Posts tagged Saltwater

Aquarium Energy Use

Next to food and maintenance products, the biggest cost of maintaining an aquarium is the energy consumption required to run the equipment.

Filters, lights, powerheads, heaters, protein skimmers, air pumps, water pumps, uv-filters etc., more or less constantly consume energy.

General Consumption

Based on a freshwater fish only aquarium at about 72 F, the total consumption for a small tank (10 Gallons) is about 150 aquarium fishkWh a year. A medium tank (30 Gallons) will run between 150 – 200 kWh per year, while a large aquarium (55 Gallons) needs 200 – 400 kWh per year. These values are calculated while considering the basic equipment required and serve as an average only.

Aquarium Lighting

The biggest consumption is used for the lighting system which accounts for approximately 45% of the total bill. Usually the heater comes in second at about 35% of the total cost. Filters commonly run at about 12% while airpumps, etc. account for the remaining 8%. Again this is based on the average aquarium setup.

Lighting is the only component in the aquarium that doesn’t run on a 24-hour shift. Furthermore, the lighting expenses can easily be controlled by the lighting time as well as the equipment we use.

The common fluorescent light bulb (15 – 40 Watts) that is provided with most hoods doesn’t significantly add much cost. Planted tanks with higher lighting requirements that use power compacts (30- 100 Watts) or VHO fluorescent bulbs (75 and 160 Watts) and/or a combination thereof obviously will lead to higher power consumption. A reef tank may even run on metal halides which run from 150 – 1000 Watts – and that will quickly add to the bill.

The Heating Bill / Heating the Aquarium

aquarium fishHeating an aquarium can also be expensive. The larger the tank the more heat is required. Further, a tropical fish environment usually requires a higher water temperature making it more expensive to heat compared to non-tropical fish tanks. For example, a 30 Gallon tank heated at 72 F (22 C) will consume approx. 110 kWh per year. The same tank heated at 82 F (28 C) will consume about 440 kWh per year. That is 4 times as much!

The Other Toys

Water pumps start at 3 Watts and easily go up to 400 Watts depending on the gallon per hour (gph) rate.Some ball park rates are 10 Watts for 200 gph and 30 Watts for 300 gph. 150 Watts can be consumed by 600 gph and up.

Powerheads, air pumps and filters are low in consumption starting at only 3 Watts and generally not exceeding 25 – 50 Watts for the heavy duty models.
UV filters run between 8 – 130 Watts and up.

Generally spoken, a fish only aquarium runs on a rather low cost. Tank size will matter and add on cost, so will a more and more densely planted tank, a saltwater tank and ultimately the reef tank.

Ways to Save $$$aquarium fish

To save on the energy cost and consumption, lighting can be adjusted to more energy efficient bulbs and a change in lighting. A planted tank may do just as well running on a 100 Watt bulb instead of a 150 Watt bulb. This would already be a savings of 1/3 of the total lighting cost.

In many cases the heater can also be turned down by a degree or two without affecting the fish. This can safe a lot of energy in the long run. In well heated environments a heater might not even be necessary during the day or heating period.

Water pumps can be reduced to lower gph ratings the same applies to uv-filters.

Choosing energy efficient equipment and comparing them with other makes and models can yield substantial savings in the long and sometimes even short run.

How to Calculate Your Aquarium’s Energy Consumption

To calculate the energy consumption of your aquarium, you will need to know the watts per equipment and the overall running time. The running time of the heater can either be observed in measuring the actual running time or by estimating. 15 minutes out of every hour (6 hours total per day) for lower temperatures or 30minutes out of the hour (12 hours total) for higher temperatures. This will of course vary greatly, depending on your room temperature.

Watts multiplied by hours will give you the daily wattage per equipment. (1000 Watts equal 1 kWh) The cost of 1 kWh can be found on most electric bills. The cost of one kWh should be calculated by adding up all the rates that end with “per kWh (that will include the transmission, distribution, and generation charges).

The Formula

Watts x hours x kWh cost x 30 = monthly electrical cost of the aquarium

The exact usage of electricity for each piece of equipment can only be determined by actual readings using an ampmeter, which measures the actual energy used and not the energy based on the maximum output. The formula will provide an approximate cost only.

Information provided by Algone

Fun Fish Facts

Some interesting facts about fish:

  • Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)Fish have been on the earth for more than 450 million years.
  • Fish were well established long before dinosaurs roamed the earth.
  • There are over 25,000 identified species of fish on the earth.
  • It is estimated that there may still be over 15,000 fish species that have not yet been identified.
  • There are more species of fish than all the species of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals combined.
  • 40% of all fish species inhabit fresh water, yet less than .01% of the earth’s water is fresh water.
  • The spotted climbing perch is able to absorb oxygen from the air and will crawl overland using its strong pectoral fins.
  • Some fish like sharks don’t posses an air bladder to help keep them afloat and must either swim continually or rest on the bottom.
  • Some fish make sounds by grating their teeth and others like some catfish make sounds from their air filled swim bladder.
  • Amazon Catfish
  • Some species of fish can fly (glide) others can skip along the surface and others can even climb rock
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  • Fish have a specialized sense organ called the lateral line which works much like radar and helps them navigate in dark or murky water.
  • The largest fish is the great whale shark which can reach fifty feet in length.
  • The smallest fish is the Philippine goby that is less than 1/3 of an inch when fully grown.
  • Red Tailed Shark (Labeo bicolor)Some species of fish have skeletons made only of cartilage.
  • Fish have excellent senses of sight, touch, taste and many possess a good sense of smell and ‘hearing’.
  • Fish feel pain and suffer stress just like mammals and birds.
  • Tropical fish are one of the most popular pets in the U.S.
  • 95% of tropical fish mortality results from improper housing and nutrition.
  • Many tropical fish sold in the United States are harvested from the wild in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.

Coral Reef locations

References and Further Reading
Bailey, M; Burgess, P. Tropical Fishlopedia. Howell Books, New York, NY; 2000.

Burgess, P; Bailey, M; and Exell, A. A-Z of Tropical Fish. Howell, New York, NY; 1998.

Burgess, WE; Axelrod, HR; Hunziker III, RE. Dr. Burgess’s Mini Atlas of Marine Aquarium Fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, NJ; 1997.

Alderton, D. The Complete Guide to Tropical Aquarium Fish Care Howell Books, New York, NY; 1998.

For an Eco-Friendly Home Aquarium, Keep It Small and Track Your Fish

By Nina Shen Rastogi

What’s the greenest way to keep a home aquarium? I love tropical fish, but I feel bad about running the filters and lights for so many hours.

I’ve always had a soft spot for aquariums. As a kid, I sat through a lot of long, boring dinner parties at Chinese restaurants, where the massive fish tanks were reliable sources of entertainment. But not all aquariums are created equal when it comes to sustainability. There are the energy concerns you cite, but where your fish come from is also a major issue, as is what you do with your pets at the end of your relationship.

Energy use for aquariums can vary widely, depending on your setup. According to a 1997 report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a small freshwater aquarium of, say, 10 gallons might use as little as 90 to 120 kilowatt-hours a year to run its lights, filters and aerators. That’s about as much as a typical coffeemaker uses in a year, hardly a major energy suck in the grand scheme of things.

As you go up in size, your electricity costs will naturally rise. A 55-gallon freshwater tank might use 280 to 400 kilowatt-hours annually. Adding a lot of plants increases your aquarium’s appetite, because you’ll need heavier-duty lighting to keep those plants alive. And generally speaking, saltwater tanks will use more energy than freshwater ones because of an increased need for pumps and powerheads to create water currents; marine aquariums can pull from 230 kilowatt-hours a year for a small tank to nearly 800 for a large tank.

Those big coral tanks I loved in my younger days at Hong Fu? They probably drew a whopping amount of energy: A 180-gallon reef tank requires upward of 6,000 kilowatt-hours a year. (Or at least it did 12 years ago.) With that kind of electricity use, you could power four or five refrigerators.

Since the Berkeley Lab report came out, there have been a few advances in aquarium equipment efficiency. You can shave off a few kilowatt-hours by using LED lights, for example, and there are newer, energy-saving pumps and ballasts on the market. One equipment salesperson I spoke with estimated that, overall, the amount of electricity aquariums use today might be about 25 percent lower than in 1997.

Aquarium keeping can also have hidden environmental costs upstream. In some parts of Southeast Asia, where the vast majority of the world’s saltwater “ornamental” organisms come from, fish are caught using squirt bottles filled with cyanide, which stuns the animals and makes them easier to extract from coral reefs. But the chemical can also damage the corals, as well as other organisms living in the reefs — not to mention weakening the fish so that fewer of them survive transport. (Keeping fish healthy isn’t just an animal-rights issue, after all; it’s also an ecological concern. The fewer animals that survive the process, the more intensive the harvesting has to be.) When buying wild-caught fish, look for those that have been captured with hand nets rather than chemicals.

Overfishing can be a concern with certain species, such as the Banggai cardinalfish. Found only in a few pockets off the coast of Indonesia, these silvery, black-striped fish have been labeled an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, largely because of overzealous harvesting for the aquarium trade.

Sustainable collection is less of an issue with freshwater aquarium species, because 90 percent of them are farm-raised. (Saltwater fish are much harder to breed in captivity: As of six years ago, when the United Nations’ environmental office came out with an extensive report on the aquarium trade, less than 10 percent of marine ornamental species were capable of being farm-cultured.) Captive breeding helps reduce pressure on wild animal populations, but, as many conservationists argue, maintaining a sustainable trade in wild-caught organisms — both freshwater and marine — can be an environmentally friendly strategy as well, if it provides economic incentives for fishermen to keep their local ecosystems healthy.

Before you head to the pet store, then, do some homework to find out where your fish came from. If you’re lucky enough to live near one of the four Marine Aquarium Council-certified retailers in the United States (in Florida, Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey), you can buy saltwater fish that are verified to have been sustainably collected or cultured and then properly handled throughout the supply chain. (In the coming months, a new licensing program should increase the number of stores where you can buy MAC-approved fish.) You should also check out Reef Protection International’s Reef Fish Guide, which assesses popular marine species based on four criteria: survivability in home aquariums, abundance in the wild, availability and potential for captive breeding, and collection methods used. Local hobbyist groups can also be great sources of information and, occasionally, homebred pets.

Finally, if you have kids in the house, make sure they don’t harbor any “Finding Nemo” fantasies. Releasing nonnative species into the wild can cause all kinds of ecological problems, particularly if those species become established populations. If you find yourself needing to get rid of a pet fish, try to find it a new home or see whether a pet store will take it. If you must send your fish to sleep with its brothers, there are much more humane ways to euthanize your pet than dumping it in a pond or, God forbid, flushing it down a toilet.

Better yet, avoid getting yourself into that situation in the first place: Make sure you buy only fish that won’t get too big for your aquarium and won’t start turf wars with their tank mates. As with anything else you buy, the greenest fish is going to be the one you don’t have to replace.

Aquarium 1st Aid: Warning Signs, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Many situations can arise in an aquarium that demands immediate attention from the hobbyist in order to protect the fish and invertebrates that are housed within. Described here are warning signs of an emergency, the equipment you should have to determine what the problem is, and equipment necessary to correct it.

Warning signs

  1. Fish behavior

The behavior of the fish should be your first indication of problems within the aquarium. Some of the signs to watch for

  • Livestock losses
  • Rapid breathing
  • Irregular movements
  • Color loss
  • Unusual markings or growths
  • Fish stop eating

2. Environmental changes

Changes in the general appearance of the aquarium can also be an indication of water problems. Some of the typical signs related to imbalances in water chemistry include:

  • Poor expansion in corals and invertebrates
  • Poor growth or death of plants
  • Cloudy water
  • Water with a strong smell
  • Increased algae growth

Equipment to determine the problem

  • Test kits

A quality test kit should always be on hand and should include tests for ammonia, nitrite, pH, nitrates, phosphates, and a

  • hydrometer if it is a saltwater aquarium.

The following is a general guideline to the problems that the different water parameters can cause in the aquarium along with a solution. Compare the warning signs that your aquarium exhibits to the following, and test those parameters to determine if they are the culprit.

  • Ammonia and nitrite:

Excess amounts of either of these nutrients can be responsible for all the signs listed above. If toxic levels of either are present, perform 25% water changes daily until the values return to zero, and incorporate a chemical

ammonia neutralizing media into the filtration.

  • pH:

The pH of the aquarium water can be responsible for all the signs listed above. If abnormal, perform a 25% water change and add the necessary pH buffers.

  • Nitrates:

Excess nitrates in the aquarium will lead to excessive algae growth as well as health problems with the fish at high levels. Perform 25% water changes with nitrate free water weekly, and incorporate a nitrate reducing chemical media into the filtration.

  • Phosphates:

Phosphates encourage algae growth, cyanobacteria in saltwater, as well as inhibiting the calcification process within corals and coralline algae. Perform 25% water changes with phosphate free water weekly, and incorporate a phosphate adsorbing media into the filtration.

  • Equipment to correct the problem

Water changing equipment
Keep on hand all of the equipment that you need to perform a water change. This equipment should include:

  • Siphon hose
  • Buckets or garbage cans large enough to hold at least 25% of the aquarium’s water capacity
  • Power head or air pump, for aerating the make-up water
  • Heater and thermometer, for make-up water
  • Dechlorinator, if using tap water, and salt for a saltwater aquarium
  • Chemical medias

The following chemical medias are useful in both emergency situations, as well as general maintenance:

  • Ammonia neutralizing medias
  • Activated carbon or organic removing resin
  • Phosphate and nitrate adsorbing media
  • Toxic metal or copper remover
  • Appropriate pH buffer and spare media bags

Hospital aquarium
A hospital aquarium is a separate aquarium that is much smaller than the main aquarium, and used to medicate ill fish, and for quarantining new fish before acclimating them to the main display. One of the Eclipse systems ranging in size from 2 gallons up to 12 is an excellent option. This system will need to have a heater and thermometer, preferably a dark colored gravel, and some form of shelter for reducing stress on the fish.

  • Medication

If any of the fish in the aquarium show signs of disease, it is important to transfer them to the hospital aquarium. In the event that illness should become evident in the aquarium, having a broad range of treatments on hand will help save valuable time in combating the illness.

The medications that we suggest for emergencies are:

  • Furanase
  • Erythromycin
  • Copper

If copper is used, you will also need a copper test kit to monitor the levels within the hospital aquarium.

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff

Aquarium Setup Guide. pH-hardness-temperature-salt-aquascaping

Rainforest Fishes
(South American and West African cichlids; bettas and gouramis; tetras, barbs, danios, rasboras; etc.)

  • 6.0 to 7.0 PH
  • soft to moderate water
  • 76° to 82°F
  • no salt needed
  • aquascape plants; driftwood; inert rocks (quartz, slate, granite, onyx, etc.), gravel, and sand

African Rift Lake Fishes
(cichlids and other fishes from the rift Lakes)

  • 7.5 to 8.5
  • hard to very hard PH
  • 74° to 80°F
  • Rift Lake salts (if needed to increase hardness and pH)
  • aquascape soluble rocks, gravel, and sand (dolomite, limestone, coral rock, lace rock, tufa rock)

Central American Fishes
(Central American cichlids, livebearers, cave tetras, catfish, etc.)

  • 7.0 to 8.0 moderate to hard
  • 74° to 82°F
  • many species are salt-tolerant
  • aquascape plants; driftwood; all rocks, gravel, and sand (soluble and non-soluble)

Brackish Fishes (monos, scats, some puffers, mollies, gobies)

  • 7.8 to 8.0 ph
  • moderately hard water
  • 74° to 82°F
  • specific gravity 1.001 to 1.012
  • Aquascape salt tolerant plants (anubias, Java Fern,Mangrove) Driftwood; all rocks, gravel, and sand

Marine Fishes (all coral reef fishes)

  • 8.3ph
  • moderately hard water
  • 76° to 84°F
  • specific gravity 1.025
  • Aquascape live rock; macroalgae; soluble rocks, gravel, and sand

All parameters and values are suggested approximate preferences only; wide variability and adaptability exist among species and individuals within each category.

Overstocked Aquarium?

An overstocked aquarium is an aquarium that either has too many fish, or is too small for the few fish it has, even if that is just one to two large fish.

There are general rules of thumb for stocking both freshwater and salt water tanks, but these rules are impacted by many factors and must be adjusted as such. They are also based on very small fish and don’t apply to fish that grow large.

A safe rule of thumb for small-to-medium freshwater fish is 1″ (2.54cm) of fish per 2.5 gallons (9.5 liters) of water, and for marine, 1″ (2.54cm) of fish per 5 gallons (19 liters). In both cases one should use the adult or eventual length the fish will reach. Not the length when purchased. Otherwise your fish will outgrow your aquarium. A medium fish can be considered up to 4″ (10cm) full grown.

Fish that grow very large count exponentially more than fish that remain small. They require more swimming space and better filtration. They produce more waste and are often aggressive if cramped. A deep-bodied 18″ (45.7cm) fish, for example, requires a minimum 250 gallon (946l) tank to be able to turn comfortably and have a little swimming space. That’s about 14 gallons (53l) per 1″ (2.54cm) of fish! By this example you can see how the rule of thumb escalates dramatically for larger fish.

Since surface area affects the oxygen exchange in a tank, tanks that are taller and narrower support fewer fish than tanks that are longer, even if both tanks hold the same amount of water. Also, most fish swim horizontally, not vertically, so width is more desired than height.

Tanks that are overstocked will not only provide a stressful environment for the fish that will likely lead to disease, but overstocked tanks produce a lot more work for the aquarist. Maintenance must be done more often on a tank that is overstocked.

Signs that might point to an overstocked tank are:

* Fish are aggressive.
* Nipped fins or split fins.
* Disease seems a constant factor.
* Maintenance is required more than 1-2 times a month.
* Nitrates keep rising even with 25-30% monthly water changes.

If your tank is overstocked there is a way out. Most local fish stores will gladly take fish off your hands for credit if the fish is valuable, or as a courtesy, if not. Either way you win by reducing the population in your tank. Check with your local fish store before bringing in any fish. Or if you really want all the fish you have, you can consider upgrading to a larger tank.

Overstocking is the most common mistake made, and the costliest to fish and aquarist alike. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to care for fish and being unsuccessful for all your efforts. If this sounds like you, your tank may be overstocked. Reduce the population and see how much more rewarding the hobby can be. Your fish will appreciate it too!
R. Kayne

Welfare of Aquarium Fish

The welfare of aquarium fish is a topic that is rarely discussed in books, magazines, fish shops or veterinary clinics, yet it is a topic that urgently needs to be addressed. With the increased availability of quality aquarium products and fish, the hobby of keeping aquariums has grown astronomically in the last fifty years. It has become a very serious hobby and even a livelihood for many people. Many dedicated aquarists maintain clean, healthy, environmentally correct tanks and give the utmost care to their fish. These hobbyists take great pains to provide proper water conditions, nutrition, housing, and natural environments for their fish. They treat sick fish and do not accept a fish dying as a normal aquarium occurrence. These dedicated aquarists are to be commended, but unfortunately, for every one of them, there are many that do not provide adequate care for their fish.

A dedicated and caring aquarium owner does not have to have a thousand-dollar tank filled with exotic species. Even the simplest, properly maintained tanks can house healthy, well-cared-for fish. While there are cases of fish neglect and poor care with an experienced aquarist, the majority of the problems arise in the beginner’s tank.

Fish are pets, too

To put the fish welfare problem into perspective, let us compare it to a pet owner that purchases a puppy or kitten. If the new puppy owner took the puppy home and confined her to a small cage, sporadically fed her vegetables, failed to treat her when she became sick so eventually the puppy died, and the owner went back and got another puppy and did the same thing all over again, what would we think? Of course there would be a huge public outcry. It would be very obvious that the welfare of these animals had been violated every step along the way. Yet the same thing happens every day in the tropical fish industry, only instead of a puppy, the victim is a fish.

In another situation, let us ponder what the public would say if wild canines were being captured out of the wild. Let us take wolves, for example. These animals would be captured from the wild, caged, and transported to a retail market for sale as caged pets. During the transport, the stress and handling of the animals would result in a 50% death loss. Of the wolves that survived, another half of these would die soon after placement in their new homes from disease and improper nutrition. Few of these wolves would breed or live a normal life expectancy. We could argue that the ones that did survive would be free of the dangers of predation in the wild, and furthermore, the industry responsible for providing these animals provided much needed income for the indigenous people that gathered them. Of course we would not agree with this. We would not think that this was a humane or justifiable action, nor would we feel that the welfare or ecological community of the wolves was even remotely considered. Yet in the harvesting of some wild tropical and marine fish, this is exactly what happens.

Fish are not dogs, nor are they wolves, birds, or turtles, yet the welfare of animals, particularly domestic or captive animals kept as pets, should not discriminate across species lines. In fact, when we take an animal into our care, we are even more obligated to look out for the welfare of that animal, and fish are no exception. Some people that speak against animal welfare argue that it is anthropomorphic to compare our feelings with that of animals, but the argument for improved welfare of fish is not comparing them to humans, it is comparing them to the way we treat other pets.

Why is fish welfare neglected?

Despite the lack of concern over the welfare of fish, I do not feel that it is done out of cruelty, but merely out of ignorance. Fish and aquariums are very complicated. While it is easy to fill a tank full of water and put some fish in it, any experienced aquarist will tell you that the proper maintenance and care of an aquarium is extremely challenging and complicated. People that provide proper care for their fish have educated themselves and work very hard to understand the specific biological needs of their fish, and then meet those needs. An experienced aquarist does not tolerate sick or dying fish. If a fish dies, something is drastically wrong. The answer is not to just go out and purchase another fish, but to find the exact cause of the death or illness and correct it.

Many fish owners do not realize what is involved in setting up a tank. They do not know the pH level, water hardness, temperature, substrate preference, or nutritional needs their fish require. Without understanding these basics and how all of these affect the health of the fish, they cannot even begin to have a healthy tank. That is not the fault of the fish, but the owner.

I still hear the argument that fish do not feel pain like animals do. Despite the repeated scientific studies that have shown otherwise, this outdated argument still shows up as an excuse for ignoring the fish’s welfare. Interestingly enough, the same argument that animals do not feel pain was taught for years in veterinary schools and used as an argument against providing pain relief during procedures on cats and dogs. While we may find this hard to believe, it was not that long ago, and the same argument is still being used about fish today. Despite exhaustive evidence showing pain and stress responses in fish and no studies to refute this, some people continue to cling to this argument.

The welfare of aquarium fish is often neglected for a multitude of unique reasons:

* We generally do not touch or feel the fish.

* Fish do not respond to people except during feeding or out of fear.

* We cannot hear or communicate with fish.

* Fish cannot cry out in pain, bark to draw attention to their needs, or purr to show affection.

* In a sense, fish are very easy to ignore if we choose.

* In addition, they are cold-blooded and are ‘different’ than mammals.

All of these things make it easy for us to rationalize that their needs do not require the same consideration that other more vocal, easy to touch, warm-blooded species do. When you combine this with the fact that we have been taught that it is okay to ignore the welfare of fish and that the solution to a dead fish is to ‘just buy a new one, it is easy to see why we have the problem that we do.

What can be done?

None of this, however, absolves us from our responsibility as a fish or pet owner. It is the responsibility of every fish owner to provide the best possible care for his or her fish. Collectively, as a group of aquarium owners, it is also our duty to educate beginning aquarists, so that they have the knowledge and tools to provide the best in fish care and promotion of fish welfare. If private aquarium and fish store owners took a hard stance against companies that sell and display unhealthy and poorly-cared-for fish, they would soon go out of business. At the same time, if the same people insisted on humane captive-rearing methods and lowered mortality in production, these trades would drastically improve, or cease to exist. The welfare of fish affects every single aquarium owner and is something that drastically needs improvement. It is an issue that we should all be concerned with and work hard to improve.

Standard Aquarium Shapes, Common Designs









Corner Pentagon




Double Bow


Corner Bow

Fish Compatibility Charts Marine and Freshwater

These charts serve as a general guideline. Tropical Fish are individualistic, aggressive, & opportunistic to a certain degree. Make sure to stock your fish at appropriate sizes, don’t over-crowd, keep them well-fed, and above all, under close constant observation.
Freshwater Fish

Marine Fish

Q & A
Q: What does “reef safe” mean?
A: Reef Safe is a broad term given to
marine fish that will not damage coral
and do not readily consume small fish
or invertebrates.

Old Tank Syndrome – lack of proper maintenance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aquarium Maintenance Simplified

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

Copyright © 2010 – The Aquarium Water Clarifier & Nitrate Remover

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