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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.”

 

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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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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.

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