The Impossible Dream

Wills

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A few people will probably know that my favourite fish are Nicaraguan Cichlids, in particular the females. This is because of a female I had for around 2 years who I called Elsie. You might remember her from my old avatar, I have no idea why since I lost her I havent gone back and tried to keep them again, so that is the 'dream'.

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Bit of a disclaimer upfront this project is a slow burn, I will likely be setting the actual tank up in late December but that is also the big news that Mrs Wills has agreed to my impossible dream of having a 4 foot tank specifically for a female Nicaraguan Cichlid and some friends :) Since we reached this treaty the concept of the tank has basically lived rent free in my head 60-70% of the time and I wanted a place to start putting these ideas down and I thought it would be good to share with people here and get some opinions on what I want to do.

I'm approaching this tank in a very different way to how I have any other in the past. Usually I want to look at rare, unique, unusual fish and sometimes these fish are not known to be the most colourful, they might be irridescant or spangled or cool behaviour but not in your face screaming colour. And following from the Nicaraguan Cichlid I want everything in this tank to be crazy colourful.

Fish

I often struggle with setting up tanks because of my tapwater, its hard and has around 25ppm of nitrate in it as well as quite high levels of things that cause algae. The hardness often leaves me a bit dispondant because it limits my fish choice without using RO water (which I do have access to now) but its actually pretty good for the centre piece of this tank Nicaraguan Cichlids.

So in my hard water there are 4 obvious groups of fish to look at for a tank like this, Central American Cichlids, Livebearers, Rainbow Fish and Synodontis Catfish. There are a couple of others too but these four groups are basically my plan.

(non of these pics are mine btw just found to illustrate my ideas)

The centrepiece fish will be (hopefully) 3 female Central American Cichlids and I want a Nicaraguan, Salvini and an Electric Blue Jack Dempsey

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I want females because all Central American cichlids can hybridise, Nics and Salvini are easy to sex, female Nics are super obvious, female Salvini get black spots on their gill plates (like this pic) JDs are harder but I'll do my best. I feel these three will work in a big 4 foot all are feisty but kind of in the same way. I think the Salvini has the worst reputation but I have seen them do well in a mixed tank, Nics are bolshy but I think would be able balance and the EBJD is possibly an outlier in that people say the EBs are quite a bit less aggressive than the regular JDs. Also aware of the health issues EBJDs are said to have so I'll be really careful on where I get one from to make sure I get the best chance.

Schooling fish will be Rainbow Fish, I'm really undecided on which species but I think it will be one of these three. All have their advantages and disadvantages but I feel all of them would be viable. The choices are Bosmani (which would look great with the cichlids and are a real wow fish especially some of the strains available now but the school would be smaller) Dwarf Neon (which would allow a bigger school but I've only seen really sickly ones recently) Kamaka (really nice Rainbow but quite rare, they stay smaller too so would be a bigger school than the Bosmani but would I ever be able to buy them?).


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Up towards the surface I'm mainly looking at livebearers. I think Platies will be ok and I really like the bright colours (I said I'm not looking for super rare lol) and Swordtails would def work, of either species I'd look at the sunsets, red wags and kohakus. To go with them as well I'm thinking of some Golden Wonder Killis who also match my criteria, bright colours and also do well in my water.

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Then down at the bottom, while giving the cichlids as much space as possible I want some of the black and white Synodontis species like Polli and Multipunctatus. While not a bright colour the white scales are so white they are bright in their own right so I think would look good with the others in here. I'm also tempted by some of the other Synos like Angelicus or the Pyjama ones which have a great pattern too.

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I may also add in some Bristlenose Plecs to help keep ontop of algae, maybe some snails in there too I don't think any of the fish I'm thinking of would be a threat?

Equipment

I'm hoping to go for a 4x2x2 120 gallon tank, it will be rimless but I want black silicone and I'll be using a jump guard with clear netting this time as the black I have on my current tank is a bit distracting from the tank. Its going to be custom made as I want the stand to match my 100 litre which will be in the same room and the manufacurer has gone now but the custom people seem to be able to use the same bronze stone laminate I have on the 100 litre.

I think the tank is going to have a 3D background with a rocky effect. The one I want is super expensive and I'm trying to decide if I want to go with the silicone one or if I should just buy aquascaping rock and do it myself? Keep it natural?

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Substrate will be sand, but if I go with the 3D background I'll get one of the rubber floor mats too so the sand might not be super thick but also as the cichlids dig the stone effect base would be revealed. Planting I'm undecided on I'd like some of the bigger crinkled Crypts and some Criniums, I'll try and get some moss going on rocks or the 3D background and I also want to do some emmerged plants like Peace Lillys to help with my nitrate issues (from the tap and the messy fish).

For filtration I might go with the Oase Biomaster for the external filter but if I got the 3D background I could hide heaters behind that and go for one of the FX filters? Because of the nitrate in my tap water my plan is to use some chemical filtration in my filters rather than as a prefilter. I'm also trying to learn about nitrate filters which a few people have mentioned to me which uses a trickle system and grows an anaerobic bacteria that converts nitrate to nitrogen which gasses off through the water (I think...)


Like I say this is a really slow burn and I'm a few months away from buying the tank but it feels great to get this down and I'm really looking forward to hear peoples opinions on the plan. I'll update this thread as I start to pull together a shopping list of kit I'm going to get and hopefully someone will find that process useful too.

Wills
 

AquaBarb

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Thats brilliant news Wills :) so pleased you are now able to go ahead with your dream build.

Plan sounds awesome and i like the mix of fish your going for. Going to be interesting viewing on how you bring this dream to reality:)

Do keep us posted
 

Ch4rlie

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Nice, liking the plans you have.

I am a big fan of rimless tanks as more appealing imho, nice size of 120G as well, you best prepare for big weekly water changes! lol

I've just bought a Oase Biomaster Thermo 350 for my tank and am hoping it lives up to the hype and does the trick for my new tank 180L (47 US Gals), George Farmer uses these Oase filters as well which was the deciding factor for me to buy this, the hidden heater is nice bonus.

Lovely colourful fish species of your choices, I like them all tbh, though am baised as I personally love the Boesmani as think they are lovely with their shape, colourations and schooling behaviours, having said that am interested in the Kamaka rainbows as this is not a species that am familiar with at all, don't think have seen those in LFS. Research time methinks ;)

The 3d background, nice idea but its a faff to fit into tank as these need to be cut and trimmed to fit your tank and trying to hide seams was bothersome and does take up a bit of space in back of tank as I've bought this stuff before years ago (Juwel 3d background) and tried it, did not like it much in the end and went for natural rocks and wood instead, its very much a personal choice though. Might work well in large tank like yours though.

I'll keep an eye on this for further progress, good luck.
 

AdoraBelle Dearheart

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Commenting mainly because I want to follow this build! 😍

@Wills Elsie was absolutely stunning, and it's obvious from the way you've talked about her that she meant a great deal to you. Building your dream tank around this species you love is a beautiful way to remember her while also moving forward.

It's going to be absolutely stunning! As I read through I kept thinking "wow!" at each new species and decor idea you said. Love the idea of lots of colour, especially in such a large display tank, and the plants growing from the top (and potentially moss on the background) will be gorgeous. I want to add some plants growing emersed from some tanks too, and I can see that with the nitrate levels in your tapwater that anything that would help with that is great.

I am no help to you at all I'm afraid, not that I think you'll need help! You know so much already. But it's always still good to bounce ideas around and hear what others think while trying to cement your own thoughts and decisions too, so I get that. :) Can't wait to see this dream come to life!
 
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Wills

Wills

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Thanks everyone :) really looking forward at getting on with this.

Nice, liking the plans you have.

I am a big fan of rimless tanks as more appealing imho, nice size of 120G as well, you best prepare for big weekly water changes! lol

I've just bought a Oase Biomaster Thermo 350 for my tank and am hoping it lives up to the hype and does the trick for my new tank 180L (47 US Gals), George Farmer uses these Oase filters as well which was the deciding factor for me to buy this, the hidden heater is nice bonus.

Lovely colourful fish species of your choices, I like them all tbh, though am baised as I personally love the Boesmani as think they are lovely with their shape, colourations and schooling behaviours, having said that am interested in the Kamaka rainbows as this is not a species that am familiar with at all, don't think have seen those in LFS. Research time methinks ;)

The 3d background, nice idea but its a faff to fit into tank as these need to be cut and trimmed to fit your tank and trying to hide seams was bothersome and does take up a bit of space in back of tank as I've bought this stuff before years ago (Juwel 3d background) and tried it, did not like it much in the end and went for natural rocks and wood instead, its very much a personal choice though. Might work well in large tank like yours though.

I'll keep an eye on this for further progress, good luck.

I have to admit the big water changes do worry me... I remember when I had my 135g they were a bit daunting but that was with buckets to refill where as now I think I'd connect a hose to my tap and do it that way. 120g is the dream but it could be smaller too somewhere between 300 and 450 litres.

I have a BioMaster 350 on my 100 litre and it is a great filter, the pre filter is so easy to clean and the heater just makes things neater in the tank - I dont think there is such thing as a nice looking heater. Good build quality too.

For the 3D background the one I'm looking at is custom made and the specific one I'm looking at you don't need to silicone in either. But it is very expensive just for the background on a 4x2 tank it would be about £600 just for the back piece and really I would want to get the base mat and some freestanding rocks for the middle too. And I do sort of think for that kind of money you could get basically any hardscape you want, especially if you put some wood in there. This years IAPLC has just been announced and some of the hardscape pictures from there are pretty incredible. This one in particular by Eakthanat Isarathikul came 4th but you can see how the hardscape was constructed and I think if I had the right materials I could use this as inspiration. Though I probably wouldnt pile stuff up so high to keep as much swimming space as possible but also the planting here is great for a high tech tank but it feels like a similar low tech approach could work with moss and crypts. I've had big wood in my tanks before and while I thought it would help soften my water, it didnt lol, even though I wanted it to at the time so I'm not too worried.

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Wills
 

Ch4rlie

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Whoo, those are 3D backgrounds?!

Wow, that’s stunning, now I understand. Seems those 3D background developers have moved on a lot since last time I looked at them, which was a number of years ago to be fair.

£600+, not cheap, wonder if you can’t make something yourself much cheaper or just go natural. Some beautiful long pieces of wood and style those together, couple hundred quid maybe, as you say use those images as inspiration.

Personal choice though, it’s your tank ;)

And yes, you’ll definitely appreciate a good python hose system or rig up a system where hoses connects to taps and drainage or use decent quality universal pumps, (I use a Eheim universal pump) a real time and backsaver for sure. Using buckets will take you a long time to change 50% of your 120g which is around 220 litres, and buckets tend to be around 10 litres so that’s 22 buckets each way for draining and another 22 for refilling water so you can imagine how much work is involved. :blink:
 

Bruce Leyland-Jones

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Whoo, those are 3D backgrounds?!

Wow, that’s stunning, now I understand. Seems those 3D background developers have moved on a lot since last time I looked at them, which was a number of years ago to be fair.
Methinks it's a real and fully landscaped tank, by someone called Eakthanat Isarathikul...and they only got 4th place!
Beautiful though it is, I wanna see it some three months later, away from competition and spotlight.
(The joys of a large tank).
 

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Ah I see, my bad. Apologies for that misunderstanding.

But nonetheless, beautiful scape. These guys sure are good.

Me, more like meh, bet my 7 year old boy could do a better job than I do! :lol:

Agree with you that I’d like to see that same tank in 3-6 months to see how it looks then, most aquascapist just keep their tank looking stunning for a very short period of time then break it down and start over again with a different vision. They’re not true fish keepers methinks, just want the stunning looks of tanks rather than the livestock welfare. Not sure if that’s true with all scapers but probably most of them.

Anyways, whichever way Wills want to go, expensive 3D or natural scape am sure it will look fantastic.
 

Bruce Leyland-Jones

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They’re not true fish keepers methinks, just want the stunning looks of tanks rather than the livestock welfare. Not sure if that’s true with all scapers but probably most of them.
Possibly an unfair assumption, methinks.
It was soaking up such visions with my own eyeballs, back in the mid-80s, that I was inspired to get planting. Those fishkeepers were true aquarists, with the whole point of their outstanding ecosystems being to benefit the fish, show them all off to their full potential and then to benefit us, the viewer.
Granted, the competition circuit did corrupt some, as all sorts of weird and wonderful tricks were employed by those for whom winning was the be-all and end-all, but, as one Berliner told me, he had to live with his creations 24/7 and it was actually easier to keep it looking good, than it was to repair a badly maintained tank.

Bear in mind that, back then, Thinternet didn't exist and it was relatively easy to eyeball the tanks and to speak directly with their creators. Besides the few for whom competition was everything, pseuds were few and far between.
However, today, when Twitter, Facebook and other social media outputs can be so influential and image is everything, perhaps things have changed for the worse?
 

Ch4rlie

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Possibly an unfair assumption, methinks.
It was soaking up such visions with my own eyeballs, back in the mid-80s, that I was inspired to get planting. Those fishkeepers were true aquarists, with the whole point of their outstanding ecosystems being to benefit the fish, show them all off to their full potential and then to benefit us, the viewer.
Granted, the competition circuit did corrupt some, as all sorts of weird and wonderful tricks were employed by those for whom winning was the be-all and end-all, but, as one Berliner told me, he had to live with his creations 24/7 and it was actually easier to keep it looking good, than it was to repair a badly maintained tank.

Bear in mind that, back then, Thinternet didn't exist and it was relatively easy to eyeball the tanks and to speak directly with their creators. Besides the few for whom competition was everything, pseuds were few and far between.
However, today, when Twitter, Facebook and other social media outputs can be so influential and image is everything, perhaps things have changed for the worse?

Hmm, you could well be correct, it was a bit of a sweeping statement from me but honestly I don’t know for sure.

Interesting question though.

Anyhow, some truly stunning tanks out there whether it’s from professional aquascapists or the everyday fishkeeper.

Certainly not from me though as I’ll never win a prize for my scapes :lol:
 

Bruce Leyland-Jones

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Hmm, you could well be correct, it was a bit of a sweeping statement from me but honestly I don’t know for sure.

Interesting question though.

Anyhow, some truly stunning tanks out there whether it’s from professional aquascapists or the everyday fishkeeper.

Certainly not from me though as I’ll never win a prize for my scapes :lol:
To be fair to those I met, basically looking after their hobby well was always the prime concern, with any competition and/or plaudits well down their list of priorities and the fact of their truly beautiful tanks was just a happy by-product. None were out to win prizes, but all practiced what they preached, kept on learning and applying those lessons. Sharing was much more hands-on and personal and I benefitted much from monkey see, monkey do...with me being the ever-so willing monkey.
I agree with you that it'd be interesting to view the many similarly beautiful we see on-line, up close and personal...after the cameras have been put away.
 

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Thanks everyone :) really looking forward at getting on with this.



I have to admit the big water changes do worry me... I remember when I had my 135g they were a bit daunting but that was with buckets to refill where as now I think I'd connect a hose to my tap and do it that way. 120g is the dream but it could be smaller too somewhere between 300 and 450 litres.

I have a BioMaster 350 on my 100 litre and it is a great filter, the pre filter is so easy to clean and the heater just makes things neater in the tank - I dont think there is such thing as a nice looking heater. Good build quality too.

For the 3D background the one I'm looking at is custom made and the specific one I'm looking at you don't need to silicone in either. But it is very expensive just for the background on a 4x2 tank it would be about £600 just for the back piece and really I would want to get the base mat and some freestanding rocks for the middle too. And I do sort of think for that kind of money you could get basically any hardscape you want, especially if you put some wood in there. This years IAPLC has just been announced and some of the hardscape pictures from there are pretty incredible. This one in particular by Eakthanat Isarathikul came 4th but you can see how the hardscape was constructed and I think if I had the right materials I could use this as inspiration. Though I probably wouldnt pile stuff up so high to keep as much swimming space as possible but also the planting here is great for a high tech tank but it feels like a similar low tech approach could work with moss and crypts. I've had big wood in my tanks before and while I thought it would help soften my water, it didnt lol, even though I wanted it to at the time so I'm not too worried.

View attachment 143252

Wills
Beautiful :wub:

I wonder where they source fantastic looking wood like this. Ive been looking for x large pieces for a good while now but cant seem to find any like above.

If yours ends up anything like above Wills you coming to do mine next lol :D

For my big tank i use a 110litre bin with a submersible pump and hose for W/C's and its the best equipment ive ever purchased. No more buckets and its a pleasure doing maintance now.

 

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