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.

Cool Tips for Keeping Your Aquarium Fish Happy in Hot Weather

As the long days of summer begin and the mercury inches up the thermometer, sometimes it’s all too easy to enjoy the sunshine and forget about the effects of the heat on your aquarium fish. To ensure your fish’s health, both freshwater aquariums and saltwater aquariums need to stay below a maximum of 86 ° Fahrenheit. However, the water temperature in your custom aquarium can increase during these hot summer months without you realizing it.

Why Heat is Bad for Aquarium Fish

If you find that the water in your aquarium is getting warm, don’t be too alarmed. Remember that unlike custom aquariums, there are no magic heaters in the wild to ensure that a fish’s water temperature remains constant. Cold winter nights, hot summer days and weather like rain all work together to ensure that fish in their natural environment do not experience the same temperature for too long. Most natural aquatic environments can vary up to 30 degrees throughout the day and night.

However, because oceans, rivers, and lakes contain so much water, it takes a long time for the temperature to rise or drop. In a custom aquarium, there is not nearly as much water, so it can quickly get hotter or colder based on the outside temperature. It is this rapid change in temperature that causes issues.

The other main killer of aquarium fish due to heat is the lack of oxygen dissolved in the water at higher temperature levels. When the water temperature in your aquarium rises, oxygen levels in the water drop. Your fish can become not only overheated but also starved for oxygen. If you’re finding your aquarium fish gasping at the surface, it’s definitely time to start cooling your aquarium! There are plenty of easy ways to keep things cool and keep your fish happy on a hot summer day. There are also plenty of things NOT to do, that could end up harming your aquarium fish instead. So here are a few do’s and don’ts in keeping your tank’s temperature down when the weather heats up:

DO: Keep the Room Cool

The best and easiest way to keep your custom aquarium cool is to keep the rest of the room cool as well. For example, if your tank is standing in direct sunlight for much of the day, you can block the sunlight by drawing the blinds or curtains. This has the added benefit of reducing excessive algae growth. Also consider leaving the air conditioning on, or having fans blowing. In fact, simply placing a fan so it blows directly across the water can make a big difference in water temperature.

DON’T: Directly Add Cold Water or Ice

Naturally, one would think that the best way to cool down water is to add ice or cold water. However, it is not a good idea to simply add ice to a fish tank. The water in most saltwater and freshwater aquariums has been specially treated. The water or ice you add is not treated. This could drastically change the chemical composition of the water, and this change will stress a fish more than temperature changes! Also, if you suddenly add ice to an overheating aquarium the temperature will decline very rapidly. This shock of suddenly colder water can cause immense stress, which makes fish vulnerable to disease and can even cause immediate death.

DO: Use Ice Bottles to Help Keep Things Cool

You can add plastic bottles of frozen water to help cool things off. Take extra care that you don’t overfill the bottles, and clean the outside thoroughly. Make sure they do not crack or otherwise leak untreated water into your treated tank. Use smaller bottles to keep the tank from cooling too quickly. A good idea is to place an external aquarium filter in a bucket and pack the bucket with ice. This will cool the water as it passes through the filter without anything foreign going inside the actual tank. You can also route the filter pipes and hoses through the bucket to help further cool the water.

DON’T: Turn Off Your Aquarium Heater

It seems like it would be a good idea. But the problem with turning off the heater in a custom aquarium is that most heaters will only turn themselves on if there is a drop in temperature. So you gain nothing if you turn off the heater when it is already hot outside. In addition, if you forget to turn the heater back on again, it won’t be able to warm your aquarium fish when the temperature drops off rapidly at night. It’s a better idea to just leave it on, rather than risk potential problems later.

DO: Turn off The Aquarium Lights

Many aquarium lights tend to generate a lot of excess heat. This is especially true for metal halide, or T5 lights. So, if your aquatic plants allow it, you can keep your aquarium lights on for only a few hours. If possible, keeping the lights off entirely during the hottest days of summer can definitely help keep air and water temperatures down.

DO: Open the Aquarium’s Hood

A quick and easy way to reduce the temperature inside your tank is to open or remove the top hood. This helps the heat escape. Beware if your fish are ‘jumpers‘, however. If you are not careful, you may find them trying to ‘surf the floor’! You also want to ensure animals such as cats cannot gain access to the tank. A mesh top for your tank is a great idea that not only keeps your tank cooler, but also keeps prying paws out of your custom aquarium.

A Cool Aquarium Fish is a Happy Aquarium Fish

No matter which method you use, the key is to be sure to keep the rate of change slow. A rapid change in water temperature can be harmful to your aquarium fish, and the tank in general. Therefore, it’s a good idea to monitor your aquarium’s water temperature if it gets too warm outside. It’s better to work to maintain the tank’s temperature, rather than have to find a way to cool it off after it overheats. However, if you’re in doubt, the best thing you can do is speak to your professional aquarium maintenance specialist. They can help you find the best solution to ensure your custom aquarium always runs at its optimal temperature.

5 Great Android Apps for Aquarium Maintenance

aquarium maintenanceA custom aquarium is a fascinating addition to any home. Aquarium fish swimming back and forth are a mesmerizing and captivating show. Aquarium maintenance is important, however. You’ll need a regular schedule for feeding the fish, and also for cleaning the tank and filters. You must also know when to add chemicals if necessary, and how much to add.

Not to worry. Help, advice, and even reminders for everyday aquarium maintenance are only a tap away. There are several apps for your Android phone or tablet that can ease your aquarium maintenance chores. With these apps, you be on the right track to a fabulous aquarium. Here are five free Android apps you can use to stay up to date with your aquarium maintenance:

Aquarium Note

The designers created Aquarium Note for both freshwater and saltwater aquarium hobbyists. If you enjoy keeping aquarium fish, aquatic plants and corals, this app is for you. It helps you record and keep track of water parameters, aquarium maintenance activities, and more. You can also keep track of your aquarium fish and their health. The app also reminds you when it’s time to perform aquarium maintenance, like changing the water or cleaning the tank or filters. The app can even export your data to email, the web, or to a .pdf file. That way, you can always keep tabs on your saltwater or freshwater aquariums no matter where you are.
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Aquarium Manager

A freshwater or saltwater aquarium requires regular maintenance. Like most things, it’s easy for chores like these to slip your mind from time to time. Aquarium Manager helps you schedule regular maintenance and feeding tasks in advance. The app also gives you tips on aquarium fish management and feeding, water quality, and more. You can keep a daily diary of your saltwater or freshwater aquarium right on your phone. You can even take photos of your aquarium, so you can share it with your friends and family.
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Aquarium Calculator

This app is a set of tools for new and custom aquariums alike. It calculates tank volume, surface area, and water weight for any type or shape aquarium. You can calculate CO2 and water hardness using common unit conversions. This calculator comes in handy if you need to know how much water you will need for a certain size or custom aquarium design. It  also helps give an estimate of how much the water in the tank will weigh. This is useful to know when placing a new aquarium on a shelf or hutch.
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Aquarium Advice

AquariumAdvice.com is an active forum that fellow aquarium owners staff and maintain. It offers up-to-date information on just about anything related to aquarium maintenance. The app helps diagnose problems with your fish or plants. You can read and post reviews of aquariums, filters, and more. The app makes it easy to browse through the forums for whatever aquarium maintenance information you need. It can even help you become an active member of the AquariumAdvice.com owner community.
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Fish Lore Aquarium Forum

FishLore.com is another aquarium fish website with an active, fun and friendly forum. This app lets you browse through the forums on your Android device. Express yourself and join the community of freshwater and saltwater aquarium owners. The forum has lots of knowledge, tips, and advice for owners of both saltwater aquariums and freshwater aquariums.
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Apps Make Maintenance Easier

These Android phone apps make your aquarium maintenance and fish-keeping tasks easier to handle. They also offer advice and tips from other fishkeeping enthusiasts just like you. They make it easier to join a community of like-minded freshwater or saltwater aquarium owners. The app can even take pictures of your fabulous aquarium fish so you can show them off to your friends and family.

Of course, for the best tips and advice on aquarium maintenance, it’s always best to speak with a professional. The experts at Aquatech Aquarium Service in Culver City have tons of knowledge and experience. You can even use your new apps to keep track of scheduling regular aquarium cleaning sessions from Aquatech, and spend more time simply enjoying your aquarium!

4 Great L.A. Aquariums You Should Check Out

Children at a public aquariumShould you visit aquariums? Southern California has so much natural beauty for tourists and locals to enjoy. Since it is located next to the ocean, the marine life in particular is both diverse and breathtaking. Whether you live in the Los Angeles area and are looking for something unique to do, are visiting and looking for a fun experience for the family, or are considering an aquarium installation in your own home and are seeking inspiration, visiting aquariums in the Los Angeles and Long Beach area is a great idea.

The Wonders of L.A. Public Aquariums

There are a number of incredible sea creatures indigenous to southern California, including the Orca and the Blue Whale – the largest living mammal. The area is home to the basking shark and the blue shark, as well as sea lions and the bottle nosed dolphin. There are a number of great freshwater and saltwater aquariums that will give you the opportunity to get a close look at these animals. For your convenience, we have compiled for your enjoyment a list of four of the most popular and exciting aquariums.

1. Aquarium of the Pacific – Located in Long Beach 

Located across the water from the Long Beach Convention Center, this expansive aquarium attracts around 1.5 million visitors a year, and for good reason! The Aquarium of the Pacific contains over 11,000 types of animals, and over 500 types of species. The aquarium aims to introduce its audience to the seascapes of the Pacific and the inhabitants that can be found there. Perhaps one of the best aspects of the Aquarium of the Pacific is that it strives to emphasize the importance of conservation, creating messages specific to each region of its three permanent galleries.

The Southern California and Baja Gallery

This gallery features an ample three story tank that contains 142,000 gallons of water. Each gallery contains exhibits – this one presents three for its visitors. First, there is the “Amber Forest Exhibit.” This display replicates a giant kelp forest where animal lovers can admire the scorpion fish among others.

The Gulf of California Exhibit includes exotic and beautiful marine creatures, such as the Cortez Rainbow Wrasse, the Mexican Lookdown, and the Porcupine Fish. Finally, there is the seal and sea lion habitat that includes a ray touch pool and a shorebird sanctuary.

The Northern Pacific Gallery and the Tropical Pacific Gallery

This gallery educates visitors about organisms that can be found in the Bering Sea. Here you can view diving birds, a sea otter habitat, and a giant Pacific Octopus tank. The Tropical Pacific Gallery presents visitors with a look at animals living off of the coast of the Islands of Palao.

If you pay this aquarium you visit, be sure to check out the Shark Lagoon, the Lorikeet Forest, and the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, all worthy investments of time with lovable creatures.

2. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, San Pedro California 

The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is operated by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. Offering school and group programs as well as hosting many visitors, this tropical aquarium has both indoor and outdoor exhibit spaces, an auditorium, and wet laboratories. The architecture of this aquarium is striking – in 1981 the famous architect Frank Gehry re-designed the structure.

Along with the impressive architecture, the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium boasts the largest collection of Southern California marine life in the world. At the aquarium, you can explore interpretive displays, museum collections and adaptations of the local sea life. This aquarium is special because it takes an interactive and natural approach to educating its visitors on the marine environment.

3. The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

Adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, this aquarium welcomes 65,000 visitors from across the globe. It offers educational programs, activities and special events to address pollution, being friendly to the environment, and marine conservation.

Among the exhibits that the aquarium offers its visitors are shark, ray and octopus tanks. There are three touch tanks you can use to feel the animals as well as a crustacean tank. Be sure to look into the kelp forest tank and the sandy bottom tank when you explore this fascinating venue.

Like the other tropical, saltwater and freshwater aquariums, Santa Monica Pier Aquarium recognizes the importance of marine conservation. They educate interested visitors about keeping Coastal waters safe, healthy and clean, and organize community action programs.

4. Ty Warner Sea Center

Located on Stearns Wharf, the Ty Warner Sea Center is owned and operated by the Museum of Natural History. It includes features such as the Living Beach Interactive Tide Pool, and the Biolab, which depicts the biological life cycle of marine creatures. Among other exhibits one very impressive display there is the Mammal Mezzanine, which includes thirty six species of marine mammals.

These aquariums teach their visitors how to respect and appreciate the marine life around them. They also take the time to stress the importance of conservation, so that we will be able to enjoy our ocean-dwelling companions for as long as possible. Show your support for these good causes, and learn about fascinating creatures by stepping in to their world for a day. Locals, tourists, and enthusiasts interested in aquarium design alike have to agree that this is a win-win situation!