The Reality of Fish-Breeding

guppy fry Guppy fry

Just a word of warning to beginning aquarists, its better not to expect either to breed fishes too soon after purchase, or to rear too big a proportion of fry from eggs that have hatched. Reality probably hits most often in regard to the bubble-nest-builders.  Expectations are high because, in the first place, they are among the fishes most readily spawned. Secondly, their small eggs are usually numerous, anywhere between 300 and 600 or more being common. With luck most of them hatch. Unless eaten by a parent they live about a week, even without food. At that point the let-down begins, even with food, especially in a small tank, their numbers start to decrease. Indeed if the number reared to half-adult size is 50, it should be considered to be above average. All too often it comes down to half a dozen, or even less. One consolation is that the survivors must be the naturally strong ones, fit for carrying on the reproduction of the family. Is this infant mortality rate unavoidable? In an aquarium or tank under 15-gallon size the practical answer is yes. The newly-hatched fishes are very small and our guess is that in a small tank there are insufficient amounts of very small infusoria to give the babies a start until they can eat the sizes present in most cultures. At any rate, the larger the tank, the better the chances. This follows through until one reaches something like an outdoor pool say 5x5 feet, in which approximately 100% of hatched fry may reach maturity, barring other misfortunes. This may explain why the beginner with limited water space should not be too disappointed if only a small proportion of a hatching reaches maturity.  Another way to increase your chances of success is to place an EcoBio-Stone in your tank. EcoBio-Stone takes care of the toxins that are dangerous to fish while slowly replacing necessary trace minerals, creating a healthy environment for breeding fish and reducing loss. In referring to “pairs” of any kind, I must touch on the subject of “guaranteed” pairs, usually bought at a good fat premium price. They are usually a disappointment, and not worth the outlay, for they seldom make good. This is not meant to cast any reflection on the honesty of the seller, but pairs that are known to have bred may be "bred out". No one can tell when time has caught up with fertility. Besides a change of environment may throw a pair out of reproduction rhythm. It is best to develop one’s own breeders if possible. As to time required for breeding after acquiring a pair, there of course can be no set period of reasonable expectation. I refer mostly to the egg-laying type of fish. They may possibly be ripe for spawning almost at once, but ordinarily they need not only to be well-fed (on live food if possible), but must have time to adjust themselves to new surroundings and changed water. Several weeks are usually needed. Besides (although we do not know why) some species are difficult, even for experienced aquarists, to get to spawn at all. That is true of most of the Characins (Tetras). It sometimes happens that a beginner has acquired one or more kinds of fishes that are always difficult (or nearly impossible) to breed, even if they are close relatives of species that are easy to reproduce. Here are a few examples: Corydomr pazleaim, and C. azenezu are often bred, but that is not true of other members of that large family. Razrbommeinkeni is the only one of its numerous family, possibly excepting the "Scissors Tail" (trilineatur), from which success may be more likely. The live-bearers are more obliging and less sensitive to change. In fact new water and changed surroundings often stimulate them to early delivery. It is from the egg-layers that we should not expect too much too soon. In any case, optimism is good, but it should be tempered by what may be called “reasonable and realistic expectations.”



Why Do Aquarium Plants Die?

unhealthy aquarium plants Why my aquarium plants are dying?

Freshwater aquariums have untold value as both a living, breathing ecosystem in your own home for educational purposes as well as a gorgeous home decor item for your pleasure. There are a vast array of decorations you can put in your aquarium ranging from store-bought ceramic statues to driftwood, but the favored addition for many are plants. Beginning aquarists frequently opt for plastic or silk aquarium plants because they have a beauty similar to nature and are presumably easier to take care of than live plants. However, many have found that hardy live aquarium plants rarely require more maintenance than fake plants, and they really aren't that difficult to keep.  Having trouble with plants dying and don't know what's causing it? There are a number of common, easy-to-fix causes of plant death.

By far the most common affliction for live plants in a freshwater aquarium is the light level. When selecting your plants, make sure that they all have similar lighting requirements, and that your aquarium can provide the ideal light level. In general, most low-light plants still grow in higher lighting -- although many can grow out of control -- so your best bet is to increase the lighting. If the style of your light fixture allows, this could be as easy as lining the bulb housing with aluminum foil to increase the amount of light reflected into the water.

The next concern is the nutrient level and water quality. Plants require nitrates as well as various trace nutrients in order to grow. They may also require CO2 injection into the tank, especially if your aquarium is well-aerated and has quite a bit of surface agitation as this will help the CO2 gas off quickly. Poor water quality (in general) can have a detrimental effect on aquarium plants; if the water isn't within healthy parameters for the fish living in the aquarium.  It's not healthy for the plants either. Water quality can be ensured through regular water changes and/or with a high-quality water maintenance product such as EcoBio-Block. EcoBio-Block contains beneficial bacteria to break down ammonia and nitrites into plant-usable nitrates as well as essential trace minerals to ensure the water stays at an optimal level between water changes.

Medications may also be to blame for plant problems. Many aquatic treatments and medications are harmful to invertebrates such as shrimp and snails as well as any live plants in the aquarium as they contain copper; these include any kind of algae destroyer as well as many ich medications, fungicide, and antibiotics. EcoBio-Stone or a similar water maintenance product may reduce or eliminate the need for any of these treatments, as high water quality is critical for healthy fish. However, if you must use medications to treat the water, EcoBio-Block should be removed during the process as the live bacteria could also be harmed.

There is a lot that can be learned about what conditions might be ailing a particular plant by the color and pattern of blemishes and the way in which it dies that can help diagnose the issue; however, in the majority of cases the problem is one of the above which can easily be corrected.



Overcrowded Aquarium -Suffocation

crowded aquarium

It seems that I begin many of these letters by quoting from some correspondence. After all, what better or more practical source of inspiration can there be? In this instance, the point is one that is brought up rather frequently by beginners in aquarium care, who have not been very successful after having seemingly followed the primary instructions gleaned from books or our dealer friends. They give recommended foods in conservative amounts, have good light and temperature control. But here is where trouble starts, through the acceptance of a fallacious signal as to what constitutes “overcrowding." The signal watched for is when the fishes gasp at the surface of the water, "blowing bubbles." That is a carry-over from the days when goldfish was King. Goldfish and other cool-water fishes are very sensitive to any shortage of oxygen in the water, or the presence of too much carbon dioxide. They quickly express their distress by breathing at the surface. Incidentally, I have often wondered how fishes, never before in such a situation, know enough to get a fresh supply of oxygen at the surface of the water. Warm-water fishes are better equipped to get along in oxygen-deficient conditions. In a tank containing both goldfish and exotics (a combination not recommended) the goldfish will invariably be the first to register discomfort from overcrowding. The point that I am stressing is that “Tropicals” are apt to "suffer in silence." When they come to the surface and stay there, conditions are not merely bad, but very bad. Undetected crowding has been present for some time past, indicated by the poor condition of the fishes. Of course such symptoms can come from other causes, but crowding is one of the first to look for. That suspicion can be confirmed if frequent partial changes of water relieves the condition. Water changes help keep the parameters within acceptable limits, help remove excess organic material such as waste and uneaten food, and also replenish required minerals in the water that the fish use up over time. If you prefer not to do as many water changes or are physically unable to, there are alternatives that can reduce your labor. My favorite is the EcoBio-Block, which is an aquarium care product that introduces beneficial bacteria into the aquarium (which keep the biological filter healthy) and slowly leach necessary minerals into the water to keep fish healthy and help beginners become successful aquarists. Advising a new aquarist at the height of his frenzy to go slowly in building up his tank of fishes is like talking against the tempest. Recently I fitted out a grandson with an aquarium and a suitable collection of fishes. All was lovely for a few weeks until he was bitten with the desire for more and more. The dealer could not be blamed for selling to him, but the result was not hard to foresee – a general attack of "Ich." Overcrowding does not necessarily cause that disease, but reduces the vitality of the fishes so that they are more subject to it. The elder Rothschild is credited with the wise crack "Nobody ever got poor taking a profit." I would paraphrase that in reverse: "No aquarist ever got into trouble by having too few fishes:"



Safely Transferring Fish to a New Aquarium

discus fishWhen you are ready to purchase your first aquarium, one of the first things you learn is how to properly cycle the aquarium and how to slowly introduce new fish to avoid ammonia spikes while the colonies of beneficial bacteria are developing. That's easy enough to follow -- but what about when you have to move an existing community of fish to a new home? Maybe you moved and have to re-establish the aquarium, maybe you're moving to a larger or even a smaller tank; whatever the reason, there are ways to safely move the fish without as much risk of ammonia spikes.

A properly cycled tank contains a healthy colony of bacteria that breaks down ammonia from a fish's waste and uneaten food into nitrites and then into nitrates. In a healthy tank, there should be 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and less than 40ppm nitrates (20ppm if you have invertebrates such as snails or shrimp). Without sufficient amounts of beneficial bacteria, ammonia and nitrite in the water may be fatal to fish.

Beneficial bacteria live all through the water and on every underwater surface in the aquarium, but the water itself carries a very low concentration of bacteria so it's not very effective to simply transfer water from the old aquarium to the new in order to maintain bacteria levels. Ideally, you will be able to transfer some old filter media to the new aquarium, or even a handful of gravel or fake plants that will all have beneficial bacteria on them. Make sure that the materials of your choice stay wet with tank water until they can be placed in the new aquarium.

Alternatively, if you have EcoBio-Stone products in your aquarium, that will be sufficient to switch over to the new one. EcoBio-Block has a lot of beneficial bacteria living in its volcanic rock and has quite a bit of surface area so a lot of additional bacteria get transferred over from the established tank. It is not necessary to keep EcoBio-Block wet, but it may help eliminate any minor ammonia spikes that may occur after the transfer as there will be more active bacteria immediately if kept wet. EcoBio-Block will also allow you to wait a little bit longer before doing the first water change as it provides essential minerals that would otherwise have to be replenished through water changes, giving the fish extra time to de-stress after a big move without being bothered.

Make sure not to put whatever bacteria-containing materials you've chosen into the new aquarium until a de-chlorinator has been used in the water as chlorine will kill the bacteria. Keep close tabs on the water parameters for the first week after the transfer, doing minor water changes as needed to compensate for any ammonia in the system that may not be compensated for by the bacteria yet. Watch the fish closely for any clamped fins or red, puffy gills as these may be signs that the water parameters are off. If these simple guidelines are followed your fish should have a relatively effortless and healthy move.



The Care and Feeding of Bettas

Siamese fighting fish, or betta fish, rank amongst some of the most popular aquarium fish because of their low maintenance requirements and flashy good looks. Sadly, they rank only behind goldfish as the most abused aquarium fish in the world.