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.

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!