Aquarium Care

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Sticky: 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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Sticky: Keeping Your Aquarium Well-Balanced

Well balanced aquarium

Well balanced aquarium

The hardest time to keep a balanced aquarium is when the aquarium is first being started. You add water – usually from the tank – and you condition the water as best you can but still, you sometimes lose fish in the beginning.  What is the best way to balance your aquarium?

The nitrogen cycle is an important aspect of your fish tank. It’s also called the nitrification cycle. It actually turns dangerous ammonia into nitrite and finally into nitrate, which is much safer for the fish. Ammonia is given off as part of the waste products of the fish and fish food, and is relatively toxic to the fish. Nitrifying bacteria come from the air and go into the water, starting the nitrifying cycle and help dangerous ammonia levels to go down.

A quick and easy way to balance your tank and keep it clear is to use one of the EcoBio-Block products which contain nitrifying bacteria. These multiply in the blocks and then spread into the water and attach to various things in the tank. The bacteria will then break down and reduce ammonia and nitrite levels. For example, you can start a tank with ammonia levels of 0.75 and small nitrite level of 0.1. Within a few weeks of using the EcoBio Block product, you can normally achieve ammonia, and nitrite levels of zero. The nitrogen system of the aquarium is properly balanced by the bacteria in the block and you lose much fewer fish because you don’t have an unhealthy system.

You need to balance the pH of your aquarium as well. Some can be a bit alkaline, meaning that the pH is too high or it can be acid, which means the pH is too low. Check the pH of your system using a pH test strip and then consider whether or not you need to change the pH.  Most fish can tolerate a pH of between 5.5 and 8.0 and if it is an established system with healthy fish, you may not want to make drastic pH changes in your system. If you need to lower the pH, you can try adding a piece of driftwood to your tank or add peat to your filtration system. You can raise the pH by adding coral or a seashell. Such gradual changes aren’t likely to hurt the fish but will help the fish gradually adjust to the pH changes.

All tanks eventually get some algae and some is beneficial. Too much algae, however, makes your tank unsightly and you need to prevent this as much as you can. Begin by keeping direct sunlight away from your tank. This holds true for the lighting in the tank, which should be on for no more than 12 hours per day. Make sure you go through frequent water changes so that the nutrient levels are diminished in the tank. Use algae eating fish, such as mollies, suckermouth catfish or Siamese Algae Eaters. All of these will keep your algae levels down in the aquarium.

It takes a lot of maintenance to keep your tank well-balanced. You can use a product like EcoBio-Stone to help keep that balance with a lot less maintenance. Such blocks last at least two years and will keep your fish tank healthy for a long time to come.

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