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My saulosi are extremely shy, suggestions?

Rob E.

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Hello all! Greetings from Michigan.  I'm new to the forum and was wondering if anyone had any advice on how to make my saulosi less skittish. 

This is my first experience keeping african chiclids. I bought them as juveniles about ten months ago and they were fearless, always begging for food. Then one day, maybe 6 months ago, They started to flee and hid every time I would approach the tank to feed them. I've been racking my brain trying to figure out what changed, but over time I just became used to it. I tried approaching the tank with the room light off, but that didn't make any difference. 

Tank info:

75 gal.

10 saulosi (5 Male/5 Female)

6 synodonis petricola added shortly after the saulosi.

Lace rock, black diamond blasting sand, vallisnaria, anubias barteri. 2x sponge filters. 1x 4ft stingray light.

The tank is quite low to the floor, the lower tank on a double rack that I made.  Maybe that makes them nervous? I though about maybe adding more fish, more females, more or fewer hiding places.  Thoughts?

Edit: I thought I should add that its not just when I approach the tank. If I sit on the floor 10ft away, they just dart around near the bottom. in and out of the rocks. I remember awhile back I searched and found one of Cory's old livestreams and he responded to a similar question saying that they are rock dwellers and that is normal behavior (paraphrased from memory). I just posted this after seeing Tazawa Tanks recent video and his saulosi were all in open water. Maybe just takes time? Anyway, mostly just asking out of curiosity, still loving the tank, rescued one fry yesterday so they can't be too upset.



ammonia 0 ppm

nitrite 0ppm

nitrate 20ppm

gh 11

kh 6

temp 74 


Edited by Rob E.
add photo and water parameters
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The Nitrate reading surprised me and may have been much higher. I do auto water changes 25% on Saturday and 25% on Sunday, but a few days ago I got ambitious and decided to tackle the duckweed. I netted out most of it and then ran water into the tank to flush the rest out the overflow. So best guess is i did a 30% water change earlier in the week and then 25% this morning. So it was probably over 40ppm at some point. I don't fertilize this tank either.

I have been feeding pretty heavy lately though, because I was worried about the synodonis getting enough food.

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I would add more rocks or wood to make then feel more secure if they have plenty of hiding places they are going to be more confident and be out more you can get cichlids caves off aquarium co-op or Amazon

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I suspect your fish have just matured into adults. Young humans tend to do stupid stuff when they're young and then later in life look back and ponder, "How did I ever live through all of that? What was I thinking?" It's a fish eat fish world out there. (Actually it's an everything eats fish world out there.) Young fish may not realize that but as they grow and mature they start to realize how dangerous the world is and start acting more appropriately. You pretty much see it across the animal kingdom. Your puppy or kitten will do things that an older dog or cat won't even consider trying. Part of maturing is limiting risk and it carries across many/most animal species. Your fish have matured their way past their wild, reckless, youth and are now settled down and living as responsible adults. I suspect a geneticist could find a maturity gene of some sort that dampened down reckless behavior as a creature ages if they looked for it. Very few people, or animals for that matter, behave as recklessly as adults as they did in their younger days.

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@gardenman Do You think that over time, as they mature, they will become less threatened by me? What you said makes a lot of sense, but whenever I see other mbuna tanks, the adult fish are out in open water and attack their food on the surface.  I recently set up a second mbuna tank stocked with juveniles so it will be interesting to see if their behavior changes as they mature. They are currently very eager to see me.

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