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Old 10-02-2004, 12:24 AM   #1
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Mixing Fish Most People Say Are Incompatible

On 17 Jan 2004 I put my first aggressive fish into my 55 gallon tank. At that time a number of community and semi-aggressive fish including 2 diamond tetras, 1 emperor tetra, 1 black neon tetra, 1 silver lyre-tail molly, black molly, blue powder gourami, 2 cherry barbs, 1 dawn platy, 1 pleco, 2 guppies, 1 fiddler crab, 1 albino tiger barb, and some tiger barbs.

The aggressive fish I added was a half inch long convict cichlid. When I put him in the tank he was the smallest fish in the tank and always hid out for the first few weeks or so.

Later I added a firemouth cichlid and a rainbow cichlid. A good balance was established even though the convict cichlid grew to 6 inches and the firemouth to 5 inches. They did not bother the smaller fish. Then I put in a 5 or 6 inch salvini cichlid (22 July 03) and a 4 inch long red eared slider. The salvini decided he wanted to be king of the tank.

In December 2003 my experiment began falling apart. I believe the salvini cichlid was my undoing. There was a balance with the salvini on one side of the tank and the convict and firemouth together on the other side. In early December I found my turtle eating the firemouth cichlid. I believe the salvini beat him up and then the turtle moved in. The convict cichlid was wounded. I moved both of them to a secondary tank to recover. The firemouth died 13 Dec 03. I put the convict back in the 55 gallon tank in early Jan 2004. I found him beat up badly the next day and so moved him to the secondary tank again. He died 24 Jan 04.

Among the fish that out lived him in the tank (meaning he nor the firemouth killed them): a diamond tetra, a number of mature mollies that were born in my tank, 7 tiger barbs, and 1 green tiger barb.

The last of my semi-aggressive and community fish died when my 3 year old and 5 year old dumped all the shrimp pellets (from a new can) into the fish tank and no one informed me until the late afternoon. The children did this in the morning.

My experiment continues, but with aggressive fish that many would say are not compatible. The salvini cichlid (I think he is 6 or 7 inches long now) mentioned above is still in my 55 gallon tank and basically claims the entire tank as his territory. He doesn't kill the other fish, but they run if he chases them and he is the only aggressive fish that goes where he pleases in the tank. The only other fish that goes where ever it wants is my 9 inch long pleco. He never respects territorial boundaries. I have a red devil that is about an inch longer than the salvini, but he always runs if the salvini takes an aggressive stance against him. I also have a 4 inch long rainbow cichlid, 2 three inch long female convict cichlids, and my 6 inch long red eared slider. Recently I added a 5 inch long male convict cichlid.

He has paired off with one of the females and they are trying to clear a space for eggs and the male has tried to establish a territory. One day the male convict was moving gravel when the salvini decided to swim in there. The convict ran, abandoning his hole in the gravel.

The turtle and pleco always squabble over the food that falls to the bottom. I have in seen the pleco and red devil circling each other as if to attack each other. The red devil recently has decided he doesn't like the pleco and has begun chasing him. The pleco has started avoiding the red devil when he takes an aggressive stance.

Sorry if I rambled too much. This post is mostly to show that you can mix seemingly incompatible fish if you do so with a bit of care and planning.
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Old 10-02-2004, 12:51 AM   #2
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Old 10-02-2004, 01:14 AM   #3
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i have just added a yellow lab cichlid to my tank 2 weeks ago.u can see all the different types of fish in my sig....no problems to report
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Old 10-02-2004, 01:24 AM   #4
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Well, I admire your willingness to break the mold and "disrupt the dogma" so to speak.

I know a chap out West who keeps a 125 gal community tank with similar residents to your Jan 2004 inhabitants, Robert, but he also keeps Labidochromis caeruleus (aka Yellow Lab or Electric Yellow cichlid) in this tank. These labs have thrived and spawned, and proven to me and others that yellow labs have been tank-bred and raised for so many generations that they can almost be treated like an angel, in that you have to take care when stocking, but they can easily integrate into a community setting.

He does not like to advertise his tank inhabitants because he knows many will object and insist that African mbuna cannot be kept in a community setting, but I know it to be a successful arrangement, so keep up the good work, Robert, and as the mother of very young children I know they sometimes provide some variables but if you can eliminate that factor maybe things will work out differently. You have quite a challenging setup right now, and with that turtle and pleco in there I will be very interested if you can get some fry out of the deal!
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Old 10-02-2004, 01:44 AM   #5
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If I can sex my Yellow lab I would like to add another to make a pair. It was and still is young at ust over half adult size. Also thought about a mate for the Brichardi. Think it is a female.
Things have gone so well in the 37gal would adding mates for these fish upset the balance? All fish in the tank are listed in the sig.
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Old 10-02-2004, 02:16 AM   #6
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From reading threads like this one, and from my own limited experience with cichlids, I have come to realize that fish have distinct personalities. Not only that, but these personalities do change over time. Today's tank wussy may well become a bullying tyrant next month.

I guess that it's not completely accurate to label an entire species "aggressive" or "peaceful". Like they say, YMMV!

I also think its important, if you decide to mix "incompatible" species, to do as you have done:
1 Expect trouble and keep a watchful eye for it
2 Have a plan B in case the tank becomes a war zone (such as another tank or a lfs that accepts trade-ins).
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Old 10-02-2004, 11:23 AM   #7
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At the risk of offending anyone who attempts to stock an aquarium in a similar manner as described above, I cringe every time this practice is mentioned on aquaria forums. Many would-be cichlidophiles are thwarted from their first foray into cichlids because of incompatible species stocking. They're unjustly labelled "mean fish" because of their natural behaviour in an unnatural setting, and this is caused by the individual simply not understanding cichlid compatibility and behaviour. They're almost encouraged to not follow the advice of experienced hobbyists when they read about other experienced folks attempting to do this. That's a terrible shame. Just because something "can be done" DOESN'T mean that it should be done.

Quote:
This post is mostly to show that you can mix seemingly incompatible fish if you do so with a bit of care and planning.
I'm not sure I understand how this experiment "worked", when by your own admission it didn't. Fish were killed and the ones that didn't are constantly squabbling and fighting for territory and food. After seeing the results of the previous attempt, I question why you'd try again- especially with the RD. It's more than likely a C. cintrinellum- also known as a Midas cichlid- and he WILL kill everyone in the tank when he reaches sexual maturity.

Like I said, I don't mean to offend anyone, but I find it to be bad aquaria husbandry when fish are being injured and killed just for the sake of proving a point.
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Old 10-02-2004, 11:51 AM   #8
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I have to agree with the nay sayers on this one. I do not suggest others try this.


*edit* This is from another post:
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Originally Posted by Robert
Please forgive me for suggesting the tetras. I just figured since you had already successfully mixed semi-aggressive fish (the tiger barbs) with platies and mollies (community fish) that it wouldn't be that big of a problem.

If you wish to experiment you could try a few tetras.
The cherry barbs should still be fine with the tiger barbs.
In case you are wondering, the reason I don't have tetras anymore is because they don't go well with cichlids (aggressive fish).
I'm confused. Are you still keeping community fish with your cichlids?
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Old 10-02-2004, 01:00 PM   #9
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Chasgood - I think if you find a mate for your brichardi you will be in for some serious trouble in the tank. A single specimen might be okay, but once they pair up they will own that tank.
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Old 10-02-2004, 03:12 PM   #10
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I respectfully disagree with your claim that it was successful as well. You've lost alot of fish and by your own admission the tank mates are still trying to kill each other. Nearly all of your peaceful community fish are dead besides the barbs and pleco, which isn't surprising since barbs and plecos can survive nearly any tank mate most of the time. I just don't see how you can classify this as a success.
I've had experiences where fish who shouldn't survive together do, for awhile, but it almost never lasts. I had 3 rosy reds who were supposed to be feeders survive with a 5 inch African cichlid for nearly 2 months. It was the weirdest thing. However, he just woke up one morning and decided to eat them and that was the end of that. I had green spotted puffer in a completely nonaggressive tank for almost a year and a half with no problems and then woke up one morning with basically no one left but my loaches. I've had tiger barbs survive with full grown African cichlids for months, but inevitably the experiments always end and I definitely would not classify them as a success. With the exception of one rainbow who thinks he's a cichlid has grown up with my africans. He's the smallest fish by about an inch and a half but still rules his territory with absolute authority.
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Old 10-02-2004, 04:18 PM   #11
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Thanks Tankgirl. Was kind of thinking that might happen.
That just goes to show how careful you have to be be in a community tank with cichlids. The ones in my tank are some of the least aggressive speices. It still doesnt take much to throw the balance off. If I added that other Brichardi my tank would have turned into a terror tank.
I know how it is. You really like a fish and you think it wont happen to me. So you get it. Now your in denile as to how the tank is doing.
robertmarda has more aggressive fish than me and has had all kinds of problems. Looking up profiles before hand could have steered robertmarda to get either less and or different cichlids.

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Old 10-02-2004, 05:09 PM   #12
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The turtle goes where he pleases and respects no ones territory.

I don't believe I mentioned anywhere that my experiment was a success and I certainly didn't mean to imply that it was. It is simply an experiment in progress.

The first aggressive fish I put in the tank I did absolutely no research on that I can remember. I simply hunted for the smallest one I could find at a pet store with the thought that if I can raise the cichlid with the community fish he will simply accept them and be more inclined to be peaceful. I bought the convict cichlid when he was only about a half inch or less in length.

The next two I did a little more research on before adding to be sure they were compatible with the convict and on the less aggressive side. So I bought a one inch long firemouth and a week or so later a 1 inch long rainbow cichlid. Again trying to get the smallest ones I could find.

I tried another known aggressive fish of an unknown species. The firemouth and convict cichlid teamed up against him and I gave him to a friend. He was free and was about 6 or so inches long. At the time I put him in the tank the convict was 6 inches long and the firemouth was 5 inches.

Then I added the salvini when he was about 6 inches and the convict and firemouth accepted him. The red devil I got when it was only about a half inch long. I kept her with a plain male guppy for a few weeks. The male guppy wouldn’t leave her alone and she was hiding from him so I moved him to another tank. Once the red devil was large enough to not be bite size for my other fish I placed her in the 55 gallon tank with the others.

As I recall I removed my mollies before they were all killed and they died later of a cause other than being with aggressive fish.

I am not saying that just anyone should do this and am not trying to paint one particular cichlid as mean. I simply was describing what was going on in my tank. At present I have no community fish at home. There is not constant squabbling except between the turtle and pleco at feeding time. I just bought floating food that I hope the turtle will prefer over the sinking food and thus reduce this type of conflict. Most of the time there is peace in the tank.

I think the main fish that is incompatible in my tank right now is the red devil. The red devil should not be with any of the other fish. I am hoping it is a female and think it might be since the male guppy previously mentioned was trying to mate with her.
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Old 10-02-2004, 08:00 PM   #13
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I didn't put the male convict cichlid in the tank with the intent to breed convict cichlids. I moved him from a tank at work because he was picking on two other convict cichlids. I realize they may try to breed and so become more aggressive.

I think the fish that unbalanced my tank was the salvini cichlid and if not for him my experiment with community fish would have still been active. That was the only aggressive fish I have that did not grow up with community fish.

Please be assured, I did not take pleasure in the fact that some of my fish died due to the fact they were mixed with aggressive fish. I am doing my best to maintain a balance in my tank. When I notice behavior that I recognize will be fatal for one of the fish I simply put it in one of my other tanks (which are currently empty). I try to reintegrate the fish later or if I think that will not be possible I will keep the fish in a separate tank or find it another home.

The large pellet floating cichlid staple I bought has relieved the tension between the turtle and the pleco, although this was a side effect of the reason I bought the food. I bought the food so that I could better make sure the red devil was getting enough. I believe some of the reason he has been aggressive toward the pleco was due to hunger.

I like the red devils personality, the convict cichlids personality, and the turtles personality. I have trained the red devil and the turtle to take food from my fingers and even the salvini, large convict, and rainbow cichlids have taken food from my finger a few times.

I guess I should have included in my first post that it is unwise to mix fish like I have unless you are prepared to loose some and that the best way to do this should you want to is to get all agressives when a half inch to an inch in size so that they grow up with the other fish around. Seems to make them less likely to attack them and more likely to allow them to swim in their territory. Also it is best done in a tank large enough so that you can have about 8 or 9 community fish per one aggressive fish. This makes the likelihood of one fish being targeted and killed lower. The community fish learn where they can and can't swim and a balance can be established.
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Old 10-02-2004, 08:04 PM   #14
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Oh, I forgot to respond to what TankGirl said about the children dumping food in the tank. I no longer keep the fish food where the children can get it.
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Old 10-02-2004, 08:44 PM   #15
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I dont like the fact that you are using the word experiment. Fish are not to experiment with, they are living things.
Thats like putting small children in a room with vicious bears or wolves to "experiment" and see what happens.

And how can a turtle live with fish? Wouldnt they have different requirements? Wouldnt the turtle dirty up the water too much for the fish?
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Old 10-02-2004, 09:19 PM   #16
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Until now it did not occur to me that someone would find it offensive that I referred to what I am doing as an experiment. Please forgive me. The next best thing that comes to my mind is that I am conducting a study on fish behavior? Does that sound more acceptable?

The turtle does not dirty up the water any more than my fish do. It is a young red eared slider and his requirements are similar to that of tropical fish. I have had him living with my fish for about 2 years now.
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Old 10-02-2004, 10:15 PM   #17
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Once fully grown that red slider will attempt to eat those fish, as fish to them= lunch.
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Old 10-02-2004, 11:04 PM   #18
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Raising cichlids with smaller, community fish in the hopes of "taming" them is an exercise in futility: cichlids aren't mean, they're territorial. The aggression is a direct result of the fish vigorously defending their territory. You CANNOT teach this behaviour away- period. Cichlids have been, are, and will always be this way.

No intent to breed the convicts is necessary: the only time cons take a break from breeding is to spawn. Not to make light of it, but convicts continually breed and are ounce for ounce one of the nastiest species a person can keep (when protecting their young). The Midas can reach ten-plus inches and does not tolerate tankmates very well (if at all). As Luke mentioned, the slider will view his tankmates as a potential meal when he gains enough size: I have a ten inch yellow slider has a bad habit of eating the four-inch pond comets I use to control mosquito larvae.

The point I'm trying to make (in addition to trying to save the lives of your fish) is that this "experiment" will NOT work. What doesn't get mauled to death or eaten will suffer enough low-grade stress to drastically reduce its life span. And for what? To prove a point?

It never ceases to amaze me how little people regard the lives of fish. After all, they aren't cute and fuzzy like a dog or a cat. You can't pet them or play with them either. I went to college with a guy that flushed the LIVE fish in his ten gallon tank at the end of each semester because it was "too much hassle" to travel with them. For some reason, fish are viewed as "disposable" pets: if they die, you simply go buy some more. I'm not intentionally pointing fingers at Robert but this topic seriously upsets me. The point I'm trying to make is that if a person chooses to keep an animal as a pet- be it a horse, a dog, or a tankful of fish- that person has taken on the responsibility to properly care for said pets. Setting up a war zone in a glass box doesn't seem too responsible to me.

I apologize for dragging out my soapbox to preach from or for hurting anyone's feelings, but this is something I feel very strongly about.

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Old 10-03-2004, 12:49 AM   #19
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I am aware that the red eared slider when larger will go after all the fish in the tank. I am planning to have another tank for him when that time comes.

I watch my fish every day and do not plan to let the red devil kill them all if her temperament should go in that direction. I do not have a war zone in my tank and don't plan to have one.

With respect to convict cichlids, I know I can not change their desire to establish a territory and never planned to do that. What I did plan to do and achieved with the 1st convict cichlid I had was to have the convict view the other fish as being part of his territory.

He did indeed establish a territory. I noticed this the most after I got the firemouth and again when I got the salvini. However, he would allow some of the community fish within his territory while keeping the salvini cichlid out. The salvini was not raised with him.

I do believe that raising a fish that prefer to establish a territory with community fish can dramatically effect how that fish views its tankmates. My experience with some of them has proven this to be true. It is similar to the principle of raising a kitten and puppy together. When full grown they will be friends even though the cat won't be friends with other dogs and the dog won't be friends with other cats.
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Old 10-03-2004, 08:52 AM   #20
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No one "plans" on having a war zone in their aquarium (I hope). However, the delicate balance created in a cichlid community tank can change in a moment's time due to many factors and a person cannot keep tabs on the tank 24/7- and that's considering a cichlid community tank that's been properly planned and stocked.

The original con didn't really see the smaller, community fish as a threat to his territory. They're like flies buzzing around a horse's face: they're annoying, but no threat. That's why he didn't bother to keep them out of his space, but did go after the firemouth and salvini- because they ARE a threat to him. The problem is going to grow dramatically if the two cons are a pair and breed. I've seen them kill fish twice their size while protecting their young.

Although I don't argue that you could perhaps temper certain behaviour by raising fish certain ways (for example, teaching a strictly predatory species to eat prepared foods), you CANNOT change millions of years worth of specialized evolution and behaviour over the course of a few months. Cichlids are territorial and highly protective of their young. Period. Teaching cats and dogs to cohabitate together isn't really an accurate comparison: we've been domesticating them TOGETHER for thousands of years, so some of their natural behaviour has been removed. You can teach a dog to sit and you can teach a cat to go to the bathroom in a plastic box: you CAN'T do this with fish.

I'm really curious about why you are so adamant to prove your point? How many fish are going to be maimed and killed during these "experiments"? It didn't work the first time: we live and we learn. I've made poor stocking decisions in the past and had to deal with the consequences. It happens. But to go through this with bad results and then insist on attempting it again?! We're all entitled to our beliefs and opinions- mine are no more or less valid than yours- but I find your actions to be grossly irresponsible and border on animal cruelty. I can only hope that others do not read about it and decide to try it for themselves. As I said in an earlier post, we assume the responsibility to properly care for any animal we take in as a pet.
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