FRESHWATER AQUARIUM CARE INFORMATION;
Basic Principles for the Proper Set Up, Maintenance, Care and Feeding for Freshwater Aquariums/ Tanks
Start with as large an aquarium as you can afford (even for bettas).
Find a good Aquarium or Pet Store. Look at their fish and see how well they are taken care.
If the store has central filtering system, be careful, as if one fish is sick in one aquarium it can be spread to all aquariums.
Never buy fish from an aquarium with sick fish.
In the aquarium stores I set up I never placed more than two aquariums on one system so if there was a disease outbreak it was easier to isolate.
We also had UV Sterilizers on ALL systems.
This is not to say that if you find a good dealer with a central system to not buy from them, just keep in mind if you see a tank of sick fish, the whole store may have been exposed.
Many large retailers have central systems for their convenience, NOT YOURS.
Finally as to tank size; this is often a controversial subject among aquarist, especially well intentioned advanced aquarists. The bigger an aquarium you can afford, maintain and have space for, the better for many good reasons, BUT I have kept MANY aquariums under a variety of conditions and monitored them in controlled experiments and often a small aquarium can work for what many might consider over crowded conditions, provided excellent filtration, cleaning maintenance, circulation, feeding procedures (and quality food), chemistry, etc.
For example, I can state categorically that a 10 gallon aquarium with (2) 2 inch goldfish that is well maintained with a hang on the back (power) and a sponge filter will have vastly better water parameters than a 20 gallon with the same goldfish that is poorly maintained with a corner bubbler filter.
Product Examples include:
*Rena Smart Filter &
*ATI Premium Aquarium Sponge Filters
Here is an Aquarium Answers Post Dealing with this subject in a more factual way:
Aquarium Size and Fish Stunting
For the average aquarium I recommend 2-3” of #3 or pea sized gravel. This allows for less build up of hydrogen sulfide producing anaerobic bacteria. The down side to larger gravel is that it will allow for more waste particle or eaten food to accumulate. With proper maintenance though, waste accumulation should not be a major problem.
I always recommend two filters minimum per aquarium for redundancy (in case one filter fails) and for improved biological (nitrifying) filtration.
Air Pumps and power heads/circulation pumps can also be added to maintain good circulation & aeration, as well as to move water to existing filters.
Combined Suggested Aquarium Turnover Rates (per hours):
The size of your filters are also determined by other filters present in your aquarium as well as your aquarium "bio load" (number and size of fish and other inhabitants kept in an aquarium).
As an example in a 50 gallon aquarium with an average bio load of 40-45 small Platties; if you prefer a canister filter, a Rena Filstar XPS would work fine by itself (although I still recommend another filter for redundancy), however this same filter would work fine in a 75 gallon aquarium assuming a light bio load or if another filter is present to assume part of the load such as a Hydro Sponge 3 Filter
*Rena Filstar XPS Filter
*Hydro Sponge #3 Aquarium Filter from AAP
A Sponge Filter is an excellent compliment to most filters as the sponge filter can extend the tank size capacity of most filters they are used in conjunction with.
What is not always recognized by many (especially due of the cut and paste nature of the Internet), IS the fact (as per extensive controlled tests) that a well designed Sponge Filter can be the primary filter in ANY SIZE aquarium.
These tests showed a sponge filter exceeding all equivalent sized Power Filters (such as a Hydro Sponge #5 exceeding an AquaClear 110 for a 75 gallon aquarium for aerobic bio filtration).
Only a Fluidized Filter exceeds Sponge Filter efficiency when compared "apples to apples" models.
*Hydro Sponge #5 Aquarium Filter
*TMC Premium Fluidized Bio Filters
This article is a MUST READ:
Sponge Filtration; Facts & Information
Taking the aerobic bio filtration a step further, a Fluidized Sand Bed Filter can actually outperform most any high priced canister filter such as the Fluval FX5 and a Fluidized Sand Bed Filter and/or Premium Sponge Filter make a much less complicated alternative to messy canister filters (especially for those who find canister filters simply a pain to mess with).
Reference: Aquarium Filtration: Fluidized Filters
For a small aquarium, a combination of a "Hang On the Back" (HOB) power filter (such as the SunSun Economy HOB Filter) and a Sponge Filter.
Or a sponge filter and an internal power filter (such as the SunSun Internal Power Filters) as another potential combination.
You want to make sure and rinse your sponge or cartridge out in used aquarium water to maintain your beneficial bacteria for bio filtration. Another note about the HOB filter is that they are far more efficient as bio filters if used with a sponge pre filter such a filter max.
The SunSun 702 series is more than an economy filter in that it is similar to more pricey HOB filters (such as the Tetra EX) with its motor design that pulls water in rather than one that pushes water out which makes priming easier and also does not have the tendency to get carbon or other particulates stuck in the impeller.
*SunSun Economy HOB Aquarium Power Filter
*Internal Power Filters
For a mid size (or really any size) aquarium, you might consider a premium HOB Filter such as the Rena Smart Filter or Rena SuperClean Filter (for best value) as well as the before mentioned Sponge filter for added redundancy.
Other HOB filters worthy of note are the Aqua Clear, Whisper, and Tetra EX series filters (which also have a motor that draws water in rather than pushes it out).
Product Resource: Rena Smart & SuperClean Filters
For larger aquariums, a combination of a Fluidized and/or Canister Filter and an Internal Filter for cross circulation.
As for canister filters, I recommend Rena Filstar, Eheim, SunSun. While popular I do NOT recommend Fluvals as they have poor head pressure, high flow by rates and an un-reliable impeller based on my statistics which are based on using literally 100s.
Other filters of note include the wet/dry.
Product Resource: SunSun Canister Aquarium Filters
For Filter (& water pump) circulation, I recommend a minimum of a combined flow rate that turns over an aquarium a minimum of 5-6 times per hour, however 8-10 times would be better (although part of this can be simple circulation pumps), especially for fish such as goldfish.
As an example, I would recommend HOB (hang on the back power filter) of 150 gph plus a sponge filter that is moving 200 gph for a combined total of 350 gph for a 50 gallon aquarium (this is a turnover rate of 7 times per hour).
Adding circulation pumps such as a Seio Propeller Pump or an air-stone can also add to circulation, however I still recommend at least 5-6 times per hour through a filter and the remainder of circulation via simple circulation pumps, air stones, or similar.
Product Resource: Seio Aquarium Propeller Water Pump
There are Four Types of Filtration,
Care of these Filter Types:
*Biological; the removal of nitrogenous waste (ammonia, etc.), which is the most important type.
Care: Rinse with de-chlorinated water (or used aquarium water) every two to six weeks depending upon flow through media. Change only when media can no longer be rinsed reasonably clean.
A common mistake with basic aquarium set ups this simple single cartridge only filters (especially the simple single cartridge filter kits sold at Walmart, PetsMart, etc.), is to throw way the cartridge during routine maintenance. Unfortunately if this is the sole filter, every time the filter cartridge is thrown out, the majority of the essential Aerobic Autotrophic nitrifying bacteria is thrown away too.
Better is to have second cartridge seeding for at least two weeks near the filter intake or exhaust and then to use this as a replacement.
MUCH BETTER is to have either a Sponge Pre-Filter on your filter intake which will preserve this beneficial bacteria OR to have a second (or even the primary) filter that is a "stand alone" Sponge Filter.
With either of these sponge filters, rinsing with de-chlorinated water will preserve your important bio filtration colonies and constant & dangerous ammonia/nitrite spikes will be a thing of the past!
*ATI Sponge Filters &
*ATI Filter Max Sponge Pre-Filters
*Mechanical; the removal of larger debris (organic and inorganic) before it can go through the nitrogen cycle (organic) by means of filter fiber, sponges or other similar media.
Care: Change or rinse every two to six weeks depending upon condition of filter media (how fast it "clogs, etc.)
*Chemical; The removal of chemical contamination via carbon, zeolite or many other products. This becomes less important in a healthy, established aquarium. Carbon is often overused in healthy well established aquariums. If I even use carbon, I will generally use only one teaspoon per 5-10 gallons. I do add more and change it more often in tanks treated with medication or a new aquarium.
Carbon is often not 100% necessary in established aquariums especially tanks with regular water changes and plants. I generally only use carbon to remove chemicals after treatment then remove the carbon. You can also leave old carbon to become a nitrifying bacterial colony. This point about carbon also lends credibility to Sponge Filters which are often considered poor filters due to the fact they provide no chemical filtration, this is based on poor information as to the need for carbon filtration.
Further Reference: Use of Carbon in Aquariums, Ponds
Care: Change the carbon every 4-6 weeks depending upon water parameters carbon is being used to improve. Carbon may need to be changed or "refreshed" after each treatment with medications (not water conditioners)
*Germicidal; The use of UVC or ozone to kill disease pathogens and control the Redox potential (though ozone generators do NOT improve Redox Balance).
Care: Change your UV Bulb every six months.
*Tropic Marine Center Ozone Generators
*Use of UV Sterilization for Aquariums
*UV Replacement Bulbs
If an air pump is used for added circulation or to power a filter such as a Sponge Filter, placement of this pump can make quite a difference in its longevity.
Placement above the water level, even with the most inexpensive air pumps DOES make a difference in the life span of the pump.
I have had many a 'cheap' pump last 4-5 years when placed above the water level and 'better' air pumps last less than a year when placed under the aquarium. If not possible adding a check valve is a must, as well looping the tubing about three times at the top of the tank can help.
Without taking these measures, a pump below the water level can also back siphon water during a power failure or simply if the pumps fails.
Additional control of air flow can be done with airline control valves and Ts. Use of both T and valves can allow for bleeding off of air to prevent damage to the air pump by just using a valve to lower air volume.
Sources for Air Pumps and air control parts:
*Million Air Aquarium Pumps
*Fusion Premium Air Pumps & Air Control Parts
HEATERS & WARM WEATHER COOLING:
Most tropical fish do well at a temperature between 76 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. (Discus prefer warmer).
If tap water is used it will have to be treated to remove chlorine or even chloramines and heavy metals.
Your aquarium will not be at peak biological filtration for 6 weeks (or more).
CHEMISTRY (& TEST KITS):
First, please note that this section is a VERY brief and basic outline of freshwater aquarium chemistry; for any aquarium keeper looking to go beyond just very basic aquarium keeping, please read these articles:
For the average freshwater aquarium, lighting is not as important a consideration as it is for a planted freshwater aquarium or reef aquarium.
FOR MY FULL PLANT ARTICLE, please follow this link:
Aquarium Plant Care; Substrate, Ferts, CO2, Lighting, Plants, more
Once you have removed your chlorine (if necessary) adjusted your temperature, checked basic water parameters (kH, pH, Ammonia), you can start with a few fish.
I recommend feeding high quality fish and plant based foods. Quality ingredients include: spirulina, fish meal, FD Brine Shrimp, shrimp meal, Vitamin C & E, lobster shell.
You should try and have a schedule of changing 20% (or more) of your water every week.
Generally there are three basic “Smell Problems”.
Green water is free floating algae.
Since a UV Sterilizer is almost 100% effective in the eradication of green (pea soup) water, if you can afford this option, I would use one.
Please click on the picture above/left for a larger view of a before and after picture using a UV Sterilizer to clear green or cloudy water (Photo courtesy; Paul Phillips)
To the left is a picture/link to the previously mentioned SunSun self contained Submersible UV Sterilizer Filter/Pump, it is a VERY simple UV Sterilizer suggestion for those who do not desire to mess with plumbing, but still want a moderate quality UV Sterilizer,unlike so many of the very low end models now available in places like Amazon.
Also be aware that Amazon and others are now selling similar models (often with the same model number), but "cheapened" by not providing the important pre-filter, without corrections to flow rate for the proper dwell time, and even with low quality medium pressure UV bulbs that are considerably less effective!!!
See this article comparing higher cost low pressure UV Bulbs and lower cost medium pressure UV Bulbs:
Actual UV-C Emission from a UV Bulb
For more about proper feeding, please read this article:
Quality Fish Food; What ingredients are needed for proper fish nutrition, growth and health.
Consider products such as Algone which is an excellent bio aid to nitrate control and thus many causes of green water.
As well SeaChem Purigen is another effective method for nitrate control and thus water clarity (it is a good compliment to Algone).
Also Phos-Zorb may help if phosphates are a cause/problem.
Sometimes it is simply a mater of improving your bio filtration by improving the quality of bio filter media.
Instead of the Bio Rings, balls, pads, and sponges that come with many filters, considering adding and/or replacing some of this with AAP Matrix or Aquarium Volcanic Rock. Both of these are very porous and can perform aerobic bio filtration at a much higher capacity than other more commonly used filter medium. As well these products can do something most standard bio filter media cannot do and that is perform bio de-nitrification which removes nitrates.
The end results is less "food" for green algae.
Aquarium Nitrate Control
Improve lighting to 6400 K lights or maybe higher kelvin temperature. If low quality lights are an issue, utilize better lights such as the T2 Aquarium Lights, Premium LED Lights, or the Compact Fluorescent Aquarium Lights.
Please note that even good aquatic lights loose much of their lumen output outside of the visible light spectrum within 6-12 months (except for Premium LEDs such as the TMC line), & even more so after a year.
So if your aquarium light is not the best light spectrum (6000-8000K) or is more than a year old changing it is a good idea.
Product Resource: Uncut Poly Filter Pads
See this article for more about poly filter pads and other filter media:
Aquatic Filter Media
Maintenance of Positive mineral ions (Electrolytes) such as magnesium and calcium.
Maintain a GH of at least 100 ppm and KH at least 50 (depending on fish kept). Wonder Shells are useful for this, so is aragonite in the filter.
For more about algae control in Freshwater aquariums, please see the algae control section in the Planted Aquarium Article:
Planted Freshwater Aquariums; Algae Control
OR this Aquarium Answers Article about Algae:
Aquarium Algae Control
For Blue Green Algae problems [Cyanobacteria], please see this article:
Blue Green Algae (Cyanobacteria) in Aquariums; what it is and how to control it Back To Top
A white or grey cloud is a bacterial bloom (Heterotrophs).
The use of Potassium Permanganate found in products such as Jungle Clear Water may quickly solve this problem, however this often may be a temporary fix if other problems exist.
Please also read this article about the use and cautions of Potassium Permanganate use:
Aquarium Medications 3; Potassium Permanganate
Product Resource: Potassium Permanganate, Jungle Water Clarifier
Yellow water is generally a high amount of disovled organics, often pH/KH lowering tannins.
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SPECIFIC FRESHWATER FISH INFORMATION
Our recommended dealer to supply the best possible freshwater livestock to your local fish store:
AQUARIUM AND POND ANSWERS -Questions answered from aquatic forums; from Tap Water, Bio Wheels, Do Fish Drink?, to use of Carbon in Aquariums, Fish Parasites and MUCH more.
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