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.

aquarium care and maintenance
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.

Awesome Koi Pond Maintenance Tips Your Fish Can’t Live Without

A koi pond is a great way to add beauty and wonder to any home. A koi pond can be as captivating to watch as it is mesmerizing to watch your fish grow and live within your pond. Apart from eliminating stress and tension for your mind, a koi pond is a perfect way of adding beauty to your backyard or any outdoor space. In fact, a koi pond gives a house an air of class and style that no other custom aquarium can bring.

Regular koi pond maintenance is crucial for keeping your pond beautiful and your fish healthy. If you take proper care of your koi pond right from the beginning, you can avoid many complications later on. These helpful koi pond maintenance tips will allow you to keep your pond healthy for your fish and plants as well as keeping its beautiful appearance

Larger Koi Ponds Make You and Your Fish Happy

Koi fish require a large volume of water to swim about and live properly. More importantly, a larger volume of water means more stable water parameters. With more water, the concentration of pollutants is diluted and distributed more evenly to help defer their ill effects. The ideal koi pond will be larger than 1,000 gallons. It should also contain a filtration system that re-circulates the entire volume at least twice an hour (or approximately 2,000 gallons per hour)

Keeping your Koi Fish Happy

Koi fish are relatively hardy and can live a long time, unlike a goldfish brought home from the carnival in a plastic bag. In fact, the longest living koi fish ever recorded lived to a grand old age of 226 years old! With proper care, the average life expectancy of a Koi fish can reach between twenty-five and thirty-five years.

Koi are also rather intelligent for fish. After caring for your koi fish for a while, you may come to find that they will recognize you personally! Because koi are such social creatures, they also tend to interact well together. In fact, koi fish actually prefer company and will swim together in formation.

Koi fish do not need a lot of special maintenance, but they do need regular care, just as the koi pond itself does. Koi fish require three main things to stay in good health: A good diet and regular feeding schedule, plenty of oxygen, and a good plant and filtration system.

Keeping Your Koi Fish Well Fed

A good diet will dramatically affect the size and color of you koi fish. Koi fish are omnivores, and usually will eat just about anything that doesn’t eat them first! This means that Koi will naturally eat algae, plants, animal matter, flies, and bugs that happen across your Koi Pond. In addition to helping control algae, koi also help control mosquitoes by feeding on their larvae, reducing the need for pesticides.

The main diet of koi fish is a specialized koi pellet or flake food. In addition to this, it is a good idea to supplement their pellet and flake food. Small amounts of ground wheat germ, plankton, and shrimp will help bring out the optimum growth and color of your koi fish. Fruits and vegetables such as kale, watermelon, squash, or peas are a good source of nutrients and carbohydrates.

As a fish, koi do not have true stomachs like most mammals do. As a result, koi fish are unable to store excess food. Because of this, you must be careful not to overfeed your fish. Overfeeding results in an abundance of nutrients in the water. This leads to poor water quality and is a breeding ground for algae.

Keeping Control of Algae

Koi fish, being omnivores, will naturally eat some of the algae in a pond. However, too much algae from overfeeding, or an algae bloom can overwhelm the pond. This will make the water turn an ugly color of green. Algae can also eventually starve the water in your koi pond of precious oxygen and cause stress to your fish. Therefore, to help reduce the amount of algae in your koi pond, you can use products like koi clay, barley straw, or an algaecide.

Enough Air in Your Koi Pond for Your Fish to Breathe

Koi fish, like any other aquatic animal, will always need good-quality, well-oxygenated water. In fact, as a cold-water fish, koi are usually accustomed to a higher dissolved oxygen content in their water. Because of this, Koi pond water needs to be well oxygenated. This is especially true during the summertime when warm water cannot hold oxygen as readily.

Therefore, it is a good idea to keep the water in koi ponds well oxygenated. You can increase the amount of water agitation to help increase the amount of oxygen in the pond water. Adding water fountains, waterfalls, or aeration machines will all help to add to that agitation.  Replenishing and maintaining a good oxygen level in your koi pond will help your fish to live long, healthy, happy lives.

Keeping a Regular Koi Pond Maintenance Schedule

Just like any other custom aquarium, a koi pond requires regular cleaning and maintenance on a regular basis.  This ensures a healthy environment for your fish and a beautiful looking pond. There are two main types of koi pond maintenance: seasonal maintenance, and regular maintenance. A qualified aquarium maintenance professional, such as the expert aquarium and koi pond maintenance experts here at Aquatech Aquarium Service, can help you with both regular and seasonal maintenance.

Seasonal koi pond maintenance usually involves checking the pond, filter, pipes and tubing for cracks or holes, and thoroughly cleaning everything. You can do your seasonal koi pond maintenance twice annually, depending on your geographic location.

You can perform more regular koi pond maintenance on a bi-weekly basis. However regular maintenance can be done less frequently depending on your fish pond setup. This usually involves cleaning the filters and small water changes to add algae removers or biological enhancers.

Enjoy Spending Time with Your Beautiful Koi Pond and Fish

Like any animal, the most important thing you can do for the fish in you koi pond is to spend time enjoying them. Watching them swim about in their schools is just as relaxing as it is entertaining. It’s also fun to interact with your koi fish.  In fact, many proud koi pond owners have trained their fish to eat out of their hands! With a little care and attention to your fish, and some koi pond maintenance, your koi pond will stay fresh and healthy for years to come.

7 Smart Ways To Spruce Up & Refresh Your Aquarium

Have you been looking at an old tank, wishing you could give it a new look? With the help of your local Culver City aquarium service, your dream can be a reality. You’ll find that you can update your tank easily. These seven tips will have your old tank looking like the first time you set it up.

Completely Empty Your Aquarium

Giving your aquarium a full cleaning isn’t something that happens often due to planning. If your aquarium is active and populated it means re-homing your fish and plant life while you drain and clean your aquarium. However, as any Culver City aquarium service will tell you, a deep cleaning goes a long way to making your tank feel brand new all over.

Only Replace the Hardware You Have to

Most of your behind-the-scenes equipment, like your filter and pump won’t need to be replaced. Look at each piece of hardware and decide if it still works. You should also check if there is a newer design that works better. There’s no reason to spend money to replace your working equipment.

Make Plans for Your New Design

Before you start buying and replacing pieces of your tank, take some time to really think about what you want from it. The internet is full of aquarium ideas that can get you started in your direction. Additionally, you can get lots of ideas from an experienced Culver City aquarium service that has seen and done it all.

Consider Moving or Housing Your Tank

Tank placement should be considered as part of your planning stage. Simply moving your tank can make it feel new again. In addition to moving your tank, you could consider putting it into custom furniture like a cabinet. Even more unique, you could place your tank in your wall for that sleek, clean look. Changing the location or housing can be a huge step in updating your tank.

Choose New Substrate, Plants, and Fish Shelters for Your Tank

Most of the look of your tank, besides the fish, comes from the accessories you chose to include. You can make your tank look completely different simply by putting new plants in it. If your tank is tropical themed, try making it look like the bottom of a lake. Your background change will definitely make it feel completely new.

Consider New Species

The next step in freshening your tank design is to consider new animals. If you want your tank to feel new, completely changing the fish inside will get that done. However, remember that if you decide you’re going to replace your fish, you should donate your old fish to someone who will love them.

Look into Your Lights

If your tank setup is older, newer lights, like LED lighting can change your entire tank’s look. With LED lights, you’ll see your tank in a crisper, cleaner light. Your Culver City aquarium service can help you pick the perfect lighting setup for your tank.

Aquatech Aquarium Service is the premiere Culver City aquarium service. With a full, knowledgeable staff ready to answer any questions and help with any projects you’re trying.

3 Aquatic Plants That Can Take Over Koi Ponds

As the world becomes more globalized, we’re seeing worlds combine in new and unique ways. One of the results of globalization is a larger variety of aquatic plants and animals available to the aquarium trade. Now your options for unique and beautiful koi ponds are greater than ever. However, along with all the great options for your aquarium or pond come unwelcome invasive species. You’re probably familiar with the idea of invasive species.

You’re probably familiar with the idea of invasive species, like the Snakehead fish. The Snakehead fish is predatory and able to move short distances over land. It has populated New England all the way from Asia. Another invasive species you may have heard about are Japanese beetles, these critters will destroy your rose bushes and gardens. Snakeheads were brought as food stock, and the Japanese beetles were accidentally introduced to the US.

Animals are not the only kind of invasive species, however. Aquatic plants, when brought to lands they didn’t originally come from can cause rampant destruction in new rivers, lakes, and oceans. These are the three most common invasive plants you may come across in the aquarium trade. Once you’ve learned about the kind of damage they can create, you’ll learn how to prevent it.

Water Lettuce

Don’t let the name fool you. While it’s got the least threatening name possible, this plant can cause massive damage. It has invaded Hawaii and can cause problems with rice and taro crops. This plant floats, and can clog up rivers and lakes while out competing the native plants. Additionally, Water Lettuce lowers oxygen concentration, creates mosquito nurseries, and steals habitats from other plants and animals.

One of the bigger challenges for managing Water Lettuce is the fact that it’s inedible. Water Lettuce is full of calcium oxalate crystals which can cause burning in your throat and mouth, and damage your GI tract. Because of this, many animals will not eat Water Lettuce. In fact, only two animals are good at eating Water Lettuce. The hippo and the manatee are happy to munch down on Water Lettuce, however there’s no effective way to use these animals to fight the invasion.  To make thinks worse, Water Lettuce is ugly on top of all its other qualities.

Water Hyacinth

The Water Hyacinth is beautiful, and you may be tempted to use it as an ornamental plant in your koi ponds. However, you shouldn’t use hyacinth in any kind of pond, whether it’s a koi pond or otherwise. Water Hyacinth grows very tight, and can quickly grow in massive patches, acres wide. Once Water Hyacinth begins to grow like this it blocks light from reaching the lower levels of the water. This does more than stop other plants from growing. When the light can’t reach under the water hyacinth it stops lower plants from photosynthesizing, and your koi pond can stop producing oxygen.

On top of the decreased oxygen production, the mere presence of the Water Hyacinths stops gas exchange. If you let your pond get overgrown with water hyacinth you’ll end up with an oxygen starved pond filled with dead or dying fish. Because water hyacinth grows so thick, it slows or stops the movement of water on the surface of the pond. This will cause rapid algae growth as well as breed mosquitos.

Water Hyacinth grows and reproduces in two ways. The first way is through budding. While in their active growing season, the water Hyacinths grow smaller plants, or “daughter plants” that are essentially small hyacinths growing off the parent plant.  Once the daughter plant has grown and established enough, it will break off and start the process over on its own. In addition to the budding method, hyacinths will reproduce by producing seeds. These seeds are especially sneaky because they can lie dormant for years waiting for the environment to encourage growth.

Anacharis

One of the features these plants have in common is how easy they are to care for. Of the plants on this list, the Anacharis is the easiest. The Anacharis only requires medium light, which is perfect for lakes or koi ponds. Additionally, it does not need to be planted to grow, and even thrive. When the Anacharis is floating, it will grow roots down the stem and draw nutrients directly from the water. It’s difficult to remove because it’s easy to create new ones simply by breaking the stems. Any pieces you leave behind when you’re removing them will immediately begin to regrow and start over.

Anacharis blocks out light and steals the nutrients of most native aquatic plants. Because Anacharis grows faster than these native plants it makes it easy for them to out compete the native plants. In addition, when left to grow freely, Anacharis forms thick mats of floating plant that make it difficult for recreational activities such as fishing, rowing, swimming, and even boating. If your propeller gets tangled in a mat of Anacharis, your day is surely ruined.

How to Prevent These Plants from Growing in Koi Ponds

The most effective way to keep these plants from being a problem for your koi ponds is to avoid them from the start. There are lots of species to choose from when starting koi ponds that you’ll always be able to find a safer alternative.

Look for plants that won’t survive in the wild where you live. However, if you really can’t find an alternative, or if you just love one of these invasive plants there are steps you can take to be safe. For starters, never release anything from your koi pond into the wild. You shouldn’t dump your pond’s plants into a stream, river, or another pond.

When you’re disposing of your plants, do so safely. You’re either going to want to dry them out completely, or freeze them. Whichever method you use, you should dispose of them in a sealed bag. Build stone walls around your koi pond to keep your plants separated from local waters in the event of a flood that could otherwise enable your plants and animals to escape.

Armed with this information you’re ready to build the koi pond of your dreams that’s safe for the environment. Aquatech Aquarium Service has a wide variety of supplies and equipment to help you realize your vision.

Show Your Fish Some Love With These Aquarium Maintenance Tips for Newbies

aquarium maintenance from aquatech aquarium serviceYour fish will love their new home if you set up your aquarium the right way. Many new fish keepers are in a rush, and feel that they have to get started with their new aquarium immediately. It’s common to head down to the local fish store and purchase an aquarium, fish, and supplies in one stop. But in order to have a thriving aquarium, some factors must be taken into consideration before the aquarium is installed. A fish keeper should also plan on a regular schedule of aquarium maintenance. To keep your cleaning chores to a minimum, follow these handy tips during setup:

Location, Location, Location!

It’s important to choose your aquarium’s location wisely. Experts advise a quiet area to get the best results. Too much activity nearby might scare your fish, especially as they get used to their new environment. Scared fish are not happy fish.

It is also a good idea to keep your aquarium completely covered. This ensures your fish remain inside of your tank, and help to reduce loss of water due to evaporation and splash. It also reduces the overall amount of aquarium maintenance needed. If you have kids or pets, keeping your tank closed will also help keep small hands and paws out.

Avoid placing your aquarium in direct sunlight, or exposed to very strong light sources. This can create heat issues, and can also lead to unwanted algae growth inside the tank. Algae buildup can starve the tank’s water of oxygen, making it difficult for fish to breathe properly. The buildup also makes aquarium maintenance more time consuming and difficult.

Creating an Ecosystem

When starting a new aquarium, keep in mind that an aquarium is more than just a box of fish. Both freshwater aquariums and saltwater aquariums are living, thriving, ecological systems. A fish keeper creates this environment specifically for the particular underwater creatures that inhabit it. That means that the water must be as close to the fishes natural environment as a fish keeper can make it.

Aquarium maintenance must include water quality checks. You can purchase packets to add to an aquarium’s water to treat it properly. These packets contain the necessary chemicals and micro-organisms needed to re-create the aquatic environment that fishes prefer. It also pays to avoid being in a rush. Allowing an aquarium to run for a few days to a week is recommended to prepare the tank to take on fish.

Digging Your Gravel

An aquarium needs more than just water. It needs a gravel, sand, or other material to serve as a base. Gravel is ideal, because it can be easily cleaned, and it does not need to be every replaced as often as sand. Remember, with regular aquarium maintenance, the gravel must be cleaned, or sand changed at least twice a month. This ensures that toxic elements like algae, fish poop, old fish food, and other debris don’t remain in the water where they can harm your undersea creatures.

A Word About Decor

Adding decorations and a background is always fun. It creates a lively environment for your fish to thrive, and improves the overall visual effect. Your local aquarium maintenance or fish store usually has plenty of decorations on display for you to purchase. Natural objects such as coral, live plants, and shells also make wonderful additions to any display.

Keep in mind that any decorations must be rinsed thoroughly before placing them in the tank. This removes any traces of chemicals or debris created during the manufacturing process. When adding live plants, always make sure that the tank is at least half full to avoid damaging them. Place larger decorations to the rear of the tank and smaller ones towards the front. That will create a nice open swimming area for your fish to roam around in.

Filtering the Possibilities

An efficient filter plays a very important role in aquarium maintenance. The filter keeps the water in aquarium clean and free of toxic chemicals. A properly sized filter is important to maintain the health of fish.

Filters usually perform three separate stages of filtration to keep an aquarium supplied with the right balance of chemicals and flora. Mechanical filtration helps trap solid particles such as fish poop and uneaten food. Chemical filtration uses blocks or pads of material such as carbon to absorb pollutants that cause odors and discolored water. Biological filtration introduces cultures of beneficial bacteria to an aquarium tank to eliminate the toxic ammonia and nitrates that accumulates in the water.

Aquariums Just Need a Little Love

Keeping an aquarium is very rewarding, but it also requires regular aquarium maintenance. Remember to change the water at least once every two weeks.  Clean the gravel or change the sand to improve the look of the aquarium. Clean or replace the filter. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, call  Aquatech Aquarium Service for the best, most convenient aquarium maintenance anywhere. Your fish will thank you for it!

A Plethora of Possibilities for Perfect Plantlife

java fern in aquarium
Java Fern

Everybody loves the look of real plantlife in freshwater aquariums, especially newbies who are just getting their feet wet (pun intended!) in the hobby. But the big question is this: What kinds of plants are best suited for the beginning aquarist?

One can find a wide variety of plants at your local store, but which ones are best?

Well, here’s our take on things. The following five plant species are fairly simple to grow and maintain, and can make even the most rank beginner’s tank look like a miniature ocean forest with a minimum of expense. Plus, if you stick to these five, you likely will avoid wasting money on plants that just won’t work.

Best plantlife bets for beginners

The Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus) tops our list, largely due to the fact that it does not require gravel or sediment, or even high-intensity light to grow. In fact, for this species, less is more when it comes to light. You could even make your entire tank a java fern forest, if that suits your taste. This species is sometimes seen attached to driftwood and rock in planted aquariums. One issue though is the Java fern’s slow rate of growth, so you will want to plant it first, before you put any other plants around it.

Another great low-light plant with which beginners will find success is Wisteria (Hygrophilous difformis). Wisteria needs to be planted in gravel or sediment, though it can survive if not planted. A very fast-growing plant, wisteria is well-equipped to out-compete algae, as it reproduces at a relatively fast rate and usually requires regular pruning to keep it from overtaking your aquarium.

The only reason Java Moss (Vesicularia dubyana) isn’t at the top of this list is because it is a challenge to grow for even the most experiences freshwater fish hobbyist. It does not require substrate or high intensity lighting, but once it has established itself and is flourishing in your tank, it can become obnoxious and take over your tank. Java moss requires continuous maintenance in the beginning, allowing you to create a lush garden in only a few months. It is a great plant for hiding aquarium equipment in the tank, too.

Here’s one every beginner can grow: Anubias (Anubias nana). It does require you plant it in a gravel bed, but it doesn’t require high-intensity lighting or any specific water conditions. It can, in fact, even prosper out of the water. Anubias prefers water movement around its rhizomes and it is highly susceptible to beard algae, a brownish/greenish algae that takes over the leaves. The biggest negative for this species is its slow rate of growth. So you should prune lightly and only when you absolutely have to trim.

Also known at “turtle grass,” Anacharis (Egeria densa) is a low-light plant that can either be free floating or planted in the gravel. The invasive nature of this species makes it a difficult find in hobby stores, but if you do find it, take heart in knowing that it grows relatively quickly compared to anubias and java fern.

All this plantlife will prosper in a aquarium that has a pH range between 5 and 9. CO2 injection is not required and most of these plants can be found in any local pet store. Follow this list and your new aquarium will look amazing!

Creating a Tropical Aquarium Paradise

Aquarium habitat choicesWhen you think about a tropical aquarium, after you have chosen the fish you want to inhabit your new environment, your mind has to immediately go to the decorations, right?

Certainly, decorations are a key requirement, but they add to the aesthetic appeal of your tank and at the same time, they add a sense of security by providing a safe place for your fish to hide out from time to time.

Here’s where it gets fun … and frustrating! The selection of decoration is seemingly endless: live or fake plants? Real or fake rocks? And which ornaments should you choose? Do I need a castle? Or maybe a treasure chest?

Choices, choices, choices for the tropical aquarium

Whatever your decisions, make sure you check with your tropical aquarium professional to make sure your choices are safe for your particular type or tank. Here is some basic information about some of the key ingredients you will be considering as you decorate your tank:

Substrate: While a substrate is not required for most fish, it really adds to the aesthetics and most hobbyists choose to include substrate in their tanks to provide that “ocean floor” look. Gravel tops the list here as it comes in a variety of shapes sizes and colors. Most hobbyists find the medium-sized gravel to be the best choice, but some gravitate toward the smaller gravel in planted tanks. Stay away from the large gravel as it can trap food, waste and even small fish.

Decorative Aquarium Stones: You can collect stone for your tank yourself if you like, though there are plenty of stones collected commercially to provide a wide array of choices. As long as the stones you use are natural (as in found in nature and not man-made) you can use lava rock, slate, river rock, quartz and petrified wood. Other rocks you may find attractive are glass and ice rock, river pebbles, pagoda rock, zebra rock, honey onyx, rainbow rock and red desert rock.

Your stones will need to be sterilized before you put them into the tank, but a good bath in boiling water will take care of that.

Lace rock is also a popular choice, though it does come with some disadvantages. It’s plethora of crevasses and craters give lace rock a three-dimensional appearance, but it is sharp to the touch, and it is a challenge to removed algae accumulations from it.

Ceramics: Ok, let the debate begin! Opinions vary among hobbyists about the appropriateness and suitability of ceramic objects as aquarium ornaments, from a safety standpoint. But the bottom line is, some objects are perfectly fine while others are not as they leech metals toxic to the fish as their finish deteriorates. The key is finding ceramics that are labeled “dinnerware safe.” Such objects are glazed and fired using techniques and solvents that will not dissolve in acidic conditions. These meet strict standards designed to protect us from accidental poisoning, and the same will keep your fish safe too.

A simple test will confirm is your piece is safe. Simply take some vinegar and dilute it to a pH of 5, which is what one can reasonably expect their tank’s environment to be under the most extreme aquarium situation. Submerge part of the ornament in question and wait. After a month examine the glaze on the object and compare the acid treated portion to the part unexposed to the vinegar. If it still shines, it’s ok for your tank.

Un-glazed pieces are also suitable, such as terracotta pots. Just make very sure they are not glazed or painted. Broken pieces of pots are suitable too, but be very careful about using pieces with extremely sharp edges as they can injure both you and your fish.

Driftwood: You can find natural driftwood, another decoration that can add character to an tropical aquarium, in a variety of locations, such as alongside rivers and streams. Check with your local aquarium shop as well, as they certainly will have several types of exotic imported and artificial driftwood available.

Artificial Plants: Advances in technology have brought the art of artificial plant making to a whole new level. And the advantage here is artificial plants are so much easier to keep alive! As you pick out your artificial plants, choose plants of varying heights, leaf shapes, and colors, and use tall plants to hide lift tubes and heaters. You can put a couple of medium-height plants in the center of your tank, and use the short ones for accenting rocks and driftwood.

As with all things, just use your common sense in deciding how much and what kinds of decorations you want to use in your new tank. And have fun making your tank a unique environment fitting your own décor and taste.

Artificial Plants: Top Aquarium Benefits

artificial plants for the aquariumIf you are considering artificial plants for your new aquarium installation, there are a few issues you need to review. Some people might debate the matter of live plants versus artificial ones, but if you are just beginning with the hobby of fish-keeping, choosing artificial plants can be more advantageous. There may be an impulse to consider live plants, but the beginner should take some time to learn the differences live versus artificial plants make.

Why Real Plants Can Be a Problem

Although live plants can add some good to the environment of a fish tank, for the novice fish-keeper there are some maintenance challenges involved. Live plants will require a specific type of bottom strata, as well as fertilizer. The chemicals of the fertilizer for the plants can become toxic toward the fish. Also, because they are alive, real plants will go through a life-cycle, shriveling and dying, and then they would need to be replaced. The maintenance necessary for live plants might be beyond the time and patience of a fish-keeping novice.

Benefits of Artificial Plants

There are several benefits in choosing to decorate the tank habitat with artificial plants.

  • No biological waste from the plants in the aquarium system
  • Over all, artificial plants cost less than live ones
  • No need for a specific substrata in the tank
  • No risks of carrying parasites
  • Artificial plants won’t be eaten by the aquarium residents

Selecting the specific type of artificial plant to use takes some consideration. Plastic plants will be very durable. But if you choose fish that have delicate fins, you need to make certain that the edges of the plants will not damage the fish. A simple test of the edges can be done by running stockings over the edge: if the stocking snags and tears on the edge of the plastic plant, you can assume that it would hurt the fish. The other alternative is silk plants. The silk plants would have a more natural movement in the water, as well as not having the cutting hazard.

Seek Advice

It’s always a good idea to seek advice when you venture into a new activity, such as keeping fish. There are many details to consider when setting up a new aquarium, such as the tendency of a fish to nibble on the plants, or the energy required to maintain live vegetation. The possibilities with artificial plants give you a wide range of looks from the brightly colored truly artificial plants to synthetic vegetation that can look natural and move easily in the water.

Contact the team at Aquatech Aquarium Services today for advice on how to design your new fish habitat, and then enjoy hours and hours of pleasure.

Choosing Aquarium Plants

live plants in an aquariumSelecting live plants for your aquarium depends on whether you will have a freshwater tank or a marine one. Some aquarium plants will thrive only in freshwater, while others are needed in the diets of some marine fish. Everything about an aquarium habitat affects other aspects of it. The type of fish you choose determines the volume of water and its salinity, as well as the types of live plants you include.

The Benefits of Live Aquarium Plants

The benefits of adding live plants to your aquarium are that they give the environment a natural looking appearance.  The fish respond favorably to the more natural habitat, which helps keep them healthy. Additionally, live plants help oxygenate the water. They can even absorb nitrates, thus helping keep the whole system in balance.

Knowledge Helps in Selection

It is important that you learn about the aquarium plants you select, however. Some will live totally submersed only for a limited period, and then die. When that happens, the plants must be removed so that the rotting vegetation does not contaminate the tank water.  In a marine aquarium, you are most likely choose either a sea grass or a macro algae. Unlike the sea grass, macro algae lack true roots. Instead of roots, the algae secure themselves with rhizomes or holdfasts with individual runners supporting the growth.

Some marine fish and invertebrates definitely need live plants in the aquarium habitat. There are fish that are not comfortable in open spaces, and so require vegetation as part of their environment. Others need plants as part of their diet. Considering all these aspects as you plan your aquarium will lead to a combination of fish and plants that will be healthy for the fish and a pleasure for you for a long time to come.

Live aquarium plants

Getting Expert Help

Pay attention to the needs of your choice of fish, and then learn what you will need to do in order to maintain the plant-life in your tank. Don’t over-crowd the aquarium with vegetation. Seek advice from an expert about which specific plants will best serve the fish you intend to keep. Enjoy the graceful beauty of live plants in your aquarium, whether you choose freshwater or saltwater.

A Nano Reef For You

Nano reef aquariumMaintaining a nano reef tank has become a growing area of interest for those who like to keep aquariums as part of their home or work environment. The special attraction of live coral has a strong appeal for those who love having aquatic life around them.

The beauty of live coral can draw an aquarium aficionado to the possibilities of keeping a live mini-reef. But for the beginner in this niche of fish-keeping, there are some key things to learn before spending the money on live coral.

Just What Is a Nano Reef Tank? 

A reef tank is a saltwater or marine aquarium that contains live corals specifically, along with other marine invertebrates. It can include such fish that help maintain the environment of a tropical coral reef. This type of aquarium will need proper lighting, a very stable water chemistry, and continual water movement. The selection of which reef animals to include must be done carefully, to make sure that they will thrive together in the same environment.

A nano reef should not be regarded as a toy version of an ocean reef. A well-kept nano reef is a full-fledged marine habitat, that has to be carefully maintained. None of the tasks involved in keeping a tank reef are difficult, it is just that they must be performed on schedule. The environmental balance needed to keep your coral alive has to be watched over.

Getting Started 

The first thing you need to select when planning a nano reef tank is what size of aquarium you want to use. Typically, anything under 37 gallons would fall into this category. Some good starter sizes are considered to be a standard 10 gallon, 15 gallon or 20 gallon tank. Because of the growing popularity of reef-keeping, the beginner may actually be able to find product packages that include the compact high intensity lamps, specialized filters and smaller water pumps the reef tank would require. Choosing the proper equipment will keep your nano reef habitat in the most viable condition.

Challenges in Keeping a Nano Reef 

A nano reef will not take care of itself. In fact, because it is a smaller sized aquarium, the keeper will have to pay greater attention to the basics of the water quality in the tank.  You may have to check the water chemistry twice a week, even changing the water once a week. There are many chemical levels that have to be checked, in order to keep your coral thriving. Even slight changes in temperature can have an effect on your nano reef.

Given the smaller size of the tank, and the fact that it is a marine environment, the choice of inhabitants needs to be carefully considered. The smaller sized fish, such as clownfish or gobies, are a better choice. But in any case, you need to be certain that the inhabitants can get along well in the limited space. Get the advice of an expert on which species should do well in the presence of the coral.