low maintenance fish keeping

three year old Walstad aquarium

A guide to low maintenance fish keeping

three year old Walstad aquarium
three year old Walstad aquarium

Why create a low maintenance aquarium? So you can spend more time admiring your fish, perhaps. People who are just getting started in the aquarium hobby are often taken aback by the level of maintenance that a successful fish tank usually needs. The cultural stereotype of keeping a goldfish in a tiny bowl and enjoying some kind of no-maintenance pet that just floats around and nibbles on flake occasionally is quickly dispelled once the conversation turns to biological filtration systems, cleaning schedules and balancing the nitrogen cycle in your tank.

It should come as no surprise, then, that many fish keeping enthusiasts have come up with some clever ways to lower the maintenance needs of their tanks. Thanks to one of two approaches, aquarists are getting closer than ever to a no maintenance sustainable environment that does not need constant upkeep and vigilance to keep their fish healthy.

Two approaches: natural and high-tech

If the average aquarium maintenance seems like hard work then there are two basic ways to approach your setup in order to enjoy a tank that allows for low maintenance fish keeping:

natural tanks-These tanks are designed around sound ecological principles. While complex these greatly reduce the amount of work that you have to put in on a regular basis. These tanks focus on providing a closed ecosystem that is as close to natural as possible, with plants, algae, bacteria, microscopic planarians, freshwater shrimp, and fish completing the food cycle for you.

High-Tech tanks-This kind of aquarium does away with the need for ecological purity and uses automation and chemicals to maintain comfortable water conditions without your help. This means using sterilisers,  over-filtration, automatic feeders, algae-reducing chemicals, and more. These tools work in concert to keep the tank healthy and clean.

In natural tanks you will want to plan your tank around hardy, low maintenance fish that can tolerate the occasional change in water quality without being too badly shaken by the experience. Natural tanks will have occasional biological issues, and high tech tanks may suffer malfunctioning equipment from time to time, so it is important that you do not commit yourself to extremely delicate species.

Designing a natural tank

newly set up Walstad aquarium
newly set up Walstad aquarium

If you would like to set up an natural aquarium for low maintenance fish keeping, your tank will need to put a premium on long term planning and maintaining adequate life cycles for all of the tank’s inhabitants. Your choices regarding the species that you would like to keep will be very important, since they will all need to work together in order to maintain a healthy tank.

In the case of a natural, self-sustaining aquarium, the simplest aquarium tools can be put to effective use while plants and bacteria take care of your biological filtration needs. A drip-feed system can make water changes unnecessary, and with the right approach to your plants, you may even eliminate gravel cleaning from your to-do list, leaving you only with the responsibility of feeding your fish.

Plants are a necessity for the low maintenance fish keeping set up. By absorbing unwanted fish waste and keeping algae in check, they can help reduce the need for water changes while keeping your fish healthy. Good low-maintenance choices include the following:

  •  Water wisteria,
  •  Java moss,
  •  Lilaeopsis,
  •  African water fern,
  •  Java fern.

Simply keeping plants in your aquarium is not enought to ensure a stable low maintenance environment. Using soil as a substrate can allow biological filtration to occur directly within the tank when done properly. One of the most effective natural tank designs is the soil-based tank developed by Diana Walstad.

The Walstad Method

Diana Walstad has pioneered an unorthodox method of low maintenance fish keeping  that makes heavy use of plants and organic soil conditions to keep aquarium water healthy for fish. The combination of a soil substrate with fast growing plants takes out the nitrate and ammonia present in the water. This natural approach allows for filtration to occur through the land-based plants’ absorption of those chemicals in the roots and their subsequent release in to the atmosphere, above the water line.

These aquariums, when properly set up, can greatly reduce the need for mechanical filtration tools and other gadgets while also eliminating the need for you to personally change the water constantly. The key is to be found in the proper use of soil as a substrate rather than conventional gravel. Having your plants rooted in a thin layer of high quality soil allows anaerobic bacteria to filter the water without overwhelming their roots. This high quality soil boosts plants growth and activity. Thriving plants take out a lot more of the harmful ammonia, nitrites and nitrates than their struggling counterparts in a gravel tank. This also makes gravel cleaning a thing of the past.

With this kind of tank, supplemented by the addition of microscopic planarians or daphnia and other live food, you can enjoy a truly low maintenance fish keeping set up. You can do away with all the specialized equipment and other products. Often, a natural Walstad tank can be enjoyed indefinitely with only a heater, good lighting for the plants, and a light-duty mechanical filter or aerator that keeps the water flow up. The Walstad set up can be enhanced with a modicum of equipment, especially a small biological filter and a drip feed water system. But then it is not a 100% natural system.

You can buy Diana Walstad’s book on Amazon.The book goes into detail on how the aquarium ecosystem works. She details some of the experiments in building a sustainable ecosystem that have lasted several years. This is not a book full of pretty pictures. It is a book that will tell you how to build healthy and low tech aquariums where the plants thrive and the fish are healthy. Click on the book on the left to buy the book.

 

The value of high quality soil in an natural tank

Since it is clear that the use of soil as a substrate is what makes this tank special, it is important to determine what constitutes high quality soil and sets it apart from other options. The main concern here is to use properly natural soil—that is, soil that is made of 100% natural matter so that natural decomposition can take place.

The composition of the soil will greatly affect the water quality of your tank as it decomposes, so you will want to perform frequent water changes while your tank and its fish adapt to the presence of the soil and an ecological balance is created. Regular potting soil is largely excluded due to the presence of additives that will contaminate your water.

Step by step process for setting up a Walstad Method natural tank

• Start with your tank’s essentials: the heater and filter/power heads should be in place before you add anything else to the tank.

• Begin by adding a 3 cm layer of untreated, non-sterile top soil to the tank.

• Cover the soil layer with an additional 3 cm of medium fine gravel, or a fine layer of sand. Be gentle: too much covering will deprive your bacteria of oxygen.

• Your plants will need calcium. If your water is soft, add in bone meal or coral gravel to compensate.

• Add your choice of plants and turn on your lights: 2 watts for every 3.8 litres is a sufficient amount.

• Add clean room temperature water that is free of chlorine or chloramine.

• Use filters or power heads to maintain brisk water flow and keep the water oxygenated, especially until cycling is complete.

• Test for pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite every two days for two months, changing the water as necessary. Some soils will require frequent changes to rid the water of toxins.

• You can add fish immediately after setting up, but be sure to perform 25% water changes as soon as you see ammonia or nitrite levels above zero.

• If algae becomes a problem, reduce your lighting or add floating plants to the tank. Once the tank is established, the plants will effectively out-compete algae for nutrients.

To read more about the techniques and why they work then read

The high-tech tank

If you would like to enjoy low maintenance fish keeping without making any compromises on fish choice or plant presence, the high-tech tank might be for you. This type of tank has a number of benefits, including the fact that you can keep just about any type of fish you desire, and plants tend to grow bright and beautiful quickly in this environment.

Some delicate fish species that usually live in river environments are especially suited to the high-tech tank. The increased flow, filtration, and continuously changing water will make river species feel right at home.

The main drawback to the high-tech tank is that setting it up is a long process. After set up there is usually a tinkering period where you fine tune things. You will have to invest a bit of time, energy, and money into maintaining a proper balance through technological means. This could mean using any or all of the following tools to keep the water conditions ideal for your fish:

• Double filtration—Using multiple filters will effectively double the period before you need to clean the filter media. Doubling the filters maximises biological filtration to keep ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels at zero.

• Power heads—These can help keep the flow rate high within the tank, enabling effective filtration and keeping detritus and mulm from settling into the gravel substrate. This gives more of a chance for the filters to pick it up instead.

• Drip-Feed System—This is a very useful DIY project that will continuously drain and replace water from your tank: Pre-filtered water is drip fed to the tank while an overflow system drains all excess water. Carbon filtration is needed to remove chlorine.

• Automatic feeder—A programmable fish feeder can store days’ or even weeks’ worth of food and reliably deposit a controlled amount directly into the water at regular intervals. Robust, high quality units can be left on their own for weeks at a time without worry. You can even go on holiday and not worry about hungry fish.

• UV steriliser—Low maintenance fish keeping practitioners still need to control algae, and if you want to avoid regularly scraping your aquarium glass clean then a UV steriliser will provide the algae control that you need.

• Algae-controlling chemicals—Another low maintenance fish keeping solution for controlling algae is through the use of specialized chemicals. These can be found at many fish and aquarium supply stores. But these are a last resort.

• Light timers—Choose your lights carefully to avoid encouraging algae growth. A light timer can also help by allowing you to set a specific lighting schedule that offers just enough to help your plants grow without triggering an algae bloom.

• Protein skimmer—Often found in saltwater aquariums, these devices greatly reduce the amount of organic fish waste in your tank, reducing the need for water changes.
This approach to low maintenance fish keeping allows you to enjoy your aquarium without needing to worry about your fish’s basic needs such as feeding and water changing. You will still need to perform regular cleaning. But with high-powered filtration of your tank and a good control of algae, you should be able to get by with a quick monthly vacuuming and filter rinsing schedule.

Step by step process for setting up a high-tech tank

• Again, start with the tank’s essentials: Your filters, heaters, and lighting setup should be ready.

• Add a 5 cm even layer of gravel along the bottom of the tank. If you use sand, a very shallow layer will make vacuuming easy.

• Plant any plants you may have now. If you use the easy-to-clean thin gravel substrate, your plants should be potted or attached to rocks and other decorations, which you can also add in now.

• Add clean, conditioned, de-chlorinated water to your tank.

• Insert and activate your filter, lights, and heater.

• Begin cycling either by adding starter fish, fish food, or another ammonia source.

• After cycling begins, you can activate the drip-feed system for constant water changing, though you may need additional water changes until cycling is complete.

• Test the water every two days for two months, waiting for ammonia and nitrate readings of zero.

• Respond to algae growth with reduced light until cycling is complete. The UV steriliser and protein skimmer should help here but if it is not enough, you can add algae controlling chemicals after cycling is complete, or even use low maintenance floating plants to control algae growth.

Once you’ve successfully cycled your tank, you should have a complete low maintenance fish keeping solution on your hands: high water flow, drip feeds, and automatic fish feeders will ensure that your aquarium stays sustainably healthy without constant care. Again the high tech system is enhance by having floating plants and biological filtratrion. So not a pure high tech solution.

Now you can sit back, relax and enjoy your fish. You’ve earned it.

 

Raising the fry

kribensis mother guarding newly free swimming fry

Raising the fry – hints and tips to grow many healthy fish

kribensis mother guarding newly free swimming fry
kribensis mother guarding newly free swimming fry

If you have successfully gotten your fish to breed and now have a large batch of eggs or even a population of tiny fry living in your tank, it could be time to brush up your fry-parenting skills. You may need to adjust your approach depending on the exact nature of your specific species of fish, but the basics of caring for fry are largely universal in nature.

See also breeding egg layers

and breeding livebearers

Newborn fry are very small and delicate creatures, and you will have to concern yourself with their health and safety if you want to see them grow into healthy adult fish. There are a few basic requirements needed for just about any species of fry to successfully grow:

Clean water-Your fry might need you to perform water changes much more frequently than you are used to. They are much more sensitive to changes in water conditions than their parents are. Small frequent water changes are best. The fry also grow faster when in clean water. Betta fry are notoriously slow growers when less water changes take place.

. Filtration- Your spawning tank should have a high quality sponge filter or two. Don’t be afraid to have several sponge filters in the same tank. Sponge filters usually have microscopic life attached to them that are growing on the filtered waste matter. Fry will pick off and eat these micro organisms adding to their diet. The slow flow rates from the sponge filters are much safer for fry than faster powered filters.

Separate tanks-Fry are a quick snack to most fish. Even some cichlids that protect their young on occasion will eat their own fry. You will need to keep your fry safe in a separate tank or you will have to remove all adult fish from the breeding tank. Have several containers ready for when the fry grow. Also, some fry will grow faster than others, and the larger ones may eat the smaller ones.

free swimming killifish fry hover near the water's surface
free swimming killifish fry hover near the water’s surface

• Closely covered tanks-Some species where the fry live at the surface of the water or breathe in oxygen from the surface such as anabantids are harmed by draughts. A tightly fitting lid will prevent cold draughts from harming these fry.

• Microscopic and tiny live food-Fry usually need to eat live food. The main choices are explored below. Determining the right food for your fry is critical.

• Anti-fungal and anti-bacterial chemicals—Fungal and bacterial infections can destroy good batches of eggs and fry. Methylene Blue and Malachite Green are two good options that can help protect your spawn and fry from sickness and infection. Add as soon as the eggs are laid in not too heavy doses. Perhaps half normal dosage is good. Malachite is copper based so care has to be taken with copper sensitive species. Methylene blue will harm live plants.

What to feed your fry

You are limited to a select few choices for feeding fry. These include infusoria, baby brineshrimp and microworms, which are the most common choices. Generally, the best option is to raise your own live food when possible. Most species’ fry will only eat live food.

These foods need to be ready before your fry become free swimming and start eating. They also need to be staggered. You will need to have a fresh batch started on a daily basis.

Each option represents certain advantages and disadvantages, especially for certain species. For instance, Anabantid fry will be too small to eat baby brine shrimp, requiring you to feed them the tiniest possible food: infusoria. Other species, such as Angelfish, can often be started on larger food sources such as baby brineshrimp and infusoria. But sometimes large species create tiny fry. Also as the fry grow, some will grow faster than others. Some of the fry will only be able to eat infusoria while the larger fry will need baby brineshrimp

Since infusoria are the smallest possible fry food, it may seem reasonable to simply start there and then move on to other foods when the fry have grown large enough. While it is a reasonable plan, infusoria do come with a drawback: being microscopic, you cannot really be sure that your fry are eating. Only after the fry have finished feeding will you be able to see the fry bellies fill up and colour up from eating infusoria all day.

Baby brine shrimp represents one of the best choices for feeding those species of fry large enough to eat them. They are easy to raise and offer the most complete nutrition for your baby fry. These tiny shrimp will live for up to five days in freshwater, giving your fry enough time to catch and eat them while they grow. The great advantage of baby brine shrimp is that they do not add infections to the aquarium.

Frequent feeding will help your fry grow more quickly; some aquarists suggest small meals 3-6 times per day. Fry tend to have shorter intestinal tracts than their adult counterparts and so are more carnivorous as well. They don’t eat algae but do eat the creatures that eat the algae. If you find yourself in a pinch and need to feed your fry quickly without having access to brine shrimp or infusoria, you can use hard boiled egg yolk. Squeeze through a cloth into the aquarium to create a cloud of fine particles. The biggest drawback is that egg yolk quickly rots and pollutes the aquarium. You must siphon off carefully all uneaten egg particles.

Culling your fry for a healthy brood

One of the critical steps of raising a successful batch of fry is culling the weak and deformed fry early on. Unless you have an exceptionally large aquarium for all of the fry to grow in, you will need to cull the brood. Culling consists of removing all but the strongest individuals from the tank in order to maximize their chances of success at the expense of their weaker brethren. If you don’t cull then overcrowding will do the culling for you, with perhaps all the fry dying through lack of space.

Very few aquarists are equipped to deal with the hundreds of new fish that an average spawn can produce, and indeed most natural habitats cannot support such large populations either. As a result, culling takes place, either by your hand or by the nature’s hand leaving only the strongest members of the brood alive.

Generally, you want to perform your first culling as soon as the fish become free swimming in order to remove any deformed fish that obviously have no chance of survival and leave as much space and food as possible to the stronger ones. Later on, as certain individuals do well and other ones begin trailing behind, you will need to continue culling. Any fry that have not developed all their fins properly, have deformed spines, are not completely symmetrical, have swim bladder problems and are stuck to the bottom or float must be culled.

The most natural way to cull fry is to feed them to other fish. This is exactly what would happen in the wild and is the reason most fish produce hundreds of offspring in the first place. Some aquarists prefer freezing or other humane methods of culling, but the result is the same—just don’t flush them down the toilet.

Life stages: caring for your fry through to adulthood

Many fry will go through specific life stages on their way to adulthood. In the case of Malawi cichlids, for example, you will find that fry are first born with rather large yolk sac attached to the body. These types of fish will spend about 21 days or more, living off of the yolk sac while inside the mother’s mouth.

Malawi cichlids are mouthbrooders whose fry will generally be large enough to begin eating dried food as well as live food after birth. Livebearers are about as large as Malawi fry and the same goes for them. The dried food may need to be ground into a powder first however. Most other species need live food: Tetras, for example, are egg scatterers whose fry will slowly consume their own yolk before becoming free-swimming fry, at which point you can begin to feed them baby brine shrimp for the larger species but usually infusoria if they are too small.

5 week old kribensis fry
5 week old kribensis fry

For most species it will take at least 1 month before the fry actually look like miniature versions of the adult. And it takes even longer before they take on adult colours. In many species the male and female young will look like the adult female until quite late into development. At this stage the fry are reasonably hardy and can be cared for like the adults.

After some time, you should notice your fry getting significantly larger and livelier, and it may soon become time to introduce them to a new tank. A common indicator that your fry are ready to move to a new tank can be seen in their colouring. Fish that already exhibit their adult coloration and have begun behaving more socially can often be safely moved to a community tank. To be on the safe side make sure that the juveniles are bigger than the biggest mouth of the fish in the community tank, including the catfish. Remember the rule no matter what fish you have; if a fish can fit in the mouth of another fish, sooner or later it will be eaten.

Amazon biotope aquarium

amazon biotope with angels rummy nose and rams

Introduction To The Amazon Biotope Aquarium: Recreating The Amazon River

amazon biotope with bolivian rums and rummy nose tetras
amazon biotope aquarium-Bolivian rams and rummy nose tetras

One of the more popular options when it comes to biotope selection is the Amazon biotope aquarium. This is a setup that is designed from the ground up to emulate the conditions of the Amazon River, and, if done right, will give you a unique insight into the ecology of this fascinating part of the world.

While keeping a biotope aquarium of a tropical river with such diversity may seem like an expert-level challenge, the truth is that beginners looking to set up their first Amazon biotope aquarium have little to fear if they do adequate research and make the right choices. If approached correctly, the Amazon River can be a very accessible biotope choice.

Also Malawi biotope here

Getting started on your amazon biotope aquarium

Despite its apparent complexity, the Amazon River environment can be relatively simple to replicate. The key is making practical choices concerning the accuracy of your biotope aquarium: The Amazon River is full of undesirable predators, leeches, and parasites among many other qualities that are detrimental to the aquarium environment, so you will need to make some compromises.

These issues do not stop at aquatic predators, but go on to include dark, muddy water conditions that offer very little visibility and a thick soil bottom that would be impossible to clean. That will not only make your tank plant-less and barren due to the lack of light penetrating the water, but will also make it difficult for to you enjoy seeing your fish at all. In general, you are best advised to avoid trying to create a 100% faithful biotope aquarium.

amazon biotope with angels and roots
amazon biotope with angels and roots

You can, however, make great strides forward in your plans to keep an Amazon biotope aquarium if you combine some effective aquascaping with common sense ecological accuracy. The best way to do this is to scan the Internet for images of Amazon biotopes that you like the look of and then work towards your own expression of that example. Once you have a clear idea in mind, there are three basic methods to approaching your biotope aquarium:

• Find the fish that you like, determine what part of the Amazon River they are from, and then create the biotope to suit them;
• Choose a specific part of the Amazon River to replicate and fill your tank exclusively with fish from that area;
• Begin with the plants, driftwood, and substrate and then build your tank upwards from there.

Either one of these methods can produce a successful Amazon River biotope aquarium if handled correctly. You need only choose which elements you are most comfortable starting with.

Types of amazon biotopes

Since the Amazon River is so large, there are a number of options from which you can choose when it comes to your specific type of tank. Some biotope options will be very different from others, and more ideally suited to certain species that would naturally live there. A short list of options include:

• Whitewater Stream—This environment features water with a slightly muddy appearance. Whitewater tanks look their best with driftwood and dead branches added in, as well as a dark sand substrate.

• Blackwater Stream—Waters that originate deep within the rainforest and contain a high level of dissolved leaf litter are usually referred to as blackwater streams. This water is more acidic due to the dissolved leaf litter that you will need to add, or even use as a substrate.

• Oxbow Lake—This refers to the many crescent-shaped lakes that form when the Amazon River changes course. These lakes tend to be both muddy and filled with accumulated leaf litter and debris. For this reason, mud is an ideal substrate, and Oxbow biotope keepers will want to keep filtration to a minimum.

How to simulate amazon river water

The acidity of your Amazon biotope aquarium will vary depending on which of the three above choices you choose for your tank. For example, a whitewater river environment will require water with a pH level between 6,3 and 7,0, while a blackwater biotope will be more acidic—between 4,5 and 6,5, and the Oxbow Lake water has a pH between 5,4 and 6,8.

The temperatures of the various forms of the Amazon biotope aquarium tend to be less varied, with 24-28° C being the norm. Water hardness should be kept reasonably low, as most of the dissolved materials in Amazon waters are not mineral, but organic: a dH level between 3-8 should be ideal.

When it comes to attaining the signature colouration of Amazon water and keeping the fish as comfortable as they would be in the wild, it is necessary to mix peat with your reverse osmosis-filtered water as well as some leaves to give it substance. Examples of leaves that will help create the tannic water commonly seen in the Amazon are:

indian almond leaves
indian almond leaves

• Indian almond leaves,
• Oak leaves,
• Copper beach leaves.

The idea is to stain the water using these leaves in order to give it the unique brown appearance that every Amazon biotope should have to some degree. The other main element of your biotope water will be peat.

Peat is widely available from aquarium supply stores and fish shops and is necessary for gaining the correct level of dissolved organic matter in the water and reproducing the Amazon River environment correctly. In order to maximize the benefits of peat, it is recommended that you do not use with activated carbon filtration or with waterborne fish medicine.

Peat is a unique element of the Amazon river environment and one part of your biotope that cannot be skipped. Your Amazon biotope aquarium tank should be cycled with peat present, and topped off if the water gets too clear after changing later on.

Populating your amazon biotope aquarium

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

The Amazon River is home to an enormous number of different species, and some of them are better suited to certain tanks than others. Naturally, you will want to choose species that do not prey on one another and that can live in relative peace and harmony in your tank—this can be tricky when it comes to Amazon fish.

One of the main aspects that you will want to take into consideration is the size of your tank. If you plan on keeping a small tank, then basing your Amazon biotope aquarium on a population of tetras or dwarf cichlids would be a great idea, while larger tanks can afford to support more exotic options.

More on tetras here

More on dwarf cichlids here

If you have a large enough tank, you can populate your tank with Angelfish, Silver Dollars, or even piranhas. Care must be taken with larger community tanks keeping these kinds of fish, as most of them are very aggressive. Often, aquarists will stick to a single species in order to minimize violence between fish—and even then the tank is not guaranteed to be 100% violence-free.

Considering plants for your tank

Plants, too, must be considered in light of the unique water conditions that the Amazon River provides. The main issue here is that the standard water conditions of the Amazon offer very little light penetration. Some flexibility on your plant choices here can help a great deal in the long run. Some plants that would be at home in this biotope would be:

• Echinodorus (Amazon Sword, Dwarf Sword, etc.);
• Hair Grass;
• Cabomba;
• Myriophyllum.

One of the major concerns for plants in an Amazon biotope aquarium is access to light. If your water features a high level of dissolved organic material like it should, your plants might not have adequate access to regular aquarium lights, requiring you to get more powerful ones for them. Cabomba and Myriophyllum plants, in particular, can present problems from this point of view.

Another concern when it comes to aquarium plants in this environment is the number of plants to keep. That level of dissolved organic material in the water will make algae control a challenge—keeping lots of plants will help balance your tank and keep it relatively clear. Again, if you choose to be flexible in your plant choices, you can benefit from a healthier aquarium even if it is not 100% faithful.

Aquascaping and driftwood

mail order driftwood is suitable for amazonian biotope
mail order driftwood is suitable for amazonian biotope

While you may have all the information you need to begin your new Amazon aquarium, creating a natural-looking Amazon river environment requires that you take the time to plan your tank out carefully and find the right décor for it.

Driftwood is an essential element of a faithful Amazon biotope aquarium tank. If you have a larger tank and would like to keep one or two panaque catfish, you may even need to provide driftwood as food for the fish. Trying to source natural driftwood from the actual Amazon River is a futile task for most aquarists in the world—instead, you will have to find suitable wood from other sources.

In general, clean bog hardwood that has been carefully dried out can be used in your aquarium. You will want to introduce the wood before the plants and fish in order to compensate for any water quality issues that may occur.

Putting together your tank with all of these separate elements will take some planning and forethought. If you have taken the time to look at other aquarists’ Amazon biotopes, you might have a good idea of where you want to go with yours. Another option it to find genuine photographs of the Amazon river and to use the materials at hand to replicate the aquascape to the best of your ability. Both of these are equally suitable methods of making an ideal Amazon biotope aquarium.

When you have completed your aquarium it is worthwhile going back to the original images to see how closely you have replicated the original biotope image. Perhaps you have surpassed the original and can relax. Or, perhaps you have forgotten some element that would add the finishing touches. When all is complete you can then sit back and enjoy your small simulation of the amazon river. After all this is what all the effort is all about.

Review: Ultimate Secrets to Saltwater Aquarium Fish and Corals

well designed marine aquarium

Review: Ultimate Secrets to Saltwater Aquarium Fish and Corals

by Andrej Brummer

The ultimate investment in knowledge for every aquarium owner

Successful marine aquarium by Andrej Brummer
Successful marine aquarium by Andrej Brummer

With no previous experience of owning a marine aquarium, I was daunted by the responsibility of keeping marine creatures alive and healthy, when I had no idea what equipment to buy, which fish to choose or how to stock the tank. Ultimate Secrets is a fantastic investment, whatever your level of experience, whether you are nervous about setting up your first aquarium, if you own an aquarium and can’t figure out why things go wrong, or if you have years of experience and want a comprehensive reference book on hand to help you deal with unexpected issues.
This book will help you look after your marine aquarium correctly so you build a healthy and compatible aquatic community of fish and invertebrates into beautiful and entertaining part of the ocean in your own home. It is easy to navigate and has a simple conversational style with extremely informative explanations, so you will find it easy to follow the instructions and understand exactly what you are doing.

 

 

 

selection of clownfish
selection of clownfish

I will be keeping Ultimate Secrets next to my aquarium so I am ready to deal with any eventuality. I showed my copy to a friend who has owned an aquarium for years, and he also found the information valuable and inspiring.
The author, Andrej Brummer has an inspiring passion for marine creatures and their environment. Brummer has shown me that saltwater aquarium owners are creating a safe nurturing ecosystem for marine creatures whose natural habitat is becoming endangered. He has channelled his knowledge and experience as a scientist and expert aquarist into this comprehensive guide, so you will know how to care for all the marine inhabitants including fish, coral, plankton and healthy bacteria.
Brummer divides his extensive material into short informative chapters covering everything from the basics, such as buying equipment, stocking your aquarium and feeding your marine family, to expert advice on filtration lighting, rockscaping, making marine organisms work for you and even how to perform surgery if necessary! Ultimate Secrets has several colourful charts, including one that identifies 16 popular saltwater aquarium species so you can build up a compatible marine community, according to their feeding habits and their activity levels.

Review by Kirsten Ehrlich Davies.

The only shortcoming of the book is there is no information on breeding marine fish. Perhaps because of the complexity of the subject Brummer thought that it needed a whole book dedicated to the topic. We await the sequel.

Brummer is the aquarists version of Steven Seagal. If you click on the correct picture you get the chance to buy a kick ass book. If you click on the wrong picture you will just get your ass kicked.

Steven seagal
Steven seagal
andrej brummer
andrej brummer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi, I’m Andrej Brummer, the #SaltwaterScientist

I am a biological scientist who has had a life-long interest in the world of marine organisms. Growing up on the sea shores of New Zealand and Australia I learned a healthy respect for ocean conservation and sustainable aquarium keeping, but I do still eat seafood however

In my formative years I will admit, I killed many a fish and a few corals in aquariums before I learned what it took to keep captive marine life thriving through trial, error and scientific training.

I enjoy raving about Tangs, LPS corals and how to be a sustainable saltwater aquarium hobbyist to anyone that will listen.

Now I am proud to say I have advised and educated over 3000 saltwater aquarium hobbyists through my best selling ebook.

Set up your first tropical marine tank

Final complete marine aquarium set up

Your first saltwater tank set up

well designed marine aquarium
well designed marine aquarium

If you have already enjoyed the success of keeping your own tropical freshwater aquarium and would like to move onto a more beautiful but complex aquaria, your next step may be to attempt your first tropical marine tank. A saltwater tank setup tends to require a bit more investment on your part, both financially and in terms of setting up the complete marine aquarium , but the fascinating end result is worth it.

While at first glance, it may seem that keeping a saltwater aquarium should be the same as keeping a freshwater one, but with added salt. However, there are some key differences that you will need to pay attention to in order to get your tank set up properly. One of the first that should be taken into account before you start buying any marine tank equipment is the type of set up you would like to keep.

See also beginners saltwater tank step by step
 
and live rock and live sand
 
and beginners saltwater fish
 

Three types of tropical saltwater tank setups

Fish only marine aquarium
Fish only marine aquarium is quite lively and active

Your first tropical marine tank will fall into one of three broad categories:

• Fish only tank

• Fish only with live rock (FOWLR) tank

• Complete reef tank (as above but with corals and invertebrates)

There are a wide variety of advantages and disadvantages to keeping each type of these saltwater tank setups. For your first tropical marine tank, however, it is important to keep things as simple as possible so that you can get acquainted with the specifics of keeping saltwater fish before moving on to more complicated setups involving corals and invertebrates.

Of the three choices above, the easiest option is the fish only with live rock tank. Intuitively you might think a fish only tank would be simpler to keep. Not so, the truth is that maintaining the correct water quality and filtration without live rock will require more work on your part. Live rock provides vital biological processes that eat up a lot of waste matter from the fish, purifying the water.

marine aquarium with live sand, coral and fish
marine aquarium with live sand, coral and fish

Reef tanks, too require a lot of hard work and monitoring in order to get running smoothly and maintaining, and are often some of the most expensive tanks to keep. They tend to require more equipment and more expensive livestock than tanks that focus solely on fish and live rock.

If you have decided to keep a fish and live rock tank and are ready to begin purchasing equipment and setting up, the list and guide below will help you get everything you need to begin.

What you need for your first tropical marine tank

As mentioned above, the technical requirements of maintaining your marine tank will be a bit more complex than those of a freshwater tank. You will need to collect the following equipment in order to get started:

• Aquarium As always, a larger tank is generally easier to keep and will make sudden changes in water quality less of a danger for your fish. At least 100 litres is recommended for your first tropical marine tank.

live rock is great for biological filtration
live rock is great for biological filtration

• Substrate There are three main options to choose from here: a shallow sand bed, a deep sand bed, or a bare bottom tank. A shallow sand bed is often ideal for first-time saltwater aquarists.

• Live Rock Getting about one 1 kilogram per 7.5 litres of high-quality live rock is important for your tank’s biological filtration.

• Saltwater Mix There are many brands of saltwater mix available both online and at your local aquarium shop.

• Refractometer This measures your water’s salt content, and is often included as part of high quality saltwater testing kits. Hydrometers also work, but tend to be less accurate.

• Protein Skimmer Your marine tank will need a protein skimmer. While it is possible to run a tank without one, you will have to work much more in order to avoid problems with algae and fish waste— you are better off starting with a skimmer that will take care of this for you.

• UV Steriliser This useful device uses high-frequency ultraviolet light to kill free-floating bacteria in your water. This makes it a type of filter, but one that uses light instead of mechanical or biological means to keep your water clean and healthy.

• Multiple Power Heads These devices provide water flow, which is very important in saltwater tanks. Turbulent flow, on the order of 10-20 times the tank volume, will help guarantee a clean, healthy tank by preventing detritus from accumulating.

• Reverse Osmosis Water Filter A water filter of this kind of necessary for preparing tap water. It removes minerals from tap water. So when you add sea salt to this water you will get pure sea water.

• Heater And Thermometer Some saltwater aquarists choose to purchase two smaller heaters instead of one large one, in order to avoid crisis should a heater malfunction.

• Test Kits Be sure to stock up on test kits for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates. These will be very useful during the initial cycling of the tank.

• Lights Thankfully, FOWLR tanks do not have very strict lighting requirements like reef tanks do. A mix of white and blue actinic lights should be sufficient for most fish and live rock setups.

• Quarantine tank You may need to setup a small, bare quarantine tank for your fish, as saltwater organisms may have a hard time getting comfortable in captivity, and can easily get sick.

Choosing fish for your tropical marine tank

clown-fish
clown fish is a good marine beginner’s fish

While keeping your marine tank opens the possibility of keeping a wide variety of exotic fish and invertebrates, you will want to start with simple and inexpensive saltwater fish in the beginning. While the accidental loss of a fish is always a tragedy, that tragedy could be more pronounced if you just lost a rare exotic fish that cost more than £100!

The best fish to begin with are simple, hardy species that can help you get used to caring for the saltwater environment, such as:

• Clownfish (though these do prefer to live in coral)

• Blennies

• Damselfish

• Gobies

Putting your first tropical marine tank together

After you have gathered all of the equipment that you need, you can begin preparing your marine tank for activity. The first thing you will want to do is wash out your aquarium— be sure not to use any soap, as the residue will be harmful for your fish.

Painting your aquarium background black or deep blue makes fish colours stand out beautifully. However you might prefer a stick on background. When the tank is suitably prepared, you can begin adding pre-mixed saltwater to it.

Fill a standard 20 litre bucket with filtered water that is free from chlorine and chloramine, add the salt mixture slowly, referring to the instructions on the packet it came in. Stir well and refer to your refractometer frequently. Once you have a specific gravity reading of 1.021 and 1.024, you can add the water to your aquarium, repeating as necessary until the tank is filled.

Once the tank is full, you can activate your equipment and let the tank begin the cycling process. After a day or two of water circulation, you can add your live rock to the tank.

Curing live rock

Fish swimming amongst live rock
Fish swimming amongst live rock

The greatest expense of your marine tank will probably be live rock. High quality specimens can get costly, but offer excellent biological filtration. Before you can enjoy these benefits, however, you will need to cure the live rock for some time; between a week or two months depending on the condition of the rock.

To cure live rock, drain some of the aquarium water and place the live rock inside the tank, preferably in the centre and with your power heads pointed directly at it. Every few days, you will need to turn off the power to the tank and clean the live rock with an old toothbrush to remove debris and dead organisms. After each cleaning, siphon the debris and refill the tank with pre-mixed saltwater.

This process needs to be repeated every few days until the water has no ammonia readings, no nitrite readings, and a smell somewhat like the ocean. When the tank is cycled, you are ready to add sand.

Adding sand to your tank

The best way to properly add your sand substrate to the tank is by draining some of the saltwater into a 20 litre bucket and emptying your sand into the bucket. Stir the resulting mixture until you see dust and dirt rising. Siphon off this dust and dirt before it settles. Repeat this process until there is not dust and dirt.

Once the sand is cleaned, you can ladle it into your aquarium. If any sand gets caught on your live rock, use a power head to blow it off so that your rock maintains uninterrupted contact with the water. In a few days, if all goes well, you should be ready to starting adding fish to your tank.

Finishing your first tropical marine tank

Final complete marine aquarium set up
Complete saltwater tank setup

After letting your tank circulate for a few days, you should begin to see consistent water quality readings such as:

• A temperature of 24-27°C;
• Specific gravity between 1.020 and 1.024;
• pH between 8.0 and 8.4;
• Ammonia and nitrite readings of 0;
• Nitrite readings of less than 20 ppm;
• Carbonate hardness between 7-10 dKH.

Once this happens, you are ready to begin adding fish to your tank. It is highly recommended to use some of your water to make a small quarantine tank for them to get used to first, reducing the risk of disease.

Add your fish slowly, one at a time so that the tank can adjust to the increased biological load. Your fish will be stressed out at first, but should begin acting normally and feeling comfortable after a few days. At that point, you can test the water and, conditions permitting, add your next fish. In a short time, you will have a fully stocked saltwater aquarium. Now you can sit back and enjoy your small piece of the ocean. But remember you still need to keep monitoring your water quality and topping up your aquarium with newly made seawater regularly.

 

Alternative coldwater aquarium fish

round tailed paradise fish

Choosing alternative cold water aquarium fish

round tailed paradise fish
round tailed paradise fish a true coldwater fish from China

Making a coldwater aquarium beautiful used to be a problem because there weren’t enough coldwater aquarium fish to choose from. However, with the better availability of temperate fish and exotic species this is no longer an issue. Here you can choose from the best cold water aquarium fish species listed below. With the wide range of coldwater aquarium fish available these days, you can make your coldwater tank look just as enticing and beautiful as a tropical aquarium. There is no need to immediately associate coldwater tanks with dull, uninteresting fish—even if you have to do some searching for them, there are a number of excellent species available for these tanks.

With the right choices, you can have a coldwater tank that looks just as good as a tropical one. The truth is that a home aquarium is not actually a coldwater tank but rather a temperate water tank with temperatures the equal of most warm temperate waters.

Some alternative cold water aquarium fish species and how to choose

rainbow shiner group
The beautiful and very active rainbow shiner is a coldwater aquarium fish

Your choice of fish should show the same bright assortment of colours that makes tropical fish keeping such an attractive hobby. One of the best ways to approach your coldwater tank is by holding it to the same standards as you would a tropical one, but without buying into cliché fish choices such as goldfish.
 
If you spend some time looking for the right combination of coldwater fish in terms of colour, size, temperemant and water conditions, you can create a very impressive tank. Keeping various species from different parts of the world such as Chinese gobies and American red shiners together can help create a varied and lively atmosphere in your tank.

Coldwater Aquarium fish species worth considering include:

• White Cloud Mountain Minnows
• Golden Barbs,
• Whip Tail Catfish,
• Empire Gobies,
• Argentinean Pearl,
• Japanese Medaka – Rice Fish,
• One Sided Livebearer,

white cloud mountain minnow pair
white cloud mountain minnow male and female

• Rainbow Shiners,
• Emerald Shiners,
• Macropodus Ocellatus, (Round tailed paradise fish)
• Black Bullhead Catfish,
• Bloodfins,
• Banded Charcidium,
• Common Loaches,
• Two-Spot Barbs,
• Bengal Danios,
• Red-Tailed Goodeids,
• Sunset Platies,
• Pygmy Sunfish,
• Mudminnows,
• Chinese gobies – rhinogobius (eg rhinogobius zhoui or r. rubromaculatus)
• rosy barbs

rosy barb males
rosy barb males

• odessa barbs
There are quite a few different elements to take into consideration with these alternatives. Any one of them is more interesting and exotic than keeping a stereotypical goldfish tank, but the right combination can really shine. Some of these, such as the White Cloud Mountain Minnow, are very popular as alternative coldwater aquarium fish, while others are more unusual choices.
Barbs are a great choice because of their colour assortments and generally good community behaviour and activity levels. The two-spot and golden barbs can grow very colourful when properly taken care of and offer a uniquely exotic appeal to any tank they are a part of. Sunset platies are a great choice as well—people rarely expect to see any species of platy in a coldwater tank.
The two species of catfish presented above make fine additions to larger tanks: the whip tail does best in a small group of similar individuals, and the black bullhead is large; with a dominating presence in any tank.

Argentinian pearlfish male
Argentinian pearlfish male

Argentinean Pearls, especially the males, tend to feature bright, ornate spotted colouring that looks fantastic in a variety of environments. If you want to give your tank a tropical look with coldwater fish, these are a great choice, especially when combined with other coldwater fish with bright colouration and ornate markings like theirs.
As always, fish compatibility needs to be taken into consideration when making your choices: Barbs and gobies tend to do well in a variety of community tanks, and catfish will spend most of their time in the lower depths of the water avoiding other fish. Sunset platies, as an additional example, should be kept at a ratio of two females to each male in order to minimize harassment.

Coldwater fish in a coldwater tank: is a chiller necessary?

Naturally, one of the advantages to the coldwater tank setup is the fact that you do not need to keep a heater. However, some aquarists from hotter climates who keep coldwater tanks insist on the use of a chiller to prevent their tanks overheating.

Advantages of the coldwater aquarium

Round tailed paradise fish
Round tailed paradise fish

The fish mentioned above will do well in an unheated tank, temperate water temperature, eliminating the need to buy a heater, for the most part. For most aquarists, the primary appeal of these species and of this tank type is the fact that there is no need to keep an expensive temperature control tool on twenty four hours a day, and all of these species will thrive in temperate waters kept anywhere within the normal range of room temperature.
As an added benefit, these fish tend to be very tolerant of temperature changes, so if you live in an area with cold winters and hot summers, you may still find that your fish are capable of thriving without your intervention. This saves time, money, and electricity while providing you with all the benefits you would otherwise have with a heated tropical tank. This actually better mimics the fishes natural environment with warm days and cool nights and seasonal temperature changes.
Not having to heat your aquariums saves you having to buy a heater and pay for higher electricity bills and not worrying about a broken heater or power outs. Another advantage is that you can expand quite easily. A breeding tank set up is no problem. Any water tight container and a filter and your away. Also growing-on, breeder tanks can be set up as they are needed in the same way.

Rhinogobius Zhoui male
Rhinogobius Zhoui male

Also not having a heated tank means that you can have an open topped aquarium(no hood) because there is less evaporation. However care still has to be taken with jumpers. Perhaps a glass cover should be employed to prevent fish committing suicide. With an open top and temperate temperatures, the aquarist can then consider mini water lilies and floating plants.
One thing you have to consider is the aquarium plants. Most plants do okay at lower temperatures however some will not. A little bit of care in the selection of your plants will let you avoid plants that don’t thrive. On the other hand you can obtain plants from the coldwater and pond section of your local aquarist.

Where to buy coldwater fish

Often, the best way to purchase coldwater fish is online. Local aquarium stores and fish shops will often provide several species of coldwater fish alongside their more popular tropical ones, but the selection is often limited. In order to get your coldwater aquarium looking colourful and bright, you will need to do some searching to find the right fish.
Local classifieds in which you can find nearby fish breeders can also be of great help. Often, you can find rare or exotic species being raised only a short distance from your home. This gives you an easy opportunity to get your hands on some good alternative species that can give your tank the special, unique appeal that you are looking for.

One note of caution : Many fish stores keep these temperate fish at tropical temperatures. It might be a mistake to put these fish into a cooler aquarium overnight. Acclimatise them to the cooler temperatures slowly over time.

Nano fish in a nano aquarium

litretank15

The Nano Fish Aquarium: Benefits, Drawbacks, And Guidelines For Use

15 litre nano tank
15 litre nano tank

Nano aquariums are increasingly popular because you can keep them anywhere and cost less than larger aquariums. There are a number of reasons why newcomers and experienced aquarists alike may find themselves interested in purchasing and keeping a nano fish aquarium. It is like the aquarium keeper’s version of bonsai. The small size of these aquariums, generally 56 litres or less, make them ideal for a variety of environments where keeping a large fish tank is out of the question.

These nano aquariums are a very attractive choice for people who would like to keep a small number of fish in their bedroom. Other possible locations include offices and other commercial settings where the presence of a small fish tank can add a pleasant, lively atmosphere. In these situations, it may not be possible to dedicate much space to the fish tank, making the nano fish aquarium a very convenient option.

Some experienced aquarists claim that nano aquariums do not represent a healthy habitat for fish. And that can be true if extra care is not taken to maintain the tank’s health. The truth is that if they are set up and cared for properly, they can harbour an ideal environment. These smaller tanks offer a number of advantages that makes fishkeeping a hobby that is available for everyone.

Benefits of Nano Fish Tanks

chili rasbora
chili rasbora

• Nano aquariums tend to be much less expensive than their larger counterparts, allowing nearly anyone to keep them.

• Their small size ensures that you can find space for them anywhere, and in many cases it is possible to keep several of them without issue.

• Aquariums are often excluded from the, “no pets” rules common to small flats and college dormitories. A nano fish aquarium can be a convenient way to circumvent those rules.

• With their small size they are lighter and can be placed almost anywhere. Nano aquariums do not require dedicated stands.  Nano tanks can be placed on an office desk with ease.
These can serve to make these tanks very attractive for many beginning aquarists, but the pros must be balanced with the cons of keeping such a small tank, as well.

ember tetra
ember tetra

Drawbacks To Keeping A Nano Fish Tank

• Very small aquariums are more susceptible to dramatic changes in water quality due to the much lower volume of water present.

• If a problem with water quality develops, it can turn fatal for the fish very quickly— sometimes within hours.

• Since nano fish tanks are more sensitive to changes in temperature and water chemistry, they require a stricter approach to monitoring water conditions and performing water changes.

• Your fish choices are somewhat limited by the smaller space afforded by a nano fish aquarium. Only small, non-territorial fish should be included in a tank of this size.

jelly bean tetra
jelly bean tetra

Choosing Fish For Your Nano Fish Aquarium

As with any aquarium, you should base your decisions around which fish you would like to keep. It is necessary to select small, peaceful fish who will get along with one another, since it is unlikely that there will be enough room for territorial fish to feel comfortable in. Also smaller fish because of their small size tend to be shoaling fish which you might want to avoid.
There are quite a few species of fish that are small enough to be kept happily in a nano fish aquarium. However, it is necessary to consider the combinations of species carefully in order to be sure that they are all compatible with one another—especially when sharing such a tiny space.
You must take into account that most smaller species are shoaling fish. If you want several different species rather than a shoal of 1 species then you need to find non-shoaling fish.

pygmy sunfish
pygmy sunfish

This is a recommended list of small tropical fish that you should choose from:

best nano aquarium fish

• Dwarf rasbora,
• Chili rasbora,
• Tetras (glowlight, rosy, red phantom, jelly bean, or neon),
Splendid Dwarf Gourami,
• Threadfin Rainbow Fish,
• Lamp Eye,
• Clown Killifish,
• Dwarf Croaking Gourami,

norman's lamp eye fish
norman’s lamp eye fish

• Dwarf Driftwood Catfish,
• Dwarf Ornate Bagrid,
• Dwarf Corydoras,
• Aspidoras Pauciradiatus,
• Marbled Otocinclus,
• Upside Down Catfish,
• Carnegies livebearer,
• Slender Pygmy Swordtail,
• Pygmy Sunfish.

There may be other species available to you at your local aquarist or online and you should certainly investigate all possibilities.

pygmy swordtail
pygmy swordtail

As a quick look at this list will clearly show, a great number of these species are of the dwarf- or pygmy- variety. This is an important distinction since the small space effectively limits the size and number of fish you can keep.

Many of these fish, such as neon tetras and dwarf corydoras, are schooling fish. If you plan on keeping a schooling fish in your mini tank, you will have to make room for 6-8 individuals. This means that just one species can quickly fill up your tank space, making it more difficult to express variety in your choices of fish.

Another issue that you are advised to take into account include the hardiness of the species and how social individual members of that species generally act. Shy fish can have a hard time in small tanks unless you opt for a single species tank.

Choosing fish for beauty

two male sparkling gouramis posturing
two male sparkling gouramis posturing

Select the combination of species that you think will offer you the most striking, colourful and beautiful nano tank that you can keep. But take into consideration: the preferred depths of your fish.

Your fish should be selected not only according to their colour, size, and compatibility, but also according to their most comfortable zone of depth. It is a well-known fact that catfish tend to inhabit the aquarium floor, for example. If you combine these fish with other species that prefer the surface or centre of the tank, you should enjoy less conflict in your tank than you would otherwise. When the fish fully occupy the full depth of the aquarium, it adds interest.

How To Take Care Of Your Nano Fish Aquarium Successfully

threadfin rainbowfish male displaying
threadfin rainbow fish male displaying

The secret is to scale down everything in proportion. This includes the fish, mini-species should predominate. Also the viewing distance must be reduced. Mini aquariums can be quite fascinating when viewed from close up. The plants also must be the mini varieties so that you can several different plants with different colours, leaves and textures. Filter speeds have to be scaled down too. However, you need to scale up your monitoring of the water conditions. A test kit is vital and should be checked more often than a large aquarium.

Once you are sure what species of fish you would like to keep, you will need to consider aquarium placement: In general, it is important to keep your aquarium out of direct sunlight. An algae bloom could prove to be devastating, so it is best to choose a comfortable indoors area such as the bedroom for your nano fish aquarium and let your aquarium light do its job.

A sponge filter is one of the best options for very small fish tanks, they tend to be small and offer enough filtration to handle the needs of the small volume of water that the tank holds. An air pump is highly recommended as well, although you will want to make sure you do not create too much turbulence in the water.

Water changes for small aquariums should be performed once or even twice a week. The small size of the aquarium means that you can complete your entire water changing procedure in only a minute or two, but skipping a change can have disastrous results, so be sure to remain vigilant and schedule your changes with care.

Plant And Lighting Considerations For Your Nano Fish Aquarium

black line tetra or black neon tetra
blackline tetra black neon tetra

Naturally, you will want to decorate your nano tank, and while live plants may seem like too much trouble to go through for such a small tank, they are can make very beautiful additions that also help keep the nitrogen cycle balanced properly. Java moss is an excellent choice since it is hardy, decorative, and easily cared for. Also floating plants can also add some low maintenance plant life to the mini aquarium.

If you choose to include a live plant in your nano setup, you will need to provide it with an adequate light source. Thankfully, small actinic bulbs are widely available online and in aquarium supply stores. You may not have room for more than a single plant, but it can be a great help in keeping your tiny aquarium healthy.

Buyer’s Beware: Nano Tanks To Be Avoided

Nano aquarists will find a number of nano tanks advertised that are under 5 litres and marketed as, “closed”, “low maintenance” or “no maintenance” aquariums. These products are generally fraudulent they cannot sustain healthy fish for long.

Also avoid tanks that are too small to accommodate a heater or filter. Trying to keep fish alive and healthy without the use of these important tools is asking for trouble.

In general, you should choose tanks and tools from brands that you trust. Low quality nano aquariums will inevitably lead to problems later on. If you choose a trustworthy brand that is known for making professional-quality equipment for your nano fish aquarium, you will rest easier knowing that your fish are in safe hands.

Finally, when you have carefully followed the above steps, you will be ready to sit back and enjoy what might turn out to be a fascinating nano spectacle in your home or office.

Breeding freshwater cherry shrimps

adult female red cherry shrimp

Breeding cherry shrimp

adult female red cherry shrimp
adult female cherry shrimp showing her dark red colouration

Shrimp are usually bought as a scavenger that is supposed to eat uneaten leftover food. This can lead to incorrect care and failure of your shrimp to thrive and breed. Instead, if the shrimp were treated with the same care you give to fish then they will amply pay you back in terms of entertainment and beauty. They are active and interesting in their own right with some of the nicest colours too. So don’t treat them like second class citizens in the aquarium.

Sexing cherry shrimps

Males and females can be told apart by looking at the colour the female being a solid red while the male will have a more faded colour. The female has a yellow “saddle” on her back which is a bunch of unfertilised eggs. The female is also larger than the male. A fully grown adult female will be 1.5 inches long.

Cherry shrimp breeding aquarium set up

A shrimp aquarium will ideally have a sponge filter or two. The shrimp will actually feed off the bacteria on the filter. Keep the temperature at 75F. Have some clumps of java moss. The shrimp absolutely love this and feed off organisms that grow on the moss. Some floating plants too is great for them. Provide dark gravel to ensure the best colour of your cherry shrimps. Feed tiny amounts of fish food and vegetables every few days. Remove any waste and that’s it. They are much easier to maintain than fish. However, remove any dead shrimp immediately.

Cherry Shrimp Breeding preparation

Try an 18 inch tank mature aquarium containing a sponge filter. Set the temperature at 80F. Just like fish ammonia, chlorine and nitrites will kill shrimp so a cycled tank is best. Ph is not important. Anything between 6ph-8ph is okay.

Breeding Cherry Shrimp

pregnant cherry shrimp
pregnant female cherry shrimp with yellow eggs

Put the shrimps into the aquarium. Make sure you have males and females. A few of each is good. Feed the shrimp fish food. Feed very small amounts. They are not big eaters. Also feed lettuce, cucumber and carrot. Place in the aquarium in the morning and remove any uneaten pieces at night.
The shrimp will mate if all is well. The female will lay the eggs and hold them underneath her tail. The eggs will be held there for 3 weeks or more. When the eggs hatch the baby shrimp are flicked away by the mother. They are born as exact miniatures of the parents. however, they are almost transparent. Now you are well on your way to having your own breeding colony of cherry shrimps.

Making money from breeding cherry shrimp

At the moment, few people are breeding and selling them. There is a potential to make money from them. In that case consider also, the other coloured cherry shrimps such as the blue and yellow varieties. With these being the same species, care and breeding is exactly the same. However, don’t put the different colours in the same aquarium because when they interbreed they will revert back to their native greeny brown colouration.

Enjoying cherry shrimps in the home aquarium

To enjoy them fully it is best to have a breeding colony and every so often put a young adult female shrimp in your living room aquarium to enjoy them. But it is best to keep them with peaceful species such as small tetras.

 

Guide to aquarium filters

various filters

Your guide to aquarium filter types: what kind of filtration is best and why

different types of filter
Aquarium filter types: canister, power, sponge, internal filters

 

Without a doubt, aquarium filters represent one of the most important elements of a properly functioning fish tank. Without proper filtration, your fish cannot possibly survive in the tank habitat you introduce them to.

The process of keeping the water clean and free of waste is so important that the aquarium industry has developed numerous solutions to approach the issue of filtration. A quick look at your local fish shop will show a wide variety of filters, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Understanding your aquarium filter types

Your aquarium water needs to be filtered in three ways to offer your fish a pleasant environment in which they can thrive. These three filtration methods are defined as follows:

• Mechanical Filtration. This refers to the physical act of pulling unwanted matter out of the water and leaving it in the filter, to be disposed of when you clean the filter. Dead plant leaves and foreign particles are commonly filtered mechanically. Vacuuming your tank regularly is also a form of mechanical filtration.

• Chemical Filtration. Chemical filters remove toxic chemicals by attracting them chemically to a filter medium as the water is pushed through them. Carbon is a very common filter medium for chemical filters because the majority of toxins will attach to carbon.

• Biological Filtration. Biological filtration takes place on the filter medium when beneficial bacteria consume poisonous waste products, saving your tank from becoming toxic.

Biological filtration cycling explained here

Also in saltwater aquariums live rock and live sand biological filtration

What are the various aquarium filter types?

Since there are so many different filtration options available, beginning aquarists can easily feel overwhelmed by the number of different products available. The differences between these filters may seem quite complicated, but the following list of filter types described below will help make the subject much more accessible:

sponge filter
Typical air powered sponge filter

• Sponge Filters. The sponge filter is one of the most basic types available on the market. It is distinguished by its lack of complex mechanical, chemical, or biological components and makes an acceptable, inexpensive filtration solution for small tanks, hospital tanks, and spawning tanks.

The sponge filter operates by using an air pump to pull water through the sponge material where unwanted particles are caught and beneficial bacteria consume ammonia and nitrite. Despite its simplicity the sponge filter provides excellent biological filtration

• External Filters. External filters are very common for aquarium hobbyists because of their excellent combination of effective mechanical, chemical and biological filtration as well as their price. External filters are usually grouped into hanging filters (HOB) for medium-sized tanks and external canister filters for larger tanks.

Both of these filters draw water into a canister filled with filtering material that provide mechanical, chemical filtration and biological filtration.

Larger external canister filters also pressurize the water when inside the canister. Because the water is pressurized and there is no air-to-water contact occurring within the canister, biological filtration is not as effective.

• Internal Canister Filters. Aquarium filters that sit directly on the glass of the inside of your tank are called internal canister filters. These filters combine excellent mechanical, biological and chemical filtration with very quiet usage, being completely submerged.

The drawback to these types of filters is that they take up space inside the tank. If you are short on space or would like to keep your tank interior pristine and natural, you may want to look at other filters.

undergravel filter operation
Details of how an undergravel filter works

Undergravel Filters. These filters are installed underneath the gravel substrate of your tank and pull water through the gravel and into uplift tubes where it is again deposited into the tank. These filters use your gravel as a mechanical filter, but leave out the chemical element.

Undergravel filters are generally not recommended for a number of reasons: Biological filtration is limited to whatever bacteria live on your substrate, mechanical filtration continually builds up a mass of decaying matter under your gravel, chemical filtration is not present, and any plants you may keep will have to deal with having their nutrients siphoned off.

Chemical Filters. Aquarium filters that base their entire filtration process on chemical means often use activated carbon as their primary filter medium. There are other materials on the market, but carbon remains by far the most popular, and for good reason.

A chemical filter that uses activated carbon can remove a great deal of unwanted chemicals from your water simply by letting the water pass through the carbon. For this reason, many external and canister filters include a small chemical filter that uses carbon.

• Fluidised Bed Filters. Fluidised bed filters are cylindrical filters that hang off of the back of your fish tank. They connect to a water pump that forces water through the bed of small, heavy particles— often sand or silica chips.

These filters can be expensive, but they offer a very useful combination of mechanical and biological filtration while remaining generally low maintenance.

Many of these filters will provide successful levels of filtering according to their type, while sacrificing their efficiency towards the other two filtering methods. In order to realise all three filtration methods for the best quality water, you will probably want to combine two filters.

The benefits of combining filters

While a great deal of aquarium filters promise effective mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration, many aquarists prefer to use two types of filters that only perform a single filtration task each. Combining filters can provide distinct benefits that even a large all-in-one canister filter cannot meet.

One benefit of combined filtering is that of redundancy— if one of your filters breaks down, you will still have some filtering going on through the other filter. Since these devices are so critical for the continued survival of your fish, it pays to keep a backup running.

Another benefit is that dedicated filters perform their jobs better than mixed ones. A single mechanical filter that does not provide chemical filtration has access to more water and space for its filtration job than it would if it had to do double duty. For this reason, many aquarists prefer to purchase multiple dedicated aquarium filters.

Choosing aquarium filter media

So far, this article has covered the various types of aquarium filters available on the market and categorized them by the way they function. There is another important way to categorize these devices, however, and it is by the medium that they use to filter water.

Mechanical filters have the widest range of filter media options, generally categorized by the size of the particles they can capture:

• Fluval Prefilter Media. Essentially a coarse, sponge-like material, this is called prefilter media because it is designed to catch large debris before it makes its way to a finer mechanical filter.

• Filter Pads & Foam. This medium-grade sponge material will clean most visible debris from your water without issue, and do not need to be replaced as often as finer filter media.

• Filter Floss. This fine material requires higher maintenance in the form of more frequent cleaning, but leaves your water much cleaner in the process.

• Micron Filter Pads. The very finest filter media available, these pads can filter material that is only fractions of the width of a human hair in length. These filters require frequent replacement, but can make your water crystal clear and even parasite free in the process.

Other considerations for aquarium filters: noise

The filter you choose could make a big difference not just for the lives of your fish, but yours as well: certain filters will produce different levels of noise. Controlling that noise can be difficult with certain types of filter.

Large external filters are usually the most common culprits of unwanted aquarium noise. Those that pressurize the aquarium water will often have to make some commotion in the process.

In general, any aquarium filters that rely on air pumps are usually quite noisy. High quality filters tend to be much quieter than their less expensive counterparts, and many self contained external filters are reasonably quiet.

The quietest filters are those where the main pump is fully submerged in the water such as the internal canister filter which can be almost silent.

 

Aquarium live food rearing

daphnia swarm

 How to reap the benefits of aquarium live food rearing for your fish

If you have spent great amounts of time and effort reproducing a natural habitat for the fish in your tank, yet you still feed them commercially prepared fish food, it might be a good time to consider rearing live food. There are numerous benefits to rearing your own sources of live food, covered in the points below:

• Live food more closely reproduces the natural diet of fish, making them healthier and happier.

• Live food, being composed of living organisms, will not decay in your tank if left uneaten the way that fish flake does.

• Adult fish that are used to foraging for their food behave more actively in pursuing live food than prepared fish flakes.

• Better nutrition can be achieved through indirect enrichment— feeding your live food vitamin supplements that get passed on to your fish.

• Live food encourages breeding, and some species of fish will not breed successfully without it.

For young fry live food rearing is essential:

• Most species of fish give birth to fry that are too small to eat commercially prepared foods.

• Many species of young fish fry will only eat food that is moving, and need to be carefully weaned onto non-moving food over time.

• Live food is the healthiest option for young fry, and will help them grow faster and become healthy adults.

Types of live food

There is a huge range of live food available at your local fish store or online but this can be seasonal. Choosing which of the available types of live food you should use depends greatly on the species of fish you keep and whether you are feeding adult fish, fry, or both.

For adult fish, there are a number of attractive and healthy aquarium live food choices available. These largely consist of water fleas, various worms and larvae, as well as some shrimp. Some of the most popular species are:

• Daphnia. These tiny water fleas often top the list of easily managed aquarium live food rearing options. They live comfortably in slightly alkaline freshwater tanks with temperatures between 18-25 degrees Celsius and medium light intensity. Daphnia multiply quickly, offer beneficial vitamins for your fish, and are very easy to raise.

• Blood Worms. Blood worms are widely available from a vast majority of fish stores and bait shops, and offer a very convenient live food for your fish. They are simple to raise and once the life cycle is introduced, greatly reduce the need to supplement your fish’s diets with other foods.

• Earth Worms. Earth worms offer one of the most complete food sources available for aquarium live food rearing. They are high in protein, essential vitamins, and roughage. They do require soil, however, and can grow quite large, making them ideal for larger fish in larger tanks.

• Mosquito Larvae. Mosquito larvae are some of the easiest aquarium live food rearing options, since they will readily grow in just about any environment where you have access to stagnant water and sun. You must be very careful, however, to regularly harvest the larvae before they turn into troublesome adult mosquitoes.

• Brine Shrimp. Brine shrimp are an excellent and highly popular live food option for fish. They are especially suited to this purpose since baby brine fish are also suitable for fish fry thanks to their tiny size and nutritional value.

• White Worms. These nutritious worms are easy to cultivate and fish love them. They are high in fat as well as protein and can stay alive in the water for days. These worms can make your fish fat, however, so care should be exercised so as not to overfeed them.

Any of the options listed above should be enough for most species of adult fish, but fish fry have more subtle nutritional needs. If you are raising young fish fry, you will need to give them food small enough for them to eat and nutritious enough for them to subsist on completely, such as:

• Infusoria. This term refers to a number of extremely tiny microorganisms that serve as a readily cultivated source of food for your fry. It can be convenient to think of Infusoria as fresh water plankton. Infusoria are easy to culture and widely available online or at your local aquarium store.

• Brine Shrimp. One of the most popular and successful aquarium live food rearing options for young fry, baby brine shrimp are simple to cultivate and small enough for some fry to feed on.

• Microworms. These hardy creatures can thrive in a wide variety of environments, and make an excellent live food choice when you need a readily available source of food quickly. They can be cultivated in days and offer a complete source of nutrition that fry will gladly eat.

In many cases, offering your fish a variety of these food sources will help give them a varied and complete diet. Many of these foods are complementary when added together, and can be combined for the optimal balance of nutrients, vitamins, and essential proteins.

How to cultivate live food for your aquarium

If you are interested in aquarium live food rearing for your fish, you will need to invest some effort in making a cultivation tank or water barrel to raise your food in. Most species of live food are very easy to raise and require very little attendance or care.

For instance, Daphnia can be cultivated in any large container with access to sunshine and green water algae or yeast. Optimal water conditions include a pH between 6.0 and 8.2 and a 20% water change every two weeks. With a large enough surface area for the water in the container, aeration is not even necessary.

Brine shrimp make a similarly easy aquarium live food rearing selection for fish keeping enthusiasts and do not even require a large container. They are filter feeders that need only be provided with a food source such as yeast or wheat flour, an air stone for aeration, and regular water changes.

Mosquito larvae are even simpler, readily growing in just about any pot of stagnant water with access to sunlight and algae. Mosquitoes will readily begin spawning anywhere they find the right conditions, and you need only net the larvae every few days to feed your fish.

Most of the worm species available at your local fish store can be raised conveniently in plant soil and introduced to your aquarium when they grow to full size. Cultures are simple to purchase and cultivate; once ready, they can be tossed directly into the aquarium.

Tips for easier growing of live food

Once you decide to begin investing in an aquarium live food rearing setup, there are a few important considerations that can help you make the most of your breeding. One of the most helpful ways to ensure sufficient stocks of food for your fish is to stagger multiple cultivars several days apart.

Keeping several separate tanks can help insure your aquarium live food rearing attempt from being compromised by disease or other problems. Just like a fish tank, any number of unwanted conditions could erupt in a live food cultivation environment, and you want to be protected against the possibility of losing your fish’s primary food source.

Depending on the specific needs of your fish, you may also be able to feed them essential vitamins and minerals through the live food you raise. This process is called indirect enrichment and can help you more effectively fight disease by ensuring the right combination of ingredients makes its way into your fish’s diet. Many fish supply sites provide aquarium live food rearing supplements like these.

For further detailed instructions you can buy the amazon book by Mike Hellweg. Click on the picture to go to Amazon

This book was written by a master breeder of tropical fish. It has been written not just to culture live food but rather to culture live food for the benefit of fish and breeding and raising fry. It is well written giving detailed instructions on how to raise the variouslive foods. Finally you will be armed with the knowledge on what to feed difficult to breed species. Over 80 different live foods are explained in great detail. This is a book for the serious hobbyist and breeder. It is well written and surprisingly easy to read and understand.

Rocks for your aquarium

planted rocky malawi aquarium

How to select the right rocks for your aquarium

While many aquarists around the world have no problem discovering their favourite varieties of fish, finding them, and then creating the perfect underwater environment for their fishkeeping hobby, determining how to select the right rocks for your aquarium can be a different story altogether. Many beginning aquarists are surprised to learn how important rocks can be in a marine environment.

Why are rocks important for your aquarium?

See plantless aquarium

Rocks in Malawi tanks

As you probably are already aware, your aquarium is essentially a miniature ecosystem that requires you to manage a precise chemical balance in which your fish can thrive. Thanks to water’s erosive qualities, the rocks in your aquarium will play a minor, but recognizable role in the “hardness” of your water— that is, the level of dissolved minerals in your water.

“Hard” water contains a higher level of dissolved minerals such as magnesium and calcium than “soft” water does. Obviously, the primary source of these dissolved minerals is the tap in your home, but the rocks that you introduce to your aquarium habitat can change the water hardness over time. Depending on the fish you wish to keep, this can be desirable or dangerous.

Additionally, well-placed and well-chosen rocks offer a beautiful decor that gives the tank a serene sense of beauty. Fish also love them, as the varied texture and landscape gives them lots of places in which they can hide and take shelter, just like their natural habitat would.

Aquascaping is enhanced with the addition of carefully selected rocks of various colours and textures. Make this choice based on the colours of the fish you plan to keep and whether the aquarium is to be planted or not.

Determining which rocks are safe

When it comes to finding out how to select the right rocks for your aquarium, its important to choose safe rocks, as certain types can be poisonous for your fish. There are several methods available to determining which rocks you can use:

• Purchasing aquarium-safe rocks. If you purchase aquarium-safe rocks from a quality pet store or aquarium supply centre, you can be relatively certain that the rocks will not gravely affect the hardness or pH level of your aquarium water.

If you choose to go this route, it is important that you purchase from trusted vendors, as some pet shops have been known to cut back on quality control and put unfit rocks up for sale.

• Testing outdoors rocks and gravel. Many aquarium enthusiasts and fish keepers like to take home interesting-looking rocks from riverbeds or other natural sources and introduce them into their aquariums. This approach requires testing, since outdoor rocks can contain high levels of calcium and other materials that will change the chemical content of your water and affect your fish. Granite, slate and sandstone are relatively inert and have little or no effect on the water chemistry. Also clay, although not strictly a rock, is a good source of rock-like material. Clay pots, pipes and slates can be used adding a nice brown colour to the landscape.

How to test outdoors rocks for aquarium use

If you have found some interesting rocks that you would like to introduce to your aquarium, there are two main ways to test them for use in your aquarium:

• The vinegar test. Vinegar reacts with calcium by fizzing and foaming on contact. If you pour a few drops of vinegar on your rocks and you see that they begin to react in this way, you should not use the rocks in your aquarium. This is an indicator of high levels of calcium. Rocks that do not react with vinegar can generally be used, but a more reliable test may be in order if you would like to be perfectly certain.

• The standing test. If you have some rocks or gravel that you would like to introduce to your aquarium and would like to test them securely, the best way is through the standing test. Let the rocks stand for a week in a bucket of the same water that you use for your aquarium, and then test the water hardness and pH level.

If you see that the water quality has not significantly changed, then you can reasonably expect that the rocks are aquarium-safe. Naturally, longer testing times will provide more detailed results, and help eliminate any doubt about the quality of the rocks or gravel you have found. When figuring out how to select the right rocks for your aquarium, the standing test represents the best way to be absolutely certain, although it takes time.

Also after adding new rocks it is wise to keep an eye on the fish over the following weeks to see if they show any sign of distress. Some rocks may very slowly release poisons into the water over the long term. If the fish do show some signs of distress, try removing the rock and do a 50% water change to see if the distress is relieved.

Freshwater vs. saltwater considerations

As you would expect, there is a marked difference between the types of rocks ideal for freshwater tanks and those that saltwater tanks can safely house. If you are a beginning aquarist determining how to select the right rocks for your aquarium, you need to base your choice of rocks on the type of water you are using.

While freshwater tanks are significantly simpler to manage, saltwater aquarists have additional concerns about maintaining the salinity of their tanks’ water. Given that some rocks can have poisonous effects, and that most will affect the water quality in some way over time, it is important to choose carefully and test your rocks.

An additional option that can help maintain excellent water quality, appropriate salinity, and balance a tanks’ pH level is live rock. Live rock is especially useful in saltwater tanks, but is also recommended for certain freshwater tanks such as the Malawi biotope, where it also helps create a decorative atmosphere in place of plants that may not be present.

What is live rock?

See live rock and live sand

Live rock is a bit of a misnomer, since the material in question is neither a rock nor alive. Live rock is made up of pieces of coral skeleton that have broken off of reefs and are collected for use in home aquariums. These coral skeletons become natural biological filters, helping the nitrogen cycle take place effectively.

In this case, the material that you are introducing to your aquarium is designed to affect the water composition, but in a positive way. Live rock introduces helpful bacteria, algae, and tiny invertebrates that can improve the quality of your aquarium water. Live rocks can raise the salinity and the pH level of your tank water. If you are looking for attractive solutions on how to select the right rocks for your aquarium, live rock is an important element to consider.

As an added benefit to saltwater aquarists, live rock can form the foundation of bright and colourful coral colonies that distinguish saltwater aquariums from their freshwater cousins. Many ambitious saltwater aquarists choose these rocks for their aquariums specifically for those species of bright coral to grow.

Additional considerations for your aquarium rocks: gravel

Since gravel often forms a significant element of any aquarium’s substrate base, it should be given special attention due to the additional concerns over its small size and numerous individual particles. Gravel offers a very natural appearance for your tank. The colour chosen must blend in naturally or pleasantly contrast the rock work. Examples are grey rock work with yellow sand or salmon pink rockwork with grey gravel.

Large-grained gravel allows waste to penetrate the substrate and stick unpleasantly to the bottom of the tank. This, in turn, will affect the water quality and the health and lifespan of your fish. For this reason, many aquarists prefer to use small-grained gravel or even sand. If you insist on using large-grained gravel, you will have to carefully and efficiently clean your tank regularly in order to maintain ideal water conditions.

Get sophisticated with aquarium lighting

Advanced lighting freshwater aquarium

Get sophisticated with your aquarium lighting

aquarium in kitchen
beautiful aquarium in kitchen. Good lighting and lots of angel fish

When considering all of the different elements that go into creating a successful aquarium, it is easy to let things like filters, tanks, and water circulation distract you from paying appropriate attention to aquarium lighting. The truth of the matter, however, is that lighting is an incredibly important element of your tank’s success.

The goal of proper aquarium lighting is no different than the goals of all the other parts of a successful tank: reproducing the natural habitat of the creatures you want to keep. This simple rule is what dictates most of the following tips concerning appropriate lighting for your aquarium habitat.

The importance of the day/night cycle

Many beginning hobbyists who are starting their first tanks make a critical mistake concerning their aquarium lighting: leaving it on. It may seem simple, but your fish feel just as uncomfortable being constantly bombarded with bright lights as you would, and this can make them feel stressed and begin acting unnaturally. It can even affect their health, making the day/night cycle an incredibly important element to reproduce for your tank.

Recreating the day/night cycle is not as difficult as it sounds, but it does take some effort. For one thing, you will almost certainly want to invest in an automatic lighting timer so that you do not have to rely on your memory to switch from day to night every 12 hours.

Another important consideration is the fact that most natural environments are not pitch black at night. Low-intensity lights can help your fish feel natural and happy at night by simulating the effects of moonlight, and offer you a convenient night light so that you can observe nocturnal behaviour without disturbing your fish.

How to reproduce daylight In your aquarium

While moonlight is relatively simple to simulate, reproducing daylight in an aquarium lighting setup is a bit more complex. This is because of the unique characteristics of the light that the sun emanates. Conventional lighting does not carry the same spectrum of wavelengths that sunlight does and can, in fact, be detrimental to a tank by promoting algae growth without offering the necessary ultraviolet benefits.

In order to reproduce daylight, it is necessary to understand the value of light wavelengths for the organisms in your tank. Generally, fish and plants respond best to a combination of ultraviolet light and low-wavelength red light. Combining bulbs that produce these two types of light in a balanced way is key to promoting plant photosynthesis as well as healthy, colourful fish.

Ultraviolet lights designed for aquarium use are commonly called actinic lights. They provide wavelengths of light that the human eye cannot see, but which are nonetheless necessary for the promotion of healthy plant and fish life without promoting uncontrolled algae growth.

Using light to control algae

well lit marine aquarium
Metal halide lamp lit aquarium

Encouraging the growth and health of aquarium plants without being overwhelmed by algae is a common concern for aquarists. Since both these organisms photosynthesize light in order to grow, your aquarium lighting can just as easily be used by algae as it can by your plants.

Fortunately, well-tended plants with about 12 hours of daily light will tend to outcompete algae for essential water nutrients. This means that if you have large, healthy plants that are receiving enough light to grow, they should keep algae to a minimum all by themselves.

One of the most common lighting issues that leads to algae growth is direct sunlight. If you are supplementing your aquarium lighting setup with direct sunlight, chances are that algae will grow in order to use the excess light, quickly overwhelming your aquarium in the process.

If you find that your tank is a target for constant algae growth, you probably need to reduce the amount of light that it is receiving every day. Some aquarists do this gradually, reducing the 12-hour day to a 10-hour day, and others prefer to cover the whole tank with a thick sheet for several days to create a total black-out. Either method can help control algae growth by limiting their access to light.

Managing the lighting needs of your fish

While light is incredibly important for live plants, and, if properly used, can help to control your algae population, your fish are also very sensitive to aquarium lighting. Different combinations of light temperatures can help fish exhibit more varied and exciting scale colouration. The overabundance of bright light of a single colour can make fish scales turn dull and unattractive.

This is especially true if you are using sand or some other bright, reflective substrate to line the bottom of your tank. Bright light reflecting off the surface of your substrate can spook your fish and make them act unnaturally, hide more often, and dull their scales’ colouration. In this case, a more subdued lighting setup is recommended.

If you have a dark-coloured substrate such as gravel, then you may be able to get away with bright aquarium lighting on the higher end of the Kelvin-temperature scale without spooking your fish. This will help encourage plant growth, inhibit algae, and keep your fish looking bright and healthy.

Using aquarium lighting to encourage breeding

If you are an aquarist who would like to encourage your fish to breed, you may have to alter the light conditions of your tank in order to get your fish to spawn. Some species of fish may even require you to reproduce the lunar cycle using your night lights in order to begin properly breeding with one another.

In general, fish are reluctant to breed if placed in a brightly lit environment. Most fish are conditioned to begin breeding in the morning when lighting is dim, so timing your lighting correctly can make a great difference in encouraging your fish to begin spawning young fry. In this case, slowly raising the intensity of your lighting setup can help create the impression of a rising morning sun.

Types of lights and their benefits

While there are numerous options on the market for aquarium lighting solutions, the three most common choices are as follows:

• Flourescent Lights;

• Metal Halide Lights;

• LED Lights.

Of these three, fluorescent lights are by far the cheapest, and offer the simplest lighting solutions for a wide variety of aquarium habitats. Metal Halide lights are notably more expensive, but make one of the best possible choices for reef aquariums and other tanks that need high quality full-spectrum light. For most aquarium keepers, however, LED lights are the best choice available.

LED lit marine aquarium
beautifully lit LED tropical marine aquarium

LED lights represent some of the newest advances in lighting technology for aquariums: they are inexpensive, do not produce the same overheating problems that other lights do, and often last for years. As an additional benefit, aquarium-specific LED lights produce much less yellow/green spectrum light, which helps to maximize the efficiency of your aquarium lighting set up.

How to set up a home-based breeder business

Setting Up A Home-Based Aquarium Fish Breeding Business: An Overview

Setting up a home-based aquarium fish breeding business can be an exciting step for any fishkeeping enthusiast to partake in. While experience goes a long way in ensuring the success of your ambitions, just about any aquarist can begin breeding and start realising profit in the fun and rewarding business of fish breeding at home.

Why home fish breeding works

breeding tanks
professional breeders multi-tank set up

When you visit your local aquarium fish store and take a look at the various imported species of fish that they offer, chances are that a great deal of them come from commercial breeding farms that, in some cases, can be separated by hundreds or thousands of kilometres of distance from the store itself.

Naturally, this presents problems for the local store owners: namely, the health of the fish during transport. The local store has to pay for the number of fish they purchased regardless of how many of those fish show up dead-on-arrival or battling sickness and stress. These newly imported fish undergo a quarantine period where they are nursed back to health during which the shopkeeper will not be able to sell them.
 
For this reason, many local stores are more than willing to purchase their fish from local suppliers who can provide healthy, happy fish at similar prices and with a greater chance of their continued survival. Fish which can be put up for sale within days. If you are interested in setting up a home-based breeder business, you can earn a decent living through a reliable network of these local stores.

The Internet also provides a great way to make a profit through your home-based breeder business, especially through using local classifieds websites that let you undercut the local fish shop entirely, selling and delivering your fish directly to customers who, if they are pleased with your fish, will become repeat customers and pass the word on to their friends.

How to begin setting up a home-based breeder business

juvenile discus fish
juvenile discus fish in growing on tank

Naturally, the first thing that you need to do is choose which species of fish you would like to breed. Buying quality pedigree fish can pay dividends in the long run. In general, you can expect to get a higher price on species that are harder to breed successfully, or on common species that you can breed with specialised morphs or colours, ie of high pedigree. It is just as expensive to breed and raise expensive fish as inexpensive fish but the returns are greater. It is better to compete on quality than quantity.

 

 

• Killifish are a popular choice, but need a lot of involvement to breed;

• Discus fish are difficult to breed, but can earn breeders a healthy profit and are always in great demand.

• Angelfish are easier to breed, but are not likely to gain a good price unless you pick a specialised colouring or finnage.

• Guppies are easy to breed, and make an excellent beginner’s breeding fish. Some specialised varieties can even fetch good prices.

Pedigree livebearers

• Bettas are easy to breed, but you will have to specialise— for example, pedigree bettas such as koi bettas are highly desirable.

pedigree koi betta fish
pedigree koi betta fish

There are many other options available, and a successful fish breeder will want to have a selection of species available. Once you become established as a fish breeder, you will develop a good reputation and begin to get repeat customers who will be interested in other species you can provide.

Once you have chosen your fish, you can begin grouping them into suitable pairs or spawning groups. This will require sexing the fish, which is a simple process for some species and a very specialised one for some others. There are several important traits to consider in your pairs or groups that will yield higher-quality results in the resulting offspring:

 

 

• Markings, colour and finnage. Choosing fish that display attractive markings and bright colours should produce similarly attractive young. Many people are impressed by the colouration of tropical fish, and this factor will play an important role in the value of the fish you breed.

Similar markings and colours should be paired together, as differences in these attributes will often produce unattractive young. It is generally good advice to avoid crossing different strains of fish for this reason.

• Fish health. Only mature, healthy fish should be used for spawning because unhealthy fish can produce sick or deformed young.

• Pair Compatibility. This is an important factor for some species of fish. For example, some species of cichlids will only form pairs after being raised together for months or years. Other species will respond poorly to induced breeding and begin to bully one another, sometimes to death.

As an additional consideration for pair compatibility, fish must be of the same species. Hybrid fish tend, like many other members of the animal kingdom, to produce sterile young.

One final tip: Keep your eyes and ears alert for any new species of breed of fish that crops up. If you feel you could successfully breed these novelties then you could make money if you are ahead of the curve.

Breeding strategies for egg-laying fish

Breeding egg laying

While livebearers are very easy fish to breed and offer a great starting point for beginners, you will eventually need to begin breeding egg-laying fish in order to realise a profit. There are five major groups of egg-layers to be considered when setting up a home-based breeder business:

• Egg-scattering fish These species of fish scatter their eggs during spawning. The eggs either fall down into the substrate, attach to plants, or float to the surface. These fish will produce large numbers of small eggs, and may eat their own eggs. So must be separated from eggs soon after spawning.

• Egg-depositing fish These fish will deposit their eggs safely on a substrate in the tank. This may be the glass wall of the tank, or on rocks or wood present in the tank. The eggs tend to be larger than scattered eggs. Some of these egg-depositing species will care for their eggs and the resulting young, while others will not.

• Egg-Burying Fish. Setting up a home-based breeder business with egg-burying fish can be tricky. These fish inhabit lakebeds that are dry for some portion of the year; the eggs lay dormant until the annual rains begin and hatching begins then. Recreating these conditions in an aquarium can be difficult.

• Mouth-Brooding Fish. Mouth-brooders are fish that retain the eggs and sometimes even the young fry in their mouth until the fish are ready to fend for themselves.

• Nest-Building Fish. These fish are not unlike egg-burying fish, except that they actively construct nests for themselves to lay eggs in. Examples include the bubble-nests formed by labyrinth fish.

Whichever type of fish you choose to breed, you must design your tank to have the necessary rocks, plants or other spawning material and enough space for the fish to feel comfortable spawning.

Designing your spawning tank

yellow lab fish breeding set up
Mouthbrooding yellow lab with previous spawning young yellow labs

Since community tanks are filled with neighbouring fish that may predate on the vulnerable young, it is crucial to grow the young fish in a separate spawning tank. Spawning tanks need to have some special construction elements to protect the young fish:

• A protected heater will keep the young fish from burning themselves against the edges of the heater.

• A slow-moving sponge filter will prevent eggs or fry from being sucked into the filtration system.

• Tanks with a dual-layer substrate are ideal for egg-scattering fish since the parents of these fish may eat their own eggs. A permeable layer that lets the eggs fall down out of reach of the hungry parents is ideal for allowing optimal spawning conditions.

• Egg-depositing fish should be provided with a healthy number of fine and broad-leaved plants. Additionally, egg-depositors that do not care for their young should be removed from the tank once the eggs are laid.

• Nest-building fish should be provided with materials with which they can build their nests. Additionally, water currents should be very low so that the nests are not disturbed.

Once you have setup your spawning tank, you need to simulate natural conditions and keep your parent fish in good, healthy condition in order to stimulate the production of offspring. With care and a little bit of luck, you should begin to see young fish appearing in your tanks, ready for sale.

You will also need growing on tanks for maximising the growth rate of your young fish. large tanks without gravel and sponge filters are ideal. This will result in fish that are saleable within 3-6 months depending on species. The earlier you can sell the young the more profit you will make.

Tips on advertising and selling your fish

Like any business, you need to be competitive in the existing market both in terms of price, quality, and advertising. These three factors are what combine to create value in any product or service, and your fish are no different.

While the price is largely determined by the existing local market, and the quality by your fish keeping experience, your advertising is only limited by how much effort you invest in the process. Taking good pictures is a must— high quality photographs of your fish will attract buyers. Invest in a reasonably good digital camera, preferably one that takes animal photos. Then, take many, many different photos and select the best.

It is especially important to include pictures of your adult fish, as well as the young, in your adverts so that your buyers have a good idea about what to expect as they grow. Investing in quality photographs can pay off with a stream of interested buyers, especially if you choose to advertise your breeding business exclusively online.

How to photograph fish

Floating plants in a bare bottom tank

floating plants bare bottom tank

How To Use Floating Plants For A Bare Bottom Tank

water lettuce in aquarium with dangling roots
water lettuce in aquarium with dangling roots

The use of gravel or sand as a bottom-lining substrate for aquariums has been a staple of aquarium culture for years, but recently interest has sparked in using floating plants for a bare bottom tank design. These tanks eliminate the need for expensive and time-consuming gravel cleaning and make it easier to control the nutrient flow within the water of the tank.

Bare bottom tanks eliminate the possibility of uneaten food and fish waste collecting underneath the gravel or sand substrate, where it will rot and pollute the water. Bare bottom tanks also helpfully allow for higher water flow rates. Once the nitrogen cycle complications are taken care of by having your tank cycled properly, using floating plants in your setup can help you enjoy the benefits of plants in your aquarium without the disadvantages of gravel.

The primary arguments against floating tanks are that they tend to look unnatural and can be difficult for certain species to adapt to. The lack of plants can leave some species nervously trying to find a hiding place. Also, without a substrate to hold onto, waste can collect in the water if not vacuumed and filtered often enough.

See also plantless aquarium

Why Use Floating Plants For A Bare Bottom Tank?

frogbit covering the aquarium surface
frogbit covering the aquarium surface

While most of the beneficial bacteria in a fish tank make their homes on the aquarium filter, where a continuous flow of oxygenated water let them filter the waste and complete their part of the nitrogen cycle, the remaining nitrate still needs to be accounted for. Thankfully, these plants tend to absorb more nitrate than other plants, and a healthy population of these plants will help reduce the need for constant water changes.

As an added bonus, most free-floating plants are very easy to care for and get along magnificently with a wide variety of fish. A few examples of useful floating plant species that should be considered for any bare bottom aquarium are as follows:

• Tropical Hornwort. Ceratophyllum Submersum is a phenomenally easy, fast-growing floating plant that thrives in waters with a pH range between 5-8, at a temperature of 10-30 degrees Celsius. Hornwort is one of the easiest plants to manage: if you toss it into the water, it will situate itself naturally and need little-to-no care after that.

dwarf-water-lettuce
dwarf-water-lettuce

•Dwarf Water Lettuce Pistia stratiotes is an easy care fast growing small sized floating plant that does well under bright light. It reproduces by sending out runners that create baby plants that are easily separated at any time. Remove discolored or yellow leaves which will induce new growth.

• Marimo. Aegagropila linnaei, also known as Marimo, which is Japanese for “ball seaweed” is a rootless algae colony that can attach itself to rocks or other tank décor. Marimo can also float around freely within the tank. This particular plant is highly prized for its unique, beautiful appearance: small-to-medium balls of green plant material that make any tank look superb.

• Java Moss. Taxiphyllum barbieri is not actually a free-floating plant at all, and it will attach itself to just about anything within the tank. One of the best ways to realise the use of this plant as a free-floater is to give it a thin wire net to attach to on the interior of the tank and then let it attach to that. It is a popular choice because it provides food to newborn fry.

• Anacharis. Egeria densa is a very hardy plant that grows extremely quickly in a wide variety of conditions. These plants can grow as rooted plants or be kept as floating ones. In both conditions, they provide very useful benefits to the quality of the water as well as the appearance of the tank.

Adding in a healthy number of these floating plants can help structure your bare bottom tank and give you a clean, easily maintained tank without you needing to worry about periodically cleaning the accumulated dirt beneath the gravel or sand.

How to make floating plants look great in a bare bottom tank

floating plants cover fish
floating plants cover gold barb fish

One of the most common arguments against using a bare bottom tank is made by aquarists who do not like the unnatural look of a bare bottom tank. Thankfully, floating plants such as the ones named above can help to create a luxurious-looking underwater environment in an otherwise barren tank.

Since there is little-to-no substrate along the bottom surface of the tank, it is likely that waste will collect along the bottom. Normally, this requires frequent, simple cleaning with an aquarium vacuum cleaner. Even with this solution, however, It is recommended that bare bottom aquarists paint the bottom of the tank a dark colour such as brown or black.

Bare bottom tank aquarists have to clean their tanks less often than those with substrates lining the bottom of their tanks. Many of these aquarists, however, report that waste collects so quickly that they rarely get to enjoy a perfectly clean bottom unless they use a powerful mechanical filter that will collect up the waste matter. Adding a layer of paint to the bottom can help maintain a clean appearance in combination with beautiful and well-kept floating plants for a bare bottom tank.

Why the Zebrafish will Never Die of a Broken Heart

male adult zebrafish or zebra danio

stages of regeneration of amputated zebrafish heartDr Jana Koth works at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, based at the John Radcliffe Hospital, studying how the tiny Himalayan freshwater zebrafish repairs its heart after damage.

 

More than 6,700 people in Oxfordshire were affected by heart failure in 2011/12.

 

By looking at the way the zebrafish’s heart repairs itself after it is damaged the team hopes to find ways to treat people who have had heart attacks and those who develop heart failure.

She said: “Humans cannot regenerate hearts after they are damaged, but the zebrafish can. By learning how they do this could help us treat humans in the future.

“A zebrafish heart beats at 180bpm, two to three times faster than a human heart, so we cannot take a sharp picture from a live specimen.

“The colours in the picture show the green cells are heart muscle cells, and the red and blue staining shows components that make up the muscle.

“We can see that the cells are already really active. We can see what genetic steps they go through to regenerate.

“While it is clearly very useful with our research I also think it is a picture which could be hung on a wall.”

“It’s astonishing to discover the ‘Caught in the Net’ picture is actually a developing zebrafish heart. These creatures have the ability to heal their own hearts, something humans sadly can’t do.

“Studying their hearts in such fine detail will help us discover their secret so that one day we can repair damaged hearts, and help people with heart failure.”

 Read more here