Cichlid Addicted with Jim Cumming

Vieja Breidohri - Presa La Angostura
Hi Guys,


With our upcoming Cichlid event, I want to take a closer look at some of the Cichlid keepers in our community and find out why these fish are loved by so many of us. This week I have been chatting to Jim Cumming about his Cichlid Addiction.

First of all Jim, can you let us know where it all began? 

I’m Canadian by birth and have lived my entire life in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I've been keeping fish since I was 10 years old, and other than being away from the hobby for short periods, I am a 'lifer'.  I've been in the aquarium hobby since 1954, starting with a 1 gallon pickle jar, some bird gravel, a sprig of cabomba and a gravid female Platy. From that point on, fish keeping has been an ongoing passion. I first started keeping cichlids seriously as a teen, and this pursuit has pretty much continued unabated up to the present. Other than being a generalist in the early years and a 15 year love affair with killifish( my on-line moniker ‘notho2000’ ) it’s been cichlids all the way.  


Why Cichlids, whats the attraction for you?

Well, in addition to the obvious reasons of simply being beautiful and majestic, it’s their social interaction and behavior that interests me. I love the challenge of trying to provide the best possible environment for them and have them behave as they would in their natural setting. Watching a pair of cichlids protecting their eggs and young is the ultimate for me. And succeeding with a fish that is considered ‘difficult’ is very rewarding.

Paretroplus nourissati 
What is your current set up? how many tanks and what fish are you breeding/keeping at present?

Presently I'm involved with maintaining and breeding Central and South American cichlids, Madagascan cichlids, and the three species from India. I maintain a fish room containing 40 tanks, give or take, the largest being 180G (eight of them) and an 1100G outdoor pond. I kept killies exclusively from 1969 to 1978, and from 1988 to 1996, hence the "notho2000" handle. The rest of the time it's been mainly cichlids. I operated my own Discus hatchery and then Angels in the early to mid-90s but a fish business, run for the profit motive took all the fun out of fish keeping. Besides my hatchery fell victim to the notorious Discus plague that wiped out virtually all of my stock. I've always (except for a brief period in the early 80s) resisted the African (Malawi, Tanganyikan, and Victorian) cichlid scene since I know my 'glut' personality, would result in me getting totally carried away with them.
Paratilapia polleni ‘Maralambo’

In all the cichlids you have kept, has there been any that you just couldn't keep successfully?
There are a few fish species that have been frustrating to me. Two come to mind even though there probably have been many more over the years. I have been able to keep them going for extended periods, but not in the long term. Biotodoma wavrini (cupido) and Mayaheros beani. The Biotodoma sp. need to be kept in a species only tank with non competitive, non aggressive dithers. And the beani need to be kept in a low stress environment. This means not being crowded or housed with more dominant species. I just wasn't able to provide these conditions in the long term.


With nearly 3000 different varieties of cichlids out there do you have a soft spot for any in particular?

Having kept cichlids so extensively in terms of varieties and period of time, it’s difficult for me to single out specifics ones, but there are two that I had when I was starting out that had a major impact on me becoming addicted to this hobby and cichlids in particular. They were Mesonauta festivus (Festivums) and Hypselecara temporalis (Chocolate cichlids). 
Hoplarchus psittacus

With your active profile on Facebook these days, you must have come across many mixed cichlid tanks with american and african together, how do you explain the reasons this is a bad situation to fishkeepers out there.

I am not a purist in this regard  and sometimes I do mix fish from different continents because I have no choice (lack of space, quarantining), but aesthetically, I just don’t like it. Some argue that American and African Rift Lake cichlids have entirely different specific needs in terms of pH, hardness, and food requirements. To me, that’s less of an issue than the different aggression levels, territoriality, behavioral issues and breeding strategies between American and mainland East African cichlids. All of my fish, no matter which continent they are from, basically get pretty much the same water and food parameters, other than a few minor tweaks.  I’m fortunate to have good, average water conditions (pH ~ 7.4, TDS ~160 ppm) where I live.

Have you ever collected fish yourself?

I began collecting cichlids in the 80s and 90s in Mexico, Belize, and Cuba, as well as in Brazil. I go to Florida regularly and enjoy collecting and maintaining native fish, especially killies and sunfish.

Are you a member of any local societies in your area and do you have much success at showing your fish at events?

I'm have been a long standing member and former president of the Aquarium Society of Winnipeg and a founding member of the DFO (Dead Fish Order), a group of advanced hobbyists that meets four times a year and brings in well-known speakers from around the globe. Locally, there isn’t really an opportunity to show fish. As well, Canadians cannot take live fish into the U.S. for show purposes.
Heros liberifer

What are the key factors when trying to produce a prize winning fish?

Keep a promising prospect in a tank of adequate size, provide good quality food and a regular water change regimen, keep non aggressive dithers with it, make sure that objects that might cause injury are not present, and keep it in a fairly high traffic area. And then hope for the best.




For beginners looking to try their hand at breeding cichlids, what would you suggest as a great starter fish?

Well, at the risk of sounding like a cliché, you can’t go wrong with Convict cichlids or Jewel cichlids for a substrate spawner or for mouthbrooders, any of a number of Lake Malawi cichlids. 

Uaru Amphiacanthoides
Well, Jim, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us. I know all the Cichlid fans will be very impressed with your stunning photos too. If you would like to know more about Jim or ask him anything you can get in touch with him in the Lothian Fishkeepers or his group Cichlid Keepers. 

Jim regularly shares interesting videos and facts with the group so please remember to like the ones you watch.

thanks for reading and remember, if you would like to be featured in our next weeks blog, get in touch at: lothianfishkeeper@gmail.com

Bye for now

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