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.

Are You Using the Right Size Fish Tank? The Wrong Tank Could Kill Your Fish

There are a lot of great reasons to get into fish keeping. You can have a lot of fun, and improve how your space looks. However, it can be overwhelming when just getting started. You might think it’s as simple as buying a tank and some fish, filling your new tank with water, and then watching your new fish grow. On the contrary, every decision in the process will require a lot of careful thought. From the material your fish tank is made from, to the fish you put in it. You’ll even have to consider where you put your aquarium. Don’t feel overwhelmed though, your local aquarium service is here to help.

How Many Fish Do You Want?

The first and most important factor you should take into consideration is how many fish you want. It seems obvious, but if you want more fish you’ll need a bigger tank. Some schools of thought say to use one gallon of water for each inch of fish in your tank. For this rule you’ll count only adult fish, and you won’t count their tails.

The gallon per inch rule has been popular for years, but it doesn’t cover all the bases. Like people, fish come in different sizes, not just length but girth. Some fish are thin, some are pudgy. If you just go by length, you’re going to miss important factors.

Consider the Surface Area Over the Total Volume

In addition to the size issue, if using the gallon per inch rule, you won’t be considering the surface area of the tank. You don’t want to ignore the surface area in your fish tank, because this affects how your fish breathe. Fish breathe by removing oxygen from the water in the fish tank, and then replacing it with carbon dioxide. If you choose a fish tank with more surface area, it can support more fish.

Will You Be Filling Your Fish Tank with Warm or Cold Water?

The differences between tropical fish and cold-water fish are something you need to think about when choosing your fish tank size as well. Tropical fish are usually leaner, which means they’ll need less oxygen than their higher body mass, cold-water counterparts. A good rule of thumb is to use between 20-25 square inches of surface area per inch of adult tropical fish. If you’re putting cold-water fish in your fish tank, you should shoot for 25-30 square inches of surface area, to account for your cold-water fish’s higher oxygen use.

Choose Based on Surface Area, No Matter the Type of Fish Tank you’re Using

No matter the type of fish tank you’re using, you still want to make sure you’re making the choice based on surface area. There are several different styles of tanks to choose from. For example, show tanks are usually tall but narrow, which gives them a great window for viewing the fish. However, these tanks do not generally have a large surface area. Rectangular tanks are much shallower than show tanks, but they’ve got a lot more surface area, even with the same volume. If you’re planning to fill your tank with many fish, you’ll probably be better served with a rectangular fish tank.

If you’re looking to get into the fish keeping hobby, Aquatech Aquarium Service has the experience and skills for to lean on when getting started. Call Aquatech Aquarium Service for any aquarium needs you may have.

Do you have an awesome aquarium you want to show off? Post it on the Aquatech Aquarium Service Facebook page for everyone to see!

Be Redundant. Your Fish Will Thank You for It

When you hear the word redundancy, it’s usually used in a negative way. Redundancy is often characterized as a waste of time or money. However, when it comes to your fish tank, redundancy is the only protection your fish and plants will have if an important system fails. Aquarium maintenance service professionals always suggest system redundancy to safeguard your fish — and your wallet. Here’s a handy list of ways you can put redundancy to work for your aquarium.

Spare Parts

The simplest way to improve redundancy is just keeping extra equipment on hand. As anyone who’s had an aquarium for a while can tell you, everything eventually fails. Extra equipment may seem expensive and unnecessary when everything’s humming along, but you have to keep the true costs of extra equipment in perspective. An extra return pump might look like $300 sitting unused on a shelf in your closet. In reality, it’s an insurance policy that guards against the cost of replacing the entire aquarium’s contents if the primary pump fails. The peace of mind you gain by keeping extra equipment on hand is well worth the investment.

Avoid Overheating

When your aquarium heater malfunctions, it can quickly kill everything in saltwater aquariums. Unfortunately, there’s two different ways for a fish tank heater to malfunction, both catastrophic. Their controls can fail, and if they’re stuck in the on position, they’ll quickly cook everything inside the aquarium. If they get stuck in the off position, or if the heating element no longer works, the dropping temperatures will wipe out all but the hardiest of fish. The best way to prevent overheating in aquarium design is to employ two heaters. You can save a little money by choosing heaters that individually can’t handle the whole aquarium, but are powerful enough if used in tandem. If one breaks, you’ll still have one working while you get a replacement.

To take the concept further, you can use separate thermostats for as many heaters as you can. It’s a sure way to avoid overheating. All your heaters would need to get stuck in the on position to overheat your tank, which is very unlikely.

In addition to using thermostats and extra heaters, you can attach your other electronics to safety panels as well. For example, you can connect your lights to a circuit that will shut down if the temperature exceeds 82 degrees. Additionally, you could have another circuit with fans that switch on to blow air across the water in the sump.

The final element of preventing overheating is to make use of an exhaust fan. You can set this exhaust fan to activate when the humidity gets too high, or the temperature reaches 81 degrees. If you’re not sure how to set this up, your aquarium maintenance service tech can answer any questions you have about overheating issues.

Water Testing

The pH balance of the water in your aquarium is very important. While you can’t keep a redundant supply of water for your fish, there are a few ways to add redundancy. It’s smart to test your water using testing kits from different manufacturers. If they both agree, you can be pretty sure the readings are accurate. If they’re different, you should try a third brand to see which is out of whack. In addition to using your own kits, your aquarium maintenance service provider can test the water for you.


Redundancy on your skimmers is typically simple and relatively inexpensive. On larger tanks, you can use dual skimmers in creative ways. Dual skimmers allow skimming to occur even when you’ve shut down one for either mechanical failure or cleaning.  As well as making sure you’ve got constant skimming, you can set one skimmer to “wet” skim while your second skim extracts dry foam. If you use this method you’ll remove more skimmates, ensuring your system is more efficient.

Not only can you employ redundancy on your skimmers, but also on your scum cups. If you’ve got a large skimmer, you’re probably aware that the skimmer will occasionally overflow, particularly during power outages. One way to reduce the likelihood of this occurring is to use one-way valves. In addition to the one-way valve, you can use a delay timer that turns on after 15 minutes.

Top Off System

This one requires a little more effort and forethought, but you’ll be glad it’s in place if there’s ever a large loss of water in your aquarium. A top off system replaces water that’s evaporated or spilled from your aquarium. These types of systems add freshwater, even to saltwater tanks. This freshwater is set to fill automatically when it is depleted. Usually, this works fine, but occasionally the top off reservoir replacement does not stop. This will cause a rapid flood of fresh water to the tank. This drops salinity, and that can lead to big problems with your saltwater environment.

You can use a float switch as well as the sensor in your reservoir to double check the need for top offs. Either will stop the flow of water in the other malfunctions. Additionally, you can add a timer to the system. Set this timer to only allow the solenoid to come on long enough to refill daily water evaporation.

Smart Aquarium Design

The final form of redundancy is a second bottom in your tank. Glue the second piece of glass to the bottom of the tank. This will not only strengthen the bottom of the tank, but it will also prevent a dropped item from causing a crack that could cause anything from a slow leak to a catastrophe down the line.

If you combine these tips for redundant systems along with regular aquarium maintenance service,  you’ll guarantee a long life for your custom aquarium, and all the fish and plants it holds.

How To Move a Custom Aquarium Without Taking a Bath

Moving your belongings to a new home or apartment is physically and mentally taxing. The task takes on a brand new layer of work when you have to move an aquarium along with your furniture. In addition to packing up and transporting your custom aquarium, you also have to make sure your fish, and anything else you have in the aquarium, is moved safely to its new home. Just getting to your destination is only half the battle. It’s important to avoid disrupting the aquatic environment more than necessary. Find out the best way to move your aquarium to your new place without taking a bath or losing any of your scaly sidekicks:

Prepare the Tank

As you’re planning your move, it’s best that you save the aquarium for last. That way, your fish don’t have to swim around outside of their normal habitat for too long. When you’re ready to tackle the task of moving your custom aquarium, drain the tank water into sealable buckets. Re-using your tank water helps preserve helpful bacteria. Note that this method is best reserved for quick moves of less than a day. For anything longer than that, it’s best to simply get rid of the water and cycle in a fresh supply in your tank before letting your fish return home.

A Great Opportunity for Aquarium Maintenance

Next, take care of aquarium maintenance as you remove gravel and plants from the tank. Make sure to keep live plants in bags of water to keep them as fresh as the fish you’re moving. When taking out the filter media, it’s best that you not clean it before packing it up with tank water and bacteria. Again, this only applies to short moves. You’ll want to go ahead and give the filter a good scrubbing and cleaning if it’ll take you a few days to complete your move.

Get Your Fish Ready

To keep water as fresh and clean as possible while moving your custom aquarium, it’s smart to stop feeding them about four days or so before the big day. This might seem cruel, but they’ll be fine. The feeding lull gives them time to flush waste from their systems, and do so in a way that won’t compromise their oxygen supply. Just be sure to round up all the fish once you’ve removed all the plants and gravel and most of the water from the tank. It’s easy to lose count when you’re in a hurry.

Solitary Confinement Isn’t Cruel and Unusual

When the time comes to bag the fish, fill plastic bags less than halfway with tank water. Be sure each bag only has one fish. Store the bags with care in rows inside a styrofoam cooler (or Poly box for warm water fish). Don’t bury the box under a mound of other belongings. You’ll need to refresh the oxygen supply every couple of hours by opening and resealing the bags.

Take care that you keep fish out of sunlight and excessive temperatures while transporting them. You should also keep them in the dark as much as possible to help them stay calm during the move.

Move the Tank

Wrap the tank of your custom aquarium inside blankets or equally soft wrapping, keeping the wrapping tight with packing tape. If you like, you can reinforce the protection with pieces of cardboard bound with more tape. Lift the tank from the bottom, and transport it in a way that it doesn’t come into contact with anything that might bump, fall on top of, or jostle it.

Set Up the Tank

Rather than leave the tank for last in your new place like you did when moving from your old place, make setting it up a top priority. Unpack the tank of your custom aquarium and set up the filter and heater and ensure they’re in working order. Slowly introduce tank water to the fishes’ bags to see how they react before letting them back into their old tank in their new home.

With a bit of planning and patience, moving your aquarium won’t open a floodgate of problems. For the ultimate in ease, contact an aquarium setup and maintenance professional to do the job.

5 Aquarium Maintenance Tools You Can’t Do Without

It’s great to watch fish swim and swirl inside an aquarium, but that visual is even nicer when you have plants, gravel and decorations inside of your tank. Like the idea of adding more visual appeal to your fresh or saltwater aquarium? Make sure you have these five aquarium maintenance tools to keep your tank, fish and everything else inside your aquarium looking its best.

1. Tongs

Use tongs to introduce new plants to your aquarium and fish out foreign objects that might find their way inside the tank. Depending on your preferences and the plants in your salt or freshwater aquarium, you might want to opt for a stainless steel pair of tongs for their ability to handle bigger objects. Be sure to keep an eye out for tongs with cutting attachments while you’re shopping in case you need to do some slicing in the future while performing aquarium maintenance.

2. Water Changers

Sometimes referred to as siphons, water changers help keep your tank clean and your fish as well as your plants healthy. You’ll likely have plenty of water changer options to choose from, so make sure you keep your style of aquarium and personal tastes in mind while browsing. One word of advice is that you not select a grated siphon mouth if you have a fry or ornamental shrimp tank because fry and shrimp can find their way up the mouth. Check to see how complex the water changer’s operation is before using it for aquarium maintenance.

3. Scissors

Use scissors to take care of dead branches and leaves dangling from your aquarium plants. Much like tongs, aquarium scissors come in several different lengths to better suit your specific needs. It’s important to note here that you should refrain from using your scissors for anything but cutting dead plant leaves, mainly because you can easily dull the blades and damage your plants in the future by cutting them too close. No matter which scissors you get, make sure they’re as sharp as can be to make aquarium maintenance easier.

4. Gloves

Protect fish and plants from any harmful material that might be on your hands or arms by donning gloves before reaching into the tank. What’s more is wearing gloves goes a long way in protecting yourself from detrimental substances in the tank that can find their way into your system through open cuts or sores you might have on your hands or arms, or any you might sustain during aquarium maintenance. To be extra cautious, make sure the gloves you select are free of allergens.

5. Algae Scrapers

You have the option of using special chemicals to take care of algae in your tank, but if you aren’t experienced with taking proper care of aquariums, you can easily add too much of the chemical to the tank. Make things easier on yourself and your aquarium by using algae scrapers, which you might find faster than algae-scrubbing chemicals. Depending on how much algae is floating around and clinging to your aquarium, you might need to use a siphon to complete your aquarium maintenance.

As you might have guessed, there are several different types of scrapers. One variety to note is algae scrapers made with a magnet and felt to better rid your tank of bothersome algae.

There you have five must-haves when it comes to properly maintaining your aquarium. Know that these aren’t all the tools you’ll need to take the best care of your aquarium and fish, but they are among the most essential. Rather than buying entire aquarium kits, it might make more financial sense for you to purchase your tools piecemeal. In any case, be sure to ask about specials, discounts and coupons for the most important aquarium care tools.

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.

Reverse Osmosis Can Create the Perfect Aquatic Habitat

clean water filtered by reverse osmosis makes for a beautiful aquariumIt is a basic truth of life on Planet Earth that clean, pure water is a priority for most all living things. This is particularly true for almost all fish and plants. When it comes to providing them with a proper environment, it is very possible the water that comes from the faucet in your home doesn’t have the right stuff for the inhabitants of your aquarium. It might even be toxic. The good news is, there is a rather simple solution: a Reverse Osmosis (RO) unit.

An RO unit can filter out up to 99 percent of the chemicals normally found in the water that comes from the tap by forcing it through a semi-permeable membrane. The semi-permeable reverse osmosis membrane only allows very small molecules (such as the water molecule H2O) to pass through it, effectively removing most water impurities including agricultural chemicals, arsenic , pesticides, and heavy metals, like lead and iron.

If you are a freshwater hobbyist, using an RO unit will result in water without both general and carbonate hardness, creating an environment where trace elements and electrolytes can be added to match the natural water conditions of our fish. It also allows you to use buffers to set the water’s pH wherever you wish.

For the saltwater hobbyist, an RO unit will remove a variety of chemical that likely could cause problems. Unfortunately, the standard reverse osmosis membrane does not remove nuisance chemicals like phosphate, nitrate, or silicates, all deemed undesirable because they contribute to algae growth (a big headache on its own!). So a Hi-S membrane, which is less permeable than standard RO membranes, will take care of the silicates, and adding a final-stage deionization (DI) cartridge handles the phosphates, resulting in the best possible water for your environment.

Maintaining your Reverse Osmosis unit is important

Regular maintenance of the RO unit requires replacement of the sediment pre-filter and carbon block. The manufacturer suggests replacing these cartridges after producing 1000 gallons of RO water. This is gauged by watching the pre-filter and noticing any color deviation from its original color. The semi-permeable membrane needs replacing after approximately three years. You can increase the life of the membrane by utilizing the optional RO flush kit.

So, now the question is, which RO unit is right for me and my aquarium setup? There are five simple questions you should ask when choosing an RO unit starting with what do I want to remove from my tap water? Does my water contain chlorine? Knowing the answer to these first two questions will help you answer the other three: How many filtration stages do I actually require? How many gallons per day (GPD) of purified water do I need? and What type of membrane do I need?

How much filtration do you need?

Ok, so, now let’s look at filtration. Various RO units feature a different number of filtration stages. Generally speaking, they vary from two-stage filtration to four-stage filtration, and depending on your needs, each accomplishes different levels of water purification.

A two-stage RO unit is generally light and compact, which makes it much easier for storage and transport. They contain a small inline pre-filter and the RO membrane. This is an excellent choice if space is limited, and is a good value at an economical price.

Three-stage RO units are larger, and employ carbon or sediment pre-filters to protect the delicate RO membranes. These are higher in quality, more durable, and thus are an excellent choice for regular use.

By adding deionization to the equation, the four-stage RO unit will remove the small amount of contaminants that remain, resulting in a purity level in excess of 99.9 percent, the highest level of water filtration you can get!

Overall, RO units definitely benefit your fish and plants by removing impurities in your water. Knowing how many impurities your water contains, helps you determine the best RO unit for your aquarium.

New Aquarium Buyer Mistakes to Avoid

father and son with fish for new aquariumSo you want to get your first aquarium! But you’re not quite sure where to get started. Like any hobby, there are pitfalls to watch out for when purchasing your new aquarium. Here are some helpful questions to keep in mind as you get started in this great hobby:

How big of an aquarium should I buy?

The instinct here is to start small, but how small is too small? For beginners, choosing a small aquarium can be a recipe for disaster. The smaller the volume of water, the more sensitive that environment is to very rapid change. That means you have a preciously small margin of error.

The recommendation is to avoid tanks smaller than 20 gallons until you have some experience. The bigger your tank, the better chance your fish have of surviving a mistake.

When should I add new fish?

Perhaps the biggest mistake new aquarium owners make is adding fish too soon, sometimes the same day they set the tank up! Bad mistake … the water has not had time to stabilize; gasses, minerals, heavy metals and chemicals add by local water treatment plants all have an adverse effect on the tank’s ecosystem. And that can harm your fish. The water in your new aquarium should be allowed to stand for at least a day to allow those dissolved gasses to escape and the pH to stabilize before introducing your fish to the new aquarium.

How many fish should have in my tank, and how many can I add at one time?

Let’s answer the second part of that question first, since it ultimately will have an impact on the first part. The idea is to add fish to the new environment slowly so the bacterial colonies have time to become fully established; until then, your aquarium cannot support a full population.

As for the total population, general wisdom says one should calculate the number of fish by using the inch-per-gallon rule: one inch of fish for every gallon of water in the tank. So if you want to have six fish in your tank that grow to a maximum size of two inches, you will need 12 gallons of water to support them.

Which fish should I select for my new aquarium?

Well, aside from personal choice of colors and interesting shapes, one must be attentive to which fish get along with which, and which fish can exist together in which water conditions. Careful research before you make your selections will help you avoid choosing incompatible species.

How much/how often should I feed my new fish?

This is, by far, the biggest mistake new aquarium owners make. Fish are feeders of opportunity; that is, they will eat when the food is there, regardless of need. So the first thing to watch is the amount of food you make available to them. Give them no more than an amount that can be consumed in five minutes. As you are starting them in their new environment, feed them no more than once per day, and as the ammonia and nitrates levels rise, withhold feeding them for a day or two to allow the amount of waste being produced to drop. Fish can go several days without eating.

What about the water? How often to I change it? How often to I test it? What about filtration?

The water is the single most important element in your aquarium, and requires the most attention. Let’s start with filtration/. Your aquarium filter should filter all the water in the tank through it at least three times per hour. If it doesn’t, it is too small.

As for testing the water, you will need to monitor the nitrogen levels, which means you must test constantly at first, then keep tabs as the environment settle in. For example, before introducing your fish to their new environment you will need to test the pH, hardness, ammonia, and nitrite levels to establish a baseline. During the start-up cycle it is also important to test the ammonia and nitrites often. Once the tank is well established, monthly testing will keep you on top of any unseen problems that may be brewing. If fish suddenly die, be sure to test the water to see if anything has changed.

Lastly, you will need to change the water in your aquarium on a regular basis. Wastes build up in the tank that can only be removed by vacuuming the gravel, removing some of water and replacing it with fresh water. Failing to change the water will not kill your fish on its own, but it will greatly contribute to their overall poor health. Poor water conditions will stress your fish and make them more susceptible to disease, and this often will shorten their life span.

A Filter to Maintain Clean Aquarium Water

An aquarium filterEvery aquarium owner should know the basics of aquarium maintenance.  A good working filter is important to any aquarium owner who wants to keep their fish happy and healthy. When the beginner fish-keeper starts out, they will find “filter” on the list of equipment to buy, and they will go along with that. But they may not understand just what the filter does, and what the options are.

What a Filter Is For

The primary function of an aquarium filter is to remove particles and chemical waste products that develop in a living environment. It is necessary to remove such substances to prevent the habitat from turning toxic to the fish. Additionally, clean, clear water is simply much more aesthetically pleasing. So choosing a filter that satisfies the basic needs is important.

Types of Filters

There are several types of filters to select from.

  • Air-driven internal filters
  • Undergravel filters
  • Internal power filters
  • Power filters
  • Canister filters
  • Wet/dry filters

Air-driven internal filters are suitable for small aquariums housing small fish. They work gently, and yet are powerful enough to keep the water conditions as they ought to be.  Because this type of filter is placed inside the tank, the aquarium can be placed close to walls, if space considerations are important. Internal power filters are a second type of filter suited for smaller tanks, like the air-driven internal filters. The provide good filtration and water circulation, as well as save space.

Undergravel filters are placed underneath a substrate of gravel. They pull the water through the gravel in order to do their work. They tend to be less expensive than other models. They rely on a powerhead or an air pump in order to work. They can be used for either large or small tanks, but are better if the fish population of the aquarium is small. In the case of such filters, the substrate needs to be positioned on a grid, to allow circulation through the filter.

The most common type of filter is the power filter. They deliver chemical, biological and mechanical filtration. They do hang on the outside of the aquarium, so the position of the tank has to accommodate them. Their external placement makes it easier to maintain the filter than other types of filters. It can also be used with a wide variety of fish.

Canister filters are larger than other types of filters. They can require more effort to maintain, but they provide exceptional filtering ability. They can provide superior filtration of biological, chemical and mechanical matter. Because they are multipurpose filters, they can be used for different types of aquariums, from freshwater planted aquariums to various saltwater types.

Wet/dry filters call for the most labor to set up, as the installation can be elaborate. They are great for aquariums containing only saltwater fish. They get their name from the fact that portions of the filter for the biological material are exposed both to the water and the air. This type of filter can be customized to the needs of a specific aquarium. They often are located under the aquarium, and require an overflow box.

Ask For Help

Any first-time fish owner can get aquarium maintenance advice and service from the knowledgeable experts at Aquatech Aquarium Service’s Los Angeles location.  We can help you select the best filter for the type of aquarium set-up that is desired. Although there are a variety of choices, anyone wanting to keep their fish alive will not skip the step of including a filter in their tank equipment.