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The basics of bioballs


There are so many different types of filtration media out on the market that it can get overwhelming trying to figure out which one is right for your situation. One of the more popular forms are bioballs – a plastic ball with slatches on its surfaces which are designed to catch beneficial bacteria within your tank and give it a place to live and thrive. 

Today, we’re going to discuss what bio balls are all about – from what you should buy, to how you use them and what maintenance looks like. Let’s jump right in!

How many should I get for my tank?

We have always said that the general rule of thumb for bio balls is 10 balls for every 450l of water. Of course this depends a lot on what kind of filter canister or sump pump that you have, but generally speaking – that should give you what you need. If you have a sump tank though, you can use generally as much as you’d like and it shouldn’t harm your tank as long as you’re maintaining them properly. 

How do I use them?

Like we said above, bio balls exist as temporary storage units for beneficial bacteria in your tank. They’re not there to remove waste. They’re best used after water flows through filter foam – as the foam will catch all of the waste and other bad debris from the tank so that it doesn’t get caught inside your bio balls. If you place them ahead of the foam, a lot of that bad stuff will get stuck in the balls and adversely impact your tank by causing the nitrate levels to rise to unsustainable levels. 

Are they difficult to clean?

Truth be told you’ll want to clean your bio balls inside the fish tank using the actual water in the tank, itself. The reason for this is that you want to protect beneficial bacteria that’s built up on those surfaces over time. Totally cleaning more or less defeats the purpose of having them to begin with. It should go without saying that the best time to do this is during water changes. That way, you’ll be cleaning out the bad debris all at once. Just remember – don’t scrub! 

 

If you’re looking to add bio balls to your tank, feel free to give us a call and we’re happy to give you some more information on what kind of solutions might be available for your tank. Until then, we hope today’s blog gave you a little bit more of an idea as to what you can expect when it comes to bio balls should you decide to invest in some for your tank in the future. Good luck!

Can Betta Fish live with other fish?


You’ve probably heard it a thousand times that Betta fish don’t live well with other fish, particularly other Betta fish. And that, for the most part is true, but there are exceptions to the rule. Just because Bettas will fight other fish doesn’t mean they’ll fight every fish they come across. 

In fact, small, plain looking fish don’t pose much of a threat to a betta – and especially if they have lots of places to hide; you might be just fine. So that poses the question: can Bettas play nice and live with other fish? Can you have a thriving community that includes these feisty friends?

That’s what we’re here to discuss today. Let’s jump right in. 

Will they fight other fish?

Believe it or not, Bettas can be a part of a thriving community tank. But that doesn’t mean you just start mixing to your heart’s content. There are some things you should do first. 

The first thing you want to do – is to try to figure out how aggressive your betta really is. Each fish is like any other animal – they have their own, unique personality. Some are way more laid back than others. Others will fight at the drop of the hat. Some are fine for the most part, but can be territorial. How can you tell if your betta is all about metta world peace? You can start by watching them in the pet store.

Bettas are usually kept in small containers and stored on top of one another – and they can see everything and everyone around them. Watch their behavior. Is there a male that appears agitated? Do any of them seem bothered by the site of another fish? Are they puffing their gills and flaring their fins when they see other bettas? If they are – they’re probably too aggressive for a community. 

The goal here – is to choose a betta that is more interested in avoiding conflict than actually initiating it. Try to choose the fish that looks the most peaceful in the pet store. Keep in mind though – that just because they’re on their best behavior that day is no guarantee that they’ll do ok in a community tank – but you will improve your odds. 

How to set up your community for a betta

The first thing to do is to introduce a betta to a tank and not the rest of the tank and community to the betta. That way, they won’t feel like their territory is being encroached upon and they’ll have to carve out their own space in the tank. The next big thing is to be mindful of the size of your tank. You don’t want it to be overcrowded. Bettas like their space and need enough of it to call their own. If they don’t- they’ll respond aggressively. They’ll almost never work in a five gallon tank; but ten gallons usually works perfectly fine. 

Second, you’ll want to be sure that you’re putting them in a tank with fish that aren’t that colorful. The more flair a fish has, the more likely that a betta will see them as a threat. Long story, short – boring is always better with betta fish. 

Finally, be sure to add lots of plants, caves and other decorations inside the tank. This will allow lots of real estate for your betta to lounge around in; but also gives their neighbors a place to hide if the betta decides to go on a bender one day. That way everyone has a place.

Trust us when we say – we totally understand and agree with people who are hesitant to add a betta fish to their community. That being said – it’s 100% possible to pull off so long as you’re careful. Stay away from males, stay away from multiple bettas and try to pick fish that look less aggressive and peaceful. Then simply set up an environment where they can thrive. So long as they don’t feel threatened; they should behave just fine. 

Hopefully these tips help your decision come into a little bit clearer focus. Good luck!

How much should you feed your fish?


If you’re someone who’s new to aquariums, then one of the first questions you’ll probably ask is how much you should feed your fish. And for veterans of the fish game that seems a little silly – but to newcomers, it’s entirely understandable that you’d be a little confused. 

Today we’re going to try and clear up some of that confusion. Here’s what you need to know:

What do fish eat? 

Take a glance at any rack in any pet store and it becomes pretty clear pretty quick: not all fish eat the same things. From bettas to goldfish – food can vary. So how do you know what food your fish needs to eat? It’s on you to do some research. 

  • Are they carnivores, herbivores or omnivores?
  • Do they eat dry food, frozen food or live food?
  • How big should the food be? 
  • Will they eat floating or sinking foods?
  • Does the food taste good to your fish?

Once you have the answers to those questions, you’ll know what your fish eats and what’ll be best for them. 

How often do I feed them?

The overwhelming majority of fish are fine if you feed them once a day, If you have smaller, growing fish – then they’ll need to be fed a little bit more often. Most fish are awake in the daytime, so try to make it somewhat routine oriented, either before you go to bed or when you get up in the morning before you go off to work. 

How much should I feed them?

Overfeeding fish can be a problem and create a dirty, not-so-great environment for your fish to be in. You’ll notice they’re producing a lot of poop and generally speaking, won’t be too interested in eating during mealtimes. Excess feeding can also cause internal health issues as well – from fatty liver disease, constipation and both bacterial and fungal infections. 

Try to feed them no more than the indicated amounts on the food’s packaging. 

Can fish go long without food?

While you can forget a day here and there, it’s not advised to go much longer than that. If you’re going on vacation, you should have someone come by to feed your fish. If you’re someone who travels frequently or has long stretches where you’re not home, then you might want to consider automatic fish feeders or a pet sitter who can take care of their needs while you’re away. 

If my fish are always swimming to the top looking for food, does that mean i’m not feeding them enough?

No, definitely not. Fish are opportunistic eaters. They’re always on the lookout for another meal. And they’re like all pets – they’ll beg! 

Just be sure you’re keeping up a consistent schedule and your fish will be well fed and taken care of. And of course – don’t try to do everything yourself. That’s never good. Ask pet store attendants, friends and let them help. Owning an aquarium is fun – but it’s best to get the right answers; not just treating information like comfort food to soothe our pre-existing biases. Hopefully this post will clear some of your questions up. Good luck!

 

Plumbing your fish tank: all about those pipes


Whenever you decide to plumb your aquarium, there’s a lot of planning that needs to take place. Things like bulkhead fittings, flow rates and material types and sizes all need to be taken into consideration. 

Today, we’re going to focus on the various material types and sizes that you’ll need to consider before you begin your project. No matter your setup – fresh or salt water – you have to make sure your pipe and fittings are meant for potable water (can safely handle drinking water) and that it’s resistant to corrosion and scaling. 

Long story, short – we’ve narrowed things down to the following four types of piping. Let’s jump right in:

ABS (acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

Quite the mouthful, right? Well, ABS is only used for drainage in homes and can’t really take too much in the way of pressure or heat. While you can use this material (it’s very cheap and affordable) – you need to keep in mind that it should only be used for drain lines. Any kind of pressure is an absolute no-go. 

PVC

Everyone knows PVC and knows that it can handle a fairly substantial range of pressure and heat. It can be used for water supply, but it’s going to have to be cold water only. If you’re looking for an economical choice for your aquarium, PVC will certainly do the trick. You also have the luxury of using both rigid and flexible piping, which can be helpful; although you do need to be a little bit more cautious with flexible piping as it can’t take the kind of pressure that its rigid counterpart is capable of. 

CPVC 

CPVC is basically a souped-up version of PVC piping in that it uses chlorine as a coat. Because of that, it allows for both hot and cold drinking water. And just like PVC piping, it comes in flexible and rigid applications. The major difference here however, is that CPVC piping is far, far more expensive than PVC piping, so if you’re on a budget, this might not be the call for you. However, it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for and CPVC will last a long time and give you a wide range of options in terms of what you can do with it. 

PEX (Cross-Linked Polyethylene) 

Ask most plumbers today, and they’d probably tell you that PEX is the most commonly used form of piping that they use in new construction and buildings. It comes with all the bells and whistles that you get with PVC and CPVC piping, but also comes with the added aesthetic bonus of a whiter, almost transparent color. It also can go flex or rigid and still maintain the same amount of pressure for both. Long story, short – this is the Cadillac of pipes. And oh boy, you’ll pay Cadillac prices, too. But also – you’ll get a fantastic product. That being said, part of the reason isn’t just the bells and whistles it provides its users, but also that it needs specific tools to connect them. So keep that in mind. However, if money isn’t an object – this might be your best option. 

Creating your dream aquarium takes careful thought, planning and preparation. Hopefully this mini-guide helped you sort through one of the more important steps in the process. If you still have questions or would like to learn more about bulkhead fittings and plumbing your tank, give us a call today and we’ll be happy to provide you with a free consultation. Good luck!

Why aquarium temperature is so important


One of the most important elements of a healthy fish tank is your tank’s water temperature. Over the course of time, your tank will have many different kinds of inhabitants – all of whom live within different temperature ranges. So no matter what kind of aquarium you decide to have – knowing and maintaining your tank’s temperature is a vital ingredient for success.

Why it’s so important 

This one is pretty straight-forward. Fish are poikilothermic organisms. What’s that mean? It means they’re the kind of animal that doesn’t regulate their own internal body temperature. Rather – they rely on their environment.

Poikilothermic organisms function best when they’re in an environment with a designated temperature range. When you get outside these ranges – whether it’s too hot or too cold – you tend to have problems. It can cause all sorts of issues ranging from poor growth, to respiratory issues and possibly even death.

If the temperature increases or decreases too quickly – it can hurt a fish’s immune system and raise the likelihood of it getting sick. It can spike metabolic activity and in some cases – shock the respiratory system. That’s why keeping temperature within specific parameters is so important.

So what’s the best range?

Keeping your temperature in a specific range depends on a lot of things – like where your organisms are from and what their previous environments were. That’s why it’s important to do a little digging before buying a fish.

But like we just said – it all really depends. Many species of fish can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. Goldfish can live in water as cold as 40 degrees and as hot as 80 degrees. Others – have a very narrow temperature range- perhaps only a few degrees difference.

The most important thing

One of the most important things you can do when you first buy your fish is to acclimatize them to their new surroundings. It’s the process of slowly introducing the fish to their new home.

This is important because differences in not only the temperature – but the chemistry of the water can stress fish out if they’re not slowly introduced to their new home. There’s not guidebook to this either – but how long it takes to introduce a fish to their new tank depends on the fish itself and their sensitivity to environmental changes.

Doing this simply involves letting your aquarium bag float in your aquarium with the fish inside it. This helps the water in the bag slowly match that of the environment around it. You can use things like digital thermometers to check the temperature of both and ensure that there’s no sudden spikes in the process. Like we said – there’s no definitive way to do this – but most fish take anywhere from 15-60 minutes to get used to their new home.

Managing the temperature of your aquarium is one of the most important things you’ll do as an aquarium owner. If you’d like to learn more about how to maintain your tank’s temperature give us a call today and we can offer you a free consultation. Good luck!

The biggest threats to a fish’s health


The most important thing you can do as a pet owner is to make sure your fish are healthy. And keeping your fish healthy sometimes means more than just keeping them on a steady diet and cleaning the tank now and then. It means having an understanding of what threats exist to their health and what can be done to avoid them.

Here are some of the main reasons that fish die and what you can do to help keep your aquarium a more healthy environment for them. Let’s jump right in.

Stress

Believe it or not, fish are very sensitive animals and one of the most common sources of poor health and death is stress. Stress opens the gates to a whole plethora of maladies; but is often caused by neglect or improper handling of the fish. Keeping them clean and calm is vital to their overall health.

Make sure you handle your fish gently when you’re changing the water in the tank and just in general. Don’t wrap on the glass or scare your fish. And we also recommend that you listen to your pet shop and aquarium pros and listen to their guidelines about introducing fish to a new environment and the like.

Sickness

When you purchase your fish, you need to be attentive to their overall health. Be on the lookout for things like white spots on the skin, chopped fins and the overall condition of the aquarium they’re in. Are they lethargic? Are they swimming awkwardly? If you notice any of these things, the chances are that the fish is sick.

These illnesses come about largely due to issues with the water composition and general aquarium cleanliness. In fact – ammonia poisoning and drowning due to lack of oxygen are the two most common causes of fish dying in aquariums.

That’s why it’s important to know things like the safety of your fish relative to the size of an aquarium, cleaning your tank regularly, etc. – are being kept up on.

Cleanliness

Keeping your fish tank clean isn’t as easy as it seems. Not only do you need a quality filter, but also the water needs to be replenished every not and then in order to keep a clean and healthy environment for your fish to live in.

There are a lot of little mistakes you can make that can make a huge difference. For example – it’s better to use clean drinking water to fill your aquarium – not tap or chlorinated water. What is healthy for you could potentially kill your fish. Use drinking water and make sure it doesn’t include any additives.

The other important thing is to make sure you use excessively clean materials. Make sure everything you use – from your net to your vacuum – is cleaned thoroughly after cleaning your tank.

While these things seem kind of menial – they add up and help set the stage for your tank to maintain it’s cleanliness longer, thus avoiding the potentially hazardous cleanliness issues that could lead to your fish’s death.

We hope this article is helpful, but please remember – sometimes you can do everything right and fish get sick and sometimes die. Sometimes they die out of the blue and without warning. But there are ways that you can lessen the odds of that happening and by following some of these tips, you should set up an environment that’s conducive to your fish’s overall, long-term health.

Four great ‘roommates’ for a Betta fish


Bettas are some of the most ferocious fish you can own in your aquarium – especially towards their own species. But did you know that yes, they can live peacefully with other fish? You’ll need a 10-20 gallon tank to make it work – and plenty of cover, but yes – it can be done!

If you’re considering adding a beta to your tank or looking to build around your beta – here are some of the best ‘beta buddies’ you can find. Let’s jump right in!

Kuhli Loaches

Kuhli Loaches are an odd species that grow to be about 3.5 inches long when all is said and done. They’re great scavengers and are adept at picking up the scraps betas leave around the tank. They mostly stay dormant in the daytime and like to come out at night or when the lights are off – and live and travel in groups when they do.

Long story, short – they don’t like to share the same ‘shift’ with you betta, which dramatically reduces the risk of a confrontation. Bettas are also a lot less likely to confront groups of fishes, so the fact that these guys travel in packs gives them a little added security. Just make sure you use the kind of fish food that sinks, so there’s plenty for them to choose from.

Ember Tetras

Tetras are bright and like to school together, making it difficult for Betas to single them out. They like living in the middle of your tank and (generally speaking) eat the same food as your betta. In addition, their red/orange color contrast make them a highly aesthetically pleasing fish to add to your tank when contrasted with a bright blue or solid white betta fish.

So from a complimentary standpoint, they’ll add a lot to your tank – whether it’s looks, feeding, and being a practical choice as a roommate for your betta fish.

Cory Catfish

Corydoras are a lot like tetras in the sense that they like schooling together making it hard to bully, but also add the benefit of Kuhli Loaches in that they prefer to live more towards the bottom of the tank. 3-6 of these will work well and there’s a whole plethora of subspecies of this fish that you can choose from. That being said – just like Loaches – make sure you use food that sinks – as you’ll want to make sure they’re getting the nourishment they need.

All that aside, they’re a good ‘cleaning crew’ kind of fish in that they’ll help keep the bottom of the tank from accumulating too much waste. They’re an affable, cordial species that make a great, complimentary roommate for your Betta.

Harlequin Rasboras

These guys grow to be about 2 inches, love to swim together and be social and are extremely fast. They’re peaceful by nature and mostly unassuming – meaning that they’ll avoid your Betta for the most part. Bettas seemingly like to chase Rasboras around more than the others on this list, but they won’t have much in the way of success – so you don’t have anything to worry about.

Just like tetras, they’ll add a lot to your tank and make a versatile compliment to their Betta roommates – even if they stand to agitate Bettas more than the others. They’ll bring plenty of color, flash and fun to any tank.

All of these fish make great ‘roommates’ for your Betta. With enough space, your Betta will co-exist with all of them. Good luck researching which one will work best for you!

The four most dangerous species of aquarium fish


Let’s face it – some of us like to live a little bit on the wild side and when it comes to our aquariums – it’s not any different. The shallow end isn’t for everyone, after all!

Today, we’ve picked out four ferocious fish that people have had in their tanks. All of them have qualities that make them dangerous – whether it’s to humans or other aquatic life. So if you’re a thrill seeker who likes to live dangerously – these fish are for you.

Now – before we get going with anything – please be advised – each of these fish are extremely dangerous and should only be in tanks of people who are either professionals or extremely experienced. In fact, we recommend that you avoid them altogether. But hey – a little window-shopping never hurt anyone, right?

Let’s jump right in, or well… just look.

Lionfish

Lionfish come ready to rumble with spines they use to take down prey and predators; and even sometimes humans as well. Lionfish are not ‘one size fits all’ however – as there’s a variety of different kinds of Lionfish – the most popular of which is the Red Lionfish. They’re venomous, but not usually fatal for humans. They can grow up to 12 inches in some cases and use spines to take down prey.

Puffer fish

 Puffer fish kind of have this reputation for being cute, but don’t let those adorable, round exteriors fool you; these fish are poisonous and deadly. They use air to expand their bodies when they’re alarmed, and their skin has spines that have tetrodotoxin in them– which is extremely dangerous venom for humans.

Of the fish on this list – this is one you might want to pass on. For one – there’s no antidote for their venom so if you make a mistake – it could cost you dearly. Second, although they’re not predators, if other fish try to mess with them, they’ll likely end up dead. Use the utmost extreme caution.

Piranhas 

There’s a lot of fluff surrounding piranhas. No, they don’t attack like they do in the movies, yes they can bite you but on the whole – you don’t have too much to worry about. They almost never attack larger predators or your hands if given the chance. They’re more like vultures, really – as they usually like to scavenge for dead carcasses in the wild.

That being said – you still should – as you would with any dangerous fish – practice extreme caution. They don’t want to attack you, but if they feel threatened they most certainly may and they have extreme force behind their bite – enough to take a finger off if they’re full size. Don’t make sudden movements and don’t mess around.

Stonefish

Without the shadow of a doubt – the stonefish is the most poisonous fish known to mankind. It’s a saltwater fish that has 13 spines on its back that camouflages itself into the sand. Most humans encounter them by accidentally stepping on them and if/when they do – they need IMMEDIATE medical attention.

They grow up to about 16 inches and believe it or not – some folks like having them in their tanks. They’re not exactly the most beautiful fish in the sea, but people certainly get a thrill from owning one of the most dangerous fish out there.

While people do purchase these fish we again want to emphasize – these aren’t for everyone and you need to be extremely cautious. In fact, we just recommend that you pass altogether. These fish are cool to talk about, but they can pose serious risks for you, your family and also your aquarium community.

 

 

Why are my tank plants failing?


Some folks really like to use natural plants in their aquarium and to be honest – it’s easy to tell why. The colors pop more, the tank look more natural and in many ways, the plants are good for your tank, too. That being said, sometimes they can be difficult to manage.

When your plants struggle, you’re probably stuck wondering why. Plants aren’t always the most straight-forward organisms and they don’t get any more straight-forward when you put them in a fish tank.

This week, we’ll be exploring that problem. Here are some of the most common reasons that aquarium plants in your tank aren’t thriving as well as some of the things you can do to remedy those issues. Let’s jump right in.

Slow growth

Plants need three things in order to grow: Carbon Dioxide, nutrients and lighting. If you notice your plants are growing fast enough; or that something like the leaves aren’t growing large enough – it’s likely due to one of those three problems. So the first step in resolving the problem with be to address those basic needs.

Yellow leaves

Aquarium tanks are usually green in color and when they begin to turn a different color – particularly yellow- then there’s a strong indication that there might be a significant problem. Yellow leaves occur when they’re not getting enough light. This can usually be resolved by installing a simple full-spectrum bulb that can give your tank 3 to 5 watts of light. The extra light should help significantly with your plant’s growth.

Brown and black leaves

In order for plants to grow the right way, they need a few nutrients to make sure they’re properly balanced. Those key nutrients are potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen. If you notice that your plants are turning black and brown, then the best thing you can do is undergo a full water change in order to improve the quality of the water in your tank. First time tank owners especially – think they can simply fill their tank and get away with it. That’s not the case. Water needs to be changed regularly.

Holes in your leaves

Holes in tank plants are caused due to something called Cryptocoryne Rot. This is a disease that while the exact cause is still unknown, scientists believe is caused by excess nitrate in the water. Poor water quality and poor nutrient enrichment also don’t help. The best way to deal with this problem is to take on a full and complete water change. Vacuum and wash your gravel and essentially – start fresh.

Other growth issues

One thing you’ll always want to keep an eye on is your water temperature. Often times, plants can be fickle organisms and a little too warm or a little too cold and your plants can struggle. Always be mindful of your water’s temperature – as it can help you avoid a lot of unnecessary labor and/or money spent on chemicals you might not need.

Hopefully these tips will help you manage any of the issues you might have with plants that don’t want to grow. Be sure to be mindful of what we wrote about today and good luck in getting your tank plants turned around looking beautiful once more.

Tank maintenance for beginners


Keeping an aquarium can be a rewarding experience. Freshwater tanks are inexpensive – both to set up and maintain – and come with a wide range of fish that can live in them.

That being said, you’re essentially building up an ecosystem of animals and plants and figuring out how to balance everything out can be a challenge. Understanding what fish to buy and then what’s needed to maintain them can be a little confusing at first. For first time tank owners, this can be confusing and sometimes a bit contradictory given all the information that’s out there. How do you know where to start?

Today, we’re going to clear it all up. Here are some tips for beginners on how to properly maintain your fish tank. Let’s jump right in!

Cycle your tank before you put the fish in

Cycling a tank is basically taking all the steps necessary to bring water conditions up to the level they should be at. This is something that should always be done before you put the fish in the tank. In fact, we don’t recommend even purchasing a tank and fish on the same day.

Cycling helps promote the growth of healthy micro-organisms within the tank that will help break down waste and keep the water in good condition for your fish to thrive. Some experts even recommend waiting as long as a week before you add fish.

Test your water

So how do you know your water is where you need it to be? Well, we recommend purchasing a water testing kit and it’ll tell you all the different levels of ammonia, nitrates and even the pH of your water. These are all normal, healthy things to have in your tank so long as they’re kept at relatively low levels. If left unchecked – they can build up to unhealthy amounts and it can harm your fish.

Change your water regularly

We recommend removing at least a third of the water every week and replacing it with fresh, clean water. This will help to dilute the chemicals in the water and make the environment healthier for your fish. Not doing this will make it increasingly difficult to keep your water’s chemical parameters where you need them as waste will buildup and pollute the water to the point where it’s unhealthy for the fish. Oh – and don’t forget to purchase a siphon to make sure you’re getting all the gunk out of the bottom of the tank in your gravel.

Don’t overfeed your fish

Trust us when we tell you – it’s really hard to starve a fish. One feeding per day is PLENTY. Good flake food meets most needs but if you have bottom feeders, sinking pellets should probably be on the menu. That being said – don’t feed a fish more than what they’ll eat in a few minutes. Excess food isn’t good for the fish and can lead to disease. But it can also dirty up the tank and throw off the chemical balance. It can also help spike algae levels as well. Long story, short – go with the ‘less is more’ approach.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you maintain a healthier, cleaner tank early on. Be mindful of things like filtration media as you become more comfortable experimenting with your tank as it can make a significant difference. And of course, if you have questions – feel free to give us a call. Good luck!




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