Saturday, 3 December 2011

Cichlids Fish reproduction strategy and how they care for their young

Cichlids fish native population is scattered across different continents mainly in the region of central South America, Africa and Asia whereby it is mostly found in tropical weather condition. They are generally grouped as freshwater species although quite a number of species prefer brackish and hard water as choice of preferred setup. They are one of the most diverse groups of fish as they have different sizes, coloration, behavior, dietary and water requirements depending on where they originate from. Some can get pretty big and aggressive while others can be quite small in size. Most of them are very colorful but one thing in common is that they are not the type of friendly fish you would want to mix into a community aquarium.

Male and Female Cichlids spawn
Regardless of which type of cichlids fish, all of them practice brood care for their young newborn fry and they are good intelligent parents which are also very attentive and extremely protective of their broods. Because of this parental care ability, most of the fry will survive up to adulthood and if the space requirement is large enough with plenty of foods, they can regenerate very fast and populate the whole aquarium. Based on this brood care strategy, the cichlid fish can be further sub-divided into either substrate or mouth brooding. For substrate brooding species, the eggs are laid onto a hard surface, usually rocks, woods or stones and then both parents will keep a close watch for intruders trying to harm their eggs. If none of these are available as in the case of barren aquarium tank setup, then they will either lay their eggs onto the glass surface or at the bottom including the side panes of the tank. During this period before the eggs are hatched, the cichlids will continuously fan their eggs so that there is adequate movement of water circulating around so that this will lessen the chances of fungus developing and engulf the eggs. Once the fry hatched, they are almost immediately free swimming after several hours and they will cling onto their parent in search for foods. Some like the discus fish fry rely on their parents’ mucus layer on the body as a food source and nonetheless, they are pretty much independent without needing constant parent supervision.

Understanding other fish breeding techniques

Mouthbrooders care strategy is very much different compared to the substrate brooding practice. In this context, the cichlids will actually protect the eggs and young in the mouth of either the male or female fish. This will actually continue until the fry has reached certain maturity age. Most people actually get shocked into believing that the fish was actually swallowing their young but this is not the case as the fry simply take refuge in the opening or cavity within the mouth of their parents. While hiding inside, the adult cichlid will constantly take in fresh oxygenated new water through opening and closing of their mouth and gills. Normally the young fry will be released if the parents feel the outside condition is safe without any potential threat and during this period, the small fry will find chance to actually scavenge and search for foods. Mouthbrooding cichlid group bears few similarities. For one the males will often establish a spawning territory and if by chance there is any other fish that encroach into their area, they will do their best to protect the location. The male can either bond with one or several female cichlids at one time and depending on the species, the breeding affair can be seasonal or continuous occurring throughout their whole lifetime.

Cichilds fish which are kept in community aquarium can be extremely aggressive and they will draw the line signalling to the other fish that they will establish a certain location within the tank marked as their own territory. The behavior is very profound during the breeding season and any intruder will be regarded as an enemy threatening their survival. In the wild native population, a pair of cichlid fish can establish a wide area of coverage extending almost a normal sizable room area (about 4 by 4 square meter) and since they do not have the luxury of having so much space in the aquarium, the level of aggression will be even worse. Usually attempts made by the male cichlid to coax the female into the breeding area is a sign showing that the fish is ready to breed but however, most of the time the female will reject the courtship. If this happens, the male cichlids fish will ended up attacking her instead and that was why most aquarium owners prefer to keep the female in another separate tank until she is ready for the spawning activity. With that being said, some other types of aquarium fish like gourami, betta, catfish are also best left living in another separate tank rather than having to suffer the wrath and aggression of the cichlids which can come at an unexpected time.

A step-by-step guide and challenges of starting a new aquarium.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Understanding Fish Breeding Techniques

At one point or another if your pet fish is living comfortably and in healthy state, soon enough you will find little fry swimming in tank. As an aquarist, this is perhaps the most interesting subject of fish keeping because the excitement to see the fish grow from a tiny dot-like fish to become a fully grown adult is indeed satisfying. You might also want to collect the newborns for conservation purpose or sometimes even without your intervention, the fish will reproduce by themselves and the next thing you know, there will be some fry hiding among the aquatic plants. This is especially important if you are keeping rare and exotic fish species and you will want to collect the next generation of fry so that there will be continuity of your effort or maybe for commercial purposes to profit from the sales of the newborn fish. Captive breeding is also the only answer to ensure that aquarium fish species in the world are maintained as natural environmental condition keeps on degrading due to over pollution.

There are few major concerns when it comes to fish breeding. As a responsible owner, it is your job and duty to ensure that the young fish fry has enough space to live in and never neglect their well beings. Although at times, the routine is actually unplanned, it is still your responsibility to ensure there is as much humane treatment as possible to take care of the fish and if you are unable to provide your best commitment, it would be a good idea to give away the newborn fish to other owners who will better appreciate them. Another issue facing aquarium fish breeding is on the problem caused by inbreeding. Far too many stocks actually turn out to be inferior in terms of coloration, size, reduced hardiness and susceptibility to disease because these fishes were subject to line breeding occurring among the siblings. As a result, the fish that you see today is nothing compared to their parents caught from the wild. As mentioned earlier, captive-bred fish also produce stocks which are low quality and as a result often get rejected and thrown away.

Examples of egg layers. Rasbora and Neon Tetra fish

Producing high quality fish
In order to produce top notch quality fish, there are few considerations that you will need to take care of. First, selection of breeding partner is important, second, if possible avoid line breeding and third, try to cull the fish which are deformed and deemed low in quality. Selection of breeding partner should be simple because most of the times you can control which fish you want to select to become parents but there is also some tricky process whereby certain fish types like cichlids will only pair up on their own. These fish can be extremely unpredictable and will end up rejecting the partner which you select for them. Thus there is little on what you can do here unless it is other types of fish. In order to avoid line breeding, you can actually approach members in your local community fish club or friends and ask around whether they have the same mature stock. This will ensure that high quality fry are produced which are more beautiful and retains some of the desired characteristic from the parent fish. In a batch of fry, not all will end up achieving equal growth rate. Some are very dull in colors, others deformed, while there a few which didn’t catch up at all in terms of size. Therefore, culling should be carried out just like natural selection process in the wild so that only the strongest, most mature are retained to produce the future generation.

Different fishes have their own ways of reproduction and how they will care for the young. There are basically two groups; one is the egg-layers fish and the other one which will produce free swimming fry, also called live-bearers. Goldfish, discus, most cichlids and tetra fish all belong to the egg laying group while live-bearers like guppies, swordtails and platy will give birth to larger-sized fry which are already able to fend for themselves. Most fishes are known to leave their young offspring, after they have given birth. Most do not even provide care but there are others like cichlids which are very protective and will aggressively attack intruders if they sense danger. Most fishes will leave the eggs scattered while some parents will even devour the own eggs. Guppies and swordtails which are live bearers are also known to hunt down and eat their own offspring and that is the most shocking thing that you will ever find out. Therefore if you have intention to collect all specimens and do your own selection later part, then the best thing to do is that the parents should be transferred to their own breeding tank and then removed once the eggs are laid or the fries are dropped. This is to ensure you have the highest survival rate so that later you can cull and select the ones with the best features. Thus, if you have community aquarium whereby it is heavily stocked, normally you will find that very few offspring actually managed to survive and avoid all the predators.

Conditions for breeding
In order to encourage your fish to breed, the living environmental conditions like water temperature, pH and oxygen content must be at the right level and suitable for them. Sometimes you can induce breeding by introducing variety of fish diet supplying more live foods compared to the dry pellets. Most fishes require large breeding space to move around and some species like the cichlids require rocky type of setups like stone to declare as their breeding spot. Other fish like the goldfish will start to spawn with presence of a lot of live aquatic plants but there are some which do not require any of these conditions and will happily reproduce. Most of the time, fish owners prefer for the affair to be carried out and done in another separate tank rather than the main display aquarium so that the breeding pair can have better privacy and more control can be exerted especially with creating different breeding environment. Sometimes, not all fishes will readily breed on their own effort without your intervention and because of this reason; techniques were developed to use artificial methods like hand-spawning. This is especially important for those types of fish species which are generally slow swimmers, inactive in nature or they have limited bodily capability for example poor eye-sight like the bubble-eye goldfish. Dealing with egg layers are even more complicated because sometimes even when you managed to get them to spawn and release the eggs, not all of it will be fertile and most will be subjected to fungus infection. Certain species will only breed during certain period of time or seasons and thus, it will be quite difficult to actually catch them in their act and plan for the breeding program.

More about fish reproduction: How cichlids fish care for their young fry

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Keeping Healthy Aquarium Community

Maintenance plays a large role to ensure that the best living condition is provided for your pet community fish. A routine maintenance schedule is needed so that you don’t forget and things remain in orderly manner without having equipment breakdown. Basically daily temperature and pH checks are necessary so that you fish will not suffer sudden shock that can upset their health condition or make them sick. Apart from that, depending on the type of fish that you are keeping, a weekly 25 – 50% water change is a must-do routine and during this period whatever accumulated debris and waste have to be removed so that this doesn’t cause elevated ammonia and nitrite levels that can disrupt the water chemistry. For the things that need to be conducted monthly, do ensure that the filters are working properly by taking out the media and rinse it properly before putting back. From time to time, sometimes you might find that the aquarium lighting can fail and thus requires you to replace it immediately.

Gravel cleaner will ensure that you do end up sucking the gravel as well
During aquarium maintenance, one of the most basic things that you should always remember is that new top-up water that are to be added to the tank must always match the aquarium condition in terms of pH and temperature. There are quite a number of proprietary treatment chemicals made for aquarium use such as chlorine remover and water conditioner, thus always make it a practice to use it every time you are changing new water. When it comes to stripping down the filter and washing the media, during the whole process, the bacterial growth and population can become disrupted. Although this is perfectly normal, what you are trying to do is to prevent overload of the system that can lead to the condition which can be harmful in long term. Always remember that you should never ever use soap or detergent in the cleaning process because there is a risk of introducing toxic chemicals which can kill your fishes. Usually use of clean water is more that sufficient and bear in mind, it doesn’t have to be 100% squeaky clean because you will still need the beneficial bacteria to remain in the media to repopulate and grow back.

How to properly diagnosis and identify common fish disease is also equally important because if you do not know what you are dealing with, you can never find the right treatment method and solution to combat the illness. Most of the common diseases are caused by bacteria and viruses, usually not life-threatening unless the fish’s immune systems are weakened by the unfavorable and harsh living conditions which go back to the reason why tank maintenance plays an important role to prevent all that. One basic rule of thumb is that prevention is always better than cure and that is the first thing on what we are trying to achieve here. Once a specific disease has been identified, get the appropriate medication which you can easily purchase from aquarium pet stores or if there is any veterinarian, you can also ask for prescription drugs which are more effective than those conventional types. Sometimes dealing with disease is a tricky part. Always remember, never apply the medication going to the whole aquarium and the right approach is to isolate out only the fish that is sick to another separate tank and quickly remove it so that it doesn’t become contagious. Always follow the right dosage indicated by the manufacturer because most of the time, it is not the disease that kills but it is due to the incompetence of the owners who do not follow the proper direction when applying the meds. More is not necessarily better and the frequency and how you apply the medication including also the environment condition during the treatment period like water temperature should also be taken into account.

When it comes to the cleaning part, there are various tools and equipment you can use to make your job easier. A bucket, net and transparent hose are the basic things that you will need. Apart from that, there are other stuffs like for example a gravel cleaner is very useful to suck out the debris accumulating within the gaps without disrupting the roots of the aquatic plants. If you are placing your aquarium too far away from the closest drain point, try to ask the help of a plumber to construct for you an extended drain pipe so that you can channel out the water easily when doing the water change. A magnetic stick-on scrubber is also useful especially when you want to get rid of the algae growing on the sides of the glass or acrylic walls. The scrubber when used properly is meant to prevent accidental scratching that can cause you to lose the aesthetic value of your aquarium. Nowadays modern aquarium setups will also come with built-in self cleaning systems which basically work to change the water automatically based on a preset time period and then having a large container/canister placed on top of the tank that will drip fed to the aquarium below to continuously provide fresh water. Of course this will cost a lot to purchase and it can only be set up by professional aquarium experts but think of the time savings you can achieve especially for those working executives who are too busy to spend time on the maintenance schedule.

Starting a new aquarium from scratch

Observing how your fish behave also comes under the general maintenance. Although it doesn’t require you to move things around, all you will need to do is to sit down and spend some time to watch and check whether there is any abnormality. Sometimes if you notice that the fish is not eating the food that you provide for them, this is the first sign that rings the alarm bell that tells you that something might be wrong. On other instances, sometimes you can also find that you pets will suddenly become inactive. For example, if let’s say you have a goldfish which will just stays idle on one corner instead of happily greeting you and ask for foods every time you move closer to the tank, then something is not right here. There are other abnormal signs like the fish frequently scratching on the gravel surface without stopping, some scars or wounds on the body, reddish patch, swollen belly, white cottony growth are just few of the examples. When the conditions start to show up and appear you should take immediate actions to apply remedy because some diseases if not treated at the early stage, can be fatal when prolonged unattended. My advice is, when you first notice this, quickly make an effort to find out what went wrong by either searching for the information in a book, ask fellow aquarists or by simply typing the search query in the internet. Finally, learning by experience is always the best tool towards having a successful and well maintained community aquarium.

Other aspects of pet fish keeping: Understanding fish breeding techniques

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Ways to Beautify the Aquarium

Applying the personal touch and creativity towards an underwater landscape can immediately transform a barren-looking tank into a masterpiece. While many perceive the decoration as merely pleasing to the eyes of the onlookers, that is obviously wrong as decorations also provide shelter and place to take refuge for the fishes. There are many ways which you can do to beautify the aquarium and it does simply means adding items to the tank. There are other things like changing the lighting, selecting the type of aquarium glass which has clear transparency, putting up the colorful background, cultivating aquarium plants and many more. Some people decides to create the natural look and setup special theme like the Amazonian jungle, Rift Valley aquarium, Rocky cavern setup and the limit on what you can do is defined by your imagination.

The main consideration when choosing the right decorative item is that it must also meet the requirement of your fishes. The object must not be chemically harmful such as having a paint layer which can peel off over time and it must not leach substances or poison which can alter the water chemistry. Second most important point to remember is that the item should also serve the needs of your pets and to quote an example, it would be pointless to provide heavy foliage of plants for fishes originating from rocky biotopes. Having an aquarium background covering at least the back portion of the tank can help the fish to feel more secure and comfortable as it will reduce the reflection effect caused by shining glasses. Caves made up of rocks and flower pots, become a home for your pets to live in and apart from that, certain fishes also need this type of setup to hide from other fish and divert their attention away from the surrounding environment especially during their mating season.

3 different award-winning aquarium designs
Substrates like sand and gravel also play an important role helping to beautify the aquarium. Depending on preferences, some aquarists like having the fine grainy white sand covering the tank bottom. Others chose larger sized shiny pebbles and the choice on what to put basically is limitless. Substrate is also an important media that serve as the filter material for undergravel filters. Also if you are planning to cultivate live plants, the sandy bed will help the roots of the plants to establish its anchorage and position. Coupled with bogwood and large stones, substrates will create the pleasing looking view of a professionally decorated aquarium. When choosing the type of substrates to add, always remember about the welfare of your fishes because certain species are known to swallow bits and pieces of sand into their stomach out of desperation. One of the most notorious fish displaying this behaviour is goldfish and when it comes to this, the best way is to put only large stones as decorative objects. In marine aquarium setup, addition of coral sand or limestone chips will also act as a pH buffer to prevent extreme fluctuations, so this gives you another good reason to beautify the tank. However, coral sand should not be added to freshwater aquarium as it can alter the water chemistry drastically.

One word of advice, just make sure that the substrate is properly rinsed or else you run the risk of contaminating the water and introduce harmful bacteria that can cause fish disease. When buying the substance also check the coarseness level by grabbing a handful and feel the texture. Best is to choose the type which do not have sharp edges which can cause injury when you fish accidentally touches on the surface of the bed. The worst condition is when your pet is suffering from ich/ick disease causing them to flash and scratch on the tank bottom and thus if the gravel has pointy end, it will aggravate the situation and cause more injury. Certain fish like the kuhli loaches are known to dig and burrow in the sand substrate. Therefore if the sand is too fine or the gravel is too coarse with sharp edges, you might find that they will easily get injured when going about with their normal routine. These considerations should never be ignored and brushed aside and choose the one that you like based on your instinct. Remember it is still your fish’s welfare that comes first. More on how to maintain a healthy and clean aquarium.

When it comes to putting interior décor, obviously you will have a lot to select and choose from. Certain people especially young children love moving objects and thus decides to put plastic made cartoon characters into the tank like mermaids, divers and such. Whatever your choice is, always make sure that these items are chemically inert and the paint does not peel off over time. Bogwood, log, large rocks provide a more natural look compared to the artificial ones. Usually in order for these to become the center of attraction, aquarist would add live plants tied to the surrounding. Depends on how you arrange the rocks, you can actually form a small cave and this is especially useful for those African cichlids which like to hide away from attention. A note of caution however, just make sure that the arrangement is stable or else accidental knocking can actually topple things over and injure your pet fish. One particular set up which is my favorite is using Java fern which you can tie it using threads onto the bogwood surface and wait for the roots to grow and grip on the surface. Once the roots have established its foothold, you can remove by cutting away the threads.

Related topic on fish breeding: Cichlids fish reproduction

Friday, 18 November 2011

Types of Aquarium Fish Filter

One of the most important aspects when it comes to setting up home aquarium for your pet fish is selecting the right filter. Filter can be in different forms, some large, some small, others are made to cater for low volume of water, some have better filtration capability compared to the others and basically each has its own function and filtration method. Generally one of the most important parameters on how you classify a filter is based on:
  1. The type and its filtration principle
  2. The capacity measured by how much volume of water it can take per hour
Let us analyze the options that can determine your selection process

Undergravel filter
Undergravel filter works by using air as the driving force to push the aquarium water through a layer of gravel acting as the filter media which is placed on top of a sieve plate. In this context, the gravels function not only for decoration purpose but it is also playing the role acting as the media for the filtration process. One of the advantages of using this type of system is that there is a wide surface area for the filtration to take place and thus leads to increased efficiency. With the air pump acting as the driving force to create a vacuum condition below the plates, basically the whole area covered by the gravel effectively become the filter setup. Since there is a large surface area, this will allow growth of healthy population of bacteria and the whole principle is based on biological and physical aspects to remove the waste.
Layers of undergravel media including bio-balls provide excellent filtration process

However, one of the disadvantages is that once the media chokes up, it will take a lot of time for the cleanup process since it will involve moving out the fish and then digging up the layer of gravel to allow removal of scum choking and prevent water from flowing though. This type of filter is also not suitable to be used for large aquarium because it will create a messy work every time when it comes to maintenance work. Furthermore, with large aquarium, you will need to work out the calculations to size the air pump capacity accordingly or else the system will not function properly. Thus the limit and recommended aquarium size when using undergravel filter should not exceed 20 gallons.

Some of the ways to beautify and decorate the aquarium

Canister Filter
Example of Canister filter
Canister filter system is the most popular and commonly used in every fish setup. Instead of air pump, the working principle relies on pump to create the driving force to push the water across the filter media which can be made of different types of materials such as wool, carbon, bleaching earth, fine gravels. Depending on how the arrangement of the media is decided, basically it should at least cover on both biological and mechanical aspects to effectively clean the water. Canister filter is widely preferred because it offers better filtration capacity and depending on the selection of models, some offer a very effective dirt removal process to trap and produce crystal clear aquarium water. Usually common filter with the chamber that contains the media are placed outside externally. Since it uses pump to deliver the pressure, it can be placed at any location even at the bottom of the tank and then uses an inlet line placed inside the aquarium tank for suction and another to deliver the water back. Some models are capable to treat huge volume of water, supporting at least 100 gallons and beyond with a few particular models made exclusively for 500 gallons as well.

General maintenance of the system is very simple and depending on the manufacturers’ construction, it can be very easy to open and reassemble back. Although choking is a common problem with all filters but however, since the maintenance aspect has been made easier compared to the undergravel system, most pet owners prefer using this for their aquariums. One disadvantage is that since it uses materials that must be replenished like for example the carbon and bleaching earth, there is a certain cost attached to replace it back.

Sump system
Aquarium sump system filtration principle works just the same like the canister filter having filter media to take care of the filtration process but the difference is that since canister filter media is loaded into a closed bucket, the sump is made up of an open channel setup, usually another separate aquarium divided into several open compartments. The whole basic design is also very simple and easy to understand. What it requires is an overflow line from the aquarium located at an elevated height and a pump inside the sump to return the water back to the main display tank at the top. This will create a circulation system which allows the water to flow through the individual compartments filled with filter media so that treatment steps can take place here. Just like the canister filter, the media can comprise of different types of materials and the best setup should focus on biological process removal in order to get the best quality of filtered water. Usually bioballs can be filled into the compartment in order to provide wide surface area for the growth of bacteria and this applies in similar manner if you decide to set up a refugium for use in aquarium marine/saltwater systems.

One disadvantages of using this type of setup is that you will require a lot space to place the aquarium and usually this is located at the bottom of the main display tank enclosed inside a cabinet (with proper ventilation) in order to hide the unsightly appearance of pipes. Most conventional sump system is designed and custom-made by the owners but there are also complete systems sold by aquarium manufacturers. In order to create your own sump, make sure that you have an overflow line which can be done by drilling a hole for your main display tank so that that the water will flow out naturally by gravity going to the tank below. Never use a pump in place of the overflow line to deliver the water to the sump because by doing that, you will need a matching pump with the same capacity to return the water back again to the main tank. Furthermore, if you are using two pumps, chances of overflow happening is higher because if one of the pumps fail, the water will overflow out either taking place in your main tank or it could happen at your small sump. Thus, this will create a messy condition and potentially flood your own house. A well equipped sump system is enough to support the main display tank of any size. The main limiting factor is actually on your pump to deliver the flow circulation.

Conditions for breeding aquarium fish

Box filter
Box filter is perhaps the simplest of all in terms of construction and setup and one which require the lowest cost to purchase. The working principle is similar just like an undergravel filter because you will need an air pump to provide the driving force to draw the water into the box filter. But however since the box is so small, it can only provide a small volume of filtration capacity and most of the time, this is not enough to support even a 20 gallon tank. The most the box filter can accommodate is 5 maybe 10 gallon tanks but even then, it has to be constantly taken out to wash and clean the filter media. The filter media compartment is usually filled with wool and most of the time, depending on the amount of waste generation coming from your fish tank, the media will quickly get choked up usually in just a matter of 2 to 3 days. Placement of the box filter together with your fish also creates that unsightly appearance and also its presence also took up precious swimming space. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to use this type of filter unless they have a very small aquarium size with the fish that don’t generate huge amount of waste.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Choice of Fish Foods for Pets

Fish needs variety of diet and quite often it is a mistake to feed the same type of foods everyday. While it is very convenient to use the proprietary dried fish pellets, soon enough you will find that your pets will become bored and unhappy. Each individual fish species has their own preferences and some need to have meaty diet in order to stay healthy. Quite a number of species are opportunistic feeders, eating smaller sized fish or young fry while some will grab just about anything that comes along. In the wild, the fish has a lot to choose from including insects that dropped into the water, worms, larvae, water fleas, algae, aquatic invertebrates, snails and even plants but in your home aquarium, what they get depends entirely on you.

A good practice is to provide both live foods and flakes so that your fish get the best of everything
As an aquarist, it is your responsibility to understand your pets’ needs. There are different types of fish with each having their own feeding habits. Some species will take the food floating on the top; some like the catfish are bottom feeders, so it’s your job to find out and observe their feeding nature. Thus if you are providing floating sticks, your catfish will find it difficult to get to the foods and will have a hard time competing with the other fish in the community aquarium. When to feed and how frequent are also important questions you need to ask yourself. By right, the maximum number of times you will need to drop the food is only twice a day and never go beyond that because it is totally unnecessary and will just end up polluting the water. Apart from that, always make sure that you are dropping the correct quantity of foods with the right amount and high quality diet. Remember it’s not just the quantity but the quality is also extremely important.

The size of your foods also needs to be taken into consideration. Small pet fish like the neon tetra has a very tiny mouth opening and they will find it difficult if you provide pellets that don’t fit in at all. In this case, what they need are crushed flakes or powdered form which they can grab and eat as a whole. For large predatory fish, like for example the arowana, it might be a good idea to provide small size fish that they will find it easy to swallow. When it comes to feeding fish fry, never provide chopped worm meat that will be difficult for them to swallow. From my own experience I had a couple of young goldfish fry which actually got choked and died because they were trying to swallow the worms. By right, the best choice of foods for young fish is brine shrimp and until today, it remains the common agreement among all aquarist. While all these are pure common sense, most people still got it wrong because they just don’t bother and leave it for their pets to handle.

Cleanliness is also issue and this is one you should pay particular attention to. Not all foods are safe especially those made for pets. If you are providing live foods like tubifex worms caught from the wild, then exercise caution because these worms are known to harbor disease and they are often found living in contaminated wastewater. If you are providing dried pellets, check for the expiry date, study the ingredients and content before you decide to buy. If you are getting your bloodworm supply from your pet shops, ask around where they actually get those from. If you are unsure, try not to take the risk but if you insist, the most you can do is to leave it for some time and change the water so that this will help to clean the worms. However, there is no guarantee that doing this will be good enough. Some people take the extra effort to grow their own live worms supply. One of the methods you can try is to obtain microworms culture from your friends and then cultivate it enough to support your fish population. However one word of caution, these microworms culture can produce quite unpleasant odor, so you have to decide whether you want to bear with the smell.

Dried foods in pellets, sticks, flakes and granules are very popular and as mentioned earlier, are the most convenient form of foods you can provide to your pets. All these are packed in plastics bottles, jars and whatever packaging form you can find which are often very colorful and attractive. The most important criteria when selecting the right type of foods is by looking at the content and ingredient stated and look for those which contain the necessary protein like wheatgerm, vitamins, and trace elements needed for your fish. Pay particular attention to those that are made specially for certain types of fish. Sometimes you can find carnivorous pellets made for Oscars, special formulation for goldfish and koi or even herbivorous mix. Long term feeding using only dried foods are not recommended as most of the time, your pets can suffer from malnutrition, digestive problems due to swelling of the foods in the stomach and the fish will often become stunted. Thus, use it only as filler meal while the best nutrition should still come from the preparation of live feeds.

Guide on setting up new aquarium and aquarium water management

Moving on to live foods, there are certainly long list of options. White worms or called microworms can be very popular as mentioned earlier can be cultivated in your own backyard. Earthworm is also another popular choice and if you have a garden and heaps of compost, then you will find abundance of these worms when digging through the soil. Tubifex can also offer another alternative but these buggers are often found in contaminated water so make sure you know what you are doing. Other than worms, if you have ponds nearby, you can actually go on a field trip to collect daphnia, bloodworm, mosquito larvae, cyclops including insects which will be readily devoured by your fish. Certain people took the extra effort to leave buckets of water in their backyard hoping that the mosquito will lay eggs there so that they can collect the larvae and bloodworm but be careful because if you don’t catch every one of it, some may actually reach adult stage to become mosquito. Certain countries have tight regulations concerning this practice as it illegal to leave stagnant waters in order to become breeding place for mosquito and these insects are known to harbor dangerous disease that can be life threatening to humans.

Finally one last option is market foods. Some aquarists are known to use meat, fish fillets, prawns, mussels, beef heart to feed carnivorous fish like oscar, discus and arowana. If you have pets that are herbivorous in nature, for example like gourami, then it should be easy as you can use peas, spinach or lettuce to supplement their diet.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Aquarium Water Management

Maintaining the right water condition is essential to ensure that your fish that depends on it stay healthy. Thus understanding water chemistry is very important and every aquarist should put in some effort to at least grasp the basic knowledge. Different fishes have different demand. Some live only in freshwater, some require saltwater while others require a little bit of saline such as the brackish condition. There are also certain species of fish like the puffers which can live in different water salinity depending on its age. Apart from that, aquarium water can also be defined as hard, soft, acidic, alkaline, high or poor in oxygen content including some other parameters like nitrite, nitrate and ammonia which can determine how stable or polluted the water is. Pet fish which are confined living in the aquarium has no means to escape if suddenly the water turns bad and thus you need to put in the best effort to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Going deeper into water chemistry
As mentioned earlier, for a fish to survive, its body must be in tune with the changes of the environment and failure to adapt can result in condition which is life-threatening. Certain fish which are considered hardy can adjust its metabolic condition to suit the alterations and whatever changes happening around and no matter how strong they can be, they will need time to adjustment themselves. That was why any sudden new introduction that can cause pH, temperature and water hardness level to shift has to be perform with care in order not to upset the condition. Sometimes sudden changes can be fatal, and this often happens in certain species of fish which are less hardy and are very sensitive to the environmental change. Therefore, when you hear the term “hardiness” what this basically translates to is the ability of the fish to adapt and not every species has the same tolerance level. Some of the pets which are hardy are the platy, swordtail, catfish while those which are extremely sensitive are discus and neon tetra.

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The fresh water that comes out from the tap is usually not suitable to be directly added to the aquarium. It must be treated in order to modify the water chemistry to meet the needs of the demanding species. Depends on which type of pets you have and the overall water quality, the treatment step to add conditioner and pH buffer can sometimes be quite expensive in the long run. There is another trick whereby you can always do dilution in order to not change condition in extreme manner. Basically how to achieve this is very simple. If let’s say you are changing the tank water, try not to take out more than 50% of the whole volume and thus new top up level that you add in will not suddenly cause the water parameter to shift. Usually sudden increases in hardness level, temperature or pH are the ones that can have dire effects, therefore make all effort to control these 3 so that they will not run off too much. The process becomes even more complicated when it comes to marine aquarium systems because you can longer use ordinary tap water. Usually it has to undergo another extra treatment process to convert it to RO water so that most of the impurities are removed.

Water hardness
Hardness is determined by the amount and concentration of mineral salts present in it and what it means is that the more salt it contains the harder the water is. Water can become hard through natural process like leaching of mineral salts coming from the soil and rocks or by manual means if you decide to add and dissolve salts into it. Certain rocks like granite and slate has very little up to none soluble material in it but there are others for example like limestone which can leach and change the hardness level quickly. If you are thinking of setting up a soft water aquarium for discus, then make sure you add in the décor that will not affect and the water chemistry drastically. Even if you have plans to add gravel, sometimes check carefully as it may contain fragments of limestone which can alter the water condition. However, this is the opposite if let’s say you want to set up a hard water tank for keeping cichlids, then you should consider these options to increase hardness level.

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There are several actions you can do to change the condition. Increasing mineral salt content is much simpler as you only need to add shell and limestone which can instantly alter the water chemistry. But however, the opposite of decreasing it can become tricky as basically you will need to dilute the water with softened water such as rain water or distilled water which you will need to collect. There are other terms which you will need to familiarize as well such as carbonate hardness (those salts comprising only of bicarbonates) expressed in unit of KH while GH is the general hardness which takes into account all the dissolved salts present in the water.

pH scale measures between 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral, 0 being extremely acidic while 14 extremely alkaline. Most aquarium fishes have their requirements fall within the range of 6 – 8 while there are other extraordinary species that require beyond that. Normally most common aquarium fishes has the preferences fall at the neutral pH zone. In order to find out your pH reading, commercial aquarium test kits can provide fast results and these days, there are even electronic pH meters dipped into the aquarium water which can give online reading and up-to-date information. pH of the water is caused by presence of different substances dissolved in it. Mineral salts which you add to harden the water can at the same time make it alkaline while soft waters are normally slightly acidic. Peat and wood that normally contain decaying materials can cause the water to acidify. Apart from these natural occurring materials, some commercial liquid pH adjuster can also be added to obtain the desired pH reading. There are also buffer pH tablets which are added to control and regulate the pH level to a certain desired range. For example, if the water becomes too acidic, then it will release a certain chemical compound to raise the pH level and vice versa if the water becomes too alkaline.

This is also another parameter to watch out because certain pet fish can be very sensitive to changes and sometimes extreme fluctuation can cause temperature shock. Some species like discus fish are known to develop complications as a result of temperature change and most of the time, some can end up becoming sick and will be prone to disease. Usually temperature shock can be avoided by controlling the amount of volume taken out and replaced during water change. Temperature can also be affected by the surrounding environment, thus if you can afford it, use a heater or chiller to regulate and control the temperature. Apart from maintaining health and ensure survival of the species, temperature also plays a part to induce spawning. Certain fishes like the goldfish react to temperature change which can cause the male and female to release the milt and eggs. At times, when the fish is sick, you will need to adjust and increase the level slightly in order to expedite the healing process.

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