Central American Rocky Lake Aquarium Biotope
Central America has several great lakes like Atitlan, Managua, and Nicaragua.
The lakes are rocky with hard, alkaline water.
The cichlids in these lakes are generally very territorial and aggressive and should not be combined in the same with peaceful species such as livebearers.
Lake Nicaragua is a large freshwater lake; it covers an area of 8264 sq. km and is the largest lake in Central America. In places the water will reach depths of 84 feet, and it was once well known for being a haunt of Caribbean pirates who would enter the lake through the San Juan River. This river leads directly to the Caribbean Sea.
As expected with rocky lakes, the water is very hard (15-25DH) and alkaline (7.5-8.2).
Temperatures range from 24-27°C.
Setting up the tank
The main décor in this tank is large, sturdy rock structures. Smaller tanks may struggle to provide enough space so a minimum tank size of 250 liters (55 gallons) is recommended.
Add the rocks first to build up your structure, and then add the sand around the rocks to form the substrate. The main reason for this is fish tend to burrow in sand; this will cause your rocks to topple if placed on top of the sand.
Water current needs to be kept low, turn down the outlets on your filters to replicate this.
Plants for the tank
Plants will struggle to survive in these alkaline, hard water conditions. Any that does will be destroyed by the cichlid inhabitants making it useless to attempt any planting at all.
Fish for the tank
Loricarids (armoured catfish) make for good substrate cleaners, these catfish like plenty of swimming room combined with hiding places if required. Many of the different species will only grow to a maximum size of five inches but be careful if adding two males to the tank.
Pimelodids (naked catfish) can also be added, these species will grow larger in size but with a 55 gallon tank this should not be a problem, Probably the most well known member of this family is the pictus catfish, if kept it should be housed in small groups.
Livebearers are one of the hardiest fish species, this makes them very popular with fish keepers and there is a great deal of choice. Bear in mind that cichlids are also going to be added to this biotope so the smaller species could be seen as food, select your inhabitants carefully. Sailfin mollies belong in this group and are extremely hardy, tolerant of a wide range of water parameters, and fairly easy to breed if you choose to do so.
Cichlids that can be added are convict cichlids, red devil cichlids, Texas cichlids and so on. It may be advisable to research the cichlid species you are interested in to try to get some of the less aggressive species. Some of the species will grow large like the jaguar cichlids so bear this in mind when selecting your tank.
Sources of information
Taken from Rhett A. Butler/mongabay.com, wikipedia.