How to move a large aquarium

Move a large aquarium - in the new house

Moving a Large Freshwater Fish Tank

(Without killing any fish!)

I have kept tropical fish for most of my life. During that time I have had the occasion to move with a 55 gallon fish tank three different times. The longest move entailed a 3 hour drive to get from my apartment in New York to our new house in Pennsylvania. Employing the same strategy each time, I successfully relocated my aquarium and all of its inhabitants safely to their new location over the course of a few days. Let me tell you how I did it.

Move a large aquarium
Move a large aquarium – before the move

My aquarium setup at the time consisted of a 55 gallon tank with an Aquaclear 110 HOB filter and an Eheim Classic canister filter. I had a standard fluorescent light hood with plant enhancing bulbs. The tank was occupied by 8 Buenos Aires Tetras, 6 Rosy Barbs, 6 Pearl Gouramis, 1 Red-Tail Shark, 1 small pleco and 7 Pepper Cory catfish. A large piece of driftwood, 2 very healthy Amazon Sword plants and several bunches of Anacharis were also in the tank when it was moved.

Planning and Preparation

This key step began a few weeks before the actual move. We had decided on the aquarium’s location in the new house. I used 2 twelve gallon Eclipse tanks that I had for a staging area for when the fish arrived and set them up on the floor close to the tank’s eventual location.

I had been saving and collecting empty 1 gallon water bottles for several months and had 20 of them. Over the course of 10 days I did 3 water changes and saved the water from the tank in my gallon bottles. I took a road trip to the new house 2 days before the move with the water and filed my two eclipse tanks filled with 90% aged water. I topped them off with fresh water, turned on the heaters and filters and the tanks were ready to receive some temporary guests.

One concession that I felt had to be made in the interests of completing this move in one day was to use mostly new substrate in the new location. This saved a lot of gravel washing and some valuable time. So I had 60 pounds of new substrate rinsed and ready to use stored nearby.

plastic storage box
plastic storage box

Many options had been considered for transporting the fish. Choosing against large plastic bags because of the oxygen deprivation factor I finally decided on using an old, solid plastic, picnic cooler. It sealed tightly and could be carried by two people once it was full. It had a capacity of 10 gallons and we wouldn’t need to fill it completely. I drilled 12 holes in the top for airflow. Now we were ready to roll.

Taking Down The Aquarium

On the morning of the move I began by taking down the filters, taking care to keep the filter media wet and in a plastic bag. These will be used at the new location to maintain the biological filtration and not shock the new tank. I am also taking about 5 pounds of the current substrate to get the new base started.

Now, with the help of my trusted assistants, my wife and son, we started emptying the tank. Using my siphon we filled the cooler about 3/4 full and then started filling the gallon bottles again. As the water level dropped in the tank I took out the plants and placed them in the cooler. The driftwood and rocks went in a bucket and now it was time to get the fish.

With the water now in the bottles and cooler the tank was only about half full. This made it easier to capture the fish and I started with the gouramis and got them safely one by one into the cooler. They swam down under the floating plants as I concentrated on the other fish. I started catching anything I can and soon had all the fish in the cooler. We closed it up and taped down the cover and put it into back seat of a car.

Moving quickly we finished emptying the tank and removed as much of the gravel as we could before picking up the tank and taking it outside. We gave it a good rinsing and loaded it into the back of an SUV.

Setting Up The New Aquarium

Move a large aquarium - in the new house
Move a large aquarium – in the new house

We drove to the new house with the fish securely strapped-in on the back seat. We had the water and all the other media and equipment and after a 3 hour drive arrived at our destination.

First I took the cooler and put the fish into their temporary tanks, putting the gouramis and cories on one tank and the rest in the other one. We then placed the aquarium and stand in its new location and filled it with the clean substrate. I mixed in the 5 pounds of older substrate I had gathered, concentrating it where my plants would go.

Now I filled the tank with the 20 bottles and the water that had travelled with the fish in the cooler. I put the filters into place using the old media and had them ready to go for when the tank was full. The tank was now half full and contained substrate so next I put the plants and driftwood piece in place.

Starting with the tank containing the smaller fish I began introducing the fish to their new home, which was the same as their old home. After finishing with the first tank I used its water to continue filing the main aquarium. I followed the same process with the second small tank and after its liquid contents went in we were almost full. A few extra gallons of fresh water were next and then the filters and heater got turned on.

I have had a 100% success rate with this procedure and have never lost a fish during a move. I think the key is to bring as much old water and biological media that you can to quickly ramp up the tank to its former state. This reduces the stress on your fish and leads to a smooth transition. Good luck if you are attempting to move with your tank. Following these basic tips will allow your fish to have a safe journey to their new home.

by AQUARIST GUIDE

 

Kribensis

kribensis-breeding-pair-guarding-nest

kribensis-pair-with-young

Kribensis : Everything you need to know

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) inhabits a range from Benin, into Nigeria and Cameroon, but mostly Nigeria..
It was first introduced into the hobby in the 1950s and immediately became a big hit with aquarists.

In the wild kribensis breed in the side of river banks by digging away soil between roots to create a cave. Wild kribensis live on the riverbed between roots and leaves.

Feeding kribensis

kribensis-feeding
kribensis-feeding

Kribensis are omnivorous, eating a mix of animal food and vegetable matter. Algae is good for them.
In the aquarium they readily eat flake or dried food with ease, but the occasional piece of veggie matter such as cucumber slice or lettuce or even algae is relished. Live food can be used to prime them when you want to start breeding them.

To get the best from your kribensis supplement their diet with plenty of fresh greenery such as blanched spinach and dandelion, flaked pea, and any of the seaweed products frequently marketed for marine keepers.

Kribensis behaviour

kribensis pair guarding cave
kribensis pair guarding cave

Kribensis are a little shy and need peaceful dither fish. They also need lots of hiding places such as caves made from clay pots or half coconut shells and plants to make them feel safe. This will encourage them to come out so you can see more of them.

Although kribensis are mostly found in rivers, they do not like a fast water flow. That is explained by the fact they inhabit the bottom of the river on the river bed amongst roots, rocks and caves where the waterflow is very slow. They have a good knowledge of their surroundings, which means it is better to not change the aquarium set up as this unsettles them.

Kribensis Description

kribensis-female-breeding-colours
kribensis-female-breeding-colours

Male kribensis are larger than females. In the aquarium the biggest males are about 4 inches and the biggest females about 3 inches. In the wild specimens have been found just under 5 inches long.

Males are long with a gently curved underneath from head to tail. Females are stubbier with a rounded red/purple belly. Males might have a red/pink patch near the throat

Female kribensis fins are rounded while kribensis males fins have longer and pointed fins.

Kribensis Colour

kribensis male in breeding colours
kribensis male in breeding colours

Kribensis have a black/dark stripe on a creamy background running along the side and another dark stripe on their backs that extends into a dark dorsal fin edged in yellow. Both males and females have blue in their pectoral fins and other lower fins, especially when they are breeding. Females become more yellow especially above the stripe when they are breeding. Most kribensis have an eye spot in the top of the tail fin and at the rear of the dorsal fin. Some male kribs have multiple eye/egg spots in the tail fin.

These eye/egg spots being on the dorsal and tail fin are thought to help in coordinating egg fertilisation during the upside down laying of eggs onto the breeding cave ceiling.

When in breeding mood the area between the red belly and the tail darkens on the female. This accentuates the females red/purple belly.

Water conditions for kribensis

They like slightly acid and soft water from the wild but most aquarists keep them in neutral ph water. Because of the

kribensis-for-sale-in-shop
kribensis-for-sale-in-shop

long time that kribensis have been kept and bred in captivity with few wild specimens coming through, they have become adapted to a wide range of waters conditions. They are capable of breeding in a wide range of ph values.
The temperature ideally should be at 77F but kribensis are happy any where between 75-80F

How and where to buy kribensis

A good place to buy is from online sources such as gumtree, aquarist classified, craiglist from a private breeder. You can also buy from your local aquarium store. Be wary of buying from your large pet chain which will usually have untrained staff. Remember young fish will have less colour than more mature fish so they might have disappointing colours when you buy.

Check all your different sources for buying fish and try to buy from two or three sources a few fish each to give a better genetic mix for your fish.

Do not just choose the largest fish from a brood or you will end up with just males. Sometimes you can tell males and females by body shape when the young are larger but smaller fish you can’t really tell so size is a reasonable indicator.

Kribensis tank set ups

Kribensis cichlids can be kept and even bred in a community aquarium, a species aquarium or even in a West African biotope aquarium

kribensis-community-aquarium
kribensis-community-aquarium

Kribensis in the community aquarium

Make sure you don’t get fish that out compete them for food. With Kribs being bottom feeders, they usually wait until the food goes lower before eating especially. It is best to avoid tankmates that snap up their food near the surface before the kribensis get a chance to feed. This is most noticeable when the kribensis are small and hide a lot.

Kribensis rely on dither fish such as a school of small tetras to tell them whether it is safe to wander out of hiding. A few peaceful dither fish will encourage them to come out and explore instead of hiding so that you get to see them and admire their beauty.

Avoid other bottom feeders such as catfish which will disturb the kribensis, especially when they are breeding.

Kribensis species aquarium

kribensis-west-african-biotope-aquarium
kribensis-west-african-biotope-aquarium

Having a tank of just kribensis can come about if you have had a breeding pair and kept all the offspring. The tank must be quite large at least 160 litres. You need to kit it out with plants, dark sand and many cave like structures such as half coconut shells or half clay pots. The kribensis males will form harems, dispelling the myth that kribensis form monogamous relationships.

Kribensis biotope aquarium

If planning on biotope, then sand, branches and cobbles are the prime choice of décor. For planting, provide opulent growth. Tangles of Crinum species and banks of Cyperus, Ceratophyllum and Ceratopteris, plus ample Anubias and Bolbitis fastened to the wood will provide abundant cover.
For authentic fish, think of Brycinus longipinnis tetra, and Pareutropius buffei catfish. Aphyosemion gulare killifish are abundant in the same areas as kribensis and make a pleasing enough companion. Also jewel cichlids are found in kribensis territory in West Africa

kribensis-breeding-tank
kribensis-breeding-tank

Kribensis breeding set up

-24/30in long aquarium
-heater
-2 x mature sponge filters
-2 or 3 half clay pots or half coconut shells
-plants unlike other cichlids they are not great plant uprooters. However they may nibble on plants.
-driftwood
-rounded stones
-dark sand substrate or very fine dark gravel
-low wattage light to provide dim lighting at night

Preparation for breeding kribs

kribensis-eating-live-food
kribensis-eating-live-food

Buy 6 or more young kribs. Be careful to not just buy the larger fish in the tank as these are usually males. Remove any other bottom dwelling fish from the aquarium such as catfish. Kribensis prefer soft neutral water but can breed in a wide variety of water conditions. So just keep the aquarium water parameters stable and clean. Note: Higher ph tends to increase the ratio of females to males born whereas lower ph gives you more male to female offspring.

Prime the pair by feeding plenty of live foods including chopped earthworms. Keep the temperature at about 76F. If they fail to start breeding then raise the temperature a couple of degrees to encourage breeding but not go higher than 80F

kribensis-female-displaying-to-male-2
kribensis-female-displaying-to-male

Kribensis breeding behaviour

Kribensis can become very territorial when breeding and caring for young so be careful of other inhabitants. The female’s red belly will become solid red/purple. The top of her body between the dark stripes will become yellow. Her throat will also become yellow. Both fish will develop bluish pectoral and ventral fins and they will also develop a blue edge to the gill plate.

The female will bend her body sideways exposing her red belly to the male. If he is interested he will follow her to the breeding cave. They will then go through a ritual of shimmying behaviour to each other. They will

kribensis-pair-cleaning-nest
kribensis-pair-cleaning-nest

then take it in turns to go into the cave and come out again possibly spitting out some substrate outside the cave. This mimics the behaviour in the wild where they dig holes in the soil at the side of the river to create a cave. Each time they come out they will shimmy to each other.

Kribensis females usually lay about 200 eggs. Young kribensis mothers lay less eggs.

The female will usually lay her eggs on the roof of a cave but sometimes they are laid on the floor if it is suitable. The eggs are large and adhesive so stick to the cave wall. The female mouths them to keep them clean until they hatch. She will not leave her cave until they hatch. They hatch after 3 days and the fry will not become free-swimming until after another 7 days. Do not feed the fry until they become free-swimming.

Raising the kribensis fry

kribensis mother guarding her brood
kribensis mother guarding her brood

Kribensis parents co-operate in protecting the eggs and herding the young. The female will usually be closer to the young while the male will skirt around the perimeter protecting from threats.

In the wild kribensis are known to co-opt other kribensis fry into their own brood. It is thought to raise the survival rate of the baby kribs. The reason could be safety in numbers and as a backup for stray fry.

Harmless dither fish can help the parents to co-operate in looking after their brood. The parenting kribensis will focus their attention on protecting their fry from an external threat rather than considering each other as a threat.

Sometime, however one parent might get nervous of the other parent and push her/him away especially if there are no other fish in the aquarium. This is usually the male that is seen as a threat but sometimes the female will be pushed out. It is best to remove the harassed parent from the tank.

To protect the male(or female) from the overprotective parent then provide plenty of hiding places and a bigger aquarium. This should keep them safe. You could also consider moving him/her to another tank if the bullying gets too much.

kribensis-pair-guarding-eggs
kribensis-pair-guarding-eggs

Surprisingly for such a small fish, they lay quite large eggs and when the fry hatch they are quite large and can eat brine shrimp from birth. This makes raising the fry a lot easier for the beginner. The fry also pick at microscopic life forms growing on algae growths on the glass and on sponge filters.

keep a low wattage night light on so that the parents can protect the fry especially if there are other fish in the aquarium. Daily water changes of 5% and having many plants will keep the nitrate levels down.

As the fry grow you can start feeding flake food. You will also need to thin out the brood by selling on the young or moving them to another tank, depending on how many young fish you have.

Relatives of the kribensis

Most Pelvicachromis are readily bred in the aquarium. Breeding behaviour and care is similar to P.pulcher.

pelvicachromis-taeniatis-male-female
pelvicachromis-taeniatis-male-female
Pelvicachromis taeniatus

Historically this was the original kribensis but has been replaced by the popularity of pelvicachromis pulcher. There are many colour variations and patterns in males of all species of Pelvicachromis, Several populations of each species appear to co-exist in different regions. Pelvicachromis taeniatus are sometimes offered with names hinting to which region they were caught from. You might see P. taeniatus ‘Nyete’ or ‘Moliwe’ which will differ substantially to P. taeniatus ‘Niger red’.

Pelvicachromis subocellatus
pelvicachromis-subocellatus-male-female
pelvicachromis-subocellatus-male-female

The males are less colourful than normal kribs but the females are quite interestingly coloured having a dark collar between the head and the red belly and another dark area the other side of the red belly. The tails have a yellowish net pattern in them.

Other “kribensis species from the Pelvicachromis family include:

  • Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi
  • Pelvicachromis kribensis
  • Pelvicachromis roloffi
  • Pelvicachromis silviae
  • Pelvicachromis sacrimontis

There is also an albino version of the kribensis that is not a true albino and does not breed true. The albino will have pink eyes and a mostly white body but the female will still have the red belly. Both male and female will have yellow edging to the fins.

Live rock and live sand

new live rock

Live Rock and live sand for Your Saltwater Aquarium

new live rock

If you are in the process of setting up a saltwater aquarium in your home and wondering about what live rock and sand are, and how to incorporate it into your tank, you will find all the answers below.

What is Live Rock?

Live rock comes from the ocean and is made up of the aragonite skeletons of corals that have long since died, and other calcareous organisms. When live rock comes from the ocean, it is usually inhabited by a variety of marine life, hence the name “live Rock”. Live rock is harvested from the sea for the aquarium trade and is not only necessary, but also adds to the décor of your tank, making it visually appealing.

Live rock needs to be cured before it is placed in your aquarium. Most of the organisms that did live in the rock before being taken out of the ocean, would have already died, which can pose a risk to a new aquarium. To avoid this problem, the rock gets put into water for a few weeks, making sure that all the dead organisms decompose completely. This process is needed so that the rock can no longer be a threat to the water quality.
There are a variety of different kinds of live rock, which get their names from the area where they came from. Each different type has different qualities that work better in certain kinds of aquariums.

uncured live rock
newly introduced uncured live rock

Types of Live Rock Available for Hobbyists

There are many different types of live rock available. Which type you choose to use is a personal choice. Here are the names of the variety of live rock available for your reference:
Fiji live rock, Totoka live rock, Florida rock, Caribbean rock, Vanuatu rock, Tonga rock, Base rock, Pacific rock, Atlantic rock, Reef rock, Cultured rock, Base rock, Artificial rock, Cured rock, Uncured rock, Eco-rock, Tonga rock and Aqua-Cultured Rock

What is Base Rock?

Base rock is a dry rock that never had any organisms living on or in it. Base rock is generally used as a filler for your aquarium and is much cheaper than live rock. It can also be hand-made from concrete called aragocrete. Hand-made base rock tends to be less attractive and heavier than natural rock that was harvested from the ocean.

How to Cure Live Rock

uncured live rock
uncured live rock

There are a number of different ways to cure live rock, but here are two methods that are recommended. Although it is not necessary for you to do this, as already cured live rock can be bought, if you wish to cure it yourself, here is how to go about it.

Method 1

This is the process to follow for aquariums that already contain corals, fish and other marine life.
Rinse each and every piece in a container of saltwater. This is done to remove debris, sand and other loose matter.
Using a new 30-gallon plastic container, put the live rock into the container and add seawater (gravity 1.021-1.025), making sure the rock is completely submerged.

Use a heater to keep the temperature of the water between 76 and 84 degree F. The warmer the water is, the faster the process will be completed.

Use an air stone or power head to create constant movement in the water.
It is important that you keep the area dimly lit because this prevents algae blooms.
You need to change the water every week – 100%of the water!
The rock will need to be scrubbed. Use a toothbrush or other nylon bristled brush. This needs to be done every time you change the water. Scrubbing the rock removes any dead materials.
After a week, you must periodically check the nitrate and ammonia levels. The rock is considered to be cured when the ammonia level tests reveal zero and when the water has stabilized. Once you reach this stage, your rock is ready to be put into your aquarium. It usually takes between 3 and 5 weeks for rock to be fully cured with this method.

Method 2

This is the process used for curing rock for an aquarium that had NO coral, fish or other marine life.
Live rock can be used in new aquariums. Firstly, you need to follow the directions provided by the manufacturer with regards to the installation of the filtration system and all other accessories. Fill your new aquarium with water and enough salt to get the correct water gravity (1.021-1.025). One that has been done, activate all the equipment, check to see if there are any leaks and then set the chiller/heater to between 76 and 84 degrees F.

As with method 1, rinse all the rock in a container to free it from all debris, sand and other organic materials.
Put the rock directly into the aquarium, creating a stable base for decorations and corals.
In order to reduce the possibility of algae grow, it is important to remember to keep the lighting system off during this time.

The rock will need to be scrubbed. Use a toothbrush or other nylon bristled brush. This needs to be done every time you change the water. Scrubbing the rock removes any dead materials.
The water will need to be changed (50%) on a weekly basis. This is done by siphoning out loose debris and other organic matter that has accumulated in the aquarium.

As with method 1, the nitrate and ammonia levels need to be checked on a weekly basis.
When the levels of the ammonia and nitrate are at zero, you need to perform a water change (50%).
Check the pH level of the water after 24 hours and adjust accordingly. The correct level is between 8.1 and 8.4.
With this method, most aquariums will be ready in 3-5 weeks.

How to Control Unwanted Pests

unwanted pests from live rock
unwanted pests from live rock

Place new rock into a container filled with saltwater (gravity 1.035-1.040) for one minute. Any bristle worms, mantis shrimp and crabs will very quickly leave the rock and end up in the water.

After the minute, take the rock out of the container and go through the invertebrates that are left behind. There may be some that you actually want in your system, so sort through them and get rid of the pests that you do not want to add to your aquarium. Bristle worms tend to stay attached to the rock, but you an easily remove them with a tweezers or a needle-nosed pliers. You can use this process before or after your rock is cured.

What is Live Sand?

newly laid live sand

Getting a new saltwater tank ready for the first few animals can be a challenging task. It can take some time to build a solid base for a successful aquarium.

Live Sand Explained

Basically, live sand is sand that a variety of invertebrates and bacteria call home. The sand is like an organ to an aquarium, much like the kidneys are to the human body. The kidneys take away pollutants and replace them with not so toxic chemicals that your body can deal with, which is what the sand does for your tank.

Live sand is a place where your tank’s “clean-up” team grow and live. Copepods, bristle worms, mini starfish and other marine creatures all live in and around the sand. They are all important for the health of your tank. They keep your tank clean.

When you buy live sand from a fish store, it is already inhabited by the invertebrates and bacteria that are needed to keep your aquarium healthy and clean.

Do I Have to Use Live Sand in my Tank?

It is not necessary to use live sand in your tank. Some people opt for not using any sand at all. Any sand that you add to your tank will become live sand after a while. Buying live sand can be a lot more costly than dry sand and comes in smaller bags as well. You do not need to buy live sand, as you are able to add dry sand that has just been washed, but make sure it has not been treated with any chemicals.To the sand you could add a little live sand which will spread into other sand creating a tank full of live sand.

You will need to boost your biological filter in some way, but if you are adding live rock to your tank, that will be the cultural boost that it needs and any sand that is present will become “live sand”.

The “Cheap” Method

It is recommended that you use regular sand in your tank if you are working on a strict budget. Live sand might work faster, but dry sand will work just as well, only it will take a little longer to see results. Adding just a small amount of live sand to regular sand will give it the boost it needs. The bacteria and other living creatures in the live sand will move into the dry sand and eventually make it become live sand.

How to Choose a Product

There are so many different options available, so how do you choose the right one for you. It is pretty simple actually you should choose a product according to how you want your tank to look. CaribSea is a popular choice for many people. You will also need to think about the types of animals that will be in your tank. Are they going to burrow in the sand? If so, you will need a specific type of sand.

The Benefits of Using Live Sand

It starts the cycling process right away.
Helps to maintain the correct pH levels.
It provides shelter for fish who like to bury themselves and a place for invertebrates to hide.
It lowers the levels of harmful nitrate
Essentially, at the end of the day, the live rock and live sand that you choose to use is a personal choice. Consider all your options and speak to the staff at the store for further advice on how to achieve what you are looking to create with your unique aquarium.

How to Clean a Fish Tank

syphoning aquarium

This article will explain how to clean a fish tank in a professional way

syphoning aquarium

What you are trying to achieve

You need to have 2 goals when cleaning a tank. The first is to clean up the appearance of the glass in and out, the gravel, ornaments, equipment and plants, and the other is to clean up organic pollutants in the water which might not be visible to the eye. The first is for your viewing benefit while the second is for the fish’s benefit in terms of health.

Equipment and Supplies needed

You will need :

  • Matured and dechlorinated water (20 litres. More for a bigger tank. Less for a smaller tank.) and warmed to the temperature of your aquarium
  • An algae pad for cleaning the inside glass of the aquarium.
  • A large bucket 20 litre bucket.
  • A siphon gravel vacuum with tubing
  • New filter media may be needed
  • An old credit card/store card or other similar piece of plastic to scrape off stubborn stains.
  • White vinegar
  • Old but clean towel
  • Old but clean cloth

Step by step cleaning your fish tank

Remember your fish do not like being disturbed. This method of cleaning your glass involves only a partial water change. Also you should not remove your fish while you are cleaning the aquarium. That is the best way to reduce fish stress.

Get your replacement water ready. If your tank is new you will need to prepare 20% of the volume of your aquarium in new water. To prepare the water, leave the water in a bucket for 24 hours or use a dechlorinator chemical. The use some boiled water to bring up the temperature of your replacement water to that of your aquarium.

Turn off all electrical equipment. Once you have turned off all equipment then you will have to do all your cleaning tasks without pausing because the water will start to cool and the biological bacteria in your filter will start dying after an hour of the filter being switched off. Note: do not remove your heater from the water for cleaning for at least 15 minutes because it will overheat out of the water.

Use your algae cleaner and scrub the inside of the glass to remove algae or other internal growths. Clean the front and sides, but leave the back glass. The algae is actually healthy for the fish because of its cleaning properties and the biological action of bacteria within the algae. Some fish even feed off the algae.

Take out any ornaments, rocks and equipment that have become coated with algae. Clean these objects with the algae scrubber and then replace them back in the aquarium. Remember to put all these objects back in the exact place from where they were removed, this will reduce stress to the fish in your aquarium.
Wipe down plant leaves with your algae scrubber but do not remove them from the aquarium. Plants do not like to be disturbed and might die back if you interfere with their roots.

If your filter has slowed down then you will need to take out the aquarium sponge. If you have other filter medium that has become clogged then you should change about 50% of this medium and replace with new filter medium. With a clogged sponge, you need to take the sponge to a sink and give it a good squeeze until most of the mulm comes out. Do not clean with tap water or cold water because this will kill off the essential bacteria that biologically filters the water. If the sponge has become too clogged then you will need to cut the old sponge in half and cut the new sponge in half and put the old and new sponge back into your filter.

After cleaning your filter the water may be cloudy for a while. Do not worry this cloudiness will be filtered back into the filter and some of it will drop to the aquarium floor where you can syphon it off later.
With your old credit card start scraping the inside of the aquarium above the water line. Use some water to soften the residue. Then use the sharp edge of your credit card at an angle and push firmly to scrape the glass clean. Take care not to scrape the silicone, because you may cause a leak.

Make a mark with a felt tip pen at about 20% of the way down the aquarium to use as a guide to how much water to syphon out.

Syphon through the gravel use the base of the vacuum tube to disturb the gravel or sand to release trapped pieces of dirt. Syphon out any loose algae that has been produced by your scraping the aquarium.
Your syphoning should result in about 20 litres of water being removed.

There will be some gravel or sand syphoned out with your water but don’t worry, it sinks to the bottom of the bucket.
Pour the dirty water away but take care not to pour out your gravel/sand. Then just rinse out the sand/gravel under running water until it runs clean. Then carefully pour away all the water. Replace the cleaned gravel in the aquarium.
Pour the newly mixed water into the aquarium. Turn back all the equipment.

Now you can start to clean the outside of the aquarium. Use white vinegar, which you may need to dilute depending on the concentration. Dip an old but clean cloth into the vinegar and use the cloth to wipe the outside glass. Clean it in the same manner as you would clean your windows. Do not use any soaps, detergents or any other cleaning agents, because these are usually lethal to the fish.

Once you have cleaned all your aquarium with the white vinegar you will need to rinse off any residue. You do this by rinsing out your cloth in warm water. Wipe each surface of your aquarium with the wet cloth and then dry down with the dry towel. Your aquarium should truly sparkle. Finish off the front before moving to each side in turn.

If the hood is dirty, you can also clean the hood in the same way as you cleaned the glass, but be careful that no vinegar falls into the water because it might harm the fish.

If there is still dirt at the bottom of your aquarium after this procedure then wait a few hours then syphon off this dirt and then prepare some water to replace this water. Replace the next day when the newly prepared water has matured. Make sure this water is at the same temperature as your aquarium.

Cleaning is now complete. You should have given your aquarium a new lease of life with this makeover. The preferable fish is otocinclus. Use several in the aquarium. Use more for larger aquariums.

Cleaning the tank: preventative measures

If you are getting too much algae growing or your aquarium water is becoming pea-green then you need to remove the cause. Algae feed of nitrate in the water and use excess of light, especially daylight.

To reduce the light you should first of all remove all sources of direct sunlight into the aquarium. If that is not the cause then you will need to reduce the duration of time your aquarium lights are on and perhaps reduce the strength of the bulbs. You could also try increasing the number of plants in your aquarium. The plants should eat up the nitrate before the algae in order to starve the algae.

To reduce the nitrate, feed the fish less and syphon daily any waste matter such as uneaten food, food poop and dead leaves on the aquarium floor. Also you could increase the frequency of your aquarium’s water changes. Remember to replace with dechlorinated water at the same temperature as your aquarium.

Another way to help reduce algae in the aquarium is to have fish that eat algae. These fish will continually browse on the algae thereby reducing your need to clean the algae.

And finally have two filters instead of one to double the amount of filtration in your aquarium and so improve the speed of waste removal in the aquarium.

Clownfish

Percula clownfish

Getting to Know the Clownfish

Percula clownfish

A lot of you might already be familiar with the clownfish, especially because of Disney’s Finding Nemo cartoon. These little fish are in high-demand all around the world as they make for colorful additions to any marine aquarium.
If you’re someone who wants to know more about the clownfish or wish to keep one as a pet, below you’ll get to know everything there is to know about this little marine fish.

Clownfish -Description

Clownfish are a small sized fish which is often found near tropical coral reefs. It is also known as anemonefish as it lives inside the fronds of sea anemones. There are different types of clownfish with regards to their color and size, but the most common type has orange and white stripes. Clownfish is considered beautiful due to their features and bright colors.

Size and Body Features of Clownfish

Cinnamon clownfish
Cinnamon clownfish

The most common clownfish is almost 4.3 inches or 11 cm in length. Its body is best described as having an oval shape and chunky in appearance. From the front, it has a somewhat round and compressed look.
In the Northern Australian parts of the world, you might get to see one that’s black and white in color as opposed to the usual orange and white. However, as mentioned above, most clownfish species color ranges from orange to reddish brown with three white vertical stripes lined with black. The body’s patterns cover the fins too.

The Amphiprion ocellaris happens to be different from the Amphiprion percula as it has a thicker black outlining and the former one has a relatively taller dorsal fin. Furthermore, the former has 11 dorsal fin spines while the latter has only 10 dorsal fin spines.

Clownfish Species and Family

clarkes clownfish
clarkes clownfish

The clownfish has a total of 28 recognized species, and they mostly live in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. You can also find them in the northern parts of Australian east coast as well as in the Great Barrier Reef and even in the Red Sea. The red-sea species is called the red clownfish. These fish live together in a large colony, where there will be a dominant female and a single male that mates with her. The rest of the colony will be subordinate males. If the female dies then a male will change gender to replace the lead female.

While they thrive in the ocean, in captivity, in a home aquarium they might die unless properly cared for. When the correct conditions are supplied, such as temperature, salinity, feeding and the right anemone as well as proper biological balance the the fish can thrive in your aquarium. Furthermore, breeding them in captivity is difficult for beginners. But some experts are breeding them regularly.

Clownfish Locomotion

false percula clownfish
false percula clownfish

Clownfish swim with the help of their fins in the water. The fins of a clownfish are used for stabilization, direction, and giving rise to a propelling motion for swimming. Each fin has a particular function.
The dorsal fins assist them in keeping the fish vertically stable. The caudal fin(tail fin) propels the fish forward by being flapped from side to side. The ventral fins like the dorsal fin provide better stability and some steering and are located in the pelvic region. The pectoral fins are located forward of the pectoral fins and are used as brakes and also assist in steering. When clownfish are threatened this little fish will hurry back to the safety of its sea anemone.
Immunity

The sting of a sea anemone is somewhat deadly and poisonous to most fish. However, the clownfish have developed immunity to it because of a mucous-coated skin. There is some debate as to whether the mucous protects from the anemone’s sting or that the mucous fools the anemone into not stinging the clownfish. Clownfish use sea anemones for shelter, protection from predators, as well as for food. Keep in mind that depending on the species of the clownfish, some are innately immune to sea anemone while others have to acclimate (or get used) to the stings by rubbing themselves against the tentacles.

Clownfish Feeding Habits

percula clownfish
percula clownfish

The clownfish is omnivorous and can feed on both small animals as well as plants. They eat a variety of food like plankton, mollusks, algae, and small crustaceans. The diet varies depending on the habitat they have adapted to and the size of the fish. Clownfish are known to eat small organisms that are killed by sea anemones.

Clownfish Predators

Clownfish are often preyed upon by larger fish and other marine life, and they rely on their speed and protection by the sea anemone to survive. Humans are also a threat to clownfish as a lot of their species are captured to be sold off to the aquarium trade and bought by hobbyists some of whom don’t know how to take care of them.

Clownfish Habitat

clownfish living in sea anemone
clownfish living in sea anemone

Clownfish are found in the Western Pacific Ocean and the Eastern Indian Ocean. They are also found in Japan, Northern Australia, and Southeast Asia. The Amphiprion ocellaris lives in a depth of 15 meters in the form of schools in the sheltered lagoons and the outer reef slopes. Species such as Stichodactyla gigantea, Heteractis magnifica, and Stichodactyla mertensii are often found to be in a symbiotic relationship with clownfish.

Clownfish and sea anemone Symbiosis and Mutualism

Clownfish have a symbiotic as well as a mutualistic relationship with the sea anemone. The anemone provides them with food from the dead tentacles and the food scraps left over and also protects them from the clownfish from predators. While on the other hand, clownfish defends the sea anemone from the parasites and predators of anemone. The excrement of the clownfish are also used as a source of nutrients by the sea anemone.

Furthermore, the sea anemone provides a suitable nest for the fish to lay eggs. The clown fish excretes nitrogen compounds which are used by the anemone for the regeneration of its parts and tissue growth. The clownfish have an attractive color, which may attract smaller fishes to their doom. The clownfish swimming between the anemone’s tentacle keeps them aerated because of the water flow.

Clownfish Sexuality and Reproduction

baby clownfish
baby clownfish

You can find clownfish near a single sea anemone. They have a breeding female and male fish with a large amount of young male clown fish. They are hermaphrodites. This means that they’re all born male, but when the breeding season approaches one of them develops into a female. In a situation when a breeding female dies, the large male develops into a female and then breeds with the next active male in the same habitat.

The female lays eggs on the sea anemone on a flat surface. The number of clownfish eggs can vary from hundreds to thousands, depending on the species. On a full moon, the female clownfish lays the eggs while the male protects and guards them until they hatch after a week. They are breed in warm water and can reproduce all year round.
The breeding season begins mostly with the lunar cycle. When the moon is at a high level, the male breeding fish attracts the female breeding fish. They display a courting behavior which includes biting and chasing the female and extending fins. A rapid downward and upward motion is also demonstrated by the male to attract the female. The female normally lays almost 400-1600 eggs in a cycle, and the nest needs to be large enough to ensure the survival of all the eggs.

Each female’s breeding tenure is around 12 years, and it can be more if the size of the breeding female is large. The breeding female has a body larger than the breeding male. The non-breeder males have a size smaller than the two breeders, and the size hierarchy descends progressively.

Clownfish Taxonomy

The clown fish are identified and distinguished on the basis of their morphological features. The scales on their head, body proportions, color, and tooth shape, and size has helped the biologists to recognize them. On the basis of these features, they have been categorized into 6 categories. The skunk complex, maroon complex, clarkii complex, clownfish complex, tomato complex, and saddleback complex. All fish within a complex look almost alike.

Clownfish in the Aquarium

clownfish in the aquarium
clownfish in the aquarium

The clownfish comprises of around 43% of the aquarium trade with regards to fish bought for the home aquarium. Sadly, a majority of aquarium clownfish are captured from the wild. Unchecked capture of clownfish has led to a decrease in the natural population in a lot of areas. While adding clownfish to an aquarium might sound like a good idea, the wild population has to be considered. Buying aquarium bred clownfish is a worthy goal.

There are some members of clownfish like the maroon clownfish which are known to become aggressive when held in captivity. The percula clownfish, on the other hand, are suitable for aquariums as they’re known to adapt and live peacefully. So, make sure that you know which species you’re introducing in your aquarium. Having an aggressive little clownfish won’t sit well with other marine life.

Keeping sea anemones in an aquarium isn’t always easy. However, clownfish are known to adapt to this too. In the absence of a sea anemone, they can make large polyps and soft corals their home. The clownfish is accustomed to defending its habitat, and once they have settled down in a certain coral, they will defend their home.

Make sure that your aquarium has an appropriate reef structure (sand, live rock, and more). Also, allow your aquarium environment to mature before introducing the fish. Furthermore, if you feed the fish on a fixed schedule it’ll learn to anticipate the food. Watching the fish come near the water’s surface for food can be fun to watch.

So, if you’re interested in having clownfish as a pet, make sure it has a suitable environment (add in a few corals) for it to live properly. Once that is all achieved, you will have happy clownfish that will be a joy to watch.

koi food

feeding koi with koi food

feeding koi with koi food

Koi food

What You Should Know about feeding your koi

Having a pond might be a good idea, especially one that’ll be booming with life. However, you can’t ignore having to feed your koi with proper koi food. With koi being a popular choice for any pond, what most people don’t realize is that they need to be fed regularly. Thinking that your koi will find enough food to eat from the wild in the pond is wrong. You’ll need to make an effort to feed them.

 

Everything you need to know to properly feeding koi is set out below.

Koi belong to the carp family, which means that they are omnivorous and can eat various kinds of food. However, feeding your koi involves more than just the food they eat. Here is a guideline of how much, when, and what to feed your koi.

Factors affecting feeding koi

There are various factors that you should take into consideration when feeding koi. You can’t just throw food in the pond thinking that your beautiful fish will eat it when hungry. You need to be aware of the food quality you’re giving, the temperature of the water, and the overall environment of the pond among other factors.

1. Food quality

The quality of food that you give to your koi plays a vital role in the rate of their growth as well as their well-being. This means that feeding your fish, food that isn’t high-quality will eventually make them ill. On the other hand, giving koi good quality food of , which a lot of pets shops have available, will have a positive effect on not only their body weight but also on the color and vibrancy of your fish.

Which foods are suitable?

Koi welcome various kinds of live foods which include worms as well. You can easily feed earthworms to your koi throughout the year. Worms contain a high amount of protein and are a favorite of omnivorous fish. You can also go green when feeding koi.

These ornamental fish will eat lettuce leaves as well as the flora present in and around the pond, such as duckweed.
You might want to throw other food to them such as pieces of bread. Koi will usually eat most types of food thrown in the pond to them; However, most of these food have little or no nutritional value for them and may even harm your fish.

You can feed your fish brown bread but not white. White bread is made using mild bleach; So do not feed your koi white bread.

Koi also eat foods like corn, beans or peas which have a shell-like skin. However, this skin will lead to your fish experiencing irritation as digesting the shell is difficult for them.

2. Temperature of the water

The water temperature determines the amount of food your fish eats as well as the frequency with which it eats. If you try to feed koi during winter, when the temperature of the pond is low, at the same rate with which you fed them during the warm summer months, you’ll end up harming them.

The digestive system of koi is dependent on the temperature of the water they live in. In cold temperatures, their digestive system slows down and even stops when the water is cold enough.

As the temperature of the water starts to fall, the level of protein that you mix in the feed should also be reduced. This change will not only help to make digestion easier for your koi, but will also help to avoid waste.
Similarly, as summer arrives and the temperature of the pond starts to increase, the protein in the feed should be increased because the metabolic rate of your koi will speed up. Therefore, a higher amount of protein will be needed for proper growth as well as for maintaining their health.

As mentioned, the temperature of water not only governs the kind of feed that one should use, but also the frequency at which the fish should be fed. When the temperature is low, feeding koi only once a day will be enough. On the other hand, when the pond’s temperature rises, koi can be given food every hour.

How much should you feed?

Of course, the amount of food as well as how often koi should be fed is debatable. However, a general rule is that when the water is around 58-Farenheit or below, then the protein level of your feed should be below 38%. When the water temperature falls below 46-Fahrenheit, you should stop feeding altogether.
Similarly, as the temperature of water rises, the amount of protein in the food, as well as the number of times you feed your fish in a day, should be increased. During the high-temperature summer months, the amount of protein in your feed should be somewhere in the forties and the number of times you feed the koi can rise to eight times per day.

Keep in mind that the fish should only be fed for a maximum of five minutes per one feeding. In the case where the fish doesn’t come up to devour the food, then this is an indication that the fish is either too warm, too cold or are not feeling hungry for some reason.

So, make sure that you feed light. If your fish are eating like they haven’t been fed for years, then you can just sprinkle food lightly on the water for a few minutes as long as you can see fish coming up to eat the food.

3. Quality of water

The quality of water has an effect on the growth rate of your koi, because in poor water quality your fish may lose their appetite and won’t eat the food provided. They might even stop feeding altogether. Moreover, poor quality of water negatively affects the metabolic rates of koi, hindering their digestion process.

Furthermore, the stocking level, which is the amount of koi you have in the pond, also affects the behavior of the fish and the way it grows. This means that you should have such an efficient filtration system which can easily cope with the increased amount of waste produced as your fish continue to eat and grow.

If your filtration system is not sufficient for the number of fish in the pond, then the quality of water will be significantly affected, which in turn affects the amount of food that the koi takes in.

More factors you need to consider

There are two more things you need to take care of when feeding koi. One is the digestive system of the fish and the second is overfeeding.

Digestive process of koi

The gut system of koi is a very simple one. They only have a long straight intestine through which all their food passes. The nutrients are extracted from the consumed food when it passes through their intestine. Therefore, your koi can only digest a small amount of food at a time. The amount decreases even more as the temperature of the water decreases.

Therefore, it is vital that you feed fish the right amount of food and a sufficient amount of protein to make sure that they extract the maximum nutrition from the food while also avoiding the possibility of over feeding.
Overfeeding

Perhaps, overfeeding is the most common mistake people make when it comes to feeding koi. One reason behind this is the fact that feeding time is the most enjoyable time that you have with your koi. During feeding, the koi come towards the surface to eat. At this time, you can not only see them eat, but can also interact with them. Seeing your fish gather near you while you feed them can make for an enjoyable experience. And they will become tame to you through continued feeding.

Overfeeding refers to any period where the fish eat more than the amount of food they require. This has adverse effects on your fish. An excessive amount of food can lead your fish to become sick and the increased amount of waste that the koi would have to produce causes the quality of water to decline exponentially.

Moreover, if the fish in your pond are fed an increased amount of food, then they develop huge pot bellies, and they start to resemble tadpoles because of their wispy tail and big body. Of course, this does not kill the koi; however, it does severely affect the internal organs such as the liver, and the natural beauty of these creatures.

When you feed more food than your koi can eat then this will stay in the water and pollute the water causing pollution which may make your koi ill. If you can remove any uneaten bits of food five minutes after feeding then you will save your fish any stress from rotting fish food.

Want to feed your koi from your hand?

Koi can enthusiastically learn to eat out of your hand. Once the fish get used to the idea of you being close to them, then you can bring some koi cookies or bread as a treat in an attempt to bring them even closer to you. You only need to dangle your hand filled with tasty treats in the water for them to come to your hand.

However, this task takes time before your koi become tame enough. It may take weeks or months before one of your brave koi to make its way towards you to enjoy the treat from your hand. It will take further time for the others to catch on to the same routine. Soon, the other koi will also be swarming towards your hand in search of the delicious treat.

If you take it slow, the koi might be able to be okay with an affectionate rub and even a pat on their head! That is how tame koi can become. And they may even just come to your hand even when you don’t have food for them.

weedy sea dragons

weedy sea dragons

The Subtle Beauty of the Weedy Sea Dragon

weedy sea dragons

The Weedy Sea Dragon is well-known for its majestic appearance and the ability to gently move through the water. You can easily lose sight of it when it decides to hide in its surroundings. This sea creature’s tricky nature adds to its overall appeal.

The Weedy Sea Dragon (scientifically called Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) is a very popular species (a close relative of the seahorse) that is found primarily just off the coast of southern Australia or in captivity in certain zoos in the US. They are unique animals that draw the attention of sea life enthusiasts worldwide.

They can make pets with caution, as a lot of work goes into the proper care of the Weedy Sea Dragon. They are also considered to be “Near Threatened” due to the difficulty of breeding in captivity and the low survival rate of the young in the wild. Because of this, private owners are encouraged to do more research about how to maintain and grow the current population. If you keep them your goal should be to breed them to maintain a back up population.
So, are you someone who wants a Weedy Sea Dragon? Are you up for the challenge, and interested in being able to help foster the continuation of this unique and fascinating type of sea horse? A good place to start is with some background.

What is a Weedy Sea Dragon?

weedy sea dragon
weedy sea dragon

Let’s start with the origin of the name. Sea Dragons, in general, were named after the dragons of Chinese legends. They are considered fish, but they don’t have a bony internal skeleton. Instead, they have an armored body protected by bony plates.

Weedy Sea Dragons are covered by leaf-like or moss-like appendages that decorate their bodies. They resemble seaweed and many times blend seamlessly with their underwater surroundings. They have curly tails, and they are slow swimmers, preferring instead to move in a swaying motion much like seaweed traveling along on ocean currents.

This ability is not accidental. It goes a long way in protecting the Weedy Sea Dragon from ocean predators. The camouflage they employ like armor is known as “mimicry” where the animal takes on chameleon-like traits to make themselves look “hidden in plain sight.”

In general Weedy Sea Dragons are known to live in rocky reefs, seaweed beds, seagrass meadows and really just about anywhere seaweed is found. They can sometimes be seen lurking in the shadows of pier or jetty pylons.
When they are seen it is a spectacular sight. They can often have amazing color patterns as well which include orange, red, yellow or even sometimes purple, depending on flora and fauna of their environment. They don’t just disappear, but they fit in. Like patterned wallpaper or the perfect divan, the Weedy Sea Dragon can add an air of completion to any seaweed colony.

Okay, so they’re pretty and fun to watch as they glide through the water. But what’s the big deal about them? Why are they becoming so rare?

There are 2 main reasons:

Feeding Problems of the Weedy Sea Dragon

Weedy Sea Dragons are unique in that they don’t have a digestive system. That seems like a weird thing for mother nature to have missed, but these little dragons make do by eating often and slowly. They eat by inhaling food through their snouts so everything must be the size of their snout or smaller.

Weedy Sea Dragons can range in size anywhere from 12 – 15 inches on average so they can usually be seen feeding on plankton, small shrimp and different types of malleable crustaceans. They’re not really known to be the fiercest of predators, but with their ability to blend in so well with their surroundings, catching unsuspecting prey ends up being an easy task.

However, as the intended prey adapts and get bigger and faster, it leaves the Weedy Sea Dragon at a disadvantage and often the animal has to go outside of its comfort zone to dine. This can be dangerous when your primary trait is blending in with familiar surroundings.

Breeding Sea Dragons is Difficult

weedy sea dragon courtship
weedy sea dragon courtship

Like seahorses, Weedy sea dragons are unusual because the male is the one to gestate and birth the babies. It is a task they take seriously and finding the appropriate partner is a must. The mating ritual between the two is long and involved, and at the end, the victor will deposit her eggs onto a sponge-like patch on the tail of the male Weedy Sea Dragon.

Gestation lasts about eight weeks or 2 months after which the eggs hatch and the baby dragons emerge. They are mostly independent and can take care of themselves, but they are still vulnerable to being eaten by all sorts of predators including penguins and fish.

Because of this, the mortality rate is at an astonishing 98% for the Weedy Sea Dragons born in the wild. Add this to the numbers that are accidentally rounded up in mass net fishing, or netted and used for medicinal purposes; you’ll see why their numbers are dropping fast.

To make matters tougher, for some reason breeding in captivity for these creatures can be difficult. To date, only a few Aquariums have been successful. The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California and the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, Tennessee along with the Melbourne Aquarium in Melbourne, Australia are among the very few that have successfully bred Sea Dragons in captivity.

The Weedy Sea Dragon, in particular, has been bred in captivity in Florida, Tennessee, and areas of Georgia as well as Australia. In fact, there is a protection act on the entire species in Australia.

It’s understandable if you try to look at it from their perspective. Being held captive in an unfamiliar environment could lead to them not being interested in breeding due to stress. The water, lighting, food or aquarium temperature might not be right. Additionally, the Weedy Sea Dragon is very picky. The courting process goes on for days, and the two paramours size each other up looking for true compatibility. This is hard to achieve and nearly impossible to fake in captivity unless there is a large breeding population.

newly hatched weedy sea dragon
newly hatched weedy sea dragon

In December of 2015, the captive breeding program at the Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium was able to replicate the conditions of the wild. By making changes to the lighting, water temperature, and flow, they were able to encourage breeding between their captive dragons successfully. In March of 2016, 45 fry (baby sea dragons) were still going strong and represented a 95% survival rate!

The fry themselves are destined to be world travelers. With extensive notes and connections to aquariums throughout the United States, China, Europe and the UK, these timid creatures are about to get the cultural experience of a lifetime. With a life expectancy of about nine years, it’ll be a short life, but a full one.
Keeping it as a Pet?

Well, that’s great! You might think. Breeding is happening all over the world so now it’s time for me to get a tank.
And you know what? Maybe it is. With the right care and conditions, you can help keep the Weedy Sea Dragon, a quirky part of the deep sea community. Make sure you purchase from a reputable and legal dealer, and that you have the setup and time to provide the care the animal needs.

If you don’t want to keep them yourself, then perhaps instead, encourage your local aquarium to invest in a herd of these creatures. By showing interest and volunteering your time or even a monetary donation, you can help the research that ensures the safety and survival of these precious sea creatures.

Starting a fish tank for beginners

beginners aquarium set up

Starting a fish tank for beginners that have never had a fish tank before. Everything that you need to know, do and buy is explained here.

Which type of aquarium setup do you want?

There are 3 basic aquarium setups

beginners aquarium set up
beginners aquarium set up with plants

1. The tropical freshwater tank. This is the most common. This is an aquarium that uses tap water or other freshwater source and a heater to maintain the tropical temperatures needed. There are a wide variety of colourful fish and plants available to populate this type of aquarium.
2. The cold-water tank. This is less common put still popular. By far the most common fish for this aquarium is the goldfish. With the growth of fish keeping there has been a wider availability of other cold-water/temperate fish (besides goldfish) that do not require warm water or a heater. Some of these fish are quite colourful.
3. The marine tank. This is a heated aquarium that uses seawater instead of tap water. You don’t need to take trips to the sea to obtain seawater. You can actually buy a sea salt mix and add it to tap water to make your own seawater. Most marine fish in the hobby are reef fish. Reef fish are the most colourful fish available. Maintaining a marine tank is much more difficult than the other two and is not recommended for beginners.

beginners aquarium
Setting up a beginners aquarium

Beginners should choose either the cold-water aquarium setup or the tropical aquarium. Both are as easy as each other. The tropical aquarium is more colourful and allows you to have more fish in the tank but does require a heater.

Where to place your aquarium

Where not to place an aquarium

1. Do not place near any heat source such as a fire or a radiator.
2. Do not place near a window that has any sunlight.
3. Do not place near a draughty location.
4. Do not place in a location that has a lot of disturbances such as people walking by or banging doors.
You need to place the aquarium near a double electric socket. Place the aquarium in a location where you can observe it comfortably and you have easy access to the top of the aquarium for maintenance.

beginners fish tank cabinet and hood
beginners fish tank cabinet and hood

Essential equipment for the beginner’s fish tank

Glass aquariums are recommended for best viewing. Plastic tanks are available but scratch easily
Buy a as large a tank as you can reasonably afford. A 2ft/60cm tank is the recommended minimum size.

You need a heater for a tropical aquarium. But no heater is required for goldfish or temperate fish.

Lighting is needed so that the plants can grow and you can see the fish clearly. Good lighting can bring out the colours of your fish.

aquarium water test kit
aquarium water test kit

Ammonia and nitrite test kit is essential for a new aquarium to test for fish waste build-up.
 
Filter – a canister or even a sponge filter is necessary for biological filtration to break down fish waste. A sponge filter will need an air pump to power it.
 
Fish food. A good quality fish food that is made for the type of fish you keep. Remember some fish are carnivorous, some are mainly herbivores, while most are omnivores.
 
A syphon and bucket to remove water easily from an aquarium is a necessity. You can also use the syphon and bucket to return fresh water to the aquarium in a way that does not scare the fish.

beginners coldwater fish tank
beginners coldwater fish tank

Plants. Plants help remove fish waste(manure) from the water and provide a healthier more natural looking environment for the fish. You can choose from floating plants, rooted plants and non-rooted plants such as moss balls.

It is not essential to have gravel or sand but most people prefer it because it gives a grounding to the aquatic scene. Plants can be potted in pots with soil topped with gravel for better growth.

A thermometer is essential for a tropical aquarium to check if the heater is heating the water to the ideal temperature for your fish. This varies depending on which species you have. However, there is a range of temperatures that fish tolerate.

A hood. This prevents excess evaporation, heat loss and stops fish jumping out of the aquarium.

equipment for beginners aquarium
equipment for beginners aquarium

How to set up your fish tank

A fish tank when filled with water can get heavy so it needs a floor that can support it. Most floors in modern houses do this with ease. You can place an aquarium on a fish tank stand or a cabinet. A fish tank cabinet is preferred because it has been designed to support the weight of a tank of water. Home furniture can be used as long as the top surface is straight and has vertical support in the middle which will prevent the cabinet from bowing. If you buy a larger tank then a proper fish tank cabinet or stand is a must.

The stand or cabinet has to be level under load. The floor might not be level so use a spirit level on top of the aquarium and adjust things until the aquarium is sitting level. Before filling the aquarium use a cushioning material underneath the tank, ie between the tank base and the top of the cabinet. Polystyrene foam is ideal and helps distribute out any unevenness.

Basic aquascaping for your beginner’s aquarium

Find a picture of an aquarium that you like online and try to replicate it. When you place the gravel in the aquarium slope it from the back to the front. Place tall or bushy plants at the back and sides of the aquarium. Leave the front and middle of the aquarium plant free except for the occasional specimen plant. Place heaters, filters and other equipment behind bushy plants.

Setting up sequence for a beginner’s aquarium

Once the tank has been properly located and set up level, you are ready to start putting it together. A suggested sequence is as follows.
1. Wash your gravel or sand by placing some in a bucket then running water from a tap into it. Dust will come out with the water flow. Swirl it with your hand until all the dust has gone. Then place the cleaned gravel/sand in the aquarium. Then put the next batch of gravel/sand in the bucket and repeat until all the gravel/sand that you need is in the aquarium.
2. Half fill your aquarium with water. Smooth out the gravel/sand again. It usually gets disturbed when you add water to the aquarium.
3. Place your potted aquarium plants in the aquarium. Add fertiliser to the roots of the plants.
4. Place all the equipment and any decorations in the tank.
5. Fill the tank to the top.
6. Switch on all the equipment.
7. Place on the lid and turn on the light.
8. Add dechlorinator to the water.
9. Check the temperature and adjust the heater to get the required temperature
10. After 24/48 hours add a couple of fish.
Do a 10% water change every day. The new water needs to be dechlorinated and at the same temperature as the tank water.
11. Daily check the ammonia and nitrites. They will rise as the fish keep pooping and urinating. If the ammonia/nitrite levels go too high, do an extra water change.
12. When the ammonia/nitrite levels start to drop add another 2 fish.
13. Check the levels again and keep doing the water changes.
14. As the levels drop again and again add more fish. Only add more fish when your aquarium can cope.
15. After 6 weeks the aquarium should be stabilised.

starter fish for beginners
starter fish for beginners

Choosing the fish for a beginner’s aquarium

You need to research to find which fish is tough and won’t die easily. You need to avoid fish that are aggressive to other fish. And make sure you don’t buy fish that grow very big. Make sure you have a few alternative choices, because the particular fish you want might not be available. Do an internet search for fish that you like the look of that fits the previous choices.

How to buy the fish for a beginner’s aquarium

Child choosing fish in aquarium storeNow, you know what fish you are after and they are available. Do you just hand over your money? No! You must go to the fish shop’s tanks and have a good look at the fish in the tank. A tank with dead or sick fish is a big no no. You need to observe the fish. Are they active? Do they have fins extended. Are the colours bright and clear? Make sure there are no missing scales, no spots and no bits of fungus growing on them. Don’t buy a fish with split fins or cloudy eyes. When you approach the tank and pretend to feed them at the top of the aquarium, the fish should all rush to where you put your hand.

Select one fish at a time and ask the shop keeper to net the particular fish that looks good to you. Remember to not get excited and buy just a couple of fish at a time.

When to add the fish to your aquarium

Add the first 2 fish 24 to 48 hours after the tank has been filled up. To add fish to the tank from the bag. Do not just throw them in, but put the closed bag in the water and wait 15 minutes for the bag’s water to match the tank’s temperature. Then you just plop the fish in.

Then do daily ammonia/nitrite tests and daily water changes. As the fish eat they poop and urinate into the water. This pollution is cleaned up by bacteria in the filter. But, it takes time to build up enough bacteria. That is why you need to test the ammonia/nitrite levels. When the levels start to fall, add a couple more fish. If the ammonia/nitrite becomes too high then do an immediate water change of 25% and add dechlorinated water at the same temperature.

Cycling the beginner’s aquarium

This is critical to keeping your fish alive for any length of time. Fish waste builds up in water which slowly poisons the fish. Luckily when fish waste appears in water, bacteria start to grow that feed off this waste and neutralise it. However there is a time lag of several weeks before the bacteria can grow enough to cope with all of the fish waste. Most cycling bacteria grows inside a filter on the sponge material. The filter needs a good flow of water to feed the bacteria, which means you occasionally have to squeeze off the excess mud off the filter to stop it becoming clogged.

Cycling your aquarium

Setting up a maintenance routine

Once the tank has cycled, perhaps after 6-8 weeks then you can start to relax and reduce the water changes to 10% every week. Water changes help reduce the level of nitrate that is produced by the cycling bacteria. In nature, fast growing plants and algae would normally utilise nitrate, which is a fertiliser. In the aquarium we need to dilute the nitrate because we normally have too many fish compared to nature.

beginners tank fish feeding
beginners tank fish feeding

Every day
Feed the fish and do a fish count every feeding time. If any fish are missing then search the tank and remove the dead fish otherwise it could rot and pollute the tank. At the same time, check that all fish are healthy, active and with fins spread. Check for any parasites, any spots or any fungus and treat the fish when they are sick. At the same time check the temperature is right.

Once a week
1.Do an algae scrape of the front of the aquarium. It is better for the health of the aquarium if you do not scrape the side and back panes of the tank. If you are a meticulous person then you can also scrape the side panes as well but leave the back pane alone. Syphon 10-20% of the water into a bucket and sift the syphon through the sand/gravel to disturb any food or fish droppings that are trapped in the gravel. Pour away the bucket of water but be careful not to pour away any accidentally syphoned gravel. Wash this gravel and put it back into the aquarium.

2. Next, mix up a bucket of water with hot and cold tap water until it is the same temperature as your aquarium. Add your dechlorinator to the bucket of water. Then add this water to your tank. Top up your tank until full again.

3. Check there is a good flow from the filter. If the flow is slow then squeeze the excess mud from the filter and throw the mud away. Do not wash the sponge with tap water because that will kill the nitrifying bacteria on the sponge. Just squeeze the sponge by hand and then wash your hands.

4. Check your plants. Prune any dead bits and remove any dead plants.
5. Sit back and relax and enjoy your aquarium. You have passed the hardest stage of fish keeping. Now everything becomes easy and should be a more relaxed routine.

Koi Pond

koi pond

Building Your First Koi Pond

koi pond with streamA well built garden pond is relaxing and creates a feeling of coolness and mystery. You can design and create the perfect garden environment with water by building your own garden pond. You can allow your imagination complete freedom to build a koi pond that looks attractive while still being functional. Koi ponds should be at least 4 feet deep. This insures the koi’s habitat will remain frost-free even in the depths of winter.

One option is a preformed pond made of plastic which are very simple and fast to install and they’re available in a range of sizes and shapes. But are of fixed designs. Another option is using a rubber pond liner allowing you free scope. When designing a pond with liners you can put your own ideas for a pond into practice.

sand pond outlineHere is outlined plans for a lined pond 10 square metres in size. Once you have drawn out the plan for the shape of the pond you are ready to start. First of all, mark out the basic outline shape by sprinkling sand on the ground in the shape desired. You could also use a rubber hose or string. Use a spirit level to check height differences in the ground. If there are differences in height in the ground, lower levels have to be built, while higher levels will have to be lowered by removing soil. Once the outside boundary of the pond is level we can start digging.

The pond must be dug from the outside inwards. Remove protruding stones and roots that you will find as you dig. Dig out the whole pond area to the depth of the shallows. You then have to mark the bog zone, the shallow water zone and the deepwater zone. Use some of the Earth dug out to create the slope for a stream. the size of the liner required is calculated using lengths of string. Lay these out along the length and width and after adding on an extra 50 centimetres on each side you can work out the exact measurements for the liner.

koi-pond-trenchThe edges of the pond can be created in a number of different ways. The simplest method is to make a trench all round. Fleece and liner are laid over the mound so created and then tucked in. The gap produced is filled up with gravel. However edge fixings systems built on a firm base ensure that the edges of the pond do not sink even under load. Whether you use stone, wood or plastic tubing there is a whole range of options open to you. This design is with plastic tubes. If there are too many protruding stones in the earth the bottom of the pond you can cover it with a layer of sand to protect the liner. However, normally a. fleece is sufficient for lining the pond. Press the fleece firmly into place and cut off any surplus material. The next step is the pond liner. The decisive Factor is its texture as well as a high resistance to tearing. A rough texture of you liner makes it easier for microorganisms to attach themselves. This soon gives the liner a natural appearance

koi pond streamFor the edges you can use a liner with a decorative stone pattern. Pump hoses and cables are tucked away out of sight in a fold in the liner. Otherwise there should not be any folds or creases in the liner if possible. The liner for the stream is bonded to the pond liner with glue. Lastly you can form the protruding liner into a fold 10 centimetres deep. This so-called capillary barrier prevents the surrounding earth becoming saturated with pond water. The plants are placed in planting baskets which we fill with substrate. First of all we plant the deepwater zone where the pump is also located. This entire area is decorated with stones. However the stones should not be within the suction zone as the pumps performance will be reduced by a smaller suction area. High quality pumps are available whatever the application or requirements. If the pump becomes blocked up with leaves or Grass just blast a jet of water from a hose and pick off any remaining debris. There is a wide selection of special pumps for water features of all kinds. You can also attach a skimmer to your pump to clean the surface. The skimmer removes dirt and leaves directly from the surface of the water and passes them to the filter. Place gravel at the bottom of the pond and use large stones to set your pump and filter in position. Then fill the pond using tap water. Then plant the shallow water zone with potted plants.
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Embankment pockets are a perfect solution for the steep bank they are fixed with large stones at the edge of the bank and covered with gravel. To plant the bog zone cut out embankment mats from coconut fibre and arrange them in the shallow water. The mats are a lastly weighted down. Finally the bog zone is filled with gravel. Let your imagination run free when creating the transition from Pond to garden. This design is for natural stone paving. At this area on the bank any animals that fall in the pond can climb out again. At this point, the pond already looks really good. Your aim is to create a clean and healthy pond. A good option for filtering a pond is based on biological filtration which filter dirt and surplus nutrients from the pond water according to a mechanical biological principle. How does a biological flow filter work? Pond water and dirt are fed to the filter by the pump. In the filter there are filter material where bacteria grows. This bacteria breaks down the fish waste matter into harmless nitrates. Also available are ultraviolet light filter attachments that kill off algae and excess bacteria.
Filters will clog up regularly so buy a filtration system that is easy to clean.
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To add a small stream to the pond you need a pump with pressure filter that can power the filter and still have power to raise water to the stream.

Now you are ready to start adding the fish. But you first have to wait a couple of weeks for the water to mature. It’s the fish that really make the pond come alive. You caould mature your pond and filter with some cheap goldfish before you buy your prized koi.
The basic stocking rule applies; you should never stock more than one kilogram of fish per cubic metre of water in your pond. Your pond will hold 6000 litres that’s a maximum of 6 kilos of fish. But don’t forget that fish will grow so if you are buying young fish then the limit your pond to a total weight of 3 kilos per cubic meter. Then wait four weeks before stocking your pond with koi. that is the time it takes for the bacteria in the filter to mature. And then only add 1 or 2 fish at a time over many weeks.
It is a very good idea to buy a water test kit that tests the water for ammonia and nitrites. Test the water and only when these readings are near zero can you add the next couple of fish.

Clean water, thriving plants and happy Fish is your goal. You should by now have a fascinating piece of nature in your own garden. Making your own pond is really simple. Building a pond is not difficult with using your ideas and the right equipment.

Water features also give your pond something special. A range of different effects can be achieved really easily in next to no time. A waterfall can be built using a build up of soil covered in pond liner and edged with rocks and plants. You will have to use a pump to take water from your pond to the top of the waterfall. Hiding the end of the pipe between stones or plants will create a more natural effect.

To make sure your fish are happy in their environment buy quality koi specific foods. The result is something to be proud of. A healthy easily digestible diet will keep your fish active. Tame fish even eat out of your hand. The ideal koi food will contain ingredients like spirulina and carotene. These are color enhancing foods that work very well to bring out vibrant colors in your koi. However, overuse of these products may result in the white areas of the fish developing an orange or yellow cast. To maintain brilliant white areas reduce the amount of color enhancing foods used.

Plants produce oxygen and reduce the level of nutrients so curb the growth of algae. Every plant in your pond has its preferred location. Waterlilies love deep calm Water. Reeds and Rushes on the other hand, prefer shallow water. Once your pond is build it needs occasional care along with its inhabitants.

And with the right tools it is simple to look after your pond both in and at the edge of the water. Whatever decorative idea for your pond interests you, if the technology keeps a low profile a truly natural atmosphere will be the result. Ponds can also look really attractive in the dark. Lighting systems can conjure up fascinating moods.

Giant Betta

giant-betta-anabatoides

Care and breeding of the giant betta.

giant-betta-anabatoidesThe giant betta (Betta Anabatoides) comes from Borneo in Indonesia. It is the largest know Betta species with males growing up 10 or 12 cm. Males have larger heads and longer pelvic fins than the females. There is a light patch on the front of the anal fin in the male. The water should be soft and acidic. A ph of of 4.7 is ideal but they are not too fussy because they live in water conditions that change through the season. Temperature requirements are quiet high 25C to 30C.

They are carnivorous and respond well to live food, especially live food that stays near the surface or mid water. They can take most dried foods but some live food seems to be necessary for health.

They can be kept in a species aquarium or in a community aquarium. Large aquariums guarantee success. Between 100L to 200L aquariums are fine because of their large size. They are as aggressive as Betta Splendens and two males will fight until one is dead.

The giant betta is a mouthbreeding betta. They need very quiet conditions to breed. The male incubates the eggs in his mouth until they hatch. The male and female courtship is similar to betta pugnax. The eggs hatch about 3/4 days after spawning but only after a further 8 days does he release the young fry. The fry can be fed infusoria and later on baby brineshrimp. They are fast growers.

Feeding guppies, mollies, platies and other livebearers

guppies and platies in a community tank

Feeding guppies, mollies, platies and other livebearers

Make your own fish food

Raising live food

Feeding livebearers can be easy especially the commonly found livebearers, but to get the best results then care must be taken with their diet. Most livebearers are omnivorous, eating both animal matter and vegetable matter. Other livebearers are mostly vegetarian such as the platy and goodeid livebearer. And the last group of livebearers are carnivores that need live food and even small fish to eat such as pike livebearer, half beaks, four-eyed fish and porthole livebearer.

Dried food forms a livebearers staple diet

Dried foods can be used to feed most livebearers but if you have vegetarian livebearers or carnivorous livebearers then you need to pick a brand that has a high vegetable content or high protein content. Supplement dried foods with live food at least once a week. And for the vegetarian livebearers add some sliced vegetable matter such as a cucumber slice.

The biggest problem with dried food are that they quickly become stale. So it is best to buy only small quantities at a time and when you buy them check the sell by date and whether the carton looks dusty. Do not buy old stock.

Dried foods come in several varieties. Food flakes are the most common and are a good choice for livebearers because the flakes float giving the livebearers a chance to eat from the surface. Most livebearers are surface feeders.

Types of dried foods for livebearers

Food flakes come in different sizes. The sizes are there to allow you to feed fish with small mouths or fish with large mouths. If there are fry in the aquarium the just crumble a few flakes into crumbs for them.

You could also feed fish pellets to your livebearers. Care must be taken to buy a brand that has floating pellets. Livebearers will usually ignore food that has fallen to the floor of the aquarium where it will rot and pollute the aquarium. The advantage of pellets is that they are less processed than flakes and are just compacted bits of dried food.

Food tablets are useful if you will be away for days at a time. They are compressed food tablets that dissolve slowly over sevearl days. The fish will pick off bits at a time and will be kept fed while you are away.

Feed live food to keep your livebearers healthy

All livebearers benefit from the occasional meal of live food. The fresh vitamins, minerals and amino acids available in live food can not be obtained from dried foods. Once or twice a week is sufficient for most species. But for vegetarians you will also need to feed fresh vegetable matter at least once or twice a week.

Live food can also come in the form of frozen live food and freezze dried food. These are not quite as nutritiuos as real live food.

Where can you obtain live food?

  1. You can keep a large 200l litre barrel of water in a sunny spot in the garden. This will attract mosquito larvae and blood worms. But you can also seed the barrel with daphnia. Daphnia needs to be fed daily with green water or yeast powder. This is the safest and best way of collecting live food for your fish.
  2. You can buy live food from the pet store. But care must be taken to examine the bags of live food for freshness. Some bags of live food can be full of dead insects which is a waste of time. Also some pet shops will sell live food which may contain illnesses from their fish or other source, even the best aquarium store may be quilty of this.
  3. You can collect from wild sources. Good sources for daphnia are from water troughs for cattle or horses and are generally safe. Collecting from wild ponds is a danger. Care must be taken not to collect parasites and other nasties alongside your chosen live food. Best to avoid any pond that contains fish.
  4. You could also raise live food such as brine shrimp to adult hood to feed adult fish. Brineshrimp is an excellent choice of live food except for the effort you need to put in to raise the shrimps. You can also raise white worms or fruit flies. All make a nutritious supplement to dried foods.
  5. Another excellent choice is small earthworms. You will need to rinse out any soil from the worms stomach. Chop the worms up with a razor into small pieces to feed your fish.

Best live foods include daphnia, cyclops, mosquito larvae, and even earth worms, white worms and fruit flies. If you can give your fish a variety of live food as well as some vegetable matter then all the better for the health of your livebearers.

Vegetable items to feed livebearers

A slice of cucumber, boiled spinach or lettuce leaves, spirulina and algae are a good source of vegetable matter for livebearers. There are many vegetable items that can be chopped up into small pieces and fed to your fish. Experiment with what your fish will eat. Try ensure that the items float. Tie a cotton thread to the vegetable piece to keep it near the surface. Also after a couple of hours remove any uneaten vegetable item and throw it away.

Variety in feeding keeps your livebearers healthy and breeding

If you bear all this information in mind and feed your fish using this knowledge then your fish should remain healthy, vibrant and active. Remember variety is the spice of life and it goes for the food of livebearers too. They will of course reproduce when fed well which is a sure sign that they are healthy.

Maintaining a healthy livebearer aquarium

guppies and platies in a community tank

Healthy water leads to healthy fish

Diagnose and treat Livebearer illnesses here.

The secret to keeping healthy livebearers is in keeping the water they live in healthy and suitable for them to live in. The major element in maintaining healthy water is the continuous removal of pollution from the water.

the basic air powered sponge filtered
the basic air powered sponge filtered

Where does aquarium pollution come from?

Pollution in the livebearer aquarium comes from the fish themselves. Livebearers are continually producing urine and occasionally pooping in their own environment. Also pollution can come from any uneaten food left to rot in the aquarium. Occasionally from the rotting of a dead fish or other water borne creature can cause pollution as well as dead plant material.

You can certainly remove much of the pollutants from the water by siphoning them away and disposing of it. However there is much that will be missed and so you need a filter to remove the remaining pollutants.

A much better automated way of cleaning the fish waste is by relying on biological filtration known as cycling.

Maintaining the correct environment for a livebearer aquarium

Female Black Molly
Black Molly female

Besides keeping the water clean, to maintain a healthy livebearer aquarium you need to maintain temperature control and provide lighting as well as providing suitable water conditions.

Electrical safety in a livebearer aquarium

Most of the equipment used to maintain a healthy livebearer aquarium is powered by electricity. And as you may well know electricity and water make a dangerous combination. So, you must observe certain electrical safety rules as follows:

  1. Only buy and use electrically certified equipment from a recognised aquarist supplier
  2. Buy a safety cut out cable that will cut all electricity to the aquarium when there is a fault.
  3. Unplug all electrical devices in your aquarium when you are working inside the aquarium water or you risk electrical shock. Don’t forget to turn it all on afterwards.

Livebearer fish tank selection

hawaii-platy-variatusThe first thing you need to buy when keeping livebearers is a fish tank. This ideally should be an all glass aquarium bonded together with silicone. Plastic aquariums although lighter are easily scratched and ruin the view of your fish.

Fish need a good supply of dissolved oxygen in the water to breathe. This oxygen comes through the surface of the water. The area of the surface of the water determines how much oxygen will be available for your fish’s use. In other words, the larger the area, the more oxygen and so allowing you to keep more livebearers. Measure about 5 litres of water for every fish as a bare minimum. A 100 litre tank should allow you to keep up to 20 livebearers.

Remember that water in large aquariums can be very heavy and must be placed on a solid floor that can support the weight. If the floor is concrete then it should be fine. However with floor boards you will have to find out where the supporting joists are underneath the floorboards and place your stand on top.

Because livebearers are surface swimmers they tend to be jumpers. This means that livebearers occasionally make a leap to freedom and can end up dead on your living room carpet. So, you need to buy a tight fitting lid to prevent this.

Filtration in the livebearer aquarium

mickey-mouse-platyThe most important piece of equipment in eliminating pollution in your aquarium is the filter.

Sponge filters

A surprisingly good and effective filtration system is the sponge filter powered by an air pump. Sponge filters are not very powerful but you can use 2 or 3 of them together in the one aquarium. A great advantage of the sponge filter is that they are low maintenance and also they are cheap to buy. All you need to do to clean them is to squeeze them out in a bucket of aquarium water and then swirl them about until most of the excess dirt falls off. Do not remove all the dirt as the biological bacteria that filter the fish waste live in the dirt. Removing the excess dirt will unclog the filter and allow this bacteria to breathe and grow.

Contrary to popular belief, the most important job a filter has to do is not to remove particles and dirt from the water. No, the most important job of a filter is provide a breeding ground for bacteria that break down decaying organic matter into harmless substances.

It takes between 4-6 weeks for the bacteria in a filter to mature to the level where it can remove all the decaying pollution effectively. It is very important that you take care to not kill off the bacteria in the filter. Washing the filter in tap water that contains chlorine will kill the bacteria. Certain medications can also kill of the bacteria. And finally turning off your filter for more than an hour can kill off most of the bacteria in your filter.

Box filters

guppies and platies in a community tank
guppies and platies in a community tank

Box filters can also be used to filter the aquarium water. These are more powerful but cost more than a sponge filter. They may contain an internal sponge too. The disadvantage is that they are difficult to clean and maintain.

External filters

There are even more expensive and powerful external filters that may hang off the back of the aquarium. These may use various filtering material.

All filters ultimately rely on the same method to filter and that is by passing water over a colony of bacteria that have grown inside the mulm that has collected in the filter.

Other methods of removing waste

Despite filters doing such a marvellous job of biologically breaking down waste matter into less harmful waste products, you still need to do some clean up yourself. At least once a week you will have to use a siphon device to sift through the gravel stirring the dirt up to be siphoned into a bucket and thrown away. Siphon away any dead plant material as well.

Uneaten food should be siphoned five minutes after feeding. Dead fish and other creatures should be removed as soon as seen.

Lighting is another important piece of equipment.

Livebearers enjoy bright lighting conditions. However, bright lighting may encourage excessive algae (which is microscopic plant life). Algae is usually healthy for your livebearers who will eat it, but it is an eyesore and may choke off your plants.

The solutions to prevent or remove algae is to keep your aquarium away from direct sunlight and also to reduce the number of hours per day your aquarium lighting is on for.

There are 3 types of bulb that you might use in your livebearer aquarium.
a) incandescent bulbs
b) fluorescent tubes
c) Mercury vapor lamps

Incandescent light bulbs (ie home light bulbs) can be used in fry rearing tanks and quarantine tanks. For most aquariums you should use fluroescent tubes that are widely available and inexpensive. Although expensive, mercury vapor lamps can be economical in very large aquariums where 1 vapor lamp bulb would replace many fluorescent tubes. Vapor lamps are very bright. One vapor lamps is 4 times brighter than a fluoresent tube.

Gravel or sand? The choice is yours.

If you use gravel then you can put plants directly into the gravel with a tablet fertiliser pushed in near the roots. The gravel should be 2 inches deep.

Sand is not so good for plants because it is too compact. Sand may also trap dirt and compact creating stagnant “dead-spots” that may foul the water. To lessen this risk use a shallow layer of 1 inch or less. It is recommended that you place plants in their own little plant pots above the sand.

In the wild livebearers swim in waters where the base is light coloured, so sand is quite comforting for them. You could also buy a light coloured gravel. The lighter coloured base brings out the best in your livebearer’s colours.

Before using gravel or sand in your aquarium you must rinse out dust by placing some sand or gravel a bit at a time in a bucket and running tap water through while swirling it with your hands until the water runs clear.

Plants for a livebearer aquarium

Thriving plants remove the waste products created by the fish. Indeed the plants feed off the decomposed fish waste matter.
Plants also add visual naturalness to an aquarium that is comforting to the fish. The plants create hiding places for females and young livebearers. And finally plants also provide a source of fresh food for your ever hungry livebearers.

Choose plants that like your tap water’s composition in terms of ph and hardness and are hardy aquarium plants. Plants such as Java moss, Java ferns, Cryptocorynes and vallisneria are ideal choices for livebearer aquariums.

What is the correct conditions for livebearers?

Not only do you have to maintain clean water for your aquarium, you also have to provide water of the right composition. Tap water is normally within range of suitability for livebearers. The main factors in water composition are ph level and hardness level of water which can be tested using a test kit bought from your aquarium store. If your tap water has a reading of ph 6.5-8.4 and the hardness reading is above 8dh then that should be acceptable for most livebearers. If the ph and hardness fall out of this range then you need to perform the laborious process of adjusting the water condition. This is best done by having a 200litre barrel and preparing large batches of water at a time.

What exactly is harmful about fish waste? When fish poop and urinate where does this go? What happens to it?

When fish poop and urinate this waste matter decomposes slowly releasing ammonia, which is quite poisonous. In a mature aquarium with a mature filter bacteria breaks down this ammonia into nitrite. In a new aquarium with no bacteria this ammonia builds up and slowly poisons the fish.

How to create a mature filter – cycling.

Nitrite is also poisonous but a second set of bacteria digest nitrite and convert it into nitrate which is relatively harmless. Nitrate is absorbed by plants as a fertiliser.

With this in mind it is essential to buy and use a test kit that measures ammonia and nitrite levels in a new aquarium. You will need to check the ammonia and nitrite daily until they come down to 0.0. In a new aquarium you will have to do daily water changes of between 10-20%. This will reduce the pollutant levels. You have to carry on the daily water changes until the readings hit 0.0 at which point your filter’s bacteria will be mature enough to cope. If you get a particularly high reading during this process do a bigger water change and stop feeding for a day or two.

With all this new found knowledge you should now be in a position to keep your livebearer aquarium healthy in the long term.

Your first saltwater aquarium: Step by step guide

Typical beginners saltwater fish tank set up

Your first saltwater aquarium: Step by step guide

Marine fish such as the azure damselfish have the best colours

Buy and assemble all the equipment

Equipment you will need

  • A 120 litre 4 foot tank. This is a basic minimum size.
  • Buy a hood with a normal lighting system.
  • You will also need a protein skimmer,
  • An external power filter,
  • 300w heater,
  • A thermometer and hydrometer to measure the salinity,
  • Good beginners fish pajama cardinalfish
    Good beginners fish pajama cardinalfish

    A marine water test kit

  • Bag of seawater salt mix
  • Natural coral sand
  • Fish tank stand.

Inhabitants for your saltwater fish tank

  • 10 kilos of live rock
  • 1kg Live coral sand
  • 10 margarita or asteria snails
  • 2 hermit crabs blue or red-legged
  • Some hardy peaceful fish species

Find out more about live rock and live sand here.

List of beginners recommended saltwater fish

Preparing your first saltwater fish tank

Live rock with coral sand in a beginners saltwater aquarium
Live rock with coral sand in a beginners saltwater aquarium

Put together your stand and aquarium. Wash the inside of the glass with warm water. Never use any chemicals or soaps. If there are any stubborn stains then use white vinegar and a razor blade to scrape the stain. Rinse any white vinegar with tap water. Remove water with a siphon hose. Paint the rear glass in black, blue or marine or apply a stick on background.

With the tank empty move the stand and tank around the room until you find a location you are happy with. You can use a spirit level to adjust the levelness of the aquarium. If the aquarium doesn’t sit level then you can use thin flat pieces of plastic or wood to raise the leg that is lower. Once the aquarium is sitting level then you can then fill with water. Once the aquarium is 95% full then again check the aquarium for levelnbess. If the aquarium is not level then you will have to remove all the water and adjust the levelness again before re-adding water.

Once the tank is 95% full of water and level then you have to wait 24 hours to see if any slow leaks occur. If there are no signs of any leaks then install the filter, heater and protein skimmer. Set the heater to 76 Fahrenheit.

Plug in all the equipment and switch on everything. Leave everything running overnight. The next day check the temperature to be 76F. If the temperature is out then you have to adjust the thermostat.

How to get the salinity right for your saltwater aquarium

Royal gramma is a hardy fish but can be a little aggressive
Royal gramma is a hardy fish but can be a little aggressive

Calculate the volume of your aquarium then add your sea salt mix according to the recommended amount on the bag of your mix. If you wait another 4 hours your salt will have completely dissolved in the water. You can then check the salinity of the water with your hydrometer. The reading should be between 1.022 to 1.024 when the temperature is 76F. If it is less then you can adjust by adding a little sea salt mix. If it is more then you can reduce it by adding a little fresh water. Thenm wait a further 4 hours before testing again. When you achieved your ideal density use a black marker to mark out the water level in a hidden part of the glass. This mark will be your guide to the level of water before any evaporation. Topping up back to this level should get you back to the correct salinity.

Now test the water’s ph. It should read 8.2-8.3ph or close to this. If it is far from this then you’ve done something wrong somewhere or your hydrometer or thermometer is wrong. Fix the problem by changing your hydrometer or thermometer and make adjustments. If there is still a misreading then you will have to switch everything off and remove all the water and start again with the water mix.

Adding live rock to your saltwater aquarium

golden wrasse - perfect lemon yellow fish
golden wrasse – perfect lemon yellow fish

When the water is just right you then need to start adding your pieces of live rock. Start with the larger pieces first. Move the rock about to create a pleasant aquascape. Test each piece is stable by prodding and adjusting into a settled position.

Place the bigger, heavier pieces directly on the glass. These should be arranged in a long semi circle along the sides and back. Leave gaps in between the individual pieces of live rock for your fish to swim through. Place the smaller pieces of rock in front of or even on the larger pieces again making sure that the whole setup is table. Use the live rock to hide the heater and protein skimmer behind.

Adding coral sand to your saltwater aquarium

You should clean your sand before you put it in the aquarium. All you need to do is rinse it thoroughly in a bucket of water by running the water through a bucket of some sand. Do it in small batches of sand and swirl the sand round until the water runs clear. Remove the water from the backet and put the sand into the aquarium all along the floor of the aquarium around the live rock.

Once the sand has been added the average level should be 2 inches deep. Then take your 1kg of live sand and spread it evenly over the other sand. Do not wash the live sand. It should contain beneficial bacteria and life forms which you risk killing by washing with tap water.

Check all your water measurements again such as ph, salinity and temperature. Adjust if necessary.

Adding background creatures to your saltwater aquarium

blue legged hermit crabs cleanup crew
blue legged hermit crabs cleanup crew

After a week add your first creatures. Remember your filter, heater and skimmer should be running continuously throughout this time. Add your snails and hermit crabs. Algae eating species are recommended to clean up any algal blooms that usually break out in new saltwater aquariums. You should not just throw your snails or crabs directly into the water but float the bags in the water for 15 minutes then add some aquarium water to the bag slowly over ten minutes before releasing them into the aquarium.

Feed the snails and crabs with tiny amounts of fish food as a top up to the algae that the snails and crabs may eat, which may be insufficient for their needs.

Adding your first fish to your saltwater aquarium

yellowtail-blue-damselfish may not be the perfect 1st fish
yellowtail-blue-damselfish may not be the perfect 1st fish

More on clownfish types

More about clownfish

More on Damselfish types

Some experts recommend adding a couple of damsel fish as your first fish because they are a tough fish and can cope with the conditions while your aquarium water is cycling. While this is true I recommend an alternative to damsels as a first fish such as tank bred clownfish because damsels can be aggressive to future fish additions. You can start off with just a couple of clown fish to add colour and interest to your tank.

During this time your aquarium filter and live rock will be cycling by developing a colony of bacteria that can digest fish and other creature waste products turning it into less harmful nitrate. This process can take anything from 4-8 weeks. During this time there will be an excess of ammonia and nitrite which are harmful to your fish and other creatures.

Complete your saltwater reef aquarium set up

orchid dottyback is the least aggressive dottyback
orchid dottyback is the least aggressive dottyback

After your first fish have settled in and looking healthy and happy you can start adding some invertebrates and a few other fish. Add hardy species of anemone. A good choice of anemone are feather dusters.

Fish to consider at this point will be wrasses, dottybacks and banggai cardinal fish. Try wherever possible to buy tank bred fish as these are fish that have adapted to life in the aquarium and should prove better survivors in your saltwater tank. Add fish at a rate of 1 or 2 a week. When you add new fish keep a close eye on them and make sure the newly added fish start feeding within 2 or 3 days. Also check the nitrite and ammonia levels daily. Stop adding new fish if the readings rise.

Some fish and other creatures to absolutely avoid as a beginner are: seahorses, octopuses, angelfish, clams, scorpionfish, and damsels.

When you have a settled tank and have introduced all the fish and other creatures for your aquarium then you can reduce the water testing to once a week.

Now you can sit back and enjoy your own piece of the ocean in your living room. However, you still need to keep checking all your water parameters once a week at least or when something doesn’t look right with any of the inhabitants.

Water: the essential element for fish

The texture of good quality water is subtle

Water: the essential element for fish

The texture of good quality water is subtle
The texture of good quality water is subtle

On a very basic level water is 99.98% H2O in a liquid that your fish swim, eat, breathe and excrete into. What about the other .02%? Is it important? Of course it is. It is these minute quantities of dissolved gases and dissolved solids that makes all the difference in whether the water is hospitable or poisonous to the fish. It is this 0.02% of dissolved substances that make sea water, river water and lake water different from each other. Note that seawater has a much higher level of dissolved salts of around 3.5%. It only takes minute quantities of the common gases such as ammonia, carbon dioxide or insufficient oxygen to poison or drown fish. Likewise it only takes a small amount of pollution or the wrong type of chemical to be dissolved in the water to poison and kill fish. But when conditions are just right or within reason then your fish will thrive without much care from you.

Creating a generic biotope for your fish to live in

The most common elements of an aquarium biotope
The most common elements of a biotope

As a fish keeper is is your responsibility to recreate a reasonable biotope for your fish that is as close as possible to the fish’s natural environment as you can.

Water has dissolved gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, ammonia and chlorine. Some of these gases are poisonous while others are necessary for fish to breathe. Water also contains dissolved minerals that determine the general hardness of your water. Some fish thrive in very hard water with a high ph, while other fish prefer much softer water with a lower ph. Organic matter can also dissolve in the water, usually darkening the water and acidifying it.

A biotope should include a substrate, plants and a source of light with the temperature of the water kept within a suitable range for the plants and fish. The choice of subrate includes gravel, sand, and even soil. Soil is usually topped with gravel. Other less essential features you might want to include in your fish’s biotope could include rocks, roots and branches.

The Lake Malawi Biotope explained here

The Amazon Biotope explained here

Is tap water safe for fish?

Is tap water safe for fish
Is tap water safe for fish

Tap water direct from the tap is not suitable for use in an aquarium. The main problem is chorine which water companies put in the water to kill off any potential bacteria in the water. To remedy this you need to leave your tap water standing in a container for at least 24 hours. This allows the chlorine to evaporate. This can be achieved by using buckets of water or water barrels to store the water.

Another danger to your fish is from dissolved copper which can come from copper pipes. Water that comes into contact with copper will slowly absorb the copper. This problem is worse for new copper pipes. But this can be remedied by running your tap water for a few minutes until uncontaminated water starts to come through. Copper is poisonous and even copper coins left in your aquarium will slowly dissolve and kill your fish.

If you are going to be serious about the quality of your fish’s water then you should buy a water test kit. A good test kit will test ph, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate as well as general hardness.

If you are a new fish keeper who wants the best chance of keeping your fish healthy and alive then test your tap water before you buy any fish. When you know the ph and hardness of your water then you can buy fish that prefer the water from your tap. Adjusting your water to suit fish that like a different type of water is best left to the advanced aquarist who don’t mind the extra effort. Some fish when kept in the wrong type of water will simply die after a few weeks and certainly won’t thrive.

If you are a more experienced aquarist then you can start adjusting the ph and hardness of your tap water so that you can keep the more delicate species of fish. To soften your water you can buy a reverse osmosis device that will remove the minerals from your water. Such water is usually too soft and must be mixed with unfiltered tap water to achieve the correct level of hardness. You can also use rainwater collected from a safe source.

To adjust the ph of your water you can either use a muslin bag containing peat moss to acidify your water or you can use calcium carbonate sand to alkalinify it instead. In order to reach the correct ph level.

All these procedures are complicated and time consuming and even prone to error. Messing with your tap water usually means you will have to monitor changes in your water conditions to maintain it. To make this complicated process a little easier it is best to prepare large batches of water in say a 200 litre barrel all in one go and then draw off water as needed.

I recommend that you don’t bother with all this messing around and just buy fish that can do well in the water that comes from your tap. There is usually quite a variety of fish that will suit your water conditions but you may have to avoid a particular species of fish that you might be keen on.

What water conditions are best for fish?

Normally the ph used in most freshwater aquaria ranges between 6.0ph and 8.3 ph. However Lake Tanganyika fish like an even higher ph, even as high as 9.0ph. And they also like hard water. Ph nearly always varies together with hardness. High ph above 8.0 usually means very hard water, while low ph of 6.4 or less coincides with soft water. Some amazonian fish like water that is of a ph less than 6ph and have very soft water.

Most of the commonly available fish in your aquarium prefer an average ph around 7ph and a medium level of water hardness. Not only that but such species can also tolerate a wider variation away from this medium than other more exotic species. Tank bred fish that have been bred in aquaria for several generations are overall more adaptable to variations in aquarium conditions compared to their wild caught counterparts.

Most average species will live in a wide range of possible water condititions. However, when it comes to breeding the ph and hardness must more closely resemble the fish’s conditions in the wild. Only then will some fish be capable of breeding and their eggs hatching.
Water hardness

This is a measure of the amount of dissolved minerals in your fish’s water. The most common minerals are calcium, magnesium and sodium.

These dissolved minerals are also essential for the health of your fish and plants.
Most cyprinids, tetras, rasboras and similar river fish like soft water. Most livebearers, Malawi fish and Tangayikan fish prefer quite hard water.

Plants also show a similar type of preference for different levels of hardness depending on the plant species.

Iron for fish health

Plants require minute levels of dissolved iron for optimum health as do fish. Fish acquite iron from their diet while plants will absorb it directly from the water. Pure iron quickly rusts in water making it unusable for the plants and animals. Feeding fish iron rich fish food will not only provide iron for the fish but allow the fish to provide manure that is rich in iron for the plants use.

Dissolved oxygen in water that fish breathe

Dissolved oxygen is essential for fish to breathe. The main source of oxygen in an aquarium is through the surface of the water. So a large surface area of water is essential to allow sufficient oxygen to dissolve into the water to replace the amount of oxygen that the fish breathe in through their gills. Also excess carbon dioxide that the fish release into the water from their gills has to be released from the water through the surface of the water. Plants also give off oxygen when they are in bright light, but will release a small quantity of carbon dioxide at night.

It is best not to rely on the quantity of oxygen that plants produce during the day to supplement the amount from the surface because this source of oxygen stops at night. If you see your fish gasping for air very early morning this is a sign that there is not enough oxygen and too much carbon dioxide in the water in the night so you will have to reduce the number of fish in the aquarium. This can also be a sign you have too many plants.

Fish waste in water

One lethal cause of fish deaths is ammonia poisoning which burns the skin and gills of the fish while also displacing oxygen in the water. Ammonia comes from fish waste and from decaying fish food and other decaying organic matter. In a new aquarium there will be no ammonia but this will build up over the fish few weeks. If you are new to fish keeping you will see your fish as being fine for the first week and may not realised that the fish are slowly but surely poisoning themselves in their own waste matter.

To overcome this you need some way to remove the ammonia as it gets created. You will have to for the first 6 weeks have to do daily water changes, use a filter and make sure that you under stock your tank until it is mature. Also avoid any uneaten fish food being left in the tank that will quickly rot and cause an ammonia spike.

A filter is not just for removing particles from the water but also for providing a base for the growth of bacteria that digest ammonia converting it into nitrite which is also poisonous. Later on another set of bacteria develops that will digest the nitrite converting it into nitrate which is much less harmful. This process takes between 4-6 weeks from new. So partial water changes are needed daily until the filter matures.

This is better explained in cycling your aquarium

Plants take up nitrate but usually not enough so you will need to keep doing partial water changes, perhaps once a week. 10% of the water changed is a reasonable amount of water change.

During this filter maturation period you should test your water daily with a test kit and if the ammonia or nitrite reading becomes particularly high then you will have to do another partial water change to bring it down to acceptable levels.

How to buy livebearers

blue lace leopard skin guppy male

Where and how to buy livebearers

Here are the main sources of livebearers

Your local aquarium pet store is a good source of fish
Your local aquarium pet store is a good source of fish

You can of course go to one of the large pet chain stores where you will be able to buy some off the shelf guppies, platies or mollies and sometimes swordtails. However don’t expect any fancy variety or high pedigree fish. If you are a beginner just starting out then this is not a bad place to start out. You will however have to be more careful with the health of the fish you buy here because these are not cared for by experts in fish keeping but by shop staff who may not have experience in looking after fish at all.

There are smaller specialised aquarium shops that will carry a greater variety of livebearer and occasionally will stock the excess brood of a professional breeder. You might be able to pick up some near pedigree stock.

Aquarium clubs are a much better place to buy more specialised forms and rare species of livebearer. You will also be able to buy wild strains of newly imported fish that are not available anywhere else. The American livebearer association or the British livebearer association are the obvious clubs to join. Other local clubs are less likely to have livebearers that you might particularly want.

internet classified adverts is a good source for fish
internet classified adverts is a good source for fish

You can also browse aquarist magazines in the classified section to see if the livebearer you are after has come up for sale.

Before buying your fish, it is best to inspect it first. Be prepared by taking with you several plastic bags and a polystyrene carrier box to take your fish home comfortably without much heat loss. Before you set off to buy you must have your home aquarium all set up.

Now, with the spread of the internet you can also buy fish from an online source. There are several good options available to you. Ebay, craigslist, gumtree, and others have a good fish for sale section. Aquarist classifieds has several specialised fish for sale sections that are also sorted by area.

There are also online firms that do mail order tropical fish. They deliver tropical fish to your door overnight no matter where you live in the country. But sometimes when the weather is particularly cold they might not deliver. Another drawback to this is that you cannot inspect the fish before hand. Home delivery of fish relies on mutual trust from the buyer and seller. The advantages are that you can pick exactly the fish you want with you having a wide choice. Also you do not have to make wasted journeys looking for your fish. The cost of delivery can be reduced by buying several fish at the same time.

In the winter some firms will deliver fish but will include special heat packs that maintain the temperature of the water for 24 hours until they can safely reach you. These are expensive and you the purchaser will have to pay extra for this delivery method.

Always buy healthy livebearers

How do you recognise a healthy livebearer? Once you have picked out the fish you are interested in, take a good long look at it in the aquarium. Also, look at other tankmates that share the same tank as well. Examine the body for any white or grey fuzzy patches. Examine the fins for any splits or frayed edges. Check for any abnormal swelling of the eyes or swelling of the abdomen. Check for any scales that stick out pine cone like. Look at the gills they should not be red in colour. check the belly of the fish. If it is concave or the head of the fish looks too big for the body. This is a sign of a poor upbringing. If any of the previous symptoms are present in the fish you are considering then do not buy the fish.

Your ideal fish should have scales and skin with bright colours and have no white grey,brown spots on the skin. The skin should not have a cloudy mucous or fluffy patch anywhere. The fins should be held proud and erect, held away from the body. Clamped fins are a bad sign. Frayed fins are a sign of ill health.

Examine the mouth of the fish. The fish should not have white/grey patches around the lips. The mouth should be sharp and clear.

Next observe the fish swimming. The fish should be active not skulking in a corner. It should show signs of wanting to feed when you come near the aquarium. The fish should not be stuck to the floor of the aquarium nor should it be stuck floating at the surface. This is a sign of swim bladder problems. If you see any of the fish in the aquarium with their mouths near the surface gasping for air and gills opening and closing then this is a sign of poor water conditions(but don’t confuse this with fish trying to feed).

Can I buy just a single livebearer?

It is best to buy a group of fish together because livebearers are social animals and develop inter-fish relationships such as dominance and recognise familiar individuals. You can buy a single fish to add to an existing aquarium but be careful of bullying of the newcomer. Swordtail males will fight each other so it is best to buy only 1 male for any individual aquarium.

How many male and female livebearers should I buy?

If you are buying young fish then to guarantee a reasonable group of males and females you should buy 6 or more because there is no way of telling the sexes apart at a young age.

If you buy adult fish then you can distinguish the males from the females.

  1. Males are more colourful than females. Females are dull in colour but may have some colours in the fins.
  2. Males are usually smaller than females of the same age.
  3. Males have a stick like ventral fin, where the females have a normal triangular shaped fin. The males use this fin to fertilise the females. This fin is located near the fish’s vent.
  4. The males have larger dorsal fins than the females.
  5. Males are slim built while females are plump in shape.

Once you learn to tell apart males from females then you are ready to buy a breeding group. Try to buy 2 females for every male.

Best time of the year to buy livebearers

There is a greater abundance of fish for sale during the spring, autumn and christmas time. So these are the best times to buy your fish. When you buy your fish make sure you don’t have a holiday or business trip planned in the weeks after purchase. It is best to be there for the first few weeks while your fish settle in to oversee if there are any problems.

How to bring your newly bought livebearers home

Set up your home aquarium before you start looking for fish. It should ideally be cycled with a mature filter. After you have purchased your prized specimens always head straight home. When you arrive home, immediately place the unopened bags in the aquarium water.

Leave the fish in the bag for at least 15 minutes to give a chance for the water temperature to equalise with that in the tank. After that you can slowly top up the bag with some water from the tank. Wait 5 minutes then top up again with some more water. Keep repeating until the bag is full. Then release the fish into the tank.

If you have bought small fish or baby fish less than an inch long then you can bag them together in large bags, 4 to a bag. You should put adult fish or fish an inch or bigger in size, singly into separate bags. The bags should be filled with 3/4 air and 1/4 water by the person selling you the fish. They should use the water from the aquarium the fish came from.

Quarantining your newly bought livebearers

When you become serious at the hobby and have prized specimens at home that would be a great loss if they died then you must use a quarantine tank to keep your new arrivals away from your established fish. This gives you a chance to see if your new fish have any hidden illnesses or not. Keep your new fish in quarantine for at least 2 weeks, but better still for 4 weeks to be absolutely safe. If the new fish appears well after this time then they can be transferred to the main aquarium.

Have the right livebearer aquarium set up

Most livebearers can live quite well in a community tank. Your community tank can consist of a variety of livebearer species, a single livebearer species or even include some other community fish alongside. The choice is yours.

Use a single species tank if you are line breeding pedigree livebearers. Note that some closely related livebearer species can interbreed and you will end up with unwanted mongrel fish.

When having a community tank you should try to make sure all the fish are of a similar size and similar activity level. This will help to reduce bullying of small fish by bigger fish and active fish stressing out more placid fish. Also the more active fish will always get to the fish effectively starving the less active fish.

You should always include more females than males for all species. A ratio of 2 females to every male is a good starting point. This is because most males will be continually trying to mate with the females. Too much male attention stresses the females.

Livebearers generally prefer hard alkaline water of ph higher than 7.5. Some species even benefit with some sea salt added to the water. The main species of livebearers prefer temperatures between 74-80f. However the sunset platy a close relative of the common platy prefers lower temperatures between 70f and 75f. Goodeids also prefer lower temperatures similar to sunset platies.

Compatible fish for a livebearer community tank

Most small tetras are compatible with guppies, mollies and platies or other similar livebearer species.

Small corydoras catfish are ideal for most livebearer tanks because the corys stay along the bottom avoiding the livebearers who mostly live along the top of the aquarium.

Most dwarf cichlids make ideal companions because they also occupy the bottom of the aquarium and are not overly aggressive. The presence of livebearers in a dwarf cichlid tank actually gives the dwarf cichlids more confidence to come out more rather than hiding in plants and caves.

Barbs, rasboras and danios are a little more active and occupy the same space as livebearers but can still make good companions for medium to large livebearers such as swordtails and sailfin mollies.

Even for a livebearer single species tank, the addition of a few corydoras catfish can liven your aquarium by having some activity in the lower half of the tank which is usually deserted in a livebearer aquarium set up.

Setting up a Community tank here

Suggested starter groups here

Essential facts about Livebearers here.

Maintain a healthy Livebearer aquarium here.