How to diagnose and treat Nitrite Poisoning

Nitrite Poisoning

Disease Type: Environmental

Nitrite poisoning follows closely on the heels of ammonia as a killer of aquarium fish. Just when you think you are home free after losing half your fish to ammonia poisoning, the nitrites rise and put your fish at risk again. Anytime ammonia levels are elevated, it is a safe bet that elevated nitrites will soon follow. To avoid nitrite poisoning, test when settng up a new tank, in established tanks when adding new fish, when the filter fails due to power or mechanical failure, and when treating sick fish with medications.


  • Fish gasp for breath at the water surface
  • Fish hang near water outlets
  • Fish is listless
  • Tan or brown gills
  • Rapid gill movementAlso known as ‘brown blood disease’ because the blood turns brown from a increase of methemoglobin. However, methemoglobin causes a more serious problem than changing the color of the blood. It renders the blood unable to carry oxygen, and the fish can literally suffocate even though there is ample oxygen present in the water. Different species of fish tolerate differing levels of nitrite. Some fish may simply be listless, while others may die suddenly with no obvious signs of illness. Common symptoms include gasping at the surface of the water, hanging near water outlets, rapid gill movement, and a change in gill color from tan to dark brown. Fish that are exposed to even low levels of nitrite for long periods of time suffer damage to their immune system and are prone to secondary diseases, such as ich, fin rot, and bacterial infections. As methemoglobin levels increase damage occurs to the liver, gills and blood cells. If untreated, affected fish eventually die from lack of oxygen, and/or secondary diseases.
  • Treatment
  • Large water change
  • Add salt, preferably chlorine salt
  • Reduce feeding
  • Increase aerationThe addition of one half oz of salt per gallon of water will prevent methemoglobin from building up. Chlorine salt is preferable, however any aquarium salt is better than no salt at all. Aeration should be increased to provide ample oxygen saturation in the water. Feedings should be reduced and no new fish should be added until the tank until the ammonia and nitrite levels have fallen to zero. Nitrite is letal at much lower levels than ammonia. Therefore it is critical to continue daily testing and treatment until the nitrite falls to zero.
  • Prevention
  • Stock new tanks slowly
  • Feed sparingly and remove uneaten food
  • Change water regularly
  • Test water regularly to catch problems earlyThe key to elminating fish death is to avoid extreme spikes and prolonged elevation of nitrites. When starting a new tank, add only a couple of fish initially and do not add more until the tank is completely cycled. In an established tank, only add a couple of new fish at a time and avoid overstocking. Feed fish small quantities of foods, and remove any food not consumed in five minutes. Clean the tank weekly, taking care to remove an dead plants or other debris. Perform a partial water change at least every other week, more often in small heavily stocked tanks. Test the water for nitrite after an ammonia spike has occured as there will be a nitrite increase later.
  • Shirlie Sharpe

    What about Filters (aquarium)

    Filter (aquarium)

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    an air-driven corner filter

    Aquarium filters are critical components of both freshwater and marine aquaria.[1][2][3] Aquarium filters remove physical and soluble chemical waste products from aquaria simplifying maintenance. Furthermore, aquarium filters are necessary to support life as aquaria are relatively small, closed volumes of water compared to the natural environment of most fish.[4]



    [edit] Overview

    Animals, typically fish, kept in fish tanks produce waste from excrement and respiration. Another source of waste is uneaten food or plants and fish which have died. These waste products collect in the tanks and contaminate the water. As the degree of contamination rises, the risk to the health of the aquaria increases and removal of the contamination becomes critical. Filtration is a common method used for maintenance of healthy aquaria.

    [edit] Biological filtration and the nitrogen cycle

    A large Koi Pond trickle biological filter designed to maximize beneficial effects of the nitrogen cycle.

    Proper management of the nitrogen cycle is a vital element of a successful aquarium. Excretia and other decomposing organic matter produce ammonia which is highly toxic to fish. Bacterial processes oxidize this ammonia into the slightly less toxic nitrites, and these are in turn oxidized to form the much less toxic nitrates. In the natural environment these nitrates are subsequently taken up by plants as fertilizer and this does indeed happen to some extent in an aquarium planted with real plants.

    An aquarium is, however, an imperfect microcosm of the natural world. Aquariums are usually much more densely stocked with fish than the natural environment. This increases the amount of ammonia produced in the relatively small volume of the aquarium. The bacteria responsible for breaking down the ammonia colonize the surface of any objects inside the aquarium. A biological filter is nothing more than a chemically inert porous sponge, which provides a greatly enlarged surface area on which these bacteria can develop. These bacterial colonies take several weeks to form, during which time the aquarium is vulnerable to a condition commonly known as “new tank syndrome” if stocked with fish too quickly. Accumulation of toxic ammonia from decomposing wastes is the largest cause of fish mortality in new, poorly maintained or overloaded aquariums.[5] In the artificial environment of the aquarium, the nitrogen cycle effectively ends with the production of nitrates. In order that the nitrate level does not build up to a harmful level regular partial water changes are required to remove the nitrates and introduce new, uncontaminated water.

    [edit] Mechanical and chemical filtration

    The process of mechanical filtration removes particulate material from the water column. This particulate matter may include uneaten food, faeces or plant or algal debris. Mechanical filtration is typically achieved by passing water through materials which act as a sieve, physically trapping the particulate matter.[1] Removal of solid waste can be as simple as physical hand netting of debris, and/or involve highly complex equipment. All removal of solid wastes involve filtering water through some form of mesh in a process known as mechanical filtration. The solid wastes are first collected, and then must be physically removed from the aquarium system. Mechanical filtration is ultimately ineffective if the solid wastes are not removed from the filter, and are allowed to decay and dissolve in the water.

    Dissolved wastes are more difficult to remove from the water. Several techniques, collectively known as chemical filtration, are used for the removal of dissolved wastes, the most popular being the use of activated carbon and foam fractionation. To a certain extent, healthy plants extract dissolved chemical wastes from water when they grow, so plants can serve a role in the containment of dissolved wastes.

    A final and less common situation requiring filtration involves the desire to sterilize water born pathogens. This sterilization is accomplished by passing aquarium water through filtration devices which expose the water to high intensity ultraviolet light and/or exposing the water to dissolved ozone gas.

    [edit] Materials suitable for aquarium filtration

    Sponges, plastic balls, ceramic tubes and gravel are all suitable for aquarium filtration

    Numerous materials are suitable as aquarium filtration media. These include synthetic wools, known in the aquarium hobby as filter wool, made of polyethylene terephthalate or nylon. Synthetic sponges or foams, various ceramic and sintered glass and silicon products along with igneous gravels are also used as mechanical filter materials. Materials with a greater surface area provide both mechanical and biological filtration. Some filter materials, such as plastic “bioballs”, are best used for biological filtration.

    With the notable exception of diatom filters, aquarium filters are rarely purely mechanical in action, as bacteria will colonise most filter materials effecting some degree of biological filtration.[1] Activated carbon and zeolites are also frequently added to aquarium filters. These highly porous materials act as adsorbates binding various chemicals to their large external surfaces[2] and also as sites of bacterial colonisation.

    The simplest type of aquarium filter consists only of filter wool and activated carbon. The filter wool traps large debris and particles, and the activated carbon adsorbs smaller impurities. These should be changed regularly at suitable intervals[6]. This is particularly important in the case of activated carbon filters, which may re-release their adsorbed contents in large (and therefore harmful) doses if they are allowed to saturate. [7]

    [edit] Types of aquarium filters

    A commercially available canister filter

    Numerous types of aquarium filters are commercially available,[8] including:

    [edit] External filters

    A schematic diagramme of the function of the canister filter

    External filters remove water from the aquarium which is then pushed (or pulled) through a series of different levels filter media and returned to the aquarium.[1] They are usually more effective and easier to maintain than internal filters.[9]

    [edit] Canister filters

    Compared to filters that hang on the back of the aquarium, canister-style external filters offer a greater quantity of filter materials to be used along with a greater degree of flexibility with respect to filter material choice.[2] Water enters the canister filled with the chosen filter material through an intake pipe at the bottom of the canister, passes through the material, and is pumped back to the aquarium through an electric pump on the top of the canister.[9] Benefits of this type of filter are that they can provide a high volume of filter material without reducing the internal space in the aquarium, and that they can be disconnected from the tank for cleaning/maintenance and replaced without disturbing the aquarium interior or occupants. Disadvantages of canister filters include the increased cost and complexity relative to internal filters and difficulties in cleaning the tubes which transfer water to and from the aquarium.[3] There’s also the risk of a leak, which naturally is an issue for any filter placed outside of the aquarium.

    [edit] Diatom filters

    Diatom filters are used only for sporadic cleaning of tanks, they are not continuously operated on aquariums. These filters utilise diatomaceous earth to create an extremely fine filter down to 1 µm which removes particulate matter from the water column.[1]

    [edit] Trickle filters

    Trickle filters, also known as wet/dry filters are another water filtration systems for marine and freshwater aquariums.[9] This filter comes in two configurations, one which is placed on top of the aquarium (more rarely seen) and one which is placed below the aquarium (more common).

    If the wet/dry filter is placed on top of the aquarium, water is pumped over a number of perforated trays containing filter wool or some other filter material. The water trickles through the trays, keeping the filter wool wet but not completely submerged, allowing aerobic bacteria to grow and aiding biological filtration. The water returns to the aquarium like rain.[9]

    Alternatively, the wet/dry filter may be placed below the tank. In this design, water is fed by gravity to the filter below the aquarium. Prefiltered water is delivered to a perforated plate (drip plate). Prefiltering may take place in the aquarium via a foam block or sleeve in the overflow, or weir siphon, or it may be prefiltered by filter wool resting on the perforated plate. The waste laden water from the aquarium spreads over the drip plate, and rains down through a medium. This may be a filter wool/plastic grid rolled into a circular shape (DLS or “Double Layer Spiral”) or any number of plastic media commonly known as Bio Balls. As the water cascades over the media, CO2 is given off, oxygen is picked up, and bacteria convert the waste from the tank into less harmful materials. From here the water enters the sump. The sump may contain a number of compartments, each with its own filtration material. Often, heaters and thermostats are placed in the sump.[9]

    [edit] Baffle filters

    A new baffle filter, under a large volume, cichlid aquarium

    Baffle filters are similar to wet and dry, trickle filters in that they are generally situated below the aquarium. This type of filter consists of a series of baffles that the water must pass through in order to reach the pump which is returning water to the aquarium. These baffles then act much like a series of canister filters and can be filled with different filter media for different purposes.[10].

    [edit] Internal filters

    An internal aquarium filter driven by air displacement

    Internal filters are, by definition, filters within the confines of the aquarium. These include the sponge filter, variations on the corner filter (pictured top right and left), foam cartridge filter and the undergravel filter.[1] An internal filter may have an electric pump and thus be an internal power filter, often attached to the inside of aquaria via suction cups.

    [edit] Airlift filters

    Sponge filters and corner filters (sometimes called box filters) work by essentially the same mechanism as an internal filter. Both generally work by airlift, using bubbles from an air pump rising in a tube to create flow. In a sponge filter, the inlet may only be covered by a simple open-cell block of foam. A corner filter is slightly more complex. These filters are oftenplaced in the corner on the bottom of the aquarium. Water enters slits in the box, passes through a layer of medium, then exits through the airlift tube to return to the aquarium. These filters tend to only be suitable for small and lightly-stocked aquaria. The sponge filter is especially useful for rearing fry where the sponge prevents the small fish from entering the filter.[9]

    [edit] Undergravel filters

    A schematic diagramme of an undergravel filter run by both an air displacement and water pump (powerhead)

    Undergravel filters consist of a porous plate which is placed beneath the gravel on the base of the aquarium and one, or more, uplift tubes. Historically, undergravel filters have been driven via air displacement. Air stones are placed at the base of uplift tubes which force water out of the uplift tube creating negative pressure beneath the undergravel filter plate. Water then percolates down through the gravel which itself is the filtration material.[1] Greater flow rate of water through the gravel can be achieved via the use of water pump rather than air displacement.[1]

    Beneficial bacteria colonize the gravel bed and provide biological filtration, using the substrate of the aquarium itself as a biological filter.[6][9]

    Undergravel filters can be detrimental to the health of aquatic plants.[6] Fine substrates such as sand or peat may clog an undergravel filter.[9] Undergravel filters are not effective if the substrate bed is uneven. In an uneven gravel bed, water will flow only through the thin portions of the bed, leaving the more heavily covered areas to become anoxic. Because of this, animals that dig, such as cichlids, are best kept in an aquarium using some other type of filtration.[citation needed]

    [edit] Submersible pumps/filters

    or circulation pumps

    Wiki letter w.svg
    Please help improve this article by expanding it. Further information might be found on the talk page. (October 2007)

    [edit] Marine-specific systems

    Marine aquaria have specialised needs and requirements, to this end the filtration of the marine aquarium is often more complex than freshwater aquariums.

    [edit] Protein Skimmers

    Main article: Protein skimmer

    Protein skimmers are filters used to fractionate and remove various dissolved organic contaminates typically from marine aquariums. The technique uses the chemical polarity of proteins and amino acids to remove the compounds in the foam produced by the filter. As very fine air bubbles are introduced into the fractionating column, the organic compounds attach to the bubbles. The air bubbles rise, and collect at the top of the Protein Skimmer, coagulating into a stiffer foam. The foam eventually builds up and overflows into a collection cup for complete removal. This is beneficial because the contaminates are removed from the system prior to decomposition into more toxic compounds. Protein skimmers are often used in combination with other filtration devices in marine aquarium setups.

    [edit] Deep sand beds

    Main article: Deep sand bed

    Deep sand beds filtration is a technique designed to use anaerobic microbes to degrade nitrate to gaseous nitrogen.

    [edit] Berlin method

    Main article: Berlin Method

    The Berlin method of marine tank filtration is similar to the deep sand bed filtration technique in that relies on the action of anaerobic bacteria in the outer layers of porous rocks to degrade nitrate to gaseous nitrogen.


    1. ^ a b c d e f g h Riehl, Rüdiger. Editor.; Baensch, HA (1996. 5th Edn.). Aquarium Atlas. Germany: Tetra Press. ISBN 3-88244-050-3.
    2. ^ a b c Leibel WS (1993) A fishkeepers guide to South American cichlids. Tetra Press. Belgium pg 12-14.
    3. ^ a b Loiselle, Paul V. (1995). The Cichlid Aquarium. Germany: Tetra Press. ISBN 1-56465-146-0.
    4. ^ Sands D (1994) A fishkeepers guide to Central American cichlids. Tetra Press. Belgium pg 17-19.
    5. ^ Patrick T. K. Woo; David W. Bruno (2002). Diseases and disorders of finfish in cage culture. Wallingford, Oxon, UK: CABI Pub. pp. 284. ISBN 0-85199-443-1.
    6. ^ a b c Axelrod, Herbert, R. (1996). Exotic Tropical Fishes. T.F.H. Publications.. ISBN 0-87666-543-1.
    7. ^ Eade, Andrew (1999). Coldwater Fishkeeping. Ringpress Books. pp. 33. ISBN 1-86054-072-4.
    8. ^ Mary Bailey; Nick Dakin (2001). The Aquarium Fish Handbook. New Holland Publishers. pp. 26. ISBN 9781859741900.
    9. ^ a b c d e f g h Sanford, Gina (1999). Aquarium Owner’s Guide. New York: DK Publishing. pp. 164–167. ISBN 0-7894-4614-6.
    10. ^ Sandford G, Crow R (1991) The Manual of Tank Busters. Tetra Press, USA

    How to Do a Fishless Cycle for your new aquarium

    This is the process that establishes a bacteria bed in your tank and is important as this bacteria is what filters out the ammonia produced by fish waste and decaying food that would otherwise make the tank water toxic to your fish.

    We are eliminating the fish waste and adding ammonia

    Most people just buy a tank and add fish, but this is dangerous for the fish and often causes loss. This is both sad and a waste of money. Instead, fishless cycling will build the beede bacteria in the aquarium in less time without endangering fish

    Difficulty: Easy

    Things You’ll Need:

    • tank
    • filter
    • gravel
    • pure ammonia (with not cleaning agents)
    • water conditioner
    • heater (optional)
    1. Step 1

      Set-up your tank. Add the gravel then fill with water, add conditioner, plug in the filter. Turn on the heater if you have one about 85F.

    2. Step 2

      Add the ammonia. You’ll need to add enough drops to make the ammonia test read 5ppm. Remember how many drops you added and add this number every day after testing the water. this gives the bacteria that feeds on ammonia something to eat.

    3. Step 3

      After a few days, start testing for nitrite too. the bacteria that breaks down the ammonia turns it into nitrite. Once the nitrite spikes, cut the number of drops you’ve been adding in half. Add that number every day until the nitrate spikes. the bacteria that breaks down the nitrite produces nitrate.

    4. Step 4

      Once the nitrite spikes, your cycle has completed. You should now do a 50% water change (preferably with a gravel vacuum, since you’ll need this for 25% weekly water changes anyway)and add your fish. Be sure to lower the heater temperature to an appropriate temperature.

    Tips & Warnings
    • The number of drops needed will depend on the strength of the ammonia being used.
    • The tank will cycle faster if you add gravel or filter media from an established tank, this is called seeding.
    • Never use ammonia that contains cleaning agents, only pure ammonia.
    • Never add fish until the cycle has completed.
    • Don’t preform water changes while cycling, it will prolong the process. since there are no fish in the tank, there is no need to keep the ammonia and nitrite levels low.

    pH in your aquarium

    Aquarium pH

    The most common questions about aquarium water chemistry are about pH. In almost all cases, these questions and their related concerns are unnecessary. Most fish will thrive in a wide range of pH, and different fish have different ideal pH requirements. Though some exotic fish are more particular about the pH they require, even most of these fish are only particular about pH when they are breeding – and the only bad side effect of not maintain an ideal pH or making the right pH change at the exact right time is that the fish will not spawn. Also, most of these fish, if for no other reason than the demands on the pH are not good beginner fish. Unfortunately, there is a growing trend in the pet industry to believe that the pH in a fish tank needs to be 7.0 or very close to that. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
    Questions about pH

    Most of the pH related questions I get are from someone who has used a chemical to adjust their pH and has either had no effect or has had disastrous side effects.

    Both of these effects are common and expected, and, usually, they are due to the same cause.
    What is pH?7016

    pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. pH is measured on a scale of 1-14 with 7 being neutral. Something with a pH lower than 7 is acidic. Something with a pH higher than 7 is basic. Water has a pH of 7 naturally, but the water you are using in your tank will be different because of the chemicals that are suspended or dissolved in the water. These chemicals fall into three categories: acids, bases, and buffers. Acids are chemicals that lower the pH, or make the water more acidic. Bases are chemicals that raise the pH of the water, or make it more basic (or alkaline). Buffers are chemicals that can ‘tie up’ acids or bases and keep the water at a specific pH. Different buffers will keep the pH at different values.
    What if I Do Want to Change the pH in My Aquarium?

    If you decide you want to change the pH in your aquarium, and you are lucky, then your water will not contain any buffers. This makes changing the pH very easy. If you are lowering your pH, you add an acid to the water and as this acid neutralizes all the bases in the water, the water becomes neutral. As you add more acid to the water, the pH continues to drop and the water begins becoming acidic. You can continue this until the pH is where you want it.

    However, if your water contains buffers, then things become more difficult. Again, if you are lowering the pH in the tank, you add an acid which needs to neutralize the bases that are in the water as above. However, even after the bases are neutralized, the water will maintain a high pH because of the buffers in the water. You will need to add enough of your acid to neutralize the buffer. However, usually, when you are overcoming a buffer in the water, by the time you have added enough acid to overcome the buffer, you will have enough acid in the water to cause a precipitous drop in pH.

    Though almost all fish are very tolerant of a wide range of pH in the water they live and thrive in, sudden and/or drastic changes in pH, as those caused by overcoming a buffer in the water, are almost always harmful. Not only to your fish, but also to your plants and to your biological filter.

    Of course, in most cases buffers in the water are good for your tank for this very reason. If the pH is buffered to a specific value, then things that are added to the tank will have a harder time changing the pH, so your water will remain more healthy and stable.

    Now, remember, if you are changing the pH of the water, you will need to do this every time that you do a water change, and slight variations in the treatment of processing of the water you are using can make dramatic changes in the behavior of these buffers. Also, objects in the tank can also make a big difference in how the water is buffered. This means that you cannot, reliably, adjust the pH of your water before you put it in the tank, and this, in turn, means that if you are messing with the pH in your tank that you will have to subject your fish to this pH roller coaster every week when you do your weekly water change.

    And all this for a pH change that probably isn’t necessary!
    Why Isn’t it Necessary to Change pH?

    Remember, most fish will thrive in a wide pH range – usually from as low as a full point below their ideal pH to a full point above the ideal. Also, different fish have different ideal pH as a base for these ranges. Some fish prefer pH as low as 5.5 and others prefer their pH to be over 8.5! Remember, before you consider messing around with the pH of the water in your aquarium, there are several questions you need to have the answers to:

    1. What is the ideal pH for each of the types of fish I am keeping?
    2. What is the actual pH of the water I am keeping these fish in? Not just is it high or low, but what is the value on the pH scale from 1 to 14. Just knowing that the pH is above or below 7 really doesn’t tell you very much.
    3. Is the actual pH within the range for these fish? (Chances are that unless the water causes burns when you wash with it, that it is tolerable for almost any fish you could get.)
    4. Is there actually a reason to adjust the pH, or am I just doing it because it seems like something to do?
    5. Am I seeing any problems with my fish? Have I ensured that I am providing the necessary care for the fish including weekly 10-15% water changes, regular necessary filter maintenance, proper diet and feeding, correct temperature, correct salinity, and healthy tank population? Chances are, if you are seeing problems, that one of these tasks is not being completed, and it is the cause of the problem, and adjusting the pH will make things worse rather than better.

    Quite possibly, the worst thing you could do to your fish tank is mess with the pH with chemicals. The pH is going to be buffered naturally to whatever it is coming out of the tap, and is very difficult to adjust safely. Adding chemicals to the water will very often leave you with an unstable system, constantly fluctuating and ready to plummet or skyrocket as soon as you put anything else (your hand, a fish bag from the pet store, a decoration or some fish food…) in the water. I would strongly discourage anyone from trying to mess with the pH of their aquarium water unless they really need to and they really understand chemical titrations.

    Again, most fish can tolerate a wide range of pH, different fish preferring different pH, but thriving in a wide range and tolerating a wider range.

    I strongly suggest that only experts with a good background in chemistry mess with pH, as any little mistake is asking for disaster. I have only been in this hobby since 1980 and would not consider myself sufficiently an expert to mess with pH using chemicals…
    What Can I Do to Change the pH Slowly and Safely?

    If you want to lower your pH safely, add a piece of wood to the tank as a decoration or add some peat to the filter system, but be aware that this will stain the water yellow or brown for a couple of years. If you want to increase pH, add a sea shell or a coral skeleton. Remember, these will not give you immediate, overnight results, but they will introduce buffering agents to the water to help keep the pH more like you want it.
    Troubleshooting pH Changes in Your Fish Tank
    How Can I Figure Out Why My Aquarium pH Is Changing?

    If the pH is changing in your fish tank, or if the pH is different in the fish tank than it is from the tap (or other water source), you will want to try to figure out why this is happening. Once you have figured out why your aquarium’s pH is changing, then you will want to correct the cause so that the change is eliminated.

    Before you delve into this too far, however, you should understand testing, including normal cyclic changes in your tank and what you are testing for and why.
    Possible Causes of pH Shift

    The most likely causes of a shift in pH are:

    * Something in the water source buffering the water
    * Something in the tank buffering the water
    * or Something you are adding to the tank

    How do I Tell if Something in the Water Source is Affecting the pH?

    This is probably the least likely possibility, but it is also the easiest to check, so I’ll address it first.

    To test this, fill your aquarium bucket with water and test the pH. Then let the water sit for several hours and test again. If the pH has changed, then you know that something in the plumbing (for tap water) or the packaging (for other water) is temporarily affecting the pH and that the pH is reverting once it is no longer under the influence of whatever is changing it.

    If the pH has not changed after a few hours, let the water sit for 24 hours and test again. It is even less likely that you would see a change in pH at this point, because most pH changes are very rapid – even instantaneous.

    If the pH in your bucket of water has changed, you know what is changing the pH, and you can easily address the influence on your tank by just letting the water sit before adding it to your tank. With a little time an patience you can even figure out how long to let the water sit (usually just a few minutes).

    However, if you are not seeing the large change in pH that you have observed between your source water and your fish tank, you will need to keep looking.
    What About Something in My Fish Tank Changing the pH?

    Check your aquarium for items normally expected to alter fish tank pH, like sea shells, coral skeletons, wood, peat, dead plants (including leaves), dead fish (or other animals), bones, lime stone, etc.

    If you have anything obvious, remove it and see what the pH does with your next water change. It may be that some decoration in your fish tank is raising or lowering your pH, and you will want to remove that.

    If there isn’t anything obvious, look for less obvious things. What is your aquarium gravel made up of? Is it appropriate to your tank? Some aquarium substrates, like crushed coral, are intended only for use in marine aquarium or tanks where a high pH is desired, and can have adverse effects on aquariums where a high pH is not desirable.

    If it’s not the gravel, you may want to try removing decorations or other items from your tank and see if the pH is affected. you could also try removing items from the tank and putting them in your bucket of untreated tap water (from above) and see if the pH in the bucket changes over a few hours.

    When checking for possible culprits in your fish tank, don’t forget to test your filter media, as some filter media, such as crushed coral or peat, could affect your pH.

    Testing all the decorations and filter media in your tank can take quite some time, but is probably the most likely place to find whatever is changing the pH in your aquarium. However, in the mean time, you can start checking your aquarium chemicals and additives.
    What About The Chemicals I Add to My Aquarium Affecting pH?

    It is definitely possible, even likely, that something you are adding to your aquarium for one reason or another is altering the pH. It is also possible that two or more additives may be reacting with each other, or that one or more of your additives is reacting with something in your tap water and causing the pH change.

    First, read the labels on each aquarium additive, and see if any say anything about changing or altering pH. They may even say this in a positive tone, as though it is nothing to worry about (which it often isn’t). If you find one that says it does (or may) alter pH, is it something you can live without? If so, try not using that for a while and see if your pH problems go away. If you cannot live without that additive, check into competitors’ products to see if one of them may suit your needs and not alter the pH adversely. Often, you really don’t even need the additive in question.

    However, even if none of your additives say anything about altering pH, there is a possibility that one (or more) is.

    To test this, get a bucket of your source water, whatever that is (or use the bucket of source water you already have out, if you are not testing decorations and other equipment in it), and start testing your chemicals and additives.

    One at a time, add your additives to the bucket of water. Only add what is necessary to ‘treat’ the amount of water in your bucket. After you add each additive, let the water sit fro ten or fifteen minutes, then test the pH. If the pH hasn’t changed, move on to the next additive. Keep track of which additives you are adding and in what order. Once you see your pH change, you know one of the chemicals or additives necessary to cause the pH change in our fish tank.

    As I mentioned above in reference to an additive that says it may alter pH, you can choose to stop using this additive or look into a competitors’ product. If discontinuing use of this additive addresses the pH problem, then your problem is solved. But it is possible tat some other chemical is also contributing to the problem, or that this additive is reacting with something else you are adding, so you may want to continue testing to see if you can narrow down te problem additives, then choose from those which to quit using.
    How Do I Avoid pH Problems in the First Place?

    First, keep the number of chemicals you are adding to your aquarium to a minimum, and then make sure you know what those chemicals are, why you are adding them, and that they really work. Many of the chemicals that a lot of aquarium owners add to their tank have little or no benefit, and many even have some pretty significant drawbacks. By keeping additives and chemicals to a minimum, you will probably encounter fewer problems.

    Then make sure that anything you are putting in the tank won’t affect the pH and is aquarium safe and suitable for use in the type of aquarium you are keeping.

    This will probably keep you out of trouble with your pH, and help keep your tank happier and healthier. providing your weekly 10-15% water changes and other necessary routine aquarium maintenance will also help to keep any fluctuations in pH under control, as well as contributing to a happy and healthy aquarium in general.

    It is also important to know what pH your fish actually want, and what pH range they do well in. Knowing this will help you determine whether you even have a pH problem in the first place.

    Copyright ©1994-2009, Keith Seyffarth

    Setting Up Your Saltwater Aquarium

    Setting Up Your Saltwater Aquarium
    Written by Eugene

    Saltwater aquarium set up takes time but it is exciting adventure. It usually takes 4 to 8 weeks before you can add any saltwater fish safely to your saltwater aquarium.I know it is disappointing to wait too long before you can start putting fish into your saltwater aquarium, but you wouldn’t want to risk losing them.

    Saltwater fish are quite pricey. So I would say that patience is the key!

    Before setting up a saltwater aquarium, think about these things first:

    STEP 1: Choosing your Location, Aquarium Size and Aquarium Stand
    The first step in saltwater aquarium set up is choosing a location that is nowhere close to natural lighting sources. Close to windows, entrance that has a clear door where sun rays can come in and patios are a BIG NO!

    Intense sunlight can produce excessive algae which are a beginner aquarist’s usual problem. A cooler room temperature that is well-ventilated would be the best. Choose a large enough location for your aquarium. Set up a level and well supported area for your aquarium and stand and is highly preferred. Make sure to leave enough space for electrical connections and other equipments as well as around the aquarium for maintenance and cleaning. Properly selected aquarium will help in a successful saltwater aquarium and set up will be a breeze. It’s not as hard as it may seem. The first requirement is a proper glass tank! It’s a mistake to buy a small aquarium “just to get started.” My suggestion is to get the largest aquarium you can afford.

    It’s actually better generally for first timers. But make sure it will fit your space and of course your budget. Larger aquariums are more forgiving of beginners’ mistakes and provide a much more stable environment. If you buy a small aquarium, I’m pretty sure that you will just upgrade to a bigger one later on. Surface area of the aquarium should also be taken into account in aquarium set up. Oxygen enters the water and, more importantly, noxious gases such as carbon dioxide escape into the air at the water surface. So the larger the surface area, the more efficient the exchange of gases will be. Another important consideration in aquarium set up is the shape of the aquarium. There are now too many unusual shapes to choose from in addition to the usual rectangular shape. From hexagonal to octagonal, bow-fronted and even trapezoidal aquariums are available.

    But they all have their problems. They can be difficult to light, the saltwater fish may find it hard to establish territories or even swim properly or make viewing distorted and are harder to clean. The surface area could be compromised by an unusual shape. Next is choosing something to stand it on. Choose a sturdy stand that is capable of supporting the weight of a filled aquarium. If you don’t follow this simple step, you are likely to have a huge mess or worse, a broken aquarium if it hits your floor. Make sure that the aquarium will fit perfectly on the stand you chose.

    STEP 2: Prepare and set up your aquarium
    So you chose the perfect location and you bought your perfectly large enough aquarium with matching stand. You can’t wait to fill it up with saltwater fish, live rocks and other inhabitants you can think of. But wait! There are few more things lined up in aquarium set up before you can do that.

    Make sure you clean your aquarium with freshwater and a soft cloth or sponge. Remember not to use any kind of chemical cleaners. Rinse it thoroughly and make sure all residues are washed out. You can now pour the sand or gravel, whichever substrate you’ve chosen to use into the bottom of the aquarium followed by your saltwater. Then, you can either buy a pre-mixed saltwater, ready to use for your saltwater aquarium, or if you plan to use filtered water or the tap water at home make sure you get a sea salt mix.

    Follow the set up instruction on the manufacturer’s label on how to properly prepare your water using the sea salt mix. Tap water will have minerals and additives that are not good for your saltwater inhabitants. Your tap water contains substances that are toxic to your fish.

    When you have your dechlorinated water ready, fill aquarium 1/3 full. Measure the specific gravity of your saltwater. It should measure 1.025. Install and start all the other equipments such us lighting, heater, and filter and let it run for a day. During this test run time, check for leaks, set and adjust the heater(s) to the required temperature, check and balance out the salinity of the water if needed, and test all the equipment to make sure everything is working properly.

    STEP 3 Aquascape

    Aquascaping your aquarium means decorating your aquarium. Possibilities are endless. There is no correct or perfect set up of decorating your aquarium. It is up to you on how you will make your saltwater aquarium attractive. Have fun and be creative. Here is a simple “how to” tips on aquascaping a saltwater aquarium.
    Adding live rock as part of your aquascape is a plus. Live rock is important to your saltwater aquarium and inhabitants.

    One importance of live rock is that fish will adjust better to their new environment because it is similar to their natural habitat. Live rock also becomes a biological filter of your saltwater aquarium. It provides the beneficial organisms for proper water management and so that you can enjoy your saltwater fish and other inhabitants for a long period of time. Another advantage of live rock is that it acts as a home for corals and other invertebrates and can be used by shy or frightened fish as their hiding place. You can get a live rock that are already cured and ready to be placed in your saltwater aquarium. If you have an uncured live rock, then it must be properly cured to create a healthy environment.

    Ammonia, which is a toxic compound and pollutant are released into your saltwater if you don’t properly cure your live rock. This will compromise the health of your aquarium system. Most live rock will be fully cured in 1 – 3 weeks. By then, it will be safe to add to your saltwater aquarium. Curing your live rock may be done in any type of plastic container that is suitable in size to fit the amount of live rock you have or inside the newly set up aquarium. Getting as large of a water container as you can is recommended, but curing inside the new aquarium is best overall.

    STEP 4 Cycling

    Once you have aquascaped your saltwater aquarium, the next step in saltwater aquarium set up would be allowing the aquarium to cycle.

    You have to be very patient when your tank is in cycle. New aquariums don’t have the necessary bacteria for your inhabitants to thrive and survive. This is why your new aquarium must be cycled. Cycling is the process of establishing and maturing the biological filtration. Typically, new aquariums can be cycled in 3 to 6 weeks.

    But for fully cycling your saltwater aquarium, it will really depend on factors like:
    (1) The amount of ammonia being produced during the cycling period;

    (2) The efficiency of the biological filtration

    (3) Whether liverocks or live plants are used in the process.

    If you don’t know much about this process, it can contribute to livestock loss. So understand what it truly is and learn the proper steps to take for a successful saltwater aquarium. First you need to establish a source of ammonia to establish the system. The usual method is adding one or two hardy fish, such as damselfishes. The waste products they produce are the initial source of ammonia. Most of these hardy fish can tolerate ammonia but some don’t. This method is cruel in the extreme! It will be easier and less cruel to use on the commercially available maturation fluids.

    Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the maturation compound to start nitrification. Ammonia level will rise and reach its peak then declines, while bacteria continues to multiply until they are undetectable during testing. The by-product of ammonia is nitrite. Nitrite levels will rise until the number of bacteria has increased to the point at which they break down the nitrites faster than it is being produced. Measure the nitrite levels with a nitrite test kit after a period of time.

    The end product of this process is nitrate. Nitrate is not toxic to the fish but high levels of it can produce problem to your aquarium. You can recognize the increase of nitrate when there is an algae outbreak to your saltwater aquarium. You can then control algae reproduction by constant water changes and chemical filtration. It will also help you in managing your cycle without losing any of your fish. Testing your water parameters regularly during this time will prevent problems in your saltwater aquarium.

    STEP 5 Make the Necessary Adjustments

    While you are doing the water change and tidying the tank up to get it ready for the first few new or additional pieces of livestock, it’s a good time to make any aquascaping changes you desire during this step of the set up. When you’re done and the system is restarted, let the tank run for a day or two to allow it to settle out. During this run time check and make adjustments to parameters of the aquarium water that may be needed, such as the temperature and salinity.

    STEP 6 Add some new Livestock

    Once the tank has been cleaned up, it is ready for some new saltwater fish. The biggest and most often made mistakes at this stage of a newly cycled aquarium is that one tries to cram too much into the tank too quickly or all at once. It is important for you to be patient and go slowly on this set up to prevent causing problems from overloading the saltwater aquarium.

    Whether it is fish, corals, or invertebrates, you should only choose and add 1 or 2 into the aquarium at a time. After your selection has been placed into the tank, you need to allow the aquarium’s nitrifying bacteria base to adjust to the additional bio-load. This means you DO NOT add anything else at this point of the set up, and over a week’s time you should test the aquarium water daily for any appearance of ammonia and possibly nitrite. Zero readings will show you it is safe to add the next 1 or 2 pieces of livestock. Better yet, even when the test results are showing zero, wait another week or two before continuing on.
    Eugene enjoys blogging about aquariums. Read his latest posts on his blog, Aquarium Lore

    How Long Should Aquarium Lights be Left On?

    Question: How Long Should Aquarium Lights be Left On?
    Answer: The ideal ‘photo period’, or length of time the aquarium lights are on, ranges from eight to twelve hours, depending on the aquarium setup. Generally ten hours a day is a good average for most aquariums.

    Reducing the Time
    If algae is a problem in the tank, a contributing factor is usually too much light. Reducing the time the aquarium lights are on to eight hours, or a bit less if necessary, will help reduce the algae growth.

    Some fish prefer lower lighting conditions. Many cichlids thrive on less light, as do many species of the tetra family. If the room has good ambient lighting, it’s possible to reduce or even eliminate additional aquarium lighting.

    Increasing the Time
    If there are live plants in the aquarium, the aquarium lighting period should be increased. Plants require as much as twelve hours per day, however the time will depend on the aquarium setup and species of plants.

    Use a Timer
    The biggest obstacle in maintaining uniform aquarium lighting is that owners aren’t able to turn the lights on and off at the same time each day. Fortunately there is an inexpensive and easy way to remedy that problem.

    Purchase an inexpensive timer and plug the lighting unit into it. Set the on and off times to obtain the desired period of light, then cross that task off your daily ‘To Do’ list permanently. I highly recommend timers for all aquarium owners.

    By , About.com Guide

    Beginner Fish

    Good (and Bad) Beginner Fish



    contributed by Dean Hougen

    This article considers fish choices for the beginning aquarist, covering good choices for the complete novice (“Good First Fish”), good choices for the near novice who wishes to expand his or her options for new fish (“Good Second Fish”), and poor choices for beginning aquarists (“Bad First Fish”).


    The FAQs owe their existence to the contributors of the net, and as such it belongs to the readers of rec.aquaria and alt.aquaria. Articles with attributions are copyrighted by their original authors. Copies of the FAQs can be made freely, as long as it is distributed at no charge, and the disclaimers and the copyright notice are included.



    Since even a small amount of material can be difficult for a newcomer in any field to digest and retain, the novice aquarist may wish to read only the “Good First Fish” section to begin with. Then, while consulting a good beginner’s book (the most essential item for any novice aquarist to own), she or he should choose a small number of possibilities for the fish with which to start her or his new tank.

    If someone familiar with the local fish stores is available, it is wise to get a recommendation for where to shop for fish. Otherwise the beginner should try looking for shops that specialize in fish, either exclusively or as a major part of their business. This is no guarantee, of course, but it does improve the odds of finding a good store.

    If, upon reaching the store, none of the selected fish can be found, the novice should refrain from purchasing any fish that he or she is unfamiliar with, even if recommended by the store’s employees. (Some stores have very knowledgeable staffs but many, alas, do not. It will take some time before the new fishkeeper can discern a good store from a bad one, or good advice from poor.) At this point, another store could be sought out or further reading done to determine alternate choices for first fish.

    Assuming that desirable choices for first fish can be found, the beginner should carefully inspect the specimens for sunken bellies, sunken eyes, clamped fins, labored breathing (often with gill covers quite extended), and any sort of external blemishes that might indicate parasites or disease. If the fish appear healthy, the novice should ask to purchase a very small number of fish, depending on the size of the tank and the fish. A twenty gallon tank is a good size for a beginner; it is large enough that the water conditions will be fairly stable, yet small enough that the beginner is not intimidated. For this size tank a single fish of one to two inches in length, or three or four smaller fish, is the most the novice should start with. (If more fish are put into the tank initially, poisonous ammonia will build up and kill the fish. If the tank population is built up gradually, however, this will not be a problem. To understand this gradual introduction of fish, known as `cycling the tank’, the novice should read about the nitrogen cycle in his or her aquarium book, or the NITROGEN CYCLE section of the BEGINNER FAQ.)

    Good First Fish

    If we define a good beginner’s fish as one that is easy to feed and care for, hardy, able to live in a variety of water conditions, and attractive, then there are a number of widely available fish which fit the bill nicely. Many of these are regularly sold as beginner’s fish. But watch out! Many of the fish sold as beginner’s fish really are not well suited to that role.

    Many of the smaller schooling fish make ideal first fish. These include White Cloud Mountain Minnows, the several commonly available species of Danios and Rasboras, and most available species of Barbs. For those with a slightly larger tank, Rainbowfish make a great schooling fish. Corydoras Catfish are ever popular schooling catfish.

    While many beginners are tempted to get just one or two of each of several different schooling fish, this should be resisted. Schooling fish do better if there are several of their own species present for them to interact with. A minimum of six of each of the midwater schooling fish is recommended, while four is the bare minimum for Corys. In the long run, a school of a dozen fish showing their natural behavior will be more pleasing than a mixed group of fishes unhappily forced to share the same tank. (“Mom, why is that one fish hiding behind the heater and that other one just hanging in the corner?”)

    Of course, as mentioned in the introduction, the population needs to be built up slowly, two or three fish at a time. The aquarist might, for instance, build up a school of eight Rasboras of a certain species, then turn to building up a school of six of a species of Cory Cats.

    Some Cyprinids

    White Clouds, Danios, Rasboras, and Barbs are all Asian fish related to the Carp and the Minnow. All of these fish belong to the family Cyprinidae. White Clouds, Danios, Rasboras, and Barbs are small, active, hardy, and colorful.

    “White Cloud Mountain Minnows” – Tanichthys albonubes
    Found in mountain streams in China, White Clouds can be kept in unheated tanks (down to 55F). Some people advise against putting these fish in tropical tanks but I have found that they do fine in heated aquaria as well, as long as the temperature is not kept above the mid 70s. They can be fed any small food and they spawn often but fry will not be seen unless the parents are removed to another tank. White Clouds are brown with a red tail and a silvery white line down the side that shines in the light. They get to be 1 1/2″ long.
    Several species of Danios are often found in pet stores, including the Giant Danio – Danio aequipinnatus, the Zebra Danio – Brachydanio rerio, the Leopard Danio – Brachydanio frankei, and the Pearl Danio – Brachydanio albolineatus. These fish are fast swimmers and are always in motion. Different patterns of blue markings allows one to tell these fish apart. Most Danios stay under 2 1/2″ long, although Giant Danios can get up to 4″.
    The most popular Rasbora is the Harlequin Rasbora – Rasbora heteromorpha. A very similar looking species, Rasbora espei, is also available, as is the Clown Rasbora – Rasbora kalochroma and the Scissor-Tail Rasbora – Rasbora trilineata. Orange, brown, and red are usual colors for Rasboras, and their stop-and-start swimming makes them interesting to watch as a school. Scissor-Tails can get up to 6″ long and Clown Rasboras up to 4″ while Harlequins stay under 2″ long.
    By far the most commonly seen and commonly cursed Barb is the Tiger Barb – Capoeta tetrazona. It nips the fins of other fish if not kept in a large school of its own species and because it is over-bred it is susceptible to diseases. Several aquarium morphs are also available (such as the greenish “Mossy Barb” and an albino variety) but these are even more sickly and often deformed.Don’t give up on the Barbs too fast though, as many are well suited as first fish, especially for those with moderate sized tanks. Capoeta titteya, the Cherry Barb, is a terrific little barb – up to 2″ long and with a wonderful orange-red color. Mid-sized barbs (up to about 4 1/2″ long) include Clown Barbs – Barbodes everetti, Rosy Barbs – Puntius conchonius, and Black Ruby Barbs – Puntius nigrofasciatus. The artificial morphs (long-finned, albino, etc.) of the Rosy Barb should be avoided though, as these tend to be sickly. Checker Barbs – Capoeta oligolepis and Spanner or T-Barbs – Barbodes lateristriga are large, peaceful barbs (Spanner Barbs up to 7″ long). Unless you have a very large aquarium avoid Tinfoil Barbs – Barbodes schwanefeldi. They grow to be over a foot long!

    Note that many barbs don’t school as “nicely” as do Danios or Rasboras, but most should be kept in schools nonetheless. Also note that many authors may put all of the above mentioned species in the genus Barbus.

    Corydoras Catfish

    Cory Cats are members of the family Callichthyidae, a family of armored catfish from South America. Corys are small (generally 2 1/2″ long or less), schooling fish that are always searching the bottom of the tank for food. There are at least 140 species of catfish in the genus Corydoras. Some of these are quite delicate and die quickly even in the hands of experts. The fragile ones, however, are rarely seen in pet stores and are high priced when they can be found. The Corys you will see for reasonable prices are hardy and can even survive in a tank with low oxygen as they can swallow air from the surface and absorb it through their intestines. Some Corys you may encounter are the Bronze Cory – C. aeneus, the Spotted Cory – C. ambiacus, the Leopard Cory – C. julii, the Skunk Cory – C. arcuatus, the Bandit Cory – C. metae, and the Panda Cory – C. panda.

    Corys generally feed at the bottom of the tank and special sinking foods should be fed. These include sinking pellets like Tabi-Min and frozen blood- worms. Care should be taken to insure that all frozen foods are eaten quickly as they decay rapidly and can foul the tank. Don’t overfeed!


    Rainbows are extremely colorful fishes native to Australia, New Guinea, and Madagascar. Like the Cyprinids described above, Rainbows are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of six or more. Larger, somewhat more expensive, and harder to find than many of the schooling fishes already discussed, Rainbows are easily cared for, active, and make good first fish for those who want to try something a little less common. Look in your dealer’s tanks for the Australian Rainbow – Melanotaenia splendida, Boeseman’s Rainbowfish – M. boesemani, Turquoise Rainbows – M. lacustris, and the Celebes Rainbow – Telmatherina ladigesi


    Good Second Fish

    The previous section talked about good fish for the complete novice aquarist. This section will discuss good fish for beginning aquarists who have had some experience or who are willing to do more careful research and shopping before buying their fish.

    Many of the fish recommended here are every bit as hardy, adaptable, and easy to care for as those in the first section. However, in the first section I was able to recommend whole groups of fish or at least say to watch out for only a species or two in each group as bad choices. Here, however, the groups will be quite mixed with many good choices and many poor ones. Also, some of the fish in this section are hardy only if some special needs are cared for. If you wish to successfully keep fish from these groups you need to be sure you know which species you are getting and what their needs are.

    Why bother? If you are a complete novice, perhaps you shouldn’t. The great choices from the “First Fish” list should allow you to get your feet wet (as it were) with minimum risk. However, as you gain experience you may decide to give some of these fish a try. Many are quite beautiful and/or have interesting behaviors and some aquarists become so taken with them that they join specialist clubs just to learn about and trade one group or another of these fish.


    Loaches are long-bodied Asian fishes distantly related to the Cyprinids (Barbs, Danios, etc.) described above. Like Cory Cats, loaches have a down-turned mouth equipped with barbels – an adaptation for living and feeding at the bottom of ponds and streams. They will scavenge the tank bottom eating the food missed by other fishes, but you should take care to see that they get enough to eat. Special sinking foods are a must.

    Some loaches are sensitive to poor nitrogen cycle management, which is why they are included here, rather than in the Good First Fish section. Once the tank is established and the beginner seems to have gotten the hang of maintaining a tank, however, loaches make great additions to most community fish populations.

    The most commonly seen loaches are the Kuhli Loaches – Acanthophthalmus species. These are long, ribbon-like fishes which grow to be 4″ long. Brown with yellow stripes and bands, Kuhli Loaches are shy and spend a lot of time buried in the gravel.

    Another popular group of loaches are the members of the genus Botia. Clown Loaches – B. macracantha, Yo-Yo Loaches – B. lohachata, Skunk Loaches – B. horae, Blue Loaches – B. modesta, and Striated Loaches – B. striata are all seen in the hobby. Some of these (notably Clown and Blue Loaches) can get big, but they grow extremely slowly and can live in a small aquarium for several years. Loaches will often be happier if kept with a few of their own species.

    Weather Loaches – Misgurnus fossilis and Spotted Weather Loaches – Cobitis taenia should be avoided. They are cold water species and have the unfortunate habit of jumping out of aquaria, especially at the approach of a storm.

    Dwarf Plecos

    “Pleco” (a shortening of the now-unused genus name Plecostomus) is the common term used for suckermouth catfish of the family Loricariidae. As mentioned below in the Bad First Fish section, common Plecos (Hypostomus species) are often sold to beginners as algae cleaners. Unfortunately, these fish get too large for the relatively small tanks of most beginners.

    Some species of suckermouth catfish, however, do stay small enough for most beginners to keep. The Clown Plecos of the genus Peckoltia have alternating transverse bands of darker and lighter brown, tan, or yellow and generally stay under 4″ long. The Bristlenose or Bushynose Plecos of the genus Ancistrus possess, as their common names imply, numerous projections from the area between their eyes and mouth. Within each species the bristles are larger on the male, especially near breeding. In fact, Bristlenose Plecos are among the few Loricariids to be successfully spawned in the home aquarium.

    Otocinclus Cats, often just called Otos, are the smallest Loricariids and will clean algae from live plants without hurting any but the most delicate of them. Otos sometimes die shortly after purchase for no apparent reason, but if they make it past this critical time they make very good community tank residents.

    While the various suckermouth catfish will indeed help to keep the aquarium free from many common algae types, the beginner should not make the mistake of thinking of these fish as simply algae eaters or scavengers. They should be given foods intended just for them, such as zucchini which can be blanched or weighted down to sink it to the Pleco’s level. Some fish food manufacturers have recently realized that there is a market for specialized Pleco foods and now sell products such as sinking algae wafers which fit this bill nicely. These foods should be fed in the evening when the light reaching the tank is low, as most Plecos are more active at this time and most other fish which might compete for the food are less active. Pieces of (uncoated) driftwood in the tank are also important for many Pleco species, which rasp at the wood and ingest the scrapings. By the same token, Plecos should *not* be kept in wooden tanks, or even acrylic ones for that matter, as they may chew into the tank material damaging it and/or themselves (by ingesting toxins or undigestible matter).

    Pleco species can be quarrelsome amongst themselves and may be picked on by other fish due to their generally slow-moving nature. Provide a hiding cave for each Pleco and give them territories proportional to their size (e.g. 10 gallons for a 3″ fish.)


    Like many of the fish in the first section, Tetras are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of six or more of the same species. Tetras are native to Central and South America and Africa. In some regions of South America the water is quite soft (very little rock is dissolved in it) and acidic. (Another way of saying “acidic” is to say that it has a low pH – one below 7, which is considered “neutral”. A strong acid has a very low pH. Liquids above pH 7 are said to be “basic”.)

    Unless you know that your tank water is also soft and acidic, the Tetras that need that water should be avoided. Before you buy a Tetra that you are not sure about, look it up in your book. If it says that it needs a pH below 6.5 you should probably avoid it. While many beginning aquarists are tempted to simply adjust the pH of their water by buying little containers of chemicals in the pet store, do not give in to this temptation! Water chemistry is very complex and you can easily kill all your fish by trying it.

    On the other hand, if your tap water is naturally soft and achieves a consistent acidic pH, there is no reason that you can’t try your hand at some of these fish.

    Two very popular Tetras which need soft, acidic water are the Neon Tetra – Paracheirodon innesi and the Cardinal Tetra – Cheirodon axelrodi. These are quite attractive red and blue fish. The red line on the Cardinal runs from the head on back, while in the Neon it starts only in the belly region. But their attractiveness is their only advantage. Besides its water requirements the Neon has the added drawback that almost all of them are bred in the Far East in huge numbers with no regard to quality. Further, the raising ponds for the young fish are filled with medicines. The medicines keep diseases in check but as soon as the fish are shipped they begin to get sick. They die in huge numbers in the stores and in buyer’s home tanks. Probably less than 1 in 10 Neons lives for more than one month after being removed from the pond it was raised in. Further, those two or three tiny neons for a dollar at the local store can easily introduce a disease that kills all the fish in your tank.

    Cardinals will have a greater chance of not dying immediately after purchase but even they will probably not live long in your home tank. They are wild caught in Brazil as adults so they may have lived most of their naturally short life span before you buy them.

    Other Tetras which need acidic water include the Blue Neon Tetra – Hyphessobrycon simulans, the Flag Tetra – H. heterorhabdus, H. metae, the Loreto Tetra – H. loretoensis, the Black Phantom Tetra – Megalamphodus megalopterus, and the Red Phantom Tetra – M. sweglesi.

    So what about those aquarists without acid water? There are plenty of hardy Tetras out there for beginners without special water. These include the distinctive Black or Black Skirt Tetra – Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, the brightly colored Glow Light Tetra – Hemigrammus erythrozonus, the radiant orange Jewel Tetra – Hyphessobrycon callistus, the Flame Tetra – H. flammeus, and the red-tailed Pristella – Pristella maxillaris, all of which grow to less than two inches long. Slightly larger Tetras include the Penguin Tetra – Thayeria obliqua and the closely related Hockey-stick Tetra – Th. boehlkei, both of which are easily recognized by the black lines originating in the lower half of their caudal (tail) fins and running forward, the shiny Diamond Tetra – Moenkhausia pittieri, and the beautiful, trident-tailed Emperor Tetra – N. palmeri. Finally, the only African Tetra frequently seen, the Congo Tetra – Phenacogrammus interruptus is a gorgeous fish which grows up to four inches long.


    Cichlids, members of the family Cichlidae, come from Central and South America and Africa, with a few species found in Madagascar, the Middle East and into Asia. Cichlids are quite unlike any of the fish discussed so far. They are related to and resemble the Perch and Sunfish of US waters. For aquarists, cichlids pose four major problems: (1) Some need special water conditions, (2) some have specialized diets, (3) some get quite large (the largest up to 3′ long), and (4) all are territorial.

    Again, why bother? Because for those willing to take the challenge, the rewards can be great. If any fish can be said to be intelligent, Cichlids can. They display this in their everyday activities as well as in their specialized mating, breeding, and fry-raising activities. The fish mentioned in the previous sections all lay eggs and then ignore or even eat them! Cichlids, on the other hand, care for their eggs and young. It is said that one of the most rewarding sights an aquarist can see is parental Cichlids herding their fry around the tank and protecting them from all dangers. And, even if your Cichlids never breed, they will be more responsive to you than perhaps any other fish. Cichlids can be much more “pet-like” than you might think a fish could be.

    If you do decide to take the Cichlid challenge, choosing your Cichlids can be difficult. Some can be added to your community tank and will do fine with the schooling fish talked about above. These include Curviceps – Aequidens (really Laetacara) curviceps, Dorsigers – Aequidens (again, really Laetacara) dorsiger, and the less frequently seen Nannacara anomala, all from South America, and Thomas’ Dwarf Cichlid – Anomalochromis thomasi from western Africa. Unlike the monster Cichlids, these fish stay small (3 1/2” is a good sized adult) and are relatively peaceful. Two or three may be placed in a 10 gallon tank and they should still all find places to live if there are rocks and other decorations in the tank.

    Other Dwarf Cichlids you may see are the Ram – Papiliochromis (some books use Microgeophagus or Apistogramma) ramirezi, Apistos – Apistogramma species, and the Checkerboard Cichlid – Dicrossus filamentosus (referred to as Crenicara filamentosa in the books). These fish vary in their difficulty for keeping as aquarium fish, but all of them should be avoided by beginners.

    Keyhole Cichlids – Aequidens (really Cleithracara) maronii, Festivums – Cichlasoma (really Mesonauta) festivus, and Angelfish – Pterophyllum scalare can be good fish for the relative novice, but only if healthy specimens can be found and this is often not easy. For this reason, small Keyholes and Festivums should not be purchased. Adults of these two species are generally better choices; still, one should look the fish over carefully and not buy them until they have been in the store tanks for at least a week. Similarly, for the very popular Angelfish, one needs to be very careful when buying them. Before you buy, ask the salesperson to tell you where the store gets its Angels. If the salesperson doesn’t know, won’t tell you, or says that they come from “the wholesaler” (and who knows where before that?) don’t buy them. If you are told that they come from a local breeder then you have at least a chance of getting healthy fish. Also, Angels should be kept in tanks both taller and longer than a 10 gallon aquarium. Keyholes, Festivums, and Angels are all shy fish and should be provided with cover — preferably a planted tank.

    Discus, like Angels, need tanks higher and longer than 10 gallon tanks. Their specialized needs do not stop there, however, and beginners should shy away from these difficult and demanding fish.

    At the other end of the difficultly scale, a very good choice, especially for those with a 20 gallon or larger aquarium, is the “Jurupari” – Satanoperca leucosticta (formerly referred to in the hobby as Geophagus jurupari). It does get large (up to a foot), but it grows very slowly and may still be less than six inches long when several years old. It is a very peaceful Cichlid which will help to clean your tank by sifting through the gravel for uneaten food. A similar fish, Geophagus surinamensis, is also a good choice.

    Kribs or “Kribensis” – Pelvicachromis pulcher are a widely seen West African Cichlid that will do well with the larger schooling fish and should be kept in a twenty gallon or larger tank. Male Kribs grow to be 4″ long and females stay a bit smaller.

    Most of the remaining cichlids which are commonly available are too aggressive and/or grow too large for the beginning aquarist to effectively deal with. This includes the very popular Oscar – Astronotus ocellatus which grows rapidly to over a foot, is opportunistically piscivorous, and is a very messy species. If the aquarist is truly interested in keeping more cichlids than those recommended above, she or he should be prepared to set up special, separate (and probably larger) tanks for these fish and to read more extensively on cichlids before buying them.


    Anabantids are another group of fishes that are quite different from those already discussed. Distantly related to Cichlids and Perch, Anabantids are found in Africa and Asia. Members of the families Anabantidae, Belontiidae, Helostomatidae, and Osphronemidae, Anabantids are also referred to as the “labyrinth fishes”. This is due to a special breathing organ referred to as the labyrinth organ which is essentially a maze of tunnels near the fish’s gills. Labyrinth fish gulp air at the surface of the water and absorb it through the labyrinth organ, allowing them to live in water with too little oxygen to support fish which only breath through their gills. Some Anabantids can survive out of water for several hours breathing only through their labyrinths, as long as they stay moist. Anabas testudineus, known as the Climbing Perch, is said to be able to climb trees and to live out of water for up to two days.

    As well as giving aquarists some additional choices for community-tank fish, Anabantids offer some unique options to fish keepers as well as presenting a few problems. Because some Anabantids are able to withstand cooler temperatures, and because of their ability to survive in water with very low oxygen, these fishes can be kept in tanks or bowls without heaters or filtration. On the other hand, some Anabantids (particularly males of some species) are very territorial and some grow quite large.

    Breeding Anabantids can be quite rewarding. Some species build nests out of bubbles into which they place their eggs while others, like some Cichlids, are mouthbrooders.

    The most commonly seen Anabantid is probably the Betta or Siamese Fighting Fish (which is generally said to be Betta splendens but is probably a crossbreed). Artificial color varieties with red, blue, green, purple, and many other colors in various combinations are widely available. Males are bred to have very large fins and both sexes are seen with double tails. Siamese Fighting Fish generally make poor choices for the community tank for two reasons. First, as their name would imply, they are very territorial. The aggression is greatest between two males, but can be directed towards any fish that looks to the Betta too much like another Betta. Second, their long fins make easy targets for many fish such as Barbs. Siamese Fighting Fish can be kept alone in bowls (the larger the better) or tanks without filtration as long as frequent partial water changes are done. They do need warm temperatures, however, and are sensitive to temperature changes, so a constant heat supply is needed if the room is less than about 75F. Also, due to poor breeding, many Siamese Fighting Fish are not very healthy. A 3″ male would be a large adult; females stay smaller.

    A better choice for keeping alone in a bowl or small tank is the Paradise Fish – Macropodus opercularis. These are much hardier fish than the Fighters and can withstand temperatures down to 60F. They may jump, however, so the tank should be covered to be safe. Also, like Siamese Fighting Fish, male Paradise Fish can be extremely territorial towards one another. Paradise Fish may get up to 4″ long.

    Another very commonly seen Anabantid is the Blue or Three-Spot Gourami – Trichogaster trichopterus. Gold, Silver, and Cosby Gouramies are also widely available and are simply artificial color varieties of the Blue Gourami. Blue Gouramies can get up to 6″ long. They are not as aggressive as Fighters or Paradise Fish, but more than one in a small tank may lead to constant (if not overly deadly) chasing. They will do well in a tank with larger schooling fishes. Similar, though slightly smaller species include the Banded or Giant Gourami – Colisa fasciata (which is only a giant compared to the similarly colored Dwarf Gourami described below), the Thick-lipped Gourami – Colisa labiosa and the somewhat less aggressive Pearl Gourami – Trichogaster leeri and Moonlight Gourami – T. microlepis. The Kissing Gourami – Helostoma temmincki grows larger (up to 12″) but makes a good fish for beginners with larger tanks. It is peaceful, though males will contest with one another by pressing their lips together and pushing – the so-called “kissing” from which the common name derives. Most Kissing Gouramies seen will be of the Pink variety.

    Small Gouramies, only growing to 2″ or so in length, are also available. These include the Dwarf Gourami – Colisa lalia, the Honey Gourami – C. chuna, and the Sunset Dwarf Gourami (probably a cross between C. lalia and C. chuna). In theory, these would all be good fish for the community aquarium. In practice, these fish are often the victims of poor breeding practices in the Far East (like so many others described before) and many are even treated with hormones before they are shipped to make them appear brighter in the store tanks. A good rule of thumb is, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

    Although harder to find, Anabantids which have had less human interference with their reproduction are generally better choices. Look for the Mouthbrooding Betta – Betta pugnax, the Licorice Gourami – Parosphromenus deissneri, the Spike-Tailed Paradise Fish – Pseudosphromenus cupanus, the Croaking Gourami – Trichopsis vittatus, and the Dwarf Croaking Gourami – T. pumilus, which range in size from 1″ to 4″. Do not buy Chocolate Gouramies – Sphaerichthys osphromenoides which are quite delicate, or the true Giant Gouramies – Osphronemus spp. which grow quickly to well over two feet long.


    The family Poeciliidae contains Guppies, Mollies, Platies, and many other fishes. While these fish are often thought of as beginners’ fish they have been intentionally left off the list until now in order to make a point. The reasons these fish are often sold to beginners are that they are cheap, brightly colored, and have a general reputation among non-aquarists as easy fish. Notably absent from this list is any real suitability for keeping by beginners. For one thing, many livebearers need high level of salt in their water to be healthy – making them incompatible with many other aquarium fish. Many common livebearers also are overbred, resulting in fish not nearly as healthy as those kept by aquarists of previous generations (or by the authors of most books). Some are not even able to reproduce without human intervention. Finally, due to their low market price, they are generally not well cared for and may carry diseases.

    Poeciliids, as they are also called, come from the Americas, primarily Central America. They are called “livebearers” (as opposed to “egg-layers”, as all the previously discussed fish have been) because the eggs are fertilized within the female and the fry do not appear until the eggs have hatched. There are also livebearers from other families in which the details of reproduction vary.

    The well-known Guppy can be found in a number of colors and with as many as 12 different artificial tail varieties. Also available is the closest thing that you may find to the wild Guppy – Poecilia reticulata: “feeder Guppies” which are not bred for color. The fancy strains tend to be fragile while common Guppies often carry diseases. Guppies should be kept in water with at least one teaspoon of salt per five gallons of water.

    Common Mollies are the Black Molly (which was derived from the Marled Molly – Poecilia sphenops) and the Sail-Fin Molly – Poecilia velifera (of which there are also several color varieties available). Black Mollies need at least one teaspoon of salt per five gallons of water to keep them healthy and prevent the outbreak of “ich” (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, a parasite commonly seen in aquaria) while Sail-Fin Mollies need at least three times this amount. Sail-Fins grow to 6″ while Black Mollies stay less than 3″.

    Closely related, Swordtails – Xiphophorus helleri and Platies – Xiphophorus maculatus are also popular fish. A number of color and finnage varieties are available of each with some of the Platies also referred to as “Moons”. These fish need at least a teaspoon of salt per 5 gallons of water to be healthy. Some varieties are susceptible to various maladies (Tuxedo Swords often get tumors, for instance) and as with so many other fish the naturally colored fish are probably your best bets. “Green Swords” (which are really multi-colored) are naturally colored X. helleri, but unfortunately wild morphs of Platies are not often seen. The Variegated Platy – Xiphophorus variatus is sometimes seen, however, and fills this role nicely.

    Bad First Fish

    We have already discussed several poor choice for beginners’ fish alongside their more desirable cousins. Here are more fishes that are seen in the stores that beginners should be warned about. Many of these fish make good fish for advanced hobbyists while others never make good aquarium fish. Some are even suitable for a well-informed beginner; you just need to know what you are getting yourself into before you buy the fishes on impulse and drop them into your community tank.


    Goldfish are one of the most common fish sold to beginners, but are particularly poorly suited to this role. The common Goldfish sold as feeders are generally full of diseases and parasites which may kill them and other fish they are housed with. Fancy varieties, which have been selectively bred for centuries to achieve their unnatural appearances, are subject to a host of problems associated with their abnormalities.

    All Goldfish are cold water fish which do not do well in the lower oxygen levels found in tropical aquaria, and therefore should not be housed with tropical species.


    Piranhas are among the most abused of all aquarium fish. They are often purchased in order to watch their legendary feeding habits. As mentioned above, feeder fish often bring diseases and parasites with them and these can infect Piranhas. A regular diet of feeder fish can also be quite expensive.

    Piranhas are schooling fish and are generally shy and stressed when kept as single specimens. Unfortunately, they also get big (many species well over a foot long), so most beginning aquarists don’t have room to house more than a single Piranha. If enough tank space is available to keep several Piranhas together, they must be kept well fed or they will turn on each other, killing and cannibalizing one fish after another.

    Knife Fishes

    There are several families of fish from South America, Africa, and Asia, referred to as Knife Fishes. Many species of Knives get large, some over 3′ long although some of the less attractive species stay as small as 8″. All of them are nocturnal predators, a fact that many a beginner could have used before all of his or her small fish “mysteriously” disappeared a few at a time.

    Hatchet and Pencil Fishes

    Somewhat related to Tetras, Hatchets (family Gasteropelecidae) and Pencils (genus Nannostomus) are Characins from South America. Many of them need soft and acid water and all of them are delicate. Hatchets have the added disadvantage that they tend to launch themselves out of the aquarium to an untimely death.

    Elephant Nose and Baby Whale

    More fragile fish include Elephant Noses – Gnathonemus petersi and Baby Whales – Petrocephalus bovei. African fishes from the family Mormyridae, these are night feeders and are hard to provide for in the aquarium.

    Chinese Algae Eater

    Chinese Algae Eaters – Gyrinocheilus aymonieri are often introduced into the aquarium to do what their common (sales) name implies – eat algae. They are usually seen at a small size and many die within a short time of purchase. If they live, however, they get big (up to a foot long) and tend to prefer to rasp at the sides of slow moving fish (making them susceptible to infections) to eating algae.

    Bala Shark

    Not a shark at all but a Cyprinid (related to the Carp), Bala Sharks – Balantiocheilus melanopterus quickly outgrow most home aquaria. They get to be over one foot long.

    Iridescent Shark

    Unrelated to the Bala Shark or to true sharks, the Iridescent Shark – Pangasius sutchi is a catfish. It grows to over 3′ and tends to injure its nose against the aquarium glass.

    Glass Catfish

    Another catfish to avoid is the Glass Catfish – Kryptopterus bicirrhis. While it stays small enough to be an aquarium fish (up to 6″), it is very delicate and should not be purchased by beginners.


    The suckermouth catfish of the genus Hypostomus are often sold in the stores as algae cleaners. Most of these species get in excess of 12″. Some of the slender suckermouth catfish, such as the Whiptail – Dasyloricaria filamentosa and the Farlowella – Farlowella gracilis, are quite delicate species.

    Long-Whiskered Catfish

    Catfish don’t have long whiskers for looks. They are there to help them hunt for their food – other fish! In addition to eating all fish of less than half their size in the tank, many of the piscivorous (fish-eating) Cats will outgrow most tanks. One common species of long-whiskered catfish, the Pictus Cat – Pimelodus pictus grows to 10″ while the Channel Cat (a pink form is often seen) grows over 2 feet long. Shovelnose Cats are usually only seen at six inches or greater, so the beginner does have some warning with these. Still, one might not expect them to get 2 or 3′ long.

    Red-Tailed Catfish

    Red-Tailed Catfish – Phractocephalus hemiliopterus are particularly large-growing predatory catfish. A dark body with a horizontal white stripe and red tail gives them an attractive appearance at a small size that has unfortunately made them a popular aquarium fish with those who fail to appreciate the enormity of adults. Adults may grow to well over 4′ in length and have mouths that more than match their lengths. As such, they are more than many public aquaria can house, not to mention private aquarists.

    Spiny Eels

    Spiny Eels (family Mastacembelidae) are aggressive fish, some of which grow quite large (over 3′). Some do stay small (less than 4″ for one species), but all are likely to have internal parasites.

    Painted Glassfish

    Painted Glassfish are Glassfish – Chanda ranga which have been “painted” with chemical dyes. This procedure adds a temporary bit of unnatural color (which disappears with time) and stresses the fish, causing them to be prone to diseases and parasites. This fish needs at least 1 teaspoon of salt per gallon of aquarium water.

    Dyed Fish

    While Painted Glassfish were for a long time the only fish commonly seen that had been “colorized” by unscrupulous marketers, the last few years have seen several other fishes subjected to this abuse. One of these is the White Skirt Tetra (an albino version of the Black Skirt Tetra – Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) which are sold as Blueberry Tetras, Strawberry Tetras, Rainbow Tetras, etc. depending on the dyes used to color the individuals. Similarly, Blueberry and Strawberry Loaches have also been seen. If you are unsure if a fish has been dyed, ask.

    Brackish Water Fish

    I have already mentioned some fish, such as Mollies and Glassfish, which come from brackish waters – I simply have not called it that before. Brackish water is intermediate between the fresh water of most rivers and lakes and the salt water of the Oceans. Brackish water is found in gulfs, deltas, and lagoons, as well as a some lakes and rivers. Because brackish water fish need so much salt in their water they are not compatible with most aquarium fish. Further, brackish water fish generally need more room per fish to stay healthy than freshwater fish. Some commonly seen brackish water fish include Monos – Monodactylus species, Archers – Toxotes species, Scats – Scatophagus species, and many species of Puffers (family Tetraodontidae).

    Salt Water Fish

    If brackish water fish are to be avoided by beginners, then beginners should stay well away from salt water fish. Their bright colors are attractive, but they are generally much more difficult for beginners to keep alive than are fresh water fish.


    There are thousands of species of aquarium-suitable fish from a host of families that are not covered above; this article is far from comprehensive. Killifish (fish of the family Cyprinodontidae) for example, are widely kept by many advanced hobbyists, but not often by beginners. This is not because they are all unsuitable as beginner’s fish. In fact, some of them would make very good first or second fish. They are simply not widely available in pet stores.

    For choices of good beginners’ fish beyond those listed here, and for expanding once one has moved beyond the beginner level, local aquarium clubs and friends who are aquarists can be very good sources of information. So can many of the available fishkeeping books and magazines. At every level of experience, the aquarist will find that good information is well worth the time and/or money it takes to get it.

    Under Gravel Filter Maintenance

    This is just one way to consider if you have an under gravel filter (UGF).

    Q: How do you folks feel about under gravel filter, I have not cleaned mine in 2 1/2 years. The mess under the stone is awful. The ammonia is fine pH seems normal. I am thinking to remove it and clean under there and wondering if I should put it back in.

    A: There is nothing wrong with UGFs, but people either swear by them or swear at them. Personally I don’t use them except for a little one gallon tank where most other filters are impractical.

    Do you have the tank on a stand that allows you to see the bottom of the tank? Iron stands and many wood stands made for aquariums don’t have a top on the stand so when you open the cabinet and look up you can see the through the bottom glass of the tank. If you have that sort of setup, I have a nifty trick that might work for you.

    Get a long piece (like 6 feet) of clear tubing from your local hardware store. Not too big in diameter because you want it small enough to snake down the uplift tubes of your UGF and flexible so it bends fairly easily. Now find a ball bearing or a small nut. Silicone glue it to the side of the tubing at one end. You might be able to slip the nut over the end of the tube, but put a little glue to hold it in place.

    Now snake the ball bearing end of the tube down the uplift tube until you see it under the plate when you look up through the bottom glass. Start siphoning out water. Now here is the nifty/fun part. Get a magnet and from the underside of the tank you can now direct the tube anywhere you want (because of the ball bearing) under the plate to get to all the built up gunk.

    Don’t worry about getting it all in one cleaning since you would likely have to siphon out all the water to get close. So just do this each time you change water until it is back in reasonably good shape down there.

    From Patrick Timlin, for About.comfilter

    Salt Creep a problem on your Saltwater Aquarium?

    How do I get rid of “salt creep?”

    A: Salt creep is a very common, and messy problem that marine aquarists deal with on a regular basis. Usually a good plastic tipped scrub brush and some hot water will do the trick. However, long term salt creep might leave deposits that are very difficult to remove, sometimes impossible. I definitely do not recommend anything toxic near the tank, lights, or filters for simple reasons. If you use a manufacturer’s product, check to see if it’s aquarium safe. If there is excess salt creep, sometimes it’s good to remove some of the tank water, and using a “catch” to avoid the salt from falling into the water, or electrical connections.

    Salt Creep

    Salt Creep

    Do Koi Sleep?

    Do Fish Sleep?
    And other crazy fish facts …

    Koi fishFish actually sleep.
    Not in the same manner that we understand, but they do sleep. Fish do not have eyelids so they are unable to close their eyes. Instead, fish catch periods of rest by floating in one place or nestling into a cozy spot at the bottom of your pond.

    Stressed out.
    Koi show stress by blushing red in their fins and on their bodies. This is caused by a stressful environment, such as poor water quality. It’s their way of showing you, their caretaker, that something is wrong.

    They have teeth, my dear.
    Koi are equipped with rather large teeth at the back of their throat. They do not use them defensively or aggressively but rather to process any hard-to-chew food they come across at the pond bottom.

    Boy or girl?
    Female koi tend to have rounder bodies and smaller, rounded pectoral fins while male koi are larger, have a sleeker shape, and their pectoral fins are larger and pointed.

    Hear, hear!

    Koi hear through a type of amplifying system called a Weberian apparatus that other fish do not have. It consists of four pairs of bones called ossicles that connect the inner ear to the swim bladder. The connection of the air chamber to the inner ear greatly improves their ability to hear.

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