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MrChips's American Cichlid tank 'setup n stocking log'

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Hi all.
New to this forum and I thought I would start a log here to plot my progress as I get a new tank set up.

I used to keep fish around 20 years ago(that makes me feel old), and used to keep a tank of Malawi Cichlids and also a tank with a group of Oscars.
My interest sparked again when i saw some great looking aquariums recently, and I realised ive kinda missed not having an aquarium to potter around with in my spare time.

Well I thought about it, and decided this might be a good time to get back into fishkeeping.  *fish*
It was the American Cichlids that caught my eye this time around and decided this i what i would like to try my hand at.

After all, I have some experience, so how hard can it be to keep americans....?

I looked around for a tank/cabinet combo. Something that would look smart in my lounge.
Finally, after searching for a second hand one and not finding one i liked, I settled on getting a new one.

I picked a tank/cab from ND Aquatics, a 6'x2'x2' that would fit into an alcove in my lounge.
While i waited for it to be built i got all the other essentials i would need.
1x APS 2000lh external filter+booster filter(frees up a basket in main filter for more biomedia, and keeps mechanical filtration in separate canister.
2x 300w heaters
1x Reefsurge 8000 (for circulation)
Lots of wood
Lots of fake plants (don't crucify me for this)
Limpopo black sand, 3 bags of

While doing more research i realised that keeping soft water fish in a hard water area would not be so straight forward.
So i have opted for using an RO filter to achieve softer water.(more on that later).

My tank arrived and i couldn't have been more pleased with the build quality. I have to say, with all the options ND offer, they are worth taking a look at if you decide to go new. Everything from glass type to wood finish...Door handles to type of lid/cover. So many options you are sure to get what you want.

So i set up all the equipment and added the sand and wood and filled the tank from the RO filter.
2 days later  the tank was full  :Oo: yes  2 days to fill it. That was with a booster pump on a 100gpd filter(didnt run while sleeping).
Its worth mentioning that if you are considering RO you may well need a booster pump in the UK as water pressure may not be high enough for it to work effectively. If not you will end up more of a steady drip rather than a steady stream.

Now i made a big mistake on this part and only used RO water neat to fill the tank. After seeing the ph spike upwards i came on here, and was put on the right track by some nice forum members who enlightened me on the need to remineralise the water.
So i did some more reading and am starting to learn the relationship between GH, KH and PH.

Getting this right is going to be harder than i first thought.

It was suggested that i mix tap water with RO or use remineralisation salts to get the RO water to a hardness that would keep a stable pH and the pH would find its own level.
So back to square one, i emptied the tank and started again. This time i used 1/3 tap water : 2/3 RO.
The pH was kinda high at 7.6 but at least it was stable.
I ordered a GH/KH test kit so i can get to grips with that when it arrives.
I get the feeling that the ratio will end up more like 5:1 RO/tap
But for now it is good enough to get on with a cycle.

I have 2 king prawns in a mesh bag in the tank just now as i also had problems sourcing some Jeyes ammonia locally, so its in the post.
The prawns have brought the ammonia level up to  0.5 in last 24 hours so its a start.

Thanks for reading and ill keep this updated
Thanks also for the help i have received so far from the members here.  *applause*

*****-------- some photos below of tank and setup-------******

Photos as promised.

It's looking great!  thumbsup

*agree* ..... It would even better with real plants though..... ;) *grin*

Thanks guys.

My ammonia arrived on Monday along with a GH/KH test kit, and a cheap TDS pen.
I dosed to tank with 13ml of 9% ammonia and it read around 4ppm a few hours later.
Tested KH/GH and they were 4KH and 5GH respectively.
TDS was 97ppm
PH seems to be stable at around 7.6
I think in terms of hardness and PH it looks good to stock South Americans once the cycle is complete.

Tested for progress of cycle this morning and it looks like things are moving along nicely.


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