Like most common forms of aquarium filtration, a canister filter provides chemical, biological and physical filtration by removing water from the aquarium via an intake tube, passing the aquarium water over a series of filtration media housed within a pressurized canister, and they returning the filtered water to the aquarium via a spray bar or spray nozzle. The unique form factor of the canister filter allows for a lot of flexibility in terms of where the filter is located. Since flexible tubing is used for both the intake and return, a canister filter can be located underneath, behind or off to the side of the aquarium, with the length of the tubing and the strength of the return pump within the canister filter being the only real limiting factors. The sealed and pressurized design of the canister filter also allows for very quiet operation, as the noise associated with water overflowing from the fish tank or flowing from one chamber to another as in a non-sealed aquarium filter design are kept to an absolute minimum. Being a sealed design, the canister filter can also be disconnected from the intake / return tubing and carried away for maintenance and cleaning. This design allows the hobbyist the flexibility of maintaining and cleaning the filter in a location better suited for the activity and not being forced to work underneath the aquarium or in other less than desirable locations. Canister filters work by drawing water from the aquarium via a lift tube and through plastic tubing into the externally located canister filter. This is done via a pump that is typically located in the bottom of the canister filter. The extracted water is forced through a series of filter media layers located within the pressurized canister filter. While the exact flow of the water through the filter media can vary by models and brands of canister filters, a typical scenario has the water first passing through media designed to remove physical particles from the water, then through biological filter media and lastly through media designed for chemical filtration, before being returned to the aquarium back through plastic tubing connected to either a nozzle or spray bar. There are a number of different filter types available within the aquarium hobby, and depending on the particular needs of an aquarium setup or the specific requirements of a hobbyist, they all have their niche. This being said, canister filtration is considered to be one of best forms of filtration for a wide variety of aquarium setups ranging from smaller freshwater or marine aquariums like nano cubes, all the way up to very large freshwater aquariums housing large Cichlid species and even larger FOWLR or predator marine fish aquariums. Hobbyists can also use multiple canister filters on the same aquarium, which allows canister filters to scale up and handle even extremely large aquariums (300 gallons plus) or aquariums with high bio-load species like Peacock Bass or freshwater Stingray. While canister filtration can be used successfully on marine reef or larger marine fish aquariums, they are probably not the best option overall for these types of setups. Generally these larger saltwater fish or reef aquariums require large wet/dry, sump or refugium based filtration with additional foam fractioning filters like Protein Skimmers in order to provide the necessary level of filtration for complex marine aquarium environments. Overall though, canister filters do provide high quality filtration, have low power consumption, are cost effective and easy to maintain, which makes them a great choice for most all freshwater community aquarium setups, most all Cichlid aquarium setups, marine nano cubes and moderately sized FOWLR setups and as additional filtration on larger aquarium setups where multiple forms of filtration are required. Canister filters are designed with efficiency, application flexibility and ease of maintenance. The main portions of the filter that require periodic maintenance are contained within the main housing of the filter, where they can be easily transported to a utility sink, outside or other convenient location for cleaning. Aside from clearing algae or debris from the return nozzle or spray bar, the bulk of the maintenance required to keep a canister filter running smoothly and efficiently is centered around the chambers containing the filtration media inside the canister. Cleaning a canister filter mostly revolves around cleaning or changing the filter pad that captures physical particles from the water and changing out any filter bags containing activated carbon or other chemical media. The biological media (bio balls or ceramic media) typically only needs to be rinsed off from time to time if physical debris is able to build up within the tray containing the bio media. Be sure to use aquarium water or non-chlorinated tap water to rinse off the bio media, this is important in order to not kill off any of the beneficial bacteria living on the media by putting it in contact with the chlorine present in most tap water. Hobbyists should also occasionally pull out all of the media trays and rinse and wipe down the inside of the canister to remove any algae growth or detritus that has built up on the inside of the filter, as this will reduce water flow and ultimately reduce the effectiveness of the filter. In terms of how often a canister filter should be cleaned, it varies widely based on the sizing of the canister filter vs. the aquarium size, the fish load, the type of fish and feeding regime; however, it is safe to say that most canister filters will need some attention basic cleaning of the physical filter pad every 1 to 2 months and a more thorough cleaning at least every 4 months. While many hobbyists go longer periods of time; often up to 6 months, their filter are most likely quite dirty and their capability significantly degraded by 6 months of use. So canister filters come in a wide variety of models, designs and capabilities, but is canister filtration the right filtration for your particular tank? The short answer is that it depends mostly on the size of your aquarium and your budget. While in theory a canister filter or a combination of multiple canister filters can provide proper filtration for essentially any home aquarium (assuming you don't have a 2000 gallon home aquarium), it may not always be the best form of filtration or the most cost effective form of filtration. AquariumDomain.com Members, if you have questions or suggestions on how to make this blog post better please comment below or discuss on our forums.
Complete guide to keeping Neon Tetra in the home aquarium Neon Tetras are native to the streams and small tributaries of the Amazon including areas of southeastern Colombia, northeast Peru and northern and western parts of Brazil. They thrive in blackwater and murky water areas of dense vegetation, including flood plains during the rainy season. Neon Tetras in the wild are found in large schools staying close to the lower areas of the streams and creeks in which they live, close to vegetation and root structures that afford them protection from larger predatory fish species. While it is not necessary to completely recreate their natural environment in the home aquarium, it is important to provide some key aspects of it. If you plan to keep Neon Tetras in your community freshwater aquarium, you should plan to provide areas of lower lighting with either vegetation or root structure to provide them a reasonable comfort level with their environment and a place to escape larger more aggressive species. When selecting Neon Tetras for your aquarium it is important to choose healthy specimens that will be able to cope well with the transition into their new aquarium environment. Specimens should be active swimmers that swim purposely in the aquarium and do not float or drift in the water as this is a sign of poor health. Healthy specimens will also exhibit bright well defined colors that are not washed out or faded in appearance. General fish selection rules apply as well, in that the store aquarium should be clean, free of any odors and dead fish. Since the Neon Tetra is a very small fish it is a little more suseptible to fluctuations in water chemistry, so it is important to acclimate them slowely to their new environment. In addition, Neon Tetra are a schooling fish and should absolutely be kept in reasonable sized schools in order for them to thrive in the home aquarium. The size of the school will vary depending on aquarium size, but at least a group of 8 or more specimens should be doable in most all but the smallest aquariums. Larger schools tend to do even better as the numbers provide the Neon Tetra with a good comfort zone and feeling of safety. It is not uncommon to see schools of Neon Tetra as large as 20 to 30 fish in even moderately sized aquariums because of their relatively small size. Last but certainly not least is the sheer beauty of a large school of Neon Tetra with their vibrant color and closely grouped schools, they provide a truly impressive site within the community freshwater aquarium. Neon Tetras are suitable for the beginning aquarium hobbyist, but they do require that the aquarium environment support their basic needs. In the wild, Neon Tetra generally live in water that is cooler as it is well shaded from the sun and somewhat on the acidic side, ranging from a pH of 5.0 to 7.0 and KH or 1.0 to 2.0. However, within the aquarium environment they can be acclimated to tolerate brighter lighting conditions and pH as high as 7.5 if they are brought into these conditions gradually as not to shock the fish. This is best accomplished by emptying the newly bought Neon Tetra into a container with the store bag water and the fish. Then, every 5 minutes a cup full of water can be added to the container for 20 to 30 minutes. This will give the fish time to adjust to both the water chemistry and temperature of the aquarium system. After this acclimation process is complete the fish should be netted and added to the aquarium and the water in the acclimating container should be discarded. Once in the aquarium, Neon Tetra should be provided plenty of places to hide if threatened; such as, live or fake plants, drift wood or root structures or large rocks. Due to their size and overall very passive nature, Neon Tetra should only be kept with other peaceful community species that will not grow large enough to eat them. While they reach just over an inch in size when fully grown, they do form tight schools that help give them protection from other larger fish species, so it is strongly recommended that this species be kept in good sized groups which will benefit their overall health and security. Female and Male Neon Tetras have very subtle physical differences with the female having a more round body and curvature of the blue line, while the male is more slender and has a straight blue line. The curvature of the blue line in the female is most likely due to the location of the egg sack that even when empty creates a slightly more rounded appearance to the body. Typically Neon Tetras are bred in conditions that closely mimic their natural surroundings including dim lighting and cooler water temperatures of around 72 to 75 degrees fahrenheit or 24 degrees celsius. The breeding aquarium should also have live plants that provide areas of the aquarium with high levels of shade and provide the fish a location to deposit their eggs. Breeders will often try to induce mating by lowering the KH to 1.0 or by letting nitrate levels rise and then replace 50% of the water with fresh RO/DI water along with brighter lighting to simulate the rainy season. Once the eggs have been laid it is important to remove the adults as they will often eat young fry. The young are sensitive to higher lighting levels, so the lights should be maintained a low level and other water parameters should remain stable and constant. Eggs typically hatch within 24 hours and fry will reach their adult coloration within 30 days. During this time they can be fed a diet of rotifers, egg yolk, baby brine shrimp or other prepared foods formulated for newly hatched fish. Overall the Neon Tetra is a hardy small fish species that brings a lot of color and activity to peaceful freshwater community aquariums. With a reasonable amount of care, a beginner aquarium hobbyist can not only maintain this species, but create an environment in which they can thrive.
Water Dogs! A crash course in keeping Oscar Cichlids Astronotus ocellatus, also known as the Oscar, is a fresh water species which is a member of the Cichlid family. Wild Oscars are native to the Amazon River basin (as well as the Orinoco and Paraguay basins) in South America. In their natural environment Oscars are typically found in slow moving, whitewater to blackwater environments and can be found taking cover around and within submerged trees, roots, rocks, vegetation and driftwood. Oscars are one of the hardiest and most popular Cichlids in the hobby and they can learn to distinguish their owner(s) from strangers as well as associate them with food. Oscars are very intelligent and will develop and display unique and interesting personalities. In addition to their constant "begging" for food, Oscars can also be trained to eat from their owner's hand; which is why they are sometimes referred to as river or water dogs. The original species of Astronotus ocellatus is the Wild Oscar (also referred to as the Common Oscar); the Wild Oscar is the only Oscar that can be found in it's natural habitat in the wild (aside from various "pets" that have been released in ponds, lakes, canals, and rivers within sub-tropical or tropical environments). All other varieties of the Oscar have been bred exclusively for the aquarium trade, including varieties with red marbling, albino, leucistic, and xanthistic. Red Oscars, Tiger Oscars, Red Tiger Oscars, Red Lutino Oscars, Lemon Oscars, Platinum Oscars, Gold Oscars, Copper Oscars, Albino Tiger Oscars, Albino Red Oscars... the list goes on. There are also veil-tail (long-finned) versions of all the various forms in the aquarium trade, but it's not recommended that they be kept with other Oscars or aggressive Cichlids; as their fins are delicate and are prone to damage, which can cause various fin diseases or infections. When choosing an Oscar, make sure to examine it closely before you decide to purchase it. Keep an eye out for the ones that are very alert and active. Don't choose one that is acting completely different from the rest, seems to be lethargic or just happens to be lying on the bottom of the tank pouting or possibly not feeling too well. A healthy Oscar is always alert and looking for food. If you plan to purchase a mature Oscar, keep an eye out for any pitting or holes that may have devleoped on it's head; It's a sure sign of Hole in the Head Disease. Also make sure your future pet Oscar does not have any small white spots (similar to tiny grains of salt) on it as it's a sure sign that it has been infected by Ick (an Ichthyophthirius multifilis parasite). The water chemistry at a fish store is usually fairly neutral at a pH of around 7.0 and the GH and KH can very greatly, not to mention that it can also contain various nasty parasites. When introducing a new Oscar to a tank, you can't go wrong with the "drip" method as even baby Oscars have been known to tear little holes in the store bags and nobody wants fish store water in their tanks. Carefully empty the contents of the bag (including the water) into a container. Take some airline tubing and set up a siphon drip line from the target aquarium to the container with your new Oscar. If you don't have an airline control valve handy, you can tie a couple loose knots in the airline to control the rate of water flow (it's also recommended that you secure the airline tubing in place with an airline holder or some other method). Start a siphon by sucking on the end of the airline tubing you'll be placing into the container. When water begins flowing through the tubing, it's time to adjust the drip (either by adjusting the control valve or tightening one or both of the knots) to a rate of 2-4 drips per second. When the amount of water in the bucket doubles, empty half of it and start the drip again until the volume doubles again. Repeat this process for about one hour and then your new Oscar is ready to be netted and moved to your target aquarium. New Oscars will often pout. If your new Oscar swims to the bottom of the tank and lays on one side, looking up at you with an untrusting eye, don't panic, it may just be a little stressed and will soon get over it and snap into action, exploring its new home. Current, resident Oscars consider new Oscars a threat as well as intruders in their territory. The bigger the Oscars are, the bigger the fight can be. They will sort things out, but there maybe be a few bruises and hurt feelings in the process. Oscars are excellent for breaking in a beginning Cichlid hobbyist as they are a very hardy species and their owner(s) will learn a lot about the care and habits of predatory fish, water conditions, filtration and how much fun it can be to have a Cichlid tank. Oscars can live for 12 to 16 years and it's important to understand that Oscars are a long-term commitment. In their natural environment, Oscars can be found in acidic blackwater conditions as well as neutral whitewater conditions with a pH anywhere from 4.5 to 7.5. In an aquarium environment, Oscars will thrive in conditions with a pH ranging from 5.0 to 7.0 and a temperature between 74 degrees F to 84 degrees F; When it comes to water hardness, the GH should be around 3 to 7 and the KH ranging from 2 to 4. Oscars are one of the fastest growing aquarium fish in the hobby and baby Oscars are usually sold at the fish store at around one to two inches long. Those babies will easily gain one inch a month for the first eight months. Expect those babies to be seven or eight inches by the time they are a year old. Ideally, a single Oscar should be kept in a tank that is no less than 75 gallons and a 110-125 gallon tank is recommended for two. Oscars are greedy, big and messy eaters and produce a considerable biological load within their environment. Therefore, the two most vital components for Oscars are tank size and filtration; a large tank with an efficient amount of quality filtration will play a vital role in keeping your Oscar(s) happy and healthy. Oscars love to decorate and will rearrange their environment to their liking by digging large pits within the substrate and relocating rocks and other objects (including submersed heaters and thermometers). Oscars are very powerful fish and can and will move almost anything in the tank aside from large pieces of driftwood. As far as live plants go, Amazon and various Swords are recommended as they will grow powerful root structures and may be too difficult to move. Most other live plants will either be uprooted or shredded. Oscars have also been known to actually break heaters, filter intakes, under-gravel filter stems, and floating thermometers. Sometimes the wreckage is from an accident, other times it's on purpose as the Oscar was using that floating thermometer as a toy. If you want to give your Oscars a toy to play with, occasionally throw a clean ping-pong ball into the tank and enjoy the show. Oscars are the beginner's species of New World Cichlids and an introduction to the more aggressive species, but despite their size (average of 14 inches in the aquarium), predatory nature, and the fact that Oscars like to play rough, they are not considered to be an aggressive species themselves, as long as their tank mates are too large to be mistaken for food (an Oscar will eat any fish that can fit its mouth). Oscars mainly show signs of aggression when they are feeding, getting ready to breed, arguing over territory, or when they want some exercise. Unlike the more aggressive Cichlids, Oscars are not known to incessantly bully or terrorize their tank mates for no apparent reason. First-time Oscar owners often panic when they see their first Oscar argument. Expect occasional arguments, that's what Oscars do; Oscars like to test their tank mates. They may try and bully other fish once in a while, but will not usually persist if the other fish can get out of their way fast enough. In addition to a nip here and a bite there, Oscars will fight and test each others strength by jaw or lip locking and will wrestle and tug on each other, which can sometimes lead to some nasty scrapes and abrasions. Don't immediately separate Oscars or tank mates when you see aggressive behavior. Observe them for a little while and see how it goes. It should become apparent if it's a short argument, a change of command, a breeding ritual, or an all out war. MelaFix is an excellent, natural medication that promotes quick tissue regeneration and wound healing and it highly recommended for any Cichlid tank. If you end up with enough room for some tank mates to keep your Oscar(s) company, be very wary of small Catfish and small Plecos. An Oscar will eat any fish that it can fit in its mouth and Plecos and catfish have sharp, strong barbs that can kill the Oscar that gets one stuck in its mouth or throat. Catfish and Plecos can make great tank mates, but be sure to get them large enough so that an Oscar can't fit them in it's mouth. Silver Dollars and various Geophagus species also make great tank mates as they are fairly peaceful and very tough. It's possible to add other Cichlids as tank mates, but there will be arguments for sure. There have been tanks housing Oscars, Pike, Jack Dempseys, Arowana, Peacock Bass, and Managuense, but it's hit or miss and only recommended that an experienced hobbyist makes the attempt. The first thing that should be noted is that Oscars require vitamin C and will develop health problems in its absence. Oscars are omnivorous (more accurately, facultative piscivores); They love live foods and enjoy the chase (your live plants won't). Feeding Oscars live fish can make them more aggressive (some hobbyists like this idea) and most readily available live feeders have little to no nutritional value. Goldfish and Rosy Red minnows should be taken out of the mix completely due to being extremely fatty and rich in a chemical called thiaminase (an enzyme that destroys the essential nutrient thiamine, also known as vitamin B1). In addition to being a catalyst for vitamin deficiency, Goldfish and Rosy Reds also have the ability to introduce some nasty parasites and bacteria into the aquarium which can cause a number of different diseases (Ick and velvet are extremely easily transmitted between feeder fish). Baby Oscars (until they reach 1 month) should be fed 3 times a day with live, frozen, or freeze-dried: Brine shrimp, blood worms, black worms, tubifex worms, and/or small shreds of frozen krill. Once the Oscars are a little older they should also be given beef heart, white cloud minnows, ghost shrimp, and river shrimp, as well as mealworms and small Cichlid pellets. As the Oscars get more mature (5+ inches), they should be fed 2 times a day with, earthworms, frozen krill, shrimp, medium Cichlid pellets, live crickets, peas, lettuce, pieces of cooked or fresh fish, and minnows. When the Oscars grow even larger (8+ inches), they should be fed 1 to 2 times a day (2 if you give in to their begging or want them to reach full size quickly) with all of the previously mentioned foods in addition to large Cichlid pellets and cooked mussels as well as an occasional small frog, large tadpole, or crayfish. Feed your Oscars a wide variety of the foods listed and they will have all the nutrition they could ever need. Home aquariums contain insignificant volumes of water compared to an Oscar's natural environment. In the wild, Oscars rarely encounter excess amounts of ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and harmful organisms and they are much more resistant to infection due to the relatively low concentration of harmful chemicals and organisms in such a massive volume of water. Although, in a home aquarium, biological waste can pollute the water extremely fast and if left unchecked, water chemistry can become extremely toxic to Oscars and harmful organisms can multiply exponentially and will infect them with disease and serious illness. However, if Oscars are well cared for and their water chemistry is maintained at optimal levels, Oscars can easily resist any effects from harmful organisms in very low or nonexistent concentrations. Water changes (at least 25%) should be carried out every 2 weeks (or more or less frequently, depending how efficient your aquarium filtration is). Oscars are very hardy fish, but they are also big and messy eaters and eventually they will have health problems if their water chemistry is not maintained; filthy water is usually where "one-eyed" Oscars come from as well as Oscars that have developed HITH (Hole-in-the-Head) disease. There are a number of different freshwater fish diseases and parasitic infestations out there, but the following two are the most common with Oscars: Hole-in-the-Head Disease (HITH): Oscars are known to be susceptible to a nasty disease called Hole-in-the-Head; Other common names for this disease are Freshwater Head and Lateral Line Erosion (FHLLE) and Hexamita Disease. Nobody really knows the true cause of this disease, and although it can be fatal, if treated early and properly your Oscar can survive (aside from permanent scarring). Signs of HITH include pitted lesions on the head and lateral line. HITH will be mild at first, but if not treated, pitting will become more intense and secondary bacterial and fungal infections can develop, which will eventually lead to a severe infection and the Oscar will become systemically ill with eventual loss of appetite and life. HITH can be treated with an antibiotic called metronidazole, or a combination of MelaFix and PimaFix can be used. Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifilis): Also referred to as White Spot, is a burrowing parasitic infestation that causes the skin of the fish to swell and produce white cysts that can be observed as small white spots covering your Oscar to varying degrees. An early symptom (before the spots are visible) is usually when your Oscars continuously scratch themselves on rocks, substrate and driftwood. In the more advanced stages, the Oscar will become lethargic and will eventually develop redness or bloody streaks across its body. Although the infestation itself is similar to a human skin infection, it can be the death of an Oscar with poor nutrition and water conditions. Ich can be treated by first doing a 25 to 50% water change, then raise your aquarium temperature to 86 degrees F, discontinue any carbon filtration, add a normal dose (listed on the box) of freshwater aquarium salt and obverse the situation for 2 weeks. If things don't clear up, repeat them again and add normal doses of MelaFix and PimaFix as well and observe for another 2 weeks. That should do the trick. One of the best ways to avoid Ich and other parasites is to quarantine new fish in a separate tank for two weeks while performing the full Ich treatment (with MelaFix and PimaFix) before introducing them to your main tank. One thing that every Oscar owner will have to get used to is that Oscars have a tendency to get cuts and abrasions as well as fin damage once in a while; Either from playing rough with other Oscars or tank mates, or even just bumping into various objects (heaters, driftwood, rocks, filter equipment, etc.) in the tank while chasing food, Oscars seem to always get hurt at some point and it can be quite disturbing for newcomers seeing these injuries for their first time. Although some of these injuries may look rather serious, they are actually superficial wounds and Oscars will quickly heal on their own. Keep their water clean and they will be fine. No medication is necessary, but if you want to help speed up the healing process you can add a normal dose of MelaFix to the tank to speed up the tissue regeneration process. Oscars are monomorphic and it's almost impossible to sex them (it is impossible to sex young Oscars), but at breeding time you will have a around 4 days to attempt to sex your Oscars; a male's breeding tube can be observed as being small and pointy where the female's egg tube is larger and more oval at the end. Unfortunately, two females will sometimes pair off and lay eggs together and several infertile clutches will eventually let you know that you have two females instead of a breeding pair. Unfertilized eggs are milky white while fertilized eggs are tanish to amber. A breeding pair of Oscars can be conditioned for spawning by feeding them live food such as freshwater shrimp, minnows, frogs and crayfish. A pair of Oscars will usually test each other with a jaw/lip-locking, breeding ritual and once they both pass, they may chase each other around for a little while and then they will begin cleaning off rocks in the aquarium. At this time it's recommended to provide them with a large slab of slate where the female can lay her eggs as Oscars will not lay eggs on substrate. Once the Oscars clean off the area, the female will lay her eggs (up to 1000) and the male will fertilize them. While Oscars are breeding, they are extremely protective of their area and no other fish will be allowed near it. The eggs will hatch in 3 to 5 days and the fry will look like a wiggling mass with tails, attached to the slate; as they start to absorb their yolk sacs, they will eventually fall to the substrate in a sticky blob. Once the fry are done with their yolk sacs (around 4 days), they will begin swimming on their own and will be ready to consume gargantuan quantities of baby brine shrimp (their water will need to be changed often). Because Oscars will care for their eggs and practice brood care for their newly hatched fry, it is safe to leave the fry with their parents for about a month, after which they should be relocated to another tank. Some breeders will move the slate and attached eggs to a different tank (using the same water) after they are fertilized, for fear of the parents may eat them. If the slate is relocated into another tank, the eggs will hatch on their own, but beware of Oscar attacks while trying to remove their eggs. Oscars can be a lot of fun and are a great introduction to predatory fishkeeping. They are truly a species that will bring a lot of personality and activity to any freshwater Cichlid aquarium. Remember to keep their water clean and they will thrive and offer years of enjoyment and excitement for the beginner to intermediate hobbyist.
This guide is intended to help out hobbyists who are new to keeping saltwater fish or new to the aquarium hobby in general and would like to start off with a saltwater aquarium. The livestock stocking advice given is intended to be somewhat generic in nature in that it is based on basic filtration, water flow and beginning marine aquarium experience. While advanced filtration, protein skimming, live rock, water changes, sumps with live plants or algae scrubbers will greatly enhance the number of fish on can keep and the speed at which they are added to the aquarium, this guide assumes basic filtration in the form of a simple wet/dry filter or canister filter. We will touch on all the major factors that are involved with properly stocking a saltwater fish-only or FOWLR aquarium and all recommendations will error on the side of caution. The goal of this beginners guide is to give the beginning marine aquarium hobbyist a solid footing with which to make good decisions on how many and which fish they should keep in their new marine aquarium. When stocking a saltwater fish-only aquarium, there are four main areas to consider before you invest in your first fish. These four very important aspects of stocking a marine aquarium are dissolved water chemistry, filtration system capabilities, fish compatibility and fish size & swimming habits, all of which are factors in selecting fish livestock. The following discussion breaks down each of these areas to provide the beginning marine aquarium hobbyist with the basic information they will need to quickly be on your way to successfully stocking your marine fish aquarium. Water chemistry is a good place to start when deciding which type of live stock to keep within a marine fish-only tank. While many fish sold within the marine aquarium hobby are tropical reef fish who require warm water 78 ° to 82 ° with a lot of water movement and high levels of dissolved oxygen, others require colder water temperatures and only moderate water flow. Different fish also have widely different tolerances for dissolved nutrients in the water like nitrate, while Clownfish, Damselfish and other can tolerate higher nitrate levels, other fish like Butterflyfish and Anthias are much more sensitive to higher nitrate levels. Ultimately, the hobbyist will need to choose between a warmer tropical water aquarium or a cold water aquarium. After deciding on water temperature, comes decisions on how much internal water flow the aquarium will have and how much of the filtration will be dedicated to nutrient export. Hardy fish species can be kept in aquariums with moderate water flow from the filtration return pump and a basic powerhead, while most reef fish or fish considered moderate in difficulty to keep will require strong waterflow that only multiple powerheads will be able to provide. Always provide water flow that is laminar or varied, either through the use of a controller or through strategic placement of powerheads. In larger aquariums powerheads can be placed near the surface and directed to push water towards each other, which will ultimately produce laminar or varied water flow; however, most hobbyists will want use a powerhead with a controller so that water flow can controlled in order to provide bursts of current. Constant, strong water flow is not desirable for fish, substrate or plants or corals. The last aspect of water chemistry to consider before selecting fish livestock is the level of nutrient export capabilities of the filtration system. Modern wet/dry filters, canisters and even bio-wheel power filters are cable of breaking down toxic compounds like ammonia and nitrite very efficiently. However, what is left over is nitrate, which over time can build up to high levels. High levels of nitrate will cause stress and reduced overall health to many fish species; as well as, promote nuisance algae growth and overall poor water conditions. While water changes using clean RO/DI based saltwater can reduce nitrate levels, hobbyists will ultimately need to employ filtration methods specifically designed to export or reduce the nitrate levels in the aquarium. In order to keep fish that are considered moderate to difficult to keep, hobbyists will need to employ one or more of the following nutrient export filtration techniques: protein skimming, frequent water changes using RO/DI water and a quality salt mix, large quantity of live rock, sump with fast growing live plants or an algae scrubber solution. Any of these nutrient export solutions can be effective at keeping water quality high and dissolved nitrates low; however, the use of more than one of these techniques at the same time is recommended as they are much more effective when used together. As you can probably guess from the water chemistry section, filtration systems have a huge impact on keeping quality water and determining the overall fish load an aquarium can support. Since this guide is specific to fish stocking in a marine aquarium, we will only discuss filtration as it pertains to fish stocking levels. All saltwater fish aquariums will require mechanical filtration, biological filtration and good internal water flow, with water flow affecting both for dissolved oxygen and to assist the mechanical filtration with removing solids. Marine aquariums with light to moderate fish stock levels, which translates to about 1 inch of fish per 5 gallons of water can be successfully maintained by using either a high-end bio-wheel power filter, high-end canister filter or wet/dry filter, combined with powerheads for internal water movement and regular water changes. Adding live rock and a protein skimmer can increase the fish load to 1 inch of fish per 3 gallons and extend the time between water changes. While the further addition of a sump with live plants or an algae scrubber for nutrient export can further increase stocking levels to 1 inch of fish per 2 gallons of water volume. All fish stocking recommendations are based on a tank that is fully cycled and biologically mature. When a tank is first established and the beneficial bacteria are just forming, it is important to move slowly with fish additions and test the water every few days. Weekly water changes and a reduced feeding regimen will also help take the load off of a maturing filtration system. With all new tank setups, fish should be added slowly with one or two fish being added every 2 to 3 weeks, which will allow the filtration system and beneficial bacteria to adjust to the increase in waste products. After an aquarium is fully mature (approximately 1 year) hobbyists can utilize combinations of filtration techniques and water changes to increase fish loads above what is recommended here. Many factors come into play when giving advice on the fish load an established aquarium can support; however, always remember to work with nature and provide the proper environment to support the nitrogen cycle and move slow to allow beneficial bacteria to do their work. Hobbyists who maintain high levels of dissolved oxygen through laminar water flow, use live rock and live sand, utilize protein skimmers, use sumps for plant or algae nutrient export and last but not least use a RO/DI unit to provide quality water for top off and water changes, will find that keeping a marine aquarium does not have to be difficult and is very enjoyable. Fish Compatibility as it pertains to stocking levels in an aquarium is more than just fish fighting with one another. Of course if incompatible fish are kept together their constant fighting will likely mean that some fish will become stressed and likely get sick and die. However, another factor of fish compatibility involves available territory within the aquarium. While a number of marine reef fish like Chromis, Anthias and some Tang species will readily school together within the aquarium, most reef fish attempt to stake out territory within the aquarium. This territory is usually based on feeding habits and shelter, where fish will look for an area within the aquarium that has good caves and crevices in which to retreat to when threatened and in which to sleep, and where they can readily find food to eat. Problems occur when fish are kept together and they see one another as competition for both food and shelter. An prime example of this is keeping multiple dwarf marine angelfish in small to medium sized aquariums, they will both try to claim either the entire tank or most of it as their territory, where often the loser is marginalized to one small area of the tank or simply becomes stressed, becomes ill and dies. Unless you have a very large aquarium (hundreds of gallons) it is very important to keep fish species who will not compete with one another and are accepting of sharing the same territory or space within the aquarium. The adult size of each fish and how much room they need to swim comfortably within the aquarium ties into the overall compatibility and ultimately the health of aquarium livestock. In general, fish species that grow larger like Angelfish, Triggerfish, Groupers, Surgeonfish and others are typically more aggressive than fish species who only grow a few inches in length. This directly effects the amount of space they need to feel comfortable within the aquarium. While smaller fish are happy to hang out near a rocky crevice or swim in a school with others of their species, larger more aggressive fish will want to claim a larger area of the aquarium and will generally not tolerate any other fish they see as competition for food or dominance. Also in the case of some fish like fast swimming open water Surgeonfish, Sharks, Rays or other similar species, their unique size and swimming habits may make them less suitable to be kept with other smaller or more shy fish species. Ultimately, fish stocking is more than just a calculation of inch of fish per gallon or employing the best filtration systems, it is a balance between fish, their tank mates and their aquarium environment. Make sure you have a good understanding of the Nitrogen Cycle and how it works in an aquatic environment, utilize the best combination of filtration systems that you can afford. Be sure to cover the basics, breakdown or remove waste products, provide plenty of dissolved oxygen, export nutrients from the aquarium and provide fresh water and beneficial trace elements through water changes. And remember go slow, during the first six months to a year, give time for your filtration system to catch up each time you add new fish (usually 2 to 3 weeks) and do your best to recreate the methods mother nature uses. By providing high oxygen levels, biological filtration, protein skimming, proper color temperature (10k - 20k) lighting, controlled additions of new tank mates and keeping in mind the adult size, compatibility requirements of new specimens and you will guarantee yourself many years of successful marine fish keeping. Good Luck!
After selecting the perfect new Coral colony for their aquarium, the marine reef hobbyist should take the necessary steps to safely add their new marine coral to its new aquatic home. The recommended steps are clearly laid out, so that a hobbyist of any level will benefit from this blog. Notes and warnings are included for areas that require special attention or are common areas where new hobbyists typically make mistakes. The vast majority of aquarium hobbyists strive to provide the best possible environment and care for all of their aquariums inhabitants. It is because of this attention to excellent husbandry, that collectively as a hobby, reef aquarists have learned the best methods in which to introduce and maintain corals within the aquarium environment. There is probably no more critical time for a coral than during the process of being transported home and introduced into the hobbyists reef aquarium. During this period of time the coral will be subjected to many stresses, that while inevitable, can be greatly reduced through the care and technique that the marine aquarium hobbyist uses to introduce the new coral into its new home. In order to safely acclimate Corals into an already established aquarium it is important to closely follow this proven set of procedures designed to limit any stress on the new specimen and get it acclimated as quickly as possible. It is highly recommended to look over all the steps ahead of time and be sure to have all the necesarry items handy and ready to go prior to the arrival of the new coral specimen. This acclimation procedure is a safe and easy way to introduce Corals from the relatively stressful water chemistry of its shipping bag to the healthy and safe conditions of its new home. Though it may seem like the best course of action is to get your new specimen into your clean aquarium as soon as possible, it is extremely important to note that rapid changes in water conditions or chemistry can be more dangerous to an aquatic animal than being kept longer in an unhealthy environment. It is this slow transition from shipping container to established tank that is the focus of this acclimation procedure. Note: It is generally recommended that all newly purchased specimens be quarantined in a separate tank before introduction to the population of your established aquarium; however, the acclimation process is the same either way (assuming the quarantine tank has the same water chemistry as the main aquarium). Note: This procedure should not take any more than 1 hour to complete. Important Note: Never expose sponges and gorganians (sea fans) to open air. This is the only case where you will have to introduce some of the bag water into your aquarium. Before you start, you will need the following: Steps to take to properly acclimate a new Coral specimen By following these steps a reef aquarium hobbyist of any level should be able to properly acclimate a new coral specimen to their established reef aquarium. It is also recommended that the aquarium hobbyist pay close attention to their new coral specimen(s) during acclimation and in the short term afterwords to verify that the coral is doing well and taking to its new environment. Helpful Hints:
Acropora corals are highly adaptive, opportunistic and fast growing, which has made them a very popular species in reef aquarium hobby. Acropora can be found in a variety of grow forms ranging from plates to staghorns and a variety of colors. With the popularity and variety of this coral an entire website could be dedicated to their selection and husbandry. However, this guide will introduce the various varieties of Acropora and will cover their scientific background and information related to Acropora within the context of the reef aquarium hobby environment. Genus Acropora (ak-roh-pohr-ah) is part of the largest family and most important contributor to coral reef formations in the world. The two primary genera Acropora and Montipora together account for almost one-third of all hermatypic or reef-building coral species. While found in both the pacific and atlantic oceans, Acropora is far more dominantly found in the Pacific ocean as there are only 3 known species of Acropora in the Atlantic. Acropora contain specialized axial corallite, which do not contain zooxanthellae, but allow for a very rapid growth rate, as they are fed by other areas of the colony. This allows for the genus to have a advantage over other corals in that they can outgrow them and rapidly colonize the reef. These fast growing Acropora branches can be identified by their light-colored tips, which are almost white or brightly hued. There are 13 to 15 basic growth forms of Acropora that vary according to size and shape of the branches, the position of the brances, the number of corallite septa and the nature of the coenosteum. The most commonly available aquarium species tend to fall into the following growth forms: branching, bushy, cluster, finger, bottlebrush and tabular. In the aquarium hobby , species are generally sold by form and color as oppossed to the species i.e. purple staghorn or pink bottlebrush. This is understandable, but can make it difficult in providing a species designation, which is then left upto the aquarist. Acropora are highly diverse and adaptable, which makes figuring out the best aquarium conditions difficult. Specimens have been collected in a multitude of areas including areas of strong water current and intense lighting to deep water areas and calm lagoons. Pretty much anywhere coral reefs can be found, Acropora can also be found there thriving. Discussed in the next section, growth forms and not species are probably the better indicator of the natural location of the coral. Coloration of Acropora is even more diverse than the growth forms, with almost every hue of the rainbow possible. Acropora in the wild are highly adaptable and can exist in a variety of locations including: calm lagoons, pounding reef crests and even reef flats where they can be out of water for periods of time. They tolerate huge differences in light intensity, water movement and even salinity, thus one would think that they would extremely easy to keep in the reef aquarium, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact they are very demanding of their conditions when housed in captivity. However, once they are acclimated to aquarium life, and if kept with stable water conditions, they will also thrive in the reef aquarium. Generally speaking, Acropora species with thick branches are normally more difficult to keep than those with thin branches. This is most likely because of the inability of reef aquarists to provide enough water flow that the thick branched species need to thrive, thus making these species more prone initially to problems. Brown specimens, bottlebrush and thin branched species tend to be more tolerant of the lower water flow and light level conditions. Tabletop species are among the most difficult Acropora species to keep in the home reef aquarium, with staghorn specimens being somewhere in the middle. Captive-bred or frag specimens seem to be generally healthier and easier to care for than wild specimens. Nonetheless, all Acropora specimens seem to prefer strong, random or mixing type water current with intense lighting and high levels of calcium and strontium to promote maximum growth and health. Water quality should also be excellent and very stable, thus Acropora do much better in established reef aquariums where water parameters are generally more stable. Acropora need to be acclimated carefully to their new surroundings so that they are not shocked by light, water parameter changes or other stresses. They should also be located in their final position as quickly as possibly to avoid stress or unfulfilled metabolic needs. Typical stressors include: low light, low water current and frequent movement from different positions in the aquarium. They do not tolerate sudden changes in aquarium conditions, especially water temperature and will fade in color, recede in growth or even die if proper water conditions are not maintained. While frag or captive-bred species do best, they often require about 6 months to regain full normal growth rates. Acropora are also susceptible to most known coral diseases including: white-band disease, black-band disease, recession, etc. While Acropora are a demanding species to keep in captivity, it is possible to keep them successfully and can be an extremely rewarding coral to keep and raise. Hopefully the information in this article along with the experience obtained from keeping corals in the reef aquarium will help increase the likelyhood that these corals can not only be kept successfully in the reef aquarium, but also thrive as well.
Wet/Dry filtration has become one of the corner stones of a well designed aquarium filtration system. Along with the general aspects of Wet/Dry filtration, this guide covers all of the benefits of this type of system including biological filtration, mechanical filtration, water oxygenation, chemical filtration and sump configurations. From the basic Wet/Dry filter to the more recent advancements in these filter systems, this guide bring the aquarium hobbyist up-to-speed on this very desirable aquarium filtration system. Wet/Dry filtration is a method of filtration that focuses on providing biological, mechanical and chemical filtration for both marine and freshwater aquariums. Wet/Dry filters get their name because they take water from the aquarium via an overflow system and pass the water through the air over a series of porous bio-material which is usually in the form of plastic bio-balls. While this process gives the filter system its name, the modern Wet/Dry filter system does much more. While the primary task of a Wet/Dry filter is to provide biological filtration, it is also an excellent filter for both mechanical and chemical filtration as well. After siphoning the water from the aquarium via a skimmer or overflow system, the water is passed through one or more chambers containing filter pads or sponges, where mechanical filtration takes place as physical particles are removed from the water stream before they enter the trickle tower portion of the Wet/Dry filter. It is at this point that the water is passed into the trickle tower or bio-chamber where it drops down onto plastic bio-balls that are piled up on top of a plastic grate at the bottom of the chamber. This allows the water to pass through the air as it drips through the bio-ball chamber which creates an ideal environment for beneficial aerobic bacteria to live. It is these aerobic bacteria living on the bio-balls that perform the biological filtering of the water as they remove waste products from the water and produce oxygen. At this point the water drops down into the main sump area of the Wet/Dry Filter system, where chemical filtration can be added along with other filtration devices such as protein skimmers, activated carbon media and much more. Lastly, the water moves into the final chamber which contains the pump to return the water from the Wet/Dry filter sump back into the aquarium. Since Wet/Dry filters excel at biological filtration, they have become one of the most important ingredients to a successful aquarium filtration system. Biological filtration is the process in which ammonia is converted to the less toxic nitrite, then to the relatively non-toxic nitrate. While nitrate is non-toxic at low levels, it can build up over time and become toxic to most aquarium inhabitants. Nitrate will need to be removed from the aquarium system either through the use of live plants which consume nitrate as food or from water changes where aquarium water is removed and replaced with fresh water that is from a nitrate free source. Wet/Dry systems earned their reputation as excellent biological filters by the method by which they stimulate bacterial growth. A successful bacteria colony requires moisture, heat and oxygen, all of which are effectively cultivated in properly maintained Wet/Dry filter systems. The temperature of your tank will provide the necessary heat for proper growth, and the moisture is taken care of by the water in your tank. The process of how the water is siphoned from the aquarium surface and trickled over the biological surface is how the Wet/Dry does the rest by providing the correct environment and living conditions for billions upon billions of beneficial aerobic bacteria colonies to live and thrive. Each Wet/Dry filter uses its own type and grade of bio material. Most filters use bio-balls, which are spherical plastic balls which are hollow and have a netted structure that provides large amounts of surface area for beneficial bacteria to live. Other Wet/Dry filter designs use a structure called Bio Bale, which looks like plastic hay, which is also very effective at stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria. New versions of bio-material and Wet/Dry configurations are popping up within the hobby as filter manufacturers look to further improve on what is already a very effective design. The initial process of skimming the water from the aquariums surface and returning it via the surface of the water creates excellent water agitation which saturates the water with large amounts of dissolved oxygen. On top of this process, when the water enters the Wet/Dry filter from your tank, it is poured over the biomaterial at a high velocity, as the water flows over the material it mixes with the surrounding air, supersaturating the water with oxygen. It is this mixing affect that contributes to the name Wet/Dry filtration. There are even opportunities within the sump portion of the Wet/Dry filter itself for oxygen to be introduced into the water via the return from a device such as a protein skimmer or by passing over additional filter media or substrates where more beneficial bacteria may be present. While all models of Wet/Dry filters have mechanical filtration via pre-filters in the skimmer box to filtration trays located above the bio material, newer model Wet/Dry filters are constantly improving on this by providing more physical filtration in the form of micro mesh bags, sponge filters and media pads located in various locations throughout the filter system. Any of the Wet/Dry filter systems commonly available within the aquarium hobby provide not only excellent biological filtration, but top notch mechanical filtration as well. Additional mechanical filtration would only be necessary in the most extreme of cases where the aquarium inhabitants produce large amounts of physical waste. The sump area of the Wet/Dry filter system allows the hobbyist a convenient location to locate chemical filtration, protein skimmers, live rock (saltwater setup), plants, macro algae and much more. It is now quite common for Wet/Dry filter systems to come with expanded sump sections to allow hobbyists to keep a variety of additional filters and even create refugiums and plant based vegetable filters. All of these additional forms of filtration make the Wet/Dry filter a complete all-in-one filtration system that is capable of handling all types of marine or freshwater aquarium setups. Wet/Dry filtratioin systems are not simply a good option to consider, it has become the ideal starting point for a high quality filtration system that excels in both freshwater and saltwater aquarium installations. Due to their popularity, they have expanded with many different variations of the standard Wet/Dry system with expanded sumps, refugiums, Berlin style setups and many more. Be sure to carefully investigate your options when setting up your next aquarium and find the right Wet/Dry system to fit your aquarium goals.
Aquarium lighting does far more than just illuminate the aquarium itself, proper aquarium lighting can greatly enhance the appearance of fish, plants, corals and invertebrates along with providing vital health benefits to all types of aquarium life forms. Thus, there are many important factors to consider when selecting the correct lighting system for your aquarium. When choosing the correct aquarium lighting system for a particular aquarium setup, the hobbyist needs to their best to replicate the natural lighting conditions that their aquarium inhabitants would experience in nature. Fortunately with the recent advancements in aquarium lighting systems, this has become much easier to do due to the introduction of complex lighting systems that simulate all types of natural lighting environments even night time lighting as well. In order to put together the best lighting for a particular aquariums needs, it is important to know the factors that go into deciding on which lighting system to choose. The main factors involved in choosing the correct aquarium lighting system are the lighting spectral qualities and lighting intensity. There are many factors the affect the lighting quality and intensity of a lighting system, thus the following factors: water depth, water clarity, water movement and lighting intensity should be taken into consideration before making a lighting system decision. Understanding the natural conditions of your aquarium inhabitants and their lighting needs along with understanding your home aquarium environment are critical to implementing the best lighting solution for your aquariums needs. Lighting Spectrum is something most aquarium hobbyists have heard about in connection with aquarium lighting, but probably do not have a full understanding about exactly what it is and what it means for their aquarium inhabitants. Sunlight is a combination of many types of light blended together, with the red, yellow and green areas of the spectrum being the ones most easily visible to the human eye. Ultraviolet, in the blue end of the spectrum, is invisible but its effect can be felt very easily as it is this end of the spectrum that causes the warm sun sensation you feel on your skin from the sun and causes sunburn when overexposure occurs. You can usually feel a quick change in temperature of your skin when a cloud passes over, this signals a decrease in the amount of radiation in a given light field. For humans prolonged exposure to this type of light is dangerous to both our skin and eyes; however, in the aquarium environment this UV radiation plays an important role in coral, plant & invertebrate health and photosynthesis. The spectrum of bulbs for aquariums are expressed as a color temperature given or stated in Kelvin degrees. Sunlight has a color temperature of about 5500K, at 12 noon over a tropical reef while actinic light sources typically have a color temperature of about 7100K. The more blue the light the higher the temperature. Light is electromagnetic energy in the form of waves, with these waves having frequencies. As the temperature of a substance increases, the frequency of the light emitted also increases, thus lower temperatures produce red and yellow light, while higher temperatures produce light ranging from white to the blue colors of the spectrum. In nature, as light enters and passes through the first 15 feet of water, the red and orange wavelengths are absorbed by the water, increasing the Kelvin rating of the light, and giving the light a more blue appearance. As the light penetrates to 30 feet, the water absorbs the yellow spectrum, and when the light continues past 50 feet, the water filters the green wavelengths, leaving just the blue and violet wavelengths resulting in the light with the highest Kelvin rating. This is not so noticeable in the home aquarium as we typically do not maintain aquariums with a depth of 15 or more feet! Poor quality lighting products not intended for the aquarium hobby typically have Kelvin ratings in the 2700k to 4300K range which produces too much red and yellow light. These lighting products are not only undesirable because they do not provide the needed lighting qualities for most aquarium plants and corals, but they also promote undesirable types of nuisance algae. While the quality of aquarium lighting and its affects on aquarium inhabitants is extremely important, so is the look or aesthetics of the aquarium as well. It is important to select bulb types and spectral qualities that satisfy both the needs of your aquariums inhabitants and also provides a pleasing aesthetic for the aquarium hobbyist as well. Lighting intensity is measured as Lux at the surface it impacts and as watts when measured at its source. Since light spreads outward and scatters in all directions, the farther we are from the source the less light we see. The intensity of light decreases by the square of the distance that area is from the lighting source. If a fluorescent bulb is moved 2 inches away from the water, it will be 4 times lower in intensity. This is an important fact to remember when placing bulbs that appear at first to have the correct amount of intensity for an aquaria. As you raise them higher above the water, the intensity will drop dramatically and you might not have the correct amount of light reaching your animals. Lighting intensity can be affected by other factors other than distance. Turbidity of the water can significantly reduce the actual amount of light that penetrates the surface and reaches the animals. In tanks where activated carbon is used and is changed regularly light penetration into the aquarium can be maximized. Cleaning or removing glass or acrylic lenses from the light hood will also help. The intensity of light above the surface of a reef can be as high as 130,000 lux. The actual amount of intensity that penetrates the surface of the water can be about 70,000, with maybe only 15,000 lux actually reaching the 10-15 meter mark. The water surface also reflects some of the light back, reducing the amount that penetrates the water and reaches the corals. Light intensity at the source is measured in watts. The higher the watts, the more intense the light, and the more energy required to produce the light. A 100-watt bulb, for example, will give off more light than a 40-watt bulb, and will cost more to use. A watt is actually related to a lux in that one lux is equal to 1.46 milliwatts (0.00146 watts) of energy of one specific frequency (555 nm) hitting a surface area of one square meter. However, since bulbs used in aquarium lighting systems emit light of many frequencies (not just 555nm), no exact formula can be used when determining the number of lux produced by a bulb of a specific wattage. It is also very important to note that some types of aquarium light bulbs (metal halide, fluorescent, etc.) begin losing intensity long before they stop emitting light. The general rule of thumb is to replace these type of aquarium bulbs every 8 to 12 months with some reef aquarium lighting needing replacement every 6 months. These times will vary based on bulb type and lighting requirements for a particular aquarium, so one should consult the documentation for the bulb type being used. In nature most corals and marine invertebrates live in conditions that are lit mostly by blue light waves, thus they have adapted to this and will require bulbs that produce these blue wavelengths in the aquarium environment as well. While corals and marine invertebrates thrive under blue light, most hobbyists find aquariums illuminated with blue light only to be unattractive. This aesthetic dilemma can be solved by combining an actinic light with a white light, such as a 50/50 bulb half blue/white or a light combination in which the white lights give light in the range of 8000 to 12000 K. This lighting combination gives corals and invertebrates the spectrum necessary for growth, in addition to the spectrum necessary for accurate color rendering within the aquarium. Lastly, it is important to consider initial and ongoing operating costs, lighting intensity and spectrum and the heat produced by the lighting system when choosing a lighting system for your marine reef aquarium. Lighting systems for reef aquariums, such as metal halide and hi-output fluorescent systems, tend to be rather expensive due to their high initial cost, high levels of required energy, and characteristically frequent bulb changes. Lighting systems designed for reef aquariums produce two types of intense heat, which must be addressed prior to installation. The first type of heat - from the actual bulbs - surrounds the bulbs and should be removed with cooling fans. The second type of heat - radiant heat produced by the lighting system - is unavoidably absorbed by the aquarium water and should be controlled with a water chiller (be sure to budget for a water chiller in your installation plans). Fortunately a large number of LED aquarium lighting systems for both freshwater and marine environments are becoming widely available and at a variety of cost points. These newer LED lighting systems require much less energy, produce less heat, long bulb life and produce full spectrum quality light even towards the end of the bulbs life span. When choosing lighting for your aquarium, keep your aquarium inhabitants natural lighting conditions foremost in your mind, while still budgeting for the initial cost of the lighting system and for replacement bulbs. Other factors such as heat produced from the lighting system, physical size and dimensions of the system and airflow should also be considered before purchasing a lighting system. Having the correct wattage, Kelvin rating and lighting intensity can mean the difference between an aquarium with beautifully colored fish, thriving plants and corals and a tank overgrown with nuisance algae.
LED Lighting Systems are quickly becoming the preferred choice of aquarium lighting for both freshwater and marine aquarium hobbyists. Long bulb life, low heat output, shimmer effect, sleek designs and overall power savings make LED systems hard to beat. The past few decades have brought about an enormous amount of innovation in aquarium lighting systems for the home aquarium hobbyist. It was not that long ago when many hobbyists used "shop light" fixtures with basic 40 watt per tube fluorescent bulbs for their aquarium lighting. Advanced hobbyists would employ expensive metal halide solutions that required both a large up front cost and expensive on-going bulb replacement ever 9 to 12 months. Over time fluorescent aquarium fixtures based on power compact or t5 bulbs became the norm for the average hobbyist, with metal halides dominating the marine reef and other high-end aquarium setups. However, the entire aquarium lighting landscape is rapidly changing with the introduction of LED based lighting systems that combine brilliant lighting options with affordability and efficiency. A LED or light-emitting diode is a solid state semiconductor lighting source. LEDs produce light through the use of a light-emitting diode that when switched on allows electrons to recombine with electron holes within the device, which release energy in the form of photons. Basically, LEDs are just tiny light bulbs that fit easily into an electrical circuit. However, unlike ordinary incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, they don't have a filament or gas that will burn out, and they don't get especially hot. They are illuminated solely by the movement of electrons in a semiconductor material, and they last just as long as a standard transistor. The lifespan of an LED surpasses the short life of an incandescent or fluorescent bulbs by thousands of hours. LEDs have many advantages over incandescent lighting, fluorescent lighting and even metal halide lighting sources including lower energy consumption, longer bulb lifetime, improved robustness and resistance to shock, smaller size, faster switching, and greater durability and reliability. LEDs powerful enough for aquarium lighting are relatively new to the hobby; however, new LED lighting systems are quickly becoming available to the mainstream aquarium hobbyist. LED Lighting Systems are capable of providing an intense amount of light in any desired kelvin temperature, while using less electricity and producing less heat than either modern fluorescent or metal halide systems. Since LEDs do not produce a lot of heat, they can be cooled through the use of heat sinks instead of bulking and noisy fans. This allows LED Lighting Systems to be exceptionally small and quiet, which means LED enclosures are often extremely thin and light. As LEDs are very small and light, they can be configured into a large variety of fixture configurations including; leg mounted on top of the aquarium, suspended pendant from above, flexible rope enclosures and even sealed underwater fixtures that allow for truly unique lighting placement. LED lights also create the shimmering lighting effect of sunlight dancing underwater as the light passes through the rippling water at the surface of the aquarium, similar to natural sunlight or metal halide lighting. LED Aquarium Lighting Systems are quickly changing the way aquarium hobbyists illuminate their aquariums and grow plant and coral livestock. LED Aquarium Lighting Systems can be implemented in a wide variety of form factors including: strip, pendant, rope, retro-fit and completely custom configurations. The compact size and limited heat output of these systems allows hobbyists to utilize LED lighting in places and ways that they could never have done with metal halide or fluorescent lighting. LED lighting systems also reduce or eliminate all together the need for expensive equipment like water chillers and moving track systems designed to combat the excessive heat output of Metal Halide Lighting. There are currently LED Lighting Systems from a variety of major aquarium lighting vendors that cover all aspects of the aquarium hobby from planted freshwater aquariums to coral reefs. Reef aquarium hobbyists now have a true replacement for high wattage (250 to 400 watt) Metal Halide bulbs. 400 watt metal halide lights can now be replaced with 60 watts of LED lighting without any adverse effects on corals or plants. LED Aquarium Lighting eliminates the yearly expense and hassle of replacing expensive bulbs and eliminates fading colors in corals, clams and inverts caused by bulbs that slowly lose their lighting intensity. In addition, hobbyists are able to save a significant amount of money on their electric bill through lower wattage consumption from their lighting system and less usage of cooling devices like chillers, fans and air conditioning. As of early 2016, LED Aquarium Lighting Systems have become widely available within the hobby, and are evolving very rapidly in both design and capability all while lower in price. Manufacturers are coming out with new fixture configurations and higher output designs with such frequency that it can be difficult to keep up. Over the next few years LED Aquarium Lighting Systems should continue to increase in features and continue to come down in price as they are produced on a large scale. Higher output designs intended for large aquariums will become more numerous and more affordable. Current LED Aquarium Lighting Systems are also now being fitted with high end capabilities like programmable timers, computer control capability and dynamic lighting modes. The future of aquarium lighting looks very bright!
The nitrogen cycle as it pertains to the home aquarium is the process of establishing beneficial bacteria in order to break down nitrogenous waste compounds into less harmful nitrates that can be removed from the aquarium via plants or water changes. Like all living creatures, fish give off waste products, these nitrogenous waste products break down into ammonia (NH3), which is highly toxic to both fish & Invertebrates. In nature, the volume of water per fish is extremely high and waste products become diluted to low concentrations and are ultimately purified by the mass amounts of nitrofying bacteria that exist. In aquariums, however, it can take as little as a few hours for ammonia concentrations to reach toxic levels. How much ammonia is too much? The quick answer is: if a test kit is able to measure it, you've got too much, it's in a high enough concentrations to stress fish and cause irritation. Consider emergency action such as water changes using Reverse Osmosed water or ammonia locking products, if your ammonia levels are .25ppm or higher. The Nitrogen Cycle is the biological process that converts ammonia into other, relatively harmless nitrogen compounds. Fortunately, several species of bacteria do this conversion for us. Some species convert ammonia (NH3) to nitrite (N02-), while others convert nitrite to nitrate (NO3-). Thus, cycling the tank refers to the process of establishing bacterial colonies in the filter bed that convert ammonia - nitrite - nitrate. Nitrate is only toxic at high levels that take time to accumulate and can be removed through partial water changes or aquatic plant life. The desired species of nitrifying bacteria are present everywhere (e.g., in the air), therefore, once you have an ammonia source in your tank, its only a matter of time before the desired bacteria establish a colony in your filter bed. The most common way to do this is to seed your new aquarium using water or substrate from and existing aquarium, live rock or to place one or two (emphasis on one or two) hardy and inexpensive fish in your aquarium (damselfish and chromis are good for this purpose). The fish waste contains the ammonia on which the bacteria will live and grow, be careful not to overfeed them, causing more ammonia than can be handled by the growing bacteria bed. During the cycling process, ammonia levels will vary wildly as the nitrite-forming bacteria take hold. Because nitrate-forming bacteria don't even begin to appear until nitrite is present in significant quantities, nitrite levels skyrocket (as the built-up ammonia is converted), continuing to rise as the continually-produced ammonia is converted to nitrite. Once the nitrate-forming bacteria take hold, nitrite levels fall, nitrate levels rise, and the tank is fully cycled. Your tank is fully cycled once nitrates are being produced (and ammonia and nitrite levels are zero). To determine when the cycle has completed, you will need to have a marine water test kit, and measure the levels weekly at first and then monthly. Another possibility is to bring water samples to your local fish store and let them perform the test for you. The cycling process normally takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks, at temperatures below 70F it takes even longer to cycle a tank. In comparison to other types of bacteria, nitrifying bacteria grow slowly. Under optimal conditions; however, it can take only 15 hours for a colony to double in size! It is possible to speed up the cycling process by using bacteria based products available that will speed the process of building the nitrifying bacteria beds. The use of these products along with proper temperature, water flow and lighting can shorten the cycling process to 1-3 weeks. Reverse Osmose water should be used to limit the amount of ammonia, nitrite and silicates that are present in the water. Warning: AVOID THE TEMPTATION TO GET MORE FISH UNTIL AFTER YOUR TANK HAS FULLY CYCLED! More fish means more ammonia production, increasing the stress on all fish and the likelihood of fish deaths. Once ammonia levels reach highly stressful or toxic levels, your tank has succumbed to New Tank Syndrome; the tank has not yet fully cycled, and the accumulating ammonia has concentrations lethal to your fish. Each time you add a couple of fish you will need to allow a couple of weeks for the bacteria in your aquarium filter bed to grow in number to handle the increased amount of ammonia and filtering loads. Keep in mind that not only are you adding more fish, but you are also increasing the amount of food fed, consumed and the amount of uneated food, all of which creates higher ammonia levels. In an established tank ammonia levels should always be 0 ppm, which is undetectable using standard test kits available at stores. The presence of detectable levels indicates that your bio filter is not working adequately, either because your tank has not yet been completely cycled, or the filter is not functioning adequately (e.g. too small for fish load, clogged, etc.) It is imperative that you address the cause of the problem (filter) in addition to the symptoms (high ammonia levels). The exact concentration at which ammonia becomes toxic to fish varies among species; some are more tolerant than others. In addition, other factors like water temperature and chemistry play a significant role. For example, ammonia (NH3) continually changes to ammonium (NH4+) and vice versa, with the relative concentrations of each depending on the water's temperature and pH. Ammonia is extremely toxic; ammonium is relatively harmless. At higher temperatures and pH, more of the nitrogen is in the toxic ammonia form than at lower pH. The nitrogen cycle can be sped up or jump started in a number of ways. Unfortunately, they require access to an established tank, which a beginning aquarist may not have available. The basic idea is to find an established tank, take some of the bacteria out of it and place them in the new tank. Most filters have some sort of foam block or floss insert on which nitrifying bacteria attach. Borrowing all or part of such an insert and placing it in the new tanks filter gets things going more quickly. If the established tank uses an undergravel filter, nitrifying bacteria will be attached to the gravel. Take some of the gravel (a cup or more) and hang it in a mesh bag in your filter (if you can), or lay it over the top of the gravel in the new tank (if it has an UGF). More recently, products containing colonies of nitrifying bacteria have become available at pet shops (e.g. Fritz, Bio-zyme, Cycle). In theory, adding the bacteria jump-starts the colonization process as above. Net experience with such products has been mixed; some folks report success, while others report they don't work as well as advertised. In principle, such products should work well. However, nitrifying bacteria cannot live indefinitely without oxygen and food. Thus, the effectiveness of a product depends on its freshness and can be adversely effected by poor handling (e.g. overheating). Unfortunately, these products dont come with a freshness date, so there is no way to know how old they are. Of course, there are many variations on the above that work. However, it is a bit difficult to give an exact recipe that is guaranteed to work. It is advisable to take a conservative approach and not add fish too quickly. In addition, testing the water to be sure nitrates are being produced eliminates the guesswork of determining when your tank has cycled. Remember that using any method to cycle your tank is going to take some time and that following the advice written here along with some patience and diligent water testing, will in the end result in a well established and enjoyable marine aquarium.