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Aquarium Care

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:"

 

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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.

 

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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.
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When You're Not There: Aquarium Care for Emergencies and Vacations

How to prepare your aquarium before you leave for a vacation.

If you've been doing some research on taking care of your new aquarium or are an experienced fish keeper, you'll no doubt have noticed that while the requirements of an aquarium are not very difficult to fulfill, they do require ongoing attention. So what happens if you want to go on vacation and no one will be around to do water changes? What if there's a family emergency that takes your time and attention for extended periods of time? Life is so unpredictable you can never be absolutely certain that you'll always be there to look after your fish, but with a few alterations to your daily aquarium care schedule you can effectively switch to a temporary "low-maintenance" mode.

The primary concern with extended absences or emergency situations where there's just no time to perform aquarium maintenance tasks is the water quality. Depending on stocking levels, aquariums need a partial water change anywhere from once a month to as often as once a week. If you're like me, you barely trust anyone else to feed your fish, much less perform water changes, so the ideal solution is to find a way to maintain water quality for extended periods until you can resume your normal maintenance routine.

Water changes are done to remove excess nitrates in the system; nitrate is the end product after ammonia and nitrites from waste and uneaten food have been broken down by beneficial bacteria. If you wish to slow the rate of nitrate buildup, you simply have to reduce the amount of waste and uneaten food in the aquarium; when you're not able to do water changes, this means feeding less. In the wild there is no guarantee of getting regular food; as a result a fish's metabolism is such that the fish can take advantage of food when it is offered but can also live for days or weeks with very little or no food without it having an adverse effect on the fish's health. So, option one is to cut back to only feeding the fish once every two or three days; this won't completely stop the level of nitrates from growing, but it will help slow it.

Next, you can use a water maintenance product such as EcoBio-Stone in your aquarium. EcoBio-Block contains a strain of hardy beneficial bacteria that break down the ammonia and nitrites from waste. Additionally, the product leaches essential minerals into the water; these minerals are used up quickly by the fish and generally need to be replaced through water changes unless a water maintenance product is present. There is also evidence indicating that EcoBio-Block helps promote the growth of anaerobic bacteria in the substrate which breaks nitrates down into a gas that can evaporate, making water changes unnecessary. There haven't been sufficient studies to confirm this yet, but aquarists have observed low nitrate levels and have been able to go for even a year at a time without doing a partial water change. Organic material such as waste and excess food will still need to be removed either through the filtration system or gravel vacuums, but that can be done at your leisure.

Other than ensuring water quality, about the only maintenance routine that must be seen to regardless of outside events are occasional checks to ensure there is no disease showing in the tank, no deaths for any reason, that filter pads are clean and all equipment are running properly. copyright©ONEdersave Products

 

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Aquarium Basics: Surviving Power Outages

power outaged roadAquariums are wonderful additions to any home, but problems can arise from the fact that essential life functions within the aquarium are facilitated by electricity - namely, oxygen and temperature regulation. Strong winds, lightning, falling tree branches and floods can all cause unexpected power outages, and in small towns or rural areas even automobile accidents that involve power poles can plunge households into darkness as the only means of electricity has to be shut down. Here are a few tips on how to safeguard your beloved aquarium in the event of a power outage.

The most important thing to keep going in the aquarium is the oxygen exchange. Beneficial bacteria in the tank require a lot of oxygen, so once a filter and aerator stop working the dissolved oxygen depletes very quickly. Once oxygen is depleted the bacteria colonies begin dying off or becoming inactive, allowing ammonia levels to rise. Hardy strains of bacteria such as the bacillus subtilis natto strain used in EcoBio-Block will mostly become inactive, but return to actively breaking down ammonia as soon as proper oxygen levels are restored. This can happen within an hour or two of losing power, depending on stocking levels. Additionally, a lot of beneficial bacteria lives in filter media so if you have a canister filter or HOB filter that keeps the media out of the main body of water a large portion of the aquarium's bacteria may be unavailable instantly.

This is where planning ahead can be a real lifesaver...and back saver! If your power goes out and you don't have a generator, having all your aquarium equipment plugged into an uninterrupted power supply is possibly one of the best ways to keep going for short-term outages. Battery-powered aerators are available online and in many pet stores as well and can be a great asset during outages or when traveling with fish. If none of these are available, you can manually facilitate oxygen exchange by filling a pitcher from the tank (here's where the back comes in) and dumping the water back in, then repeating at regular intervals until power comes back.

Now for temperature control; in cold weather, a watertight container filled with boiling water (provided you have a gas range or access to a wood-burning stove) makes a great heater that will keep fish near it warm. In hot weather, a water-tight container or two or three ziplock baggies inside each other (to prevent leaks) with ice cubes in it will keep water near it cool enough for the fish.

If the power is out for extended periods of time you may have to watch the water parameters closely when the aquarium is functioning again as a lot of beneficial bacteria can die from oxygen deprivation, causing ammonia spikes. To control these you'll either need to do water changes every day to keep ammonia levels down until the bacteria catches up again, or you can add some new bacteria from products such as EcoBio-Stone or BioSpira. BioSpira is a bottled bacteria culture that works well, but has to be refrigerated and has a limited shelf life so it may not be the best for emergency preparation. EcoBio-Block is a water maintenance product that lasts about 1 1/2-2 years in the aquarium; this product introduces and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria as well as keeps the water parameters healthy, which can reduce fish stress in an emergency. EcoBio-Block is a very valuable maintenance product that will keep the aquarium water healthy every day in addition to emergency uses, but it can take up to a couple of weeks to start working initially so it should already be in place to be effective in an emergency.

copyright©ONEdersave Products LLC

 
 

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Defeating the Green Monster: Controlling Green Water in Your Aquarium

Green water is a nasty problem in many aquariums; one day you have a gorgeous, crystal-clear tank and the next day you wake up to an aquarium of opaque green. This condition is caused by a free-floating algae bloom, and it really can go from no problem at all to being able to see absolutely nothing inside the aquarium overnight. So what do you do about it?

As with most things, the best cure is prevention. Green water occurs when an aquarium is overstocked or has too much decaying organic matter in it. This process creates an excess of nitrates and other nutrients that feed the algae. Once all the right environmental factors are in place, the algae takes over quickly and mercilessly. The key is to keep nitrates down and the water parameters healthy for the fish.

You can start by ensuring you're not over-feeding your fish. A fish in the wild can never be certain where its next meal is coming from, so its metabolism has adapted into that of an opportunistic eater. Healthy fish will always be hungry, so you can not simply feed them until they stop eating. Give your fish just enough that it takes them about two minutes to eat all the food twice a day (three times if you have juveniles); if you see uneaten food get to the bottom, cut back a little.

Next, make sure you have good mechanical filtration and a well-aerated tank. For additional preventative, you can use a time-released water maintenance product such as EcoBio-Block products. These products last up to two years apiece and ensure that the water in the aquarium stays perfectly balanced by breaking down the toxic ammonia and nitrites from waste and excess food, as well as re-supplying essential minerals in the water as they're used up by the fish.

Many aquarists believe that direct sunlight is the main cause of green water and this is not true. While direct sunlight should be avoided because of its effects on the water temperature, algae can not bloom without quite a bit of excess nutrients in the water. It is true that algae can not grow without light as well, but the algae requires very little light for its photosynthesis; once it's started, any tiny bit of natural light that reaches the aquarium will be sufficient to continue its growth.

Live plants are great for helping get rid of excess nitrates and there are many hardy varieties that will use up a lot of the spare nitrates that algae blooms feed on. In most cases you'll want to keep an eye on the plants so dead pieces can be removed before they start to decay, however this is not a problem if you have an EcoBio-stone or adult P. bridgesii (a type of apple snail commonly sold in pet stores), or "brigs". Brigs grow to about the size of golf balls, lay their eggs above the water line so population control is easy, and as adults never eat healthy plants. Be certain you have an adult before you introduce it into a planted tank, though, because the juveniles are still able (and very willing!) to eat healthy plants. If you decide on snails, do a little research first. P. canaliculata, or "canas", can look very similar to brigs if you aren't familiar with them, and canas grow to the size of a softball and will always have a voracious appetite for live plants.

Regular partial water changes are required to keep the nitrates down and remove organic material from the aquarium. Again, if you have a time-released product such as EcoBio-Stone this is not necessary, though occasionally stirring your substrate to get rid of potentially harmful gas pockets and to send organic materials through your mechanical filter is recommended. If the water is kept in pristine condition, you will not have a problem with green water.

Finally, once you have green water it is difficult and time-consuming to get rid of. You can begin by restricting light, even covering the outside of the aquarium with paper to keep additional light out, and do a partial water change to get rid of some of the excess nutrients. Note that the water changes in themselves will do nothing to get rid of the algae, it reproduces quickly and can only be gotten rid of through "starvation". Cut back your fish's food and leave the tank light off for the duration of the clearing time. It may take a couple of weeks to clear up.

As soon as the tank is clear, immediately take some of the preventative measures outlined above to avoid re-occurrence. I especially recommend ensuring that you have a good mechanical filter, plenty of aeration to keep beneficial bacteria healthy, and a time-released maintenance product to ensure the water is always as close to perfect as possible.

copyright©ONEdersave Products LLC

 

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