Buttikoferi Tilapia Rescue HELP

joshdev

Feeder Fish
May 27, 2017
3
2
8
25
Hello all! I'm brand new to this forums (and "monster fish keeping" in general), so please forgive me (and correct) any misconceptions I have. This is, in short, a rescue story and a cry for help from more experienced aquarists.

Yesterday, my girlfriend and I went a picked up a tank that we got for free through a few friend-of-friends. We had very blurry photos, only the description "8 year old Bumblebee Cichlid and sucker catfish" and then the tank specs: Eheim 2215 canister in a 50 gallon planted aquarium (with iron stand, if that matters).

We arrived and were SHOCKED - what we found was one of the most disgusting, overridden tanks I've ever seen. The substrate had not been cleaned in years and the entire tank was coated in algae and plants. We brought buckets to transfer all of the water but dumped all of it out because it was all between a Bud Light yellow and pitch black color. We were told the owner would top off the tank every 2-3 months (not change, just top off), but his method for treating the water was to "toss a handful" of salt per bucket. I can only imagine how much salt was in there, since he never took any out. After hours cleaning all the substrate and aquascaping and filtration, we could barely get it clean enough to feel okay putting it back in the water. We have the Eheim and an extra HOB filter (300 gallon flow rate) I had running on it now just to make sure it stays semi clean.

Here's the bigger problem, though - they completely misdescribed both of their fish. I assumed they had a Psuedotropheus crabro ("bumbleebee cichlid") and a large common pleco ("sucker catfish"). What they actually had (and what we now have) is a Buttikoferi Tilapia and (I think) a Synodontis angelicus. The descriptions of the Butties I'd heard were completely accurate - the only perfect tankmates being rocks or crocodiles. Getting him (whom we affectionately baptized Dilbert the Demon) transferred was a battle, to say the least. They are, amazingly, both seemingly very healthy, active, and, quite frankly, beautiful fish.

I've been running 10 and 15 gallons for awhile now, and wanted to set up a larger cichlid tank for sometime now. This was obviously not at all what we were preparing for or what I did my research on, so here is where I ask for help. I don't want my first tank over 15 gallons to crash, especially not with such a beautiful Buttie and Angelicus in there. Here are my concerns/questions/pleas:

They'd been throwing normal Cichlid flakes into the tank every day for the Buttie, and seemingly nothing else for the angelicus. What is a proper diet for both of these fish? I've read Butties need a mixed diet, but haven't found anything too specific on what to mix to keep him healthy. Should I put live feeders in there for him? Would he actually eat them or rather kill them just as an act of aggression?

The only aquascaping they had on there were a bunch of rocks that the angelicus could swim between, but no caves or anything for the Buttie. Do people mainly use large ceramic planters for this purpose, or do the larger tilapia cichlids not need the same cave accessibility that Lake Malawi ones do?

Bubblers - they had one in there (which was barely working, before I scrubbed a thousand layers of algae off of it). Does a tank that size need more than one?

Heaters - they had one running. I put two in there and am monitoring the temperature - just assuming the two would better than one since it's so large?

Invertebrates - any that would be useful to have in the tank? I've read some people have crayfish or fiddler crabs with them, but have no experience with larger inverts like those so I wouldn't know any better. I obviously could get some snails and a few dozen ghost shrimp in there, but I assume one of the two fish would eat all of the latter?

I thought that the Buttie made the 50 gallon look small, and it seems that's the consensus. I am going to put up a WTB ad in the Free & for Sale section of this site, as we are on the hunt for a larger tank for him. The issue is - I am a college student, and, although I am working towards a doctorate and get a little bit of a stipend, I don't have the extra cash to purchase a 75+ gallon tank and the necessary equipment. That's why I pounced on this opportunity to take Dilbert and his set up when I had the chance. I'd be more than happy to trade the 50 gallon and the stand for anything (we also have some spare smaller tanks - 10, 15, 32), or take someone's older tank and reseal and clean it, etc. Basically, I'm looking for opportunities to get the larger set up that this fish deserves within my means. Any leads or advice on how to do this would be the most appreciated of all, as he really needs a bigger tank.

We've both fallen in love with this fish, and are already addicted to the idea of getting another after he passes. Any help anyone can offer - advice, leads on tanks, etc. - would be greatly appreciated, as we only want to do what is right for the fish. Any extra money I have goes towards my pets, and this is no different - I just don't have the extra cash for it all right now.
 
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Hendre

Bawitius
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Jan 14, 2016
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Welcome!

Synodontis are in need of a mixed diet, I feed sinking carnivore pellets, worms and deshelled peas. Angelicus are very nice ones but stay smaller than many other synos. Apparently 8"

Craigslist is a great source of cheap tanks, good luck :)
 
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magpie

Redtail Catfish
MFK Member
Jun 4, 2016
3,552
5,310
154
Oregon
I don't know much about the fish you're discussing, but you also might check out Offer Up. A member here recommended it to me, and maybe because it's not as popular you can find some screaming deals. I got a 20-long setup with everything including stand for super cheap.

Good luck! (Poor fish!)
 
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Trimapit

Plecostomus
MFK Member
May 12, 2017
334
210
51
33
Texas
The Buttrikofferi are amazing fish. A main General Cichlid diet will work. I like the NLS Cichlid foods. But supplement with fresh stuff too. Spinach, garlic, butter lettuce, cucumber, squash, zucchini, etc. This will help a lot. They don't need much of anything. Especially once they get some size. Keep the PH on the high side. You can do this by either a ph buffer or just add some crushed coral to the substrate. Crushed coral and sand is the substrate I use for mine. With just a few rocks.
 
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Circa4190

Jack Dempsey
MFK Member
Jan 15, 2009
430
63
31
Carmel, Indiana
Hello all! I'm brand new to this forums (and "monster fish keeping" in general), so please forgive me (and correct) any misconceptions I have. This is, in short, a rescue story and a cry for help from more experienced aquarists.

Yesterday, my girlfriend and I went a picked up a tank that we got for free through a few friend-of-friends. We had very blurry photos, only the description "8 year old Bumblebee Cichlid and sucker catfish" and then the tank specs: Eheim 2215 canister in a 50 gallon planted aquarium (with iron stand, if that matters).

We arrived and were SHOCKED - what we found was one of the most disgusting, overridden tanks I've ever seen. The substrate had not been cleaned in years and the entire tank was coated in algae and plants. We brought buckets to transfer all of the water but dumped all of it out because it was all between a Bud Light yellow and pitch black color. We were told the owner would top off the tank every 2-3 months (not change, just top off), but his method for treating the water was to "toss a handful" of salt per bucket. I can only imagine how much salt was in there, since he never took any out. After hours cleaning all the substrate and aquascaping and filtration, we could barely get it clean enough to feel okay putting it back in the water. We have the Eheim and an extra HOB filter (300 gallon flow rate) I had running on it now just to make sure it stays semi clean.

Here's the bigger problem, though - they completely misdescribed both of their fish. I assumed they had a Psuedotropheus crabro ("bumbleebee cichlid") and a large common pleco ("sucker catfish"). What they actually had (and what we now have) is a Buttikoferi Tilapia and (I think) a Synodontis angelicus. The descriptions of the Butties I'd heard were completely accurate - the only perfect tankmates being rocks or crocodiles. Getting him (whom we affectionately baptized Dilbert the Demon) transferred was a battle, to say the least. They are, amazingly, both seemingly very healthy, active, and, quite frankly, beautiful fish.

I've been running 10 and 15 gallons for awhile now, and wanted to set up a larger cichlid tank for sometime now. This was obviously not at all what we were preparing for or what I did my research on, so here is where I ask for help. I don't want my first tank over 15 gallons to crash, especially not with such a beautiful Buttie and Angelicus in there. Here are my concerns/questions/pleas:

They'd been throwing normal Cichlid flakes into the tank every day for the Buttie, and seemingly nothing else for the angelicus. What is a proper diet for both of these fish? I've read Butties need a mixed diet, but haven't found anything too specific on what to mix to keep him healthy. Should I put live feeders in there for him? Would he actually eat them or rather kill them just as an act of aggression?

The only aquascaping they had on there were a bunch of rocks that the angelicus could swim between, but no caves or anything for the Buttie. Do people mainly use large ceramic planters for this purpose, or do the larger tilapia cichlids not need the same cave accessibility that Lake Malawi ones do?

Bubblers - they had one in there (which was barely working, before I scrubbed a thousand layers of algae off of it). Does a tank that size need more than one?

Heaters - they had one running. I put two in there and am monitoring the temperature - just assuming the two would better than one since it's so large?

Invertebrates - any that would be useful to have in the tank? I've read some people have crayfish or fiddler crabs with them, but have no experience with larger inverts like those so I wouldn't know any better. I obviously could get some snails and a few dozen ghost shrimp in there, but I assume one of the two fish would eat all of the latter?

I thought that the Buttie made the 50 gallon look small, and it seems that's the consensus. I am going to put up a WTB ad in the Free & for Sale section of this site, as we are on the hunt for a larger tank for him. The issue is - I am a college student, and, although I am working towards a doctorate and get a little bit of a stipend, I don't have the extra cash to purchase a 75+ gallon tank and the necessary equipment. That's why I pounced on this opportunity to take Dilbert and his set up when I had the chance. I'd be more than happy to trade the 50 gallon and the stand for anything (we also have some spare smaller tanks - 10, 15, 32), or take someone's older tank and reseal and clean it, etc. Basically, I'm looking for opportunities to get the larger set up that this fish deserves within my means. Any leads or advice on how to do this would be the most appreciated of all, as he really needs a bigger tank.

We've both fallen in love with this fish, and are already addicted to the idea of getting another after he passes. Any help anyone can offer - advice, leads on tanks, etc. - would be greatly appreciated, as we only want to do what is right for the fish. Any extra money I have goes towards my pets, and this is no different - I just don't have the extra cash for it all right now.
I just donated my Butti "Bumblebee" a few days ago. I was sad to see him go, but he got way too large too fast and we can't get our 300 up and going until after we move. Him and my Festae were destroying each other, so Butti had to go. They will be every bit of 13" full grown, and will murder everything in sight. If you want to keep Dilbert, I would suggest a 180g tank or larger for life. You MAY be able to house him with another fish or two but the odds are forever against you. The larger the tank, the better! Mine bullied a 7" Festae and 2 13" Oscars into a corner and claimed the rest of the tank as his own. They have a mean bite too when doing maintenance.
 
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duanes

MFK Moderators
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Jun 7, 2007
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Isla Taboga Panama via Milwaukee
I have lept butttikoferi in the past.
They will reach a length of about 20" if given the right conditions, which usually means a tank of at least 200 gallons.
They are extremely aggressive if kept in smaller tanks, and will usually kill all tank mates.
In the rivers where they come from in Africa, they are loners, and amazing recycling machines.
They will often follow hippos around, eating the fresh hippo feces as they are excreted. They are not alone in this habit, many other Tilapines and large barbs do the same.
 
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