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.

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.

Getting to the Bottom Sand of Aquariums

aquarium with sand bottomIn choosing what will go into the bottom of the aquarium, there are two possible ways to go for the basic substance: gravel or sand. For the moment, let’s just consider sand and the options available.

For many aquarium owners, there’s a feeling that sand looks more natural, but there are considerations that have to be weighed in making that choice. Because an aquarium is a small, closed environment, the owner has to take good care to make sure the selection won’t create more problems than can be dealt with. There are several different types that can be chosen, but the owner needs to evaluate whether a specific type will suit the fish that will be living with it.

Maintaining a Sandy Bottom

One of the first things the aquarium owner needs to consider when choosing the sands for the bottom is the matter of simple maintenance. The biological debris from the fish will settle on the bottom and can easily sink into a sandy base to decompose. This decomposition will release gases that can get trapped in the sand. A sudden massive release of methane into the water would not be good for the finny residents. So the substrate will need to be stirred and turned over from time to time. Consider how much time you have to give to this activity. There are various means for handling this task, but it will require time and attention.

Type of Habitat

Another factor in choosing the material for the tank’s substrate is whether or not there will be live plants included. If so, the plants need to be carefully selected, as many will not thrive with a sandy bottom. The weight of the substrate will prevent the roots from gathering nourishment. Learn as much about the requirements for the plants if you want to have them in your sandy bottomed aquarium.

Chemical Balance

Some sands will slowly leach chemicals into the tank water, even after the sand has been washed and prepared for the aquarium. The type of sand needs to be evaluated for such possibilities and whether the fish that will be living in the aquarium can tolerate the additional chemicals or not. These considerations are not about pollution effects, by the way, but rather the make-up of the sand itself. The calcium from a limestone sand, for instance, might be detrimental to some fish.

Tropical fish in a colorful aquarium habitat.Types of Sand

There are several types of sand which can be used in aquariums. The steps to prepare the different sands might not be the same, but they are not difficult to learn. Silica, which is also used for sandblasting, is considered the easiest to clean. Play sand, which gets used for playground sand boxes and construction purposes, is easily found at hardware stores. It is more work to clean, however, and is darker in color than the silica sand.

Black Beauty is also easily available, but has some special considerations to it. It is in fact iron slag and not really a sand. The small particles have sharp edges to them, so if you have fish that like to sift substrate and move it about, this is not the ideal selection. Plus, being iron, it will react chemically to the water environment.

Three other sands that are frequently used in aquariums are Coral Sand, Aragonite, and Black Tahitian Moon Sand. These are somewhat more expensive and mostly available through fish shops and stores that service aquarium owners.

Making a Good Fish Habitat

In the end (or at the bottom), the choice of whether to use sand or not and which type if the choice is “yes” depends on the fish that will live with it and your ability to do the maintenance work.  But once the choice is made, a sandy substrate can provide a lovely, natural look to the tank.  If you’re curious and want more information about designing your own aquarium, whether you have questions about tank substrate or any other aspects of aquarium design or installation, check us out on our website  — we’ll be happy to help!