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.

More on Aquariums at:
Salt Water Aquarium.com

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.
If you would like more articles on Aquariums, and Aquarium fish…come visit my new blog:
All Glass Aquarium

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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.
If you would like more articles on Aquariums, and Aquarium fish…come visit my new blog:
Fresh Water Aquarium работа в стерлитамаке водитель и вакансии

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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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Is Your Aquarium Balanced?

The world as we know it is in balance. Animals breathe in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. Plant absorbs carbon dioxide and give off oxygen as part of there process of photosynthesis. Animals eat plants and animals wastes, feed plants. Water evaporated from the seas and come back to freshen the earth.

The absolute balance of an aquarium world is not usually possible for a beginner. Usually the fish give off more waste matter (both in gas and solids) than the plant life can absorb. And plants almost never provide sufficient food for fish life in an aquarium tank (the things that the aquarium keeper must provide to maintain plant life). But too much encourages the excess growth of algae, causing green water and green-coated tank walls.

Below are the 4 things you as an aquarium keeper must learn to balance:


It must be a balance of vegetable and animal matter. The reason is that insufficient food stunts the growth and lowers the resistance of fish to disease. On the flip side too much food can also harm the fish by polluting the aquarium.

Size of tank:

The tank must be larger enough to provide space according to the number and size of the fish. It mustalso have sufficient surface so that oxygen can be absorbed to satisfy them.


This poses no problem for us in this part of the world as the range of 24 degree centigrade to 30 obtainable here is most ideal for tropical fish.


One or two inches of sand gravel is all that is required to anchor plants. However be carefull because too much gravel accumulates waste matter that tends to pollute the aquarium.

Master balancing these 4 elements of your aquarium and your tank will look great and your fish will live a long happy life!

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How to Completely Reseal Your Glass Tank

(Kudos to gooyferret on AquariumAdvice.com, I borrowed a lot of information from his posting on how to fix a leaky tank.)

Before you start – these directions only work on glass tanks! If your tank is acrylic, stop reading now!

What you will need/want to have before beginning:

1. Bottle or tube of 100% silicone, your able to pick these up either at your local HD, LFS, or your nearest Home Improvement Center. Make sure your silicone doesn’t have any antifungicides or other additives – they can kill your fish! If you’re doing a large tank, get at least two tubes – you can always return the extra. Better to have too much on hand than not enough – I used just over two tubes for a 125 gallon tank.
Note: I got tubes of 100% silicone marked “aquarium safe” by DAP for $2.97 each.
2. Razor Blades (caution very sharp). I also recommend getting one of those metal holders that grips the razor blade for ease of use.
3. Bottle of Rubbing Alchohol, a shot glass, and cotton swabs or paper towels.
4. Mineral Spirits (This is to clean your hands and tools later!)
5. Pliers (These are handy to get that last little big of silicone out of the tube.)

Note: When you get to step 3 below, it will be a lot easier if you have a
friend to help!

What to do:

1. If the tank isn’t already empty and dry, empty it and let it dry! Use your razor blade to remove all of the old silicone from the glass. Try to get as much as you can out from in between the pieces of glass as well. Use a vacuum to periodically suck up the pieces of silicone you’ve carved away from the glass so you can see what’s still attached.

2. When you think you’ve removed all the silicone and the tank is clean, dampen a cotton swab or paper towel with rubbing alcohol and run it along the corners with your finger. You should be able to “feel” the sticky spots on the glass where a little bit of silicone remains. Go around the tank 3-4 times cleaning off any remaining silicone with alcohol and a razor blade, letting it dry after each cleaning. When you are satisfied that all of the old silicone is gone, let the tank dry completely and go on to the next step.

3. You are now ready to apply the fresh coat of silicone. Before you start, fill a small glass (shot glasses work great) about halfway with rubbing alcohol. Silicone dries quickly so you’ll need to be very efficient, especially if you’re working on a large tank. Set your rubbing alcohol in the tank (I worked with the tank standing up), and cut the nozzle on your silicone tube.

Note: For my second coat, I
had a buddy apply the silicone while I followed with rubbing alcohol and my
finger. It went a LOT smoother
using this method, I highly recommend it!

4. Working alone: Squeeze your silicone bead along an entire edge of the tank, and don’t be stingy! If you’re working alone: when you’ve finished applying the silicone to an edge, dip your finger in the rubbing alcohol and smooth the entire edge making sure there are no air bubbles. Wipe your hands (mostly) clean with a paper towel and move on to the next edge, covering them all in the same manner.

5. With a friend: Have your friend apply the silicone bead to each corner where pieces of glass meet. You’ll stay out of each other’s way if you do the entire bottom first, then hit the corners. As your friend applies the silicone, follow behind and smooth it with your finger. Dipping your finger in rubbing alcohol will make it glide over the silicone more smoothly – you get a better “feel” for the silicone that way.

6. When you’re finished, you should have a nice even bead where all of the pieces of glass join. Use mineral spirits and paper towels to get all the silicone off your hands, then follow up with soap.

7. Let the tank dry for at least 48 hours, then use a razor blade to clean up any spills on your glass. The extra silicone should peel off of flat surfaces fairly easily… you’re probably a silicone removal expert by now!

8. Perform a leak/bubble check in your laundry room or outside. Start by putting about 2” of water in the tank. Do a walk around (or just look carefully… mine’s a big tank) and look for air bubbles in the silicone. I found one bubble in mine. To fix it I removed about 2” to either side, then patched it with leftover silicone. If there are no bubbles in your base, fill the tank all the way and look for bubbles in the corners.

9. If you’re going to do a second coat just to be safe, now is the time. Repeat steps 1-7. If you apply the silicone thick enough the first time, a second coat should be unnecessary.

Good luck on your project! dissertationhero, be enjoying.

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