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Fish/Cichlid Water Parameters

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Question
Everything I read from Cichlid experts, regarding African Cichlids, says the water should be moderately Hard and a PH of 7.8-8.2.  That being said, my Local Fish store (PetCo) keeps All of their Fresh water fish in the same water, Tropical, Community, Cichlids all in Moderately soft water GH of 4-6 degrees, and a pH of 7.4  (I happen to live 1/4 mile away and have the same water parameters as the store).   Is it really necessary to buffer my water and boost the PH up some and make the water Harder in order to successfully keep African Cichlids?  will they thrive in my current water conditions? Any advice for a first time African Cichlid owner would be great.

55 Gal Tank
Fluval 406 Canister filter and Topfin Hang on Back Power Filter
Substrate - Pool Filtered Sand
Flagstone rock work for hiding/caves

Answer
Hi Chris,
  In general, east African cichlids seem to do better in hard, alkaline waters.  However, it depends on the source of your fish.  So for instance, if you are getting wild fish, fresh from the Lake, you need to use hard, alkaline water.  The fish you find in Petco have been in captivity for many generations and are likely adapted to much more neutral water. So, for instance, I keep my east African cichlids in roughly neutral water.  Most importantly, changing the water parameters too rapidly are much more likely to cause problems than anything else. So, should you decide to raise the pH, do so gradually, over a week or even longer, not all at once.
The change is what can shock the fish.

-- Ron C.
  rcoleman@cichlidresearch.com
  Cichlid Research Home Page <http://cichlidresearch.com>

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Ron Coleman

Expertise

I am an expert on cichlid fishes, particularly New World cichlids. My broader expertise includes the behavior, ecology and reproduction of fishes in general. (I am NOT an expert on Goldfish). Please do not use abbreviations, such as "my GT has a swollen eye" because I don't know what a "GT" is. The more clearly you can explain your question, the better chance I have of understanding what it is that you seek. I keep fishes both as a scientist and as a hobbyist and I currently maintain about 140 aquariums.

Experience

I am an Associate Professor at the California State University, Sacramento in the Department of Biological Sciences, and I run a website, called the Cichlid Research Home Page . I also write for many popular aquarist magazines, and I was editor of Cichlid News magazine for several years. I am a scientist and I spend my time teaching fish biology, ecology, behavior and evolution and doing research on the reproductive biology of fishes, particularly cichlids. I do research in the laboratory and in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Mexico. My main interest is understanding the evolution of parental care in fishes. I am interested in encouraging greater public awareness, understanding and participation in science.

Publications
Cichlid News, Tropical Fish Hobbyist, Freshwater and Marine Aquarium, Science, Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, Copeia, Canadian Journal of Zoology, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, AUK, Environmental Biology of Fishes

Education/Credentials
PhD (Toronto, 1993) MSc (Simon Fraser, 1986) BSc (British Columbia, 1983)

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