Aquarium Care

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Sticky: Starting a New Aquarium

Sit back and enjoy your new aquarium

Sit back and enjoy your new aquarium

Aquariums can be beautiful and fun additions to any home. The easiest way to start having an aquarium in your house is to choose a freshwater aquarium. These are easier to manage and you have a greater chance of success than if you tackle a saltwater aquarium.  Even so, there is a lot to buy and many things to think about before you can have fish swim around your tank.

You need to select a tank size and make sure it fits into the space you have allotted. You need to select a tank size of at least ten gallons as mistakes are less likely to be lethal if there is more water to work with. Fish tanks are heavy. A full 20 gallon fish tank is over 200 pounds.  Make sure you have a good supporting system for your fish tank so it doesn’t collapse.

Choose a tank with a larger surface area, such as an oblong tank. Fish do better with a larger surface area. Glass tanks are better for beginners so choose one of those as opposed to an acrylic fish tank. Most tanks come with standard measurements which can be used to select the tank for you.

Your initial purchase checklist should include the following:

  • A suitably sized aquarium, possibly 20 gallon-sized
  • A stand or surface for your aquarium
  • A hood or lid for your aquarium
  • An aquarium light
  • A heater that heats the size of the aquarium you are buying (check with the staff at the pet store if you have any doubts about the heater size and wattage).
  • An aquarium thermometer
  • Substrate for the bottom of the aquarium
  • A fish net
  • Something to condition the water
  • A filter for the aquarium

You should get enough substrate to fill the bottom of the tank to a level of about two inches.  In general, a pound of substrate should be purchased for every gallon of water in the tank. This means you should buy about 20 pounds of substrate for a 20 gallon tank. The filter should be adequate to filter out the junk in the tank. A filter should be able to filter about 100-150 gallons per hour.

Once you’ve rinsed out the aquarium, you’ll need to fill it with water. Place the aquarium exactly where you want to keep it. Buy a bottle of aquarium water conditioner. Buy two buckets that you only use for the aquarium. Fill the tank with washed substrate to a depth of 2-3 inches. Put a clean plate on top of the gravel (this keeps the gravel from splashing up). Let the cold water in the tap run for a few minutes to clear the lines of excessive minerals and then fill the bucket up to three-fourths full. Pour the water from the bucket onto the plate until the water is halfway up the tank. Then add your plants and decorations. Put in the heater and the filter but don’t plug them in until the tank is full.

Next, fill the tank with water using the other bucket. You can remove the plate when the tank is halfway filled with water. Start the filter and the heater and run for a minimum of twenty four hours before adding fish.

You’ll want to consider adding an EcoBio-Stone or other EcoBio-Block product, depending on the size of your tank and your particular needs. These are porous volcanic and cement rocks which slowly release necessary trace minerals and calcium in to the water. They contain beneficial nutrients and helpful bacteria that create the proper ecosystem for your aquarium helping you minimize your maintenance time and reduce the need to change the water in your tank.  Nitrifying bacteria are established in your tank and the tank is cycled more quickly. The water stays clear and odor is kept to a minimum. EcoBio-Block products last for up to 1.5 or 2 years and require no maintenance.

If all goes well, you’ll have a healthy, happy aquarium system that will last for years with a minimum of interference by you. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy your new aquarium.

 

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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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