15 best plants for beginners

Plants flourishing in a planted aquarium

Best plants for beginners to avoid plant failures

Plants flourishing in a planted aquarium
Plants flourishing in a planted aquarium

Here is a list of 15 hardy tropical freshwater plants that are the best plants for beginners. These plants don’t need much attention to grow. No special lighting, no Co2 and no fertiliser. Just tough plants that will grow in normal temperatures and most ph and hardness water conditions. Plants that need no maintenance except to trim them when they get bigger.

See also succeed with aquarium plants

and healthy aquarium plants

and aquascaping for beginners

Java moss

Java moss can grow in low lighting levels. It grows profusely. It likes a wide temperature range from 59F-82F. It can live in a wide range of ph and hardness. It is easy to care for.

java moss
java moss

It is not strictly a plant but it does much the same thing. It Doesn’t require gravel or sand. Spread it thinly over rocks and driftwood. It will attach itself. It can be made to float and hang down by attaching it to a piece of cork. Once it starts growing well then start pruning it heavily. It is great for fry to hide in and pick off infusoria growing on it. It is tough and difficult to kill. It may need cleaning sometimes by running under a tap. Algae may grow into it and be difficult to remove.

Java moss is like having all the benefits of plants without actually growing plants. No need for fertilisers, special lighting or other bits of plant maintenance. It is great for aquarists who don’t care for plants but recognise the benefits.

Java fern

java fern
java fern

Java ferns prefers low lighting conditions. It grows slowly but is very hardy and doesn’t need looking after. It can cope with a temperature range from 64F-86F. It is not fussy with ph or hardness.
Don’t bury the roots of the Java fern in the gravel. Algae may grow on the leaves and needs to be removed occasionally. If it is damaged it repairs itself quickly. If it is cut or broken, each piece will grow into a separate plant. It absorbs nitrates well. If co2 and fertiliser is used it can grow more quickly, if you want.

Amazon sword

Amazon swords are easy to care for. It likes neutral ph 6.5 to 7.5 and soft to moderately hard water. Its temperature range is 72-82F.
It can grow large and so it is best in a 36 inch tank or bigger. Plant it in a loose gravel. It needs time to root well.

amazon sword
amazon sword

Great for angel fish and discus to spawn on. It can grow faster if iron rich fertiliser is used. Remove damaged leaves and remove any algae on leaves. It can be propogated off runners. Plantlets will grow at the end of the runners. When the plantlets develop roots then you can remove them and plant them. Plecos will eat and damage amazons.

Amazon frogbit or duckweed

American frogbit can survive in cold pond water as well as tropical temperatures up to 78F. It likes a ph of 6-7.5 and moderate hard water. It requires low to medium lighting. it grows very fast. It is very low maintenance and very tough.
This is a pure floating plant. It provides good cover for fry. It really soaks up ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and phosphates, helping the nitrogen cycle and controlling algae.

Anubias nana (Anubias barteri nana)

anubias nana
anubias nana

Anubias nana is easy to care for and very hardy. It prefers low to medium lighting. Its temperature is tropical at 72F-82F. The water conditions for Anubias are soft to neutral hardness with a ph 6.0 – 7.6.
It is easily reproduced. It is slow growing but will grow faster with CO2 and extra lighting and fertilisers. It doesnt need to be rooted in gravel. Fish don’t like the taste of anubias.

Anacharis (elodea)

Anacharis is easy to care for. It takes any lighting (low light to bright lighting). It is not really a tropical plant will cope with temperatures up to 75F. The water conditions are not crucial with a preferred ph of 6.5 to 7.5 and soft to hard water but avoid extremes. Elodea can root into the gravel but can also be kept free floating. You can propogate it from cuttings. It is low maintenance and grows well without any help.

Cryptocoryne wendtii

Cryptocoryne wendtii
Cryptocoryne wendtii

Wendt’s crypt can be kept in low light or bright light. It has a ph range on the acid side of 5ph-7ph and likes soft water. temperature 72F-86F. The plant likes stable water conditions and may take some time to settle. Once settled and never disturbs it becomes a hardy plant.
There are several colour variations with different leaf size and texture. It is easy to propogate. Propoagate by taking cuttings with some roots attached. It can also produce runners with plantlets on the end. Separate the plantlets when they have grown roots. It is generally a slow grower. If there is change in the water conditions it may start to deteriorate.

Dwarf hairgrass

dwarf hair grass
dwarf hair grass

Dwarf hairgrass likes a temperature range 60F-83F. It prefers water on the acid side but is flexible with a ph range of ph5.0-7.5. It likes low to medium lighting.
It is fast growing. It does tend to attract dirt and algae. It propogates by sending out runners with plantlets. Cut off plantlets when they grow roots. You can create an underwater lawn with dwarf hairgrass.

Pygmy chain sword

Pygmy chain swords are tropical with a temperature range of 68F-84F.Its preferred water conditions are medium hard and ph 5.5-7.5. ph 5-7.5. It prefers a medium level of lighting. because of its small size it prefers sandy soil.
It propogates by growing runners with plantlets on the end. When the plantlets grow roots then you can separate them. It grows reasonably well and is easy to care for. It might need tablet fertiliser near roots.

Dwarf sagittaria

dwarf sagittaria
dwarf sagittaria

Dwarf sagittaria’s temperature range is 71F – 82F. It prefers its water to be acid but copes with a ph between 5.0 and 7.5ph. It prefers medium lighting but can cope with low lighting levels. It grows fast and is easy to care for.
It can grow in gravel. Use small grained gravel or sand. It may benefit from root fertiliser tablets. If grown out of water before buying, it will change its form in the aquarium. It will shed all of its leaves and develop small grassy leaves from the centre. It may look dead soon after buying but will make a complete recovery.
It propagates by sending runners under the gravel that will pop up as mini plants next to the original plant.

Water wisteria

water wisteria
water wisteria

Water wisteria is quick growing, hardy and very easy to care for. It likes its water between 6.5ph and 7.5ph and soft to medium hard water. It is tropical with a temperature range between 75F-82F.
It is usually rooted but can still grow when floating. It is a relatively small aquarium plant. Fertiliser tablets will help with growth but are not necessary. You can propogate it through plant cuttings. Goldfish and other big plant eaters will eat and kill it.

Hornwort

Hornwort is a floating plant that can also be planted. It is a sub-tropical plant with a temperature range of 50-86F. It doesn’t care about its ph or hardness. It grows in low lighting levels. It is very easy to care for and grows very fast. Some fish will eat it.

Water Sprite

water sprite
water sprite

Water sprite is a floating plant that is easy to grow. It can be planted in the substrate as well. It will grow in almost any water conditions. Its temperature range is 68F-86F. It is quite hardy and grows fast. Lighting is not important and it will grow in low lighting.
Water sprite is helpful in cleaning up ammonia, nitrites and nitrates from the water. It will provide shade to shy fish and fry. . It is a great cover for fry that grow near the surface. Self propogates by growing new plantlets on the body which break off to form new plants. Snails love this and may destroy it. Fish may graze on it too, harming it.

Rotala Rotundifolia

Rotala Rotundifolia is a red plant. It likes medium to bright light. It can grow in low light but will turn green. It grows fast in bright light. It is subtropical with a temperature range of 64F-82FC. It likes slightly acid water but can cope with a ph between 5.0-7.5ph with neutral hardness.
It can be propogated by taking cuttings. It is hardy and easy to care for as long as it is well lit.

Hygrophila Polysperma

Hygrophila Polysperma
Hygrophila Polysperma

Hygrophila Polysperma grows fast. It prefers low to medium lighting. And will grow faster with more lighting or even some sunlight. It has a wide temperature range of 64F-86F. Copes with almost any water ph and hardness. It is easy to care for.
Because of its small size it is called dwarf hygro. It is light green in colour. It can be propogated by taking cuttings. Pruning is helpful occasionally to spruce it up and stop it overgrowing. It can be grown on gravel or sand.

Succeed with marine corals

Final complete marine aquarium set up

How to succeed with marine corals in your reef aquarium

Final complete marine aquarium set up
Final complete marine aquarium set up

If you have already set up a successful marine aquarium with a host of saltwater fish, live rock, and perhaps even a few invertebrates, you might be entertaining the possibility of keeping marine corals in your tank as well. While you may have heard that keeping corals in your reef aquarium is a difficult task, it can be a vastly rewarding experience if it is approached correctly. And may not be too big a step up from the set up you already have if your marine aquarium has been running for quite a while.

Saltwater aquarium maintenance

Saltwater fish for beginners

Live rock and live sand

Consider what your set up offers

As always, a larger tank will provide you with a sufficient volume to reduce eventual problems with water quality management. If you are fortunate enough to be the owner of a large tank, you will find that the health of your fish will be easier to manage during the period when you introduce corals to your tank. The larger your tank is, the better you will be able to adapt it to the presence of coral colonies.

If you already have high quality filtration and an adequate lighting set up, you are well on your way to enjoying a successful reef tank. In terms of filtration, you will need a greater amount of water flow throughout your tank than you may currently have, since corals are immobile and will need to draw their nutrients from the water itself as it passes through them.

Your aquarium’s lighting set up will have to closely replicate natural sunlight: a spectrum of blue UV light for 12 hours a day and a full spectrum white light for 8–10 hours a day would be the minimum for ensuring a healthy coral population in your reef aquarium.

Water quality and management

The ideal temperature at which most marine corals will thrive is between 23–25° C, with 25°C representing an optimum temperature for coral tanks. Temperature is very important due to the effect that warm water will have on the level of dissolved oxygen present: Oxygen level will decrease with higher temperatures, causing respiratory problems for your corals.

The most dependable way of keeping your water temperature constant is through the use of a refrigerating chiller with a temperature gauge. While it is possible to maintain the appropriate temperature without a chiller in many circumstances, you may want to use one in order to give your marine corals the best opportunity to thrive.

If you have a quality filtration system in place in an already cycled tank, you will not have to worry too much about ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels, but organic compounds could become a problem if they are allowed to break down into harmful waste products. The use of a protein skimmer can be a great help when keeping a coral reef aquarium.

Corals tend to do their best with a pH level between 8.0–8.3. You will want to test your water regularly to ensure that the levels do not change after you introduce corals to your tank, since they can upset this delicate balance of water acidity and harm your entire tank population in the process.

One of the key indicators that aquarists use to determine whether their tank is ready for the introduction of live corals can be seen in the live rock already present: When your live rock begins developing spots of purple, this indicates the presence of coralline algae, which grows as a result of the same conditions necessary for the growth of marine corals.

Choosing and introducing live corals to your tank

Once you have the appropriate conditions ready, you can introduce your corals to the tank. Proper coral choice is important here, since dissimilar species of coral can be very difficult to maintain. Two basic types of corals commonly found in reef aquariums are as follows:

  1. corals, which feature a hard exoskeleton and are also often called hard corals, and;
  2. Soft corals, which do not have an exoskeleton and often inhabit different waters then their stony counterparts.

You may be tempted to mix these two types of corals, but you are recommended to stick with one or the other for your first coral experience. You should thoroughly research the species you would like to incorporate in your tank to make sure they are compatible—coral competition and aggression is not uncommon in reef tanks.

Soft corals are generally easier to care for then stony ones, although not always: preferred choices include any of the following species:

  • Finger leather coral
  • Pulse coral
  • Jasmine polyps
  • Star polyps,
  • Clove polyps
  • Cabbage leather coral

If you would prefer stony varieties, peaceful stony corals such as the popular candy cane coral can make an excellent choice for your first foray into keeping a coral aquarium. Also, whisker coral, also known as Duncan coral, can make a fine addition. Bubble coral is easy to care for but can be aggressive in temperament.

Once you have your tank prepared and have purchased your desired coral fragments, you are ready to attach them to the interior of your tank. Specialized aquarium glue exists for exactly this purpose, and can help make the process much easier than attempting to secure the coral with toothpicks and hoping it sticks.

Coral placement depends on the strength of your tank’s lighting and your corals’ specific needs. Marine corals may need to be gradually acclimated to your tank lights, which can be done by placing them at the bottom of the tank at first and then gradually moving their foundation upwards over the course of a week.

Once you attach the corals to the interior of your tank, you will have to carefully monitor the water conditions in order to make sure that no abrupt changes take place. This, along with regular maintenance, will ensure a long and healthy life for your corals.

Coral maintenance and care

Once your marine corals begin getting accustomed to their new lives inside your reef aquarium, you will need to take care of them in order to ensure lasting success with your reef aquarium. You should be testing your water weekly for pH changes as well as ammonia and nitrite levels, and have a cleaning routine ready that includes both your filtration system and your lights as well.

Some species of corals have more specific feeding and maintenance needs than others, but if you choose to keep varieties of coral that require the weekly addition of coral food, the trace elements you should generally add include calcium, strontium, iron, and magnesium. Other than this, your monthly partial water change schedule should run normally.

Responsible coral harvesting

As a last word on keeping a successful coral aquarium, you should be aware that there are two types of coral suppliers in the aquarium trade: those that are licensed by the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and those that are not. Licensed providers cannot exceed an annual quota of coral sales, and are compelled to source fragments from sustainable areas.

Licensed suppliers also contribute to marine conservation, and you should always purchase your coral fragments (or whole live corals, if your budget permits) from these vendors. Unlicensed coral sellers can do enormous damage to already endangered natural habitats.

If you follow this guide and choose your marine corals carefully, you should be well one your way to enjoying a beautiful and colourful coral display in the comfort of your own home. Remember that some species such as the clown fish live between the fronds of coral. And so will make a lively display. Sit back relax and enjoy the show!

Clean and clear aquarium water

Clean and clear aquarium water should be all aquarists goal

Clean and clear aquarium water: A guide to water quality and management

Also see: Cure and prevent cloudy or green water

and Why does my aquarium get dirty

Clean and clear aquarium water should be all aquarists goal
Clean and clear aquarium water should be all aquarists goal

Water may appear clean and clear but, actually, be absolutely toxic to your fish. You need to be able to create water that is clean and healthy for your fish. Below I will explain how to create clean and clear water and how to maintain this indefinitely by establishing a balanced ecosystem. It can be said that you are not taking care of your fish but rather you are taking care of the water the fish live eat and breathe in.
 
A fully-functioning aquarium is a balanced ecosystem that needs to remain balanced in order to let your fish thrive. Setting up and maintaining this ecosytem is the first and most important step towards taking good care of your fish.

Water composition

In order to understand how to successfully manage your aquarium water, you need to become familiar with the various attributes of water that aquarists generally deal with. The water in your tank will have more in it than simple H20, and frequent testing is the best way to keep all of those additional elements in check. Some of the attributes and chemicals worth paying attention to follow:

  • Temperature – your water needs to have a controlled temperature for your fish to survive. Tropical aquariums are typically heated to a temperature between 23–28° C (74–82° F).
  • pH level – This is the measure of your waters acidity, and is affected by its hardness. Certain fish have pH requirements determined by their natural habitat, but a range somewhere between 6.5–8.2 is the norm.
  • Hardness – The amount of dissolved minerals in your water contribute to its hardness. Soft water generally carries a lower pH level. Most fish are tolerant of moderate hardness between 100–250 mg/l.
  • Chlorine and chloramine – These chemicals are added to municipal reservoirs to keep your tap water clean and safe to drink. They are toxic to fish, however, so you will need to remove them from your water. Chlorine will evaporate on its own if left to sit for a few days, but chloramine requires the use of a water conditioning product to successfully remove.
  • Phosphate and other minerals – These are substances that are usually ignored by most aquarists. But there are times when it is necessary to test for other substances. Such as when algae becomes a persistent problem or plants are not growing.
  • Ammonia – Ammonia is toxic to fish and is caused by decomposing waste, and the point of your aquarium filtration system is to remove harmful ammonia by converting it into nitrite and then nitrate. That takes place during the nitrogen cycle, which will be covered in more detail below. The optimal level of ammonia in your water is zero. Anything above .25 mg/l of ammonia means you need to perform a water change.
  • Nitrite – A secondary element of the nitrogen cycle, nitrite is not as toxic as ammonia, but it reduces the ability of your fish to oxygenate their bloodstream. A normal tank should not have more than .5 mg/l of nitrite. If it does, it is time for a water change.
  • Nitrate – The end product of the nitrogen cycle’s chemical conversion. Not as harmful as nitrite or ammonia but still harmful in high doses. Nitrate can be tolerated at levels up to 40 mg/l.

Cycling your aquarium water

See cycling for more info

Since substances like ammonia and nitrite are toxic for your fish, you need to remove them from your water on a continually. Fortunately, once matured, your filter will automatically remove them for you. Your aquarium’s filtration system is designed to host a range of beneficial bacteria that convert ammonia into nitrite, and nitrite into nitrate; a process called the nitrogen cycle. In order for that to happen, however, you need to set up your aquarium for cycling.

Since fish produce ammonia, they are typically used as the beginning point of the nitrogen cycle. After being added to a tank, very frequent water changes are needed to keep the fish healthy until the bacterial colony which feeds off the ammonia has developed sufficiently. Fishless tank cycling can be achieved using pure ammonia, as well.

Once ammonia is in the tank, bacteria will naturally show up to begin consuming it and converting it into nitrite. This can be speeded up by introducing a working filter from another aquarium, since a colony of bacteria should already be present established there. If this is not an option, then they will develop, on a new filter, slowly over 30-60 days. A secondary layer of bacteria will also appear that will convert the newly created nitrite into nitrate.

The end result of growing these bacterial colonies in your aquarium filter is that your water will essentially be recycling its own waste. However, nitrate still needs to be reduced through partial water changes. Luckily, that is only a weekly task. If you are keeping fish in your tank while cycling, you will need to perform large daily water changes until the ammonia levels fall to near zero.

Setting up a water management routine

Once your tank is properly cycled, you will still need to monitor your tank’s water. Since the nitrogen cycle is taking care of your immediate concerns over waste matter recycling, you can keep your water quality high with minimal effort. The only daily task that is necessary at this point is checking the water temperature.

Weekly tasks include performing a small water change, between 10–25%, as needed according to the nitrate level of the tank. You should also be testing your water every week in order to gauge the nitrate level as well as detect and prevent any possible ammonia, nitrite, or pH problems that may spring up, before they get serious.

Your monthly tasks should include a vacuuming of the tank gravel, a squeezing out of the excess dirt from your filter sponge and a scrubbing to remove any algae present in the tank. Never use tap water on your filter sponge. Squeeze out the sponge using some water from the aquarium. This avoids harming the beneficial bacterial colony growing on it.

Common water quality problems

One of the most evident signs that your aquarium water has a problem is if the smell changes. Aquariums generally have a pleasant lakeside scent to them once they are properly cycled, but excess ammonia and other elements can change that, giving you a warning to test the water and change it quickly.

Most often, bad-smelling water is a sign that there is too much waste in the tank as a result of overfeeding. Your fish should generally eat all of their food in two minutes or less and not leave any to rot. Excess food will rot which releases excess ammonia that will poison your fish. Occasionally your fish will go off their food. Feeding at this time will just result in food being left uneaten and rotting. Remove any uneaten food using a siphon.

A fish that dies in the tank should be removed immediately. A rotting fish will release a lot of ammonia which your filter will not be able to cope with.

Algae is another common result of poor-quality aquarium water. Again, excess nutrients (especially nitrate and phosphate) can allow algae to bloom, turning your water green and presenting problems for your fish. If you are not overfeeding your fish, then algae may bloom because of an excess of yellow light. Also, be sure to keep your aquarium out of direct sunlight.

If you pay attention to your water and follow the guidelines mentioned above, you should have a tank full of clean and clear aquarium water for your fish to enjoy.

Aquarium pests

An aquarium blighted by algae

How to control aquarium pests

An aquarium blighted by algae
An aquarium blighted by algae is an eyesore

Your aquarium is very similar to a carefully-tended garden in many ways, especially when it comes to unwanted pests that can accumulate, often rapidly, and begin causing damage to your delicate aquatic ecosystem. There are numerous types of aquarium pests and fish parasites that, if left unchecked, can seriously affect the health of your fish and even kill them.

Some of the most common pests that you will find in a typical tropical aquarium are as follows:

  • Algae – This is by far the most common pest, and it comes in many flavours: brown algae, hair algae, bubble algae, slime algae and more. Most of these are easily controlled by addressing your tank’s water quality and level of light exposure. Though not harmful to your fish, it is unsightly.
  • Snails – These small creatures can suddenly appear in your tank, where they will begin to eat your live plants and reproduce rapidly. If left unchecked, they will push your tank’s biological load far past its limit. They also eat fish eggs.
  • Hydra – Tiny freshwater polyps that like to feed on fish fry, Hydra can be very difficult to eliminate from your tank once an infestation begins. They can also irritate larger fish and are generally unwanted even if you do not have fry present.
  • planaria can be a nuisance and are an indicator of a dirty aquarium
    planaria can be a nuisance and are an indicator of a dirty aquarium

    Planaria – These creatures occur as a result of overfeeding or bad water management. Although not harmful to fish, though they may irritate the fish, they are unsightly and are a sign that the aquarium is not well cared for.

  • Floating Plants – If left to grow unchecked, floating plants can become a nuisance and need to be trimmed down to size.

How aquarium pests get introduced to your aquarium

The one major difference between your fish tank and a garden is the fact that your aquarium, at least in theory, is a closed ecosystem. You may be asking yourself how aquarium pests occur in such an environment: Most commonly, they are introduced as eggs, larvae or pupae on rocks, driftwood, and other aquarium decorations that have not been thoroughly cleaned.

The most effective way to prevent most of these pests from invading your aquarium is to carefully clean anything that you introduce to your aquarium. Snail eggs can ride in on live plants, or even with newly bought fish in some circumstances, which makes absolute prevention impossible. Pest control is occasionally still necessary, however. Another sure way is to absolutely avoid adding new objects, plants and fish to the aquarium.

What to do about aquarium pests in your tank

By far the most common pest is unwanted algae, which is relatively simple to control. New aquariums are particularly vulnerable to brown algae, which will usually go away on its own after the aquarium becomes properly established. Regular water changes and a strictly controlled lighting set up will discourage algae from growing, as will the introduction of plants to your tank.

Algae grows as a response to certain wavelengths of light. If your lights are old the wavelength changes, which may encouraging algae growth. If you continue to have problems despite using the correct lighting, it is a sign that your water is saturated with nutrients. A protein skimmer can help remove the organic waste that algae feeds on. A reverse osmosis water filtration system can remove nutrients before they enter the aquarium. Another option for immediate control is blocking out all light entering your aquarium for a few days.

Snails can be controlled by a variety of means. You can crush the shells yourself and let the fish eat their remains. Or add a snail-eating loach to your tank. You can also buy assassin snails which will hunt down and eat your snails reducing the number of snails. Another way to reduce the snail population is by adding copper to your water, which is a toxic substance for most aquatic invertebrates. Small copper coins can work, although they must be cleaned before introduction to the tank.

When it comes to hydra, the problem can get a bit more complicated. Chemical solutions exist, but can be harmful for live plants, fish and the beneficial bacteria in your filter. A better way to control these creatures is through the introduction of hydra-eating fish like three-spot blue gouramies. If that is not an option, you will have to cook them.

hydra catching daphnia. hydra is a threat to fry
hydra catching daphnia. hydra is a threat to fry

Hydra will die at a temperature greater than 40°C, which is less than what would kill your beneficial bacteria, so if you temporarily remove your fish and raise the heat to this temperature for a few hours, your tank will be free of these aquarium pests. You can then turn the heat back down, vacuum your gravel and perform a 50% water change to clear the tank. Once the water temperature is back to normal, you can re-introduce your fish safely.

Planaria are often much more difficult to contain. They will generally have to be physically removed or starved through decreased feeding. These worms can regenerate when physically damaged, making them particularly problematic in large numbers. Many aquarists find that chemical solutions are the only effective solution when dealing with a planaria infestation. However, some gouramis, guppies betta, mollies and kribensis sometimes eat them.

Controlling your plants’ growth

When it comes to controlling the growth of plants in your tank, you will need to take a more careful approach since these are organisms you want in your tank, but at levels and sizes that your aquarium can support. Plants can be particularly troublesome since an improperly trimmed stem will simply grow back, often bigger than before.

The key to proper plant control is to use specialized aquascaping tools to trim your plants. Aquascaping scissors allow you to use the correct technique when trimming your plants: cut stems should be sliced at a diagonal angle that prevents the plant from simply regenerating the stem. This is very difficult to do with regular scissors, but very easy with a pair designed specifically for aquascaping.

Fish parasites and diseases

Many of the more common aquarium pests take the form of fish parasites that infect your fish and make them sick. These can seriously affect the health of your fish and often need to be addressed using a separate quarantine tank in order to separate the infected fish from the rest of your tank. Common fish parasites include:

  • Ick(ich) – This is a very common problem for fish that are stressed as a result of rapid changes in water quality or temperature. Ick infections make your fish look like it has tiny white grains of sand covering its body. Commercial cures are available in tablet form or liquid form. However, they don’t always work because some strains of ick have become immune. Raising the temperature for a week and dosing the tank with salt usually works.
  • Gill Flukes – These tiny flatworms infect the gills of your fish, and can be identified with symptoms similar to ick but with erratic movement and eye spots on the scales. Flukes cannot be seen with the naked eye. Often encouraged by poor water quality or overcrowded tanks, gill flukes must be treated immediately with anti-parasitic aquarium tablets.
  • Water Lice – If your fish seem to have pale, tiny eight-legged crabs on their bodies, you are looking at fish lice. These aquarium pests need to be physically removed from the fish and the wound treated with an antiseptic such as iodine. Another common solution is bathing freshwater fish in a salt bath of 35 ppt seawater for 5 minutes every day until the parasite falls off.
  • Gill Mites – These microscopic creatures can be identified if your fish is gasping at the water’s surface and has partially opened gill covers showing inflammation or infection. They must be treated with anti-parasitic treatments in tablet form, with water changes in between each treatment.

Hopefully, you will never have to deal with any of these aquarium pests or fish parasites. But, you should always be prepared to put a plan into action as soon as any of these pests are first spotted, before they cause problems to your plants or fish.

Once a problem has been cured, that is not the end of the matter. It is vital that you correct the conditions that caused the problem in the first place. Overfeeding, poor water quality, lighting problems, overcrowding are conditions that must be recognised and corrected so that the problems do not re-occur.

 

The dwarf cichlid aquarium

male apistogramma agassizi

The dwarf cichlid aquarium

apistogramma cacatouides - double red
apistogramma cacatouides – double red

Often, aquarists are quick to dismiss cichlids as being too aggressive and territorial for their tanks that dig up the gravel and plants. However, if the aquarist instead explores the possibilities offered by dwarf cichlids, he will be amply rewarded. Dwarf cichlids, although closely related to their larger cousins, are much easier to care for and are far less aggressive to tankmates and each other than their larger counterparts.

Dwarf cichlid still have the parental instincts of their species, but are much easier to care for, especially in a large tank. If you are looking for a fascinating species of fish to keep, it is worthwhile to consider the benefits and fascinating behaviour that dwarf cichlids can offer.

The advantage of dwarf cichlids, compared to other cichlids, is that you can keep and breed dwarf cichlids in a smaller tank. Also, if you do have a larger aquarium, you get to observe the natural behaviour of a colony of cichlids or even a breeding colony.
 
See also breeding apistos here

Choosing the correct species

The blue ram is a beautiful if difficult fish
The blue ram is a beautiful if difficult fish

There are two major families of Dwarf Cichlids, categorized by their places of origin: South American dwarf cichlids and African dwarf cichlids. These two broad groups of species have different water requirements. So it is best to go for one group or the other. The Africans are better community fish. The South American species might be better suited to a species tank. Once you have made your choice, you can go on to choose particular species.
Apistogramma is the name for a genus of South American fish containing many dwarf species and is a great choice.

Kribensis, from West Africa, is a good beginners fish and quite popular among aquarists but maybe more suited to a community aquarium.

See Kribensis here

Blue Rams are another very popular species of dwarf cichlid from South America. They are as beautiful as they are friendly but can be difficult to keep and to breed. Bolivian rams, a close relative, are more hardy but not as beautiful.

Nanochromus Parilus, another African dwarf cichlid, is a beautiful and hardy species.
Dicrossus Filamentosus, a South American fish commonly known as the “Checkerboard cichlid” for its distinctive scale patterning, makes a great addition to tanks with acidic water.
Laetecara Curviceps, another South American species, is a timid and peaceful species that appreciates planted tanks.

My recommendation is that you concentrate on apistogramma.

Planning your dwarf cichlid aquarium

male and female cacatuoides having a confrontation
male and female cacatuoides having a confrontation

The first consideration for your dwarf cichlids will be getting the right water quality for them to thrive in. South American dwarf cichlids require reasonably acid water that is quite soft and relatively free from minerals. This means that reverse osmosis filtering is most likely necessary, unless your region’s tap water is particularly soft. The use of peat to slightly darken your water is also highly recommended.

The size of these fish allow aquarists to successfully keep them in nano tanks. A trio of dwarf cichlids will happily inhabit a 56-litre tank, for example. If you have a large tank of say more than 200 litres at your disposal then you can keep multiple species in the same tank. You can then observe some natural and interesting behaviours and interactions in the dwarf cichlid aquarium such as females herding their broods and competing for male attention within their respective territories.

In a large tank such as this, it is recommended that you keep only a few males and a higher number of females. Each of the males will carve out a large territory, and the females will keep a smaller territory within those of the males’ territory. With a suitably large and correctly aquascaped tank, fascinating mating behaviour can be observed and breeding can occur.

male and female cacatuoides having a confrontation
apistogramma female guarding some fry

If you plan on breeding your dwarf cichlids, you will need to plan your breeding and spawning spaces carefully. Clay pots or rocky cave structures that are just large enough for the female to enter are ideal. Females will breed inside of these hideouts. Each female should also have adequate space within their respective territories: even good-natured dwarf cichlids can get protective of their fry.

Considering live plants

Your aquarium will benefit from the addition of plants. Most species of dwarf cichlid need plants in order to thrive. Your choice between African and South American species will influence the types of plants that you choose, since then pH level of your tank will need to accommodate the fish:

South American dwarf cichlids prefer lower pH levels, and will do best with Java moss, Java ferns, Amazon swords, Vallisneria, or Rotella.
African dwarf cichlids require higher pH levels. This would suggest plant choices such as Java ferns, Vallisneria, and Anubias.

Your dwarf cichlids will use plants as an important part of their lives, particularly if certain specimens become markers of territory between individual fish. If you are worried about the plants’ safety, dwarf cichlids do not uproot plants the way larger cichlids do, so you can rest assured that your plants and fish will thrive healthily together.

Aquascaping with rocks and driftwood

rams with some dither fish
rams with some dither fish

Dwarf cichlids are very sensitive to their surroundings. They will behave more naturally in aquascapes that resemble their natural habitat. For African species, this means that rocks will be a necessity that cannot be overlooked. South American species will need tastefully arranged driftwood, caves and some flat stones to interact with.

Since cichlids are territorial, individuals and pairs of fish are likely to use these aquascaping elements as markers that define their personal space and breeding grounds. South American species will generally find a shaded cave structure as a spawning site. It is important to use your driftwood to create some shadows in a convenient area of the tank. Also use the wood to block the line of sight between cave entrances. Dwarf cichlids will also seek out cave formations to hide in, so it’s helpful to provide some.

You can often help your dwarf cichlids establish acceptable territories by arranging your aquascape in such a way as to make certain zones purposefully theirs. If you know that your cichlid is a cave-dwelling variety, for instance, then keeping multiple small cave formations all over the aquarium will allow them to defend defined territories.

Feeding and care of dwarf cichlids

Most of the species should be fed on a variety of live food. Some of the hardier species may take to dried foods but still include live foods in the diet. Also frequent water changes are compulsory to keep the fish happy, at their best and breeding. Some of the species’ eggs and fry are susceptible to illness if the water is not pristine.

Dwarf cichlid behaviour

male apistogramma agassizi
male apistogramma are very territorial with other males

Keeping dwarf cichlids such as the popular Apistogramma species can be highly rewarding in a large, well-planned tank. The right combinations of dwarf cichlids will encourage one another towards constructive social behaviour and provide you with a tank that is as fascinating as it is beautiful.

One of the best ways to encourage dwarf cichlids to be more active and social is through the use of dither fish: active and energetic fish such as small rasboras that swim throughout the tank will encourage the dwarf cichlids to come out of hiding. The presence of dither fish can help reassure dwarf cichlids that there are no large predators about and increase peaceful tank sociability. They also give the young mothers something to defend the brood against.

How and where to buy fish

buying new fish from an aquarium can be a fascinating experience

How and where to buy fish

buying new fish from an aquarium can be a fascinating experience
buying fish from an aquatic store is a fascinating experience

When it comes to stocking your aquarium with colourful and fascinating fish, there are lots of options available to the enterprising aquarist. It should be clear, however, that some options are better than others. Experienced fish keeping enthusiasts learn where the best sources of buying fish are.

Buying fish may seem like a simple task to the novice aquarist, but selecting and purchasing healthy fish and the right fish is a sophisticated process. It is recommended that you research the species you are interested in, and perhaps select two or three alternative options just in case your first choice is not available. Be sure you know whether your desired fish is hardy or delicate species, and make sure that the fish have been well taken care of before buying and bringing them home.

See also beginners starter fish groups

and common beginner mistakes

and starting a beginners fish tank

Your research should bear fruit in terms of finding great deals on quality fish you want to keep. Choosing your sources carefully can make all of the difference when it comes to ensuring the future health of your fish. In general, aquarists can purchase fish from one or more of the following sources:

Top 8 sources for new fish

fancy species of betta are only obtainable from private breeders
fancy species are only obtainable from private breeders

• Local breeders This is a great option if you have discovered a professional breeder in your area. Often, these breeders are highly specialized and can offer rare or exotic fish that you can not find anywhere else. These breeders may even have access to wild sourced imported fish.

Local hobbyists Hobbyists occasionally have surplus fish for sale, and this can eliminate the risks associated with shipping fish. He may even have some knowledge and advice to give about the fish he is selling to you, since the hobbyist has experience raising them.

• Online mail order delivery The Internet can provide some very attractive deals on hard to find fish. But there are some important considerations to keep in mind. Delivery charges and the company’s dead-on-arrival and returns policies. Make sure that you do not get stuck paying for a dead fish, especially if it is an expensive specimen. They may require you to take photographs of the dead fish in the closed plastic bag within 24 hours for a refund. This can be expensive because of the delivery charges. This can be offset by buying several fish at once.

• Out of town aquarium shops Purchasing fish from an out of town store can be a good idea, although it is recommended that you get a recommendation before jumping in the car and driving for hours. Usually the quality of the fish and information from staff is of a high standard. Ring the store up before you go and enquire about what is in stock.

Pet shops Pet shops only feature common, popular species of common tropical fish. For a beginner aquarist this may be ideal. However, it is important to pay attention to the quality of the pet shop’s aquariums and the health of the fish. Not all of these stores have the same standards or care for the fish they are selling.

Local aquarium shops Being more specifically focused on the aquarium trade and industry, aquarium shops frequently offer better options for their customers. Again, certain stores will have higher standards of quality then others, so make sure to pay attention to their conditions. But most are of a good standard. Being local you can pop back in for a browse and a chat. If the store is a good one then it is worthwhile building a relationship with the staff and owner.

Large chain department stores Generally, these stores are not a recommended source of fish for your aquarium. For them, the aquarium department is just one small part of a corporate culture that places little value on providing quality specimens for enthusiasts.

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

• Local classifieds Your local classifieds can make an interesting browse if you are looking for bargains or unwanted fish. But if you are looking for a specific species, your chances are low of finding it. If you find a fish for sale that you didn’t think of then do your research before you buy a fish on impulse.

With all of these options, one of the most important factors in your fish purchase is the level of expertise of the seller. A quality online mail order delivery company, for instance, will know that shipping tropical fish in winter is dangerous and likely to result in dead fish. Consequently, they will only offer coldwater fish that they can be sure will not die in-transit during the cold winter months. More recently, though, they have developed heat packs which help keep the fish warm in transit. But there are extra costs for this option.

On the other hand, you could find good, healthy fish at a large chain department store if you are lucky enough to meet a staff member with real experience keeping an aquarium. It is rare, but an individual with expertise will be able to help you find what you are looking for.

Research, pick up the phone and exercising caution in who you choose to deal with is the best way to make the right purchase.

Choosing the right fish to buy

Once you have found a source for your fish, or even two or three that you are considering purchasing from, you need to make sure that your fish can arrive in your tank safely and lead happy lives. This requires some diligence on your part, as you will need to look for fish that are compatible both with each other and with the environment of your aquarium.

When you are looking for new fish to buy, it is important to select healthy fish that have been established in their environment for at least a week before moving again. If you are buying in person, you can ask the seller to give you a specific fish: choose the ones that are brightly coloured, active, have a healthy appetite, with no obvious swelling, discoloration, patches, growths or injuries. Avoid fish with clamped fins that hide or stay at the bottom or top of the tank.

It is also important to look at your fish’s tank and tank mates when buying. If your fish is the only healthy specimen in a dirty tank full of lethargic, diseased, or dying fish, it will only be a matter of time before your fish goes the same way.

If you are purchasing your fish online or in any other situation in which you will not get a chance to personally inspect the fish before purchase, you should ask, at least, for photographs of the individual fish. This can help prevent unwanted surprises when the fish arrives at your door.

Preparing your aquarium for new fish

Transport, whether through the mail or in the safe hands of an experienced aquarist, is always stressful for fish. Your aquarium should be cycled and ready for the introduction of new fish. This means not only having adequate water conditions that are, hopefully, as close as possible to what the fish was used to in his previous home, but also being ready for the increased biological load.

In other words, you should be thinking in the long-term for your fish. Can your aquarium take the addition of another fish without affecting its other residents? Will this fish grow in size, and if it does, will you still be able to maintain it there? A knowledgeable seller can often help with these questions, but you are highly encouraged to do your own independent research.

Another important thing to keep in mind is the level of compatibility between your current fish and the new addition. Males may end up fighting each other, and certain species may exhibit aggressive behaviour if certain conditions are not met, especially when it comes to the presence of female fish in the same habitat.

After all this, it is also a good idea to ask what your new fish has been fed on. In many cases, you can help your new fish adjust to the shock of moving. To get the fish eating as soon as possible by providing the same food, at least initially.

It is always a good idea to keep on eye on the new fish closely for the first few days, until you see the fish settled.

Review of koi fish for beginners

beautiful koi pond
kohaku champion koi
kohaku champion koi

The recent eBook on koi fish released by Adam Short is nothing short of amazing. It delivers everything a beginner needs to select, buy and maintain these fascinating fish. This “must have” eBook is comprehensive, accurate and written in easy to understand language.
The eBook starts with a short, fascinating history complete with images. From the early cultivation of koi breeds up to today’s newcomers, it is clear there is an ornamental koi suitable for even the most discerning tastes. Raising koi is an art and new varieties are always being developed. Even a beginner can learn how to breed them, and the adventurous may even develop their own unique variety. All the information is in this eBook – just bring your imagination.

Adam Short’s goal is to turn koi beginners into experts. This book succeeds. Adam Short gives you all his expert knowledge. You will gain expertise in the care, breeding, developing champions and learning the “koi” language by the time you have finished the book.

From nose to tail, the beginner also learns about the parts of the fish and their internal systems. Keeping premium koi in prime condition discourages pathogens, parasites and cuts costs. Readers learn the differences between goldfish and koi, how to choose the proper fish for a particular environment and a range of other considerations crucial for the beginner.

Koi Fish for Beginner also has an exhaustive section on koi fish varieties. You can scan through the vivid photos, learn about the basic and more developed varieties and start to envision which of these magnificent fish you want in your own pond.

beautiful koi pond
beautiful koi pond

This extraordinary eBook does not stop there. It also has step-by-step instructions for construction of a koi pond including design, filtration, landscaping and maintenance. As well, there is a comprehensive section on choosing and caring for your fish and what to avoid saving you time, money and disappointment. The bottom line is that this buying and construction guide makes it easy to set up a beautiful pond of koi set up in no time, and without the risk of losing your prized fish.

 

To top it all off, Adam Short offers three bonuses to those who are eager to delve more deeply. Koi Fish for Beginners has an in-depth section on breeding koi. From egg to fry and on to maturity, these images and step-by-step instructions can help you realize your dreams of raising your own fish instead of paying the pet store or breeder.

 

showa sanshoku champion koi
showa sanshoku champion koi

The second bonus provides insight into how to create a koi collection and what makes particular koi fish desirable. You will learn how to sell your koi to other enthusiasts and how to show your prized fish in competitions.

The glossary of Japanese words and pronunciation for Koi varieties is the final bonus and the crowning glory of this eBook. The sheer volumes of koi varieties make this glossary an absolute necessity for the beginner.

Nothing matches the scope and ease of this publication, plus you are privy to free updates and insider information when you take part in Adam Short’s koi community. Beginners interested in keeping koi and becoming experts will not find a better book on the market.

Breeding egg laying fish

fish laying eggs
Angel fish laying eggs

Fish laying eggs?

Many times fish keepers are caught by surprise and your fish may have already laid eggs. If you are lucky enough to have a male and female that have bred in the aquarium then you most probably want the eggs to hatch to become baby fish. This may be difficult if the fish lay eggs in a community aquarium. If the fish are cichlids they will look after their eggs and young to some extent. Remember other fish will want to eat the eggs and baby fish if they get a chance. If you want to maximise your chance of raising the baby fish then it might be a good idea if you carefully removed the other fish. Note that disturbing fish with eggs or young may result in the parents killing their offspring.

Fish such as angel fish, kribensis, or convict cichlids are the most likely to spawn with out ay help from you. And as often as not they will spawn in the community aquarium.

More about Kribensis here
 
Breeding fish A-Z

How To Start Breeding Egg-Laying Fish: A Guide To Egg-Layers

convict cichlid breeding pair
breeding pair of convict cichlids

If you have already enjoyed some success breeding livebearers such as guppies or platys then your next step could be breeding egg-laying fish. These fish can be a bit more of a challenge in producing healthy young successfully, but are well worth the effort.

With the success of breeding live-bearing fish, you should already have most of the equipment and expertise necessary to make the step up to breeding egg-laying fish. So how do you complete the next step? What do you need to know and do? You need to provide the right water conditions and the appropriate spawning environment for the adult fish. Then you need to feed and raise the young which are usually smaller than livebearer fry.

Choosing Your First Egg-Layers

breeding group of zebra danios
breeding group of zebra danios

There are many egg-laying fish species that breed in one of several ways. In order to maximize your chances of success, it is recommended that your first egg-layer be either a simple cave-spawner such as kribensis or convict cichlids, or easily cared for egg-scatterers such as zebra danio or rosy barb.

Egg-laying fish that protect their young are relatively easy to spawn plus they look after their eggs and fry: The optimal conditions can be reached by raising the water a few degrees, feeding well with live food such as blood worms, and providing a cave-like structure or spawning stones somewhere in the tank.

Kribensis, for example, will seek out a cave or other similar hiding place when ready to spawn. The female will lay her eggs in the cave and let the male fertilize them. For the next week or so, they will both guard the nest from other fish.

Setting Up The Right Conditions For Egg-Layer Spawning

female_kribensis_fish_with_fryThe first thing to take into consideration for breeding egg-laying fish will be to set up the correct temperature for spawning. Every species of fish has different needs, but there are a few universal principles that will apply to keep the eggs and fry safe; one of these is the use of a separate breeding tank.

Fish eggs and fry are largely considered fair game for hungry adult fish—including the parents of some species. For this reason, you will need to setup a breeding tank in order to prevent other fish eating the fry. Also a breeding tank has space for your fry to grow.

Another overlooked danger for eggs and fry is your filtration system. Eggs and fry are so tiny that they can easily be sucked into the filter where they will be crushed. Your breeding tank will need to use a low flow sponge filter in order to keep the eggs safe at least for the first week or two.

In the case of egg-scattering fish such as the Zebra Danio, it is recommended that both adults are removed immediately after laying is complete. Installing a layer of marbles or a porous net as a substrate can help protect the the eggs which will fall between the gaps where they cannot be reached or eaten.

Successfully breeding egg-laying fish also requires more attention to the water quality and feeding. Clean tank water encourages breeding, and often the most difficult part of breeding is maintaining the correct balance between high quality water and high levels of food. Many fish will only breed when given very clean water and live food.

How to recognise if your fish are breeding

zebra danio fish
femal zebra danio fish

When the female is noticeably plump and the male is more vibrantly coloured then you can be sure the fish will soon spawn. With brood carers such as kribensis and convict cichlids you will notice mouth wrestling between the pair. Also they will flirt with each other by waving their bodies and fins at each other. With egg scatterers you will see flirting and chasing. When the fish spawn they usually quiver their bodies as they lay eggs and release milt.

Caring For Your Fish Eggs And Raising Fry

If you have managed to get your fish to breed, and have a number of fish eggs waiting to hatch in your breeding tank, it is time to focus on keeping them safe until hatching and then providing the fry with everything they need to grow into healthy adult fish.

Once your eggs are safely deposited in the breeding tank and out of reach of any other fish, you are ready to begin the waiting game. With very clean water and an appropriate temperature, you should begin to see fry appear within a few days or so.

However, do not feed the fry when they first hatch. They will not feed. And are not yet free swimming but just dart about occasionally. Fry when first hatched still have a yolk sac attached which they feed off. When they have completely absorbed the yolk sac, they will then start eating and start free swimming. They need to be fed at this point. This is where most beginners fail.

three week old zebra danio fry
three week old zebra danio fry

When breeding egg-laying fish, it is often necessary to feed your fry live food—the problem here, however, is that many of these fish are too small to eat many commercially available live foods. The best foods for these tiny fry are infusoria, which have to be cultivated beforehand. After a week or two depending on species they will be big enough to eat baby brine shrimp and microworms. After 1 month they can then be fed on crushed dry food.

In order to encourage the growth of your fry, frequent feeding and water changes are recommended: Your fry should be fed lightly several times per day, and at least 10% of the water changed every other day.

More about live food here

Considerations For Fish Nearing Adulthood

If your first experiment in breeding egg-laying fish has gone well so far, you should have a small breeding tank full of young fry that are rapidly growing. But you will soon have to make space for the young adult fish to move into.

If you have a breeding tank of 50 litres that is housing perhaps a 100 young fry, you will not be able to keep them all there for very long. If you already have a network of contacts to whom you can sell your or swap your young fish, then you should be able to sell them off relatively quickly, but it is important to have extra tank space ready just in case. If needs must then you can try offloading some at your local petstore.

If you have prepared a separate tank for the adults to live in, you will be able to successfully transfer them there when they are adults and begin selling them off without pressure. Nobody wants to spoil all of this hard work at the last step because there is no room for an otherwise successful attempt at breeding egg-laying fish.

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.

Setting up a tropical aquarium: step by step guide

fish tank set up

Setting up a tropical aquarium professionally

This is an easy to follow step by step guide on setting up an aquarium for the beginner aquarist. Following these steps closely will allow you to have a successful aquarium set up at home, even if you don’t have any experience in keeping fish. You will avoid the most common disasters such as dead fish, dying plants and green water.

1. Buy the biggest aquarium with a fitted hood that you can afford. Buy a 15″ high aquarium for larger fish or a 12″ high aquarium for smaller fish
2.Buy a heater-thermostat. Buy a larger wattage than recommended so that the heater doesn’t have to struggle to maintain the temperature
3. Buy a large sponge based internal power filter. Again get one with a higher turnover than recommended
4. Buy a stand or cabinet that will allow easy access to the top of the aquarium
5. Find a location away from direct sunlight near power sockets where the floor will support the weight of the aquarium
6.Use a spirit level to ensure the aquarium is sitting perfectly level
7. Place a sheet of polystyrene between the aquarium and stand or surface the aquarium is to sit on. This will help to spread out any pressure points which may crack the glass
8.Buy a hand pump action aquarium vacuum to assist in the maintenance of the aquarium

9.Buy some aquarium gravel
10. thoroughly wash the gravel until no dirt comes off in the water
11. Line the aquarium with the gravel. Slope the gravel. Higher at the back of the aquarium and lower at the front
12. Buy a flourescent tube with a peak in the red, blue and yellow areas of the spectrum. This will benefit the plants who will absorb the light
13.Buy a test kit that will test for ph, hardness, ammonia and nitrites
14.Fill your aquarium with water and treat the water with an anti chlorine chemical that will remove the chlorine. Or leave the water for standing for seven days so that the chlorine and ammonia will evaporate. Use a plastic sheet on the gravel when pouring in the water to avoid disturbing the gravel.
15. Set up a large barrel in the back yard or garden and fill it with tap water
16. Turn on your heater
17. Check your ph and hardness of your water.
18. Use the ph and hardness figures to guide you in selecting your plants and fish. If you have hard and alkaline water then it is much better to buy fish that thrive in such water such as Malawi fish.
19.Buy some plants and insert them into the gravel or in clay pots if needed.
20. Turn on the filter.
21. Add 2 hardy fish (such as zebra danios or mollies) after 7 days. Don’t feed for two days then feed sparsely to not pollute the aquarium. Any uneaten food must be removed within 5 minutes.
22. Do daily tests of the ammonia and nitrate. Do a water change with water from the water barrel when the ammonia starts to rise. Top up the water barrel as necessary.
23. After another 7 days buy a few more fish. Do half stock at this point. Keep feeding sparsely and clean up all uneaten food. For every litre of water allow 1cm of fish. 150litre tank = 150cm of fish. At this point 75cm total length of all your fish for a 150litre tank for example. But allow for growth. Calculate using the adult size of the individual fish.
24. Keep doing the water tests and do daily water changes of 10-25%.
25. After another 7 days buy some more fish. Stock at 75% at this point which for a 150litre tank is 112cm total length of all fish. keep feeding sparsely. Again calculate using the adult size of the fish.
26. Keep doing the water tests and daily water changes
27. After a month you can fully stock your aquarium but you will still need to test the water and do water changes. This is 150cm of fish for a 150 litre aquarium. 50cm for 50 litre. 100cm for 100 litre aquarium, etc. Again calculate using the adult size of the fish. Start feeding normally but keep a close eye on the ammonia and nitrite levels.
28. As the ammonia and nitrite levels stabilise to 0ppm, which may take up to 6 weeks, then you can cut back on the water changes to once a week or longer.
29. Check your plant growth. Some plants may be thriving while others may be struggling. Remove the struggling plants and buy some more suited to your aquarium.
30.Check for algae growths. If algae has taken hold then reduce the duration of lighting during the day and or cover one side or the back of the aquarium to reduce the light.
31. Siphon through the gravel by churning the mouth of the vacuum into the gravel. The gravel will not be sucked up but accumulated fish waste will be removed.
32. Use tablet fertilisers pushed near the roots of any plants that need it.
33. Swap or sell any fish that don’t settle in. Either they are bullying the other fish, being bullied, they are constantly hiding or have fallen ill.

So, set up your aquarium in a planned way so that the plants get acclimatized.
Beginners plants

Also a tank’s bacteria must mature to recycle fish waste so that the fish don’t die. Also make sure you buy fish will that get on with each other.

compatible fish lists here

Never have a newly bought fish die again and have that fish living for a long time.

Cycling your aquarium – explains the process in detail

Let aquarium set up mistakes be a thing of the past.

 

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.

 

Succeed with aquarium plants

planted aquarium

How to succeed with aquarium plants: a guide to aquarium plant care

While the beginning aquarist spends a great deal of time learning how to tend to fish and give them an environment in which they can thrive, aquarium plant care is, by comparison, a subject that is rarely given the full attention it deserves. Keeping your plants happy is just as important as keeping your fish happy, though, since the two will live in coexistence in the closed ecosystem that your fish tank provides.

You can’t just place plants in your aquarium and expect them to thrive or even stay alive. You must pay attention to the lighting, water conditions and the fertilisation needs of the plants.

Choosing the right plants for your aquarium

See also best beginners plants

and Aquascaping for beginners

and keeping plants healthy

The most important aspect of aquarium plant care is: choosing the right plants for your aquarium. The right choice here can make the rest of your live plant experience a pleasure by providing a beautiful environment for your tank while controlling algae and absorbing unwanted ammonia and nitrates.

There are scores of plant species that, though undoubtedly beautiful, are very sensitive to water conditions, require specialized CO2 systems, or need extra lights in order to flourish. At the same time however, there are plenty of hardy, attractive plants that provide all the benefits that you expect from aquarium plants without the extra hassle.

A list of some of the best options for your first aquarium plants for the beginner are as follows:

• Java Moss. This unassuming plant is one of the most popular aquarium plants worldwide for a number of reasons. It thrives in a variety of environments, offers lots of convenient hiding places for fish and their fry, and offers simple, beautiful decoration for aquarium owners.

It can be tied to rocks or driftwood with fishing line, or left to float naturally through the tank. Java moss requires very little maintenance; only some occasional trimming when it gets too thick.

• Amazon Sword. This plant can reach a great size, even under low lighting. Evidently, this plant is ideal for large tanks, and may require fertilizer tablets because of the fact that it is a root-feeding plant.

• Java Fern. This plant can survive in nearly any aquarium, and is very forgiving when it comes to water quality and light. Even goldfish that regularly eat aquarium plants will generally leave Java fern alone.

• Valisneria. This plant will feel right at home in a variety of aquariums, although some hungry fish might decide to snack on it. Vallisneria spiralis is usually singled out as being one of the best varieties for aquarium plant care beginners.

• Anubias. This is one of the only underwater plants that actually prefers low lighting, and to make it even more attractive to aquarium owners, herbivore fish tend to leave it alone.

While many other specialty plants can provide a fun and challenging experience for live plant enthusiasts, any of the plants listed above make an excellent introduction to the world of aquarium plant care.

Lighting for your aquarium plants

Once you have chosen which species of plants you would like to keep in your tank, you must consider your lighting setup in order to give the plants the correct environment in which they can thrive. In general, your aquarium plants will do best with day and night cycles of 12 hours each.

The duration of the lighting period is important, but you must also examine the type of light that you use in your aquarium. Lights designed for aquarium plant care are notably different than average fluorescent lights, and you will need to make sure that yours carry a suitable Kelvin rating, among other characteristics.

• The Kelvin rating refers to the spectrum of light that the bulb emits, commonly referred to as the, “temperature” of the light.

• Most plants reject green and yellow light while absorbing red and blue light, as well as light on the ultraviolet scale. In terms of the Kelvin rating, this means that you should provide full-spectrum lighting between 5500 K and 7500 K for most tropical plants, including as the ones listed above.

• LED lights often offer the best combination of low power consumption with light intensity, ease of installation, and price. Make sure to purchase quality LED lights, however, as the market is full of low-quality options not suitable for aquarium plant care.

Following these guidelines will help ensure that your plants grow large and healthy, although providing them with ample light will make your plants hungry for the nutrients they need to thrive.

Feeding your plants: fertilizing your substrate

Once you have developed your lighting setup properly, it is time to consider the fertilizer and nutrients that your plants will need. Many waterborne fertilizers will provide the boost that you need to get your plants strong and healthy quickly— especially in the beginning stages of aquarium plant care.

You should be aware that many of these store bought fertilizers, while very good for plants, contain nitrates and other ingredients that are poisonous for your fish. Most fish can tolerate small amounts, but over exposure to fertilizer will kill them, so use these fertilizers with care.

But better still use a substrate fertilizer for rooted plants like the Amazon Sword. They come in tablet form. These tablets need to be pushed into the substrate directly to the root base of the plant. In this way they directly feed the plant rather than into the water in general.

Choosing between gravel or soil

While soil is a much more natural substrate for aquarium plant care, it is notably more complex to keep in optimal condition. Soils are generally reserved for experienced aquatic gardeners who wish to grow particularly difficult underwater plants.

If you introduce soil into your tank it can affect the water quality for your fish.
Therefore, gravel is generally recommended as the safest option. You can always add soil in separate pots if you wish to experiment later on.

The benefits of potting your plants

One of the key benefits to be realised by potting your plants, apart from being able to use soil without disturbing your tank’s existing substrate, is that your pots will also protect the plants. Potted plants have a secure location from which they can grow, and this can help keep them alive when nosey fish want to dig around their roots.

While gravel may be an acceptable substrate for beginning aquarium plant care, you may find that some of your more active fish seem intent on overturning the rocks and digging into the roots of your plants, harming or possibly killing them in the process. Potted plants combat this behaviour by offering your fish very little space in which they can satisfy their curiosity or hunger.

Reproducing aquarium plants for fun and profit

If you give enough space, nutrients, and lights to your plants, you may find that they begin to propagate and reproduce. A vast majority of these plants reproduce asexually, meaning that, if the conditions are healthy, they will simply begin sprouting new individual plants without your intervention at all.

Some species of plant, however, may need your help reproducing, and often it is worthwhile to expend the effort— aquarium pants, just like fish, can be bred and sold for profit. Seeded plants like lilies are notably more complicated to breed, and tend to command higher prices than their asexual cousins:

• A plant cutting is exactly what it sounds like: a segment of the parent plants’ stem, cut and replanted into the substrate of the aquarium or pot. In most cases, these cuttings will grow their own roots and turn into full-fledged individual plants over time.

• Plants that have seeds will need to be sexed and paired in order to propagate successfully. The two parent plants will need to be flowering above the surface and then have their pollen transferred from one to the other. If pollination is successful, seeds will be produced and those need to planted in damp soil as quickly as possible.

Over time, you should be able to grow a healthy collection of extra plants using these aquarium plant care methods, and you can then begin to sell to or swap with other local aquarists either through the help of your local fish store or directly using an Internet classifieds website to find customers.