FISH KEEPING PART 3
ADDING LIVING THINGS
add a great
deal of interest and beauty to the tank- and also increase the
demand on the water and filter. I suggest using plants from the
Basin, Africa, Australia and Asia that have been cultivated for aquarium use.
Fish do better if kept in
planted aquaria and plants also suppress the growth of algae.
Amazon Swords (Echinodorus species)
require strong light and are excellent
choices planted directly into the deep substrate.
Java Fern (Microsorum
needs to be
attached to the rocks or wood and not planted in the substrate. It enjoys low
African Water fern (Bolbitus Heudelotii) also grows in
dim light and requires no substrate other than a root or rock upon
which it can attach.
Dwarf Anubias (Anubias
nana) can also
be tied to rocks with nylon fishing line. It does well in low light.
Thin Vallisneria (Vallisneria
will colonise a sandy substrate, if given enough light (about 3 watts per
litre of water).
Cryps (Cryptocoryne species)
are also useful
. Plant Cryps in the foreground of the tank. They are deep-rooted plants.
Species of Bacopa, Cabomba, Hemianthus, Ceratophylum,
Hygrophyla and Ludwigia are also recommended for well lit tanks (if
not banned in your State).
Please note that some species of Cabomba and Ludwigia
are banned in NSW and/or Queensland.
Use only plants that
are NOT prohibited
Some plants are banned
from use in Australian States and Territories because they pose a
threat to our waterways as potential pest species.
Check here for a list
of prohibited plants and please obey the rules conscientiously.
Never put aquatic plants into our waterways. Freeze any unwanted
plants or trimmings, by placing them inside a plastic bag in your
freezer compartment of the refrigerator, and then dispose of them in
a compost heap or vegetable-waste recycle bin.
Plants, Algae and New Aquaria: a link to another page in
this site, giving some facts about algae growth and plants.
Once the plants are in,
fill the tank to the top (or 2-3 cm from the top) to complete the
aquarium setting up process. Be careful not to dislodge and plants.
Turn on the filter, aerator and heater (if used) and let them run to
clear or settle any suspended particles AND to check to see if all
is working correctly. Allow the new aquarium to run for a few
days BEFORE any fish are added. This allows for adjustments to
be made to filtration flow and aeration flow if needed and begins
the process of "ageing the water" and "cycling" the aquarium.
Aquarium lighting is essential for good plant and fish growth. Fish need
about 6 hours of lighting a day; plants need up to 10 hours per day
of adequate light. Please be careful with electric lights near
water. Most are not submersible and safety is the first
consideration with electrical fittings when working near water. Use a properly fitting reflector or light fitting.
What lights are best
A wide range of aquarium
lights are available, including incandescent, fluorescent, compact
fluorescent, metal-halide and solid-state lights. Select according
to your needs and budget and buy the best lights that you can afford
to purchase and operate. I recommend using "Life-Glo" 24w 55cm T5 HO
6700K fluorescent tubes as a first option for beginners. Read what I
have written here and then follow the link to the next page for more
detailed information about lights and
As a general rule, allow about 1 watt of light
power per 3 litres of water for some plants to grow (for
spiralis) and others require significantly more light. A
few, suitable plants grow in low light conditions and Java Fern (Microsorum
pteropus), Dwarf Anubias (Anubias
nana) and Cryps (Cryptocoryne species) are good examples.
A primary concern when
growing plants is to provide enough light for them to flourish.
Direct sunlight may bee too warm for an aquarium and cause too much
green algae to grow so aquarium are sited in well lit places but
away from direct sunlight. Additional lighting is provided by
artificial lights that are especially designed for aquarium use.
Allow between 8 to 10 hours of continuous lighting a day. Never turn
lights on and off haphazardly, as the fish require a regular
day-night cycle for healthy living. If the lights are turned on
during your time at home (so you have optimum viewing of your fish)
then set the lighting period using a time clock to suit your needs.
Ensure that the dark period of the artificial day-night cycle is
actually dark- using drapes and blinds in a room may be necessary to darken the
room when you are not home and your lighting time cycle is dark.
Always have the time clock set so that your aquarium light go off
AFTER you retire for the night, to allow an uninterrupted "night"
period for the fish. They will not experience "night" if the
room lights are on when their tank lights are off.
A suggested artificial
day is for the lights to come on at 3.00 pm and go off at Midnight,
giving 10 hours of light. Such a plan assumes a darkened or near
dark room and little household noise or movement from Midnight until 3.00 pm.
In the example of the 55 litre, tropical tank, a GLO linear
fluorescent light is recommended as adequate for beginners, provided by one
24w 55cm fluorescent, "Life Glo" T5 HO 6700K. That statement assumes that growing plants
is not the first consideration. With that level of lighting, Vallisneria
spiralis, Ceratophylum and Cryptocoryne species
will grow and Java Fern (Microsorum
pteropus) and Dwarf Anubias (Anubias
nana) will grow in their shade, to good effect. Choice of 24 w 55cm "Power
Glo" T5 HO 18000K tubes would be better for a rock pile biotype and
cichlids or for a well planted tank. Using a double GLO linear
fluorescent lighting unit would give strong light, as pictured
below. This is the same tank as shown above but more heavily
planted and illuminated by 48 w of light given by2 x 24 w 55cm
"Power Glo" T5 HO 18000K tubes suspended 10 cms above the tank. It
gives a natural looking "daylight". "Life-Glo" 24 w 55cm T5 HO
6700K tubes would have also been suitable, giving a natural looking
"daylight" but with a different spectrum (less blue).
HERE for additional
comments on Aquarium Lighting.
[Links to my pruning from this page which got too long.]
This is a matter of
choice and interest, of course, but too avoid losses and
disappointments, here are a few considerations.
Plan your aquarium
Don't go out and buy the
first fish that attract your attention. Plan the community. Ask the
supplier about any fishes that interests you, as not all are
compatible in community tanks. It is not a good idea to keep
live-bearing fishes such as Guppies, Swordtails, Platies and Mollies
in the same tank as egg-laying fishes- unless you are happy for the
fry from the livebearers to be eaten! A community tank of just
live-bearers is one way to begin.
Make sure that the
fishes that you select are compatible with each other.
Ensure that the fishes
that you keep require the same water conditions. Cichlids from Lake
Malawi or Lake Tanganyika require hard, alkaline water while
cichlids from the Amazon Basin require soft, acidic water- don't mix
Generally, group large
fish in a separate tank from small fishes. Keeping Angels with Neons
is asking for trouble- adult Angels will eat them.
Keeping only one species
in a tank, e.g. Fancy Goldfish or a breeding pair of Kribensis, is
An Example of a Planned Community Tank:
Start with a 55 litre
tank, cleaned, set up with washed sand or gravel, plants, heater,
aerator, filtration, ornamentation plants and water.
Dechloraminate the water
using special additives.
Put the cover plates on and install the lighting.
Turn it all on and let it run
for a few days with NO fish in it! This allows the heater
to adjust and the plants to settle.
Check for any problems.
Adjust air-stone flow rates and any minor adjustments to filters.
After the tank has been
running for a few days (3-5 days optimum), add a pair of Dwarf
Gouramis (Colisa lalia). Apart from being your first fish,
they will provide wastes that will "feed"
the biological system in the tank. Dwarf
Gouramis make a fascinating first species and are tolerant of new
week, add ten to twenty Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)
or ten Lemon Tetras (Hyphessobrycon
pulchripinnis) to further increase the biological loading of the
tank. Do not add no more than 10 to 20 small fish at this stage.
After another week or so, a pair of Panda Catfish or any other
Corydorus sp. could be added. That's about it! The tank is
After 6 months, if the
tank is supplied with an air-stone, then perhaps a couple of extra,
small fish could be added.
Alternatively, Mollies and Platies make good fish for beginners, but
remember to add them in small numbers to start. A pair of Sailfin
Mollies could be substituted for the pair of Dwarf Gouramies, in a tank for
live-bearers. After a week, add eight Platies or Swords or Guppies.
Later add a small Catfish (Corydorus sp.) or two. A couple of
extra fish can be added when the tank has run successfully for six
months but by then livebearers may have added enough fry to stock
the aquarium fully.
Remember that as a good rule, allow a stocking rate of 1 cm of
length for every 2 litres of water in the tank. That means that the
correct stock levels for a 55 litre tank add up to 27 cms of fully
grown fish. That is about 25 Neon Tetras or 10 Hockey Stick Tetras;
or 4 or 5 Blue Gouramies;
or four goldfish, to a 55 litre tank.
A 55 litre tank is
adequate for one pair of breeding Angelfish.
It cannot be stressed too much, that successful fish culture
requires very clean and well conditioned water and filters.
Frequent partial water changes are essential practice.
Changing 20% to 25% of the water each fortnight is recommended.
Avoid complete changes in water, unless you are prepared to start
over again as with a new tank. Always use dechloraminated
water adjusted to the correct temperature, pH and hardness of
the tank water at each water change.
A COMMUNITY TANK
The tank pictured above is 92 cms long, 35 cms wide and 50 cms
deep and is a true community tank. All
of its inhabitants share a common factor in that they are fish that
require soft or moderately hard, slightly acidic water and tolerate
a pH between 6.8 - 7.4. The temperature is set at 25oC;
pH maintained around 7.0 using an acid buffer. The water is
straight from the tap and is moderately hard and the fish are
acclimatised to it. The substrate is fine
gravel and sand to 5 cms deep at the back. Only five plants are
rooted in the substrate, 2 Amazon Swords, a small clump of
Crassula helmsii, one root of a Vallisneria sp. and a
small Lily. The other plants are African Dwarf Anubias, Asian Java
Moss (a few strands remain around an air tube) and Java Fern (2
forms) growing on wood or rocks. The fish are: from the Amazon Basin: 9 Neons, 8 Glo-lights,
8 Head & Tail Light Tetras, 2 Peppered Corydoras Catfish, 2
Otoclinclus sp.; 2 Bolivian
Butterfly Cichlids; from Australia: 2 Macculloch's Dwarf
Rainbowfish; from New Guinea, 2 Neon Rainbows. The filtration is by
a 170 Marineland Bio-wheel Filter and a small box-filter with
zeolite. There is one air-stone on at all times. Lighting is by two x 20 watt
59 cm (24") T8 "Power-Glo" 18000K fluorescent tubes on for
10 hours a day, from 8.00 am. Feeding is by Flake Foods,
Micro-pellets and, occasionally, Black worms and live mosquito
drop 2 sinking food wafers in each night for the Corys and Otos (who never
seem to sleep!). The picture shows 75% of the tank.
has been running for over eight years and was recently stripped of
much of its plant growth (Java Fern) and given a trim up. And, yes, I did
paint the outside of the back of the tank blue four years ago! The end walls are never cleaned and
have very little algal growth. Water changes are 20% every 10
days, with new water adjusted to the correct pH using an acid
critical water conditions in the tank are: pH 6.8-7.0; ammonia/ammonium level = zero;
nitrite level = zero;
nitrate level is 20 ppm.
Never over-feed your fish and kill them with kindness. As a
general rule, feed twice a day giving only as much food as the fish
will completely consume in two or three minutes. Never allow uneaten
food to accumulate- remove it with a turkey baster or siphon it out.
Suitable foods include flake foods (formulated for tropical fish
or goldfish), Spirulina flakes (for vegetarian fishes), pellets and
live foods. The latter includes insect larvae, brine shrimp, black
worms, daphnia and other fish. Fish love live foods and an
occasional feeding of brine shrimp or black worms (not tubifex
worms) is good for them. Live foods are also available in frozen
packs. Freeze to store: thaw to feed. Sometimes you can
make your own.
Learn what types of food your fish require- ask the stockist or
research the web! Some fishes are carnivorous and do not eat
plants, others relish them. Most flake foods and pellets are
formulated for general with a range of fishes but some are
specifically made for cichlids, goldfish, Bettas, vegetarians, for
example, so giving your fish the correct diet is a matter of buying
the right food stuffs.
If you go away over the week-end and can't feed the fish, do not
double feed before you go but just allow a break in the feeding
routine, Fish can go a day or so without feeding, as they do
in nature, so one or two days without food is not a problem.
Don't double feed when you return but continue the usual feeding
routine. For breaks of more than two days, have a trusted
friend feed them for you. Give proper instructions and leave enough
food- and a box of chocolates for your friend!
Automatic feeding gadgets are available and may work well- they
all need to be checked, however, so don't rely on them.
will help keep the aquarium functioning well.
- Check all equipment each day to ensure proper running
- Top up any loss of water due to evaporation. Use rainwater or
demineralised water for this task if possible. If tap water is
used, dechloraminate it first.
- Wipe the inside of the aquarium glass to remove any
algae that grows. Use a soap and chemical free cloth.
- Change 20% of the water each fortnight, to remove
excess nitrates that develop and to siphon out any uneaten foods.
Always dechloraminate tap water first, before putting it in
- Regularly maintain the filters. The action taken will
depend on the type of filter but usually it involves cleaning
water up-take tubing, washing filter wool or sponges and replacing
any disposable filter pads or charcoal, filter medium. Always wash
filter pads, sponges and wool in the water that you remove from
the tank at a water change- thus water changes and filter washing
are done at the same time. Never wash filter medium in tap
water- it kills off the beneficial bacteria.
It takes several weeks, even months in some cases, for a new
aquarium to be "cycled" or "balanced" so do not be in too much of a
hurry to wash filters too soon.
NEW TANK SYNDROME
This term applies to the fact that any new tank with a new
filter does not have an efficient biological filtration system until
long after the filter have been running. A properly functioning biological filter takes from
two to six months to be functioning at its optimum level.
For the first four to five weeks of running a new tank, the levels
of ammonia and nitrite are high and the tank is toxic to fish. Care
must be taken with stocking levels to see that the toxins do not
kill the fish (hence the name 'new tank" syndrome).
For this reason, new tanks are stocked gradually, adding a few
fish at a time over a period of several weeks. Taking that amount of
care allows the development of the correct biodegrading (nitrogen
cycle) to handle the waste products.
Controlling ammonia/ammonium and nitrites is assisted by not
over-feeding the fish and seeing that NO uneaten foods (or dead
fish) remain in the tank to rot.
The nitrogen cycle is also dependent on the available oxygen
levels. Therefore some aeration is essential to keep the oxygen
levels high enough. Oxygenation can be improved by either
having a large surface area for your tank (as with a pond) or by
aerating it with fine bubbles produced by an air-pump and air-stone,
or by have surface movement in the tank (creating little waves).
Air-stones and bubblers work best, as each bubble presents a tiny
surface area that adds up to a big surface area at which gaseous
exchanges can occur.
"AGEING" THE AQUARIUM WATER
is good practice, as it allows for cleaner water and less introduced
problems. Set the tank in place, with its substrata, wood and
plants installed. Run the heater, filter and lighting as
normal. Add some bio-starting preparations to get the biological
filter working if you want to "kick start" the nitrification
processes (not really necessary, as the right bacteria are present
in the environment where you live, e.g. in the air, in the water). I
use "BIO SUPER CONCENTRATE" (made by Biotec), Hagen's "Cycle" &
"Waste Control" or Rudduck's "Pura-Water" to add the right aerobic
bacteria and enzymes to establish the biodegrading functions in the
tank. This is safer than inoculating the tank from an established
one, as it reduces the risk of introducing pathogens, but, at a
pinch, a new tank can have water and gravel from a well running tank
added to kick-start the biological processes. It is necessary to
wait a month for a new tank to "age" as the development of ammonia
and nitrites begins immediately the tank is filled, planted and
stocked (that is, as soon as a "biological load" is added to the
water) and levels of ammonia/ammonium peak at about the second week
and nitrite levels peak at about two weeks from start up (the times
vary according to local conditions). Nitrate levels increase after
the nitrite levels have peaked. Monitor the ammonia/ammonium,
nitrite, pH and hardness levels. Increase the biological load
gradually by introducing the fish in small numbers- no more than one
or two hardy fish to begin.
Testing the water for nitrite (NO2) levels is
essential practice. Excessive ammonia levels may be controlled by
using Biotec's "Amrite Down" solutions or Aqua Master's "AMMO-EX"
granules in the filtration medium (in box, canister of trickle
filters only). Purchase a simple nitrite testing kit and test
daily until the nitrite levels stabilise at undetectable amounts.
I test for pH and nitrite
levels daily when setting up a new tank. After a month, weekly
testing is adequate for maintenance. The nitrates (notice 'nitrates'
NO3, not 'nitrites' NO2) that
are produced as the end product of an efficient, biological
filtration system will be absorbed by plants to some degree, but
frequent, partial water changes are necessary to control the nitrate
levels in most cases.
Using Peat as a water conditioner is beneficial. Add clean
German peat to the canister or external filter system, to provide
the dyed, tea-coloured water that approximates the tannin and humus
stained waters of the natural habitat of
the Amazon riverine system. Ensure that the peat does
not enter the aquarium water itself but is kept in a fine-mesh,
filter bag. Filtration through peat also reduces the pH
(makes the water more acidic). Alternatively, conditioning
with Tetra "Blackwater Extract" is also helpful if an Amazon biotype
is planned. Filtration through activated carbon will remove
the tannin and other dyes, so peat filtration is not used with
BE A RESPONSIBLE FISH KEEPER
To many fish keepers in the past have have turned their interest
from a hobby to environmental vandalism- simply by releasing their
fish into the wild or allowing them to escape. The result has been
devastating to endemic fish populations and ecologies. For example,
the introduction of the European Carp in to the River Murray system
saw that species grow in number to plague proportions that ruined
riverine and lagoon ecologies, saw native fishes greatly suppressed
in numbers (some became extinct in the river) and contributed to a
decrease in water quality. When additionally impacted by excessive use of
river water in irrigation, droughts and climate change, the River
Murray lands fell into a state of ecological, economic and human
crisis. Another example is explained in the article,
Put a Leopard in your tank?
Please be responsible in the manner in which you dispose of
unwanted fish. Give them back to the shops that sold them to you
or dispose of them humanely by putting the fish and aquarium water
into a plastic bag and into the fridge. When the fish stops moving,
put the bag into the freezer overnight. Bury or dispose of the fish
in proper thoughtfully. (endorsed
by RSPCA WA Inc).