The Canister Filter

Basically, a canister filter allows a pump to suck or push water through filter media. The advantage largely is due to the ability to increase pressure within the filter. This means that each ounce of water can see a greater surface area while still maintaining adequate volumteric flow rates. Quality canister filters require little maintenance.

For a reef aquarium, canister filters are often overlooked. However, placing aragonite inside a canister filter inline with a reef aquarium increases the amount of calcium carbonate available to the reef. The canister filter provides an excellent method of buffering with little maintenance. Also, special mud can be placed inside the filter to provide trace elements and biodiversity to a reef. However, a canister filter alone won’t do the job in a reef aquarium. Volumetric flow rates (GPH) are very low from a canister filter, and other circulation and filtration systems should also be in place before adding a canister filter to a reef aquarium.

For a marine aquarium, certain fish will do just fine with a canister filter and nothing else. The result will be a still, calm aquarium with high water quality. Just make sure to buy fish that don’t like current and few enough not to overload the filter.

For the planted aquarium, the canister filter is often the filter of choice. Canister filters do not disturb the surface of the water, and do not mix water with fresh air. Because of this, valuable carbon dioxide and oxygen stay in the water instead of equilibrating with the air. Also, canister filters don’t provide strong currents, which is ideal for most plants. Connecting a canister filter to an overflow ensure that the water stays crystal clear.

Atlanta Aquascapes

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Protein Skimmers


Protein skimmers come in two basic flavors: counter current and cocurrent. Everything else is somewhere in between. A good skimmer will be as tall as possible, and have the air and water traveling in opposite directions. The volumetric flow rate through a skimmer is determined largely by the size and occupants of the display tank. The diameter of the skimmer is determined by the flow rate. Adding a venturi or a needle wheel may make a skimmer behave closer to a counter current skimmer, but the counter current skimmer always wins. The dirtiest air cleans the dirtiest water and the cleanest air cleans the cleanest water in a counter current skimmer.

If space becomes an issue, then other methods do win out over the counter current skimmer. Namely, downforce skimmers are excellent skimmers in a small package. Also, counter current skimmers require a little foresight when it comes to plumbing your aquarium. Make sure that if plumbing gets clogged or the power goes off that water doesn’t find the floor. Again, the downforce skimmer can be plumbed without these fears with ease.

Downforce skimmers also reportedly remove inorganic compounds from water as well as organic compounds. The violence of mixing air and water may be responsible, which is why other manufacturers try to mimic this effect with needle wheels and venturi. However, neither really approaches the same violence as a downforce skimmer. The major draw back to the downforce skimmer is that it is patented, on fairly simple terms. So, other manufacturers must pay royalties to the original designers. Because of this, downforce skimmers are often very expensive. Also, downforce skimmers should be placed in a sump area with a constant volume to achieve reliable results. This is unfortunate, because integrating a sump, trickle filter, and a downforce skimmer for very specific needs would be very simple; however, it would also be illegal.

Why Skim?

In a fish only tank, skimmers remove organic chemicals and floating debris from the water an an incredible rate. This means that the aquarium can be slightly over stocked without worry.

In a reef aquarium, skimmers make less sense. Often, an owner will feed corals with expensive foods that end up in the skimmer’s collection cup within thirty minutes. Skimmers take life and nutrients out of the tank, the exact opposite of the goal of a reef aquarium. In the oceans, phytoplankton feed on upwelling currents rich in nutrients. These currents often swing by reefs, carrying the phytoplankton and nutrients with them. When the current leaves the reef, very little phytoplankton and nutrients remain. In a sense, the natural role of the reef is to filter the ocean. So, why do people skim reefs, when reefs naturally filter themselves?

The answer is usually overstocking with fish. More fish means more fish food. More fish food means more fish waste. The skimmer removes fish waste with ease. However, a refugium removes fish waste and fish food more quickly than a skimmer, and there is no way to over filter using a refugium. The cost of a refugium is low because aesthetics aren’t important, only function. The refugium essentially turns waste from the display tank into food for the display tank. It can be a great place to cure live rock, introduce new pets to water chemistry, separate injured pets, frag corals, and a million other functions.

The skimmers still has a place in the reef aquarium. A skimmer provides an excellent backup to the refugium. For example, if you rely on macroalgae, then you may need to thin the crop periodically. When you do this, the refugium doesn’t operate at the same level because a chunk of the photosynthetic macroalgae just disappeared. While the refugium adjusts, water quality may drop. If it does, then having a skimmer on hand can avert a disaster. In such cases, I recommend buying a skimmer that turns over the water in the aquarium every hour. This way, the skimmer can be run once a day for brief periods of time to control water quality.

In the freshwater world, skimmers have less use. This is largely due to the fact that skimmers rely on the salts in the water to form a foam. In freshwater, making the foam is difficult, and results suffer. Never the less, many freshwater tanks run skimmers with great success.


Using air enriched with ozone in a skimmer provides a very interesting filter. Ozone increases the reduction-oxidation potential of the water. Think of ozone as the Vitamin C of the aquarium. My favorite setup with ozone turns the water over once a day. This way, ozone concentration is minimal, but oxygen concentrations are still high. Remember, ozone isn’t really present in oceans. Putting ozone in the skimmer means putting oxygen in the aquarium. So, ozone can increase the oxygen levels too much, or worse yet increase ozone concentrations too much. If used properly, skimming with ozone can produce amazing results.

The first step to making ozone is a source of dry air. There are many desiccants available, and some even change color as they absorb water. Once the air is dry, you can make ozone from oxygen in the air. To do so, you can simply arc electricity across the air. A more safer, sophisticated approach is to irradiate the air with UV light. Since air flow rate is important to the skimmer, adjusting the flow of air may not be an option, Instead, you can adjust the amount of ozone in the air by shielding the air from the UV light. Then, you simply need to plumb the ozone to a skimmer than can handle ozone. Test for ozone concentration using pool test kits, or alternatively you could measure the reduction-oxidation potential with a solid state device. Either works fine, and both have pretty major drawbacks. The point here is to slowly increase ozone levels to ensure the safety of your pets.

Atlanta Aquascapes

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On Breeding Guppies

On Breeding Guppies

On Breeding Guppies

If you are reading this, you obviously have an interest in either broadening your knowledge as an avid aquarist, or you may have an interest in actually breeding Guppies. Be that as it may, this is NOT a complete guide caring for and the breeding of Show/Fancy Guppies. It is only intended to give you SOME idea on what is involved. If you have any questions or need help, or if you need information, please feel free to ask.


Before starting off in the EXCITING world of breeding Fancy Guppies, one would need to thoroughly research the WIDE variety of colour strains that are available and contact a reputable breeder for breeding stock. But do not make the mistake that the majority of beginners make by going to a breeder and seeing many beautiful strains you’d like to keep – as explained later, the number of strains you can keep is limited by available tank space so only get the number of strains you can handle. The best would be to get ONE strain you REALLY LIKE, gain some experience and the expand if you wish. Proper preparation for the arrival of your fish is VITAL. Get everything in place and in GOOD running order before getting your first fish to avoid disappointment.

In the next few paragraphs, I will discuss equipment and setup.

“Beginners in this hobby are many times discouraged when they hear about breeders with very elaborate fish rooms, with numbers approaching 200 tanks.”
No elaborate setup is required to raise GOOD Show Guppies. Bare 40L tanks are very practical, but you can also use 20L or 80L tanks – depending on the availability of SPACE. I use 20L tanks for breeding trios (and rest tanks for females after mating and birthing – more later), 40L tanks to birth and grow fry in, and 80L tanks to keep my SHOW fish.
To be successful in raising GOOD Fancy/Show Guppies, one needs 8 to 10 tanks per strain and you’d have to do some serious culling to achieve this…
Remember that each female will drop 30 – 50 fry every 28 – 30 days… if you do not cull you’d grow out of tank space in no time and also you’d end up keeping deformed and undesirable guppies (like some LFS’s sell). I keep a Beautiful community tank and an Angel Species tank, so I release any deformed fry into those tanks, as I’d rather they get eaten by other fish (as they would in the wild) than have to kill them.

Use filters that are inexpensive and easy to clean and maintain – box filters and sponge filters are popular amongst breeders. Box filters are better mechanical filters and should be filled with floss/aquarium wool and weighed down with dolomite and/or marbles. Sponge filters, however, are a favourite with breeders – a simple filter made of sponge with an air lift tube – and is easy to clean. Just squeeze the sponge in warm water once a week – preferably in the tank water during a water change, as the sponge holds bacterial organisms that aid in cleaning and purifying the water.
Remember to clean your filter at LEAST once a fortnight.

The amount of air you need will depend on the number of tanks in your set-up. A good vibrator pump will handle 10 to 15 tanks with no problem. The most efficient way to supply air to your tanks is to run PVC piping with branches off to each tank through flexible airline tubing. This type of system is easy to install and you can probably use a smaller pump than if you run all of your air through flexible tubing.

If you have a lot of tanks, it’s best to use four foot fluorescent ceiling lights, rather than trying to light each tank individually with more expensive hoods. The lights should be kept on for 10-14 hours per day. Lights should be set to go on one hour before the first feeding and off one hour after the past feeding.

“Good, clean water is the most important element for growing large guppies with long, flowing fins.” Remember to first treat your water before adding it to your tank – I use Tetra AquaSafe to break down chemicals used to purify our water. Hardness and pH are not critical as long as they do not suddenly vary over a wide range. Guppies seem to do better if the water is on the hard side. With regard to pH, guppies can handle anything from 6.8 – 7.8 (7.0 is ideal).
Ammonia is the number one fish killer, and is caused by overcrowding, overfeeding, poor water conditions or lack of oxygen in the water. It is especially important to monitor the ammonia level in new setups. The “good” (nitrifying) bacteria that will eliminate ammonia, will take from 2 to 3 weeks to develop – I treat my tanks with SERA NITRIVEC BIO CULTURES for a week to help remove pollutants while maturing my filters BEFORE I add fish to my new tanks. If you find ammonia present, do 20-30% water changes with your teated water as required or run a box filter with ammo-chips in the affected tank. Remember, avoid sudden changes in pH and hardness. Guppies can acclimate to a wide variety of changes, if they are done slowly. It is very important to acclimate the fish slowly to your water to avoid shock. If you don’t, death or disease will follow.

Water changes make or break good show fish and removal of uneaten food and fish waste is an important aspect in the growth cycle by siphoning with any half inch tubing that is about 1m in length. Success in raising show fish is achieved by changing 30-40% of the tank water weekly. I do daily water changes of 10% to reduce stress on the fish. This way the fry grow faster and bigger. Daily water changes also tend to level off the ammonia and pH readings avoiding DIPS and SPIKES.

Guppies like their tank water to be between 25.5-27.8 degrees C, with 26 degrees an ideal temperature. These temperatures can be maintained with individual tank heaters or by using a room heater – depending on the number of tanks number of tanks that you have.

“The first thing to do is to place your newly acquired breeding stock in a clean bowl or specimen tank using the water in which they were shipped. Then every 20-30 minutes add a little water from the aged breeding tank that you previously set up. When the container is 3/4 full, remove about 1/2 the water and replace it with water from the seasoned tank. Do this 2 to 3 times over the period of about an hour. At this point, you can release your guppies into their new permanent breeding tank. Do not be alarmed if your fish hide or act frightened. If the fish seem to be panicky, do not feed them for 24 – 48 hours. If the fish do not seem to be eating, don’t keep adding food. This will quickly foul the water. This is normal and can take up to a week before they are swimming and acting as guppies should. Just remember to have patience . . . the first 3-4 days are critical in getting your new stock established in your tanks.”

Within 4-6 females should be ready to drop fry. It is better to remove the pregnant female to a smaller tank of her own. You can add spawning grass (Najas Guadalupensis is a great option), or new unrolled plastic pot scrubbers to the tank to give the newly born fry a safe place to hide from the mother. Another method commonly used is to place the female in a large breeder trap (I hate this as it stresses the female and seems a bit unnatural) in a 40 litre tank to give the fry more room to grow. Many breeders keep their fry in small tanks for the first few weeks. The theory is that when you feed these young fish they are surrounded by food instead of having to go searching for it. Remember to keep the expectant female well fed – I feed mine brine shrimp and some blood worm – during this period. This will reduce the chance of cannibalism. After the fry are born, remove the female and place her back with the male – but I prefer to let her rest in a tank with only females for a couple of days, as the male will immediately start chasing her to mate. This prevents further undue stress.

Birth- 6 Weeks: Guppy fry should receive a steady diet of newly hatched brine. It is also a good idea to put a tablespoon of aquarium salt in the tank, 1T / 20L. This acts as a tonic for the fish and will also keep the brine shrimp alive longer. After the first two days you can begin adding some dry food to their diet. Any good quality flake food is acceptable, but I prefer to use DARO Baby Fish Food for livebearers – remember to surround the fry with a “cloud” of food, smaller amounts more frequently and siphon any uneaten food regularly.

6 Weeks- Adult: Feeding properly with a balanced diet is very important to raising good fish. A balanced diet must be offered in order to meet all the nutritional needs of the fish. As the first 3 months are the most important time in a Fancy Guppy’s life, failing to provide good nutrition will result in disappointment. Feed small amounts regularly – up to 6 or 8 times a day. Vary dry and live/frozen foods in order to provide nutritional balance. “Meat, fish, vegetables and cereal provide vitamins, minerals and high amounts of protein that are needed in a complete and balanced diet.” It is important to supply good quality foods and not try to save money on cheap meals – as we say in Afrikaans – “Goed koop is duur koop”. Feed only the best foods containing shrimp, fish and meat meal as good protein sources AND Spirulina, algae or spinach for the vegetable protein they need – and the results will be the reward. Baby brine shrimp and micro worms are excellent foods for Guppies. Try Baby brine shrimp as a first meal (remember – an hour AFTER lights ON), a variety of dry/flake foods during the day and Baby Brine shrimp or micro worms at night (remember – an hour before lights OUT).

“Hatching brine shrimp eggs can be accomplished in several ways. You can use gallon jars or inverted two liter plastic soda bottles with the bottom cut out. Both work just fine. . .your choice will depend on the number of fish you have to feed. Or there are several small manufactured hatchers available. As for hatching the eggs, follow the label instructions for each brand, experimenting with different amounts of salt and eggs. One method that works is to use a teaspoon (or amount required) of eggs in a solution of two tablespoons of kosher salt in two liters of water. Keep the hatching solution at 80 degrees with strong aeration, and in 24-36 hours you should have a hatch. Don’t use an air stone because the tiny bubbles will throw the eggs out of the water only to dry on the sides of the bottle. At this point, shut off the air and wait about 15 minutes. This causes the empty shells to float to the top of the container, while the live shrimp collects hear the bottom. Placing a light near the bottom will assure that all shrimp collect there. Use a length of rigid plastic tubing attached to air-line tubing to reach down to the bottom of the container where the shrimps collect. From this point you siphon the shrimp through a brine shrimp net, rinse with fresh water and feed to your fish. If you are feeding a number of tanks, put the shrimp into a container of fresh water. You can now feed with an oven baster, ear syringe or spoon.”

REMEMBER – a couple (6 – 8) of small meals a day of which meals 2 should be live or frozen foods. Don’t overfeed siphon the tank bottom to clear uneaten foods. I also keep Pakistani Loaches and Kuhli Loaches in my adult tanks to clean up uneaten food. Your reward will be in YOUR RESULTS.

“When you buy a trio of two females and one male, you can establish two parallel lines. Keep the young from each female separated. These young are half brothers and sisters. After a few generations, there will be sufficient difference between the two lines so that you can cross the two lines to keep your strain strong. Every guppy breeder needs to learn how to pick fish in order to breed and raise good fish. Leaving all the fish together to breed causes rapid deterioration of the strain. The smaller, more active males impregnate the females first. At about three to six weeks, the time has come to separate males from the females. At this age you can recognize the females by the appearance of the gravid spot. Males will not show any darkness in the gravid area. If not already done, cull all deformed and weak fish too. Furthermore, do not keep more than 10-20 young in a 40 litre tank. At two months, the tank should contain no more than one fish per 4L to get maximum growth. Maximum growth also requires you to maintain a proper feeding schedule, and whatever tank maintenance that is necessary. The age for picking breeders or show guppies will depend on the rate of maturity of the particular strain you are working with. Some strains grow quicker than others. For example, reds, greens and blues grow rapidly and can be selected at 3 months. On the other hand, albinos, yellows and pastel colored guppies will require that you wait for 4 to 5 months, since they mature very slowly.”

Once you “know your strain” it is easy to make your selection.


1) The largest males with the THICKEST caudal peduncles (to support large tails) should be chosen.

2) Choose a wide, triangular caudal shape. Dorsal Fins should be elongated like smooth edged parallelogram.

3) Choose fish with matching caudal and dorsal fins.

4) Any fish with crooked backs, flat heads or poor colour intensity should be eliminated.

By using these steps, you’ll be guaranteed the BEST breeding stock. Remember – Don’t overcrowd your tanks – only 1 fish per 4L.

Select and breed with females at 2 to 4 months of age.


1) To ensure females that throw best SHOW MALES, pick the babes with best booties – the largest females with the thickest caudals.

2) Select the females with the largest and widest caudals with matcing dorsal fins.

3) Choose females that show the best or desired colour.

Place your best male and best 2 females in a 20L tank – a smaller tank allows the male to catch the females easily. Some breeders prefer several males to several females, but if you use ONE male it is easier to monitor the desired characteristics. If the females do not become pregnant in two months, replace the male with another male (brother).

Your best bet would be to buy a good strain from a reputable breeder. Avoid pet shop guppies. They’re a waste of time and money… Buy a trio – one male and two females.

3 techniques used in Guppy Breeding:

INBREEDING: Mating close relatives such as brother to sister, mother to son, father to daughter, etc. I prefer not to use this method.

LINE BREEDING: Breeding two separate lines branching from the original trio with eventual backcrossing or the breeding of distant relatives such as half siblings, cousins to cousins, etc.

OUT CROSSING: Mating two different pure strains which are compatible. This could mean fish of the same color that are obtained from two different breeders.

One of the most important disciplines needed when working with any livestock is to keep good records. You should be able to tell where the fish came from and what they produced several generations back. Keeping records now will be useful in future generations. Record keeping is simple and helps to keep track of the progress of a particular strain. For each drop you should keep track of the number of young, the number of males/females, how may culls, etc. This way, you will know which fish throws the show guppies that you want. Accurate records will allow you to trace back through generations to see what steps you took to achieve your ultimate goal.”

If you keep your water clean and do not overcrowd your fish, disease will not be a problem.

As mentioned in part one, this is NOT intended to be a COMPLETE GUIDE in breeding Fancy/Show Guppies, but rather intended to give you an idea on what is involved in this very rewarding hobby. These are general guidelines that could set one off in the right direction if inclined to get started in Breeding Fancy Guppies – or to just give the general pubic an idea of what is involved – and hopefully create an awareness on the intricate needs for Keeping and Caring for these little pleasures. A good Fancy Guppy is truly a pleasure to behold and breeding them is a hobby with RESULT-AS-REWARD.

Should anybody need to know more, please feel free to contact me.

ALSO: feedback is always appreciated. So tell me what you think of this article. I’d like to hear from you.

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A Question of Substrate

A few people have asked me what I use as a substrate in my plant tanks, and what is the best substrate for healthy plant growth. After trying a few different options and seeing how other people grow their plants I’ve come to the conclusion that just about anything will do. It comes down to taste, the type of fish kept in the tank, availability, cost, and the amount of maintenance required.

In an aquarium there really isn’t much water circulation through the substrate unless we use undergravel filters or substrate heating. It is this circulation that keeps the soil aerated. Without it, the soil could run out of oxygen (become anaerobic) and turn black. Organic debris decomposing in this environment would ferment and release hydrogen sulfide (that noxious rotten egg smell). This is just what we don’t want happening in our tanks. And so we can not use just any natural substrate for our aquarium plants. In nature aquatic plants grow in gravel, sand, clay, and a mixture of roots and decomposing matter. But let’s assume we don’t have any substrate circulation in our aquaria. In such a situation, very fine sand and a mixture of roots and decomposing matter will definitely go anaerobic. Clay isn’t a good choice either because any water movement near the bottom would stir it up or cloud the water, although clay can be used if it is topped with a layer of sand or gravel. This leaves us with different grades of sand and gravel.

Now that we have narrowed our choices, what should one use? First, one must make sure that the material won’t react with the water. It must not dissolve or leach anything. A few drops of vinegar or lemon juice will indicate if the material contains a carbonate by producing bubbles. Carbonates should not be used because they dissolve and make the water hard and alkaline (fine for East African and Central American cichlids, but not the best for plants). Also, the material should not have sharp edges as these are abrasive to fish, plant roots, and the aquarist’s hands.

Secondly, one has to decide what grade of sand or gravel to use. Horst and Kipper (1986) recommend using gravel 2 mm to 3 mm in diameter. Scheurmann (1985) recommends using sand 1 mm to 2 mm in diameter. From personal experience, I’ve had success with both sand (mixed grade ranging from less than 1 mm to 2 mm diameter) and red flint of 2 mm to 4 mm in diameter. Some club members are very successful using gravel with grain sizes of 5 mm and larger. I find that roots grow finer and more extensively when sand is used. One thing to avoid for sure is sand with grains consistently in the 1 mm and less range. Such sand tends to compact and prevents roots from growing; it also becomes anaerobic very easily.

For aquarium purposes, sand and gravel differ in many ways beside their relative grain size. Here I will define sand as having grain sizes of 2 mm and smaller and gravel as having grains 2 mm and larger. When added to water the two behave differently. Sand packs together and stays soft if the majority of the grains are on the larger side, or packs solidly if the majority of the grains are on the smaller side. Gravel, on the other hand, stays loose with gaps between the grains. The larger the grain size, the larger the gap size.

When it comes to setting up, sand demands some special attention and creativity. It holds more dust when dry, so it takes longer to wash. A standard undergravel filter won’t work with sand, and perish the thought of sand being sucked by a powerhead! I have read on the Internet of an aquarist who wrapped fabric on the undergravel filter plates and used it successfully, though reverse flow may be out of the question. As for powerheads, just keep the intakes a few centimeters higher than the sand surface. A stone under the intake will keep sand from being sucked in. If you hear grinding noises from the powerhead, dismantle it and clean it thoroughly. Sand in powerheads is not necessarily fatal, but you don’t want it going on for any length of time.

Cleaning the aquarium is easier with sand. Because sand packs fairly tightly, debris stays on top of it. Therefore it is not necessary to “vacuum” sand as one would do with gravel. A quick pass with a siphon hose is enough to suck up the debris with a little sand. When finished, just wash whatever sand was sucked out and put it back in the aquarium.

Setting up with gravel is straight forward, and gravel is less likely to get sucked into filter intakes. With the larger sizes of gravel, vacuuming becomes important. All those gaps between the grains will fill up with debris and the substrate could become anaerobic. Plants with heavy root growth will help here, but one must make sure that open areas are clean of debris. Don’t vacuum too much around plants as the debris provides nutrition to them.

Sand is available at aquarium shops and as a construction material from hardware and landscaping stores. The selection is not great. The most common is a smooth quartz sand, beige in color, with wildly varying grain sizes (from dust to just over 2 mm). I have also seen for sale a white carbonate sand, which is not suitable for our purposes here. The effect of the lighter color of sand on the fishes’ colors can be offset by heavy planting and a dark background. Sand is very cheap at hardware and landscaping stores. A 25 kg bag of “play sand” (enough for two 15-gallon tanks) costs less than $3.00. Unfortunately you never know what variation in grain sizes you will end up with (lately it has been too fine). Sandblasting sand is more expensive, but the grain size should be more consistent.

Gravel is much more diverse in its availability. It comes in all colors of the rainbow, black, white, and anything in between. Some types of gravel are smooth, others look like broken glass. I’ve had some black gravel that was actually clear gravel with a black coating that would wear off slowly. Look for something that has a natural look to it and is not too coarse. Darker gravel makes fish look darker and more colorful. The flip side of gravel is its cost. Most of it is only available in smaller quantities at aquarium stores, so costs are higher. Natural gravel is available at construction supply stores at more reasonable prices, but you could end up with a mixture of rock types, some being carbonates.

When it comes to fish, any fish that burrows or eats from the bottom will love sand. Eels, loaches, and whip-tailed or banjo catfishes will bury themselves in sand. Corydoras will dig in it most of the day and their barbels will stay in great shape. It is advisable to have fish that will sift the sand because the top layer may develop a film of algae and become encrusted; constant sifting will keep the sand loose. Other fish don’t seem to care if the bottom is sand or gravel.

Bottom-dwelling fish that come from areas with strong currents prefer gravel or even rocks. Burrowing fish won’t do as well in gravel, especially if it is coarse or has sharp edges. I’ve seen Corydoras without lips, much less barbels, in tanks with round-grained gravel but with a coarse texture.

For the record, I have used red flint in my tanks and had an underwater jungle growing in my 60-liter tank. I liked the color and texture of the gravel, but not the price. I used sand when I set up my large tank and now I will not go back to gravel. All my tanks have sand in them now. I like the look and price of sand, and most importantly my plants and fish are thriving.

In conclusion, the choice of substrate is really yours to make. This article hopefully provided you with some useful information. I will discuss substrate additives and water circulation in future articles.

Horst, Kaspar, & Kipper, Horst E. (1986). The Optimum Aquarium. Bielefeld, Germany: AD aquadocumenta Verlag GmbH.

Scheurmann, Ines. (1985). The New Aquarium Handbook. Woodbury, NY: Barron’s Educational Series Inc.transvaginal mesh lawyer

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Activated Carbon in the Aquarium

Just what is activated carbon?
What is the best kind to buy?
How long does it last?
Should I use it in my aquarium?

These are some of the questions I will attempt to answer.
Activated carbon is carbon that has been treated with oxygen in order to open up millions of tiny pores between the carbon atoms. It can have anywhere from 300 to 2,000 square meters of surface area per gram, or 116 to 750 square feet per ounce. Activated carbon absorbs various substances, from gases and liquids. By absorb, I mean attaching to the pores by chemical reaction. When certain chemicals pass next to the carbon surface, they attach to that surface and are trapped.

Carbon can be made from animal, mineral, or plant-based materials such as bituminous coal, lignite coal, various woods, coconut shells, peat, and animal bones. The types of activated carbon include granular, pelletized, and powdered. It can be acid washed or non-acid washed.

Activated carbons are also used in liquid, gas, and air filtering. Many of the home water-filtering systems use activated carbon. It is an effective means of removing dissolved organic compounds (DOC’s) from the aquarium. Activated carbons made from bituminous coal are the most effective for aquarium use. They contain a wide range of pore sizes, enabling it to remove a wide range of organic pollutants. Coconut-shell carbon, on the other hand, has a large surface area but very small pores and many of the organic compounds are too large to fit. This type of carbon is primarily designed for gas filtering. Lignite coal produces carbons with the opposite problem. Their pores are large enough for common organic molecules but has a reduced total surface area. It can be used, but you will need a lot more carbon to remove the same amount of organic material than carbon made from bituminous coal.

Do not buy a carbon just based on surface area claims. Read the label and determine the type of base material. If the package doesn’t state the base material, e-mail or call the manufacturer.

Here are some general guidelines I picked up from somewhere, (can’t remember where exactly to give him credit) that can help you select the best carbon for the job.

* If the label gives key specifications (porosity, density, ash, and phosphate content) then the supplier likely has nothing to hide and the carbon is likely a good one.
* If the carbon boasts no phosphate, then the supplier is either lying or doesn’t know any better. Neither is very reassuring.
* Compare weight and volume. The less weight for a given volume, the greater the porosity and the better the carbon, all-else being equal. You can usually do this without buying the product first. After buying the product, this parameter will be reflected by the carbon’s ability to float and fizz.
* Some physical characteristics that should be evident before buying should be considered. Particle size should be about pinhead. Powdered carbons offer no real advantage and are difficult to handle. Large particle sizes become impenetrable by water and so only the outer 1-2 mm of the particles are absorbent, making as little as 20% of the carbon useful. Spherical shape is ideal hydro-dynamically for unimpeded water flow and inability to pack, and is therefore superior to random granular shapes.

The use of activated carbon can increase phosphate levels in the aquarium. These increased levels can lead to algae growth. All carbons are organic in source, therefore rich in phosphates. Acid-washed carbons will leach less phosphate than others and are usually more expensive, since they have had much of their ash and phosphate washed out. Ash is important because it is responsible for “pH shock”. Some carbons can increase pH to over 10 in a very short time. An acid-washed carbon will barely increase pH to 7 over several days. Carbons that do not alter pH are usually the same carbons that will not leach much phosphate.

All carbons should be rinsed well before being placed in the filter system. A yellowish tint in your water can indicate the need for carbon replacement. It can lose a large percentage of its effectiveness in two to four weeks. Organic materials and bacterial slime coat the surface blocking access to the inner pores. Rinsing the carbon between changes can extend its useful life.

As a general rule of thumb, it is better to use less carbon and change it more often. The amount I hear most often is roughly 100 ml per 30 gallons with monthly changes. Another general rule is, the lighter the weight of the carbon for a given volume, the better.

When treating fish with medications, the carbon should be removed from the filter. After treatment, the carbon can be put back in to help remove the medications although water changes should be performed in addition. I would recommend changing the carbon a week to two weeks after you have used it to remove medications.

The use of activated carbon with live plants is greatly debated. Generally, planted-tank aquarists do not use activated carbon for fear of losing trace elements needed by the plants.

The following can help give you an idea of what compounds can be removed by the use of activated carbon.

Absorption Potential of Various Substances by Activated Carbon

High to very good
Arsenic, bleach, chloramine, chlorine, chromium, colors, dyes, gold, insecticide, odors, monochloramine, tin

Good to Moderate
Acetic acid, cobalt, detergent, hydrogen sulfide, mercury, ozone, potassium, silver, soap, solvents, vinegar

Copper, iron (not chelated), lead nickel, titanium, vanadium

Low to None
Alkalinity, ammonia, barium, carbon dioxide, hardness, copper, manganese, nitrates, selenium, molybdenum, zinc.

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Tropical Fish And Its Aquarium Maintenance

Tropical fish includes fish around the world living in tropical environments including salt water and fresh water species. They are popular fish in aquariums because of their bright colors. Tropical also refers to tropical climate wherein the climate is warm or moist all throughout the year integrated by abundant vegetation.

Aquarium is an enclosed clear-sided container made of high strength plastic or constructed glass for keeping or raising animals and plants for research and observation. The ecosystem of the species is copied on smaller scale controlling environmental factors.

Tropical fish being put in the aquarium should be properly taken care of by regular monitoring of the fish and aquarium conditions by checking the waters for bacteria, parasite or fungi occurrences. There are ways on how to determine if the tropical fish are sick.

-Fish scales inspection. Examine for any discoloration, growths or wounds. Scales that is missing is a fighting indication.

-Observation of the fish respiratory rates. Slower or faster rate than normal is a sign of problem.

-Fish eyes clarity checking. Blood or cloudiness should not be present.

-Observation of the fish abnormal behavior such as unusual swimming pattern or sluggishness.

-Veterinarian consultation for any fish abnormalities being observed

Aquarium serves as the new habitat of your tropical fish so it should be maintained regularly. The procedures are easy protecting the fish and plants lives.

-Regular checking of the tank to ensure that dying or dead fish is not present.

-Observation of all the fish individually for behavioral patterns familiarization so that it is easier to determine a sick fish in the future.

-Feed your fish with one-day intervals using diet variations.

-Replace the evaporated water on the tank with dechlorinated water.

-Once a week, removed 5 to 10 percent of the tank water replacing it fresh dechlorinated water. Unwanted chemicals in the tank are diluted helping the tanks internal environment similar to tap water.

-Algae scraping from the walls of the tank done once a week.

-Filter pads checking every two weeks cleaning or replacing them if necessary.

-Water testing done every two weeks. Water change is done after one day.

-Ammonia, nitrate, pH levels or nitrite checking done every two weeks.

-Drain off the debris from the gravel done once a month.

Always keep track the chemical contents of your aquarium and schedule maintenance.

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Filtering Out the Myth of Aquarium Filters

There are three main types of filtration: biological, mechanical and chemical. Mechanical filters aid in the physical removal of solid particles. Chemical filters purify the water by chemical reactions that take place at the cellular, microbial, and atomic levels. In most cases, it is best to incorporate all three types for optimum results. Biological filters encourage the growth of nitrifying bacteria that breakdown ammonia to less toxic chemicals. This breakdown process by the bacteria is known as the Nitrogen Cycle.

Mechanical Filtration

Removal of solid particles is done by mechanical filtration. This type of filter provides a means of removing free-floating waste such as uneaten food before it has a chance to decay. The debris is removed by means of a filter material such as sponges and floss. For a mechanical filter to be effective, the filter medium needs to be replaced every 2-4 weeks. If the medium is not changed, waste can still decay on the filter material.

Chemical Filtratio

Chemical filtration removes dissolved wastes. The most common type of chemical filtration is activated carbon Activated carbon pulls dissolved organics from the water by adsorbing them. A granular material usually produced by roasting and then steam-treating cellulose based substances, such as wood or coconut shells, The steaming process makes the carbon extremely porous. Porous substances have extensive surface area. As the water passes over carbon, the carbon chemically attracts pollutants that adhere to the surface of the carbon. Since carbon works by chemically attracting pollutants to its surface, once the surface area is covered with dissolved organics, the carbon is exhausted and must be replaced. The spent carbon should be replaced every 2-4 weeks.

Biological Filtration

In the Nitrogen Cycle, waste products generated by fish and invertebrates, along with any dead organisms or uneaten foods, are broken down by bacteria into ammonia. Ammonia is extremely toxic to all of the aquarium inhabitants and is broken down into nitrites by the aerobic bacteria Nitrosomonas. Although nitrites are not as toxic as ammonia, even at low concentrations in the aquarium, they can still be harmful to fish and invertebrates. Other aerobic bacteria called Nitrobacter, act in a similar way as Nitrosomonas and further breaks down nitrites into relatively harmless nitrates. Nitrates, at low to moderate levels, will not harm most fish or invertebrates. At high levels, nitrate can be the source of algae problems, cause kidney, liver and eye problems for your fish, as well as suppress their appetite and prevent their gills from absorbing oxygen from the water if not controlled by chemical filtration and partial water changes. The main ingredients for an abundance of aerobic bacteria in a biological filter are surface area and oxygen. There must be a sufficient surface area for a these aerobic bacteria to grow and their need for oxygen must be met. The capacity of a biological filter is determined by the available surface area for bacterial growth and the oxygen content of the water passing over them. Not all filters have the same capacity when it comes to biological filtration. Filters in which the biological media is exposed to the air are going to have the greatest capacity. When is comes to aquarium supply, do your research and choose carefully.

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Filtration: Necessary process to poison free aquarium water

In order to have poison free aquarium water, filtration process is a very important to aquarist. Since most aquarists are aware of the fact that their aquarium water gradually accumulates potentially harmful substances, which eventually poison their fishes. In order to prevent this from happening there is need for filtration therefore, for our purpose I would define filtration as the removal of unwanted substances from water.

Most aquarist uses three types: Biological, mechanical, and chemical amongst which the biological is the most important.

Biological filtration is also referred to as undergravel filtration, because the major equipment used (a flat plate of perforated plastic) is placed under the gravel bed hence it is invisible. Unless you are properly equipped, you can’t see the process happening and cannot measure its effect. Yet this process is the major difference between success and failure, and the aquarist who does not take the time to understand it workings is doomed to watch an endless procession of dying fishes passing through his tank.

Biological filtration is solely the work of bacteria attached to the surfaces of the gravel, the grave and the under grave filter together constitute the filter bed. Bacteria normally reach the filter bed through the food you give the fishes.

The waste product of the fishes, the air, and even through your hands as you works in the tank.

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As the water ages, their numbers increase until the gravel is loaded with millions of them. It is only then that the aquarium can function very well, because the wastes of the fishes and unwanted substances mainly ammonia are immediately broken down by those bacteria into harmless substances while at the same time the filtration action drags organic matter downwards into the spaces between the gravel’s where the roots of plants can then extract essential growth substances hence the undergravel filter promotes healthy plants growth.

Mechanical filtration is the physical removal of debris, waste products, uneaten food, dead fish or plants. They use a filter medium such as foam, filter wool or sand/gravel to trap particles which are removed by later cleaning of the medium.

Chemical filtration changes the composition of some substances in the aquarium. Ammonia absorbers, such as Ammogon tm help prevent problems when water aging is done chemically (treatment with chloramines releases free ammonia). Other “chemical” filtration includes ion exchangers which reduce either carbonate or sulphur hardness.
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Aeration: – essential factor to aquarium fish

As we all know rivers and lakes are the natural habits for fish and other marines. Rivers and lakes have large surface area which makes maximum provision of oxygen for fish survival possible. On the other hand aquarium is not like river or lake, it has a smaller surface area and there is limited movement of habitats.

This makes provision of alternative means of oxygen for fish to breathe important. This artificial process of providing oxygen is called aeration. It’s a simple process of re-oxygenating the water in aquarium tank.

The Aerating System:

This is the series of material that increases the supply of air (thereby increasing oxygen concentration) they are:
the air pump
rubber tubing
clamp or regulator
diffusers or airstone

Air pumps come in different shapes and sizes but the most popular ones are tecax air pump from Taiwan together with ‘dyna free, and the dragon’ another popular one is super 555 from India though cheaper, but not as rugged. Occasionally available are the more expensive whisper and rens air pumps from Uk and rance respectively. Always place air pumps above the water level hooked to a non-vibrating material.

You can accomplish aeration in your aquarium tank by using the above listed aeration materials. This materials form aeration system. For small tanks all you need is to attach simple aquarium air pump to airstone by means of rubber air tube. The system will be blowing air into the water which cause motion in aquarium tank and thus provide necessary oxygen your fish needs to breathe in aquarium.
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How To Keep Your Aquarium Clean

No one likes living in a dirty, stuffy house. Thank goodness a little dirt is not hazardous to our health. The same cannot be said for our aquatic friends. Most fish and invertebrates are unable to adapt to changes in water chemistry that result from increased bacteria, waste, and chemicals. Proper filtration can preserve the overall health of the aquarium and maintain its beauty.

Three types of filtration exist on the market – biological, mechanical, and chemical. Varying experts will assert that you must utilize all three in your tank. For a marine aquarium with a reef environment, that may be good advice. There is no definitive answer on what combination is suitable for your aquatic environment. Educating yourself on the functions of all three will enable you to pick the filter(s) that will safeguard your fish and invertebrates’ natural habitat.

Biological Filtration
Biological filters are a must for every aquarium. They stimulate the growth of nitrifying bacteria that breaks down harmful ammonia to less toxic chemicals such as nitrate. It sounds simple enough, but how this is accomplished is quite impressive. A widespread method of producing these beneficial bacteria is adding fish to the aquarium. The bacteria, which ride on the fish, drop off and spread throughout the tank and grow. This also leads to increased amounts of dangerous ammonia, so it is important to add fish gradually. It can take several months to establish this cyclical process.

Aquarist believed that they had an easier, quicker solution in under gravel filters and crushed coral. Along with the water, detritus and junk was pulled through the crushed coral, which clogged the filter bed. Some fish enthusiasts have gladly replaced these under gravel filters with biofilters such as canister filters, trickle filters, bio wheels, fluidized bed filters, or sponge filters. These devices incorporate other methods of filtration making them even more useful. Other aquarists opt for the natural route to biological filtration using a mixture of live sand and crushed coral as the tank’s substrate.

Mechanical Filtration
Mechanical filters use a more direct approach to remove particulate matter before it decomposes and adds to the ammonia load. These filters are the most versatile since they can be used in most filtration devices. The key to their efficiency is regular cleaning. Otherwise, waste can accumulate and your effort is in vain. Aquarium owners must always be mindful of the flow rate of their device, which is automatically set to manufacturer’s standards. A reduced flow can lead to an unclean filter (or vice versa) and adversely affects the health of the entire aquarium.

There are a variety of mechanical filters on the market, each with its own advantages. The power filters’ low price, ease of use, and maintenance makes it the most popular of all mechanical filtration devices. These quiet devices can also be used for chemical and biological filtration.

Canister filters are equally as versatile. These large-capacity filters, which run on their own pumps, can be used for mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. Many aquarists prefer the hang-on-tank canister filters to promote water quality, but there are a large variety of canisters styles available.

Wet/Dry filters, also known as trickle filters or bio-towers, are more suitable for fish-only tanks than reef systems. This is due to the biomaterial inside the filter’s wet/dry chamber that becomes dirty and results in a buildup of harmful nitrates.

Internal filters are a great option for smaller tanks. Their compact and simple design makes them easy to operate. As the name suggests, the filter runs within the aquarium and is powered by a small water pump, or air pump.

Protein skimming/foam fractionation is not mandatory, but it is a trusted method of maintaining water quality. Dissolved proteins linger to air bubbles and form protein foam. Protein skimming pumps the air bubbles through a small columnar removing the dissolved proteins from the tank.

Chemical Filtration
Particles are not the only thing floating in your aquarium’s water. Copper, ammonia, and phosphates also threaten the stability of your tank’s environment. Chemical filtration utilizes chemically enhanced products to treat the water. Activated carbon is the leading medium used. Others such as calcium hydroxide, zeolite, and even peat moss work as well.

Protein skimming, Power, Canister, and Internal filters are some of the most common filtration devices used for chemical treatment. Of course these double for mechanical filtration devices as well. Trickle filters are a popular choice amongst saltwater aquarium owners. The water is first drawn from the tank. Then, it is siphoned through the mechanical, biological, chemical, and auxiliary filters. Finally, it placed back into the aquarium.

To target specific chemicals, look to Reactors. Water is drawn through a canister-type chamber where it meets the chemical media. For even more effective filtration, they can be run pressurized.

The methods of keeping your aquarium’s waters clean are numerous. Using biological filters as a base, there is a wealth of combinations that you can build upon to create a healthy environment for your pets.

Copyright 2006
Reef Saltwateraquarium

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