This is a community ebook that any member of can contribute to! Our aim is to collect the wisdom of all our many years of experience caring for Parrot Cichlids in one place! Private message me to get authoring rights. Many of the articles need work, so don't be afraid to jump in!

Introduction - What IS a Blood Parrot Cichlid?

Sometimes called Blood Parrots or Bloody Parrots or Purple Parrots, Parrot Cichlids are a hybrid of members of the cichlid family with remarkable personalities that make them exceptional as pets.

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ParrotCichlids are freshwater fish, probably descendants of the "Redheaded Cichlid" and the "Red Devil", both Central american cichlids. For more information See this translation of an article by Jian Zhi Chen


Information for new fishkeepers

Information on how to set up a tank and keep your fish healthy and happy.


Cleaning the Gravel

How do you clean a fish tank without removing the fish or the gravel? Use a siphon! A siphon is like a water-driven vacuum cleaner, which cleans gravel and changes the water at the same time.
Probably the most adaptable brand of siphon is the Python which comes in a variety of sizes. Siphons require a substantial difference in height between the tank and the drain end of the siphon to create a strong suction. For example, our tank is about 3 feet off the ground, and we use a 50 foot hose, which is draped out the patio door and over the porch rail, so that the drop is about 8 feet total. This produces a strong enough suction to thoroughly clean the three inch gravel layer in our large tanks.
If this height difference does not exist in your home, the Python can create suction using water pressure. To use the Python in this manner, purchase one with a hose that is long enough to reach easily from the tank to a utility sink. It is a good idea to order a brass adaptor to replace the aeator on the sink, so you can attach the Python without damaging the threads. The python has two settings, one for suction, and one for filling the tank. Please remember however, it is dangerous to simply fill the tank with untreated water, if it is a large water change.

Cleaning the glass

There are a lot of good choices for glass cleaning: long-handled scrubbers, magnetic scrubbers, or simply take a square of clean blue filter floss and use it as a scrubber. Blue floss lets you clean all the nooks and crannies that would be difficult with the other tools.
Do not rely on algae eaters or pleco's to clean your glass and surfaces for you. Although they may get along with the parrots at first, and do a fairly good job of keeping the algae down, both species will eventually become aggressive, and try to polish the parrot's scales and fins.
When cleaning the glass DON'T use household cleaners, not even on the exterior of the tank. There are products on the market specially made for aquarium glass. For dust on the exterior of the tank, Swiffer dusters (with no products applied to them) do wonders. The glass on the outside can simply be wiped down with a damp rag (make sure it gets dried to avoid water streaks). On the inside of the tank the best option is not to let it get out of hand. If the water in your area is full of minerals look over the tank when water changes are done (biweekly usually) to make sure that there is not white build up on the glass. Once the white water stains sit for too long they actually become part of the glass and cannot be removed. There are also magnetic cleaning pads available for glass cleaning. They make this task much more simple and convenient because it can be done from the outside of the tank. Finally, pay attention to the glass while rearranging your tank and adding abrasive substrates, every little scratch shows.

External Links

Python No Spill Instructions

Removing Stubborn Algae

Magic Erasers, a fairly new product on the market, are fantastic for removing algae from glass and silicone. They are gentle and safe and will even pull diatoms (red algae) from aquarium glass effortlessly. I've never seen a better method for cleaning silicone, either.

Rinse them well prior to use, and avoid the ones that come pre-loaded with cleaning agents.

Tank Cycling - how to start a tank without killing all your fish!

Tank Size

Parrot Cichlids need at LEAST a 30 gallon tank. They are strong swimmers and they grow BIG!!! 30 gallons will only do for a couple of years. If you keep the water clean and feed them, you will easily need a 50 gallon tank or larger, eventually. Pet stores are notorious for under-representing the potential size of these little guys. Don't believe them if they tell you a 10 gallon will do!

[edit]External Links

  • How many fish will my aquarium hold?
  • Aquarium Calculators
  • First Tank Guide
  • Behavior

    Parrot Cichlids' behaviors are their most endearing qualities. They are thoughtful, playful, and highly intelligent.


    Parrots, like many other cichlids, like to move pebbles and dig in their gravel. They are somewhat less likely to build with the pebbles than other cichlds, because their mouths aren't as suited to picking up objects.
    My parrots [like most parrots] absolutely love to dig in the sand. I find myself re-"planting" the fake plants in the tank about once a week! One of my parrots has to dig out all of the sand in his territory. You may ask, "Why?", and to tell you the truth; I have no idea. It's just something that he enjoys doing, and not something you should necessarily be worried about. Digging is a rather normal behavior for most fish.

    Fighting and Aggressive behavior

    Fighting between parrot cichlids is fairly common thing for parrots to do. Usually, the bickering is started with the largest or the most dominant parrot in the tank onto the smaller ones. This is very normal and usually doesn't progress to the point of death. As long as there are plenty of hiding places, the fish should be fine. However, if you are experiencing an extreme case in which a parrots life is at risk from another, the dominant parrot may need to be separated from the others; either by purchasing another tank, or a tank divider. Even when separated, another parrot may claim dominance and the same problem could arise.

    Fish-Human Interaction

    Parrot fish are great mostly because they are so interactive. I have two parrots named Polly and Sunshine. If I stick my hand into the tank when I am cleaning they come to me and they try to chase me away. They can be annoying but it is so cute that I can't stay mad for long. Get them used to seeing your hands in the tank if you want to ever be able to really do anything with them.


    Parrot Cichlids LOVE houses! They will make a house out of just about anything, but they prefer one with 2 entrances, a front and back door, or at the very least a door and window. They like to hide, but they also like to peer out and see what is going on. Curiosity and caution are present in equal amounts in many parrot cichlids, so they need the security of having their own little private place.
    Excellent Parrot Cichlid houses are made from easily obtained objects. Unglazed flowerpots, tank ornaments like castles, ships, caves are all good choices. My parrots are quite big, so I use ceramic kleenex-box covers.

    Intelligence and Learning ability

    From the article: Imitation Behavior in Fish

    One of the more amazing characteristics of fish is their ability to learn by imitation. I've noticed imitative behaviors in all of my fish, including goldfish, parrot cichlids, convict cichlids, severums and oscars. Although they come out of the egg already knowing how to swim, how to eat, and how to hide, they add new behaviors as they grow.

    Learning attitude: Parrot Cichlids
    When young parrot cichlids are put in a tank by themselves, they will usually remain shy for weeks or months. They will hide behind anything they can. If there is nowhere else to hide, they will hover at the top corner of the tank tipping downward slightly, pretending to be part of the filter. However, if they are put into a tank with adult parrot cichlids who have no fear of humans, they get over their shyness very quickly! When we got one of our younger parrots, "Baby," she immediately adopted the oldest parrot cichlid Winston (a female) as her "mother." She would follow Winston around, and generally imitate everything she did, and as a result showed very little fear of us.

    But most of our newly acquired parrot cichlids spend at least a day or two hiding, during which they peek out from a secure spot to observe what's going on in the tank.

    When we got "Tonkie," "Twinkie" and "Micro," as tiny fry, you could actually see them watching the older fish eating from our hands. Within a few days, they were right up front also, jockeying for position to get the best flakes. They will often push at my fingers if I don't feed them fast enough, as if to say "turn on the flakes!"

    Learning feeding behaviors: Parrot Cichlids

    opalTonkie.jpg"Tonkie" figured out a pretty good feeding spot all for himself: he eats the flakes that collect on the intake. After I feed them, there's usually a nice selection held there by the suction, and he can pick them off at his leisure. He's quite conscientious about his job: there are 3 intakes in the tank which he cleans daily. Tonkie is too fat to get behind the intakes, but he cleans the fronts thoroughly. Everyone else in the tank leaves him alone: as far as they are concerned, he can have the intakes. Or at least that was the case, until we introduced "Opal," a gold severum, into the tank. After a few days of watching Tonkie, Opal had learned to eat off the intakes, and what is more, she could eat off the BACKS of the intakes, because she is thinner. At first, there were many disputes between Opal and Twinkie over the intakes, but now they have learned to share, most of the time.

    Learning feeding behaviors: Goldfish
    Goldfish also learn by imitation, despite the fact that they think very differently than cichlids. I call them "non-linear thinkers" because they seem to forget where they are going every few seconds then pick up the thread again. This results in a meandering path. Our goldfish eventually arrive at a goal, but not without stops and distractions along the way.

    Yet goldfish definitely learn new behaviors from each other. When we first got "Piggum," a little fantail goldfish, he would eat only off the surface of the water. He would paddle back and forth across the tank all day long, never showing any interest in the gravel. After Piggum was settled in, we found "Magoo," a telescope-eye moor. When we dropped Magoo into the tank, Piggum didn't know what to do. He put his head down on the ground and just sat there for a long time. Piggum doesn't have much overhead for coping with change.

    But Magoo didn't seem to mind Piggum at all! He immediately got to work checking the gravel for food. Magoo had a real work-ethic. He would systematically go over the entire tank, turning over every piece of gravel. Piggum watched him for a long time. After a few days, HE started checking the gravel also! After that, they would do it together.

    As they got older, and Magoo could actually fit several pieces of gravel into his mouth, he learned to use them as "teeth" to chew his food. Lagging behind by several months, Piggum eventually picked up that behavior also, but never using gravel to the degree Magoo did.

    Learning to get along
    Recently we got a tiny new parrot cichlid, "Taz." Taz is named because she is obviously cut out to be trouble! She is a King Kong parrot, which can mean a much more aggressive personality, with the ability to bite (many parrot cichlids can't), and not afraid to use it. When Taz got into the new tank she started out hiding, as most of them do. She was quite scared of us, and had been traumatized by an experience with an oscar. It was an inauspicious beginning. She would startle at the least noise, and race into her log.

    Soon however, Taz began poking her head out to defend her tiny territory. She would run up to other fish aggressively, trying to intimidate them. She did all the things convict cichlids do, both defensive and offensive behaviors, against fish many times her size. Her little mouth works very well, and we were afraid there would eventually be nipped fins and tails.

    But as time went on, we would see her watching the others. The bigger parrot cichlids don't fight too much, and when fights do break out, another fish usually busts it up after a few minutes. Sometimes we would see Taz stop in mid-bad-behavior to watch what the others were doing. It's been a few months, and she has mostly stopped fighting, and joined the community. She also shows no more fear of us, although she still startles easily, but she always returns immediately back to the front of the tank. We often see her watching the older fish.

    I always find it fascinating to watch our fish learn new behaviors. They are more intelligent than usually given credit for, but it is harder to see what they are doing than with a dog or cat, and so it is difficult to notice when they make a tiny "leap" from one concept to another. But the leaps are definitely there - and worth the effort to see.


    Most parrot cichlids will exhibit shyness when first brought home. Usually this resolves after a few weeks as they become accustomed to the new surroundings.
    After the parrot has stayed in the tank for more than 2 weeks or a month, they become more active and even start digging and changing the position of the gravel in the tank.
    Parrots will often revert to their shy state when they undergo drastic changes to their environment such as major tank cleanings/rearrangements, tank mate additions, and during spawning periods.

    The addition of "dithering" fish is of great benefit to parrot cichlids. Small schools of large tetras, for example, encourage parrot cichlids to relax when out in the open. Any compatible fish that is not aggressive or small enough to eat will do.


    Articles on Tank maintenance, Water, etc.


    For about 4 months, I had been fighting a war against algae in our biggest tank, home to our oscar "Idli." Idli not a Parrot Cichlid but this will be interesting for anyone dealing with greenwater algae problems.


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    Algae's Four Foodgroups
    Algae needs 4 items in sufficient quantities to grow: Light, Air, Food, and Water.
    Water and Air you can't do much about.
    Food - and by this I mean what ALGAE considers to be food, which is darn near anything - and Light - can be adjusted, but tropical fish also need light to be happy, so the best first step is to check if the algae have a hidden food supply.

    Hunt down and remove excess nutrients from the water
    If you don't clean your tank often, start with that. Gravel needs to be thoroughly suctioned regularly, ornaments need to be lifted up and vacuumed under, just like you'd do your rugs. Parrot cichlids are not good at cleaning up after themselves, so things get pretty gross fast.
    In the past I've had greenwater algae problems in the parrots' tank, and the source of the problem has ALWAYS proved to be a cache of old food or a filter sponge that has collected so much crud that it becomes an algae farm. In all cases, we stopped the algae in its tracks by cleaning up the source - the prefilter or the interior sponge, and keeping it clean. After that, the water remained clear no matter the light levels.
    Last year we purchased two wet/dry filters, one for the oscar's 90 gallon tank, and the other for the goldfish's 40 gallon. The reason for having it on the goldfish is: they are in a tank that is a little small for them, so we put an overpowered filter on it. Both filters performed fine, and everyone was happy.

    Wet Dry filters
    If you don't know what a wet/dry filter is, basically it is a tall plastic box, or tower, with shelf-like layers of filter material and one big chamber filled with bioballs on the bottom. Water pours in through filter material at the top, gets spread out by a plastic screen/shelf, and drips over bio-balls which provide the surface for bacteria to grow and turn ammonia into nitrates.
    The tower sits in a small aquarium under the tank, in about 5 inches of water. The bioballs are above the surface of the water, and always have air so the aerobic bacteria can breathe. It turns out that those bioballs are pretty darn efficient at their little nitrate production process.
    About two months after we moved, we also got a bigger tank for our oscar. The new tank is a 120 gallon with a dual overflow system that feeds into the top of the wet/dry tower. Our friend the Fsh Doctor set it up, very nicely, right in front of a huge bank of windows, which was the only spot we had for it. It is all powered by two big Rio pumps, which kept the water pressure very high going into the top of the filter. It was basically a firehose, pouring through that wet/dry tower.
    So, the "algae variables" changed. For one thing there was a lot more light! The only place we could put our tanks was in the living room in front of six bright windows. We realized this would cause problems, but there was nothing we could do about the light. I am not going to live in the dark because Idli can't keep his tank clean! I realize that many aquarists WOULD, but I am not one of them!
    The amount of water going through the filter had also doubled, and the tank was bigger.
    At first things were fine. Then after a month or so, we started to get greenwater problems. We did water changes, frequent cleanings, I added prefilters, all to no avail. I was really puzzled because the 90 gallon had been in the same spot with the same wet/dry filter, and no algae. Also, the goldfish tank is right next to the window, and it gets some algae, but not nearly as much.
    I bought 2 Magnum filters, the 350 and the 250, and put the 350 on the oscar tank, the 250 on the goldfish. The goldfish cleared up and remained sparkling clear. They had never been so clear in their lives, I think. I clean the micron filter about once a week.
    The oscar tank cleared up for about a week, then slowly got cloudy again, no matter how many times I cleaned the micron filter, and despite 99.9% water changes, and everything we could think of.
    Then after about another month, the algae exploded! It was growing so fast, that the tank remained GREEN no matter what I did.
    I was totally fed up. I was spending more time on that tank than on my household chores. It was an eyesore. I wasn't too worried about the oscar getting suffocated at night (they say algae can do that) because he had about the same level of aeration as the Hoover Dam, but I had definitely had enough of that green stuff.
    Then, I read a post somewhere that talked about wet/dry filters losing favor with some marine aquarists because they are such efficient biological filters that they become nitrate factories.

    Dissolved nitrates - the hidden culprit!
    A little light went on in my head. THERE was the cache of algae food! The filter itself. I saw two possibilities: one was that the water pressure going into the filter is so high that no matter how much filter material I put in the top shelf, bits of crud get through and just circulate constantly. The other was that the crud WAS getting filtered out but the bacteria on the bioballs were pouring out nitrates at an accelerated rate because so much water was pouring over them so fast. No matter which was the real reason, both possibilities could be solved by cutting off one of the Rio pumps.

    The fix
    So, 2 weeks ago I repeated my ritual: I drained Idli's tank down to his ankles, (he had to lay on his side for a few minutes to stay under) then kept flushing it with clean water until the water was crystal clear. I drained the overflow chambers, and the sump. Then I filled the tank with fresh water, and cleaned the micron cartridge and all the filter material in the wet/dry.
    But this time, I made the big change - I only turned on one Rio pump, and the Magnum filter. So the water is being circulated at about half the rate it used to be, plus a trip through the Magnum to remove any algae.
    It totally worked! He has remained clear ever since. The Magnum filter is off to the side of his tank where I can keep an eye on it, since the canister is transparent and you can see the state of the filter inside it.

    Ammonia Burn

    Fish waste contains ammonia, and if it builds up too much in the tank, fish fins and gills can actually be burned by the caustic chemical. See the links below for a discussion of Ammonia Burn.

    External Links

  • How To Treat Fish for Ammonia Burns
  • Aquarium Corner: Cycling
  • Disease Treatment:Ammonia Poisoning
  • Tank Heaters

    A word on tank heaters. Though absolutely necessary in colder regions, these devices need to be monitored carefully to avoid serious problems. Tank heaters are often poorly calibrated, meaning the temperature the heater is set to is not the same as the water temperature maintained by the heater.
    When first installing the heater calibrate it by starting lower than the temperature you wish to maintain and wait until the temperature stops changing - this could be several hours. Compare the temperature you have set and the temperature you actually got. It could be very different. Raise the temperature slowly until you hit the goal, and make a note of the setting on the heater.
    If you have a large tank, you may need more than one heater, to avoid putting so much strain on the single heater that it burns out by being on constantly. If you have a sump filter, you can put the heater in the sump.
    It is a good idea to have a thermometer easily visible from the front of the tank, and check it regularly. Heaters do go off calibration OFTEN, and you can easily end up killing all the fish in the tank with high temperatures.
    What to look for in a tank heater: Top Aquarium Heaters

    Water Test Kits

    Dip sticks vs. Drops

    In general, the results you get with drops will be more accurate than with the dip sticks, but if you are having trouble with water quality, use whatever you can get, and at least test for ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. I've found that phosphates can be a problem also, at least in large tanks.

    General Care

    General Care



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    [edit]What's on the menu?
    According to the members of, parrots will eat just about anything other cichlids like. They have the same hunting instincts that more aggressive cichlids do, and I have seen them go into a feeding frenzy when a live bug accidentally dropped into the tank. However they are equally happy "hunting" flakes and pellets, and very easily trained to eat from your hand.
    When our parrots were small, they ate small floating cichlid pellets, but now prefer large cichlid flakes, frozen bloodworms, and freeze dried tubifex worms. For a while, while we had a pleco catfish in the tank with the parrots, we would slice a zucchini in half, and microwave it for 3 minutes, then put the halves in the tank. The catfish would jump on a piece of zucchini, and start rasping away, throwing a cloud of bits into the water around him. One parrot cichlid, Gazoo, would hover just above the catfish's head, waiting for those bits. He would catch the seeds as they were loosened. Sometimes the pleco would get irritated with having this fish sitting so close by, and would snap at Gazoo, but he would just move aside for a second, then come right back for more. We got the idea for feed them zucchini from the Amazon River display tank at the Baltimore Aquarium. They throw in HUGE zucchini halves, and the big cichlids in that tank go nuts for them. One caution: be ready to clean the tank after a zucchini feast - it makes a huge mess.
    Some parrot cichlid's mouths are too small to eat bigger foods, but they will eat flakes and pieces of broken-up cichlid sticks. Hand feeding sometimes helps with parrots that have trouble eating larger foods. See "Feeding Gazoo"
    We feed ours O.S.I. cichlid flakes from They sell them in 2lb bags, and in those quantities, the flakes aren't broken up much. As far as our parrots are concerned the bigger the flakes the better: they catch one and slurp it in like spaghetti.

    [edit]How Often Should I Feed my Parrots?
    As with other fish, it is recommended that you feed no more than they can eat in 5 minutes. The fish will appreciate twice a day feedings, although they will be fine with once a day.
    We feed our 7 large parrots a big clump of flakes twice a day, and hand-feed several of them cichlid sticks. This is more than the recommended amount, and has two consequences: our parrots grow quickly, and the tank MUST be thoroughly cleaned once a week. If you are not willing to do this, stick with the lower amount of food. Parrots are messy eaters, but they are so entertaining to feed that we make a big event of meal-time, especially on the weekends when we have more time.

    [edit]Hand Feeding

    [edit]Suggested Foods
    Some of the foods that people feed their parrots are listed below.

  • frozen bloodworms
  • frozen plankton
  • frozen beef heart
  • freeze dried tubifex worms
  • Hikari Cichlid Gold pellets
  • Tetraprima slow-sinking granules
  • Wardley and O.S.I. Cichlid flakes
  • Tetra select tropical Crisps
  • cichlid sticks - these are very popular with the parrots that can fit them in their mouths.
  • live or dried brine shrimp
  • thawed pieces of salad-size shrimp from the grocery store
  • dried krill
  • live baby guppies (probably not intentionally fed these!)
  • ghost shrimp
  • small crickets
  • small pieces of gammon ham
  • a small zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise, cooked for 2-3 min. in the microwave.
  • fruits: banana or orange slices
  • cooked peas
  • Small Feeder Fish (tetra's mostly) They love them!

    Retrieved from ""

    Categories: New Fishkeepers | General Care

  • Fish Names

    [edit]Looking for some name ideas for your fish?
    I thought I would start a list of fish names for those of us who can't think of a name for a new fish. Feel free to add names of your fish or names you think up.







    Yoko(means ocean child)




    Fat Cat
    Green Eggs & Ham

    baby boo
    Orange Julius




    Moving your parrot cichlids

    Click here to see pictures from our big move
    Buy one or more coolers, depending on how many fish you have. We had 4 - including one on wheels that was just for the oscar alone. Buy one extra cooler or large tub to mix dechlorinated water in.
    Use a doorknob drill bit (about 1-1/2" in diameter) to drill a hole through the center of the lid of each cooler. stick in a 6" piece of pvc pipe to act as a chimney to prevent sloshing out of the cooler.
    Purchase battery powered bubblers and plenty of D batteries:
    SIlent Air B11 Air Pump (Penn Plax)
    You will need 1 check valve for each pump
    Tetra Tec Check Valve CV-1 1 pk (Tetra)
    to keep all the water from siphoning out of the tank when the bubbler is off.
    You will also need plenty of air-line
    25ft Flexible Airline Tubing ST-25 (Penn Plax)
    and an airstone for each pump.
    Aqua-Mist Airstone - 7/16in. - 4 pk (Penn Plax)
    To keep the airline and airstone down at the bottom, we thread the tubing through the hole of the tiniest sized terracotta flower pot.

    Then use duct tape to tape a bubbler to the outside of the lid of each cooler. Thread the air-line from the bubbler down through the hole in the center of the lid. Thread it through the tiny flowerpot and then into the airstone. you can try to use suction cup clips to keep the airline hooked to the side of the cooler but in my experience it doesn't work well.
    When you move the coolers into the car, drain some of the water so they are just full enough to cover the fish. Once in the car, add in some more water, but not even close to full! I think we usually had the larger ones no more than 1/3 full, and the smaller ones no more than 1/2 full.
    While you are on the road, the bubblers keep the fish alive. When you stop at a restaurant, you should be careful to leave windows cracked or maybe buy one of those new solar powered fans they keep advertising on TV.
    When you stop at a motel at night, partially drain the coolers again and move each cooler onto the luggage rack and take them in to the motel room. Mix new dechlorinated water in the extra cooler, and add some to each cooler. Turn off the bubblers, and add in a small electric filter. We used Fluval filters, which you can clearly see in this photo:
    When you get where you are going, you can leave them in the coolers with the Fluvals going for a day or so, until you can buy or unpack your aquariums. We purchased a bunch of cheap 10 gallon aquariums to put the fish in for a week, until the movers showed up and unpacked the big ones.


    Here is information for those of you with questions regarding salt.

    Salt can be used to rid your fish of parasites and to help with general healing from wounds. It can help repair your fishs' slime coat. If your water tends to be very hard it may help your fish feel more comfortable but this amount of salt will not alter your ph. To treat for parasites you add 1 tablespoon of salt for each 5 gallons of water. Make sure to use aquarium salt or kosher canning salt that you can get from the grocery store. It is probably cheaper then aquarium salt. This is what I use. Do not use table salt which contains iodine. Raise the tank temperature to 80-82 degrees farenheit. You should see improvement within a couple of days. You can maintain this level of salt if you wish but if you have real plants they will not take kindly to the salt. In other words, they will die. Remove the salt after ick treatment. If you just treat for parasites then you can remove the salt through water changes. It will not evaporate so the salt will only be removed with water that is removed. If you wish to maintain the salt levels then only add salt back in for the amount of water that is put back in. If you put 5 gallons back in then put 1 tablespoon of salt back in. I find that using salt for parasites is a safe and effective natural treatment for parasites and is much safer than using drugs or chemicals. You do not have to quarantine the fish for treatment because the salt will not harm the other fish. It will not discolor your tank either.
    Take care of your water and use a good heater.
    Remember to keep your fish healthy by doing regular partial water changes, feed a varied, healthy diet. Parrots need greens in their diet. Don't overfeed! That will muck up your tank for sure!!! Use a good quality submersible heater like Visi-therm to keep your water temperature stable. Fluctuations in water temperature will cause ick. Keep your water at around 78 degrees farenheit.
    For more severe cases of ick, you can add up to 1 teaspoon of salt per gallon.

    What to do when the Power goes out

    Planning for Power Outages

    [edit]What to do when the power goes out
    I just thought I'd mention this again, since it's that time of year again!
    During the summer, especially when it's over 90F, there are a lot of power outages. It's good to be prepared, especially if you are going on vacation. In my experience the fish can survive overnight but just barely, if there is no oxygenation. It is very risky.
    We put 2 battery powered bubblers on each tank. One would probably be enough for a small tank, but two provides a backup. The ones we use only turn on when the power cuts out. They take 2 D batteries each, but they last for at least 12-18 hours.
    SIlent Air B11 Air Pump (Penn Plax
    You will need 1 check valve for each pump
    Tetra Tec Check Valve CV-1 1 pk (Tetra) to keep all the water from siphoning out of the tank when the bubbler is off.
    You will also need plenty of airline
    25' Flexible Airline Tubing ST-25 (Penn Plax)
    and an airstone for each pump.
    Aqua-Mist Airstone - 7/16" - 4 pk. (Penn Plax)
    To keep the airline and airstone down at the bottom, we thread the tubing through the hole of the tiniest sized terracotta flower pot.
    So a single setup will look like this:
    1. battery powered airpump - taped to the top or side of the aquarium. plug it into a power outlet.
    2. One piece of airline attached to air pump on one end, with checkvalve on other end (pointing in the correct direction! Be sure to consult packaging)
    A second piece of airline attached to other side of checkvalve, threaded through tiny flowerpot, with airstone on end. This is the end that goes in the tank!

    Air pump--air line-- checkvalve -- air line -- flowerpot -- airstone

    Health, Growth & Disease

    Ammonia Burn

    Fish waste contains ammonia, and if it builds up too much in the tank, fish fins and gills can actually be burned by the caustic chemical. See the links below for a discussion of Ammonia Burn.

    External Links

  • How To Treat Fish for Ammonia Burns
  • Aquarium Corner: Cycling
  • Disease Treatment:Ammonia Poisoning
  • Black Spots

    I want to add my observations about black areas or black spots on Blood Parrot Cichlids. I observed that these areas had to do with injuries from other fish or habits of these fish.
    For example: trying to fit into a tight nest. These black areas are healed, at least by my experience, without any aid. If they persist, try to find the reason of injury. I don't know if this is caused after an injury because of fungus, bacterial infection or a reaction of the self defense system of the fish because I can't do a biopsy, but in most cases, this is not a significant illness.


    With my Blood Parrots I've noticed the black spots when the water starts to get dirty, as soon as i do a 20% water change the spots disappear within 24 hours. I've only had the black spots appear when i've been late to do my regular water change.

    I have noticed black spots on mine when they are unhappy,if my PH is off, they are fighting a lot, or my tank needs cleaned. Also, if the water temperature is not right they get spots. When I first got my two BP's they were in a 12 gallon tank. One of them, his name is Jewel, was getting black spots all over is face and fins, and he just sat in the cave that I build them, all day. I thought he was sick so I got some fungus medication for him, no change in the spots. While they were living in this 12 gallon tank, I was preparing and cycling their new tank, a 55 gallon set up just the way BP's like it. After the cycle was finished I moved the two fish to their new home, they loved it! About 24 hours after the move, the black spots were 100% gone! The colors of both the fish became much brighter and more beautiful.
    After the one that had spots, Jewel, got use to the new tank he became very aggressive and started picking on the other one, Cracker, chasing her around and kicking her out of the caves. Soon after Jewel was making Cracker’s life miserable, Cracker started getting black spots all over her body. They eventually learned to like each other and now they are even trying to mate, but what I have learned about these spots is, it is a way for them to communicate when something is off in their environment. If you see these spots, check your water, check your temperature, check the tank…then watch to see how your fish is interacting with it’s tank mates….something is probably wrong.


    An Easy way to get rid of Black Spot

    A couple of days ago my new parrot came down with black spot! I was very worried because he was my favourite fish so I tried something that I used to use for goldfish fungus: I added a few pinches of table salt (it really depends on the size of the tank) and raised the temperature a few degrees and the next day it had completely vanished.

    Please give it a try and email me how you got on at:
    Gavin Clifford

    Editor's note: I think it might be advisable to use Kosher salt or Aquarium salt rather than table salt here.
    --PCG 16:33, 7 October 2006 (CDT)
    You must always use kosher canning salt or aquarium salt. They do not have iodine in them like table salt does. Do not use table salt. You add 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons of water. If the case is severe you can use up to 1 teaspoon per gallon. Raise the tank temp. to 80 degrees.

    Dyed Fish


    Everything about dyed fish
    Here is some information on dyed fish that novice parrot keepers may want to know. Jelly bean parrots are almost always dyed. Any fish with a candy or fruity sounding name, such as mixed berry tetras, are dyed fish. These are fish whose colors do not appear naturally in the animal world.
    Fluorescent colors such as bright green, bright pink, blue, purple, etc. are not natural. These fish have been dyed in a process that first strips them of their protective slime coat. This is done by dipping the fish in acid. When the slime coat is removed they are then injected with dye with needles. Sometimes they are just injected with color, other times they have tattoo-like designs or patterns. This procedure is very dangerous and many fish die from it. The strong ones that survive may have shorter lives or damaged internal organs.

    The dying process
    The dying process is senseless and painful. The fish will eventually lose their dyed color and turn a natural color that they should be anyway. Dying is inhumane and senseless torture to the fish since the color will be lost anyway. Normal parrot fish colors are light yellow, orange or deep red. Baby parrots start out a dull grayish green color and some have stripes. They look much like a very small green severum, except for their hump back. As the fish matures, the color will start to look like it is disappearing. You will see some areas that look like their is no color. Sometimes the fins will look clear or slightly tinted. Irregular marks will appear with no color or a yellow, orange, or red. This will continue until eventually all the dark areas are gone. Some parrots will turn yellow, and then orange.

    Black spots
    Sometimes your parrot will look like he has "black spots". This will appear and disappear as your fish is changing color. Your fish is not sick, he is just not sure what color he is yet. Make sure to keep your water clean so your fish are healthy.

    External Links
    How Fish Are Dyed[1]
    How Parrots' Tails Are Docked[2]

    Normal Coloration changes

    Parrot Cichlids, like many other cichlids, start life with black and gray stripes. As time goes on, they begin changing color, in a similar manner to Red Devils, their ancestors. A wonderful series of photos illustrating the change can be seen here:

    Image:th_0-DinkienSabbath12june06-1.jpg Image:th_1-06june06.jpg Image:th_2-25june06.jpg Image:th_3-29june06.jpg
    Dinkie & Sabbath, June 12 Sabbath, June 6 Sabbath, June 25 Sabbath, June 29
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    Sabbath, July 19 Sabbath, July 20 Sabbath, July 21 Sabbath, July 21
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    Sabbath, July 22 Sabbath, July 23 Sabbath, July 24 Sabbath, July 25
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    Sabbath, July 25 Sabbath, July 26 Sabbath, July 27 Sabbath, July 29
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    Sabbath, July 30 Sabbath, July 31 Sabbath, Aug 1 Sabbath, Aug 2
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    Sabbath, Aug 3 Sabbath, Aug 4 Sabbath, Aug 5 Sabbath, Aug 6
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    Sabbath, Aug 7 Sabbath, Aug 8 Sabbath, Aug 8 Sabbath, Aug 10
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    Dinkie and Sabbath, Dec 7 Dinkie and Sabbath, Dec 7

    Many thanks to Macoy for the photos!



    Ancestry of the Parrot Cichlid

    Male or Female

    External Links
    Sexing Cichlids

    From what I understand it is very hard to sex these fish. The best website I found on sexing these little guys says that females usually have more rounded anal fins, and males have more pointed anal fins, but that some females have pointed fins too. Though this is not extremely helpful, it’s the best information I can come up with this far.

    Also, I have read some articles about being able to sex them by a pink spot close to the gills, many people have found this inaccurate. I have read websites and seen pictures of male and female parrot’s that have mated who both have those pink spots.
    Honestly, the best advice I could give my fellow parrot owners, and I think many will agree with me, just wait until they start their mating routine and you will see the egg tube show on the female.

    Parrot Varieties

    parrot varieties

    Types of Parrot Cichlids and Jellybeans

    Perhaps the earliest type of Jellybean/Bubblegum Parrot and more widely known is simply a dyed Blood Parrot. These are bred to be light colored or albino and then are dyed. Here are some pictures:

    The 2nd type of Jellybean/Bubblegum Parrot is actually a double hybrid fish from a Blood Parrot and a Pink Convict. (I have read some cases of the Blood Parrot being bred with other Cichlids, but this I would guess is not widely done). I say double because the Blood Parrot is itself a hybrid.

    There are also 3 kinds of Parrot Fish:

    1. One is called Hoplarchus Psittacus, and is a real fish found in the wild and is rare in the aquarium industry because it has been hard to breed.
    2. Another is a saltwater fish (Callyodon fasciatus).
    3. The 3rd, which is more known is the cross breed.

    The Fresh water Parrot:

    Hoplarchus psittacus is the original parrot cichlid. It is a large green cichlid coming from the Amazon and Orinoco River drainages of South America. Large males can be well over a foot in length. It got its name because of its large parrot-like mouth.


    The Saltwater Parrot:

    the parrot fish, which is found in the Scaridae family... These gentle, colorful fish with their somewhat long bodies and large heads, have very interesting large teeth at the front of their mouth that are fused to form a sort of parrot like beak. The parrot fish can be found in tropical oceans throughout the world, varying in size from eighteen inches up to four feet long. Found in the order of Perciformes this interesting fish is known to feed on algae which it scrapes off the reef with its beak like teeth.

    See a picture of one here:

    The Blood Parrot:

    The parentage of the Blood Parrot is a secret hidden away with the breeders of Taiwan. The most common suggestions for the two parents are:

    Midas Cichlid (Cichlasoma citrinellum) and the Redhead Cichlid (Cichlasoma synspilum),
    Severum (Heros severus) with the Red Devil (Cichlasoma erythraeum)

    The most common suggestion is that they were made by breeding the Midas Cichlid (Cichlasoma citrinellum) and the Redhead Cichlid (Cichlasoma synspilum). However, below is a list of every pair that I have seen suggested.

    Severum (Heros severus) and the Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) or the Red Devil (Amphilophus labiatus)

    Gold Severum (Cichlasoma severum) and Red Devil (Cichlasoma erythraeum)

    Midas Cichlid (Cichlasoma citrinellum) and the Redhead Cichlid (Cichlasoma synspilum)

    Severum (Heros severus) with the Red Devil (Cichlasoma erythraeum)

    Red Devil (Cichlasoma erythraeum) +Gold Severum (Cichlasoma severum)

    Red Devil (Cichlasoma erythraeum)+Green Severum (Cichlasoma severum)

    Red Devil (Cichlasoma erythraeum)+Quetzel (Cichlasoma synspilum)

    Back to the Jellybean/Bubblegum Parrot. As noted above there are 2 kinds, I will now go further into the double cross bred one. This comes from the Blood Parrot and the the Pink Convict in most cases. The male Blood Parrot is infertile but the females are fertile. There are cases of some males being fertile but this is rare, and there are reports of male Blood Parrots being injected which allows them to become fertile and thus breed with the female Blood Parrots. There also is a report, by the way, that Blood Parrots have been bred to be salt water fish:

    Because this double cross breed is 50% convict there are reports that these fish are aggressive. Mine are not, more on mine later. The female Convict tends to be less aggressive and thus this trait may be found in the hybrid as well. They also are prolific like Convicts and mate easy and often. They are reported to breed at the size of 1 inch. My female is less than an inch and a half and is breeding. My male is slightly bigger than an inch and a half. During their breeding they do become more territorial and aggressive.

    Before I forget, many of these crossbreeds are dyed as well, thus the name Jellybean or Bubble gum. But I think more and more are not dyed. You can see a couple of pictures of this cross breed here:

    You will notice less of a Parrot beak on the 2nd picture and this is what mine looks more like.
    These fish are not deformed as the Blood Parrots are, but are much smaller.

    Let me now tell you my story. I never owned any Parrot fish, including the blood parrot, and have no experience with them. I also am new to cichlids in general. I have years of community fish experience and decided about 6 months ago to get some African Cichlids and started a tank for them. About 3 months ago I saw a "pink fish" at Walmart. It was labeled a Parrot Fish. I went to the Petco where the guys there know me, to ask about this fish. I was told it was more of a community fish than a true cichlid fish and should thus go in my community tank. Which is where I wanted it because my community tank is color themed, as I get every colored fish possible in the rainbow for that tank (undyed). I had never seen a pink fish, (I had forgotten I had seen the pink kissing gourami's, but they were too aggressive and grow too big I had read). I am not a rich man, I work in fast food and this fish was the most expensive fish I had ever bought. It was about $6 or $7. It did very well in the 55 gallon community tank and within a week decided to get a yellow one. In less than 2 weeks they had claimed the cave beneath the driftwood as theirs and became territorial of it, especially at feeding time. Then about 2 weeks later, perhaps a month after I 1st got them, I came home one day to see baby fish on the bottom of the tank and what looked like these 2 fish eating them. I at first thought they were guppies as I had just released a pregnant female into the tank. I went and got my breeding net and tried to catch the babies before they were eaten. There seemed about 40 of them. It was then I discovered that the yellow and pink Parrot Fish were not eating them but collecting them in their mouths and bringing the babies into their cave and spitting them out there. I also noticed 95% of all the other fish were cornered to one side of the tank and these 2 were keeping them there. The Parrot fish bit me during this operation just as described on the following page for breeding habits of Convicts:,%20Convicts%204.htm

    After netting most of the babies I decided to separate the parents too and then spent several hours on the internet finding out what these fish were with the info I have shared above. I now have moved these fish to their own 20 gallon long tank shared only with a Pleco and they have already made new eggs in less than a week in it.

    Just like Convicts they will breed as often as every 2 weeks. I have read that like many live bearers the Fry can eat flake particles (Convict breeding tips) but brine shrimp will make them grow faster. They also will eat the yoke sacs the 1st 2 days and will need food after that. I also have read that the parents will sometimes get food and break it up for the spawn. I have also read the babies will eat algae and other small things found in the aquarium. My babies died but will try and raise more and perhaps sell them and continue to breed more and more. I wish to discover if my fish are dyed or not, their colors are more pastel than bright. But the female which is pink gets yellow coloring from time to time, especially when she is breeding.

    Tips and Tricks

    Administering Medications

    Medication Syringe

    Adding a length of airline tubing to a medication syringe makes accurately measuring and introducing aquarium medications simple, fast, and efficient, and with no mess. The airline tubing allows us to extract medication right from the bottle and introduce it into the power filter outflow. Image and video hosting by TinyPic


    Terra Cotta Wine Chillers

    Just about anything terra cotta will work as a cave, but I've found that my larger parrot cichlid really likes terra cotta wine chillers. They are cylindrical so they can be stacked and they are deeper than a pot. They look great once they get some aquafication.
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Emergency Oxygen

    What do you do when your air pump is suddenly no longer available? Many of us have, or will experience, prolonged power outages, or we may unexpectedly need a make-shift hospital tank. Battery powered air pumps are a great resource, but what if we don't have one readily available to us during these crucial moments? Here's a cheap, easy, effective way to super-oxygenate your fish's water.

    Hydrogen Dioxide (H2O2) contains two hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms. The H2O2 molecule is essentially water (H20) with an extra oxygen atom. When mixed with water, it quickly becomes water, leaving lots of dissolved oxygen behind.

    Where might one find this wondrous product, you may be asking? Everywhere! Any grocery, drug, or discount store should stock it. It is the same substance commonly referred to as hydrogen peroxide. Here's how to use it safely in an aquarium:

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Determine the concentration you have and pour the corresponding amount into a paper cup. Position the cup above your open aquarium and punch a small drip hole. Repeat every 12 hours and your fish will not want for oxygen. This is especially good for fish that are gasping or having difficulty breathing, and it is far, far more effective than an air stone because oxygen dissolves very poorly in water if it is pumped from the air.

    Filter Modifications

    Tips and tweaks for optimizing filtration.

    Aqua-Tech Filter Mods

    Want to stop buying expensive cartridges for your Aqua-Tech filter while maximizing its output? Here's how to make a semi-permanent filter cartridge:

    Buy a pack of Deep Blue's 18" x 10" carbon pads ($6). Using the bio floss as a template, cut a section of carbon pad to the same size and shape. Now rinse and insert the carbon pad into the bio floss frame. The carbon pad is slightly thicker and less pliable than the bio floss, but it will fit just fine once you work it into place.

    You now have a semi-permanent filter insert that will last for years. Simply rinse it off in aquarium water during each, or every other, water change. Your new insert can be used in conjunction with, or in place of, the factory cartridge. If you reverse the positions of the factory cartridge and the one you just made (so water hits the Deep Blue pad first, in other words) your new permanent insert will greatly extend the life of your factory insert. I use the custom Deep Blue inserts in nearly all of my power filters. See Stop Buying Filter Cartridges to learn how to outfit other brands.

    Build Your Own Internal Canister

    I have two designs for homemade internal canister filters. Both designs employ Biomax ceramic rings, just like the expensive external canisters.

    Design 1

    Assemble a Hydrosponge or Deep Blue sponge filter and place it inside of a clean terra cotta pot that is large enough to hold a box of Biomax. Now fill the pot to the top with the Biomax and position the assembly in your aquarium where you can hide it with driftwod, rocks, or plants. That's it. Beneficial bacteria will colonize the ceramic rings and sponge and your water will be cleaner and healthier. The rings will help keep the sponge cleaner.

    Total cost: About $20 if you already have an air pump.

    Design 2

    Cut the top from a 2 liter bottle and remove the label. Use the top edge of the label as your cutting guide before you remove it. Next, attach a filter intake strainer to a lift tube. Now put the lift tube assembly inside of your 2 liter bottle and fill the bottle almost to the top with biomax. Cut a piece of filter foam slightly larger than the interior of your 2 liter bottle. You can use the part you cut off as a template so the foam has the right shape. Use the mouth of the bottle as a guide for a center hole and cut one out. Slide the foam down the lift tube and position it so that it rests on the bio max about even with the top of your canister. Attach a power head and position the canister filter where you like. Conceal with rocks or plants or driftwood if desired.

    Total cost: $30-$60 depending on how it is powered.

    *If you do not have a power head you can insert an air stone into the lift tube until you obtain one, or leave it as-is, powered by the air stone alone.

    **I fabricated my own intake strainer by cutting the bottom from a small Gatorade bottle, the mouth of which readily accepts a standard lift tube. I then burned holes in the sides of the Gatorade bottle with a soldering iron. A drill would work just fine. I placed an Azoo Oxygen 2 sponge inside of the Gatorade bottle, which increased the performance of my powered canister many fold.

    Stop Buying Filter Cartridges

    Want to stop buying expensive cartridges for your aquarium filter? Regardless of the type of filter you use, you can replace your current store-bought, pre-made cartridge with a reusable section of pond filter foam or ready-to-cut filter media pads. For HOB (hang on back) and canister filters I use Deep Blue's 18" x 10" carbon pads, which have been reformulated and are now stiff enough to use as a stand-alone insert. The carbon will eventually become inactive, but I don't use carbon any way. The media that the pads are made from is what makes the Deep Blue product so useful. In my experience it is both durable and efficient.

    For HOB use I make a template by tracing the factory cartridge onto heavy card stock. I cut the template in half down the center lengthwise. This allows me to place the template inside the filter but outside the grooves that normally hold the cartridge. I overlap the two sections and spread them apart until they touch the insides of the reservoir. Once I have the perfect fit I tape them together and remove the template. Using stiff shears I follow the template and cut a section of the carbon pad out. After rounding up the bottom corners I have a nearly-permanent filter insert that can be rinsed and reused indefinitely. If your filter doesn't have media baskets or other inserts to butt against, you may want to make your custom insert the same size as the factory one so it will hug the grooves in your reservoir. Mine simply lean against the media trays in my filters.

    Each sheet of 18" x 10" carbon pad yields many inserts, which can be stacked if desired. Pond filter foam works equally well and is easier to rinse because it can be squeezed.

    For canister filter use I simply use the media basket or existing insert as a template. Again, stacking is always an option.

    I have found pond filter inserts on clearance at Lowe's during the off season for a fraction of retail. I can't remember the last time I bought filter cartridges.

    Instant Hospital, Fry, Or Quarantine Tank

    Do you keep an air stone bubbling in your aquarium? Why not put it to better use by mounting it inside a Hydrosponge filter? Hydrosponge filters are great stand-alone sponge filters, and many models will accommodate an air stone. With or without an air stone, the advantages are that a Hydrosponge filter also hosts beneficial bacteria, and can readily be transferred to a hospital tank, fry tank, or quarantine tank for an instant, cycled, auxiliary aquarium! They can also be placed in a sump or refugium until they are needed elsewhere.

    But they aren't just good for setting up a temporary aquarium. They are also an excellent way to condition a brand new permanent aquarium without having to cycle it. An active sponge filter can be moved to a brand new aquarium that you can put fish in right away. Within a week bacteria from the filter will have colonized your new aquarium and within 6 weeks you can put the sponge filter back where it came from, or leave it in place as the primary or secondary filtration system.

    Light Fixture Modifications

    Improvements and suggestions for lighting.

    Improving The Performance Of Fluorescent Strip Lights

    The main thing that separates the cheap strip lights that come with aquarium kits from the next models up is the reflector. The lamps are the same but the better units have aluminum, chromed, or stainless reflectors. The shiny metal reflects more light than the flat white plastic or treated paper that the low end models are equipped with. To bring your less efficient fixture(s) up to par, aluminum tape is all you need. This is available at any home improvement store or HVAC outlet. Just cut the tape to size, remove the lamp, peel the backing to expose the adhesive side, and carefully apply the tape inside the white reflector. You now have an aluminum reflector and a considerably brighter aquarium.

    Live Plants In Unplanted Aquariums

    Tips for implementing and caring for live aquarium plants that are not necessarily rooted in substrate.


    Hornwort is an excellent plant for reducing nitrates. I attach a few strands to a suction cup and float it under my lights. Fry love to hang out in it and mature fish like to hang out under it. Good stuff. It spreads quickly and trimmings can be used elsewhere.

    Here is a photo of a clump of hornwort in my fry tank. There are four kinds of plants removing nitrate (along with algae-promoting nutrients) in this unplanted aquarium.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    I prefer black suction cups because they are made of rubber. The clear ones are vinyl and they do not hold up in my water. Rubber heater brackets are ideal.

    Java Fern

    Live plants are the ideal tool for beautifying an aquarium and quelling nitrate levels. Not all of us have the conditions required for a planted aquarium, though. A simple way to utilize live plants is to affix java fern to a piece of driftwood or bogwood (or any hardwood, really). You may even have seen such an ornament in your local fish store, no doubt with a $60 price tag.

    You can make your own instead. Here's how I make mine:

    First, I select a piece of wood with lots of holes or splits or crevices. I then select a piece of java fern with long roots and multiple stems. One bunch (usually under $5) can often be divided into two or three sections. After rinsing the wood I pick out a spot for the plant and I cut a piece of filter foam (I use pond filter foam but aquarium filter foam will also work) shaped like the hole or crevice but slightly larger. I then lay the plant's roots over the location and gently press the foam against the roots and into the hole. The foam expands to its natural size and grips the wood on all sides. I repeat the process until I have as many plants affixed to as many locations as I desire. Where a piece of wood is split, I sandwich the roots between two slices of foam and slide the assembly into the opening. Eventually the roots will attach to the wood and to the foam and the plant will begin to multiply.

    Once submerged, I position the ornament where and how I want it. The great thing about this method is that after examining the ornament I can make any desired changes, by replacing or rotating a plant, easily--unlike the fishing line/thread method of attachment. I feel it encourages better root development, too.

    Illustrated Step By Step Java Fern/Driftwood Project

    Illustrated step By step Java Fern/Driftwood Project

    What you will need.


    Choose a piece of wood with lots of potential. This one has lots of holes for plants and will make a nice cave, too.


    Choose plants with well-established roots.


    Use small bits of custom-sized filter foam to anchor plants in chosen locations. Place the roots over the receiving area and place the foam over the roots, then gently press into place.


    Location is everything.


    Java Moss

    If your cichlids like to redecorate their aquariums often, as mine do, you may have avoided live plants and the associated benefits where water quality is concerned. If you have a sump you can float live plants in it and add a light. But what if you don't? Here are two simple ideas that allow you to have live plants even if your fish don't agree with the idea.

    Fry House Refugium

    A fry house with suction cups can be positioned at the top of the tank where it will get a lot of light. The same goes for the kind with brackets but they will have to be shaped a little. Once you find a location you can live with, fill the house with java fern babies or with a clump of java moss and forget about it for a while. Your fish and bio filter will do the rest.

    Transformed HOB Filter Refugium

    If you have a spare hang-on-back power filter, and a place to put it, you can remove the media and add a custom insert (See Filter Modifications) positioned close to the outlet. Java moss can then be placed in the reservoir. Remove the top or fold back the hinged top and place a small T-5 fixture for a 10-gallon aquarium hood (I found a used light/tank/top for $5) above the filter. My light fixture rests directly on the filter body but you may choose to add a piece of glass or acrylic for safety. Eventually your java moss will attach to the insert and may even begin climbing down the spillway.

    Nitrate Reduction

    Using Bacteria To Reduce Nitrate

    As many of you know, nitrifying bacteria are an important part of our hobby. They convert ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate, a behavior that saves our fish from certain death. There have been many posts on the topic of cycling aquariums (the nitrification cycle) that cover this process, which involves nitrosomonas and nitrobacter bacteria. We all know that dumping out half our water every week is necessary to dilute the nitrate we are left with (along with the substances our fish secrete and excrete) but what can we do to manage nitrate between water changes? Enter DEnitrifying bacteria; bacteria that convert nitrate into a gaseous form that exits our aquarium water at the surface, most commonly in the form of nitrous oxide.

    The bacteria we host in our aquariums are aerobic bacteria. They require oxygen to do their thing and they find it, among other places, in our ammonia and nitrite molecules. Unfortunately, the presence of oxygen, which we add both deliberately and intrinsically as part of standard aquaculture, is detrimental to anaerobic, denitrifying bacteria. So how, then, can we enjoy the benefits of anaerobic bacteria that reduce nitrate in our aquarium water if we are going out of our way to kill them? Simple; we give them a place to hide from the oxygen. There are many products available to us that are designed to do just that. These products have pores that fill with water that is isolated from the rest of our aquarium water. Once the water inside of these pores has been depleted of oxygen it becomes hospitable for anaerobic bacteria, which then colonize and begin lowering nitrate levels. Seachem Matrix, Eheim Substrat Pro, and JBL MicroMec are among the many media offerings that will host denitrifying bacteria along with nitrifying bacteria. Lava rock will, too, but not as efficiently.

    Using House Plants To Reduce Nitrate

    Plants like golden pathos and philodendron root well in water and will grow in a vase. This makes them ideal candidates for use as aquarium tools. You can affix cuttings to your aquarium or filter and let their roots dangle in the water or you can fit them into the slots of your filter reservoir. Plastic berry containers can be used in the filter reservoir to corral the root mass. Water will still circulate over the roots but they will ball up, which helps to keep them away from the impeller.
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic
    Once the plants establish they will reduce nitrate, phosphate, and other nutrients in your aquarium water, which will help control algae. They will also help to quell any ammonia or nitrite spikes that occur. If you let the roots grow long, fish may use them as spawning mops.

    Providing Sand For Sand-Sifters

    My son received a 55 gallon aquarium for Christmas. He has a firemouth but did not want a sand-bottom tank. As many of you know, Thorichthys are sand-sifters. Their mouths have been adapted to dig in sandy substrates and extract food from them. I told my son that proper husbandry for his Thorichthys Meeki included sand and this was our compromise:
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic
    I placed a stone reptile water dish in the aquarium and filled it by spooning heavy, wet sand into a length of 1" lift tube. I left the tube in place until the sand settled to avoid clouding the water. Worked like a charm. The firemouth digs in it often and so does the coryduras.

    Removing And Raising Fry

    What do you do when you unexpectedly spot a swarm of fry in your community or species tank and you'd like to place them somewhere safe that will also allow you to easily feed them? Here's what I do once I've stopped smiling:

    Capturing fry is hundreds of times easier if they are still young enough that they remain in a swarm instead of dispersed throughout the aquarium. Place a bucket just below the water level of the aquarium (on a chair or what have you) and start a siphon with a gravel vac hose. The flow will be gentle because the bucket is not on the floor, but it will still be ample for picking up tiny fry. Now place one finger inside of the hose end in the bucket to slow the siphon even further but don't stop it altogether. Place the tank end just above the swarm and start taking the fry in. In minutes you will have most of them, though leaving a few with mom and dad--however doomed they may be--will help with parental agression. Fry automatically swim to the bottom so you will easily be able to pour off excess water. Now move them into a refuge tank containing tank water.

    Fry tanks:

    Anything small, bare-bottom, and heated that contains a sponge filter will do. I have recently discovered the Finnex hang on back refugium and I SWEAR by it as a refuge for very young fry. Among its advantages over small tanks or jars is that it replaces all of the water it holds many times each day so you never have to do partial water changes or worry about fouling the water. It hangs on an existing aquarium and it has a foam block that keeps fry from escaping - perfect for our application and it can be stuffed with java moss (also great for raising older fry in) and used as a nitrate filter when the fry have been raised. The Finnex HOB refugium also oxygenates the water as it enters the unit and since it uses water from an existing, heated tank, it does not require a heater.
    An in-the-tank fry house is a cheaper solution that also precludes having to perform daily water changes. Unfortunatley micro foods tend to fall through the mesh bottom of most of these, where it is wasted.

    Feeding the fry:

    For the first two weeks the fry of most egg layers are much too small to eat baby brine shrimp or microworms. So how do we make it through those crucial weeks? A team of Japanese discus breeders compared parent-raised discus with those that were fed rotifers and the parent-raised fish lost in the survival category by 10%. Both batches were similar in size after 2 weeks. So there is your answer my friend. ROTIFERS. They are frozen, microscopic, and generally available in your LFS's freezer section. It doesn't get any easier than that. Rotifers are mostly water though and will be eaten by the millions every hour because of this. I drop a frozen block in and let it sink. Once they have whittled it away I add another. After two weeks it is on to baby brine shrimp and chopped blood worms. After five weeks I put them on a sinking micro pellet.

    Simplifying Water Changes

    Managing Large Aquariums

    Water changes need not be difficult. Here's how I manage my larger tanks:

    I have a fountain pump attached to vinyl tubing with a valve on the discharge end. I place the pump in the tank and pump 35-50% of the water out to waste. Then I set my sink faucet to the proper temperature and stop up the basin. I then use the same pump to pump water out of the basin and into a dedicated trashcan (second hand stores sell suitable plastic totes for pennies on the dollar) which contains the proper amount of water conditioner. When I have enough water in my trashcan, I move the pump to the trashcan and put the discharge end in the aquarium. Minutes later the process is complete. Rarely do I spill a drop and no physical exertion is required.

    One of my tanks is convenient to a bathtub, so I do the same thing without the trashcan for water changes on that aquarium. If you have a tub near your upstairs/downstairs tank, just use it but rinse it well first to eliminate any chemicals.

    It often seems as if my fish don't even notice that water is being changed. I believe this technique greatly reduces their stress vs. bucket brigade. I find that I am much more faithful to my schedules, too.

    Transferring Fish

    Catching Fish You'd Like To Move

    If your fish panic when they see a blue or green net, you're not alone. My fish are extremely frightened of them and chasing them around the tank would stress them and me. Here's how I catch fish when they need to be relocated:

    I have different sizes of specimen cups like the pet stores use to collect fish before they bag them. I hold one in my hand and place it between the fish I want and the glass. The fish are almost always facing the glass when I do this, looking for a way to avoid my hand. I wave the hand that is not in the tank back and forth in front of the fish and, without fail, he turns the other way and swims into the invisible specimen cup, which I then rotate and lift from the aquarium. I'm inclined to believe that, in many case, the fish does not even know he's been captured. It is a very gentle method that I feel is far more humane. And it is great for fragile fish such as angels, or for fish that would possibly be caught on the fabric of a net. Once you get the hang of prompting them into the container, you'll be amazed at how much simpler this method is.