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Aquarium Advice Freak
Jun 10, 2009
Colorado Springs, CO
Hi everyone :wave: I joined about a week ago and thought I would tell you all who I am.

Well, my name is Cathy. I live in Colorado Springs, CO. I have 2 grown kids and now live alone. My son is 27 and my daughter is 22. They live with me sometimes, but mostly on their own. Anyone with young adult kids knows, they never really leave home till later in life.

My first experience with fish was when my kids were little. They each got a 10 gallon one Christmas. My sons had green rocks, skulls and all "ugly" fish. My daughters was hard to look at (poor fish!) with pink rocks, pink castles, purple plants and only "pretty fish" I shudder at the way I took care of those tanks now, knowing what I do now. I must have put them thru a mini cycle every water change.

So, one day a couple years ago I mentioned to my son I wanted a tank, to try a natural one. The next day he went to his storage unit and gave me his 20 gallon set up. I started with Platy, a couple Mollies and I cannot remember what else. I also got a couple small Bolivian Rams, because I had always wanted Rams. It started out with rainbow rock substrate and fake plants. After a couple weeks I thought "what was I thinking??" So removed all the fake plants and put in real ones. Changed over to sand substrate. After a LOT of changes and mistakes, I finally have my final tank setup. It is now in a 30 gallon tank. The fish are a mated pair of Bolivian Rams, Zebra Danios, Neon Tetras, Rummy Nose tetras, Cory cats, Otto cats, and 2 African Dwarf Frogs.

This is the first setup, yuck! :lol:

And this is the final setup :D BIG difference, huh? Going to add another piece of driftwood to the right side to make it look like roots coming into the tank from above.

Well, because of the Bolivian Rams, the cichlid bug bit me hard!
My sister had a 30 gallon tank sitting in her living room that had been empty for about 5 years. So, after much wearing down I talked her into giving it to me. In the mean time, I did a lot of research on Mbuna and their needs. I set it up, used a lot of stuff from the community tank to speed up the cycle and then started with 3 Electric Yellows. They were about 2" when I got them. A week later I got 3 Acei. About a month later a friend I met on another forum gave me 4 Red Zebras. This tank had medium sized river rocks and fake plants.
This is the first African setup in the 30 gallon:

One day I notice they are now too big to fit in the caves the river rocks made! I went to the store and bought a black PVC pipe, took it home and cut it into 5" pieces. I put them under the rocks. That helped some, and they love them. I started collecting lava rock from my lfs. A few pieces at a time as my budget allowed. I slowly changed it all over to the lava rocks because they made bigger caves.

OK, new problem. I should have seen it coming because I was warned! They got too big for the 30. They either hid all the time or fought a lot. My friend knew a woman who was going to sell me her 55 setup, stand and all for $50. But that fell thru. So, in desperation I posted an add on Craigslist asking if anyone had a 55 they would sell me for cheap. I was getting desperate. I had already had to re-home a couple fish I really liked. It worked! A lady sold me her old acrylic one for $40. I then replaced the crappy acrylic with a nice glass setup and that is where they are now. This is the final 55 gallon African Mbuna setup. It sits on the floor for now, I still need a stand.

So, my main tanks are the planted community tank and the African Mbuna. Two totally different looks and setups. My Mbuna are mostly 4-6" now and I also have a few 2" that I am growing out for me and friends. My Bolivian Rams spawn for me all the time. I bought a 10 gallon setup after they spawned the first time. I use it now for growing out small fry, sometimes I put a holding mom in there. Right now its a mini planted tank with 25 small Bolivian Rams in it. They are only a month old. I use the old 20 gallon for the older fry. I have a relationship with 2 small family owned LFS in town so I trade in my juvies when they get to be about 2" and get store credit. That is how I have gotten must of my Mbuna. I am taking a group of 2" Ice Blue's (M. Greshakei) tomorrow to trade. If I don't see a fish I like I will get food instead.

So, my stock is small groups of: Red Zebras, Yellow Labs, Acei, Greshakei, one Hongi, 2 Pearl Mutts (got those today) and a ton of fry hiding in the rocks. :p

I have made my fair share of mistakes in the past and have gotten invaluable advice on forums like this one. I now want to pass on all I have learned to help others not make the same mistakes I did.
Here are some pictures of my tanks and fish.

The Community Tank:
Freddy the Frog

My beautiful Rams, still my favorite of all! Here they are flirting right before a spawn:

Here is some of their kids:

The Mbuna! I love these guys!! I have a tank full of Red Zebra fry, Acei fry, Ice Blue fry and soon Yellow Lab fry too. All these ones in the pictures are between 4 and 6" now.

Yellow Lab male and female:

Acei male between his ladies:

The Red Zebra Male and female:

And the tank Boss, my Ice Blue (Greshakei)
Welcome to AA Dizz, and thanks for all the invaluable information that you have given me in the short time you have been here. To the rest of the cichlid enthusiasts here, DizzCatt really knows her stuff!!!
Welcome! Beautiful fish and tanks. :) I like that sword in the middle of your Ram tank.....oh and that shot of Freddy is classic....nicely done! :)
Thank you everyone.

To the rest of the cichlid enthusiasts here, DizzCatt really knows her stuff!!!

:oops: Aw shucks! You made me blush! I am really glad I can help! I have gotten so much good advice from people on different forums. I have to say, if it wasn't for others helping me along I don't think my tanks would be as successful as they are. I love to pass on what I learned, to help others set up nice tanks. I have met a couple people who live close to me so far on forums. One guy helped me set up my Mbuna tank and I have helped 2 others start their own tanks. It is so fun for me to help others get going! I really can understand why some people end up opening their own fish store! I never get tired of learning new things, helping others and most important, watching my fish grow and thrive. Seeing them happy gives me satisfaction.

I love the big sword plants! In the past I have not had much luck with the stem plants. They just don't seem to like my water for some reason. I added CO2 a few month ago and that one tank picture was taken a couple weeks after I added it. All the plants in there are now much bigger.

People love to look in the planted tank. They see my Rams, sometimes over eggs. They will find the frogs, which people love. Or see groups of Tetras buzzing around. I have had my tetra and danios spawn many times, but their eggs end up treats for the rest of the fish.

I can sit in front of my tanks for hours watching the interactions going on! MUCH better than anything on TV!
Hello Cathy. Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself and your tanks. As a former pet store manager and aquarium design and maintenance biz owner, I must commend you for going natural. In years past, I can't remember how many times people would come into our store and purchase treasure chests, pink plants, rainbow marbles, multi-colored gravel, and an assortment of other psychedelically-colored products. I was never in favor of that stuff, and always encouraged people to go natural. I've always believed that as fishkeepers, we need to view things from the perspective of the fish. If we want the fish to act natural, we need to give them natural. Thanks again for sharing a part of your life with us.
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