Oooh, another tank--so jealous! I've had cichlids in a 30H for two years (24x12x24), and as long as you're careful with selection, there's no reason you can't keep many of the smaller species in there. Just don't try Oscars or Frontosa, alright? *grin*
Anyways, I strongly recommend you visit the Cichlid Forum
, which has a lot of articles about cichlid-keeping. One of my favourite features of that site is their Cookie-Cutter setups, and their 29-gallon page is here
. I personally went for the Tanganyikan mini-community on that page, and the fish have been quite lively.
Two other tank set-ups bear mentioning. First is the angelfish tank, which they provide one possible grouping for. A second set-up, and my personal favourite, is to have a pair of angelfish as they suggest, but cut the number of cories to three and eliminate the harlequins/hatchets in favour of three swordtails (one male, two females) and an Ancistrus catfish. In this tank, the swordtails will probably spawn, providing you with either fry to sell (if you rescue them soon enough) or the angelfish with a delectable treat (if you don't). Platies and guppies are not recommended here, as they're too small, and the angelfish will eat them. The other resident of this tank is one of the Ancistrus species, peaceful suckermouth catfish of Family Loricariidae and closely related to the plecos, but smaller and thus more suitable for this size of tank. Like the plecos, one either loves them or hates them, but if their odd behaviour and prehistoric looks amuse you, then there is no end to the selection. Some of them have L-numbers instead of scientific names, and many of them have interesting colourways. Do make sure you stay with the smaller ones, though--5" would be about tops, for that system.
The other option is a convict cichlid breeder tank, which would start out with six of these aggressive fish. In time, they would pair off--keep a pair, and resell the rest. Do not
put anything else in there--it will get eaten. The pair will most likely reproduce, giving you a first-hand look at the parental care provided by cichlids--something usually associated with birds and mammals. This tank will require care during cleaning, as Mama and Dada consider you a threat--and the gravel-vac. Trust me, you're not going to win this one. The best strategy is to herd them to one side of the tank and put a temporary divider in--ask your LFS
I hope this information helps, and I look forward to hearing more about this tank. Cichlids are a favourite of mine, and it's always exciting to hear someone else is considering them.