Craig Coleman - a man with a vision.....

Hi Guys, 

Ive recently been enjoying seeing some aquarium photos from our member Craig Coleman. There is soemthing that stands out about his set up that drove me to find out more. Craig was kind enough answer some questions and share some photos also. 


First of all Craig, tell us a bit about yourself. How old are you, where do you live and what do you do for a living? 

I live in Culross, Fife and will be 40 this summer, yikes!
I work as an IT Technician at the Hostelling Scotland head office in Stirling. So mostly typically mundane ‘can you fix my email’ type stuff, with the occasional 300 mile drive to enjoy the best roads and sights in the world… sometimes they even let me do some real work.

What led you to keeping your current tank? 

After my middle Son was born, I had a break from fishkeeping. Home moves and Job changes kept me out of the hobby for 5 years or so. Once we were settled here, I knew another tank was back on the cards. I gratefully accepted the donation of a 39”” Fluval tank from a family member.
I spent the last year faffing about with various stock and setups, but couldn’t quite get where I wanted to be.
When I saw a fellow Lothian Fishkeepers member had one of his ClearSeal tanks up for sale, I jumped at the chance swap out the Fluval for one that better suited my vision of a long, low tank.

What is your current fish list?

Current stock is:
4 Convicts (2 White, 2 Regular)
2 Matadi
2 Electric Blue Jack Dempseys
2 Parrot Cichlids
1 P.Polli (Marbled Bichir)
1 Green Phantom
1 Blue Phantom
1 Bristlenose
1 Vampire Plec
1 Raphael Catfish

Any Favourites?
I love the character of the Convicts, proper wee scamps come breeding time and the colours on the Jack Dempsey… wow!

Can you describe your current set up? 

After deciding Dorris the Bichir was going to be my centre piece, and already having the Convicts, I had to select fish that would appreciate the slightly softer water. They also had to have enough pep to hold their own in what I imagined would be a lively tank and still be pretty enough to keep me interested. The mix of South American and African River seems to be well suited. I’d describe my stock as transitory, I’m forever tweaking things and trading fish.

Your obviously not afraid to get creative, your background is a great idea for cichlids and plecos. What gave you the idea to build the caves into the background?

I love making things, Overflows, Sumps, Filters, plumbing, wiring... you name it and I’ll have a go.
The current cavewall is MkII. I dabbled with Mbuna in the Fluval tank and after reading the two trains of thought (overstock to spread aggression/lots of territories and breaking line of sight) I added to that my limited space, limited Fish budget and abhorrence of random piles of rocks. 

Stealing 3” from the back of the tank to give me a dozen Fish Apartments, not to mention somewhere to hide equipment, seemed like the best choice. My initial thought was to silicone either slate, gravel or rock to the wall, but once in, I really liked the clean look. 
When I changed from Mbuna to the current setup I couldn’t think of a reason not to keep the cavewall, plus with this tank being around 8” longer that the last, it gave me the opportunity to keep the existing wall and make a filter to fill in the gap.

Have you always wanted a big tank?

I would love a big tank (wouldn’t we all) but with living in a first floor flat, not soaking the downstairs neighbours has to be a priority, so I’ve limited my setup to under 200Kg. Current setup is 170l – 48” Wide x 12” Tall x 18” deep

Since setting up your current aquarium, are there any things you have discovered that are a nightmare? 

I’ve kept fish for 25 years and made my fair share of mistakes, I’d like to hope all of my nightmares are behind me, but you never know…

I did spend a fair bit of time planning out the swap and was able to install the mood lighting, cavewall and internal filtration, while the tank was in my shed, ahead of time.

Making the change was made easier by transferring the fish + External filter/heater to a 100l bucket, while I emptied the old tank and set up the new one. I’d also cut hoses and cabling to length beforehand to help minimise bucket time for the fish.

Do you have a strict maintenance routine?

My 16 month old son loves the fish and can reach the glass, so cleaning porridge fingerprints and bogeys is a full time occupation! 

Aside from toddler cleaning duties my weekly routine is:
  • Clean the inside of the glass (including braces, sliders and supports) and the back wall, with a soft sponge
  • Gravel vac 30l and rinse one of the two the internal filter sponges
  • Gravel vac another 30l
  • I’ll condition (Fluval Aqua Plus) 30l and sluice it in to dislodge any detritus from under the rocks and bottom layer of caves, then siphon out another 60l

Every 4 to 6 weeks I’ll also clean out the external canisters pre-filter and soak the hoses in hot water.

Whats your plans for the future? are there any fish your looking for?

I recently decided to replace the replace the Convicts with Parrot Cichlids. 
I’d like to find a nice home for the 4 Convicts and then add another 2 Parrots.
I’d also quite like to trade the Raphael cat for half a dozen Corys. Never see the wee fat monster until lights out.

Whats your dream set up ? 

If we’re talking lottery win? Then simply a much, much bigger version of what I have: I imagine a waist height display tank the length of the living room, still only 12”-15” tall, but with a second living room length sump hidden underneath. Automatic water change. Programmable lighting. Baffles. Pumps. Multiple inlets and returns… Phew, I better go and have a lie down for 10 minutes!

Are there any fishkeepers in our group that you admire for there set up? 

You know, I couldn’t help but be incredibly jealous of Davie Church’s setup: A Trio of matching tanks in the living room, plus a shed full of species tanks. Failing the lottery win we spoke about earlier, I’d quite like to convert my 12’x8’ workshed into a nice wee fish room, Just like Davie’s, but with a great big lock…on the inside!

What do you like about being in Lothian Fishkeepers?

The same thing that I like about all the best groups John: Like-minded, local(ish) people who have a shared passion and interest.
I love that it’s not a giant multi-national group, where you’re lucky to see posts from the same person twice (‘Is my guppy pregnant’ posts drive me potty!). 

Plus, it’s kinda cool to make internet friends with some fellow Scots.

I have to say thank you to Craig from everyone at Lothian Fishkeepers for sharing your story with us. Remember, If you would like to be featured on our blog then get in touch...

For more photos from Craig, check out the photo album on our Facebook page.

thanks for reading 

bye for now

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