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Hardeep's African Cichlid Tank Build.

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Hey everyone! This thread will map out my steps towards one of my African Cichlid tank builds. I will go into as much detail as I can and I hope this helps push some of you to get into Cichlid-keeping, especially Africans. In my opinion, they really are the pinnacle of the freshwater hobby.😉

So the tank in question! The tank was my birthday present, to myself😂 Mum and Dad gave me the money, you can guess where I spent it😉. Here we are talking about a shallow 120x40x30 tank, holding 144L with some bespoke features. I opted for a custom build, mainly because of the dimensions and I wanted optiwhite glass. I’m not sure what it’s called in the US, but it’s basically the clearest glass on the market across the pond. This tank features a braced top, allowing for glass sheet lids which can be individually removed. Since African Cichlids are such pigs, I went for a feeding hole on each sheet to help get food around the tank. I opted for black silicone, just to keep a bit of variety between my tanks. This tank is essentially a 40G LowBoy, which doesn't sound like enough water volume for Mbuna's, but the focus of the tank is the footprint, which I would guess competes with 75G's? Sorry we don't use gallons across the pond so I have no clue!😂 

Filtration will be a modded Fluval 307, allowing for plenty of mechanical, biological and chemical filtration. My favourite thing about canister filters is the mechanical filtration you can do with them. Yes I could run just sponge filters and the fish would be fine, but for display tanks I always want clarity. Sponges are great for biological filtration, not so great for mechanical. The 307 is set up as so-

2x foams supplied by Fluval

Basket 1: Fluval Prefilter rings, Fluval BioFoam + (Supplied) and 1x Fluval Quick Clear Pad.

I expect the foams to miss quite a bit of gunk and so I'd like the large particles to get trapped as low as possible, in what I'd consider secondary settlement. Then, I've gone for the supplied foams to trap what's left before the single quick clear pad traps the finer particles. This finishes the mechanical filtration in the canister filter.

Basket 2: Seachem Matrix-2L total.

I'm not really expecting to cultivate a lot of denitrifying bacteria, but I don't think I'm too bothered. I'll have to do water changes regardless anyway, so a full cycle will just be a bonus!😂

Basket 3: Seachem Matrix, 1x Fluval Quick Clear Pad and 100ml Seachem Purigen

The idea behind placing filter floss at the final stage of filtration is it forces water through the pad and then straight to the Purigen, allowing minimal bypass. Chemical filtration is unnecessary, but again I like to opt for it in displays.


Other equipment which will be used in this tank-

1x 200W Heater

2x SunSun JVP-1102 Wavemakers (Depending on whether the sand can tolerate 2)

1x 120CM Nicrew Planted LED

1x Digital Light Timer 

Eggcrates & hardscape


Now the fun bit, the stocking! Given it will be a tight fit, I've opted for relatively docile species and dwarf ones where I could.

Iodotropheus Sprengerae Makokola Reef

Pseudtropheus Cyaneorhabdos Maingano F2

Labidochromis Caeruleus Nkhata Bay F2

Chindongo Saulosi Taiwan Reef F2


I should add, do as I say not as I do!😂 This isn't a setup I wouldn't recommend the average fishkeeper does, as aggression levels are usually difficult to maintain in African Cichlid tanks and maintenance in general is higher. As I will be using tap water, water changes can be as large and as frequent as they need to be. The fish will bought as young juveniles and given the chance to establish the hierarchy early on, to save problems later on. I hope to grow out and maintain a 1:4 ratio. Backup tanks are always a must too.

Tap water parameters, on average-




0.5 ppm Ammonia (Max)

20-40ppm Nitrate (Varies year round)


Now I need to get on with building the stand! 🙂







Edited by HardeepTheLondoner
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