Thinking About Getting an Aquarium? Look Out for These Rookie Mistakes

Are you considering getting into the hobby of fishkeeping? It’s a wonderful world of beauty and relaxation. We’ve written about all the benefits of fishkeeping before. There’s more to it than just buying an aquarium and filling it with water, and there’s a lot to learn if you want to save yourself time, money, and fish. Do you know what the nitrogen cycle is? Did you know there are certain fish that are best for a brand-new tank? There is a whole world of information out there, and we’re going to give you some of the most important considerations and tips right here.

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The Nitrogen Cycle

Nitrogen is everywhere in this world. As it turns out, nitrogen gas makes up around 78% of our planet’s atmosphere when measured by volume. The nitrogen cycle refers to the way nitrogen breaks down. Bacteria and other single-celled organisms turn atmospheric nitrogen, called N2, into a form that is biologically usable. That process is called nitrogen fixation. The nitrogen-fixing bacteria we care about live in water.

I’m sure you’re wondering what this science lesson has to do with fishkeeping. Just put the water into the tank, and then the fish, right? Well, nothing’s ever that simple unfortunately. The first step of the nitrogen cycle is to turn the atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia. Ammonia will kill your fish if they’re not strong enough. After the ammonia byproducts comes nitrites, and these too will kill weaker fish. Finally, at the end of the process, comes nitrates, which supports life. And now your fish are safe.

The nitrogen cycle should take about 30 days. In that time, you’re going to want to stick to hearty fish like one of the Gourami variants. Gold Gouramis, Moonlight Gouramis, and Pearl Gouramis are excellent choices of species when you’re starting a fresh nitrogen cycle. Once the nitrogen cycle has completed you can broaden your selection of fish, but be careful; you still have to make sure your fish are compatible with each other.

Don’t let your Fish get ‘Ichy’

Have you heard of Ich? It’s short for ichthyophthiriasis. What a mouthful! Ich is also known as white spot disease. This disease is a parasitic disease, and it shows up, unsurprisingly, as white spots on your fish’s skin. In most situations, Ich shows up from stress. Stresses such as temperature changes, or even just being bagged up to take home, can cause Ich. You could purchase a perfectly healthy fish, only for it to develop Ich on the drive home. If your fish doesn’t show spots after you’ve had it for 5 days, you’re in the clear – for now. You’ll still have to watch for Ich whenever there’s a shock, like a sudden temperature drop.

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Symptoms of Ich showing on a fish.

What to do About Ich

Chances are, you’re going to have to deal with Ich at some point in your fishkeeping hobby. So, you’d probably like to know what to do once the infection shows up. When you face Ich, you’ll need to wait for the parasite to fall off and start to replicate.

Ich has three stages. The Trophont stage is when symptoms are showing on your fish. What’s happening during this time is the parasite is burrowing under your fish’s mucus coating, and forming a cyst. That cyst is the reason you can’t treat the infection as soon as it shows up; it protects the parasite from treatment.

After the Trophont stage comes the Tomont stage. This is when you can begin treatment. During this stage the parasite floats for hours in the water, looking for a plant or something to attach to. Once it’s attached it starts dividing and replicating inside the cyst, so you’ll need to act fast.

Finally, if you miss the Tomont stage, the Ich enters the final stage called Thermonts, or the swarmer stage. In this stage, the new parasites are looking for new hosts. The good news is, they’re on a time limit. If they don’t find a host within 48 hours, they will die. That means, while drastic, you have one final chance to get rid of the Ich. If you leave the fish tank empty during this stage, you’ll kill the swarmers.

Watch the Temperature

Tropical fish don’t need heaters, unless you’re living somewhere extremely cold. Tropical fish, like goldfish, prefer the temperature at 76-79 degrees. Up into the mid 80’s is ok, but don’t let it go higher or your fish are going to suffer. The big problem you’re going to face the most is in the summer, when your house gets warm.

When your house gets warm, your aquarium gets warm, then your fish get warm, and at best, sick. But remember Ich? If the water gets warm and you drop the temperature too quickly, say hello to a new wave of the parasitic infection. Having an aquarium chiller is a fantastic way to manage your aquarium’s temperatures. If you didn’t get the chiller, just keep your air conditioning running. Take steps to keep your house cool you’ll be able to keep your aquarium cool, and your fish happy.

The first question everyone asks is “Can I drop some ice cubes in the water?” You have to be careful with this. If you drop too many ice cubes at once, the temperature will fall too quickly. The other issue is what ice is made of: water. If you put too much ice in, you could over-fill the tank on accident. In addition, water from the ice may not be treated properly for your tank environment, and these changes will stress fish. You’re definitely going to want to have some sort of plan here in California, where even beach cities can reach 100 degrees in the summer.

Watch your Water Levels

It might seem odd, the idea that you can give your fish too much water, but it’s true. Fish still need oxygen, and if you fill your tank all the way to the top, they won’t get what they need. You want to make sure there’s an air gap between the surface of the water and the lid of the tank. This allows air to reach the water surface, and for the water to absorb oxygen. Fortunately, this doesn’t need to be a big gap, so if you only fill your tank to 95% you’re in the clear. Another nice thing is this number is good pretty much regardless of the tank size. As you get into a larger tank, that air gap automatically gets bigger. The crucial moment to be cautious is when you’re refilling water lost from evaporation, so just fill it slowly so you can stop at the right level and the tank will be just fine.

Don’t let the Water Become Acidic

Acidic water is never a good thing. Have you seen what acidic water is doing to the great barrier reef? Your fish won’t like it any more. Make sure to monitor your aquarium’s PH levels with a test kit. Once every couple of weeks should do the job. If the test kit comes back as a yellow color, you’re looking at acidic water. Remember, the more fish you have in your tank, the more carefully you have to monitor the water. Even when the fish “go to the bathroom” in the water, they’re contributing to the acid levels in their environment.

Safe PH levels are 7.0 and above. If the water is falling below 7.0 you’re going to want to drop an alkaline buffer in the tank to raise that PH measurement back to an appropriate level. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about your water having too high a PH level, also known as being alkaline. Bigger, better filters will help with your PH levels but no matter how good your filter is, make sure you remember to test your water.

Don’t Skimp on the Filter

You might be tempted to save money on your filter, since it’s one of the pricier parts of an aquarium setup, but you’ll be making a mistake. You can never have too much filter, but if you don’t have enough, your fish will suffer. If the filter can’t do its job, you’ll have to work extra hard to keep your fish alive.

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Air Pumps Partner with the Filter

In addition to your filtration system, you should consider using an air pump. Air pumps, as their name implies, pump air into the water, which has a few benefits. If you use an air-stone type air filter, it doubles as a tank decoration. The bubbles created by your air pump will move the water around, which the fish like. Of course, extra air in the water will make it easier for your fish to breathe. One other big benefit of an air pump is as a backup. If your filter dies, your air pump will keep your fish alive until you can replace that filter. Imagine you’re at work, and you don’t know the filter has malfunctioned. Without an air pump, you will probably come home to dead fish. With an air pump, you’ll come home to say hello to your fish swimming happily along, and with enough time to replace the filter.

You may have heard the phrase “One is none, two is one” before. Enter backup air pumps. These pumps operate on batteries, and you can attach them to your aquarium in an event such as a power failure, or, somehow, your filter and air pump both die. They’re not a long-term solution, but they’ll give you time to correct the problem, or get your power back, or whatever the situation requires. A backup air pump is like an insurance plan. It’s a lot cheaper to get a backup air pump for your aquarium than it is to replace your fish.

Do not Spray

When you’re cleaning the outside of the tank, or the area around the tank, do not use any spray-based cleaners or air fresheners. An air pump will suck in those fumes and push them right into the water your fish live in. Even if you don’t have an air pump, the chemicals can still settle into the water naturally.

Consider Hiring an Aquarium Service

Fishkeeping is a fun, engaging, and rewarding hobby. If you’re looking to get into this wonderful world, a good way to start is to hire an aquarium service. Companies like Aquatech Aquarium Service can help you set up your aquarium, answer any questions, and then provide ongoing service to make sure your fish are as happy as a clam. If you’ve got questions, or you’d like Aquatech to help you, call (310) 993-2183, or drop a line through email.

7 Easy Steps To a New Aquarium Installation

Aquariums make a great centerpiece for any home or business. Some people have compared their aquarium installation to a small piece of the ocean in a box. Watching the motions of fish and the water is very soothing and relaxing, but if you’re not an experienced fish keeper, the idea of a full-scale aquarium installation might seem complicated.

There are important facts you should know before you start your new aquarium hobby.  We’ve assembled a guide to a complete aquarium installation to help you get started.

Step One: You Need a Plan

Planning ahead before you begin your aquarium installation will save a lot of headaches later. You should think about the size and shape of your aquarium. What kind of fish do you want in your custom aquarium? Will you have a saltwater aquarium or freshwater aquarium?

Step Two: Set Up Your Custom Aquarium and Stand

Remember, the place you decide you want your aquarium installation should be level and able to hold both the weight of the water and the aquarium itself. You will also want to take any heating elements, lighting or filters into consideration when you place your custom aquarium. You will want to plan a location that is easy for aquarium maintenance if you plan to do it yourself. For aquariums set in walls, or for larger aquariums, you may need professional help with aquarium maintenance.

Step Three: Add Gravel or Sand

Make sure you thoroughly clean the gravel or sand you wish to use before putting it in the tank. Otherwise, your tank could remain cloudy for many weeks afterward. Place the gravel in a bucket and use a hose on high pressure to spray the material directly in the bucket. When the bucket is full of water, stir the gravel in the pocket to clean any more dirt off it. Repeat this process until the water is visibly clear. One clean, gently add the gravel to the bottom of the tank so you don’t scratch the glass or acrylic at the bottom.

Step Four: Install the Filter and Heater

Before you install the filter and heater into your new aquarium, test them in a small amount of water to make sure they’re working properly. That way, you won’t be taking a chance on losing your fish over an equipment malfunction. Make sure to route all power cords away from the custom aquarium. Water and electricity don’t mix very well.

Step Five: Decorate!

Now for the really fun part. It’s time to add whatever decorations you would like. Just like gravel, it is important to clean whenever decorations you plan to use in your aquarium. It is important not to use any kind of soap when you’re cleaning. Soap and detergents are toxic in a marine environment. It only takes a little soap residue on decorations to be fatal to your fish.

If you have live plants, now’s the time to add them.  You should add a little of your water to the tank first.  That way, the plants won’t be stressed until the aquarium is entirely filled with water.

Step Six: Add Your Water and Cycle

Once the inside of your aquarium is in place, you can add your water to it. Make sure you properly treat your water to rid yourself of unwanted chemicals like chlorine. Is a good idea to also add nitrates and beneficial bacteria to the water to help prepare it before adding it to your custom aquarium installation.

Cycling your tank simply means letting it run for a while without any fish in it. By cycling your tank, you will allow the water to become properly oxygenated, and free of unwanted chemicals. Cycling also allows beneficial bacteria to grow. These bacteria are useful in eliminating waste, and reducing the water’s toxicity.

Step Seven: Add Your Fish!

Once your aquarium installation is complete, and your water is cycled, it’s time to add your fish! Test the water once more, and place the bag containing the fish into the water. Leave the bag unopened in your aquarium installation for a few minutes to equalize the water temperature. That way, you won’t stress the fish by a sudden temperature change. It’s always best to add fish one or two at a time.  This allows them more time to acclimate to their new home before they get new neighbors.

Once you have added your fish, observe them for a while to make sure they’re getting along well in their new home. Test the water every few hours after adding your fish. You’ll want to be sure that the temperature, oxygen level, and chemical levels such as ammonia stay balanced.

Professionals Make It Easier

If you’d rather enjoy the fish without any of the setup work, help is just a phone call away. In the Los Angeles area, Aquatech Aquarium Service is ready to help you with expert advice, setup, and service. Rely on their award winning aquarium maintenance and service to make sure your new custom aquarium stays beautiful for years to come.

Top Five Fish for Saltwater Aquariums

saltwater aquariums-top 5 beginner fishFish keeping is fun for everyone, from young children the elderly. Keeping saltwater aquariums can be a great way to enjoy fish from all over the world’s oceans. It is relatively easy to keep and maintain a saltwater aquarium, although they may be a little more complicated than a freshwater aquarium.  Whatever extra effort is required to keep saltwater fish is worth it, however. You’ll be amazed at the how many different types of exotic fish are available for your saltwater aquarium. There’s a wide  selection of plants and other features, too. But what are some great aquarium fish if you’re new to saltwater aquariums? We’ve assembled a list of the Top Five Saltwater Fish for beginners.

Clownfish

A clownfish is probably the most popular fish for beginners. Their bright, striking colors make it a classic marine fish. Clownfish are relatively inexpensive, and quite hardy. Although clownfish can be somewhat territorial, they’re usually not aggressive towards other fish. There’s one very unusual aspect about clownfish. If you place two or more males together in saltwater aquariums, the largest, most dominant fish can change its gender to female! They may even begin to breed in your tank.

Blennies and Gobies

These fish are bottom dwellers, and are usually a very hardy fish. Most are relatively small, usually reaching no more than a few inches in length. The fish have a lot of personality, and feature very striking colors. They do prefer an aquarium with a lot of places like rocks and crevices where they can hide. However, blennies and gobies are always a great addition to saltwater aquariums.

Firefish

These are very pretty, peaceful fish to add to saltwater aquariums. They tend to do very well with other fish. Firefish are commonly considered to act as a barometer of sorts for your saltwater aquarium. If the quality of water in your tank is decreasing, these fish are usually the first to sense it. If everything is OK, their dorsal fin will stand upright. When the fish is feeling stressed, due to poor quality water or overcrowding, the fish’s dorsal fin will lay flat against its back.

Cardinalfish

Cardinalfish are really great beginner fish for new keepers of saltwater aquariums. They have a very striking color pattern and body shape, which makes them very interesting to watch. They make an especially captivating display as they swim in a school. Cardinalfish are hearty, eaters, and generally are very peaceful towards other fish.

Crabs and Shrimp

There’s no reason to restrict the type of sea creatures you place in your saltwater aquarium to fish alone. Adding crabs or shrimp to saltwater aquariums adds variety and excitement to your underwater environment. They’re relatively hardy, and they get along great with most other fish. There are many different types of shrimp and crabs to choose from.  They each have their own shape, color, and personality. It is fun and interesting to watch these creatures interact with other fish in your aquarium.

Setting Up Saltwater Aquariums

In their natural environment, most saltwater fish tend to live close to corals, rubble, or sea plants.   They use this natural cover to quickly dart to safety if the need arises.  Some fish live in burrows in the sand, usually near rock outcroppings. In saltwater aquariums, your fish will thrive if they have the same types of hiding places. Rocks, coral skeletons, or sea plants are all great additions to make your fish feel at home.

Fish Need Elbow Room, Too

So how many fish should you put in your tank? A good guideline is to keep two fish for every ten gallons of water. Of course, this is not an exact number. Larger, more active fish produce more biowaste than smaller fish. Smaller, slender fish or passive bottom dwellers tend to put less load on the filtration system. It is still important to perform regular aquarium maintenance, however.

Get To Know Your Fish Better

You’ll be amazed at the large number of saltwater fish and invertebrates available for saltwater aquariums at your local fish store. You can skip a lot of trial and error by learning from people who have cared for aquariums for a long time. That way, you’ll have fewer problems and be able to simply enjoy the ever-changing glimpse of the ocean that saltwater aquariums provide.