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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fish Master!

A few people commented about the aquarium photo I posted yesterday. That is not a tank I own. It is just a photo of an Aquapod 12 gallon cube. There are a few companies that make these cubes. Oceanic makes the Bio Cubes, JBJ makes Nano Cubes, Currnet USA makes the Aquapods, and Red Sea makes the Max. They all have a few things in common. They are all in one units. The filters are hidden behind a false back. Most of them feature an overflow that skims the surface water, which then goes through mechanical, chemical, and biological filters - then the water is returned to the display tank. You can hide all the equipment you add behind the false back. So nothing is in the tank.

They are all good for saltwater or freshwater setups. For freshwater the cubes are good to go out of the box. Plenty of light for anything you might want to do. For saltwater you may have to go with an upgraded aquarium from or Both of these places upgrade the lighting (even adding HQI halide lights), adding additional controls so that each light can be turned on or off independently, fixes so that the LED night lights can be put on timers, chillers in case the heat from additional lights cause problems, and so on.

But you do not need any of that stuff if you are not going to get into high light requirement livestock - like stony corals, "giant clams", sea anemones, and so on. If you do not plan to keep any of those things, then the stock light is fine.

I am looking at the 8 - 12 gallon cubes. Maybe. I just do not know yet. It is tempting, but no. Maybe later. Not now.

Are they easy to maintain? Yes and no. The important thing with aquariums is to go SSSSSLLLLLOOOOOWWWWWW. Most problems are from people trying to cut corners. For saltwater this goes double. So here is my short "how to" guide for freshwater and saltwater.

1. Start off by buying your salt water from a fish store. If you mix your own start with reverse osmosis / deionized and/or distilled water. DO NOT collect ocean water from the beach. If you collect your own water, you need to go far enough offshore to get beyond the land pollution and go deep. I would not bother collecting any water from less than 200 - 400 feet deep.
2. Decide what you want to keep. This will determine what kind of lights you need.
3. Dump the bio balls that come with the tanks in the garbage. Live rock and a deep sand bed (at least 4 inches) is your bio filter. You should have at least 1 pound of rock per gallon of aquarium.
4. Go with oolitic sand for the sand bed. Seed it with live sand from a fish store, or from an online source. NEVER clean your deep sand bed. Stuff that lives in the sand will take care of that for you.
5. Once you add the water, the deep sand bed, and the live rocks - you have to cycle the tank. This takes some time. You will be testing your water. Your starting water should have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and 0 nitrate. Within a few hours of adding the live rock you should start to test positive for ammonia. If more than 24 hours passes with no ammonia, you need to throw in a half of a frozen shrimp - finely diced. That should create an ammonia spike. Then test the water daily. You will see the ammonia spike, then drop rapidly. As the ammonia drops, nitrite will spike. Once that spikes, you will start to see nitrates.
6. At this point is when the fun begins. If you let the tank continue, eventually the nitrate will drop on its own - if your sand bed is deep enough. Of not then you may want to add a refugium - but this is more advanced. You can also just do a water change to bring the nitrate down. You want to keep nitrate as close to 0 as possible. Ammonia and nitrite HAS TO BE 0 at all times.
7. Water quality is maintained by water changes, a protein skimmer, a refugium - or a combination of any of the three. You really have to keep on top of this.

That is about it. Once your ammonia and nitrite have spiked and dropped to zero, you can start stocking AFTER a water change. But you can not just buy a bunch of stuff. The general rule for saltwater is one inch of fish for every 5 gallons of WATER. Keep in mind that rocks and sand displace water, so your 55 gallon aquarium does not really contain 55 gallons of water. This means you should not stock 11 inches of fish into a 55 gallon tank. And you have to keep compatibility in mine. Some fish may be small, but they require a large space. So you really have to do your research.

And you have to go slow. It could take a year for a saltwater tank to become fully established.

1. Start with good quality water. This means reverse osmosis deionized and/or distilled water. It is worth the extra expense to do this. If you start off with distilled water, you can make the PH any value you want and you can make the water hard or soft. Different fish like different conditions. For example, angelfish and discus like slightly acidic water.
2. If you want plants, get a good substrate made for plants. I am using the Seachem Flourish aquarium gravel now. It is loaded with cleated iron which plants love. You can also do other stuff that involves multiple layers of stuff (clay, peat moss, black dirt, different grades of gravel, and sand), but this is complicated and can go wrong if you are not careful.
3. You still have to cycle the tank to get the biological filter going. You do this the same way you do for a saltwater tank. Put a little chunk of something organic in the water and let it decompose. Or put in a little white non sudsy ammonia in, to the point where your water tests 2 - 4 parts per million. Not very much - only a drop or two per gallon. Or less.
4. Even for freshwater, your bio filter is probably going to be the gravel. If you have aquarium save porous rocks (rocks that will NOT change PH or other water parameters) then they will be a good place for a bio filter too. Otherwise, you may need some bio balls.
5. Once you are cycled, stock slowly. The slower the better. One fish at a time.

Freshwater tanks only take a few months to establish.

If you have tried to keep sea monkeys (brine shrimp) and are wondering what happened, it is probably a few things. First off, you should not use tap water. You should use distilled water. Second you have to buffer the water for a stable PH. You need to adjust salinity properly. You have to have some kind of biological filter established. You need A LOT of oxygen dissolved in the water - usually done with a simple air pump and air stone. You should have gentle water flow - accomplished with the air stone. And you need a heater to keep the temperature stable.

If all this is too much - you are trying to go too fast. There are tons of books that contain great info. The hobby really is not that hard - you just have to plan everything out and go slow. You have to know what you want to keep, what conditions the things you want to keep require, and if everything you want to keep is compatible. Then carefully set up the tank, and take it slowly.

You can also get a fish store to maintain your saltwater tanks for you. They will set it up, and maintain it. They will send people to do the water changes. And so on.



Blogger Daisy said...

Well, we used the distilled water and the special "water conditioner" for the Sea Monkeys. But I do not think we did enough to aerate the monkeys. The kit did not come with an aerator, and it said you could just blow into it a few times a day with a straw! But I did not do that very often. So I think my sea monkeys strangled to death. Oops.

Blogger Ems said...

Daisy makes me laugh. Until now, I didn't know Sea Monkeys were real. I remember those pictures in comic books and thought it was a marketing scam. The skeptic at 7 years old...

Do they make a tank for kids? There are days...

Anonymous krok8 said...

The Lazy,

Is it true that Doozie was going to give you a blow fish?

Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

Daisy - it was probably more related to ammonia buildup (the stuff is very toxic and it does not take much to cause problems) and the lack of heat. You can keep a whole lot of "sea monkeys" if you get a 5 gallon glass aquarium, an air pump, a few live rocks from an aquarium store, a 50 watt heater, and an air pump. Of yea and a tube of brine shrimp eggs :)

Ems - Sea Monkeys are really just brine shrimp. People usually raise them to feed to small fish and sea horses and stuff.

Krok - I do not know where your spy reports come from.....

Blogger Dusty said...

My father had fish tanks..which he made my brother and I clean..he had nasty dirty cichlids..Oscar fish I believe..and man, those tanks were fricking dirty..

Hence I have no love for fish tanks..although a friend has a huge wall aquarium..saltwater actually, that she has been trying to pawn off on me for months..

Blogger Dusty said...

Its only got three fish and its a HUGE tank 6 feet long.

Blogger Fuzz said...

This stuff is starting to sound complicated.

Blogger Cheesemeister said...

Sadly I am a fish murderer. About the most I can handle is a betta fish. But PANSI and her friends took over the betta fish shelf after the last one died. I haven't established a new betta fish shelf yet.


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