How to move a large aquarium

Move a large aquarium - in the new house

Moving a Large Freshwater Fish Tank

(Without killing any fish!)

I have kept tropical fish for most of my life. During that time I have had the occasion to move with a 55 gallon fish tank three different times. The longest move entailed a 3 hour drive to get from my apartment in New York to our new house in Pennsylvania. Employing the same strategy each time, I successfully relocated my aquarium and all of its inhabitants safely to their new location over the course of a few days. Let me tell you how I did it.

Move a large aquarium
Move a large aquarium – before the move

My aquarium setup at the time consisted of a 55 gallon tank with an Aquaclear 110 HOB filter and an Eheim Classic canister filter. I had a standard fluorescent light hood with plant enhancing bulbs. The tank was occupied by 8 Buenos Aires Tetras, 6 Rosy Barbs, 6 Pearl Gouramis, 1 Red-Tail Shark, 1 small pleco and 7 Pepper Cory catfish. A large piece of driftwood, 2 very healthy Amazon Sword plants and several bunches of Anacharis were also in the tank when it was moved.

Planning and Preparation

This key step began a few weeks before the actual move. We had decided on the aquarium’s location in the new house. I used 2 twelve gallon Eclipse tanks that I had for a staging area for when the fish arrived and set them up on the floor close to the tank’s eventual location.

I had been saving and collecting empty 1 gallon water bottles for several months and had 20 of them. Over the course of 10 days I did 3 water changes and saved the water from the tank in my gallon bottles. I took a road trip to the new house 2 days before the move with the water and filed my two eclipse tanks filled with 90% aged water. I topped them off with fresh water, turned on the heaters and filters and the tanks were ready to receive some temporary guests.

One concession that I felt had to be made in the interests of completing this move in one day was to use mostly new substrate in the new location. This saved a lot of gravel washing and some valuable time. So I had 60 pounds of new substrate rinsed and ready to use stored nearby.

plastic storage box
plastic storage box

Many options had been considered for transporting the fish. Choosing against large plastic bags because of the oxygen deprivation factor I finally decided on using an old, solid plastic, picnic cooler. It sealed tightly and could be carried by two people once it was full. It had a capacity of 10 gallons and we wouldn’t need to fill it completely. I drilled 12 holes in the top for airflow. Now we were ready to roll.

Taking Down The Aquarium

On the morning of the move I began by taking down the filters, taking care to keep the filter media wet and in a plastic bag. These will be used at the new location to maintain the biological filtration and not shock the new tank. I am also taking about 5 pounds of the current substrate to get the new base started.

Now, with the help of my trusted assistants, my wife and son, we started emptying the tank. Using my siphon we filled the cooler about 3/4 full and then started filling the gallon bottles again. As the water level dropped in the tank I took out the plants and placed them in the cooler. The driftwood and rocks went in a bucket and now it was time to get the fish.

With the water now in the bottles and cooler the tank was only about half full. This made it easier to capture the fish and I started with the gouramis and got them safely one by one into the cooler. They swam down under the floating plants as I concentrated on the other fish. I started catching anything I can and soon had all the fish in the cooler. We closed it up and taped down the cover and put it into back seat of a car.

Moving quickly we finished emptying the tank and removed as much of the gravel as we could before picking up the tank and taking it outside. We gave it a good rinsing and loaded it into the back of an SUV.

Setting Up The New Aquarium

Move a large aquarium - in the new house
Move a large aquarium – in the new house

We drove to the new house with the fish securely strapped-in on the back seat. We had the water and all the other media and equipment and after a 3 hour drive arrived at our destination.

First I took the cooler and put the fish into their temporary tanks, putting the gouramis and cories on one tank and the rest in the other one. We then placed the aquarium and stand in its new location and filled it with the clean substrate. I mixed in the 5 pounds of older substrate I had gathered, concentrating it where my plants would go.

Now I filled the tank with the 20 bottles and the water that had travelled with the fish in the cooler. I put the filters into place using the old media and had them ready to go for when the tank was full. The tank was now half full and contained substrate so next I put the plants and driftwood piece in place.

Starting with the tank containing the smaller fish I began introducing the fish to their new home, which was the same as their old home. After finishing with the first tank I used its water to continue filing the main aquarium. I followed the same process with the second small tank and after its liquid contents went in we were almost full. A few extra gallons of fresh water were next and then the filters and heater got turned on.

I have had a 100% success rate with this procedure and have never lost a fish during a move. I think the key is to bring as much old water and biological media that you can to quickly ramp up the tank to its former state. This reduces the stress on your fish and leads to a smooth transition. Good luck if you are attempting to move with your tank. Following these basic tips will allow your fish to have a safe journey to their new home.

by AQUARIST GUIDE

 

Live rock and live sand

new live rock

Live Rock and live sand for Your Saltwater Aquarium

new live rock

If you are in the process of setting up a saltwater aquarium in your home and wondering about what live rock and sand are, and how to incorporate it into your tank, you will find all the answers below.

What is Live Rock?

Live rock comes from the ocean and is made up of the aragonite skeletons of corals that have long since died, and other calcareous organisms. When live rock comes from the ocean, it is usually inhabited by a variety of marine life, hence the name “live Rock”. Live rock is harvested from the sea for the aquarium trade and is not only necessary, but also adds to the décor of your tank, making it visually appealing.

Live rock needs to be cured before it is placed in your aquarium. Most of the organisms that did live in the rock before being taken out of the ocean, would have already died, which can pose a risk to a new aquarium. To avoid this problem, the rock gets put into water for a few weeks, making sure that all the dead organisms decompose completely. This process is needed so that the rock can no longer be a threat to the water quality.
There are a variety of different kinds of live rock, which get their names from the area where they came from. Each different type has different qualities that work better in certain kinds of aquariums.

uncured live rock
newly introduced uncured live rock

Types of Live Rock Available for Hobbyists

There are many different types of live rock available. Which type you choose to use is a personal choice. Here are the names of the variety of live rock available for your reference:
Fiji live rock, Totoka live rock, Florida rock, Caribbean rock, Vanuatu rock, Tonga rock, Base rock, Pacific rock, Atlantic rock, Reef rock, Cultured rock, Base rock, Artificial rock, Cured rock, Uncured rock, Eco-rock, Tonga rock and Aqua-Cultured Rock

What is Base Rock?

Base rock is a dry rock that never had any organisms living on or in it. Base rock is generally used as a filler for your aquarium and is much cheaper than live rock. It can also be hand-made from concrete called aragocrete. Hand-made base rock tends to be less attractive and heavier than natural rock that was harvested from the ocean.

How to Cure Live Rock

uncured live rock
uncured live rock

There are a number of different ways to cure live rock, but here are two methods that are recommended. Although it is not necessary for you to do this, as already cured live rock can be bought, if you wish to cure it yourself, here is how to go about it.

Method 1

This is the process to follow for aquariums that already contain corals, fish and other marine life.
Rinse each and every piece in a container of saltwater. This is done to remove debris, sand and other loose matter.
Using a new 30-gallon plastic container, put the live rock into the container and add seawater (gravity 1.021-1.025), making sure the rock is completely submerged.

Use a heater to keep the temperature of the water between 76 and 84 degree F. The warmer the water is, the faster the process will be completed.

Use an air stone or power head to create constant movement in the water.
It is important that you keep the area dimly lit because this prevents algae blooms.
You need to change the water every week – 100%of the water!
The rock will need to be scrubbed. Use a toothbrush or other nylon bristled brush. This needs to be done every time you change the water. Scrubbing the rock removes any dead materials.
After a week, you must periodically check the nitrate and ammonia levels. The rock is considered to be cured when the ammonia level tests reveal zero and when the water has stabilized. Once you reach this stage, your rock is ready to be put into your aquarium. It usually takes between 3 and 5 weeks for rock to be fully cured with this method.

Method 2

This is the process used for curing rock for an aquarium that had NO coral, fish or other marine life.
Live rock can be used in new aquariums. Firstly, you need to follow the directions provided by the manufacturer with regards to the installation of the filtration system and all other accessories. Fill your new aquarium with water and enough salt to get the correct water gravity (1.021-1.025). One that has been done, activate all the equipment, check to see if there are any leaks and then set the chiller/heater to between 76 and 84 degrees F.

As with method 1, rinse all the rock in a container to free it from all debris, sand and other organic materials.
Put the rock directly into the aquarium, creating a stable base for decorations and corals.
In order to reduce the possibility of algae grow, it is important to remember to keep the lighting system off during this time.

The rock will need to be scrubbed. Use a toothbrush or other nylon bristled brush. This needs to be done every time you change the water. Scrubbing the rock removes any dead materials.
The water will need to be changed (50%) on a weekly basis. This is done by siphoning out loose debris and other organic matter that has accumulated in the aquarium.

As with method 1, the nitrate and ammonia levels need to be checked on a weekly basis.
When the levels of the ammonia and nitrate are at zero, you need to perform a water change (50%).
Check the pH level of the water after 24 hours and adjust accordingly. The correct level is between 8.1 and 8.4.
With this method, most aquariums will be ready in 3-5 weeks.

How to Control Unwanted Pests

unwanted pests from live rock
unwanted pests from live rock

Place new rock into a container filled with saltwater (gravity 1.035-1.040) for one minute. Any bristle worms, mantis shrimp and crabs will very quickly leave the rock and end up in the water.

After the minute, take the rock out of the container and go through the invertebrates that are left behind. There may be some that you actually want in your system, so sort through them and get rid of the pests that you do not want to add to your aquarium. Bristle worms tend to stay attached to the rock, but you an easily remove them with a tweezers or a needle-nosed pliers. You can use this process before or after your rock is cured.

What is Live Sand?

newly laid live sand

Getting a new saltwater tank ready for the first few animals can be a challenging task. It can take some time to build a solid base for a successful aquarium.

Live Sand Explained

Basically, live sand is sand that a variety of invertebrates and bacteria call home. The sand is like an organ to an aquarium, much like the kidneys are to the human body. The kidneys take away pollutants and replace them with not so toxic chemicals that your body can deal with, which is what the sand does for your tank.

Live sand is a place where your tank’s “clean-up” team grow and live. Copepods, bristle worms, mini starfish and other marine creatures all live in and around the sand. They are all important for the health of your tank. They keep your tank clean.

When you buy live sand from a fish store, it is already inhabited by the invertebrates and bacteria that are needed to keep your aquarium healthy and clean.

Do I Have to Use Live Sand in my Tank?

It is not necessary to use live sand in your tank. Some people opt for not using any sand at all. Any sand that you add to your tank will become live sand after a while. Buying live sand can be a lot more costly than dry sand and comes in smaller bags as well. You do not need to buy live sand, as you are able to add dry sand that has just been washed, but make sure it has not been treated with any chemicals.To the sand you could add a little live sand which will spread into other sand creating a tank full of live sand.

You will need to boost your biological filter in some way, but if you are adding live rock to your tank, that will be the cultural boost that it needs and any sand that is present will become “live sand”.

The “Cheap” Method

It is recommended that you use regular sand in your tank if you are working on a strict budget. Live sand might work faster, but dry sand will work just as well, only it will take a little longer to see results. Adding just a small amount of live sand to regular sand will give it the boost it needs. The bacteria and other living creatures in the live sand will move into the dry sand and eventually make it become live sand.

How to Choose a Product

There are so many different options available, so how do you choose the right one for you. It is pretty simple actually you should choose a product according to how you want your tank to look. CaribSea is a popular choice for many people. You will also need to think about the types of animals that will be in your tank. Are they going to burrow in the sand? If so, you will need a specific type of sand.

The Benefits of Using Live Sand

It starts the cycling process right away.
Helps to maintain the correct pH levels.
It provides shelter for fish who like to bury themselves and a place for invertebrates to hide.
It lowers the levels of harmful nitrate
Essentially, at the end of the day, the live rock and live sand that you choose to use is a personal choice. Consider all your options and speak to the staff at the store for further advice on how to achieve what you are looking to create with your unique aquarium.

koi food

feeding koi with koi food

feeding koi with koi food

Koi food

What You Should Know about feeding your koi

Having a pond might be a good idea, especially one that’ll be booming with life. However, you can’t ignore having to feed your koi with proper koi food. With koi being a popular choice for any pond, what most people don’t realize is that they need to be fed regularly. Thinking that your koi will find enough food to eat from the wild in the pond is wrong. You’ll need to make an effort to feed them.

 

Everything you need to know to properly feeding koi is set out below.

Koi belong to the carp family, which means that they are omnivorous and can eat various kinds of food. However, feeding your koi involves more than just the food they eat. Here is a guideline of how much, when, and what to feed your koi.

Factors affecting feeding koi

There are various factors that you should take into consideration when feeding koi. You can’t just throw food in the pond thinking that your beautiful fish will eat it when hungry. You need to be aware of the food quality you’re giving, the temperature of the water, and the overall environment of the pond among other factors.

1. Food quality

The quality of food that you give to your koi plays a vital role in the rate of their growth as well as their well-being. This means that feeding your fish, food that isn’t high-quality will eventually make them ill. On the other hand, giving koi good quality food of , which a lot of pets shops have available, will have a positive effect on not only their body weight but also on the color and vibrancy of your fish.

Which foods are suitable?

Koi welcome various kinds of live foods which include worms as well. You can easily feed earthworms to your koi throughout the year. Worms contain a high amount of protein and are a favorite of omnivorous fish. You can also go green when feeding koi.

These ornamental fish will eat lettuce leaves as well as the flora present in and around the pond, such as duckweed.
You might want to throw other food to them such as pieces of bread. Koi will usually eat most types of food thrown in the pond to them; However, most of these food have little or no nutritional value for them and may even harm your fish.

You can feed your fish brown bread but not white. White bread is made using mild bleach; So do not feed your koi white bread.

Koi also eat foods like corn, beans or peas which have a shell-like skin. However, this skin will lead to your fish experiencing irritation as digesting the shell is difficult for them.

2. Temperature of the water

The water temperature determines the amount of food your fish eats as well as the frequency with which it eats. If you try to feed koi during winter, when the temperature of the pond is low, at the same rate with which you fed them during the warm summer months, you’ll end up harming them.

The digestive system of koi is dependent on the temperature of the water they live in. In cold temperatures, their digestive system slows down and even stops when the water is cold enough.

As the temperature of the water starts to fall, the level of protein that you mix in the feed should also be reduced. This change will not only help to make digestion easier for your koi, but will also help to avoid waste.
Similarly, as summer arrives and the temperature of the pond starts to increase, the protein in the feed should be increased because the metabolic rate of your koi will speed up. Therefore, a higher amount of protein will be needed for proper growth as well as for maintaining their health.

As mentioned, the temperature of water not only governs the kind of feed that one should use, but also the frequency at which the fish should be fed. When the temperature is low, feeding koi only once a day will be enough. On the other hand, when the pond’s temperature rises, koi can be given food every hour.

How much should you feed?

Of course, the amount of food as well as how often koi should be fed is debatable. However, a general rule is that when the water is around 58-Farenheit or below, then the protein level of your feed should be below 38%. When the water temperature falls below 46-Fahrenheit, you should stop feeding altogether.
Similarly, as the temperature of water rises, the amount of protein in the food, as well as the number of times you feed your fish in a day, should be increased. During the high-temperature summer months, the amount of protein in your feed should be somewhere in the forties and the number of times you feed the koi can rise to eight times per day.

Keep in mind that the fish should only be fed for a maximum of five minutes per one feeding. In the case where the fish doesn’t come up to devour the food, then this is an indication that the fish is either too warm, too cold or are not feeling hungry for some reason.

So, make sure that you feed light. If your fish are eating like they haven’t been fed for years, then you can just sprinkle food lightly on the water for a few minutes as long as you can see fish coming up to eat the food.

3. Quality of water

The quality of water has an effect on the growth rate of your koi, because in poor water quality your fish may lose their appetite and won’t eat the food provided. They might even stop feeding altogether. Moreover, poor quality of water negatively affects the metabolic rates of koi, hindering their digestion process.

Furthermore, the stocking level, which is the amount of koi you have in the pond, also affects the behavior of the fish and the way it grows. This means that you should have such an efficient filtration system which can easily cope with the increased amount of waste produced as your fish continue to eat and grow.

If your filtration system is not sufficient for the number of fish in the pond, then the quality of water will be significantly affected, which in turn affects the amount of food that the koi takes in.

More factors you need to consider

There are two more things you need to take care of when feeding koi. One is the digestive system of the fish and the second is overfeeding.

Digestive process of koi

The gut system of koi is a very simple one. They only have a long straight intestine through which all their food passes. The nutrients are extracted from the consumed food when it passes through their intestine. Therefore, your koi can only digest a small amount of food at a time. The amount decreases even more as the temperature of the water decreases.

Therefore, it is vital that you feed fish the right amount of food and a sufficient amount of protein to make sure that they extract the maximum nutrition from the food while also avoiding the possibility of over feeding.
Overfeeding

Perhaps, overfeeding is the most common mistake people make when it comes to feeding koi. One reason behind this is the fact that feeding time is the most enjoyable time that you have with your koi. During feeding, the koi come towards the surface to eat. At this time, you can not only see them eat, but can also interact with them. Seeing your fish gather near you while you feed them can make for an enjoyable experience. And they will become tame to you through continued feeding.

Overfeeding refers to any period where the fish eat more than the amount of food they require. This has adverse effects on your fish. An excessive amount of food can lead your fish to become sick and the increased amount of waste that the koi would have to produce causes the quality of water to decline exponentially.

Moreover, if the fish in your pond are fed an increased amount of food, then they develop huge pot bellies, and they start to resemble tadpoles because of their wispy tail and big body. Of course, this does not kill the koi; however, it does severely affect the internal organs such as the liver, and the natural beauty of these creatures.

When you feed more food than your koi can eat then this will stay in the water and pollute the water causing pollution which may make your koi ill. If you can remove any uneaten bits of food five minutes after feeding then you will save your fish any stress from rotting fish food.

Want to feed your koi from your hand?

Koi can enthusiastically learn to eat out of your hand. Once the fish get used to the idea of you being close to them, then you can bring some koi cookies or bread as a treat in an attempt to bring them even closer to you. You only need to dangle your hand filled with tasty treats in the water for them to come to your hand.

However, this task takes time before your koi become tame enough. It may take weeks or months before one of your brave koi to make its way towards you to enjoy the treat from your hand. It will take further time for the others to catch on to the same routine. Soon, the other koi will also be swarming towards your hand in search of the delicious treat.

If you take it slow, the koi might be able to be okay with an affectionate rub and even a pat on their head! That is how tame koi can become. And they may even just come to your hand even when you don’t have food for them.

weedy sea dragons

weedy sea dragons

The Subtle Beauty of the Weedy Sea Dragon

weedy sea dragons

The Weedy Sea Dragon is well-known for its majestic appearance and the ability to gently move through the water. You can easily lose sight of it when it decides to hide in its surroundings. This sea creature’s tricky nature adds to its overall appeal.

The Weedy Sea Dragon (scientifically called Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) is a very popular species (a close relative of the seahorse) that is found primarily just off the coast of southern Australia or in captivity in certain zoos in the US. They are unique animals that draw the attention of sea life enthusiasts worldwide.

They can make pets with caution, as a lot of work goes into the proper care of the Weedy Sea Dragon. They are also considered to be “Near Threatened” due to the difficulty of breeding in captivity and the low survival rate of the young in the wild. Because of this, private owners are encouraged to do more research about how to maintain and grow the current population. If you keep them your goal should be to breed them to maintain a back up population.
So, are you someone who wants a Weedy Sea Dragon? Are you up for the challenge, and interested in being able to help foster the continuation of this unique and fascinating type of sea horse? A good place to start is with some background.

What is a Weedy Sea Dragon?

weedy sea dragon
weedy sea dragon

Let’s start with the origin of the name. Sea Dragons, in general, were named after the dragons of Chinese legends. They are considered fish, but they don’t have a bony internal skeleton. Instead, they have an armored body protected by bony plates.

Weedy Sea Dragons are covered by leaf-like or moss-like appendages that decorate their bodies. They resemble seaweed and many times blend seamlessly with their underwater surroundings. They have curly tails, and they are slow swimmers, preferring instead to move in a swaying motion much like seaweed traveling along on ocean currents.

This ability is not accidental. It goes a long way in protecting the Weedy Sea Dragon from ocean predators. The camouflage they employ like armor is known as “mimicry” where the animal takes on chameleon-like traits to make themselves look “hidden in plain sight.”

In general Weedy Sea Dragons are known to live in rocky reefs, seaweed beds, seagrass meadows and really just about anywhere seaweed is found. They can sometimes be seen lurking in the shadows of pier or jetty pylons.
When they are seen it is a spectacular sight. They can often have amazing color patterns as well which include orange, red, yellow or even sometimes purple, depending on flora and fauna of their environment. They don’t just disappear, but they fit in. Like patterned wallpaper or the perfect divan, the Weedy Sea Dragon can add an air of completion to any seaweed colony.

Okay, so they’re pretty and fun to watch as they glide through the water. But what’s the big deal about them? Why are they becoming so rare?

There are 2 main reasons:

Feeding Problems of the Weedy Sea Dragon

Weedy Sea Dragons are unique in that they don’t have a digestive system. That seems like a weird thing for mother nature to have missed, but these little dragons make do by eating often and slowly. They eat by inhaling food through their snouts so everything must be the size of their snout or smaller.

Weedy Sea Dragons can range in size anywhere from 12 – 15 inches on average so they can usually be seen feeding on plankton, small shrimp and different types of malleable crustaceans. They’re not really known to be the fiercest of predators, but with their ability to blend in so well with their surroundings, catching unsuspecting prey ends up being an easy task.

However, as the intended prey adapts and get bigger and faster, it leaves the Weedy Sea Dragon at a disadvantage and often the animal has to go outside of its comfort zone to dine. This can be dangerous when your primary trait is blending in with familiar surroundings.

Breeding Sea Dragons is Difficult

weedy sea dragon courtship
weedy sea dragon courtship

Like seahorses, Weedy sea dragons are unusual because the male is the one to gestate and birth the babies. It is a task they take seriously and finding the appropriate partner is a must. The mating ritual between the two is long and involved, and at the end, the victor will deposit her eggs onto a sponge-like patch on the tail of the male Weedy Sea Dragon.

Gestation lasts about eight weeks or 2 months after which the eggs hatch and the baby dragons emerge. They are mostly independent and can take care of themselves, but they are still vulnerable to being eaten by all sorts of predators including penguins and fish.

Because of this, the mortality rate is at an astonishing 98% for the Weedy Sea Dragons born in the wild. Add this to the numbers that are accidentally rounded up in mass net fishing, or netted and used for medicinal purposes; you’ll see why their numbers are dropping fast.

To make matters tougher, for some reason breeding in captivity for these creatures can be difficult. To date, only a few Aquariums have been successful. The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California and the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, Tennessee along with the Melbourne Aquarium in Melbourne, Australia are among the very few that have successfully bred Sea Dragons in captivity.

The Weedy Sea Dragon, in particular, has been bred in captivity in Florida, Tennessee, and areas of Georgia as well as Australia. In fact, there is a protection act on the entire species in Australia.

It’s understandable if you try to look at it from their perspective. Being held captive in an unfamiliar environment could lead to them not being interested in breeding due to stress. The water, lighting, food or aquarium temperature might not be right. Additionally, the Weedy Sea Dragon is very picky. The courting process goes on for days, and the two paramours size each other up looking for true compatibility. This is hard to achieve and nearly impossible to fake in captivity unless there is a large breeding population.

newly hatched weedy sea dragon
newly hatched weedy sea dragon

In December of 2015, the captive breeding program at the Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium was able to replicate the conditions of the wild. By making changes to the lighting, water temperature, and flow, they were able to encourage breeding between their captive dragons successfully. In March of 2016, 45 fry (baby sea dragons) were still going strong and represented a 95% survival rate!

The fry themselves are destined to be world travelers. With extensive notes and connections to aquariums throughout the United States, China, Europe and the UK, these timid creatures are about to get the cultural experience of a lifetime. With a life expectancy of about nine years, it’ll be a short life, but a full one.
Keeping it as a Pet?

Well, that’s great! You might think. Breeding is happening all over the world so now it’s time for me to get a tank.
And you know what? Maybe it is. With the right care and conditions, you can help keep the Weedy Sea Dragon, a quirky part of the deep sea community. Make sure you purchase from a reputable and legal dealer, and that you have the setup and time to provide the care the animal needs.

If you don’t want to keep them yourself, then perhaps instead, encourage your local aquarium to invest in a herd of these creatures. By showing interest and volunteering your time or even a monetary donation, you can help the research that ensures the safety and survival of these precious sea creatures.

Top 10 tips on African Cichlids

crowded malawis

Top 10 tips for a successful African cichlid tank

African cichlids on youtubeTip number one. Watch a lot of cichlid videos on youtube. With many expert hobbyists giving first hand experience of setting up a cichlid aquarium, which species to buy, maintenance of a cichlid aquarium through to breeding the various, mbunas, peacocks, haps, Tanganyikans and other topics. Always be prepared to learn more because there’s tons of information in video format.

Tip number two. Over filtrate. Always buy a filter that is twice as powerful as the recommended size. Your tank has to be super clean the reason is because most Malawi tanks are overcrowded. Malawi aquariums are over stocked to spread aggression. Malawis are big eaters and cichlids are constantly producing waste you need to over filtrate. Running two filters simultaneously in the same tank is also a great idea. Canister filters are a must. You need to stuff them full of good filter material to do both mechanical and biological filtration.

Tip number three. Overstock your tank. Overstocking will crowded malawishelp spread the aggression between the fish so that no individual fish gets singled out. Even then you will still see aggression, where one fish will want to eliminate another particular tank mate. It is something that you have to expect when keeping Africans. But do all you can to keep that kind of behaviour down. To reduce it to a minimum. over stocking your tank, rearrange the rock scape every two weeks, and be quick to act when you see one fish getting constantly bullied by another. If it looks like one fish has picked out another fish for destruction remove the aggressor or the victim immediately.

Tip number four. Act quickly when you see a fish getting beaten up or looking ill. If you see mouth locking, tattered fins or hit marks on the side of the body. Immediately remove the weak or injured fish. If you leave it too late and remove a harassed fish you will often find that the fish will still end up dying either the same day or a few days later.

yellow bags in bagTip number five. Always add 4 or more fish to an aquarium at a time. Adding just one or two fish to an established aquarium results in the new fish entering other fishes already established territories and so will get beaten up.

Tip number six. Spend less on the filter canister and use the money saved to buy good quality filter media. And again having two canisters will enable you to service one canister while the other keeps running doing its job of filtering the impurities from the water and avoiding ammonia and nitrite spikes. And if
one filter fails you will still have one filter running until you can fix the broken filter or buy another one.

Tip number seven. If you skip one day a week of feeding the fish or possibly two days a week you will notice that your fish are more healthy and active. Also they will be less prone to getting Malawi bloat which is common in Malawis which are always eating. They are supposed to be eating mostly algae. So when they eat dried foods which are a more concentrated food than they find in the wild, you are actually overfeeding them. Also the water will be cleaner because less eating results in less fish waste.

Aquarium water changeTip number eight. Change 40-50% water changes every week. Try and set up an automatic top up system. Use a long hose system of some sort. When you add tap water use a water conditioner. It is wise to overdose rather than underdose on water conditioner. The easier this task is the less likely you are to skip it. Carrying buckets of water up and down in your living room every time you do a water change is likely to cause an accident at some time.

Tip number nine. Research on YouTube on the particular species of African that you intend to buy. You need to find out whether your particular fish is overly aggressive or passive or even a carnivore. Or the fish may grow much bigger than you can cope with. Always be prepared to move on a fish that is not suitable for your aquarium. Some fish that are beautiful and small when young can become nasty monsters that quickly outgrow your aqurium.

sulphur head peacockTip number ten. Don’t be too obsessive over getting everything exactly right. This is a hobby that is meant to be enjoyed so relax and don’t be too worry if the tank is not too perfect. You don’t have to be overly precise. Remember Malawis are strong fish that are mostly immune to things like ich.

Lastly an overall tip is to always chat with other hobbyists on the forums. Ask questions. Answer other people’s questions. Share your experiences with other hobbyists.

Koi Pond

koi pond

Building Your First Koi Pond

koi pond with streamA well built garden pond is relaxing and creates a feeling of coolness and mystery. You can design and create the perfect garden environment with water by building your own garden pond. You can allow your imagination complete freedom to build a koi pond that looks attractive while still being functional. Koi ponds should be at least 4 feet deep. This insures the koi’s habitat will remain frost-free even in the depths of winter.

One option is a preformed pond made of plastic which are very simple and fast to install and they’re available in a range of sizes and shapes. But are of fixed designs. Another option is using a rubber pond liner allowing you free scope. When designing a pond with liners you can put your own ideas for a pond into practice.

sand pond outlineHere is outlined plans for a lined pond 10 square metres in size. Once you have drawn out the plan for the shape of the pond you are ready to start. First of all, mark out the basic outline shape by sprinkling sand on the ground in the shape desired. You could also use a rubber hose or string. Use a spirit level to check height differences in the ground. If there are differences in height in the ground, lower levels have to be built, while higher levels will have to be lowered by removing soil. Once the outside boundary of the pond is level we can start digging.

The pond must be dug from the outside inwards. Remove protruding stones and roots that you will find as you dig. Dig out the whole pond area to the depth of the shallows. You then have to mark the bog zone, the shallow water zone and the deepwater zone. Use some of the Earth dug out to create the slope for a stream. the size of the liner required is calculated using lengths of string. Lay these out along the length and width and after adding on an extra 50 centimetres on each side you can work out the exact measurements for the liner.

koi-pond-trenchThe edges of the pond can be created in a number of different ways. The simplest method is to make a trench all round. Fleece and liner are laid over the mound so created and then tucked in. The gap produced is filled up with gravel. However edge fixings systems built on a firm base ensure that the edges of the pond do not sink even under load. Whether you use stone, wood or plastic tubing there is a whole range of options open to you. This design is with plastic tubes. If there are too many protruding stones in the earth the bottom of the pond you can cover it with a layer of sand to protect the liner. However, normally a. fleece is sufficient for lining the pond. Press the fleece firmly into place and cut off any surplus material. The next step is the pond liner. The decisive Factor is its texture as well as a high resistance to tearing. A rough texture of you liner makes it easier for microorganisms to attach themselves. This soon gives the liner a natural appearance

koi pond streamFor the edges you can use a liner with a decorative stone pattern. Pump hoses and cables are tucked away out of sight in a fold in the liner. Otherwise there should not be any folds or creases in the liner if possible. The liner for the stream is bonded to the pond liner with glue. Lastly you can form the protruding liner into a fold 10 centimetres deep. This so-called capillary barrier prevents the surrounding earth becoming saturated with pond water. The plants are placed in planting baskets which we fill with substrate. First of all we plant the deepwater zone where the pump is also located. This entire area is decorated with stones. However the stones should not be within the suction zone as the pumps performance will be reduced by a smaller suction area. High quality pumps are available whatever the application or requirements. If the pump becomes blocked up with leaves or Grass just blast a jet of water from a hose and pick off any remaining debris. There is a wide selection of special pumps for water features of all kinds. You can also attach a skimmer to your pump to clean the surface. The skimmer removes dirt and leaves directly from the surface of the water and passes them to the filter. Place gravel at the bottom of the pond and use large stones to set your pump and filter in position. Then fill the pond using tap water. Then plant the shallow water zone with potted plants.
——-
Embankment pockets are a perfect solution for the steep bank they are fixed with large stones at the edge of the bank and covered with gravel. To plant the bog zone cut out embankment mats from coconut fibre and arrange them in the shallow water. The mats are a lastly weighted down. Finally the bog zone is filled with gravel. Let your imagination run free when creating the transition from Pond to garden. This design is for natural stone paving. At this area on the bank any animals that fall in the pond can climb out again. At this point, the pond already looks really good. Your aim is to create a clean and healthy pond. A good option for filtering a pond is based on biological filtration which filter dirt and surplus nutrients from the pond water according to a mechanical biological principle. How does a biological flow filter work? Pond water and dirt are fed to the filter by the pump. In the filter there are filter material where bacteria grows. This bacteria breaks down the fish waste matter into harmless nitrates. Also available are ultraviolet light filter attachments that kill off algae and excess bacteria.
Filters will clog up regularly so buy a filtration system that is easy to clean.
—-
To add a small stream to the pond you need a pump with pressure filter that can power the filter and still have power to raise water to the stream.

Now you are ready to start adding the fish. But you first have to wait a couple of weeks for the water to mature. It’s the fish that really make the pond come alive. You caould mature your pond and filter with some cheap goldfish before you buy your prized koi.
The basic stocking rule applies; you should never stock more than one kilogram of fish per cubic metre of water in your pond. Your pond will hold 6000 litres that’s a maximum of 6 kilos of fish. But don’t forget that fish will grow so if you are buying young fish then the limit your pond to a total weight of 3 kilos per cubic meter. Then wait four weeks before stocking your pond with koi. that is the time it takes for the bacteria in the filter to mature. And then only add 1 or 2 fish at a time over many weeks.
It is a very good idea to buy a water test kit that tests the water for ammonia and nitrites. Test the water and only when these readings are near zero can you add the next couple of fish.

Clean water, thriving plants and happy Fish is your goal. You should by now have a fascinating piece of nature in your own garden. Making your own pond is really simple. Building a pond is not difficult with using your ideas and the right equipment.

Water features also give your pond something special. A range of different effects can be achieved really easily in next to no time. A waterfall can be built using a build up of soil covered in pond liner and edged with rocks and plants. You will have to use a pump to take water from your pond to the top of the waterfall. Hiding the end of the pipe between stones or plants will create a more natural effect.

To make sure your fish are happy in their environment buy quality koi specific foods. The result is something to be proud of. A healthy easily digestible diet will keep your fish active. Tame fish even eat out of your hand. The ideal koi food will contain ingredients like spirulina and carotene. These are color enhancing foods that work very well to bring out vibrant colors in your koi. However, overuse of these products may result in the white areas of the fish developing an orange or yellow cast. To maintain brilliant white areas reduce the amount of color enhancing foods used.

Plants produce oxygen and reduce the level of nutrients so curb the growth of algae. Every plant in your pond has its preferred location. Waterlilies love deep calm Water. Reeds and Rushes on the other hand, prefer shallow water. Once your pond is build it needs occasional care along with its inhabitants.

And with the right tools it is simple to look after your pond both in and at the edge of the water. Whatever decorative idea for your pond interests you, if the technology keeps a low profile a truly natural atmosphere will be the result. Ponds can also look really attractive in the dark. Lighting systems can conjure up fascinating moods.

Giant Betta

giant-betta-anabatoides

Care and breeding of the giant betta.

giant-betta-anabatoidesThe giant betta (Betta Anabatoides) comes from Borneo in Indonesia. It is the largest know Betta species with males growing up 10 or 12 cm. Males have larger heads and longer pelvic fins than the females. There is a light patch on the front of the anal fin in the male. The water should be soft and acidic. A ph of of 4.7 is ideal but they are not too fussy because they live in water conditions that change through the season. Temperature requirements are quiet high 25C to 30C.

They are carnivorous and respond well to live food, especially live food that stays near the surface or mid water. They can take most dried foods but some live food seems to be necessary for health.

They can be kept in a species aquarium or in a community aquarium. Large aquariums guarantee success. Between 100L to 200L aquariums are fine because of their large size. They are as aggressive as Betta Splendens and two males will fight until one is dead.

The giant betta is a mouthbreeding betta. They need very quiet conditions to breed. The male incubates the eggs in his mouth until they hatch. The male and female courtship is similar to betta pugnax. The eggs hatch about 3/4 days after spawning but only after a further 8 days does he release the young fry. The fry can be fed infusoria and later on baby brineshrimp. They are fast growers.

Saltwater fish food

tropical marine fish feeding frenzy

Hungry saltwater fish eating

Feeding saltwater fish

Different fish have different diets

Saltwater fish food is not as easy to get right as for freshwater fish. Depending on the type of marine fish you have, they will have different feeding needs. There are the seafood eaters who will require bits of fish or seafood tidbits. Then there are the plankton feeders who need to be fed with small foods such as baby brine shrimp, frozen cyclops and mysis shrimp. plankton feeders will need to be fed many times a day. If you supplement their diet with pellets these will have to be crumbled into the tank so that they can pick up the pieces.

List of beginners recommended saltwater fish

Then there there are fish that feed on plant life such as seaweed and will need to be fed with greens from the kitchen and algae. And finally there are the algae grazers who will need a diet that is mostly algae. All vegetarian food will try to eat throughout the day so food must be made available throughout the day for them.

Saltwater fish love marine algae
Saltwater fish love marine algae

Your first job is to find out what your particular fish eats then set about buying or obtaining the foods they need. Some fish will not readily take to dried foods so you will have to rely on live foods and plant matter.

Some fish such as blennies are bottom feeders and search for organisms through the mulm at the bottom of the aquarium. They may feed off uneaten food left by other fish. Take care to see that these types of fish get properly fed. You may need to feed them directly with sinking pellets for them to find.

The fish that eat meat and that includes carnivores and omnivores will eat most forms of seafood from your fishmongers such as sea fish, prawns, mussels. Always chop these up into bite size pieces. For fish like tangs the pieces need to be very small because they tend to eat small life forms. Always blanch the seafood in boiling water for 1 minute to kill off any potential sea borne parasite.

tropical marine fish feeding frenzy
tropical marine fish feeding frenzy

Various recommended saltwater fish foods

Algae sheets such as nori which is a japanese food available in delicatessans is a great food to feed saltwater algae eating fish. When it is placed in the aquarium you will see all the vegetarian fish go into a feeding frenzy for it. It contains many essential micro-nutrients that are not available within garden greens such as romaine lettuce and spinach. So must be provided as a supplement.

All fish in the wild eat live food or fresh vegetable matter. Many wild caught fish will not take to dried foods so must be fed live foods such as brine shrimp and algae. However, many fish can be persuaded to eat chopped vegetables such as romaine lettuce and other greens. Dip the leaves into boiling water for 1 minute so that they become soft. Seaweed in the sea is usually soft so softening greens will simulate seaweed texture.

Other foods for saltwater fish foods

frozen mysis shrimp
frozen mysis shrimp

Some saltwater fish may take dried foods or even frozen foods. You can soak the defrosted frozen foods or dried foods in a multivitamin supplement for saltwater fish. This will ensure that your fish will get any vitamins that may be lacking in the diet you provide.

Frozen saltwater fish foods are available such as krill, mysis shrimp or cyclops. These should be defrosted thoroughly before being fed to the fish. If your fish take to this then your job will be much easier. But there is no reason to not also supplement their diet with seafood scraps from the supermarket or fishmonger.

Dried foods are not really recommended because of the lack of essential micronutrients that is available in live and fresh food. On saying that some fish keepers do get away with it. As long as you soak the dried food in a good quality saltwater fish vitamin supplement and top up their diet with some seafood tidbits and algae then you should be able to get away with feeding dried food. With dried foods you need to be extra vigilant and remove any scraps of food that fall to the floor and remain uneaten at the bottom of your aquarium.

Make your own saltwater fish food

If you can set up a small saltwater algae tank on a sunny window spot then great. Your algae eating fish can eat fresh organic algae, the perfect food that they would find in the wild. When doing a water change or just removing water from the main aquarium, do not throw it away but use it to top up your algae tank. The algae will grow well from the fish manure. If you can get some small shrimps or other minute invertebrates growing in the algae aquarium then all the better. Your omnivorous fish will love the tidbits of livefood found in the algae.

Place sheet rocks in the algae aquarium so that algae can attach itself. Then move these rocks to the main aquarium for feeding. When the algae has been stripped away move the rocks back to the algae aquarium.

Growing Brine shrimp or other shrimp in a hatchery

You can hatch out and grow brine shrimp in a separate small tank. Use a sponge filter powered by an air pump. Keep the water heated up to 80F. The tank should be placed on a sunny window sill. Pour in your brine shrimp eggs and wait for them to hatch. After hatching they take a days to eat off their yolk sacs so should not be fed immediately. Feed the shrimp with yeast, wheat flour, soybean powder, or egg yolk. Do regular water changes to keep the tank clean. The salinity for brine shrimp should by at 1.018 specific gravity. If you look after the shrimp well then they should grow and breed providing you with a continuous supply of shrimps. Gut loading the brine shrimp before feeding your fish is a good idea. This is just means feeding vitamin rich nutritious food to the brine shrimp for a couple of days before you feed your fish.

 

 

Common livebearer illnesses: how to recognise and treat them

pineapple male swordtail

Common livebearer illnesses

livebearers facts and info

How to maintain healthy livebearers

Most tank raised livebearers are quite healthy fish. In other words they hardly ever get sick as long as their aquarum is kept clean and healthy and nothing goes wrong such as a faulty heater.
However, dirty water, overcrowded aquariums, overfeeding or even a poor diet can lead to livebearers getting sick.

Diseases can be avoided and should be avoided rather than relying on medications and treatments to cure sick fish it is better to avoid the conditions that lead to sick fish.

Here are some common sense tips:

  1. Don’t buy sick fish. Even apparently healthy fish should be quarantined for a few weeks in case of hidden illnesses to avoid spreading illness to your existing fish.
  2. Remove dead fish immediately. I dead fish which may have been carrying an illness will release its illness into the water as it decomposes. Also a decomposing fish will rot and pollute the water causing the other fish harm. A partial water change after removing a dead fish is a good idea too.
  3. Check your fish daily for any signs of lack of health such as lethargy, clamped fins, scratching against objects or unusual breathing by the fish.
  4. Treat your fish as soon as a disease is spotted. Some diseases can only be cured if the disease is treated early.
  5. Keep common fish medications at hand. In other words buy them early. Methylene blue, malachite green, white spot medication and an antifungal medication are helpful first aid. Also sea salt is often helpful.

Common illnesses that affect livebearers

1) White spot
The signs of white spot are white dust like spots about the size of a grain of salt sprinkled over the body and fins of affected fish.
Treat fish early. Fish can die from untreated white spot. Raise the temperature to 85F but less for livebearers from cooler waters. Add some salt to the water. 1 teaspoon per 5 litres of water. Treat with the latest white spot medication as well.

2) Mouth fungus (cottonmouth)
Recognised by white fluffy growths around the mouth or occasionally along the fins. Although it looks like fungus, it is not. It is actually caused by a bacterial infection – columnaris.
Treat fish with marycin, salt added to the water and malachite green. Cottonmout has become resistant to some antibiotics so you might have to re-treat with a different antibiotic.

3) Fin Rot
Signs of fin rot are split or frayed edges to the fins with dark or white edging to the fins.
Treat with nitrofurazone or a similar wide spectrum antibiotic. Also add salt and methylene blue to the water.

4) Fish tuberculosis
Symptoms include bloated stomachs, pop-eyes, body abscesses and protruding scales.
This is very difficult to treat because TB forms a protective mass coating that prevents antibiotic penetrating to kill off the bacteria. Very sick fish are best killed.

5) Gill flukes
Symptoms include: fish having laboured breathing with gill covers open. Fish may also start scraping their gill plates against objects.
Treat with praziquantel baths. Alternatively treat with a dylox bath.

6) Intestinal parasites or worms
Symptoms are thin bellied fish, stringy white poop. Fish may go off their food.
Buy anti-parasitic medication that can be mixed into the fish’s food. If the fish are not eating you will have to capture the fish and inject the medication directly into the fish’s mouth.

7) Cloudy Skin
Slimy looking film on the skin or fins is an infection of ciliates or flagellates. This may be cured by raising the temperature slowly over several days until it reaches 85F and treating with methylene blue.

8) Poisoning
The fish will have clamped fins and may dart about the tank and rub against objects. Fish will also breathe heavily.
The main causes of water poisoning are Chlorine from tap water, ammonia from decaying organic matter or a build up of fish urine and poop, chemicals from aerosol sprays, insecticides such as fly killers are pretty bad.

Do an immediate 50% water change with safe water that has been standing for at least 24 hours and is the same temperature as your aquarium. Remove any decaying matter or dirt in the aquarium, remove excess mulm from filters, stop feeding. After 24 hours do another 50% water change.

9) Fungal infections
Symptoms are white or greyish fluffy patches on the body or the fins. This may come about from injury to the body or fin. Dab the affected area with cotton wool dipped in malachite green or set up a malachite green bath dip for the fish. Leave the fish in the bath for 1 hour.

10) Shimmies or livebearer disease
Symptoms are when your fish continually rock from side to side.
This is thought to be because many livebearers prefer hard alkaline water with some salt added. Livebearers kept in soft acidic water will over time develop this disease.
Treat by adding some salt to the aquarium and find ways of adjusting the ph and hardness of the water. Perhaps by the use of crush coral sand or dolomite sand.

 

Feeding guppies, mollies, platies and other livebearers

guppies and platies in a community tank

Feeding guppies, mollies, platies and other livebearers

Make your own fish food

Raising live food

Feeding livebearers can be easy especially the commonly found livebearers, but to get the best results then care must be taken with their diet. Most livebearers are omnivorous, eating both animal matter and vegetable matter. Other livebearers are mostly vegetarian such as the platy and goodeid livebearer. And the last group of livebearers are carnivores that need live food and even small fish to eat such as pike livebearer, half beaks, four-eyed fish and porthole livebearer.

Dried food forms a livebearers staple diet

Dried foods can be used to feed most livebearers but if you have vegetarian livebearers or carnivorous livebearers then you need to pick a brand that has a high vegetable content or high protein content. Supplement dried foods with live food at least once a week. And for the vegetarian livebearers add some sliced vegetable matter such as a cucumber slice.

The biggest problem with dried food are that they quickly become stale. So it is best to buy only small quantities at a time and when you buy them check the sell by date and whether the carton looks dusty. Do not buy old stock.

Dried foods come in several varieties. Food flakes are the most common and are a good choice for livebearers because the flakes float giving the livebearers a chance to eat from the surface. Most livebearers are surface feeders.

Types of dried foods for livebearers

Food flakes come in different sizes. The sizes are there to allow you to feed fish with small mouths or fish with large mouths. If there are fry in the aquarium the just crumble a few flakes into crumbs for them.

You could also feed fish pellets to your livebearers. Care must be taken to buy a brand that has floating pellets. Livebearers will usually ignore food that has fallen to the floor of the aquarium where it will rot and pollute the aquarium. The advantage of pellets is that they are less processed than flakes and are just compacted bits of dried food.

Food tablets are useful if you will be away for days at a time. They are compressed food tablets that dissolve slowly over sevearl days. The fish will pick off bits at a time and will be kept fed while you are away.

Feed live food to keep your livebearers healthy

All livebearers benefit from the occasional meal of live food. The fresh vitamins, minerals and amino acids available in live food can not be obtained from dried foods. Once or twice a week is sufficient for most species. But for vegetarians you will also need to feed fresh vegetable matter at least once or twice a week.

Live food can also come in the form of frozen live food and freezze dried food. These are not quite as nutritiuos as real live food.

Where can you obtain live food?

  1. You can keep a large 200l litre barrel of water in a sunny spot in the garden. This will attract mosquito larvae and blood worms. But you can also seed the barrel with daphnia. Daphnia needs to be fed daily with green water or yeast powder. This is the safest and best way of collecting live food for your fish.
  2. You can buy live food from the pet store. But care must be taken to examine the bags of live food for freshness. Some bags of live food can be full of dead insects which is a waste of time. Also some pet shops will sell live food which may contain illnesses from their fish or other source, even the best aquarium store may be quilty of this.
  3. You can collect from wild sources. Good sources for daphnia are from water troughs for cattle or horses and are generally safe. Collecting from wild ponds is a danger. Care must be taken not to collect parasites and other nasties alongside your chosen live food. Best to avoid any pond that contains fish.
  4. You could also raise live food such as brine shrimp to adult hood to feed adult fish. Brineshrimp is an excellent choice of live food except for the effort you need to put in to raise the shrimps. You can also raise white worms or fruit flies. All make a nutritious supplement to dried foods.
  5. Another excellent choice is small earthworms. You will need to rinse out any soil from the worms stomach. Chop the worms up with a razor into small pieces to feed your fish.

Best live foods include daphnia, cyclops, mosquito larvae, and even earth worms, white worms and fruit flies. If you can give your fish a variety of live food as well as some vegetable matter then all the better for the health of your livebearers.

Vegetable items to feed livebearers

A slice of cucumber, boiled spinach or lettuce leaves, spirulina and algae are a good source of vegetable matter for livebearers. There are many vegetable items that can be chopped up into small pieces and fed to your fish. Experiment with what your fish will eat. Try ensure that the items float. Tie a cotton thread to the vegetable piece to keep it near the surface. Also after a couple of hours remove any uneaten vegetable item and throw it away.

Variety in feeding keeps your livebearers healthy and breeding

If you bear all this information in mind and feed your fish using this knowledge then your fish should remain healthy, vibrant and active. Remember variety is the spice of life and it goes for the food of livebearers too. They will of course reproduce when fed well which is a sure sign that they are healthy.

Maintaining a healthy livebearer aquarium

guppies and platies in a community tank

Healthy water leads to healthy fish

Diagnose and treat Livebearer illnesses here.

The secret to keeping healthy livebearers is in keeping the water they live in healthy and suitable for them to live in. The major element in maintaining healthy water is the continuous removal of pollution from the water.

the basic air powered sponge filtered
the basic air powered sponge filtered

Where does aquarium pollution come from?

Pollution in the livebearer aquarium comes from the fish themselves. Livebearers are continually producing urine and occasionally pooping in their own environment. Also pollution can come from any uneaten food left to rot in the aquarium. Occasionally from the rotting of a dead fish or other water borne creature can cause pollution as well as dead plant material.

You can certainly remove much of the pollutants from the water by siphoning them away and disposing of it. However there is much that will be missed and so you need a filter to remove the remaining pollutants.

A much better automated way of cleaning the fish waste is by relying on biological filtration known as cycling.

Maintaining the correct environment for a livebearer aquarium

Female Black Molly
Black Molly female

Besides keeping the water clean, to maintain a healthy livebearer aquarium you need to maintain temperature control and provide lighting as well as providing suitable water conditions.

Electrical safety in a livebearer aquarium

Most of the equipment used to maintain a healthy livebearer aquarium is powered by electricity. And as you may well know electricity and water make a dangerous combination. So, you must observe certain electrical safety rules as follows:

  1. Only buy and use electrically certified equipment from a recognised aquarist supplier
  2. Buy a safety cut out cable that will cut all electricity to the aquarium when there is a fault.
  3. Unplug all electrical devices in your aquarium when you are working inside the aquarium water or you risk electrical shock. Don’t forget to turn it all on afterwards.

Livebearer fish tank selection

hawaii-platy-variatusThe first thing you need to buy when keeping livebearers is a fish tank. This ideally should be an all glass aquarium bonded together with silicone. Plastic aquariums although lighter are easily scratched and ruin the view of your fish.

Fish need a good supply of dissolved oxygen in the water to breathe. This oxygen comes through the surface of the water. The area of the surface of the water determines how much oxygen will be available for your fish’s use. In other words, the larger the area, the more oxygen and so allowing you to keep more livebearers. Measure about 5 litres of water for every fish as a bare minimum. A 100 litre tank should allow you to keep up to 20 livebearers.

Remember that water in large aquariums can be very heavy and must be placed on a solid floor that can support the weight. If the floor is concrete then it should be fine. However with floor boards you will have to find out where the supporting joists are underneath the floorboards and place your stand on top.

Because livebearers are surface swimmers they tend to be jumpers. This means that livebearers occasionally make a leap to freedom and can end up dead on your living room carpet. So, you need to buy a tight fitting lid to prevent this.

Filtration in the livebearer aquarium

mickey-mouse-platyThe most important piece of equipment in eliminating pollution in your aquarium is the filter.

Sponge filters

A surprisingly good and effective filtration system is the sponge filter powered by an air pump. Sponge filters are not very powerful but you can use 2 or 3 of them together in the one aquarium. A great advantage of the sponge filter is that they are low maintenance and also they are cheap to buy. All you need to do to clean them is to squeeze them out in a bucket of aquarium water and then swirl them about until most of the excess dirt falls off. Do not remove all the dirt as the biological bacteria that filter the fish waste live in the dirt. Removing the excess dirt will unclog the filter and allow this bacteria to breathe and grow.

Contrary to popular belief, the most important job a filter has to do is not to remove particles and dirt from the water. No, the most important job of a filter is provide a breeding ground for bacteria that break down decaying organic matter into harmless substances.

It takes between 4-6 weeks for the bacteria in a filter to mature to the level where it can remove all the decaying pollution effectively. It is very important that you take care to not kill off the bacteria in the filter. Washing the filter in tap water that contains chlorine will kill the bacteria. Certain medications can also kill of the bacteria. And finally turning off your filter for more than an hour can kill off most of the bacteria in your filter.

Box filters

guppies and platies in a community tank
guppies and platies in a community tank

Box filters can also be used to filter the aquarium water. These are more powerful but cost more than a sponge filter. They may contain an internal sponge too. The disadvantage is that they are difficult to clean and maintain.

External filters

There are even more expensive and powerful external filters that may hang off the back of the aquarium. These may use various filtering material.

All filters ultimately rely on the same method to filter and that is by passing water over a colony of bacteria that have grown inside the mulm that has collected in the filter.

Other methods of removing waste

Despite filters doing such a marvellous job of biologically breaking down waste matter into less harmful waste products, you still need to do some clean up yourself. At least once a week you will have to use a siphon device to sift through the gravel stirring the dirt up to be siphoned into a bucket and thrown away. Siphon away any dead plant material as well.

Uneaten food should be siphoned five minutes after feeding. Dead fish and other creatures should be removed as soon as seen.

Lighting is another important piece of equipment.

Livebearers enjoy bright lighting conditions. However, bright lighting may encourage excessive algae (which is microscopic plant life). Algae is usually healthy for your livebearers who will eat it, but it is an eyesore and may choke off your plants.

The solutions to prevent or remove algae is to keep your aquarium away from direct sunlight and also to reduce the number of hours per day your aquarium lighting is on for.

There are 3 types of bulb that you might use in your livebearer aquarium.
a) incandescent bulbs
b) fluorescent tubes
c) Mercury vapor lamps

Incandescent light bulbs (ie home light bulbs) can be used in fry rearing tanks and quarantine tanks. For most aquariums you should use fluroescent tubes that are widely available and inexpensive. Although expensive, mercury vapor lamps can be economical in very large aquariums where 1 vapor lamp bulb would replace many fluorescent tubes. Vapor lamps are very bright. One vapor lamps is 4 times brighter than a fluoresent tube.

Gravel or sand? The choice is yours.

If you use gravel then you can put plants directly into the gravel with a tablet fertiliser pushed in near the roots. The gravel should be 2 inches deep.

Sand is not so good for plants because it is too compact. Sand may also trap dirt and compact creating stagnant “dead-spots” that may foul the water. To lessen this risk use a shallow layer of 1 inch or less. It is recommended that you place plants in their own little plant pots above the sand.

In the wild livebearers swim in waters where the base is light coloured, so sand is quite comforting for them. You could also buy a light coloured gravel. The lighter coloured base brings out the best in your livebearer’s colours.

Before using gravel or sand in your aquarium you must rinse out dust by placing some sand or gravel a bit at a time in a bucket and running tap water through while swirling it with your hands until the water runs clear.

Plants for a livebearer aquarium

Thriving plants remove the waste products created by the fish. Indeed the plants feed off the decomposed fish waste matter.
Plants also add visual naturalness to an aquarium that is comforting to the fish. The plants create hiding places for females and young livebearers. And finally plants also provide a source of fresh food for your ever hungry livebearers.

Choose plants that like your tap water’s composition in terms of ph and hardness and are hardy aquarium plants. Plants such as Java moss, Java ferns, Cryptocorynes and vallisneria are ideal choices for livebearer aquariums.

What is the correct conditions for livebearers?

Not only do you have to maintain clean water for your aquarium, you also have to provide water of the right composition. Tap water is normally within range of suitability for livebearers. The main factors in water composition are ph level and hardness level of water which can be tested using a test kit bought from your aquarium store. If your tap water has a reading of ph 6.5-8.4 and the hardness reading is above 8dh then that should be acceptable for most livebearers. If the ph and hardness fall out of this range then you need to perform the laborious process of adjusting the water condition. This is best done by having a 200litre barrel and preparing large batches of water at a time.

What exactly is harmful about fish waste? When fish poop and urinate where does this go? What happens to it?

When fish poop and urinate this waste matter decomposes slowly releasing ammonia, which is quite poisonous. In a mature aquarium with a mature filter bacteria breaks down this ammonia into nitrite. In a new aquarium with no bacteria this ammonia builds up and slowly poisons the fish.

How to create a mature filter – cycling.

Nitrite is also poisonous but a second set of bacteria digest nitrite and convert it into nitrate which is relatively harmless. Nitrate is absorbed by plants as a fertiliser.

With this in mind it is essential to buy and use a test kit that measures ammonia and nitrite levels in a new aquarium. You will need to check the ammonia and nitrite daily until they come down to 0.0. In a new aquarium you will have to do daily water changes of between 10-20%. This will reduce the pollutant levels. You have to carry on the daily water changes until the readings hit 0.0 at which point your filter’s bacteria will be mature enough to cope. If you get a particularly high reading during this process do a bigger water change and stop feeding for a day or two.

With all this new found knowledge you should now be in a position to keep your livebearer aquarium healthy in the long term.

Fish adaptation in the wild

Nothobranchius rachovi. Killifish have adapted to extreme conditions.

Fish adaption in the wild

The mudskipper can walk on land using its front fins as legs
Mudskipper walking on land on its front fins

Fish as a group are one of nature’s success stories. Fish can be found in nearly all bodies of water and on occasion can be found flopping onto land. Even the most inhospitable bodies of water such as suphurous thermal springs, ponds that dry up in summer, the deepest part of the ocean have all been colonised by fish.

It is estimated that there are currently 30,000 different species of fish on earth. That is more than any other vertebrate. There are thousands of species that live in freshwater tropical streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. The most abundant of these are in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

The most popular species of fish from these bodies of water have found their way into the aquarium trade and into people’s homes the world over. The most popular species in the hobby are usually the most colourful, hardy and easiest to breed or they may have an unusual shape or unusual behaviour.
Adapting to life

Salmon after 2-3 years at sea swim up river to breed
Salmon after years at sea swim up river to breed

Fish have been on earth longer than reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals, all of which have evolved from fish. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to note that fish have had longer to adapt to their environment than the other groups of animals listed. They are better adapted to their aquatic environment than most other life forms. They have found their way into many niches and developed many unusual behaviours that better allow them to cope with their environment.

Adaptation to life in rivers

The upper parts of river have fast flowing turbulent waters with little mineral content. The fish that live in these waters have adapted by becoming streamlined and fast swimmers and are able to mainatin a stationary position relative to the river bed while water flows past them. Because of the noise from the turbulent waters these fish have developed better eye-sight and lesser hearing ability. These adaptations help predator fish to better hunt their prey and also helps fish to avoid predation by larger fish and other predators.

Discus with flattened sides and vertical stripes
Discus with flattened sides and vertical stripes

Mid river, further downstream, is where the flow of the river is less and the river widens. Fish found in this part of the river are usually deeper bodied and less stream lined. Water in this part of the river is usually clear which aids fish with good eyesight.

In the river low lands the river becomes even slower and even wider. The water is usually cloudy with dissolved decaying vegetable matter and tannins from submerged logs, pieces of wood and roots.

Because of the water cloudiness in this part of the river fish cannot rely so much on their eyesight. They instead have developed better sense of smell, taste and hearing. Many shoaling fish in this part of the river have developed bright or even reflective scales to enable them to see each other in the murkiness.

Adaptation to life in ponds

There are other tropical fish that have adapted to live in lakes and ponds of Asia. During the hot and dry seasons the ponds and small ditches evaporate and reduce to small and stagnant bodies of water. Gouramis are a class of fish that have adapted to these low oxygen conditions by developing the ability to breathe air. They achieve this by gulping air into a specially adapted labyrinthian organ that absorbs the swallowed air. This allows them to survive in low oxygen conditions that would drown normal tropical fish.
These ponds and lakes are usually muddy or cloudy so having good eyesight is not such an advantage. Fish in these cloudy conditions have developed barbels near their mouth to help them find food. The gouramis have developed a pair of thin hair like fins that they use to feel and taste their surroundings and help them find their way through the thick vegetation. Fish in these cloudy conditions have also developed a better sense of smell.

How to buy livebearers

blue lace leopard skin guppy male

Where and how to buy livebearers

Here are the main sources of livebearers

Your local aquarium pet store is a good source of fish
Your local aquarium pet store is a good source of fish

You can of course go to one of the large pet chain stores where you will be able to buy some off the shelf guppies, platies or mollies and sometimes swordtails. However don’t expect any fancy variety or high pedigree fish. If you are a beginner just starting out then this is not a bad place to start out. You will however have to be more careful with the health of the fish you buy here because these are not cared for by experts in fish keeping but by shop staff who may not have experience in looking after fish at all.

There are smaller specialised aquarium shops that will carry a greater variety of livebearer and occasionally will stock the excess brood of a professional breeder. You might be able to pick up some near pedigree stock.

Aquarium clubs are a much better place to buy more specialised forms and rare species of livebearer. You will also be able to buy wild strains of newly imported fish that are not available anywhere else. The American livebearer association or the British livebearer association are the obvious clubs to join. Other local clubs are less likely to have livebearers that you might particularly want.

internet classified adverts is a good source for fish
internet classified adverts is a good source for fish

You can also browse aquarist magazines in the classified section to see if the livebearer you are after has come up for sale.

Before buying your fish, it is best to inspect it first. Be prepared by taking with you several plastic bags and a polystyrene carrier box to take your fish home comfortably without much heat loss. Before you set off to buy you must have your home aquarium all set up.

Now, with the spread of the internet you can also buy fish from an online source. There are several good options available to you. Ebay, craigslist, gumtree, and others have a good fish for sale section. Aquarist classifieds has several specialised fish for sale sections that are also sorted by area.

There are also online firms that do mail order tropical fish. They deliver tropical fish to your door overnight no matter where you live in the country. But sometimes when the weather is particularly cold they might not deliver. Another drawback to this is that you cannot inspect the fish before hand. Home delivery of fish relies on mutual trust from the buyer and seller. The advantages are that you can pick exactly the fish you want with you having a wide choice. Also you do not have to make wasted journeys looking for your fish. The cost of delivery can be reduced by buying several fish at the same time.

In the winter some firms will deliver fish but will include special heat packs that maintain the temperature of the water for 24 hours until they can safely reach you. These are expensive and you the purchaser will have to pay extra for this delivery method.

Always buy healthy livebearers

How do you recognise a healthy livebearer? Once you have picked out the fish you are interested in, take a good long look at it in the aquarium. Also, look at other tankmates that share the same tank as well. Examine the body for any white or grey fuzzy patches. Examine the fins for any splits or frayed edges. Check for any abnormal swelling of the eyes or swelling of the abdomen. Check for any scales that stick out pine cone like. Look at the gills they should not be red in colour. check the belly of the fish. If it is concave or the head of the fish looks too big for the body. This is a sign of a poor upbringing. If any of the previous symptoms are present in the fish you are considering then do not buy the fish.

Your ideal fish should have scales and skin with bright colours and have no white grey,brown spots on the skin. The skin should not have a cloudy mucous or fluffy patch anywhere. The fins should be held proud and erect, held away from the body. Clamped fins are a bad sign. Frayed fins are a sign of ill health.

Examine the mouth of the fish. The fish should not have white/grey patches around the lips. The mouth should be sharp and clear.

Next observe the fish swimming. The fish should be active not skulking in a corner. It should show signs of wanting to feed when you come near the aquarium. The fish should not be stuck to the floor of the aquarium nor should it be stuck floating at the surface. This is a sign of swim bladder problems. If you see any of the fish in the aquarium with their mouths near the surface gasping for air and gills opening and closing then this is a sign of poor water conditions(but don’t confuse this with fish trying to feed).

Can I buy just a single livebearer?

It is best to buy a group of fish together because livebearers are social animals and develop inter-fish relationships such as dominance and recognise familiar individuals. You can buy a single fish to add to an existing aquarium but be careful of bullying of the newcomer. Swordtail males will fight each other so it is best to buy only 1 male for any individual aquarium.

How many male and female livebearers should I buy?

If you are buying young fish then to guarantee a reasonable group of males and females you should buy 6 or more because there is no way of telling the sexes apart at a young age.

If you buy adult fish then you can distinguish the males from the females.

  1. Males are more colourful than females. Females are dull in colour but may have some colours in the fins.
  2. Males are usually smaller than females of the same age.
  3. Males have a stick like ventral fin, where the females have a normal triangular shaped fin. The males use this fin to fertilise the females. This fin is located near the fish’s vent.
  4. The males have larger dorsal fins than the females.
  5. Males are slim built while females are plump in shape.

Once you learn to tell apart males from females then you are ready to buy a breeding group. Try to buy 2 females for every male.

Best time of the year to buy livebearers

There is a greater abundance of fish for sale during the spring, autumn and christmas time. So these are the best times to buy your fish. When you buy your fish make sure you don’t have a holiday or business trip planned in the weeks after purchase. It is best to be there for the first few weeks while your fish settle in to oversee if there are any problems.

How to bring your newly bought livebearers home

Set up your home aquarium before you start looking for fish. It should ideally be cycled with a mature filter. After you have purchased your prized specimens always head straight home. When you arrive home, immediately place the unopened bags in the aquarium water.

Leave the fish in the bag for at least 15 minutes to give a chance for the water temperature to equalise with that in the tank. After that you can slowly top up the bag with some water from the tank. Wait 5 minutes then top up again with some more water. Keep repeating until the bag is full. Then release the fish into the tank.

If you have bought small fish or baby fish less than an inch long then you can bag them together in large bags, 4 to a bag. You should put adult fish or fish an inch or bigger in size, singly into separate bags. The bags should be filled with 3/4 air and 1/4 water by the person selling you the fish. They should use the water from the aquarium the fish came from.

Quarantining your newly bought livebearers

When you become serious at the hobby and have prized specimens at home that would be a great loss if they died then you must use a quarantine tank to keep your new arrivals away from your established fish. This gives you a chance to see if your new fish have any hidden illnesses or not. Keep your new fish in quarantine for at least 2 weeks, but better still for 4 weeks to be absolutely safe. If the new fish appears well after this time then they can be transferred to the main aquarium.

Have the right livebearer aquarium set up

Most livebearers can live quite well in a community tank. Your community tank can consist of a variety of livebearer species, a single livebearer species or even include some other community fish alongside. The choice is yours.

Use a single species tank if you are line breeding pedigree livebearers. Note that some closely related livebearer species can interbreed and you will end up with unwanted mongrel fish.

When having a community tank you should try to make sure all the fish are of a similar size and similar activity level. This will help to reduce bullying of small fish by bigger fish and active fish stressing out more placid fish. Also the more active fish will always get to the fish effectively starving the less active fish.

You should always include more females than males for all species. A ratio of 2 females to every male is a good starting point. This is because most males will be continually trying to mate with the females. Too much male attention stresses the females.

Livebearers generally prefer hard alkaline water of ph higher than 7.5. Some species even benefit with some sea salt added to the water. The main species of livebearers prefer temperatures between 74-80f. However the sunset platy a close relative of the common platy prefers lower temperatures between 70f and 75f. Goodeids also prefer lower temperatures similar to sunset platies.

Compatible fish for a livebearer community tank

Most small tetras are compatible with guppies, mollies and platies or other similar livebearer species.

Small corydoras catfish are ideal for most livebearer tanks because the corys stay along the bottom avoiding the livebearers who mostly live along the top of the aquarium.

Most dwarf cichlids make ideal companions because they also occupy the bottom of the aquarium and are not overly aggressive. The presence of livebearers in a dwarf cichlid tank actually gives the dwarf cichlids more confidence to come out more rather than hiding in plants and caves.

Barbs, rasboras and danios are a little more active and occupy the same space as livebearers but can still make good companions for medium to large livebearers such as swordtails and sailfin mollies.

Even for a livebearer single species tank, the addition of a few corydoras catfish can liven your aquarium by having some activity in the lower half of the tank which is usually deserted in a livebearer aquarium set up.

Setting up a Community tank here

Suggested starter groups here

Essential facts about Livebearers here.

Maintain a healthy Livebearer aquarium here.

Suggestion list of compatible fish groups for your aquarium

fish tank set up

How to set up your tank fish from top to bottom

To increase the chances of your fish being compatible you need to consider the fishes’ territory. Fish swim in different zones of the aquarium. Some swim near the surface. Some swim midwater. And yet others stay near the floor of the aquarium. Generally fish in one zone will be less territorial with fish from another zone.

Here I will list suggested fish groups by tank size with an eye on maximum compatibility.

2 foot 50litre tank

amazon biotope with angels rummy nose and rams
amazon biotope with angels rummy nose and rams

Small amazonian biotope

Surface fish
4 hatchetfish
Midwater fish
8 neon tetras
2 angel fish
Bottom dwellers
4 panda corys

More on amazon biotope here


Small slice of an Asian stream in your living room

rasboras breeding pair male on left
Male and female breeding pair of harlequin rasboras

Surface fish
4 hatchet fish
Midwater fish
4 Harlequin rasboras
6 cherry barbs
Bottom dwellers
4 kuhli loaches
1 siamese algae eater

————————————–
Dwarf Cichlid Breeding set up

Surface fish
4 Lemon tetras
Bottom dwellers
Male and 2 female cockatoo dwarf cichlids
3 three stripe corydoras

More on dwarf cichlids here

————————————

pedigree red guppies
pedigree red guppies

Livebearer community set up

Surface fish
6 guppies 2 male 4 female
Mid water fish
3 sword tails 1 male 2 females
Bottom dwellers
3 bronze corydoras
 

 
More on livebearers here
———————————-

30 inch 76liter tank

Amazonian biotope aquarium

Surface fish
2 silver hatchet fish
midwater fish
3 emperor tetras 1 male + 2 females
5 lemon tetras
Bottom dwellers
3 peppered corydoras

More on the Amazon biotope here

————————————

kuhli loaches on gravel eating
group of kuhli loaches in an aquarium

Slice of an asian stream

Surface fish
3 glass catfish
midwater fish
6 harlequin rasbora
Bottom dwellers
5 kuhli loaches
1 siamese algae eater
——————–

Amazon dwarf cichlid aquarium

Surface fish
6 cardinal tetras
midwater fish
mated pair(1 male+1 female) of blue rams or bolivian rams
Bottom dwellers
6 pygmy corydoras
——————————-

4 foot 110 litre tank

male pearl gourami with red breast
male pearl gourami with red breast

Large gourami Asian biotope

Surface fish
male and female pearl gourami or male + female blue gourami (breeding pair)
midwater fish
6 checkerboard barbs or 8 harlequin rasboras
Bottom dwellers
5 kuhli loaches
——————————

Asian busy community tank

Surface fish
5 zebra danios
midwater fish
5 rosy or ruby barbs
Bottom dwellers
2 siamese algae eaters
6 kuhli loaches

———————————————-

kribensis breeding pair
kribensis male and female breeding pair

Non-rift valley African community tank

Surface fish
midwater fish
5 red eye tetras
Bottom dwellers
5 kribensis

More on kribensis here
———————————————-

Convict community

Surface fish
6 guppies
midwater fish
5 bleeding heart tetras
Bottom dwellers
5 convict cichlids
———————————————-

all male peacock aquarium
all male peacock aquarium

Malawi Community

Surface fish

3 Mollies

midwater fish
6 peacocks (jacobfreibergi) 2 males 4 females

Bottom dwellers

6 yellow labs

More on Malawis here

 

How to show your fish at fish shows

China fish show

About fish shows

Gozo fish show
Gozo fish show

You’ve learned to keep your fish from dying. You have managed to breed your fish. Now what? Entering your fish into a local fish show is a great next step in taking your fishkeeping hobby to the next level.
With experience you can win trophies, ribbons or prizes such as aquarium equipment or money.
You can show off your prized champion fishes and your skill at raising and breeding your fish.
Fish shows are a good place to keep abreast of new products. Many new products and different interesting species are usually on display.
Usually there are door prizes giving the entrants many chances to win fishkeeping equipment such as heaters, filters or lighting.
You will certainly meet fellow aquarists who will be expert in various fields of fishkeeping. You can learn a lot by asking questions. These experts always take great pride in answering questions, so that they show show off their great expertise on their favourite subject.
You can also ask company representatives of manufacturers about any equipment that they have on display and advice on equipment in general.
You may have to attend shows a few times to see what your competition is like before you will be ready to start entering your fish into the show.
It is only when you start showing off your fish that your fishkeeping skills will really improve and you will become a real expert.
Only through research, and putting into practice what you pick up will you be able to consistently high quality show grade fish.

international fish shows for the best fish
international fish shows for the best fish

Different types of fish shows

Most aquatic competitions are organised by aquarium societies. Some are very large such as the International Betta Congress (IBC) or local to large towns or cities.

Small fish shows

Small fish shows are sponsored by local clubs. To enter a fish into one of these shows you do have to be a member of the local club.

Regional fish shows

These are shows where different clubs compete against each other. A regional show forces you to cooperate with other members of your club in a team effort.

Open fish shows

Same as regional shows except that these are open to the general public and not just members of any particular fish club or aquarium society.

Fish exhibitions or Aquatic Conventions

These are the largest shows that you can enter. These types of show are hosted by tropical fish magazines and international societies.
Many aquarium equipment manufacturers will be present. They usually showcase their latest product line in aquarium filters, lighting, aquariums and aquarium equipment. They will try to sell you something if you look like a prospect.

How fish shows work

Understanding classes in fish shows

Here a judge is grading discus at a show
Here a judge is grading discus at a show

Fish shows put fish into classes so that similar fishes will be judge against each other. Fish shows have many rules for a fish class. You will have to make an effort to understand these rules and comply with these rules to have a decent chance of winning.
Fish have to be compared like for like to make it fairer and easier for the judge to make a decision. That is why you have to enter your fish into a specific class. Make sure you put your fish into the correct class. Classes are grouped by similar species. Groups such as livebearers, central american cichlids, dwarf cichlids and the like are examples of classes and should be easy for you to decide which class is best for your fish to be entered into.
Classes can be further divided into sub-classes. For example a livebearer class can be divided into guppy, platy, molly and swordtail classes. Then guppy class can also be further sub divided into tail type classes such as spade tail, round tail, lyretail, etc. Make sure your fish is suitable for the class you intend to enter it into.

Increasing your chances of winning a fish show

Pedigree dragon scale koi betta
Pedigree dragon scale koi betta

Try to prevent or discourage people from looking at your fish before the judges arrive. You don’t want your fish to be unnecessarily stressed before the judges have arrived. Stressed fish may lose their colour.
You can actually train your fish not be be spooked out by strangers coming to inspect them. What you need to do is recreate competition-like conditions for your fish at home.
Place your fish’s holding tank somewhere lots of people will pass to and fro in front of, with the occasional person peering into the tank. Or arrange for several members of your family to pace back and forth near the tank several times a day. And also tell them to peer into the tank, while you observe your fish’s behaviour. When the fish becomes accustomed to this attention then you can train less often. Also you can try shining a torch at the fish occasionally so that when the fish is at the show the fish will not be startled by a judge with poor eyesight flashing a torch at your fish to better see it.

Never present ill fish at shows. Only take fish that are in tip-top to the show. The stress of the show and the travelling to and from the show does put a fish under stress. Such stress can kill or make ill a weak fish. You will not be popular at the show if you bring a sick or weak fish.
A small holding tank can be used to keep your fish safe and well before the show so that your prize fish can avoid getting into a fight or injured with other fish. You can also keep a close eye on your fish’s health. Feed live food and vegetable tidbits in preparation for the show. Make sure you clean the tank with water changes and syphon off any waste matter daily.
Don’t include decorations in the holding tank that may injure your fish. You can however include floating plants and some java moss or java ferns. Have a bare bottom or a thin layer of sand at the bottom of the holding tank.
Your fish needs to be relaxed and stress free in the holding tank. And maintenance and observation will be easier.

Champion grade koi shusui scaleless
Champion grade koi shusui scaleless

Exhibiting your fish in a professional manner

Get hold of a copy of the rules for the class you expect to show your fish in. Study the rules carefully before you fill out an entry form so that you can familiarise yourself with the rules of the contest you want to enter your fish into.
Take your fish to the show early so that your fish has time to settle down. Stressed fish may have washed out colours. Adding a little salt to the holding tank can help your fish regain its colour.
Always take water from home with you to the show. Do not use water from the show, which may be markedly different than the water you have at home. Many owners who ignore this end up with sick fish after the show. Also for a day or two before the show stop feeding. This will not harm your fish, but will reduce any toxins in the water and your fish will become more active.
Always use a show tank that is the appropriate size for the size of fish that you will be showing. A small fish in a large tank will look lost, while a large fish in a small tank will look cramped.
Make sure you read the rules in regards to the set up of the show tank. Some shows don’t allow gravel. Make sure you clean the glass throughly on the outside of the tank and inside.
When your show tank is all set up then stand back and look at the whole set up with the fish inside. Look at it with the eye of a judge. Make adjustments where necessary.

Show guidelines for showing fish

wonderful champion crown pearlscale goldfish
wonderful champion crown pearlscale goldfish

Judging guidelines are usually very strict. Contestants are usually not allowed near their tanks when the fish are being judged. So, be patient.
Each class has a single judge who will judge and score your fish on its own merit and not in comparison to neighbouring fish.
After all the fish in all the classes have been judged, a best of show award is given to the best fish in the show overall.
Aquarium societies have set up benchmarks or standards that each fish can be directly compared to. Obviously the fish that is closest to the benchmark is usually judge to be the winner.
Most fish are judged on a point system. Points are allocated in sections. Some points for size, some for shape, some for colour, finnage and deportment. Some sections are appointed more points than others, so be aware of this. The fish with the most points altogether is the winner.

Size and body weight of show fish

Size is a consistently high scoring factor. Bigger fish score more than smaller fish.
The fish’s body must be fully intact. No bumps or growths or deformities. They are not tolerated well by the judges. The fish’s body must be of the correct shape and correct proportion. The fish should not look bloated or anorexic.

Colour and fins of show fish

A fish’s body colour is determined by various layers of pigmentation that is found in the scales and the flesh underlying the scales of the fish. In the wild, colour is used for camouflage, display, mating and for shoaling purposes.
In shows, the fish must meet the the show standards for colour which might be markedly different than wild colours. Many show fish have colours that have been mutated over many generations away from the original wild colouration. Colour can be a very important factor in scoring for a show and a lot of points out of the total go to good coloration.
Fish do have some chameleon like abilities when it comes to colour. They can adjust their colours to better blend in with their surroundings. In bright tanks they can become washed out while in dark tanks they can darken.
Your fish’s coloration should be even all over the body and fins. The colour should not look washed out or be in patches unless it is a patterned fish.When 2 or more colours appear on a fish the borders where 2 colours meet each other should be well defined without colour bleeding.
Do not be tempted to use artificial colouring methods to improve the colour of your fish. These techniques leave the fish looking artificial and most judges will instantly recognised an artificially coloured fish and disqualify it.
Fins should all be present and well formed. Any missing or deformed fins are severely frowned on by judges. It is better to not enter such fish because you want to build up a good relationship with the judges for future shows. All fins must be in good condition with no tears, splits or frayed edges. The fins should all be held wide open and properly coloured. The fins should all be symmetrical in shape and size.

Overall condition of show fish

There should be no missing or damaged scales. Eyes should be bright and clear and symmetrical. The eyes must not be bulging or look sunken. The fish must be in perfect health and have a healthy and alert appearance.
Transporting fish to and from a show
Transport the fish’s display tank in an insulated wooden box. Darken the tank by covering with a cloth. Cushion the tanks so that vibrations and jolts are not transmitted to the tank and the fish. Make sure you arrive early to set up your show tank and give your fish time to settle after their stressful journey. Relaxed fish always display better and always score better than skitty fish with stressed colours.