Old Tank Syndrome – lack of proper maintenance

So, your tank is doing well. No fish losses, no diseases, and crystal clear water. Everything seems fine. Then all of a sudden…

In a closed system keeping an aquarium in balance depends on many factors. Everything that has been added to the tank will remain there in one form or another.

Even evaporating water leaves all the minerals and impurities behind as only pure H2O evaporates.aquarium fish

Considering this, there will always be some accumulation or declination of various elements. The lack of proper maintenance will not be immediately noticeable. Fish adjust to environmental problems, which go un-noticed to the human eye, adding to the potentially dangerous situation, which in the long term will be detrimental to your fish.

Often the problem becomes noticeable when new fish are added. we look toward our fish store when a new fish becomes ill and does not do so well. In many cases however, new fish introduced into an established tank are shocked by the harsh environment to which your tank inhabitants were able to slowly adjust.

Fish are able to adapt slowly to even the harshest environments, but get shocked by sudden environmental changes.

The shocked fish will be susceptible to diseases and a tank wide out-break can threaten the entire fish population, since all the fish are weakened and stressed by the negative conditions even if they had enough time to adjust to the environment.

The first sign of “old tank syndrome” is rising nitrate levels. The nitrification process, which oxidizes ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate, is continuous. The same process also produces hydrogen ions. Hydrogen ions directly influence the pH level. PH, in simple words, is the bonding of carbonate ions (buffer) with hydrogen ions. The more bonding, the higher the pH. Accumulating hydrogen ions will use up all available buffers. If none are left hydrogen ions will acidify the water, resulting in a steady but continuous decline of pH.

If left unchecked, the pH will eventually drop below 6. At this point, the beneficial bacteria will be in serious danger and cease to convert ammonia into less toxic compounds (nitrite, nitrate). The consequence is a build up in ammonia.

aquarium fishEven at this point, there are no visible signs of something going badly wrong, except if the basic water parameters are checked on regularly.

The increase in ammonia at this stage will not have a big impact but harbors a potential and deadly threat. Ammonia consists of either ammonium (NH4 – not very toxic) or ammonia (NH3 – very toxic). At a pH below 6 ammonia is in the less toxic form of NH4 which in effect protects the remaining fish.

Adding new buffers by replacing evaporated water, the old tank syndrome shifts slightly over to more acceptable pH readings and acceptable ammonia, but will be high in nitrates and water hardness. (Carbonate hardness = buffers).

To remedy the old tank syndrome, water changes are essential. A few Gallons per day will eventually raise the pH to the point where the beneficial bacteria are “re-activated” again, solving the ammonia problem. This has to be done slowly to prevent any disaster by drastic changes in the environment. Ammonia has to be monitored and the water changes should be paused if pH is rising but ammonia not declining. The bacteria need to catch up first. Remember ammonia gets toxic with rising pH.

Prevention of course is the best remedy. Regular maintenance of the tank will prevent the old tank syndrome. Maintenance is essential.

Aquarium Maintenance Simplified

The aquatic ecosystem in its complexity is an interlinked set of variable factors. A good maintenance schedule will keep them in balance and can prevent most if not all problems related to a neglected aquarium.

Copyright © 2010 Algone.com – The Aquarium Water Clarifier & Nitrate Remover

Why do My Fish Hide all the Time?

Answer: The answer to that is rather simple – the fish is scared or uncomfortable with the surroundings. The more important question is what is making the fish scared in the first place?

New Surroundings
If the fish was recently added to the tank, the most likely cause is that its simply feeling nervous about its new surroundings. Given a few days, the fish should become comfortable with its new home and spend more time out and about.

In the event your fish continues to hide for more than a day or two, there is another problem afoot. Until you correct the problem, the fish will remain hidden.

Schooling Fish
Fish that normally school with a others of its own kind will hide if kept alone, or if kept in a group that is too small. Always keep schooling fish in groups of at least four or five. If they are kept in smaller groups, they may stay hidden most of the time.

Hiding Places
Many fish do not feel comfortable unless they have a place of their own where they can hide when they feel threatened. Odd as it may seem, providing more hiding places will usually cause fish to stay out most of the time.

Stack rocks to form caves, place pieces of clay pots on the bottom, add pieces of driftwood with arches or holes, or use any structures that allow fish to hide. If each fish knows it has its own personal hiding place, it will feel safe and stay out in the open more often.

Can I Purchase Live Aquarium Fish on the Internet?

Answer: Not long ago few people considered purchasing fish anywhere but at their local fish shop. In recent years selling fish online and shipping them directly to the customer has become fairly common. Although there are risks when purchasing online, keeping these recommendations in mind will increase your chance of success.

The Risks
Purchasing online presents risks that aren’t encountered at a local fish shop. Not being able to select the fish ahead of time or observe the condition of the shop itself are enough to keep many people from purchasing online. An even bigger concern is stress the fish experience when shipped. Will the fish arrive alive and healthy? What happens if they are lost, or arrive dead or dying? All of these concerns are quite valid.

Reasons for Online Purchases
Before considering an online purchase think about your reasons for buying online versus a local fish shop. Price should not be the issue, as lower online prices will be offset by the addition of shipping fees. Ordering online because you are can’t find a specific species of fish locally, isn’t always necessary. Most good pet shops will order fish upon request, and if the fish dies during shipping, the cost is generally not passed on to you.

Lastly, if you order online because you live far away from a fish shop, odds are you probably just as far from a major airport. The fish may be subjected to a lengthy transit time, which is very stressful. It may be in your best interest to drive to a fish shop even if it is a few hours away, rather than ordering online and risk losing the fish during shipping. At least you can control the temperature in your car, and assure that the fish arrive at your home as quickly as possible.

Precautions to Take
If you still want to order live fish online, you can be increase your chances for success by taking a few precautionary steps. Keep the following things in mind before placing your order:

* Find an expert – Companies that specialize in shipping live fish directly to customers do a better job of packing the fish, and expediting the shipment.
* Ask about guarantees – A number of online suppliers offer ‘arrive alive’ provisions. If they make no guarantees at all, you are taking a big risk.
* Get a firm price with shipping – Don’t settle for undefined shipping costs when placing your order. Often the shipping can be far more than the cost of the fish itself.
* Go to the airport – If you live near a major airport, consider opting to pick up the package there. The cost will often be less, and there will be no risk of the fish sitting in a delivery truck for a long period of time.
* Consider the weather – If there are temperature extremes consider placing your order at another time. Keep in mind that although your weather may be good, the plane may travel through areas of not so pleasant temperatures. Fish are usually shipped in a cargo bay that is neither heated or cooled.
* Order with others – See if anyone else in your area is interested in ordering fish online. By combining your order you can save on shipping costs.
* Order Securely – Treat the order like any online purchase – very carefully. Personally I’d call my credit card or bank information in to the company if I had a choice. That way there is less chance of your information falling into the wrong hands. If you do fill out an online form, make sure it is a secure one.

I’ve personally ordered fish and plants online, and had both good and bad experiences. If you do your homework, you are less likely to have a bad outcome.
By Shirlie Sharpe, About.com Guide

Common Freshwater Aquarium Problems Troubleshooting Guide

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff

While it may seem like a passive endeavor, regular observation provides important visual cues, indicating changes in water quality and alerts you that something may be off balance in your aquarium. Fundamental water parameters that influence water quality, such as pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, are relatively easy to monitor through routine testing. However, many conditions associated with poor water quality develop gradually. Early signals may go unnoticed, leading to more serious or more persistent conditions. The following are some common “problems” or visual cues that indicate something may be off balance in your aquarium.

: Population boom of planarian due to overfeeding or excess organic debris. May also be due to fish overpopulation, filter malfunction, or inadequate filtration. While generally considered harmless, large numbers of these worms indicate poor water quality.
RECOMMENDED SOLUTION: Avoid overfeeding and promptly remove uneaten food with a siphon or fine mesh net. Perform regular water changes and siphon out debris from the substrate. Use bacterial additives to supplement existing biological filtration and use water conditioners that actively process and break down organic waste. The planarian population will decrease as water quality improves and the food source for the worms diminishes. Verify filtration is working properly and perform maintenance per manufacturer’s recommendations.
: Bacterial bloom triggered by high levels of ammonia. Nitrifying bacteria that consume ammonia reproduce rapidly to the point that they are visible, creating what looks like clouds of swirling, white smoke. Adding too many fish at one time, overfeeding, overcleaning with chlorinated water, and the use of antibiotic medications are common triggers. If bacterial blooms occur without these triggers, it may indicate inadequate nitrifying bacteria or biological filtration.
RECOMMENDED SOLUTION: Use an air pump with airstones to introduce additional oxygen. The air bubbles help release toxic gasses from the water and the added oxygen helps nitrifying bacteria process the ammonia more efficiently. Use bacterial additives to replenish or re-establish beneficial bacteria depleted by medications or large water changes.
Discoloration due to mineral-rich source water containing iron (i.e. well water). Aquariums with high oxygen levels may experience a more pronounced discoloration (redness) due to the oxidization of dissolved iron particles. High levels of minerals, such as iron and silicate, not only discolor the water but also provide nutrients that spark aggressive algae growth. Water with high mineral content (hard water) also has a greater buffering capacity and makes pH adjustments difficult.
RECOMMENDED SOLUTION: Chemical filter media such as Poly Filter removes specific pollutants such as iron and silicate and is a good choice. Peat or similar water softening chemical media can be used to help stabilize pH to desired levels. However, if the mineral content of the source water is very high, avoid using pH decreasers to adjust pH. The minerals in the hard water will buffer the water, making it difficult to successfully lower the pH. A water purification system such as a reverse osmosis unit provides the most reliable, long-term solution for problems resulting from hard water conditions.
: Chlorine or chloramine in tap water. These chemicals are commonly added to municipal tap water for their disinfectant qualities. Even small quantities of chlorine and chloramine can be detrimental to fish. Chlorine can severely stress fish by attacking their gills, causing them to gasp and breathe heavily. At higher concentrations, chlorine kills. Unfortunately, chlorine and chloramine will not only harm aquarium fish but can affect the entire aquarium system. These chemicals also kill beneficial bacteria and impair biological filtration. As a result, a series of water quality problems, including harmful ammonia spikes, can ensue.
RECOMMENDED SOLUTION: Commercial dechlorinators (chlorine removers) are available to help remove chlorine from tap water. When used as directed, they instantly remove chlorine from tap water to make it safe for aquarium use. However, not all dechlorinators will remove chloramine so it is important to know what chemicals are used to treat your tap water Reverse osmosis (RO) units are a good choice for serious hobbyists who require large amounts of pure water for sensitive reef aquariums. RO units can remove up to 99.9% of tap water impurities including phosphate, nitrate, minerals, and heavy metals for contaminant-free water.
: A decrease in your aquarium’s beneficial bacteria population. These bacteria are necessary to the nitrogen cycle, in which ammonia is broken down. Ammonia spikes are most commonly associated with newly established systems where too many fish are added before a suitable bacteria colony is established. However, ammonia spikes can also occur in mature home aquariums, after gravel substrate or bio-media is cleaned or replaced.
RECOMMENDED SOLUTION: Bacterial additives help replenish beneficial bacterial populations. Simply add the correct amount to your aquarium while setting up a new system or on a regular basis after routine cleaning in established systems. Also, minimize the amount of beneficial bacteria removed from your aquarium with each cleaning. Clean aquarium gravel in sections with each water change instead of cleaning the entire substrate floor in one marathon session. Similarly, do not clean or replace all of your filter media at once or when performing water changes. Replace filter media in stages to allow biological and mechanical media to retain existing beneficial bacterial population.
: Overfeeding can often result in the accumulation of uneaten fish food. If excess food is not removed promptly, it can decay and encourage mold or fungus growth. The decaying food is soon covered in unsightly tufts of fuzzy fungus. While this growth may not directly harm aquarium fish, the presence of fungal growth is an indication of poor water quality. As a precaution, it is a good idea to measure water quality with a test kit and, if necessary, perform a partial water change to remove pollutants and improve water quality.
RECOMMENDED SOLUTION: Remove uneaten food and monitor feedings with automatic feeders. These programmable devices offer an easy and convenient way to prevent overfeeding. Automatic feeders reliably dispense appropriate amounts of fish foods whether you are home or away on vacation. Fill these feeders with a variety of flake or pellet food to ensure proper fish nutrition. Controlled feeding not only encourages healthy fish growth, but also plays an important role in maintaining water quality for the overall health of the aquarium.
: Buildup of organic material in substrate or filter media. Decomposing organic waste materials have an acidifying effect on aquarium water. As the buffering capacity of the water is compromised by decaying organic material, aquarium pH level becomes susceptible to fluctuations.
RECOMMENDED SOLUTION: Inspect mechanical filter media for excess organic waste buildup. Remove old filter media and replace with clean, new media. Also, during your next scheduled water change, be sure to thoroughly siphon a portion of your aquarium substrate. Clean or siphon no more than 50% of your substrate at a time. Over-cleaning your substrate can remove beneficial bacteria living in your substrate and negatively affect your biological filtration. A routine maintenance regimen of a 25% water change, every 1-2 weeks, is the easiest way to reduce waste buildup and improve overall aquarium water quality.
: Algae bloom due to excess light or algal nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate. While algae growth is normal in aquariums, aggressive algae growth suggests steady organic nutrient buildup in a system unable to efficiently process the material. This suggests insufficient filtration or the introduction of surplus nutrients from a secondary source, including food or even source water.
RECOMMENDED SOLUTION: Algaecides may be used for immediate results. However, the algae will return if the root of the problem is not addressed. Keep nutrient levels in check through regular water changes. Use activated carbon or chemical resin media designed to remove organic compounds. Perform regular filter maintenance to remove trapped organic debris. Test your source water for nitrate and phosphate. If these algal nutrients are present, consider using purified water such as reverse osmosis water. Limit the length of time the lights are on to 10-14 hours per day for planted aquariums and 6-10 for ornamental setups.
: Accumulation of organic waste material due to over-feeding or inadequate mechanical filtration. As these organic materials break down, they compromise water quality by releasing nitrogen products as well as the algal nutrient, phosphate. If excess organic debris settles on aquarium surfaces, it can provide a nutrient-rich biological media for algae.
RECOMMENDED SOLUTION: Clean or replace mechanical filter media on a regular basis to maintain optimum performance. To enhance mechanical filtration, use water clarifiers (flocculants) to bind fine particles together so they are easier to remove through filtration. The occasional use of extra-fine “water polishing” mechanical filter media such as micron filter pads are another option.

Ideal for any hobbyist, Quick Dip Test Strips allow you to get quick, accurate, and convenient results with a simple dip of the strip.

Premium Activated Carbon eliminates odors, discoloration, and dissolved organic wastes from aquarium water.

What is the best way to stay on top of the water quality in my aquarium?
In addition to routine water changes, test your water regularly using a test kit. Carefully observe your aquarium daily to detect visual cues that may tip you off to poor water quality.

Gardening Coral in Fiji, a Video by Jonathan Clay for BBC

This is a pilot project currently underway, that is being highlighted by BBC in the documentary series “South pacific”. The film was made under the guidance of Jonathan Clay who was grateful enough to share this clip to the world.

Coral Gardening from Jonathan Clay on Vimeo.

Acclimating Your Saltwater and Freshwater Fish – Float vs. Drip

Acclimating Your Saltwater and Freshwater Fish – Float vs. Drip
Author: Kara K.

Float Acclimation
The most commonly used method of acclimating freshwater and saltwater fish. This is when you float the bag that your fish has been placed in, in the water of your aquarium. Floating for approximately 30 minutes ensures that the temperature in the bag water slowly begins to match the temperature of your aquarium, making it less stressful on the fish. After floating for 15 minutes, double the volume of water in the bag with your aquarium water. Continue floating for another 10 minutes or so.

Just dumping them into the aquarium without acclimating is likely to cause enough shock to kill your new fish. After acclimating, the bag is opened or cut, and the fish is taken out of the bag with a net and released into it’s new home.

Pros: Temperature is most likely to cause shock in fish. The Float method ensures that the dangers of temperature change are eliminated.
Cons: Owners commonly will dump the bag water into their aquarium along with the new fish. If the water in your new fish’s bag is contaminated with whatever was in it’s previous aquarium, that bacteria will then be in yours.
Float acclimation

Drip Acclimation
Less heard of than the common float method. Drip acclimation requires:

1. A clean bowl large enough to hold your new fish and twice the water contents of its bag.
2. A net.
3. Air pump tubing.

With the tubing, create a siphon from your aquarium, into the clean bowl. Place the all contents of your new fish’s bag into the bowl. Siphon should drip 2-3 drops per second (a knot can be tied in it, and loosened/tightened to adjust the water flow) into the bowl. Let drip until the water in the bowl has doubled in volume. This process should take approximately 30-45 minutes, and definitely no longer than an hour. With a net, gently scoop your fish from underneath and place him into the aquarium.

Pros: Especially handy for saltwater fish because it gradually acclimates them to the salinity, pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels in your established aquarium.
Cons: Temperatures in the low volume of water held in the bowl can drop considerably in half an hour, increasing the risk that your fish will suffer temperature change shock.

The endangered Lake Victoria cichlid (Haplochromis spp.)

The endangered Lake Victoria cichlid (Haplochromis spp.) is found only in the Lake Victoria basin, the most important freshwater fishery in Africa.

The greatest threats affecting the Lake Victoria cichlid are human-related and include pressures from the introduced Nile perch, pollution, and algae build-up.  These factors are causing cichlid species to go extinct before scientists can even name them all.  Biologists believe that 300 of the possible 500 cichlid species native to Lake Victoria have already gone extinct.

The AZA Freshwater Fish Taxon Advisory Group and the Lake Victoria Cichlids Species Survival Plan® Program manage over 2,800 cichlids representing 13 different species at 15 AZA-accredited aquariums.   These institutions have created a collaborative breeding program that strives to preserve many cichlid species for the future.

The AZA Conservation Endowment Fund has provided over $15,000 to the Toronto Zoo, New England Aquarium, and Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for their conservation and education work with the local National Museums of Kenya and the Fisheries Resources & Research Institute (FIRI) in Uganda. The goal of the FIRI is to implement conservation methods for cichlid biodiversity in the region by developing aquariums and pond aquaculture for breeding purposes, to educate the local population about the issues affecting these species, and to urge local fishermen to throw back fish that are too small to eat in hopes of building a sustainable population for the future.

Lake Victoria Cichlid Facts

Status Endangered
Size Their color may vary.  Males are generally brightly colored, while females are more muted in color.
Appearence Cichlids are only found in the Lake Victoria Basin of Africa, which includes the countries of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
Habitat Cichlids are only found in the Lake Victoria Basin of Africa, which includes the countries of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
Diet Their diet differs between species, but cichlids eat algae, plants, snails, crustaceans, other fish and even members of their own species.
Breeding Cichlids are “mouth brooders,” which means eggs and wrigglers develop in the female’s mouth and can number from 10 to 80 wrigglers!

Most Common Mistakes Made by Saltwater Aquarium Keepers

Most Common Mistakes Made by Saltwater Aquarium Keepers

By Stan & Debbie Hauter, About.com Guide

No matter what kind of aquarium keeper you are, here is a list of the most common mistakes you may be making. These problems can be avoided if you’re aware of them before you start an aquarium.

Overfeeding Fish and Invertebrtes

Uneaten food just lays on the bottom of the tank, creating nitrates and overloading the biological filter.
Not fully understanding the nutritional requirements of their fish, the tendency of many people is to “throw food” at fish in order to fulfill their requirements. If the fish are not accepting the food offered, many aquarists will “throw even more” at the fish, thinking that the fish just isn’t seeing the food. Feed once, twice per day, or once every 2 or 3 days? How Often Should I Feed My Fish? helps you understand a fish’s requirements.

Know what is in the food you are feeding by comparing the nutrients in commercial foods, purchase only high quality foods and feed only what your fish will consume in 2-3 minutes per feeding.

Moving Too Fast

“Patience” is a requirement with just about anything that you do with a saltwater aquarium. Far too many people report problems after they have put a tank together, because they are just moving too fast! Far too often we have read aquarists comments like, “I need test kits? What for, and what kind?” Of course this is after they have had a tank for some time. A high percentage of people do not take the time to read and study up on the hobby before getting started.

Overloading the System

A problem that goes hand-in-hand with moving too fast is craming too much livestock and/or live rock into the aquarium all at once, especially in a tank that is not fully cycled, or has just completed the cycling process. Even in a well established system, placing too many new additions into the tank to quickly can cause new tank syndrome. Slow down! Saltwater aquarium keeping is not a timed event, so take it easy, and work on your patience skills.

Inadequate Filtration and Water Circulation

Having sufficient biological filtration is a primary key to success in keeping a saltwater aquarium. There are a number of filtration methods to choose from, but not making the right filter selection for the bio-load planned for your tank can lead to a wide variety of problems. Whether it be biological, mechanical, or chemical, it’s better to have more, rather than too little filtration.

This same concept applies to circulation of the water in the aquarium as well. The lack of good water flow throughout the system can lead to problems with low DO (dissolved oxygen), the build up of slime or other types of nuisance algae, prevention of stationary animals receiving food, and more. The solution here? Add a powerhead or two, or a surge device.

Misdiagnosing Diseases

When it comes to diagnosing diseases, saltwater ich is the biggest problem. It is easy to confuse Oodinium (Amyloodinium ocellatum – a.k.a. Marine Velvet or Coral Fish Disease) with White Spot Disease (Cryptocaryon irritans). They are similar but two quite different types of saltwater ich, and each responds to different types of treatment. It is important to properly diagnose and treat these parasites, as well as other diseases.


Way too often one or more remedies are just thrown at a sick or ailing fish without knowing what the problem is. Medications should only be used when necessary, and whenever possible in a quarantine tank. The most important factor with medications is to use one that is formulated to “target” the specific disease or diseases you are dealing with.

Purchasing Animals Without Knowing Anything About Them

It never ceases to amaze us how often people select new additions for their aquarium without knowing what the animals are, how to care for and feed them. Before purchasing anything, take the time to obtain information about it first. You shouldn’t buy on impulse because you like the pretty colors a fish has, how cute or stunning it looks, or for any other “touchy-feely” reason, or if a sales person can’t provide you with critical information you need to know about a particular animal.

Livestock Incompatibility

Statements like my wrasse ate my hermit crab, my tangs just won’t get along, and similar ones are all too frequently heard. Purchasing livestock without knowing whether or not they will peacefully reside with other tankmates can lead to dead or injured animals, as well as stress related diseases. Use common sense and learn about the compatibility of animals you are considering for your aquarium, before putting them together!

Purchasing Animals in Poor Health

One of the easiest things to do when selecting a critter is to determine whether or not it is healthy. In a simple phrase, most sick fish don’t eat. Before purchasing a fish or other animal, it is best to have a sale’s person in a store show you that it is in fact eating. On your part, learn how to recognize the symptoms or outward signs of common illnesses so you know what to look for when inspecting livestock to buy.

Using a Poor Quality Fresh Water Source

Although many aquarists do so, choosing to use water straight from the tap or unpurified water of another source to make up saltwater solutions and to top off a tank can lead to many water quality issues in aquariums. Using a water purification filter, buying clean natural sea water, or prefiltered RO/DI water from a reliable supplier is an investment that will pay for itself in the long run.

Lack of Proper Tank Maintenance

Well-maintained saltwater systems seldom experience high nitrate, bacterial outbreaks, or other water quality issues. To avoid the usual pitfalls with problems in this area of aquaria keeping, set up and follow a regular maintenance routine.

Will Algae be a problem in my saltwater reef aquarium?

You should not have a problem with algae if you have followed these recommendations:

  • Purify your tap water with a triple carbon prefilter and reverse osmosis or deionizer system;
  • Use Kalkwasser regularly to keep the pH between 8.2 and 8.4;
  • Do water changes every 2 to 3 weeks;
  • With water changes, vacuum off as much as possible of the debris in the rock crevices;
  • Change your prefilter pad every week;
  • Have the lighting on for no more than 9 hours a day, using the wattage recommended
  • Do not use unnecessary additives
  • Employ herbivorous livestock (turbo snails, small hermit crabs, hard star fish, and algae-eating fish such as yellow tangs, blennies, angels, etc.).

By following the recommendations here, you should be able to manage the micro-algae in your tank. These procedures will ensure that your reef will not be overtaken by green, brown, or red algae that would cover desirable livestock and organisms (such as the hard pink coralline algae) that depend on water flow and light.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of following all the previous recommendations, as they will ensure that the undesirable algae do not have the conditions they need to survive, and undesirable algae are the scourge of reef keeping. Follow the suggested procedures, and the algae should be manageable!

Micro-algae will grow!

The growth of micro-algae is a natural occurrence and will happen in most healthy tanks. It is only when the algae become unmanageable that we have a problem. Managing the growth of micro-algae means (1) limiting the conditions they need to thrive, (2) having livestock that will eat most of the algae, and (3) removing the remainder by hand with magnets, blade scrapers, and brushes.

In my tanks, brown and some green algae form on the glass on a regular basis. They do not thrive for long in other areas; they are only a problem on the glass and overflow pipes.

The glass is easily cleaned with an algae glass-cleaning magnet. When buying such a magnet, purchase the largest one you can find. Usually the larger the size, the stronger the magnet and the better the cleaning capabilities (pull) it will have. The magnet does a nice job for weekly or twice-weekly cleaning. Little bright green patches will eventually form. These should be scraped off with a razor blade. You should only have to “blade” the glass about once a month at the most.


Keep in mind that algae will grow and will have to be removed by hand on a regular basis. Do not be deceived when you go into your favorite reef store and observe that their tanks have no visible algae. You may think, “My tank has algae, why doesn’t his?” The fact is that every morning someone cleans the glass and maintains the tanks so they will look absolutely pristine. This gives the impression that the people in the store know something about water quality that you don’t. In fact, all they are doing is daily maintenance, in addition to the procedures listed above.

Then of course, the remaining algae will be removed by hand, particularly from the glass and overflow pipes. By using a strong magnet or a razor blade for the glass, and a bottle brush for the overflow, it is not a problem to remove undesirable algae.

It is important to remember that we want to remove the algae, not just dislodge it. When using the magnet, after a few swipes you will feel the scrubber part of the magnet cleaner getting full of algae. Take this to the sink and rinse it off. Resume cleaning and repeat the rinsing process as often as needed. Rinse the scrubber when you are done. When using the bottle brush, swirl it to trap the algae in the bristles, and rinse it out in the sink.

A strong algae magnet and bottle brush are useful tools. Some algae, of course, will get away from you. This cannot be avoided. Remove as much as you can, within reason. Algae that are dislodged and left in the tank will either reattach elsewhere, decompose into food for other algae, or get trapped in the prefilter.

Summary of algae management:

If you follow the suggestions I have given, it can be done easily. Algae accumulation can be a serious threat to the enclosed reef system. Left unmanaged, it can become a problem that would test anyone’s patience and sanity; it is not something you want to battle with! However, if you select your livestock carefully and follow the other recommendations I have discussed, the naturally-occurring algae in your tank will be a good food source for the livestock, and what they don’t eat can be managed with regular maintenance.

Get your copy of Simplified Reefkeeping

Should I Keep My Betta in a Vase?

By Shirlie Sharp

The Peace Lily Vase-Siamese Fighting fish combination has sparked more debate than almost any other aquarium topic. The pivotal question is if it’s safe for the fish. What is my stand on the issue? I do not consider a flower vase a healthy environment for a Betta (aka: Siamese Fighting fish) for a number of reasons.

Rice Paddy Argument
The argument made for keeping a Betta in a vase is that pumps, filters, and other aquarium equipment, do not exist in nature. By putting the fish in what appears to be a natural environment the assumption is made that it is inherently healthier than an aquarium. That simply isn’t the case.

It is true that in nature the Betta lives in shallow rice paddies and swamps. However, those waters represent a complete ecological system that a small vase cannot replicate. Those seemingly small rice paddies are actually part of a much larger body of water that dilutes toxins. Scavengers and bacteria present in the water break down wastes and render them harmless to fish living there.

Betta Diet
The water volume isn’t the only problem with a vase. In nature, the Betta Betta lives on a diet that consists predominantly of insects and insect larvae. In fact, Bettas are valued for their role in controlling mosquitoes in their native habitat. The Betta’s digestive tract is built to digest meat, rather than vegetable material. Its upturned mouth is designed to grab insects that have fallen into the water.

A diet consisting of vegetable matter may keep a Betta alive for a while, but it is neither natural nor healthy. Over time, the Betta will slowly be starved of the proper nutrients and more easily fall victim to disease.

Water Temperature
Water temperature in the Lily-Betta combination is another problem. The primary reason a Betta in a small bowl is often listless is due to low water temperature. The Siamese Fighting fish is native to countries such as Thailand, where the climate is hot and moist. The ideal water temperature for the Betta is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Without a heater, the water in a vase will be too cool for comfort most of the time. Although the Betta can survive at lower temperatures, when the water is too chilly they become lethargic and may even refuse to eat.

Betta Breathing
Lastly, there is the issue of how the Betta breathes. Like other fish, the Betta taakes in oxygen from the water. However, the Betta also has a special organ that allows it to breathe air directly from the surface of the water. This organ is what allows the Betta to live in water that has very little oxygen.

Studies have shown that fish with this organ must regularly breathe some air at the surface, even if there is sufficient oxygen in the water itself. Unfortunately, for the Betta, if the Lily vase is not set up with an open space at the top of the water, the Betta may become deprived of the oxygen it needs to survive.

The Peace Lily Vase-Siamese Fighting combination has persisted as a popular fad, but it is neither natural nor healthy for the fish. A dog or cat owner would not shut their pet in a small closet with minimal heat, food, and air. Should fish be treated any less humanely?

Go to Top
Get Adobe Flash player