New Planted or Malawi setup - Any advice greatly appreciated!

Discussion in 'Beginner Discussions' started by Matt, Dec 13, 2009.

  1. Matt


    Dec 13, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Hello everyone, my name is Matt I live in JHB and i'm finishing my masters in Chiropractic. I kept a fresh water tank about 10 years ago (albeit somewhat unsuccessfully), then got into marines a few years ago and successfully kept a nano reef tank.

    I sold the tank due to time(maintenance) as well as financial constraints, and now i'd like to perhaps delve into something a bit different. I'm moving in about a year so this tank won't be permanent but i'd love something that wont require too much planning and that is relatively easy and quick to set up.

    I'm thinking of starting either a planted tank, or a malawi species tank, and have a couple of questions.

    1. Size - i'm thinking maybe 200 or 300 litres? What is recommended as a good size that is relatively easy on maintenance, as well as remaining relatively inexpensive?

    2. Filtration - I have no clue what is effective with regards to fresh water. I kept tanks in the days of horrid undergravel filters and relatively inefficient canister filters - perhaps these have improved with time?

    3. Stock - where can I find hardware/livestock in johannesburg? I'm only aware of the salty LFS's :)

    4. Water parameters - is there any great products I can use to keep water params in check? Also should I use RO water like I did with my marine tank? or is treated tap water ok?

    5. Basic costs? I know its hard to estimate costs involved but what kind of ballpark figure am I looking at in setting up a 200 to 300 liter malawi tank?

    6. Livestock - can I easily find nice species etc? What is availability like?

    Sorry for the billion questions, these are just off the top of my head and i'm sure many have been answered here before. I will peruse the forums and start researching, but if anyone wants to chime in with some advice i'd greatly appreciate it!

    Nice to meet you all ;) :cool::cool:
  2. Guest

  3. Whipme

    Whipme Microsword

    Jul 27, 2009
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    1. Size. Buy as big a tank as you can afford, maybe save up a little longer and get a bigger one. I say this because whatever size you get will never be big enough! And because a bigger water volume is easier to keep stable.

    2. Filtration. If you're going with Malawis you'll likely overstock to keep agression down, so you'll want lots of filtration. That means either a nice canister or two, or a sump. And some backup filtration is always good to have.

    3. Stock. There are plenty of places to get what you need, but have a look at Fish Fantasy World, they should be able to give you a decent price on a tank, and should have a lot of what you want in terms of livestock. Also, fill in your profile on the forum so people can see where you're from.

    4. Water parameters. These should be easy to control with a well established bateria colony, good filtration, regular water changes, and plants will help a great deal too. RO water is not necessary, most people use matured or treated tap water, but check out what your water's pH and hardness levels are to make sure.

    5. Basic costs. You'd be looking at R600 or more for a 4ft or larger tank. Then you'd need a stand, and substrate (pool filter sand is a popular and cheap choice, or playsand if your fish need soft substrates), canister filters should be around R900 to R3000, fish range from anywhere between R5 and R300 each, so that's up to you. Rocks should cost you somewhere in the range of R15 a kilo, and plants from R10 upwards. Just keep in mind that Malawis are vegetarians, so most plants are just food to them. Java Ferns, Vallis and Anubias are potential survivors though. Food and chemical treatments also vary quite widely in price.

    6. Livestock. Depending on how specific you get, you should be able to find most things in shops or through the sponsors here on the site. Some importers get exotics in every now and then so keep your eyes open.

    7. General. It's best to give your tank a nice long period of time to cycle before adding fish, so bargain on a month of having water and plants and no fish, then adding fish a few at a time over a period of weeks. Do lots of research about compatability of species before buying anything. Save up for as long as you can to buy a tank as big as you can. I started with a 3ft and I'm regretting not having bought a 4ft or 5ft or even 6ft tank first time around. Look around in the classified section on forums/junk mail/gumtree because you never know when you'll pick up a bargain!

    Oh yes, and don't forget one of the most discussed topics anywhere: Lighting!
    You've got plenty of options, but ultimately you'll be looking for something power efficient that meets the needs of all your plants and fish that won't break the bank. Don't think that "aquarium lights" are the only option. A R15 6500K flourescent light tube works just as well as a R200 specialist aquarium flourescent light tube. Check out the lighting section and you'll find lots of information. But for easy lighting, get an electronic ballast with sealing end caps (+- R120) and some T8 or T5 lights. There are a few places where you can buy Phillips or Osram 6500k lights for a fraction of the cost of the aquarium types. A timer will make your life much easier too because you'll ideally want the lights on for 8 to 10 hours a day, I've heard about the mechanical timers giving issues, but do some research about the risks.

    You'll also need a heater, and the rule there is to again, get the best you can. Jager is a well-respected brand that's expensive (R250 to R500 depending on the store), but they're worth every cent if you consider that a defective heater could end up boiling all your fish and leaving you with an interesting smell in your house. Big tanks might need 2 heaters, and it's a nice thing to have a backup heater for smaller tanks, but it's not necessary.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2009

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