hopefully ****feldi or ornatus) species, perhaps a Goby type like Eretmodus, a very weak maybe on some Cyprichromis.

Couldn't get the dang cherry barbs out that I added just before I decided to change the tank over, so you'll notice those non Tanganyikan residents swimming around, haha.

Ignore the random stuff like driftwood and plants, bubbler, will all be removed or better placed/integrated.

So without further ado here's a multistage view of the tank coming together and some pics of the residents. It looks quite a bit different now but I haven't got a chance to take some new pics other than of the latest additions to the tank.

Here's the tank with half of it already ripped out and converted to sand and aragonite.

IMG_5140-TankStage2 by joshp428, on Flickr

And totally ripped out

IMG_5217-TankStage3 by joshp428, on Flickr

Rockwork now in place, although I have added to that right side to hide the heater and intake pretty well, also got rid of that lame Rena blue tube and put the custom clear tube back on after I had cut a new length to accommodate the new substrate depth (I used the same clear tubing when the tank was planted but at a different length).

IMG_5230-TankFull-FinalStage by joshp428, on Flickr

Left Side

IMG_5243-LeftSide by joshp428, on Flickr

1st Tropheus Moorii 'Ilangi' picked up (other two died of the intial 3) and thanks to my superior nutrition, now the largest one and the dominant male (he had more growth time in my tanks while the newer ones from the store had stayed small and runty - regular pet stores aren't setup for proper care of these fish and they are somewhat difficult and sensitive in someways, if you read about them a bit you will see what I mean)

ilangi-fins-raised-IMG_5311-800px by joshp428, on Flickr

1st Tropheus Moorii 'Ilangi' - Frontal

ilangi-frontal-IMG_5362-750px by joshp428, on Flickr

Some of the more recent ilangi's - unfortunately I waited too long to tell the owner to put them on hold so all they had were 7 left and one of them had bloat (I noticed it before I even put them in the tank) - main killer of these fish, so I treated all of them in quarantine, but the sick one was just too far along and died. So now I only have 6 but they are doing great.

IMG_6365-Redder-ilangi-900px by joshp428, on Flickr


IMG_6352-ilangi by joshp428, on Flickr

Newer Additions that I recently received via the post office from Iowa (I'm in PA).

'Lamprologus' Ocellatus (Zambian Blue) (shell-dweller) - got 13 of these guys

IMG_6314-Ocellatus-ZambianBlue3-900px by joshp428, on Flickr

Tropheus Duboisi (started with 9, down to 6, been having problems with them) - The generally accepted rule is that you can't mix variants due to inbreeding but you can mix seperate species (so you can't keep 2 kinds of moorii's together but you can keep moorii's with Duboisi's)

IMG_6325-Tropheus-Duboisi-Halembe-Juvi-900px by joshp428, on Flickr

Neolamprologus Pulcher (Daffodils) (11 of them) - image is of one of my 2 larger ones, most of the others are really small- adult coloration has not really set in yet, same for most of these fish, they totally change

IMG_6326-Daffodil-LgJuvi-900px by joshp428, on Flickr
 

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Wow, looking good! Welcome back to the hobby. Tropheus Duboisi is my favorite.
 

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Very cool, I will follow this with interest! On a recent trip to a good local LFS, I saw some Laprologus ocellatus 'Gold' juveniles and fell in love. I bought 5, and a friend who was with me also bought 5. Your Zambian Blues are beautiful.

So now I am fantasizing about setting up a Tanganyikan biotope for them. It is diffiult to find information about Tanganyika aquartic plants. So far, I've developed a short list of Vallisneria spiralis (a.k.a. V. aethiopica), Nymphaea lotus, and Riccia. There are other species of course, but none seem to be in the hobby.

Where did you get those nice brown shells? Right now I have white sea snail shells that look terrible in my tank.

I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to Whiz-Q, it is a great stone yard!​
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Very cool, I will follow this with interest! On a recent trip to a good local LFS, I saw some Laprologus ocellatus 'Gold' juveniles and fell in love. I bought 5, and a friend who was with me also bought 5. Your Zambian Blues are beautiful.

So now I am fantasizing about setting up a Tanganyikan biotope for them. It is diffiult to find information about Tanganyika aquartic plants. So far, I've developed a short list of Vallisneria spiralis (a.k.a. V. aethiopica), Nymphaea lotus, and Riccia. There are other species of course, but none seem to be in the hobby.

Where did you get those nice brown shells? Right now I have white sea snail shells that look terrible in my tank.

I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to Whiz-Q, it is a great stone yard!​
Hey Mike, a Dallas resident huh? Your in the Ft. Worth part or the Dallas part of the area? My wife's father lives in Dallas and her Aunt and Uncle are down near Austin.

It def. is a great stone yard, it was perfect and the prices were great. They had this zebra stone there for $.45c pnd and I went over to Dallas North Aquarium at some point and they had the same stone for $3.99 a pnd! How many aquarists get ripped off instead of thinking a bit or doing a little research and visiting a stone yard?

I actually wanted the L. golds or a simliar species, L. meleagris, but they would of cost me too much, the guy I bought the Dafs. and T.Dubs from was able to track down the Zambian Blue's and I settled for them since it made more sense economically and they are still nice looking. As a bonus that he didn't know of until he picked them up from his friend - the parents are wild, so these are F1 fry, should get really nice coloration.

As far as plants go, I have mixed feelings about this, some of the plants I may leave in for fry only. V.Spiralis or other Val. variants can look nice depending on the layout and stone choice if you really want plants. But based on the extensive research I did (because that's just how I go about things), there aren't plants in many of the areas that these fish dwell in. I recently bought some Hornwort for fry to hide in and I've seen a pic of the lake that I found on a forum that has plants that kind of look like that in some the sandy areas. But in most of the areas of the lake there are no plants so if your doing a biotope like I did, the plants are kind of a no-go, unless you want to cheat a little as I am kind of ;). The main issue is going to be the really hard water and buffering salts should you use them as I am (I'm using Seachem Cichlid Rift Lake Salt and Natural Sea Salt from Morton - grocery store, lol). The riccia probably won't grow much if at all and I probably would not use the lotus as that would be way out of place. Jungle Vals, Val. species, maybe some low-growing chain swords or sagittaria species (although they will probably have a really hard time growing), Anubias or many of the Crypt. varieties would probably do well and look nice depending on how you laid it out. I personally think the Anubias look way out of place (but yet I have some, lol, they were hold overs from the old tank, probably will get rid of or sell them soon).

Oh and I almost forgot, the shells - I read all over the place that Escargot shells are the best option! The native snail shells are hard to get and very expensive. I called all over and could not get the shells from anyone around me (people claimed you can get them for free from good delicatessens etc. because they discard them if they make dishes using the snails that do not require the shell I guess, but from what I know of escargot, you eat it in the shell). So I turned to Amazon finally after looking at ebay, aquabid etc. and lo and behold, wahhla! Shells! If you read the comments, people are buying these for shell dwellers and not escargot, lol.

Most buy these at least based on comments, 36 count large.
Chantifrais Escargot Shells, 36-Count Box

However I bought these because you want a couple per fish and these were a much better deal per shell - 72 count large
Roland Extra Large 72 count

Speaking of which, pm me if you want them I have way more then I need and I will/can sell them to you for a good price, I was going to put the extras on aquabid.

See attachments (I collected a ton of pics for inspiration, hope they help you as well).

Hope that helps. Thanks all!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Very cool, I will follow this with interest! On a recent trip to a good local LFS, I saw some Laprologus ocellatus 'Gold' juveniles and fell in love. I bought 5, and a friend who was with me also bought 5. Your Zambian Blues are beautiful.

So now I am fantasizing about setting up a Tanganyikan biotope for them. It is diffiult to find information about Tanganyika aquartic plants. So far, I've developed a short list of Vallisneria spiralis (a.k.a. V. aethiopica), Nymphaea lotus, and Riccia. There are other species of course, but none seem to be in the hobby.

Where did you get those nice brown shells? Right now I have white sea snail shells that look terrible in my tank.

I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to Whiz-Q, it is a great stone yard!​
The only thing that I was let down about at Whiz-Q was their choices for sand, they really didn't have much at all, maybe like one or two types.

What was the LFS if you don't mind? I went to most of the major ones down there and was lucky to find any Tanganyikan's. The best one was The Fish Gallery, but the one in Houston is nicer looking, at least based on what they show on the website vs. my visit to the Dallas one.
 

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Hornwort was the other species that my references mentioned as native to Lake Tanganyika.

I live in Dallas near White Rock Lake, but Whiz-Q is known over the entire area. Yes, once you have seen the prices in a well-stocked stone yard, you will NEVER buy rocks from an aquarium store again.

Speaking of, my L. ocellatus came from Rift to Reef Aquatics, in Flower Mound a suburb between Dallas and Fort Worth. I am no expert on African cichlids, but R to R has a very good reputation for those fish.

I really like your inspiration photos. I've seen a few of the tank shots before, and especially liked the long tank with the lawn of vallisneria. The photo of the lake bottom is actually pretty close to what I was thinking: a sandy foreground with shells for the L. ocellatus and a background of vallisneria and hornwort. The Nymphaea lotus is definitely an African native, and one source said that it was found in Lake Tanganyika. Think of that photo, with some vals mixed with the hornwort, and one red nymphaea as an accent plant. Maybe a compromise for aesthetics?

PM sent on the shells.

--Michael
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hornwort was the other species that my references mentioned as native to Lake Tanganyika.

Speaking of, my L. ocellatus came from Rift to Reef Aquatics, in Flower Mound a suburb between Dallas and Fort Worth. I am no expert on African cichlids, but R to R has a very good reputation for those fish.

I've seen a few of the tank shots before, and especially liked the long tank with the lawn of vallisneria. The photo of the lake bottom is actually pretty close to what I was thinking: a sandy foreground with shells for the L. ocellatus and a background of vallisneria and hornwort. The Nymphaea lotus is definitely an African native, and one source said that it was found in Lake Tanganyika. Think of that photo, with some vals mixed with the hornwort, and one red nymphaea as an accent plant. Maybe a compromise for aesthetics?

PM sent on the shells.

--Michael
That store looks awesome, sweet logo too, don't know how I missed it, google never pulled it when I got info before the trip, would of liked to go there. But I guess I would of just been bummed since there is now way I could of brought any fish back with me.

You know, the only reason that lawn of Vals. is low is because the Tropheus eat it all? Looks really nice though, totally agree. It was/is at Aqualand or something. They have a write-up of it on their site.

Well depending on the fish your going to be keeping, I think that layout could look nice. But if your keeping those littel gold's you probably just want the fish to be the focal points (since they are so small), so I personally still wouldn't do the Lotus even if it may be found in some parts of the lake since it would compete with their beauty. The hornwort mixed with the Vals. might not look good, I might do one or the other or you could just get a few plants to experiment and make up your mind.

All the videos etc. I've seen of Tanganyika do not have a single plant in them, but obviously there are some parts that do based on the image if it is of the lake which it is claimed to be. The majority of the fish dwell in the rock/boulder/sand areas, same for the ocellatus. Where did you find info on the plants in the lake?

See this link for a designer tank that's just the bulbous plants that look like jungle vals., some pagoda stone, sand and Mbuna's, kind of like what your thinking. Oliver Knott is the aquascaper, it's his image, and a great job at that.
 

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How can it be anything but good if it is Oliver Knott? Very nice!

I did a huge google search for aquatic plants of Lake Tanganyika. These are the two most helpful sites:

http://forums.tfhmagazine.com/viewtopic.php?f=83&t=23710

http://forum.aquatic-gardeners.org/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=101

Some of my other sources said that V. aethiopica and V. spiralis are synonymous, with V. spiralis being the accepted name.

I know the habitat of the Lamprologus probably has few or no plants. But I love plants, and can't bear the thought of tank without them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I can understand, I'm buying some moss that will hopefully cover the rocks for a really nice aesthetic effect. I could see either just the hornwort or the vals. Hornwort - dark green/ contrasted with the gold shellies looking really stunning.
 

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The bottle brush looking stem in one of the photos of the actual ecosystem looks a lot like Hydrilla verticillata. It's one of the species which has caused SERIOUS issues here in the states and is on the banned list. However, unless you know what you're looking for it's very difficult to tell the difference between Hydrilla and Egeria densa aka Elodea, which is not one of the Prime Evils and can be found at nearly any pet shop that carries plants.

Vallisneria is always a good choice as well and looks great in Rift Lake tanks.

Those two genera are the most likely to be found inhabiting water that's between 3 and 10 feet deep. Most others on the list Michael provided are marginals and don't typically grow in deeper water.

Cheers,
Phil
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The bottle brush looking stem in one of the photos of the actual ecosystem looks a lot like Hydrilla verticillata. It's one of the species which has caused SERIOUS issues here in the states and is on the banned list. However, unless you know what you're looking for it's very difficult to tell the difference between Hydrilla and Egeria densa aka Elodea, which is not one of the Prime Evils and can be found at nearly any pet shop that carries plants.

Vallisneria is always a good choice as well and looks great in Rift Lake tanks.

Those two genera are the most likely to be found inhabiting water that's between 3 and 10 feet deep. Most others on the list Michael provided are marginals and don't typically grow in deeper water.

Cheers,
Phil
Ah, thats what I figured, thanks for the input Phil.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Got to do so some formal shots this weekend of what the tank will look like in its final stages.

I also got the second XP3 put on. It's filled with crushed coral, some of the left over Carib Sea Aragonite sand (crushed coral), various bio-media, purigen and floss. Still need to replace the new intake tube for the second one with a clear tube.

Couple of corrections to the fish count, I have 8 Cherry Barbs (forgot), 5 Tropheus moorii 'ilangi' (for some reason I thought I had 6, got confused), and 5 Tropheus Duboisi 'Halembe'. The T.Dubs seem to all be in good health now after 3 days of clout at a reduced treatment level of only 30gallons worth of tablets. Lost the 6th one though and never found him. So in all I lost 4 T.Dubs unfortunately, most likely due to bloat. Clout is supposedly not safe for inverts, but somehow my Zebra Nerites survived the first treatment round (maybe because it wasn't full strength), so after realizing that I removed them out and put them in my quarantine tank.

Still have to put the black background on, I'm not really a fan of the blue a lot of people use unless you have a reason for it like it's a breeding tank and you need to be able to easily see the fish your removing.

Thinking about replacing some of the aragonite sand in the front with some pure white bahama beach sand my brother recieved a long time ago and never used to make it easier for the ocellatus/shell-dwellers to dig.

6/11/11

55g Tanganyikan Rift Lake Tank by joshp428, on Flickr
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
I've been crazy busy, so if you have been following this post, I apologize for the delay. Here's at least some updates in words, hopefully I will get a chance to take more pics soon.

Tropheus Duboisi x5 (9 originally)
I have got them past the difficult size/stage, I did finally end up treating the whole tank with clout, albeit at a reduced dosage of only 30 gallons worth of treatment. I saved the one while I lost another one who I guess was just too far along (totally vanished, never saw the body). However, they are settled in now and doing well and eating like fiends. If I had to do it again, I would keep them in quarantine for a week or two and treat them with clout outright.

They like to somewhat school with the 'ilangi'. I find it kind of humorous that the larger 'ilangi' kind of take advantage of their larger size and throw their heaftier weight around by using it push around/out race and compete the T.Dubs for the choice food, but don't worry they get their share, I make sure everyone does :).

Tropehus Moorii 'Ilangi' x5
All these guys are doing well and looking awesome. Eating franticly and overall a lot like begging dogs, they act they never eat, despite being fed twice a day, lol! They are all starting to color up and some of the beautiful adult tones are coming in nicely. They are also growing and filling out quickly.

I absolutely love them and would like to get more. My wife wishes that they would stay striped! I reasured her that depending on their position in the colony, they may very well maintain some of their stripes.

Cherry Barbs x8
They've adapted to their cichlid brethren and feed in a crazy group/school with the big boys. It's amazing that these fish can tolerate and thrive in the semi-marine conditions of a cichlid rift lake tank. It's a true indication of just how unbelievably hardy these fish are. I still want to get the little rug-rats out though, haha.

Lamprologus Zambian Blues (shell-dwellers) x13
These guys are so awesome. I haven't lost a single one even though many were quite small when I got them. Very tough little fish. They love their escargot shells that I recently sent to Michael, who's been following this post, for him and his friends little golds. They've seemed to have worked out their territorial disputes, with the exception of when I do a water change and the attempted coup d'états begin. Some of the more aggressive ones also love to flare their fins and attack my hand or algae scrubbing sponge when I'm cleaning the glass during these weekly changes, lol. They are starting to get some good size on them and the blue coloration has intensified. I find it's actually best with the lights off in natural sunlight, it's during that time that you can really see and appreciate the more subtle beauty of these little fish. I think I'm going to try more subdued lighting soon.

Neo. Pulcher (Daffodils) x7 (had 11)
I am not sure at what point I lost some of these little guys but apparently I did. The only one that I knew that I had lost was one of the 2 larger ones for reasons beyond my explanation. I think it may have had to do with water quality because I waited to do a water change for 2 weeks recently instead of every week. But this doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me because I did get the second xp3 on so the water quality should of been fine unless they are just that sensitive. That's the only explanation I can come up with. The other larger one wasn't looking good either and I was all set to attempt to somehow catch him and treat him but just when I had absolved myself to possibly losing him too, he pulled out of it like 2 days and now is acting totally normal and eating aggressively again. So needless to say I was quite happy about that; very strange. Other than that the remaining ones are eating well and look good, I'm excited to see them grow to adults as they are kind of bland as juveniles. Growth has not been as quick as expected but I'm not surprised since I can't feed these guys and the lamps. their preferred diet because of the Tropheus. When the Tropheus are little older I will push some new foods in small doses and perhaps with a syringe to localize it.

Zebra Nerites x3
Apparently clout is not safe for inverts and will kill them. So the box indicates; in practice these troopers pulled through at least 1 30 gal. dosage of clout before I realized this. My wife even called me after I told her about this info and said she thought one of them was dead. To my great surprise when I got home from work, all were fine and I promptly removed them before I did any further treatment. Still they were in the clout water for a good part of 24hrs and were fine. These are probably some of the prettiest freshwater snails you can get, are very hardy, and are some of the best algae eaters for you planted tank lovers!

I got the second XP3 on, it was a pain but I got it setup nonetheless. I filled it with crushed coral (from Mexico that I had from when I was down there - don't go, I will never go back), aragonite (extra Carib Sea crushed coral I had), floss, and Seachem Purigen which I finally got around to recharging. I had some problems with it leaking but I got the cleared up and figured out. I also lubed all the seals with petroleum jelly and then added some more when I saw it was leaking. What actually happened is that apparently sometimes these filters can fill themselves up too much if you dump more water than necessary when priming them so the water level was sitting well above where it should, up to the seal. I figured this out by examining my original XP3.

I tried a few plants for fry in the future but despite what info is out there on hornwort being hardy and easy, I had no such luck. It basically just disintegrated and made a mess of the tank. There is plenty of light so that can't be issue, perhaps I needed to be dosing some ferts but I really don't want them in the water column and I don't know how the fish will handle it. Any thoughts on this?

It's crazy how when it comes to feeding time, everyone bunches together in this massive group of 40 fish and they all just go nuts scooping up food as it gets blown down by the filter flow (I also release it under the water as they don't really prefer to grab it from the surface). The fish are just about eating from my hand with basically no training so I am confident I can easily get this behavior trained. Despite being called shell-dwellers, the blue lamps. really don't waste a lot of time dwelling in their shells, they have no problem coming right up to almost the surface to feed with the much larger Tropheus. The time they really spend in their shells is at night or when I'm cleaning the tank. I assume some of this will change once they get old enough to breed and starting squabbling over females. Perhaps it would also be different if they were in species tank. I think the community tank makes them more comfortable and provides visual distractions from their natural inclinations to fight with each other over territory, at least somewhat.

I had to make a few tweaks to the layout due to some disintegrating basalt rocks? Apparently not all are stable in water as if their volcanic process didn't finish or something. I also have played around with the driftwood and finally found a place where I think it is best suited (filter kept blowing it off when it was positioned on the right). Additionally I had to tweak a few rocks because of debris collections in various areas and as much as I liked the one filter pretty much hidden, this really wasn't good for flow. Overall I'm happy with it and think it's even better than it was before.

Well that's all for now, thanks for hanging in there! Hopefully I will get new pics up soon.
 

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"Despite being called shell-dwellers, the blue lamps. really don't waste a lot of time dwelling in their shells, they have no problem coming right up to almost the surface to feed with the much larger Tropheus. The time they really spend in their shells is at night or when I'm cleaning the tank."

I've found this to be true of my gold Lamprologus as well. Sometimes I wonder if they need the shells, but then one will disappear into its shell.

Thanks again for the shells, Josh, they look much better than the sea snail shells I was using.
 

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Petrol jelly isn't a good lubricant or rubber protector. Prolonged use will actually harden your seals. Use silicone grease. It's food safe and does everything that petrol jelly does but doesn't harm rubber.
 

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Great looking tank.

Must say I liked the scape you had on before also. You should have put together a new tank and not tear the old scape down. ;)
 
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