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Lake Tanganyika biotope-ish 15g


cathface

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following the death of my original pair, I decided to get another pair after I got my parameters under control. I am still quite upset by their sudden death but it seemed even sadder to have an empty tank. so today I went into town and picked up another pair, who were much easier to identify: the male was definitely male as he is an absolute monster, and the female is dainty with the white tips. the bloke at the LFS who helped me twice before wasn't in, so I just asked another guy. he didn't seem as knowledgable about African cichlids, or at least about l. ocellatus, so it was a good thing these two were easily identifiable. I picked these two as they were not fighting and I saw no territorial issues after watching for about 10 minutes. I also decided to pick up 3 sizeable rocks to add to my tank, and the lovely man gave me them for free! since I had £15 store credit from when I got 4 to test out pairings and returned 2, I basically didn't have to spend a penny instore today, which I'm chuffed about. :)

this is the two of them being acclimated - you can sort of tell how big new Mr Occie is:
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I estimate him to be approx 2 inches, whereas new Mrs Occie is more like 1.5 inches.

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he can just about fit into an escargot shell, bless him.

I'm going to be religiously checking nitrite levels as it seemed to be a spike of that which caused my previous pair to make a bid for freedom. so far so good - nitrite is at 0ppm. fingers crossed it will stay this way; I will be limiting feeding for now until I can be sure I won't get another spike.

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guys, I'm so heartbroken.

I went downstairs for dinner, came back up and found the pair of them dead. and I don't know why. I did a 50% water change at around 5pm to make sure nitrite would not exceed 0.1ppm (basically not reaching the 0.25ppm colour), and I was literally watching them just before I went down for food at around 7pm. they were fine, they even ate a little; I felt a little bad completely starving them so gave them a few pellets each, and I turkey-bastered out any uneaten or missed food. I came back to my room at around 8:45pm, looked into the tank and, with a huge sinking feeling, found that I could not see them. but then I spotted new Mrs Occie hidden behind some rocks and under a bit of sand - I thought she was just hiding, but when I noticed a distinct lack of movement. turns out she was gone already. so now I was desperately looking for new Mr Occie - he's a big lad so I figured he wouldn't be hard to find. found him between some rocks, also dead. as a last resort I tried a hydrogen peroxide (3%) dip to see if that'll revive them, hoping that they weren't fully dead (I don't know if that would have even worked). no such luck.

I feel like I just shouldn't have shellies. I have no idea what's wrong - the nitrite currently is testing at around 0.1ppm but I have been religious with keeping it down in the past few days. I can't believe I've only had these guys one day and I've lost them already. is this because of the filter change? I even went out and bought API Quickstart just in case the bacteria just needed a bit of catching up. I can't imagine occies being so sensitive that just a tiny nitrite spike would kill them so quickly, but that's the only thing I can pin it on right now.

I think I'm going to have to give the shellie tank a break for now. I wouldn't be able to bear another two deaths any time soon.

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I'm so sorry Catherine, this sounds like a really upsetting situation. :( I would keep adding ammonia to the tank and let the cycle fully establish, and then try again when you aren't having any parameter issues. Are there any forums that you could post on that are more experienced with this breed? I'm sure they could help. Maybe your PH/hardness is off for them or something along those lines? I hope you can get it figured out! :heart

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I'm so sorry Catherine, this sounds like a really upsetting situation. :( I would keep adding ammonia to the tank and let the cycle fully establish, and then try again when you aren't having any parameter issues. Are there any forums that you could post on that are more experienced with this breed? I'm sure they could help. Maybe your PH/hardness is off for them or something along those lines? I hope you can get it figured out! :heart

thank you Ms. Jenny. that is what I'm going to do, leave it empty and "finish" cycling so to speak. I won't try adding any more fish until after nitrite stays 0ppm. I am also a member of a more UK-based forum which does have people who know more about shellies, and they also suspect that it's the filter. water hardness has been ruled out as, in London, my water is basically liquid rock, which is perfect for Tangs, which is why I chose to go for shelldwellers in the first place.

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Oh no :( I am sooo sad for you. This is just heart breaking. RIP little occie's. I do know they like very hard water, even more than GF. Sounds like you have that covered. I wish you the best of luck!!!!! Please don't give up on these guys. A break, I get it and to keep an I on the filter, but keep going with these fun little guys. I am sure it will work out! :hug

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thank you all. I'm basically treating my tank as if it's in the middle of a fishless cycle right now, and will keep dosing ammonia and the API Quickstart to hopefully help the bacteria along. once my tests show that the filter can deal with 4ppm of ammonia easily then I will finally think about getting more shellies. might try a different kind though, as occies might bring me sad memories. :(

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  • 2 weeks later...
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just an update on this tank!

I finally found out why the first occie jumped and why the other two died from a nitrite spike - the occie that was missing from the first pair, who I assumed had also jumped, had actually gotten stuck in a shell (which I thought I'd made sure couldn't happen) and died that way. that fouled the water which caused her mate to jump. then, unbeknownst to me, I added more assuming it was just a cycle bump from the filter change. they also of course died because nitrite kept spiking. it was selfish of me to buy them in the first place, I know, but I thought that I could keep on top of it, making sure whenever nitrite was anything but 0ppm, I'd do a big water change. then when they died within an hour and 45 mins of them being fine, I knew something was very wrong. how could nitrite rise so quickly?! I investigated, seeing if the corpse of first Mrs Occie was just rotting away under a rock or something, when I lifted out a shell and the most disgusting smell hit my nasal passages. yep I'd found the source of the ammonia/nitrite. I figured I never got an ammonia reading as my ammonia-munching bacteria was sufficient/multiplied quickly enough to deal with the decay, but obviously as nitrite-munching bacteria takes longer to form, all the nitrite was building up. I ended up just chucking the shell despite not ever actually seeing a dead fish in the shell. the smell was enough; it was like when a snail dies, except x5. there was also no way for me to get the fish out unless I stuck a finger in and I didn't want to do that...

after I got rid of the cause of all my problems ever, I treated my tank as basically mid-fishless cycle, as nitrite was just not catching up. I also decided I wanted one of two species: lamprologus stappersi (also known as meleagris), the "pearly ocellatus", or lamprologus speciosus, the "black ocellatus". little did I know how hard it would be to source either of those. after trawling and calling all nearby LFS', and asking my most local to let me know if they appear on their next order stock list, I found a place where they had 4 in the tank under meleagris! despite my cycle not being caught up, I knew I needed to snatch them up right away, so I decided to get a pair and keep them in a breeding box in my mature betta tank, in which I'd turn the heat down a bit.

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from the breeding box, Gentleman Stappersi

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they originally got on quite well but in such a small space, Gent Stapps bullied Lady Stapps out of a shell (he tried to take all 3!) so I separated them with a barrier

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this also left them to get used to each other despite not being able to bully, so I'd hoped that it would make the transition into the big tank much easier

for 5 days they were in the betta tank; when I added 2ppm of ammonia to the shellie tank, it would go in less than 12 hours, but nitrite would linger at 0.5ppm even after 24 hours. on day 5 (which was yesterday), I tested and lo and behold, it seemed it'd finally caught up, thank god. I did a 95% water change and Lady Stapps was the first to go in, as she was smaller, so I wanted her to establish a shell first so Gent Stapps didn't think he was some overlord. actually what happened was that when she first went in, she looked lost and confused, swimming at the right wall, until he went in, wherein he seemed to calm her down or something, and they started surveying shells together. that was really quite sweet. as they are similar to l. ocellatus, they don't form strong bonds like n. brevis do, but their behaviour was cute nonetheless.

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they established shells very near each other - the foreground is Gent Stapps and you can spy Lady Stapps at the back there

today they were both accounted for and no signs of distress, and water parameters stable and safe, thank god. I think I would have had a breakdown if anything had gone wrong overnight yet again.

at the moment they seemed to have a half of the tank each, though no aggressive behaviours are occurring if one swims into the other's half, which is promising! I bought some live bloodworms to test out (never fed live before as it grosses me out a bit) - they loved it (as did Paul Bettany).

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"live food, you say?"

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"don't mind if I do!"

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"let me in on this action"

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"argh it's coming out of my faaace!"

the only issue now is that the vallis is looking miserable, which may or may not be because of the cycle bump and subsequent ammonia top ups. it could also be that I just have no luck with vallis, I don't know lol. but here's a full tank shot:

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I enjoyed those photos immensely:) While it sucks your first several shellies died... at least you know the cause and don't feel like you are loosing you mind! Your new fish are seriously adorable :heart

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thank you both!

my lily pipe's inflow finally arrived (5-10 days my butt!) and I totally forgot about it because I was out most of the day! just installed it (incredibly carefully this time) as well as did a bit of late night tank maintenance.

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it looks so... empty now lol. oh I also took out the vallis because it was looking worse and worse and I just thought, why bother? so now it's proper biotope haha. one less thing to dose anyway I guess. I think I'll need to get more rocks now, so it doesn't look so spacious?

oh and if anyone was curious, this is the colour the l. stappersi go at night:

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Lady Stapps there. I'd just turned the light on to see what the tank looked like with the all-glass pipes and thought I'd snap a pic for the curious! Gent Stapps was also much paler but not quite as pale as the missus.

wondering where I should put the heater now? looks a bit silly just plonked in the middle lol.

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This is so interesting. I love these little guys. Please keep posting updates and pics.

I desperately want to see you suceed. It is selfish but I want to live vicariously through you since I can't have any shellies. :D

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thank you Fluffy! I will of course keep posting updates & pics. :)

I bought more rocks today. looks better, I think, though it still seems to be missing something... not much more I can add except more rocks though? haha.

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and I'm pretty sure they are looking much bigger than when I got them, especially the Gent!

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male - approx 1.6" (was only about 1.4" when purchased)

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female - approx 1.3" (was only about 1.1" when purchased)

I put it down to the live bloodworms I've been feeding every day (second meal). no spawning behaviour yet but I reckon they're still young. absolutely no aggression towards each other or even my hand, but I did read that they're much more docile than occies lol.

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some strange behaviour has been happening... the two of them have not been aggressive to each other at all for the entire time they've been in their tank. then today I noticed that Gent Stapps had chased Lady Stapps to a crevice in the rocks on the left. apparently he really likes the left side of the tank now, when he had been perfectly happy with the centre and the right side up until today.

but then I watched the interaction a little longer and it seemed like she didn't want to back down or leave, and he wasn't going to be more aggressive than flaring and telling her who's boss, kind of like a domestic lol. eventually what happened was that Lady decided she would stay in the crevice by that shell rather than seek out another shell - I left one in a secluded-ish area just in case there were scuffles at the beginning, but she didn't retreat there. as I watched more, they just flared at each other, didn't bite or nip, and just hung around with each other instead.

I don't feel like this is breeding behaviour, at least not yet, as Lady has not been swishing by the entrance of any shells, that I've noticed anyway.

some snaps:

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just hanging??

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why that shell?!

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that crevice to the left of the pic is where Lady goes, not because she is scared but rather because she didn't want to leave the area

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just flaring beside each other, possibly to try to ward my big face off, idk?

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  • 2 weeks later...
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I added some MTS (Malaysian trumpet snails) yesterday to help turn over the sand as I felt the stappersi weren't doing enough to keep it from going anaerobic. there was a total of 6 as I know they can be prolific breeders, all of which were alive when they went in. the stappersi seemed curious about them, assuming they were edible, and pecked away, but eventually gave up as the MTS closed their trap doors. I assumed that, by evening, they'd all have dug their way into the sand and I'd just not see them much after that. however, this morning I have found 5 uncovered snails, none of which seem to moving. could they be dead from being harrassed too much by the stappersi? I've tried googling it but nothing comes up other than "did my MTS eat my shellies' fry?" so that's no help. I wouldn't have thought the stappersi would be able to eat them because of their trapdoors. all shells are intact, but no sign of movement since I discovered them uncovered at 11am. I'm glad there's one "missing" though, as that suggests that one has escaped that fate and is busy digging around somewhere.

anyway, have some pictures of Gent Stapps with sand on his head.

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look at those sand-digging jaws!

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