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Brainstorming Strategies for Keeping and Breeding Electric Blue Acaras in a Walstad Setup. Any thoughts?


MrGibson
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Hey y’all!

 

I think I’m in the right forum here as I’m trying to work out some new ideas but if this should be posted elsewhere let me know!

 

As I re-enter the freshwater hobby I’m finding myself wanting to keep walstad tanks due to the low maintenance and that being beneficial for some of the disability related issues I have, but I’m also finding myself wanting to keep and breed digging cichlids like EBAs in a nice looking tank.

 

Now I see issues arising with EBAs in a dirted tank, but I have a few ideas regarding keeping the soil in place even if they dig in the cap. Initially I was thinking that some egg crate diffuser on top of the soil before it’s capped might do. I’m also thinking some of the plastic needlepoint grid from a craft store in a large ish size may do the trick. The third idea I have is having the soil in mesh bags with the cap on top of that. 
 

Another issue I’m potentially seeing is removing dry from a heavily planted tank when the time comes. I know Diana Walstad and others have used potted plants for this purpose as they can be moved, but as I’m limited on space for tanks I’d like to have this 30 pull double duty(have a 40 breeder on standby as well if I decide I want the extra volume here. Given the final size of EBAs that may be a good move) as a display as well as a breeding tank. I was considering trying to trap the fry with a smaller version of the bottle traps I used to use for minnows as a kid. I don’t see any major reason this wouldn’t work unless I wanted another small schooling fish like danios or something that would also get caught. As of now I’m not sure if I’d want anything other than the acaras. We’re into have another tank mate I’d like it to be something else I could breed. Probably an egg scattering fish like zebra danios or something along those lines. I’m certainly open to other suggestions here as well regarding methods of capturing fry and other potential tank mates. 
 

Any thoughts on that or any questions I can answer? Any reality check’s regarding things I’m not considering?

 

Thanks y’all! 🙂

Edited by MrGibson
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I miss our EBAs already! We bred several hundred a few years ago. In the end … we were so overwhelmed with trying to maintain them well and move them for a reasonable price that we eventually bagged up the entire grow out tank into two large bags in two standard styros (ca. 80x fish), drove an hour and a half, and sold them for a few hundred dollars to a guy starting a new fishroom breeding / selling business.

If you can sell them young, do it! They’re adorable at this size…

As for your questions about the setup… Acaras are less “geophagus” (Latin: earth-eater) than other species. I found them to be less so than Rams, Apistogramma cacatuoides, Threadfin Acaras, etc. They appreciate hardscape of some sort to spawn on. Males, when engaging in pre-spawning displays, will sometimes perform “feats-of-strength” for females by tearing plants apart / pulling plants up by the roots.

I have never before kept a dirted or Walstad tank. They seem nice. You’ll want to think through your goals very, very carefully. If you want loads of fry, but ease of cleaning, catching, feeding, treating… then you want bare-bottom tanks with sponge filters. Every other sort of setup will involve certain challenges. If you want a pretty tank, with breeding as a bonus, then go for your Walstad setup. But if they spawn… good luck 😎

Here’s a video-loaded spawning report  prepared for our fish club on EBAs:

 

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On 1/21/2024 at 9:54 PM, Fish Folk said:

I miss our EBAs already! We bred several hundred a few years ago. In the end … we were so overwhelmed with trying to maintain them well and move them for a reasonable price that we eventually bagged up the entire grow out tank into two large bags in two standard styros (ca. 80x fish), drove an hour and a half, and sold them for a few hundred dollars to a guy starting a new fishroom breeding / selling business.

If you can sell them young, do it! They’re adorable at this size…

As for your questions about the setup… Acaras are less “geophagus” (Latin: earth-eater) than other species. I found them to be less so than Rams, Apistogramma cacatuoides, Threadfin Acaras, etc. They appreciate hardscape of some sort to spawn on. Males, when engaging in pre-spawning displays, will sometimes perform “feats-of-strength” for females by tearing plants apart / pulling plants up by the roots.

I have never before kept a dirted or Walstad tank. They seem nice. You’ll want to think through your goals very, very carefully. If you want loads of fry, but ease of cleaning, catching, feeding, treating… then you want bare-bottom tanks with sponge filters. Every other sort of setup will involve certain challenges. If you want a pretty tank, with breeding as a bonus, then go for your Walstad setup. But if they spawn… good luck 😎

Here’s a video-loaded spawning report  prepared for our fish club on EBAs:

 

Really appreciate the insight! I’m thinking a pretty tank with breeding as a bonus may be the angle I’d take. Not looking to start a full blown business here. If I can pay for my fish food and some new plants every once in a while I’d be happy. Definitely need to put more thought into it though and I’ll need to talk with the local LFSs to see if they’d be interested in EBAs going forward and at what size they’d want them. I’m considering trying out some apistos or something instead of EBAs as well. What the LFSs are wanting to take may inform that. 
 

Thanks again!

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On 1/24/2024 at 9:31 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

Related... Hopefully this video sheds some light about the setup.
 

 

Appreciate the link. I’ll give it a watch when I get the chance 🙂Been a while since I’ve seen a pecktec video. He’s actually local to me. I met him once or twice back in 2015 or 2016 when I was working and one of the LFSs here in town. 

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On 1/24/2024 at 8:23 PM, MrGibson said:

Appreciate the link. I’ll give it a watch when I get the chance 🙂Been a while since I’ve seen a pecktec video. He’s actually local to me. I met him once or twice back in 2015 or 2016 when I was working and one of the LFSs here in town. 

That's awesome.  Hopefully it was always a great experience with him.

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G

On 1/21/2024 at 12:29 PM, MrGibson said:

Hey y’all!

 

I think I’m in the right forum here as I’m trying to work out some new ideas but if this should be posted elsewhere let me know!

 

As I re-enter the freshwater hobby I’m finding myself wanting to keep walstad tanks due to the low maintenance and that being beneficial for some of the disability related issues I have, but I’m also finding myself wanting to keep and breed digging cichlids like EBAs in a nice looking tank.

 

Now I see issues arising with EBAs in a dirted tank, but I have a few ideas regarding keeping the soil in place even if they dig in the cap. Initially I was thinking that some egg crate diffuser on top of the soil before it’s capped might do. I’m also thinking some of the plastic needlepoint grid from a craft store in a large ish size may do the trick. The third idea I have is having the soil in mesh bags with the cap on top of that. 
 

Another issue I’m potentially seeing is removing dry from a heavily planted tank when the time comes. I know Diana Walstad and others have used potted plants for this purpose as they can be moved, but as I’m limited on space for tanks I’d like to have this 30 pull double duty(have a 40 breeder on standby as well if I decide I want the extra volume here. Given the final size of EBAs that may be a good move) as a display as well as a breeding tank. I was considering trying to trap the fry with a smaller version of the bottle traps I used to use for minnows as a kid. I don’t see any major reason this wouldn’t work unless I wanted another small schooling fish like danios or something that would also get caught. As of now I’m not sure if I’d want anything other than the acaras. We’re into have another tank mate I’d like it to be something else I could breed. Probably an egg scattering fish like zebra danios or something along those lines. I’m certainly open to other suggestions here as well regarding methods of capturing fry and other potential tank mates. 
 

Any thoughts on that or any questions I can answer? Any reality check’s regarding things I’m not considering?

 

Thanks y’all! 🙂

Greetings! Ive been using Walstad method tanks (planted tanks with soil substrate) for about seven years now, mostly on dwarf Cichlids, livebearers, and Characins (Tetras).  No digging issues with these types compared to EBA’s as it sounds.  Still, I have attempted to modify the Walstad setup in several different tanks that might work for digging fish (except carp/goldfish since they tear up and eat most plants).  Just for reference, you may know the typical Walstad method suggests the entire tank bottom be layered with 1” of unfertilized soil covered with no more than 1” of gravel—or a total of no more than 2”. If the gravel or soil layer is made any deeper, the soil could become severely anaerobic, or have the tendency to produce hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which in either case will kill any plants. A couple of things to factor in is the size of your gravel or top substrate.  Ideally, you would use 2-4 mm gravel (grit). If you’re using sand, the top layer substrate should be less than an inch, more like 0.5” since gas exchange is slower.  What I’ve done in some of my tanks is placed “islands” of soil covered by gravel substrate and placed my plants in these locations. My modified approach has mostly been for aesthetic reasons (so I don’t see a layer in rimless tanks) but when I’ve used large stones in the hard scape it prevents H2S from forming.  The other approach has been to add a mesh screen over the soil layer (cut areas or strips where you want to place plants, and then place gravel on top of it. If you’re trying to maximize the bio load you could start by creating a plenum and then adding soil and gravel.  I’ve had good success with all three modified methods growing mostly Amazon swords, crypts, and Hygrophila. It may be worth a try with your EBA’s. Enjoy!    

 

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On 1/25/2024 at 3:50 AM, PT Apisto said:

G

Greetings! Ive been using Walstad method tanks (planted tanks with soil substrate) for about seven years now, mostly on dwarf Cichlids, livebearers, and Characins (Tetras).  No digging issues with these types compared to EBA’s as it sounds.  Still, I have attempted to modify the Walstad setup in several different tanks that might work for digging fish (except carp/goldfish since they tear up and eat most plants).  Just for reference, you may know the typical Walstad method suggests the entire tank bottom be layered with 1” of unfertilized soil covered with no more than 1” of gravel—or a total of no more than 2”. If the gravel or soil layer is made any deeper, the soil could become severely anaerobic, or have the tendency to produce hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which in either case will kill any plants. A couple of things to factor in is the size of your gravel or top substrate.  Ideally, you would use 2-4 mm gravel (grit). If you’re using sand, the top layer substrate should be less than an inch, more like 0.5” since gas exchange is slower.  What I’ve done in some of my tanks is placed “islands” of soil covered by gravel substrate and placed my plants in these locations. My modified approach has mostly been for aesthetic reasons (so I don’t see a layer in rimless tanks) but when I’ve used large stones in the hard scape it prevents H2S from forming.  The other approach has been to add a mesh screen over the soil layer (cut areas or strips where you want to place plants, and then place gravel on top of it. If you’re trying to maximize the bio load you could start by creating a plenum and then adding soil and gravel.  I’ve had good success with all three modified methods growing mostly Amazon swords, crypts, and Hygrophila. It may be worth a try with your EBA’s. Enjoy!    

 

Really appreciate the input! Which dwarf cichlid species have you kept in Walstad’s? I’ve yet to actually keep EBAs but @Fish Folkmentioned that in his experience they messed with the substrate less than rams and apisto cacatuoides (both of which I’d also like to keep lol). I’ll put some thought into all of these methods and what might work best here. The method with the screen is most similar to what I was thinking. I’m most leaning towards egg crate on top of the soil inside the cap. 
 

I’ve pushed back doing new world cichlids of any sort in favor of a more typical walstad that soon will have a new pair of Betta albimarginata and hopefully some Microdevario kubotai as well, so I may try to test some of your suggestions along with my ideas out in 10 gallon tanks to see how plant growth may be impacted and also to dig around in the substrate myself to see how everything holds up. I’m sure I can dig more than an electric blue acara if I put my mind to it lol. 
 

Thanks again!

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 2/17/2024 at 4:19 AM, PT Apisto said:

Greetings—I’ve raised many Apistogramma cacatuoides using Walstad’s method.  They seem more inclined only to ‘sort through’ the gravel surface looking for bits to eat rather than actually ever dig.  By now you may be testing out your ideas—may it go well for you!

That’s great info to have! I’m testing one of the ideas and it’s going well so far. Here’s the thread where I’m documenting that 🙂

 

 

It’s going well so far and it seems like it should work quite well for digging species, even if not entirely necessary for A. Cacatuoides. 
 

thanks 🙂

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