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:"



The Dreaded White Spot: Treating and Preventing Ich

fish with ichIf you keep fish, you've almost certainly heard of Ichthyophthirius Multifillis...or, more simply, Ich. Though many amateur aquarists misdiagnose their afflicted fish with Ich because of the presence of any kind of white spot, once your fish actually have the real disease it's unmistakable.

Ich is a parasite that first appears as a bunch of small white cysts on the fish's skin, generally concentrated around the gills and fins. These spots are "clean" and compact, looking much like someone sprinkled salt over your fish. If this does not describe the spots on your fish, it's not Ich...fin rot, columnaris and a multitude of other parasites and infections have some form of white or grey spotting. Ich can be deadly to the fish, though surprisingly most fish that have Ich do not die because of the parasites. Instead, most die from secondary infections from having less-than-pristine water or even from the harsh medications meant to treat Ich.

How do the fish get Ich? Sometimes it's from infected new fish, sometimes there are even parasites already living in the aquarium that you never know about until conditions are right for them to infect the fish. So what do you do? keep your fish as healthy as humanly possible. If a fish is active with a strong immune system and a healthy slime coat, their chances of being infected are minimal. In the event that such a healthy fish does get infected, they have a very good chance of fighting off the parasite and avoiding secondary infections.

The first step to keeping fish healthy is to feed them a high-quality, varied diet. The food sold at most pet stores do not qualify as high-quality, though if it's all that's available it will do for maintenance care as long as they have some dietary variation. It's easy to cultivate live food such as brine shrimp, vinegar eels, mosquito larvae or grindal worms to add necessary protein and variety into the diet. There are plenty of online sources of healthy fish food as well as recipes for creating your own top-of-the-line food for your finned pets.

The next - and most important - step to keeping fish healthy and preventing secondary infections in afflicted fish is to have a clean aquarium. Just because the water is clear, doesn't mean it's clean or healthy. A healthy tank will require a partial water change at least every two weeks, depending on stocking levels (though water maintenance products such as EcoBio-Stones can significantly reduce these), and nitrate levels need to be kept below 20ppm. Most books and sites will recommend no more than 40ppm nitrates, however some types of fish and invertebrates such as snails, shrimp, smaller tetras and angels do not like the higher levels, so it's always best to err on the side of caution.

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 to doing so many. My favorite is the aforementioned EcoBio-Stone, which is a water maintenance product that introduces beneficial bacteria into the aquarium (which keeps the biological filter healthy) and slowly leaches necessary minerals into the water to keep fish healthy. You'll still need to do a gravel vacuum occasionally to remove excess organic material or stir your substrate to get rid of potentially harmful gas pockets and bring the organic material up where your mechanical filter can remove it from the aquarium.

Finally, if your fish do get Ich, avoid commercial medications if possible. Most Ich medications contain Malachite Green, a chemical that is very toxic in concentrated amounts and is often used as a dye. This is very effective at killing parasites, but is also very hard on the fish and you run a risk of killing them too. Invertebrates and plants are at special risk with these products. Instead, make sure your water parameters are ideal (this may require a partial water change) and then treat with aquarium salt and a topical antibiotic such as Melafix. Exactly how much of each of these will depend on the size of your tank and whether you have invertebrates or scale-less fish such as tetras. While any medication is being used you should remove activated carbon from the filter. If you have EcoBio-Stone, vacation food, calcium blocks or any other leave-in or time-released products they will need to be removed before treating the aquarium. Keep EcoBio-Stone in de-chlorinated water if you'd like to avoid any extra re-starting time.

If you wish to decrease treatment time, raising the temperature will speed up the life cycle of the parasites so they can be killed sooner, but be careful if you decide to do this. Many sources suggest heating the water to 80F which is great for tetras, guppies and the like, but the safe temperature varies widely for each fish. The temperature of the water determines how much dissolved oxygen the water can hold, so it's safe to heat the water to the upper comfortable limit for each fish but not much warmer. This means that for many hardy community fish 80F works well, but for some goldfish or mosquito fish it shouldn't be any warmer than 75F while some types of cichlids may be able to handle 83F without a problem. Do some research on all the species of fish in your aquarium to determine how much you can safely heat the water.

Bear in mind that the salt will kill the parasites, but it cannot harm them while they are inside the fish. It can take up to two weeks for the cysts to burst and another couple of weeks after that for all of them to die. The aquarium should remain treated for the entire time, about 4-5 weeks. The antibiotic helps prevent deadly secondary infections. After the treatment phase is over the salt and medication may be removed by water changes or with activated carbon; then you just need to examine your feeding and maintenance habits to keep the infestation from happening again.

copyright©ONEdersave Products LLC



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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