Aquarium Care

Useful articles, news, information, product reviews about aquarium care

How to Obtain Clear and Good Aquarium Water Quality

Aquarium with neon tetras

Water quality management should be a very important consideration for those who own an aquarium. This is made possible with the help of different products in the market such as EcoBio-Block among others. However, you must also be refilling the tank regularly, have proper feeding habits and also good filtration in order to have the best aquarium water quality.

Majority of the people give up keeping an aquarium as a hobby within two years because the task of maintaining clarity all the time is very challenging. You have to clean the tank once or twice a month. Even after doing this in the right way, cloudy appearance might still occur.

It is difficult to come up with one solution for the cloudy appearance because it is caused by many issues. However, you should be encouraged because the problem can be dealt with easily. Gravel that is not washed properly can result to this during the first setup. Therefore, the residue will be washed out when the tank is filled.

The gravel can also react with the liquid to cause leaching of chemicals resulting in clouding. It is good to first test the substrate before you could fill up the tank. This is done by first knowing the pH of the water before the substrate could be added. You should add small amount of substrate and then leave it for some days. You might have to change the substrate if the pH happens to rise.

A cloudy appearance might also be caused by the bacteria bloom that the tank of the fish receives after the beginning of the nitrogen cycle. This happens many times so you can choose to wait it out or do partial refills during the first days. The aquarium might also be having more than enough fish food or a lot of fish waste. This will result to a build up of bacteria.

The other causes of this problem can also be excessive light, a lot of nutrients and also imbalance in the tank. This means you might go a long way in order to tackle the problem. However, EcoBio-Block can be very helpful in this situation. You only have to rinse the block in water that is free from chlorine. You need to soak the block through the night before you could drop it into your first tank.

The tank content will be clarified and the speed of nitrogen cycle will be increased once this step is used. It also eliminates bad smell because the new tank syndrome will be shortened. This is the best way of enjoying better aquarium water quality even without frequent refills.

 

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Choosing The Best Fish For A Beginner’s Aquarium

community fish tank

Community fish tank

If a person decides to join the many who find enjoyment from keeping fish as pets, they should put some effort into becoming informed about the best fish for a beginner’s aquarium. There are important differences in how to go about this depending upon whether one is using an existing set up or creating an environment for new pets. There are many types which are practical choices for the novice owner of these diverse aquatic creatures. As the piscean enthusiast becomes more experienced, many become devoted collectors and continue to add new varieties to their stock.

The typical beginner’s first notion may be to go with the type with which most are familiar, the common goldfish. Some may be aware that this variety was first bred as pets for the Imperial Chinese family. Many are less knowledgeable of the fact that goldfish are not necessarily the easiest to care for.

Many varieties of these pets are suitable for thriving in a tank, yet the problems associated with raising different breeds ranges from simple to quite complex. So there are many factors a novice at this hobby should consider, such as how well a breed tolerates water conditions. Other important considerations are, how easy a chosen type is to feed, how large they will grow, and whether or not they are too aggressive to live with other species.

One of the mistakes made by many newcomers is to start with too small of a tank. The less the volume of water, the bigger the impact any change in water quality will have on the creatures which live in it. Another concern is that the water in a new tank can contain harmful chemicals or minerals that may harm its denizens, the best and easiest way to keep water clear and healthy is to use EcoBio-Block, a volcanic mixture with beneficial bacteria living and multiplying in the block. It creates a healthy ecosystem by keeping levels of good bacteria high.

A common error for beginners is to add too many fish to a new tank. A good rule of thumb is to start with no more than two or three fish, so that the proper levels of chemicals and bacteria for a healthy environment are reached. EcoBio-Block can also speed-up new tank syndrome. The next step is to choose the correct types of occupants for the tank.

Good types to initially stock one’s tank with are schooling fish, those that travel in schools. Common types of these are Cyprinids, smaller species that are related to Minnows and Carp. The many varieties of these include Barbs, Danios, Rasboras, and White Cloud Mountain Minnows.

Certain breeds of Catfish, known as Corys, which include Bronze, Panda, Bandit and Spotted Corys, are hardy animals which are fairly easy to care for. Another popular type for the novice are Rainbowfish, which are colorful schoolers that are best kept in groups of six or more, yet are easy to raise.

By starting in moderation and slowly adding more as the hobbyist’s knowledge increases, choosing the best fish for a beginner’s aquarium is not difficult. Once a little experience and success with one’s initial choices has been achieved, many budding aquarists will want to add more varieties and larger tanks as they do research and gain experience.

 

 

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How To Care For Your Goldfish Tank Properly

2 goldfish

Goldfish need your proper care

Many people have had a goldfish or two in their lives, only for the small fish to die for no apparent reason. The main problem is that there are a lot of misconceptions going around about how to care for these fish. People who think they are doing it right are actually doing everything wrong. Learning how to care for your goldfish tank now will ensure all your fish a long and healthy life.

Goldfish are a cold-water species, so it is true that they don’t need, and actually do better, without a heater. This is about the only piece of conventional advice concerning the keeping of these fish that is true. Some things you need to know are: a bowl is a horrible way to keep them, they absolutely do need a filter, and they will not stay as small as the aquarium they are placed in (they will just die instead, due to lack of enough water and too much waste).

A proper aquarium for goldfish is at least 10 gallons. And even at this size, only three to four fish can be kept. They will quickly outgrow this aquarium, but some people solve this problem by trading in their large fish for new smaller ones every few months at the pet store. Since larger fish are worth more money than smaller ones, many pet stores are happy to do this. No fish bigger than 3 inches should be kept in a 10 gallon aquarium.

An adult goldfish is between 6 and 12 inches long, depending on the type. It needs at least 10-20 gallons of water per fish. Strong filtration is necessary in order to keep them healthy, as these fish produce a lot of waste. Regular water changes of 10-30% every week or two are necessary. You can also consider using the EcoBio-Block which uses beneficial bacteria to purify water, to help keep the water clear and the fish healthy. The biggest benefit to this product is that you are able to keep a consistently high level of beneficial bacteria in your tank as they live and multiply in the block.

Filtration in an aquarium is partially mechanical (large pieces of waste are trapped) but also partly biological. This is where good (beneficial) bacteria are used to turn the fish waste into a nontoxic byproduct. Here again, you will find EcoBio-Block useful as it also jump-starts the process by quickly introducing these bacteria instead of having to wait for them to naturally flourish.

Overfeeding is one of the most common causes of fish death in home aquariums. Your fish should be fed a flake food that is specially formulated for goldfish (not tropical fish) and only fed what they can eat in one or two minutes, once a day. Excess amounts of food will dirty the water, or the fish will eat it and get fat. Fat fish do not live as long as healthier, leaner ones.

There are no conventional aquarium fish that can share living space with goldfish without compromising the health of at least one of the species, so these fish should be maintained only with their own kind. Fancy types of various varieties can be kept together, but should be kept separately from the faster, stronger standard type that can out-compete them for food and bully the weaker fish.

Given the proper aquarium setup, this is a hardy species of fish. If you maintain your tank with regular water changes, feed properly, and find new homes for fish that have outgrown any smaller tanks that you keep them in, your pets might live up to their maximum lifespan of 20 years.

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Starting an Aquarium the Easy Way

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Raise The Livebearer Babies

Platy Fish

Platy Fish

The part I enjoy most about our hobby is taking care of the babies. I await the arrival of the tiny new ones like an anxious grandmother. I can just about tell, to a day, when the blessed event will take place, much to the amazement of young fish fanciers. Most of our fish are livebearers and my experience concerning the raising of babies is based on this type of fish.

There is not much to the trick of knowing when the mother is to give birth if one will take the trouble of taking note of the date of the month the fish previously gave birth. If the fish is in good condition, she gives birth every certain number of days with leeway from a day to ten days or so. About that time of month, I begin to look for other signs such as the shape of her gravid spot and the shape and fullness of her middle.

Some fish get very puffy and as her day approaches, even her chest fills out full almost up to the head and her middle gets quite distended. Others do not get so heavy and it is a little more difficult to tell when they will give birth. With a reflector overhead, I try to look through the fish at the gravid spot. If the cavity at the middle of the fish is filled and is sometimes like a crescent or a triangle in shape, I know that her time is near. In some of the more translucent fish, the embryos or babies can be seen thru the skin at this point. As the embryos develop, the gravid spot becomes larger and clearer and the side of the fish will bulge, particularly when viewed from the top, or looking down on the back.

So that the newly born babies won’t be devoured by the rest of the fish in the tank, I take out the ripe female and place her in a small maternity tank which is thickly planted with micro or dwarf Sagittaria. I also place some floating plants such as Water Lettuce, Myriophyllum, Anacharis, Water Sprite or Water Fern. Other plants that are excellent for this purpose are Nitella, Riccia, Crystalwart, etc. The purpose of the plants, of course, is to protect the babies from the Mother. I find I can save almost all the young when there is a small type of Sagittaria planted in the tank because it affords a hiding place at the bottom of the aquarium where the newly born babies rest before they float to the top. I have found that it is a good idea to give the hungry mother some food – preferably some live food – so that she tends to ignore her young. Sometimes, all my maternity tanks are occupied and that’s when the gallon jars come in handy. The water in the maternity tank can be from four to seven inches deep.

As soon as the mother has finished giving birth, it is best to remove her and place her in an aquarium with other females, which have just been thru the same experience. This will give her a chance to rest and enjoy some live food.

The new babies may stay in the maternity aquarium for a few days, depending on the size of the tank and the number of babies. They are on their own in a short time and can take micro worms, micrograin, or baby manna.

I drop a tiny pinch of baby manna on the water and give the water surface a light tap to teach them to take dry food. In a few days they can eat newly hatched brine shrimp.

The number of babies which can be raised to good healthy, lively fry in three or four months, depends on cleanliness, size of the aquarium and intelligent feeding. Siphoning a few inches of water from the bottom of the aquarium about once a week is not too often. If the aquarium is well planted it is not necessary to do that except when needed. Even better, if you use EcoBio-Block, the water will stay clear, clean, and healthy without changing it for a considerably longer time. It also helps reduce the fatality rate of the new baby fish.

The size of the aquarium that the babies are to occupy during the first few weeks is important. If placed too soon in a large one where they have plenty of swimming space a number of them somehow, get lost, and wander about while the rest are feeding, and therefore, do not get enough to eat. After awhile, they get thin and deformed and eventually die. From a batch of thirty five, there would probably be less than half of that number alive after two months. On the other hand, if the babies are left too long in a small container, they do not get to be vigorous and healthy, nor do they grow. If I do not want to move the babies from one tank to another as they grow in size and need more swimming space, I place them in a ten or fifteen gallon aquarium with about five inches depth of water. As they grow in size, the depth of the water can be increased. The babies grow like weeds, if they are fed properly and intelligently. Adult fish can be fed once or twice a day only, but babies, in order to attain good and fast growth are fed from four to six times a day. If they do not get a good growth in the first three or four months, they will not get to be good-size adult fish. Platies can attain about an inch or over in four months, while swordtails will be an inch and a half in that time.

Before I learned to put the babies on a regular feeding schedule, I sometimes forgot to feed them and at other times, I fed them too often, neither of which is good. Now, they get their light feeding on schedule every three hours, and are thriving on it.

If all goes well, they will be having a lot of babies of their own in six months.

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Aquarium Care: What is a pH?

by Ruby Bayan

I was first introduced to the concept of pH back in high school chemistry when we dipped little blue and pink strips of paper that changed color depending on the acidity or alkalinity of the solution. Of course, all I had to do was remember the acronym B-R-A, meaning “blue to red – acidic” to pass the subject. I didn’t foresee that I’d have to deal with the pH phenomenon for the rest of my life. Now that you’re hooked on the hobby, you will have to deal with it, too.

Let’s start with what exactly pH is and then we’ll elaborate on its role in the aquarium and why you need to know how to manage it.

Basic Concepts

pH is short for “pondus hydrogenii” meaning “potential hydrogen,” “power of hydrogen,” “weight of hydrogen,” and “predominance of hydrogen ions (H+)” as a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a particular solution.

The pH scale is expressed as the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration ranging from 0 [high concentration of hydronium ions (H+) = acidic] to 14 [high concentration of hydroxide ions (OH-) = alkaline/basic]. The pH concept was introduced by a Danish chemist, Soren Sorensen, in 1909 (if logarithmic formulas and chemical equations will help you better understand how the pH scale was devised, and how it is applied, the site on Sorensen would be an excellent resource).

Factors That Affect pH

Pure water has a pH value of 7 which is considered neutral (neither acidic nor basic), and generally the ideal condition for freshwater aquaria. However, various factors can cause the water parameters to swing several notches towards acidic or alkaline, which, although almost negligible, could be fatal to the fishes. Here are some examples:

  1. Water Source – normally, tap water would be within the neutral pH range but some water sources are naturally “soft” or “hard,” or chemically treated such that the pH level diverts from neutral.
  2. Substrate and Decor – your choice of substrate and decorative items will influence your tank’s pH reading over an extended period of time. At first, a substrate spiked with corals, shells, or limestone deposits will show high pH levels (influenced by the hardness or mineral content of the water), which could later on diminish as the minerals are used up. On the other hand, the presence of peat, or driftwood that leach tannins, can swing the scales towards the acidic side.
  3. Maturity of the Tank — the natural tendency for well-established tanks is to dip towards acidic. Fishes eventually adjust to this trend, but not if it falls into ranges that are already toxic to them.
  4. Plants — taking an active role in the nitrification process, plants help to maintain a relatively neutral pH by absorbing dissolved salts and waste products.
  5. Water Circulation and Aeration — without adequate aeration, carbon dioxide can remain trapped in the water and lower the pH (make the environment acidic).
  6. Overstocking, Overfeeding, Excess Medication, Poor Filtration — in short, inefficient tank maintenance can wreak havoc on your pH levels.

pH and You

Every well-meaning aquarist needs to have a pH test kit handy. Various types of kits are commercially available — they’re mostly inexpensive but will be a valuable tool in your efforts to maintain the ideal home for your pets.

Test your tap water to make sure it’s safe for the types of fishes you’ve chosen to keep. Remember to pre-check the parameters of the new water you bring in when you make water changes.
Test your aquarium water regularly (daily when setting up a new tank; once or twice a week for established tanks).

Consult your local fish store for the availability of buffer solutions in case you need to make drastic adjustments in your pH levels.

Add an EcoBio-Block to your tank. Its resident beneficial bacteria help control the conditions that can cause unhealthy changes to your pH level.

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Aquarium Care Series: Too Many Fish in Your Aquarium

crowded-aquariumwebThere is a question that is brought up rather frequently by beginners in aquarium care, who have not been very successful after having seemingly followed all the basic instructions gleaned from books, the internet, or our dealer friends. They have given recommended foods in conservative amounts. They have good light and temperature control. But here is where the trouble starts, through the acceptance of a fallacious signal as to what constitutes “overcrowding.” The signal watched for is when the fishes gasp at the surface of the water, “blowing bubbles.”

That is a carry-over from the days when goldfish was King. Goldfish and other cool-water fishes are very sensitive to any shortage of oxygen in the water, or the presence of too much carbon dioxide. They quickly express their distress by breathing at the surface. Incidentally, I have often wondered how fishes, never before in such a situation, know enough to get a fresh supply of oxygen at the surface of the water.

Warm-water fishes are better equipped to get along in oxygen-deficient conditions. In a tank containing both goldfish and exotics (a combination not recommended) the goldfish will invariably be the first to register discomfort from overcrowding. The point that I am stressing is that “Tropicals” are apt to “suffer in silence.” When they come to the surface and stay there, conditions are not merely bad, but very bad.

Undetected crowding has been present for some time past, indicated by the poor condition of the fishes. Of course such symptoms can come from other causes, but crowding is one of the first to look for. That suspicion can be confirmed if frequent partial changes of water relieves the condition.

Water changes help keep the parameters within acceptable limits, help remove excess organic material such as waste and uneaten food, and also replenish required minerals in the water that the fish use up over time. If you prefer not to do as many water changes or are physically unable to, there are alternatives that can reduce your labor. My favorite is the EcoBio-Block, which is an aquarium care product that introduces beneficial bacteria into the aquarium (which keep the biological filter healthy) for water clarification. (It breaks down organic waste into safer by-products). This simple-to-use product then slowly leaches necessary minerals into the water to keep fish healthy, reduce fish loss, and help beginners become successful aquarists.

Advising a new aquarist at the height of his frenzy to go slowly in building up his tank of fishes is like talking against the tempest. Recently I fitted out a grandson with an aquarium and a suitable collection of fishes. All was lovely for a few weeks until he was bitten with the desire for more and more.

The dealer could not be blamed for selling to him, but the result was not hard to foresee – a general attack of “Ich.” Overcrowding does not necessarily cause that disease, but reduces the vitality of the fishes so that they are more subject to it.
“No aquarist ever got into trouble by having too few fishes.”

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Aquarium Care: Care and Maintenance of Aquarium Plants

by Ruby Bayan

aquariumplantwebAs caretaker of the simulated natural environment in your tank, you will have to make sure that your aquarium flora are planted well, and receive adequate light, nutrients, and the constant care and maintenance they need to thrive. This may all seem a bit overwhelming, but once the plants are established, they do not really require much fuss.

Planting Techniques

Once you’ve chosen your assortment of aquatic plants and are ready to introduce them into your tank, be sure you are not also introducing unwanted elements such as snails and tiny predators. Rinse your newly acquired vegetation under clean water and remove damaged or decaying leaves, stems, and roots. Plant them into their designated places gently to minimize bruising.

Rooted plants should be planted into the substrate only up to where their leaves meet the roots. Burying them too deep will cause the stems to rot. If the plant is mature and has a good root system, you can trim off a third of the roots, including the old brownish ones because these are, in effect, dead roots.
Tubers should be planted at an angle, with the shoots just above the substrate; otherwise, the plant will not survive.

Cuttings, which are usually sold in a bunch or cluster, should be separated and planted one by one, and properly spaced out for better growth. Spacing them will also help provide adequate lighting to the bottom leaves. Thrusting clusters into the substrate, or tying them together, will crush the stems and cause them to rot. Trim off a few leaves from the bottom of the stem and sink the stem into the substrate up to its first bottom leaf.

As to the placement of plants in your tank, try to follow some basic principles:

  1. Put tall ones, and those that tend to grow tall and thick, at the sides and at the back.
  2. Plant short and rosette-type plants in the front and center.
  3. Do not use the rooted plants in areas where fish that have a tendency to dig can uproot them. Instead, plant them behind rocks, driftwood, or other dominant decor.

Lighting Considerations

All plants have unique lighting requirements. Some require intense light while some can’t tolerate it. Most aquatic plants require about 10 to 12 hours of light exposure in order to thrive, and very few will continue to flourish if the light source is partially blocked by tall neighboring plants.

Remember that if certain species like the red-leafed and fine-leafed ones need bright light, extending their exposure to regular light (i.e., the standard fluorescent tube that came with the tank) will not suffice. Putting the aquarium by the window so that it will catch the sun’s rays is not a good idea either — too much light will encourage algae growth. The best strategies are to add fluorescent light tubes or install aluminum reflectors behind the light source, and to ensure that the glass cover is always clean so that proper illumination reaches all the plants.

Regular Care and Maintenance

Just as you would diligently check on the health and wellness of your fish, give a little attention to your aquatic plants as well. Here’s a list of things to do:

  1. Fertilize. Aquatic plant fertilizers that are rich in nutrients like iron and potassium are available as pellets and in liquid form. Follow the product instructions on the quantity, schedule, and manner of applying these fertilizers. Some substrates are mixed with laterite clay that is specifically beneficial for tank vegetation.
  2. Change some of the water. Aquarium plants play an active role in the tank’s nitrogen cycle, but sometimes the water composition degrades into one that is not any longer highly beneficial to plants. This is when your assistance is required — once a week, changing the water (less than 20 percent) helps in refreshing the quality of the environment. Be sure to de-chlorinate and check the temperature of the new water before introducing it into the tank. You may also add fertilizer to the new water if appropriate. If you have an EcoBio-Block in your tank, water changes can be done less frequently.
  3. Do regular check-ups. Regular maintenance for plants also includes trimming dead or damaged leaves and branches, propagating by cutting or separating new growth, and removing snails. Some serious aquatic plant enthusiasts introduce CO2 into the tank to boost the plant systems. You can inquire from your vendor about this option.
  4. Avoid toxic elements. The standard manner of treating fish ailments is by dropping medication directly into the water. Unfortunately, some fish medications are harmful to plants, affecting leaf coloring, absorption of nutrients, and overall health. Therefore, when medicating fish, transfer them to a tank containing no plants. Also, when using water conditioners and anti-chlorine treatments, never pour them directly on the plants. (Also, remember to take out your EcoBio-Block, medications can be toxic to the beneficial bacteria).

And finally, address warning signs. Be aware of indications of poor maintenance. When environmental conditions are not ideal, you will see the effects on the leaves of the plants themselves. Pale and widely spaced leaf growth in the stems is a sign of poor or insufficient light. Yellowing of the leaves is a sign of lack of nutrients like iron. Blackening of the leaves indicates pollution. Holes or damage indicates the presence of either snails or vegetarian fish. Attend to these distress signs immediately so that your aquarium garden will always be in good health.

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Aquarium Care Series: Treating Common Ailments

by Ruby Bayan, OurSimpleJoys.com

Prevention is always better than cure, so making sure that the aquarium environment is always ideal is your best preventive measure against illnesses. This means regular check-ups on the optimum efficiency of the equipment, constant monitoring of the integrity of the water condition and temperature, diligent precautions against introducing harmful elements into the environment, and most importantly, a close eye on the fishes themselves. Keeping informed on the latest innovations in water conditioning for fish health is also important; for example, beneficial bacteria found in products like EcoBio-Block could help prevent infections and disease.

However, sometimes, no matter how cautious or diligent you are at ensuring the health of your fishes, untoward circumstances bring about health problems that need serious attention. If only for this unpredictable occurrence of fish ailments, you should be ready with enough know-how on ways to address fish health problems.

Bacterial and Fungal Infections

The most common health problem among aquarium fish is infection from bacteria and fungus. The primary culprit is usually bad water quality. Pollution due to the rotting of uneaten food, irregular water changes, and poor tank maintenance contribute to the deterioration of the habitat — this makes the fishes weak and susceptible to infections.

Stress, from mishandling, introduction of aggressive or incompatible species, and habitat disturbances, also leave the fishes traumatized and susceptible to diseases. Malnutrition, or an inappropriate diet, aggravates the situation – anything considered malnourished is definitely taking a serious health risk.

Here are some examples of bacterial and fungal infections, and how to deal with them:

  • Fin Rot – Fish with long, trailing fins are most susceptible to fin rot – a degeneration and inflammation of the fin rays and membranes. Aside from poor water quality and vitamin deficiency, fin rot is often the result of infections arising from damage brought about by mishandling, as well as fin-nipping attacks from tank mates. Infected fish should be removed and the affected areas treated with commercially available anti-bacterial fish medicine. Remedy water condition and compatibility problems, as well as diet deficiencies to prevent the spread of the ailment.
  • Fungus – Aside from bacteria, fungus can attack the areas on the fish body that has suffered some extent of damage (such as wounds or holes left by parasites). Cotton-like fungal growth appears as patches that give the fish a dull, shabby appearance. To treat fungal infections, subject the tank to a fungicide remedy. Address other possible causes like poor water quality, parasites, and aggressive tank mates.
  • Pop-Eye – One of the more serious bacterial infections is called pop-eye, marked by inflamed eyes protruding from the sockets. Looking very sickly, fish infected with pop-eye usually contract the ailment because of poor water quality, mishandling or distress from fighting with other fishes. Antibiotics may be effective but, if the infection has progressed to a form of tuberculosis, the afflicted fish may have to be removed and euthanized.

Parasites

On rare occasions, even the most cautious aquarist can unknowingly introduce parasites into a well-maintained tank. New fishes, live food, live plants, and some decorations are all potential carriers of aquatic parasites. Here are some of the parasites you should watch for:

  • Fish Lice – Also known as Argulus, fish lice, looking like transparent flat disks, attach themselves to the skin and suck on the fish’s blood. The fish feels itchy and scratches itself on the substrate or on rocks and other hard décor.
  • Anchor Worm – Lernaea, or anchor worms, are greenish-white threadlike organisms that attach themselves to the body of the fish. The skin becomes inflamed and the fish scratches the affected area on hard surfaces in the tank.
  • Leeches – Worm-like leeches attach themselves to the host fish to feed on its blood. The fish feels the irritating suckers and tries to scratch them off on the substrate, rocks, or wood.

To treat parasite infestations, remove the afflicted fish from the tank, and with a pair of tweezers, pull the parasites off. Apply antiseptic to the wounds. Proprietary treatments against specific parasites are commercially available. You will have to treat the whole tank to prevent further proliferation of these harmful organisms.

Other Ailments

Aside from attacks by bacterial, fungus, and parasites, fish also suffer from other maladies, mostly related to intestinal or organ problems. For example:

  • Dropsy – Characterized by a severely swollen or bloated abdomen and is believed to be caused primarily by poor water quality (high nitrate or sodium chloride levels) and malnutrition. Remedy, therefore, involves correcting the habitat conditions and the fish diet.
  • Constipation – Sometimes the fish fails to digest food properly due to a poor diet and overfeeding. Constipated and bloated, the afflicted fish will not want to eat; hardly discharging feces, and feeling weak, it will often rest on the substrate. Experts suggest adding a teaspoon of Epsom salts to every 10 liters (2 gallons) of tank water, and then making sure that the fish is fed the right food in proper quantities.
  • Swim Bladder Disease – Poor water quality, mishandling, and congenital disorder are the main causes of swim bladder disease. The afflicted fish has difficulty staying upright, oftentimes swimming upside down or sideways. Antibiotics and improvement of the water conditions can correct bacterial infection due to a poor habitat. Congenital disorders and permanent swim bladder damage, however, may be irreparable, therefore, euthanasia should be considered.

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Aquarium Care Series: Real-life Problems with Algae

by Ruby Bayan, OurSimpleJoys.com

Green Algae

Green Algae

Problems with algae are some of the most common concerns I hear about. Below are actual questions posted by our visitors, followed by my suggested solutions.

~ Green Water ~

Question: I have just performed a water change to my 230l tank, and the water has turned into a greenish hue. Nitrate levels are okay, I tested them. Could you tell me why this has happened? Will it harm the fish? – Therese

Answer: Hi Therese, green water doesn’t harm fish — and some people actually like the color. It’s an algae bloom. You may be exposing your tank to too much light. And there’s enough nutrients in the water to feed the algae. If you don’t like the greenish color, you can reduce the lights a bit, do another water change, or add plants to absorb the nutrients that feed the algae. You may also want to consider using a diatomaceous filter.

Follow-up Question: I still have that green water problem which started about 2 weeks ago. I have been keeping the neon light of the aquarium off, and I have performed a 50% water change, but the water is as green as ever. I can hardly see the fish. I am considering using a green water treatment. I have heard that this could be harmful to the fish. What is your opinion of this? Should I add some live plants, although my fish make a meal of these? -Therese

Follow-up Answer: Hi Therese, here’s something a bit radical — daphnia. These are minute crustaceans that are actually a favorite of fishes. If you can find a supplier of live daphnia, they will eat off your green water in no time — that is, if the fishes don’t eat the daphnia first. :) Yes, live plants are always a good option because they absorb the nutrients that the green algae will otherwise thrive on. And, this is just me, but I’ve never liked using “chemical treatments” for algae.

~ Brown Algae ~

Question: I have a well established 6 year old temperate goldfish tank. It is a 29 gallon acrylic with a aqua clear 300 filter. I have 4 oranda gold fish and 2 black moors. In the past i have had an algae issue that has since been taken care of but now i have a brown sludge like fungus growing constantly in my aquarium. It got my fish sick and i gave fungus medication, cleaned the tank very well and have been feeding every other day rather than every day. i do about a 30% water change every week and the fungus (?) keeps coming back. My question is how do i get rid of it and is it even fungus or am i going about taking care of it the wrong way because its not what i think it is. thanks, AP

Answer: Hi AP, I have a suspicion that you’re dealing with brown algae. Goldfishes are notorious for polluting the water. It’s possible that your filter and water changes are not able to cope with the waste products they produce. These waste products are food for algae; add to that a low-light situation, and you have the perfect habitat for brown algae (diatoms). Just vacuum them off and try raising your illumination level a bit. I know it’s tricky because too much light will encourage green algae. Have you considered adding plants? Another solution worth exploring is a water-conditioning product called EcoBio-Block, which releases beneficial bacteria that helps address water pollution and algae buildup.

~ Red Algae Hybrid ~

Question: I have had my tank set up for a while. The inhabitants and such can be found under the 46 gallon section of www.geocities.com/aqua_ajb. In my tank I find these little stringy balls of grey matter. They started to appear after I upgraded my lighting from 60W to 124W. I do not know what these little grey things are, but would like to know what cause them so I can fix it. I also would like to what they are. Sometimes they are very easy to pull from the leaves of a plant, and come in a big mass. Other times they are attached to the plant leaves and don’t come of very well at all. It is my guess that these stupid things are algae, but I would like to know for sure. Thank you for your help. AJB

Answer: Hi AJB, I’ve heard about a hybrid of red algae that looks blackish and collects mostly on plant leaves. This may be your culprit. I see you already have a Siamese algae eater — want to consider adding a couple more? Or maybe a couple of Otos. If the algae (ye, I tend to imagine this is algae) doesn’t come off from the leaves easily, cut off and throw away the affected leaves. Then next time you clean out your filters, be sure to wash them thoroughly to eliminate algae spores. Let me know if any of the suggestions work. Good luck.

~ Algae Attack! — A Recap ~

Question: HELP…I have a 10 gallon tank with 3 cherry barb fish. We are having a terrible time with algae growth. We will do a complete water change that includes new rocks, filters, and decorations. The tank will be troughly scrubbed. Within 5-7 weeks, algae starts growing. I have used the algae destroyer and some type of tablet to try to control the growth. No luck. The light is only on for 4 hours a day and that time is in the evening. No direct sunlight on the tank. We do feed the fish at night. We are getting ready to get rid of the tank. Any suggestions on how to keep the algae from coming back. thanks – LLP

Answer: Hi LLP, these things can be annoying, huh? Do you have plants in the tank? One trick is to add a few plants to consume the nutrients that the algae are feasting on. If the plants use up the nutrients, the algae won’t have enough to live on. A more reliable solution is algae eaters — my recommendation is the Otocinclus. They’re small, peaceful, and should be happy to keep your tank algae-free. Also, try this new aquarium-conditioning product called EcoBio-Block to control the nutrients that promote algae. Good luck.

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Aquarium Care Series: The Ideal Freshwater Aquarium Setup: Basic Concepts

by Ruby Bayan, OurSimpleJoys.com

aquawithwhitefishsSetting up the ideal aquarium environment can be a challenge since there are fundamental principles about taking proper care of your fish that must be taken into serious consideration. You will be simulating the natural habitat of your pet fish, within the confines of a glass tank. It will be necessary for you to exercise the utmost care in creating and maintaining an environmental balance. It can be tricky, but that’s what makes the aquarium fish hobby truly engaging!

In order to create and maintain the ideal freshwater aquarium setup, you will have to purchase the best tank you can afford and supply your fish with good clean water (filtration) and the required amount of oxygen (or aeration). Adequate illumination (lighting), proper temperature (heating), and the appropriate landscape (substrate and decor) are also important. Let’s discuss how to set up these elements one by one.

Tank Size

Before you purchase an aquarium, ask yourself the following questions:

Where will I put the tank? Is there enough space? Measure the exact dimensions of the area where you want to install your new tank. Be sure that you will have elbowroom to attach the accessories (light hood and external pumps or filters) and to perform the required maintenance activities (which include cleaning, landscaping, or catching the fish).

Are both the stand and the floor sturdy enough to hold the combined weight of the tank, the gravel, and the gallons of water you will need? Remember, water alone weighs about 10 lbs. per gallon. Depending on the size of the tank and the complexity of your landscaping (the substrate and rock decor), you may need to acquire a dedicated metal stand. Ask the aquarium store proprietor to explain your various options.
What kind of fish will you take care of? How many varieties? How big will they grow?

You will need to do your homework on these topics. Picture the types of fish you want to live in your tank. Find out how big they will get when fully grown. Though schooling fish are a joy to watch, they require a lot of swimming space. Since some species are territorial, you will need to provide them with sufficient “territories” to prevent stress. Basically, if you want to take care of a lot of fish, you will need to buy a larger tank.

Do you have the budget to purchase the appropriate lighting, heating, aeration, and filtration fixtures? You may think it’s easy to answer those questions since you know you want to keep several varieties of fish and believe that all you need to do is buy a 100-gallon tank. Before you pull out your credit card, remember that you will also need 100-gallon filters, heaters, and overhead lighting. Additionally, you will need sufficient aerators, gravel, plants, and decor. So, be sure you are ready to finance the entire 100-gallon set-up before you start making any purchases.

Aeration

Fish “breathe” oxygen from the water, and water absorbs oxygen from the air. This is why aeration is important in a tank setup. Aeration, or the generation of tiny air bubbles in the water, supplements the tank’s water surface area, which is critical for the exchange of gases with the atmosphere. The bubbles also create a disturbance in the water surface, promoting the absorption of oxygen and dissolution of carbon dioxide.
Furthermore, the rising bubbles “stir” the water, which helps to balance the water temperature. The bubbles also create the semblance of water flow that fish thoroughly enjoy.

Choose aerators that suit your tank size and your taste — various models of air pumps and air stones are available. Tubing, connectors, and other accessories make installation convenient and organized. A spare air pump will be valuable in case of a breakdown.

Filtration

In simulating the natural habitat of your fish, you will need to ensure that the environment does not become toxic due to the accumulation of waste products. An effective filtration system is, therefore, another essential element of the ideal aquarium setup. Here’s a list of the various filters that are available:

  • Under-gravel Filters – These are plastic-slotted plates placed at the bottom of the tank, under the substrate. For best results, these plates must cover the whole tank floor. Working in conjunction with the air pump, the filter pulls the floating waste, uneaten food, and decaying plants onto the gravel. The waste products accumulate in recesses in the gravel, where they can be easily siphoned off.
  • Box Filters – These are plastic boxes that are put in the corner of the tank. They also require the assistance of the air pump. This filter uses activated carbon and glass wool (or peat moss) to serve as biological filters. They absorb and retain the fine waste products that float in the water, along with the harmful nitrates and ammonia by-products. Compared to under-gravel filters, box filters are easier to pull out and clean.
  • Power Filters — These are usually external filters attached to the back of the tank. With its own power motor, it sucks water from the tank, passes the water through a sponge (or glass wool and activated carbon), and pumps the filtered water back into the tank. The sponge needs to be cleaned regularly.

Lighting

Fish require adequate amounts of light and dark, like most other creatures on the planet. Correct lighting is essential for the biological clocks and eating patterns of your fish. It is also important for the healthy growth of the live plants in the tank. Apart from those needs, adequate lighting makes the aquarium a bright and colorful showcase for underwater life.

Several types of aquarium lights are commercially available. Full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs are common fixtures – they enhance the colors of the fish and decor, and they don’t give off too much heat. Some hobbyists prefer specialized ultraviolet aquarium lamps because they believe they promote fish health and breeding, along with plant growth. Study the options at your aquarium vendor’s store and choose the lighting that suits your tank and fish community.

Aquarium lights are best mounted inside reflector hoods, placed either directly on top of the tank’s glass cover, or on a special frame above the tank. Some vendors have attached timers to these hoods to facilitate the setting of photoperiod exposures. Fish do not need more than 12 hours of light each day, so a preset timer can be a convenient gadget.

Be sure to replace your light bulbs at least once a year because fluorescent and ultraviolet lights tend to degrade with use.

Heating

Aside from adequate oxygen and light, the right water temperature is essential for the overall health of your fish. Most varieties of aquarium fish come from tropical regions with water temperatures of up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Find out about your fish community’s temperature requirements. With the help of heating elements, ensure that the proper ranges are maintained in your tank.

Submersible heating rods of various lengths, together with programmable thermostats, make it easy to control tank heating. Be absolutely sure that the settings are correct because a faulty or poorly calibrated heater can bring about a catastrophic end to an otherwise flourishing fish community.

Substrate and Decor

After you complete your research on the natural habitats of the fish species you wish to keep, you will have an idea of the type of decor to put in your aquarium. For starters, here are some facts to help you determine what substrate and decor to use:

  • Some fish, known as bottom dwellers, stay close to the floor of the tank and feed on the food that settles on the substrate. For these types of fish, sand is better than gravel (food will sink among the course gravel, making it hard to reach).
  • Fish that are territorial will need “markers” like plants, rocks, or driftwood. Without these items to mark their territory, they will experience stress and may become unduly aggressive.
  • Some varieties of fish are “shy” and need at least a few places where they can go hide. Plants and overturned pots or little caves will be a comfort to them. Plants also provide shade from the overhead lighting, which may be just a little too bright for some species of fish.
  • In case you have chosen fish that are totally herbivorous, consider decorating with plastic plants. Live, decorative plants will always be attractive as food to such fish and may stop looking very attractive when your fish start feasting on their leaves and branches.
  • As a rule of thumb, never try to use anything that’s metallic, water-soluble, corrosive, or biodegradable as part of your decor. You can always be creative with glass and plastic. Before using rocks, pebbles, stones, clay, and driftwood as decorative pieces, be sure you rinse them thoroughly to remove all of the dirt, parasites, or harmful bacteria that may be attached to them.
  • Consider incorporating water-conditioning products in your setup, like EcoBio-Block, which is made of volcanic stones that are home to beneficial bacteria, whose main function is to clarify and deodorize cloudy water.

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Aquarium Care Series: Step-by-Step Aquarium Installation

by Ruby Bayan, OurSimpleJoys.com

homeaquarium-sThe ideal freshwater aquarium setup is housed in the best tank and adequately oxygenated by sufficient aerators, conditioned by effective filters, illuminated by appropriate lighting, sustained by efficient heaters, and enhanced by aesthetically designed décor. How to put them all together to work harmoniously may seem like a Herculean task but with a few simple steps to follow, installing a new aquarium is just one of the many fulfilling adventures in tropical fish keeping.

Preparations

Before heading out to the aquarist store to buy everything you need for your new hobby, plan out the installation on paper. This will save you the trouble of having to redo or return equipment and tank inhabitants when things don’t quite come together. These are the steps to take before anything else:

  1. Decide on the size of the tank and its location. It’s best to get the biggest tank you can afford because communities are easier to establish in large aquariums. Remember, though, that a large tank will also require a sturdy stand, and appropriately sized lighting, filtration, aeration, and heating equipment. The ideal location is where you have elbowroom for maintenance and access to water, and which is not too near direct sunlight or a heat source.
  2. Decide on the types of equipment you will use. With the many available models of filters, aerators, heaters, and lights, you have a wide array to choose from.
  3. Decide on what types of fish you want to keep. Do enough research on the different requirements of the various species of tropical fish, and from there, plan out your landscape.
  4. Choose the substrate and decorations you will use. You can include live (or plastic) plants, rocks, slates, driftwood, colored stones, pots, non-toxic figurines, and tank backgrounds. It will help if you can draw a landscape design as a guide.
  5. Ask a friend or family member to help you install your aquarium. Remember that water conditioning ideally takes about a week, so, don’t expect to introduce fishes into the setup the same day you install the tank

Initial Setup

You can purchase your tank, equipment, and decorations on the same day. Buy your plants and fishes a few days after you’ve set up the tank so that the water will have stabilized, in terms of composition and temperature, and be just right for its new inhabitants. Here are the initial installation steps:

  1. Clear the area where the tank will be placed. Position the baseboard or Styrofoam pads and place the tank on it, making sure the tank is absolutely level. Remember that once the tank is set up, it is not advisable, if not impossible, to nudge or push it about.
  2. If you are using an under-gravel filter, assemble the parts as directed and position it on the floor of the tank. Under-gravel filters are most effective if they cover the entire floor of the aquarium.
  3. Wash all décor under clean running water. Rocks, shells, and driftwood may need to be scrubbed to remove dirt and unwanted deposits. Wood should be pre-soaked; otherwise, it will float.
  4. If you are using large rocks that need to sit firmly at the bottom of the tank, position them directly on the under-gravel filter. Then pour the pre-washed substrate to cover the filter plates. Slope the substrate a little so that the contour is slightly lower towards the front.
  5. Arrange other large decorative items as desired. Be sure that none of the décor leans on the tank walls.
  6. Install the aeration and heating systems. Organize the tubing and wiring so that they can be easily concealed, convenient to manage, and safe from accidents.
  7. Carefully fill the tank with water. So as not to disturb the substrate and décor too much, put a saucer on the substrate to control the water flow.
  8. Turn on all the equipment to check if everything is working properly as expected. If you’re using plastic plants and incorporating water-conditioning products like EcoBio-Block, you can put them in at this time. Let the setup stabilize for a couple of days.

Introducing Plants

Your initial setup will have become stable after a few days — it’s then ready to receive the flora and fauna.

When you purchase your live plants, some of them will be sold in clusters or bunches. Separate them so that they can be planted individually for better growth and proliferation. Remember to wash them under clean running water to remove unwanted debris or parasites. Remove dead and bruised leaves and roots.
Referring to your landscape design, position your plants to your heart’s delight. Start by planting the tall ones at the sides and at the back ends of the tank. Use smaller, rosette-type plants as foreground accents.

Don’t worry if after finishing your landscaping the water will be a bit murky – the filtration system will fix this for you in no time.

Assemble the overhead lighting hood, position it properly, and turn it on. It’s best to give the plants and the new ecosystem a little time, like a day or two, to establish a healthy environment before introducing the fish.

Introducing Fishes

When the set-up is ready for its swimming inhabitants, that’s the time to purchase the fish. Remember to introduce a few fishes at a time. Bringing in a whole community of assorted species all at one time will only lead to chaos and severe stress.

Allow the fish to acclimate to the tank’s water temperature by keeping them inside the plastic bag they were transported in. Float the unopened bag on the water surface for about an hour. Then open the bag, and gently net the fish from the bag into the tank. Try not to pour the water from the plastic bag into the tank to minimize contamination.

Introduce other community members a few at a time, when the current inhabitants have become comfortable in their new home.

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Aquarium Care Series: Cleaning Your Aquarium: Maintenance Routines

by Ruby Bayan, OurSimpleJoys.com

One of the joys you will experience in fish keeping is making sure that the underwater kingdom you have conjured remains in its ideal, pristine condition for the longest time possible. Feeding and looking after the health and wellness of the plants and fish is just one aspect of tank maintenance; housekeeping is another.

Keeping your aquarium clean doesn’t have to be unpleasant or tedious. Some minor tasks can be done regularly to avoid, or delay, a major cleanup or an overhaul. Usually a tank overhaul is necessary only when severe pollution has occurred, and a new setup is the only way to remedy the situation. If you can take care of your aquarium community diligently enough, there will be no need for a major cleanup for many years.

Let’s look at the essential tasks in keeping your aquarium setup clean and well maintained.

Maintenance Routines

Your aquarium contains living organisms that feed, respire, grow, age, and expire. From bacteria and other microorganisms, to algae and broad-leafed plants, to an assortment of exotic tropical fishes; the ecosystem in your aquarium comprises a slice of natural life. As caretaker of this ecosystem, you must be there to ensure that the natural balance is maintained.
On a regular basis, therefore, these are the things you need to take care of:

  1. Half an hour after every mealtime, remove all uneaten food. They will rot, clog the filters, and make your water toxic for the fish.
  2. Daily, check all the equipment supporting your aquarium. Be sure all working efficiently because when filters, lights, aerators, or temperature regulators fail, there is a major risk of pollution and distress.
  3. Observe the fishes – isolate and medicate those that look weak and sickly before the whole tank becomes contaminated.
  4. Check your aquarium glass cover – clean as necessary so that tank illumination is not hampered.
  5. Check for the growth of algae. You can scrape it off the walls with an algae scraper, a scrub pad, or a magnetic cleaner.
  6. Trim overgrown plants and remove dead leaves and branches.
  7. On a weekly or bi-weekly basis, perform partial water changes to minimize ammonia and nitrate build-up. Replace no more than 20% of the total water volume, and be sure that the replacement water is of the same temperature and composition as that of the tank. In between water changes, add fresh water to make up for quantity lost through evaporation.
  8. Siphon off wastes and debris that have accumulated on the substrate, the plants, décor, and at the corners of the tank. Stir the top of the substrate a bit to unearth the dirt and debris. You can use a siphon hose or a glass tube sediment remover. This task can be performed while siphoning off water for the regular water change.
  9. Clean or replace all filter elements (carbon, filter wool, sponge, etc.) every two-to-three months. You may also need to have your power filters and pumps checked and serviced for worn out parts.
  10. Replace fluorescent and UV lighting once or twice a year because these bulbs degrade with use.
  11. Consider using a water-conditioning product like EcoBio-Block to clarify water and reduce the need for water changes.

If despite diligent maintenance, you find yourself having to deal with accidents, pollution, or a change of mind, here’s a short tutorial on how to do a general overhaul of your aquarium.

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Aquarium Care Series: Feeding Basics

by Ruby Bayan, OurSimpleJoys.com

girl-feedingsProviding your fish with the right types of food at the right time is crucial. For your pet fish to flourish in their captive environment, they need to assimilate nutrients that are identical to those found in their natural habitat.

Fortunately, different types of fish food, packed with necessary minerals and nutrients, and prepared in various forms, are commercially available. With your knowledge of your specific fishes’ nutritional and feeding requirements, and the help of your nearest well-stocked pet food store, your fish communities can enjoy the diets essential to their health, appearance, and life span.

Feeding Principles

There are several basic principles you need to remember when feeding aquarium fish. By following the feeding tips related to these principles, you can rest assured that your fish community will remain in an equilibrium and in optimum health.

  1. Each specie of fish has unique food and feeding requirements. Carnivores will need plenty of protein — from meat slivers or small fish. Herbivores will require adequate fiber — from plants and algae. Some species appreciate chasing live food like insects and worms.
    Tip: Research on the food requirements and feeding habits of each breed of fish you keep. Then inspect the different types of food commercially available. This will help you determine which types of food you need to stock up on.
  2. Overfeeding can be hazardous to your fish community. Fish can only eat as much as their stomachs will allow. Typically, fishes are able to swallow their one-meal intake within three to five minutes from the time the food is introduced into the tank. After that, the leftovers will remain suspended in the water and start to decay, polluting the environment. Not even the most efficient filtration system can counteract a heavily contaminated setup.
    Tip: Feed the fish a little at a time, at regular intervals during the day, instead of dropping one “big meal” into the tank. To help minimize accidental pollution and maintain a clear and healthy environment for the fish, consider incorporating a water-conditioning product in your set-up like the EcoBio-Block.
  3. Fish can also get obese — another consequence of overfeeding. Some breeds of fish (like cyclids and catfish) are prone to non-stop eating, giving way to obesity and poor health. Fish food that are too fatty (like Whiteworms) should be given sparingly.
    Tip: Be aware of this obesity phenomenon and feed only the quantity and quality of food that will ensure good health and nutrition.
  4. Sometimes not all the fish are able to eat properly. In a community tank, fast swimmers and hyperactive fish will get to the food sooner than the rest. Juveniles will be more picky than adults. Nocturnals will only eat when it’s dark. Surface feeders will only eat food that are floating; bottom feeders will only eat food that have sunk. A new fish may be too shy to approach the food, and sick ones will simply ignore the feedings.
    Tip: Observe all the fish during feeding time. Ensure that all of them are able to eat properly and adequately.
  5. Fish appreciate variety in their diets. Feeding your fish the same food for months at a time can lead to some form of malnutrition. In their native habitats, fish obtain a variety of foods, so this is what you should strive to simulate.
    Tip: Vary the types of food you give your fish community — through a mixture or alternation of prepared foods (dried and frozen), live foods, and greens, for a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
  6. Live or fresh foods, though nutritious and preferred by most fishes can be risky. Worms, insect larvae, water fleas, and brine shrimp are just some of the live foods that most fish enjoy chasing and gobbling up. Unfortunately, introducing these tasty delights into your aquarium poses the risk of introducing disease-carrying bacteria or accompanying predators (leeches and diving beetles) as well.
    Tip: Always rinse live and fresh food under clean running water to remove dirt and dead ones. Culture your own batches, if possible, to avoid harvesting unwanted predators. And scoop out the uneaten ones after each meal because they will eventually die and pollute the water.

Nutritional Requirements

In order to understand what types of foods are essential for your fish, here’s a rundown of the different nutrients that are crucial for fish health and longevity:

  1. Proteins – About 50 percent of the total calorie requirement of fish come from proteins. Amino acids, the building blocks of muscles, cells, and tissue are essential, especially for juvenile fish.
  2. Carbohydrates – More required by freshwater fish than marine fish, carbohydrates are also necessary for energy and growth.
  3. Fatty Acids – The major energy source for most fish, fats are stored in their tissues to provide stamina and serve as storage medium for fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
  4. Minerals – Abundant sources of minerals exist for fishes in their natural habitat. In an aquarium, fishes will need prepared food fortified with minerals (like calcium for their bone formation).
  5. Vitamins - The essential vitamins your fish need are: A (from greens and crustaceans), B-Complex (from greens, eggs, and yeast), C (from greens, algae, and fish eggs), D (from snails, shrimps, and earthworms), E (from algae, greens, and egg yolk), and K (from water fleas, greens, and liver).
  6. Fiber - Also a necessary diet component for fish, fiber is abundant in vegetable matter.

 

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Aquarium Care Series: Aquarium Hazards

by Ruby Bayan, OurSimpleJoys.com


Many years ago, I got involved in an aquarium decoration contest, where my winning entry was a tall 100-gallon tank that featured a fully set-up 5-gallon tank inside it. I can’t remember what fishes I put in there but I won the gold ribbon. I was proud of my ingenuity.

I often stretch my creativity when I decorate tanks for myself and others, but there are certain limitations and basic guidelines I work with, to ensure that my originality and ingenuity don’t become hazardous to the living creatures I have in my tank.

Pollutants

Water is the universal solvent, and anything that dissolves in water has the potential to pollute your tank environment. Therefore, the following water-soluble materials should never come in contact with the water in your aquarium:

  • Paper-based items
  • Textile or fabric
  • People food

In case of minor pollution accidents, and to minimize the hazardous effects of cloudy and contaminated water, consider adding water-conditioning products like EcoBio-Block, which uses beneficial bacteria to clarify and deodorize the habitat.

Toxic Materials

Chemicals dissolved in water can render your fishes ill in minutes. At high concentrations, toxic materials can kill them in seconds. Exposure to metallic substances that can contaminate the water, even in negligible quantities, can eventually stress the environment and make your pets susceptible to disease.

Here are some of the potentially toxic materials that you should keep away from your tank:

  • Metallic objects or toys, figurines, and knick-knacks that contain exposed metals
  • Dyed items that leach when wet
  • Oily items like crayons, modeling clay
  • Items that have come in contact with household chemicals like detergents, pesticides, cleaners, and solvent

Natural but Hazardous

Most often we are misled by the idea that since a decorative item is natural, it’s safe for the aquarium. Since we are maintaining freshwater aquaria, introducing driftwood, rocks, and shells that we picked up along the way can risk upsetting the “freshwater-ness” of the tank.

The rule of thumb is to refrain from introducing anything natural that may have come from a non-freshwater environment. The risk is that these items may be carrying mineral deposits, microorganisms, and parasites that existed in their natural locations.
Rocks, shells, and corals that may be innovative additions to your aquarium may leach calcium and other minerals that will affect the stability of your water composition. Driftwood can leach tannins that your fish may not be able to tolerate.

Many attractive artificial (hard plastic; inert) alternatives are available, and highly recommended, but if you would rather use natural wonders, here are tips to ensure they are safe to include in your setup:

  1. Wash the décor in clean running water, scrubbing off all loose particles. Do not use detergent. Boil rocks, shells, and corals for an hour or two for added measure. (Hint: Splash some vinegar on the rock/coral and if it sizzles, the item is calcium-rich and is better suited as a decorative accent on your bookshelf.)
  2. Soak the décor in a bucket of clean water for about a week or two and replace the water daily. This will help remove minerals and tannins that could leach in water.
  3. Dry the décor under the sun or in an oven to kill microorganisms and parasites that may still lurk within the item.

Moving and Disturbing

Those nifty action aquarium décor that opens and closes and goes up and down animated by bubbles rising from an air-stone can be quite engaging to onlookers. The pirate treasure chest, the little boy fishing, and the cute pearl clam — they look cute and interesting, but did you notice how they make some fishes nervous?
Eventually, the fish will get used to the animated items, but not before several days of stress and anxiety. By the time they get used to the jerky décor, it’s time to pull it out for a cleaning. Then when you put it back in, the fish will become jittery again. So, use your better judgment when using these supposedly attractive decorations.

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How to Cycle an Aquarium

aquariumcycleDid you ever think you couldn’t have fish because “they just die”? If all your fish die within a week of buying them, it’s not just the fish. The most common cause of mass fish deaths is an improperly cycled tank. Before you buy any fish, it’s absolutely imperative to make sure your aquarium is well-cycled.

What is cycling? Simply put, the cycling process is the time it takes to set up a biological filter for the nitrogen cycle to function inside the aquarium. Your aquarium is much more than a tank full of water, it has to be an entire contained eco-system to keep your fish healthy. The goal with your cycling time is to develop a culture of beneficial bacteria (or “bio-bugs”) that will break down the ammonia from the fish’s waste into nitrites, and then from nitrites into nitrates. Ammonia is extremely toxic to your fish and will kill them very quickly with much less than one part per million in your aquarium.

There are several methods for cycling. This is a method that is very effective, easy to do even for beginners and does not subject any live creatures to the potentially deadly cycling process. First, set up your aquarium with filtration, heater, aerator, etc. and fill with water. Add whatever de-chlorinator you prefer; if you’re not sure what’s in your water be sure you use a treatment that eliminates or neutralizes chlorine, chloramines and potentially harmful metals. With the filter running, add a tiny amount of fish food…about one or two flakes. The food can be old, stale food that’s no good for feeding anymore — it’s only there to rot. As the food decomposes it will produce the ammonia that will feed the bio-bugs as they get established in your aquarium.

That’s it! Keep adding one or two flakes every day throughout the cycling process, then do a partial water change before you add fish. It’s safe to add fish when both ammonia and nitrites test at zero but there are nitrates in the tank to show that ammonia is actually being broken down. A full cycle takes 36 days to complete, though some hardier fish can be added after a couple of weeks as long as you keep a close eye on the water parameters.

Don’t want to wait 36 days? There are a few products on the market that can help speed up the process. There are bottled, refrigerated products such as Bio-Spira that can give the cycle a big boost by adding the bio-bugs directly (via a liquid) instead of having to wait for them to get established in the aquarium. The only problem I’ve found with those products is that you add them, it boosts the bacteria, and that’s the end of its use. One great cycle-time reducer is the EcoBio-Block. This product is a little more expensive than Bio-Spira, but you get a lot better value for your money.

To use the EcoBio-Block, rinse it off in some de-chlorinated water and then place it in the tank after the water has been treated and filtration is going. Make sure you set it somewhere near the aerator or below the flow of an HOB filter (the kind that hang on the back of your aquarium). The EcoBio-Block has the beneficial bacteria the aquarium needs sealed into it; the flow of water facilitates the dissolving of the seal and ensures that the bio-bugs get the oxygen they need. These blocks can take a couple of weeks to start working (though sometimes they work much faster), and once it’s working you’ll be able to begin adding the fish you want, hardy or not, because this effectively finishes the cycle. Test your water; it may not be necessary to do a partial water change before adding fish unless there’s an excess of decomposed fish food in the bottom. Don’t take the block out! The EcoBio-Block is still useful for about 1 1/2 to 2 years; it’ll keep the bio-bug population healthy and contains all the trace minerals that normally have to be replenished through water changes. The minerals are time-released into the water to keep it healthy without constant water changes.

In short, the cycling process is simple but time-consuming. If you decide to shorten the cycle time take care with which product you purchase to help, there are a lot on the market that don’t actually do what you need. The above have proven to be good, reliable products that greatly aid with this process. Once you’ve achieved a good biological filter and the nitrogen cycle is up and running, you can start adding the fish!

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Aquarium Care: Daily, Weekly, Monthly

Healthy tank with EcoBio-Stone

Healthy tank with EcoBio-Stone

An aquarium is an ongoing responsibility and requires daily attention, though if you keep up with the regular maintenance it is quite easy and doesn’t take much time. There are additional maintenance procedures required with various conditions, but here are a few things that must be done in every aquarium regardless of other factors.

Daily Maintenance

While fish do not necessarily need to be fed daily to be healthy due to their opportunistic eating habits and specialized metabolism, they do need to be checked daily and this is best done during feeding. Feed at a time that you have a few minutes to observe your fish and watch carefully for any abnormal behavior or signs of illness. What are you looking for? A healthy fish should be free of any marks, especially red or white marks that can suggest infection or parasites, should not struggle to swim in any way and should not have fins clamped down.

Watch the fish eat to ensure all are active, move easily in the water, and their fins are up. If you notice ragged edges on any fins there may be fish in the aquarium getting picked on, or the fish may be getting their fins caught on rough edges on decorations or artificial plants. If the aquarium is fairly new or new fish have recently been added, watch closely for redness or puffiness around the gills that may indicate ammonia in the water. If any abnormalities are observed, test your water parameters first and if they are within acceptable limits research other possible causes.

If desired, wipe down the outside of the aquarium with a damp cloth every day to remove fingerprints and dust. Never use any chemicals such as Windex near the aquarium as even the slightest trace of such products will kill the fish.

Weekly Maintenance

Depending on your stocking levels, you will need to do a partial water change every week or every other week. This is to keep nitrate levels down and keep essential dissolved minerals at a healthy level for the fish. These water changes generally need to be between 30-50% of the total water volume. In a newer tank that is still cycling or if new fish have just been added, water changes may also be needed to control ammonia and nitrites, though it will likely be more often than once a week for that purpose. For a healthier tank and a significantly reduced risk of ammonia spikes, you can use a time-released water maintenance product such as EcoBio-Block. These blocks last up to two years apiece and keep the water in the aquarium perfectly balanced by breaking down the toxic ammonia and nitrites from fish waste and uneaten food, as well as re-supplying essential minerals in the water as they’re used up by the fish which dramatically reduces the need for water changes.

Algae grow regularly in aquariums and, if visible on underwater surfaces, should be manually scraped off with a scraper sponge that is approved specifically for aquariums. A sponge that is not specifically for an aquarium may scratch glass and acrylic and may have been manufactured with chemicals that are harmful to fish. Filter pads should be rinsed out in a dish of aquarium water to remove excess organic material and then placed back in the filter. Tap water should never be used as the filter pad contains a lot of beneficial bacteria that will die if exposed to chlorine or chloramines, which are removed in tank water with a de-chlorinating water treatment. Top off the water to replace any that has evaporated and the amount used to rinse out the filter pad.

Monthly Maintenance

Every month the aquarium needs a thorough gravel vacuum to remove organic material such as uneaten food and fish waste from the substrate, as well as remove potentially harmful pockets of gasses that can build up in the substrate over time if it is not stirred. If you use EcoBio-Block in the aquarium then you need only stir the substrate manually once or twice a month to help excess organic material get into the filter where it can easily be removed from the system through rinsing filter pads, which can save a lot of time, effort and mess over a traditional gravel vacuum.

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Controlling Aquarium Algae

Most aquarium hobbyists have to contend with the problem of algae growth sooner or later. The problem can come over time or burst out suddenly as algae bloom.  Understanding the kind of algae you might get in your tank is a big step toward fixing any problem that might arise. The first thing to do is to learn how to identify the algae and then follow the protocol to control it.

Kinds of Algae

Brown Algae – This kind of algae is the most common and is usually found in new tanks or low-light aquariums. You can recognize it by the soft clumps that they form on aquarium walls and fittings.  They are also referred to as diatoms and can be removed by scrubbing. Because they feed on nitrates, adding live plants will help as will algae eaters like the Otocinclus catfish or aquarium snails.

Cyanobacteria – Although cyanobacteria are often referred to as blue-green algae, they are really microbes that float through the tank as blue-green sheets.  They are easy to remove and need to be controlled as they can cause the death of fish or plants in the tank.

tank with green algae

Green Algae

Green Algae – Green water in the tank is usually the result of this kind of algae and often comes because of poor water quality.  This is the kind of algae that is referred to as algae bloom and will grow in tanks that are getting too much light or haven’t cycled properly. It usually forms a film on the tank walls and fittings and can be wiped off. Once the water in the tank has stabilized the algae will usually disappear. If it doesn’t, more drastic methods are necessary.

Thread Algae – Long threads (up to 30 cm) hanging on leaf edges are thread algae.  Low iron is usually the reason for this condition. Threads can be removed by taking a toothbrush and twirling the threads around it. Another way to control this growth is with Siamese algae eaters.

Green Spot Algae – Hard green spots on tank walls and on aquarium plants are the difficult to remove green spot algae. They usually occur in tanks which have too much light or are low in CO2 and phosphate. Normally, they are removed by scraping with a razor blade.

Red/Brush Algae – Red algae or brush algae are most likely to develop on slow-growing plants. pH does not affect them and they are hard to remove by hand. The only control known are Siamese algae eaters.

How to Control Algae

The best ways to avoid algae problems is to limit organic waste and keep good conditions in your tank. Regular water changes and limiting fish food to about as much as they can eat in a minute will help. Live plants also use up the nitrates which feed the algae which will keep them from growing. Algae need light, so keeping the tank out of the sun and only using artificial light for up to 12 hours a day will also discourage growth. Another simple and easy way to reduce the likelihood of getting an algae problem is by the addition of beneficial bacteria, which keep the tank clean and non-conducive to algae growth.

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Starting a Healthy Aquarium- Allowing Your Aquarium to Cycle

Many people hear the word bacteria, and they automatically think of sickness, gross, dirty, and disease. The truth is, most bacteria are actually not harmful. In fact, in all environments, bacteria make the very base of every cycle of life. Without bacteria, the base wouldn’t be there, creating an unstable and unhealthy environment. This is especially true in an aquarium. An aquarium needs to have a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in order for fish to live long and healthy lives, and to cut down on maintenance work keeping your aquarium clean.

Beneficial bacteria neutralize toxins from aquarium waste, such as animal excretions and extra food.  Without the good bacteria, these wastes build up and release poisonous toxins that are harmful to fish and other aquarium inhabitants. Without these bacteria, your fish and other animals will get sick and eventually die.

The best time to create a good healthy base of beneficial bacteria is when you first set up a new aquarium. The key component when cycling a new aquarium is exercising extreme patience. The bacteria need time to grow and colonize your filter and the surfaces in the aquarium itself. If you add your animals to the aquarium before a sufficient amount of bacteria have grown, you’re going to be putting your fish at risk.

newly cycled aquarium

Newly cycled aquarium

There are several ways to cycle an aquarium. One way is to set up your aquarium completely, without adding your fish or animals and letting it run for two to three weeks. Adding very tiny amounts of fish food to the water as the aquarium runs will help expedite this process. Another way is to add fish very slowly- fish that are hardy and can take a small amount of toxins. Guppies are a good choice of fish. Many experienced fish keepers use feeder guppies for this task, as they’re cheap yet tend to be very healthy and good at dealing with steep swings in water quality, which is normal as a tank first cycles.  Goldfish are NOT good fish to cycle aquariums with. They excrete more waste than a growing colony of bacteria can handle, and you’ll have a difficult time cycling your tank with them. The last and fastest way to cycle a new tank is to add beneficial bacteria that are commercially ready to simply pour or toss into the water. If you use the EcoBio-Block Products, your tank will remain cleaner much longer with less effort.  Once you put in the product, EcoBio-Stone does the rest. These additives will take weeks away from the cycling process, allowing you to add your animals faster to your waiting aquarium.

There are a few signs that will let you know when your aquarium has finished cycling and is ready for inhabitants. You should test the water for ammonia and nitrites with simple to use testing kits that you can find at any pet store that sells aquarium supplies. During the time the tank is still cycling, if you test every day, you’ll notice at first a very fast spike in ammonia then in nitrites. When these go down and your nitrate levels go up, then it is safe to put in your fish. Aerobic beneficial bacteria in your tank feed on organic waste breaking them down into ammonia, then into nitrites and then the nitrites get broken down into nitrates. As the days go by, with more food for the bacteria in the tank, the bacteria will grow and multiply. Sometimes you’ll see cloudy water in the tank- this is normal. This is just a bloom of bacteria floating in the aquarium water column. Anaerobic bacteria in your tank will cause the nitrate levels to decrease. When your tank has finished cycling and your aquarium environment is balanced, your water should be clear. EcoBio-Stone keeps levels of beneficial bacteria high in your tank, which keeps your aquarium water clear, clean and healthy.

Conventional aquarium cleaning techniques remove these bacteria from the environment. Completely changing filter material, constantly vacuuming aquarium gravel and continuous sterilization of aquarium furniture and other decorations kills and removes these good bacteria. To keep the bacteria in your tank and keep your tank looking clean, simply remove bits of extra uneaten food daily, and wipe down the glass of your tank with a clean cloth or sponge. Once a month, clean out your filter material by gently rinsing out the filter with aged and tepid water, which will keep the bacteria in your filter but remove debris. Try to not over feed your fish, as this is the usual main reason for fish deaths and unhealthy aquariums, even after you allow your tank to cycle.

Cycling your tank is a natural process when starting your new aquarium. Given some time in the beginning, your fish tank will reward you with long lived and healthy inhabitants for years to come.

 

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Types of Aquarium Plants

planted tank

Planted tank

While many novice aquarium hobbyists decorate their tanks with sunken pirate ships and other novelty items, these decorations eventually grow old. If you are looking for some attractive, natural-looking décor for your home aquarium what you need is a few live aquarium plants. Not only are live plants beautiful in the aquarium, they are also very beneficial for your fish and for your aquarium as a whole.

Types of Live Aquarium Plants

Live aquarium plants can be divided into three general categories: ferns and mosses, rosettes, and stem plants. Ferns and mosses are those plants which do not flower and propagate by producing spores. This category includes plants like java ferns, crystalwort and willow moss. The rosette category includes flowering aquarium plants which are often used ornamentally in ponds as well as the home aquarium. Some popular specimens in this category are Amazon swords, vallisneria and water lilies.

Stem plants are the largest category of aquarium plants and they are also some of the most popular. Some of the most commonly used stem plants include hornwort, cabomba and anacharis. Plants in this category often grow quickly and can be easily propagated by taking cuttings and rooting them in substrate. Some stem plants are also very hardy, able to thrive in a variety of aquarium environments including brackish tanks.

Floating Aquarium Plants

As an alternative to these three categories, live aquarium plants can also be divided by their rooting requirements. While most aquarium plants need to be potted or rooted in substrate, some plants must be allowed to float on the surface of the water. These plants provide a complementary look to rooted plants in your aquarium while also increasing the oxygen content in your tank and providing a place for small fish and newly-hatched fry to hide.

Some of the most popular floating aquarium plants include hornwort, a slow-growing plant, and anacharis, a plant that grows very quickly. Water sprite, duckweed and azolla are frequently used in goldfish ponds because they provide a healthy food source for fish as well as attractive decoration. Many floating plants can thrive when rooted in substrate but floating free on the water’s surface allows for the maximum level of growth and spread.

In the home aquarium, live plants can be very beneficial. Not only do they help to filter out toxins and produce oxygen – they also suppress algae growth and provide your tank with a beautiful and natural décor scheme. In order to maximize the effectiveness of your live aquarium plants, pot one or two in an EcoBio-Planter. These planters are made from natural zeolite and crushed stone which makes them a simple yet attractive item to add to your tank. EcoBio products are infused with beneficial bacteria which immediately start working to nitrify tank water, making it cleaner, clearer and healthier for your fish. EcoBio-Planter has the additional attraction of being great for your plant’s life as well.

If you are serious about starting a planted tank you will first need to decide what type of plants you want to cultivate and what is needed in order for them to thrive. Aquarium plants require fluorescent lighting and periodic feeding in order to achieve their maximum growth. If you care for your plants properly they will repay you by helping to keep your tank clean and clear, creating an ideal environment in which your fish will be able to thrive.

 

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Beginner Aquarium Fish Guidelines

Starting your very own aquarium can be very exciting. Knowing just the right things needed for beginner aquarium fish is important. There are quite a few things to consider when starting an aquarium. You will need to consider the water conditions in your area, how easy they are to feed, and where they were raised.

Beginner fish need to be hardy. They can survive in difficult conditions. They can be overfed, underfed, or live in unfavorable water conditions. Starting with hardy ones is important because beginning aquarists are still learning exactly how to take care of their fish. They are learning how much they need to feed them, how often to change the aquarium water, and how many and what kind belong in one tank together.

Beginner fish need to be able to be easily fed. These are the ones that survive solely on dry food. Dry food can be found at many supermarkets and at any pet store. They can also be fed treats. The treats are usually bloodworms and mosquito larvae. However treats are not necessary and the fish do not need fancy frozen foods to survive.

Commercially raised fish are great starter fish. They have shown that they can survive in a tank as opposed to ones that are caught in the wild. Some fish that are caught in the wild will not survive in a tank. Fortunately, there are plenty of options at stores and pet stores.

Purchasing fish that can survive in tap water is also important. It can be difficult and costly to purchase ones that need purified water. Just be certain to use water conditioner to get rid of chloramines in the water. Knowing your water conditions is also important. The two main types are hard and soft. Take the water to the local pet store and they should be able to tell you which ones will survive the best with your water conditions.

Purchasing non-aggressive fish may also be a positive. If aggressive ones are purchased, only one can survive in the tank. If more than one is wanted it is best to get ones that get along well with others. To find out which ones are non-aggressive, just watch the tank and the ones that are getting along with others and not fighting are the ones you want.

Picking ones that meet these qualifications will help you on your way to purchasing good beginner aquarium fish for your tank. There are many options out there to choose from and they are found at a majority of pet stores and some local shops in your area.

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