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Five common mistakes first time aquarium owners make


Owning a fish tank for the first time can be a pretty rewarding experience, overall – but if you aren’t careful about certain things – you can accidentally cause a lot of damage.

With that in mind, this week’s blog is all about some of the common mistakes new tank owners make when they get into having an aquarium for the first time as well as some of the things that you can do to make sure you avoid them. Let’s jump right in!

Overfeeding

Without a doubt – the biggest beginner mistake is overfeeding their fish. It’s hard to know when your fish are hungry and in many cases, they always appear to be hungry. And true to life, if you feed your fish – they will keep eating. That being said, too much food produces a ton of waste and can badly mess up the nitrogen cycle.

When you start your tank, only feed your fish once per day. This will keep waste to a minimum and leave you with a much cleaner, healthier fish tank.

No biological filtration

We’re partial to this because of our bio balls – but it’s the truth. Airstones and a pump are simply not enough to keep your water clean. You should always have some sort of biological filter present so that it can grow beneficial bacteria that is crucial to your fish staying alive.

Not enough water changes

The general rule of thumb is to change 15% of your tank’s water each week. Beginners frequently neglect this and think that it’s possible to get away with less change over. That’s simply not the case. Water changes are a vital ingredient towards keeping your aquarium healthy. Especially early on it’s important to make sure you’re not scrimping on your water changes.

Cheaping out on filters

Most aquarium start up kits come with filters that simply aren’t strong enough for the tanks that they’re in. Most will only turn the water over a few times an hour and not only is this simply not adequate to keep the tank clean, it can be very unhealthy for your fish. Filters are an essential component of any tank and you shouldn’t cheap out on it. Always be on the lookout for a filter that turns water over at least 4 times per hour.

Too many fish

Adding too many fish too quickly can seriously destabilize your water chemistry and mess up the overall composition of your tank. We don’t recommend adding any more than 3 fish at a time to your tank and wait until your nitrogen as cycled through a time or two before adding more.

 

If you’re an aspiring aquarium enthusiast and have questions about how to set up your tank, feel free to give us a call and we’re happy to give you a free consultation. Until then – try to avoid these mistakes and you should find your fish will be much better off because of it. Good luck!

Choosing an aquarium filter: Where to start


For people who are new to owning a fish tank, knowing what to look for in an aquarium filter is a common question they’ll ask. The truth is, owning and aquarium as a hobby is as popular as it’s ever been – and the options are virtually endless and at times overwhelming to new enthusiasts.

Today we’re not going to talk models. We’re not going to talk about the type of filter, either. What we’re going to talk about is the parameters of what you should be framing your search in hopes of finding a solution. The stuff that sets the boundaries and helps the answer come into clearer focus.

Here are some of the factors you should be considering when you are purchasing an aquarium filter. Let’s jump right in!

Is it easy to install? Some filters are a lot to install and for a beginner – that can mean biting off more than you can chew. Is the filter something you can install yourself or do you need to call in a professional? Try not to dive in over your head, but in the event you do – have a pro on standby to help you out!

Cost – How much does the filter cost? Great filters can be worth their weight in gold, but if you’re newer to the hobby, holding off on making a significant financial commitment might be worth it.

Maintenance – There are some filters out there that you can set and simply forget. There are others that require constant, ongoing maintenance. Which one is for you and which one fits your lifestyle?

Space – Not every room and not every tank is set up for a large filter. Finding a fit and space to put your filter is important. Can this filter fit under your aquarium or inside it? Is it bulky and not aesthetically pleasing? What’s the practical choice?

How does it handle organic matter? – Not every form of green is bad to have in your tank. Does your filter maintain an acceptable level of biological filtration? Be sure to take your time here and ask questions as biological filtration may be the single most important aspect of your tank’s filtration system.

Chemical effectiveness – Same as above, but rather chemicals. Does it maintain balance well or does it have issues?

Noise – Believe it or not, this is one people take for granted. It’s purely aesthetic, but a noisy tank filter can be grating to people who aren’t used to it. Be sure to ask about the noise levels associated with your filtration system.

Feel free to look around at certain filtration guides you’ll find online. That can be a great place to start in terms of identifying a make and model that will work with your setup. In addition, be sure to ask the pros at your local vendor. Sometimes they’ll have various tips and tricks that might work for your unique setup and situation. Until then – stick to these rules, answer these questions and the answer of what filter to purchase will come into clearer focus.

Introducing fish to a new tank


Introducing fish to an aquarium is one of the more overlooked things that new tank owners never think about. You have to remember that when you set up an aquarium, you’re basically setting up an entire small ecosystem in which your fish will live.

There are some things to consider when you’re introducing a fish to its new home. Here are some tips that will help make it easier for you to make your fish feel more at home faster. Let’s jump right in!

Preparation

Before buying a fish, you need to make sure you have your aquarium up and running so that it’s prepared to take on fish. That includes getting the temperature right, making sure the pH is balanced, that you have the right filtration media, lighting, heating and water chemistry and the like. Once it’s up and running, give it a day or two to acclimatize to itself. Then get into adding in fish.

Acclimatization

Getting your fish acclimated to the temperature of the tank is crucial. Not doing so can cause shock and even potentially kill it. You do this by opening the bag your fish is in and placing the fish in the bag in the water, with the opening hooked in so it doesn’t totally submerge into the water. Keep the fish in the bag about 20 minutes and then they should be ready to handle the temperature.

Getting them used to the tank

The next thing you’re going to want to do is pour a little tank water into the bag to get the fish ready for the water they’ll be in as this helps them get used to the chemistry of the water. Give this one about 10 minutes. Every ten minutes thereafter, add a little bit more water to the bag.

Freedom

Now it’s time to let the fish free. Using a net, grab the fish and set it into the tank. DO NOT dump the water from the bag into the tank. That can cause germs and all sorts of nasty diseases to spread that could adversely effect the other fish in the tank.

Rest and relaxation

For fish, moving can be a pretty traumatic thing – so they’ll need a little time to relax and calm down once this is all over. Feel free to shut of the light in the aquarium as this will take their focus off the newcomers. Try to feed them within the first 24 hours they’re in the tank.

Devil’s in the details

Keep monitoring your fish for a few days after they arrive. Some species are more sensitive than other and some will require more attention than others. Salt water fish also bring a totally different element into the equation as well. Ask your local provider questions and make sure that you know the ins, outs and particulars of the fish you just purchased.

Getting fish for the first time is an incredible experience. Enjoy!

Getting the most out of a 10 gallon tank


If you’re the owner of an aquarium, then the chances are at some point you either have or have had a 10-gallon tank. After all, it’s the most popular fish tank in the US year in and year out. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned vet just looking to add on a little something extra, you want to get the most out of your tank.

That being said, doing that right off the bat with a 10-gallon tank can be a challenge. Part of the reason it’s the highest selling tank in the US is because it’s often bundled with equipment and sold as a package. Many of those components are cheaper or are of a lower quality – largely to keep the price of the tank package down. With the equipment being of lower quality, you’ll inevitably have to make some upgrades if you want to get the most out of your tank.

Here are some things you can do to get your tank up to speed. Let’s jump right in!

Upgrade the lighting

Many of today’s tanks have built in LED lights. While this is great if your only concern is to light up the aquarium, it falls short in a lot of other areas. Biting the bullet and upgrading to an aftermarket LED light will not only make your fish look incredible, but it will help to grow live plants in the tank if you have them.

Appropriate filtration

Built-in filtration systems are usually chronic under-performers when it comes to actually keeping your tank clean. In a 10-gallon tank you’ll want something with slower water flow and filtration media like bio balls that can help not only collect fish waste, but also work to break down toxic chemicals like ammonia so your fish aren’t harmed.

Getting chemicals correct

If there was ever something that consistently overwhelms first time owners, it’s the sheer number of chemicals that can go into aquarium water. You’re going to need some essentials like dechlorinator but you’ll also want to consider things like bacteria additives, plant fertilizers and medications. What your specific tank will depend on a few things, but feel free to ask your local vendor what’d be best.

Decorate!

OK, so this isn’t technical and it’s mostly a no-brainer; but this is supposed to be fun, isn’t it? Isn’t this why we’re doing this? And trust us – it can be a lot of fun to decorate your aquarium and certain choices can make a big aesthetic difference. That being said – there are some low-key practical benefits to be had as well; for example – fresh plants can actually help fight bacteria.  But of all the ‘upgrades’ you can make – nothing else checks all three boxes of improving your aesthetic, providing a practical benefit while being fun for the tank owner like dressing up your aquarium.

 

Our parting advice is to simply make sure that whatever you do to your tank, that you do your homework. Like we’ve said multiple times in this post and in our blog – fish tanks are custom even when they aren’t. What works, what you needs are – all that depends on a bunch of competing factors that you’ll have to wade through.

Still, enjoy your tank and all that goes along with it. Good luck!

Fish species that help keep your tank clean


This month we figured we’d switch gears up a little bit and instead of talking about our usual bulkhead fittings and bioballs – we’re going to talk about some of the fish that can help you get the most out of both!

These species are prime algae eaters and can help take the edge off carrying the workload for your bioballs and other filtration media. Not only are these fish good eaters and great helpers; but they also get along well with their other fish friends and are super easy to take care of. Let’s jump right in!

Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp are very active and very entertaining and remain a very popular choice for tank owners who want fish with a healthy appetite for algae. And if we’re being honest, here – these shrimp don’t just stop at algae. They’ll eat dead plant material and leftover food as well – making them the clean freaks of any fish tank.

Just be a little careful as they tend to get picked on and eaten by bigger fish, so keep them with populations of smaller fish with friendly dispositions.

Bristlenose Plecos

These guys are popular with tank owners because they look… different. They have funny looking heads and noses and have an odd shaped, stout body that can grow to be as big as 15cm long. They come out at night, eat up a lot of the green stuff and then take to hiding during the day. They get along with almost everyone so as long as there’s dark substrate and a nice shelter at the bottom of your tank – they’ll be pretty happy fish.

Siamese Algae Eaters

Siamese Algae Eaters are among the most popular tank fish in the world and with good reason- they eat everything, look funny, look great and help tanks keep clean. Most of all- they get along with everything – even edgier fish – making them an incredibly versatile species.

They do come with a few surprises thought – most of which being that they’re hyper sensitive to pH levels in tanks. Ask your local provider what the ideal levels would be. Second, they jump! That’s right – you need to be careful because they’ll jump clean out of a tank. Be careful and don’t tempt fate!

 

If you’re thinking about investing in one of these species, we recommend you do so as they make great additions to your community. That being said – it’s important to remember that they can’t survive on just algae alone. You’ll need to supplement their diets with food and other goodies so they can live long, comfortable lives. Good luck!

What makes bioballs so great


The media that you decide to use in your tank’s filtration system is really meaningful. Its job, after all – is to catch and store as much good and beneficial bacteria as possible. These bacteria don’t just keep your tank alive – they help it thrive, keep it clean and algae-free.

Bioballs are considered a go-to tool for a whole range of tank owners – from the hardcores to the casual pet owner. Simply put – they’re plastic spheres that have dozens of thin rods within. Those rods as well as the cover – allow for plenty of living space for beneficial bacteria to thrive.

Today, we’re going to talk about why so many people choose them, use them and how they can help you. Let’s jump right in!

Easy to clean

Bioballs are relatively low maintenance – but when you need to clean them – they’re easy to clean. Simply rinse them off with water and all of a sudden – you’re good to go! It really is that easy. You don’t need to apply anything, wash it in special water at a special temperature or any of it. Rinse it off and plop it back in the tank! It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Long lasting

Simply put – bioballs are meant to last a long, long time. They’re not like your usual, standard issue fish tank filter that you’ll have to throw out. Once you have you bioballs, they last for life. To degradation and as simple a function as you could hope for.

Scalable

The one undeniable benefit of bioballs are their ability to function with a wide range of media and adapt to a variety of situations. Their round shape alone allows them to easily conform to their surroundings no matter the shape or composition.

Easy to handle

Bioballs weigh 0.3 ounces – which to those who own larger tanks – probably comes as a relief! They’re not clunky, they’re not messy (most come with a mesh filter bag), and they’re as easy to install as they come. And that’s not even getting into the time and money you’ll save on other forms of filtration media.

 

Simply put – a small investment in bioballs can go a long way – and that’s what makes them so great. You’ll see better results and you’ll need to do less maintenance in order to see those results. Who could possibly not want that?

Bulkhead Fittings 101


While we’re usually dealing with folks who really know their stuff when it comes to bulkhead fittings and fish tanks, we do get folks who are new to it all, or just getting their bearings as they venture into the realm of being an advanced aquarist.

For those of you who fit the description above, then today’s blog is for you! Today, we’re going to be discussing the absolute basics about bulkheads and bulkhead fittings. You’ll learn about what they are, what they’re made up of and what you should be looking for when you buy one. Let’s jump right in!

What they are

Bulkhead fittings are designed to allow for the drainage of one water (or liquid source) through a specific hole in said source. In our case, this would be an aquarium. The bulkheads create a seal that helps prevent water from leaking out and allows you to quickly remove the water whenever it needs to be cleaned or replaced. There are a wide range of different types of bulkheads that you can use in a tank depending on what your specific need might be.

The basic components

Bulkheads are made up of three main parts. There’s the body, the gasket and the nut. The body possesses both the interior and exterior threads. The gasket which fills the spaces between two surfaces. The last part – the nut – sits up against the gasket and presses into it to create the seal.

What to look for

There are several factors to consider when you’re purchasing a bulkhead fitting. First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure you’re purchasing the right sized thread and the size of the fitting itself. These things tend to be precise, so you’ll want to discuss this with a professional. Most dealers will be able to help you without an issue.

The last thing is understanding the piping and the material you’re going to be using for the fitting itself. Bulkheads come in a variety of makes – all with differences in both quality and strength – so you’ll want to buy material that will be able to balance your needs with longevity and durability.

 

For any significant and expanded aquarium – bulkhead fittings are a must. Hopefully this guide will give you a starting point. Speaking of that, we’re sure this will leave you with questions as well, so feel free to reach out to us at any time and we can help you get started. Good luck!

Basic tips for installing bulkheads


Although we usually save the meat and potatoes of this blog for beginners, we’re sure there are a few of you advanced acquarists out there – or perhaps even aspiring acquarists out there who are ready to take on a project that is a little bit more difficult.

While not too complicated, bulkhead installation can be a little intimidating for folks the first time around and as such, we’ve put a few tips together for you first timers to go by. Some things about installing bulkheads and bulkhead fittings can be a little confusing or even counter-intuitive, so we figured we’d help you navigate through the obvious. Let’s jump right in.

Sealants

Always be sure to try and install bulkheads clean and dry. That means it’s probably a good idea to stay away from things like silicone, Teflon or thread lubricants. These substances often prevent bulkhead fittings from not sealing properly. The rubber vulcanization will work just fine. Over time it’ll act as a perfect seal, just like it would on a car or automobile.

Do a little cleaning

Before you install your fitting, it’s a good idea to take the time to take a file or pocket knife and try to clean off any excess flashing in both the male and female threads on the flange and nut. This is an area of a bulkhead that is often a source of leaks, so making sure the two sides are sealed properly is important.

Stay away from the outside of the bulkhead

Even though it might look inviting, it’s almost always a bad idea to screw anything into the external threads on a bulkhead. These are NOT standard tapered pipe threads and they WILL leak. They are simply there to screw the nut on. That’s it.

Always the flange side.

Always try to install a gasket on the flange side of your bulkhead. Never, ever install it on the nut side. Doing so leads to leaks largely due to the fact that the water in the tank will travel along the threads of the bulkhead and around the gasket. Make sure you tighten it up, then give it a quarter to half turn in addition and no more.

 

Hopefully, these tips help and we hope that this goes well for you the first time through. If you make a mistake – don’t fret! Just call a professional. In most cases, they’ll be thrilled to come over and not only help you work out of a jam, but also someone who appreciates what they’re doing. So don’t be afraid! Good luck!

Species that every beginner should avoid


Keeping and maintaining marine life can be a challenge for people who are new to the hobby. It can especially difficult when you have difficult to maintain species. After all, there are so many fish out there and so many choices – and if things weren’t confusing enough – many of the species that are commonly found in pet stores and other places aren’t easy to maintain.

Today’s blog is going to be about the species of fish that beginners should avoid putting into their tank until they’re ready. If you see a fish that you are interested in on this list, then maybe it’s something you’ll want to reconsider. Let’s jump right in!

 

Filefish

Filefish comes from the same order as pufferfish. They’re not the worst choice on this list, but they’re certainly not a good one. The issue is that they’re a little destructive. They’ll frequently go after your corals when on an empty stomach – and have also been known to chase invertebrates like urchins around when in search of food.

You need to keep up a steady flow of food as they tend to like to graze – AND it needs to be both of the vegetable type and the meat type. They’re a great choice for experienced owners, but we recommend staying away if you’re a beginner.

Eels

In many cases, there are just some species that aren’t just best left to experienced tank owners – but better off left in the wild, period. That’s our take on eels – and more specifically – ribbon eels. The fact is – most end up dead in a few weeks of purchase and they don’t handle captivity well at all.

The biggest issue is their diet. They refuse feeders often and get easily stressed. They’ll often put themselves on stress patterns and well, they just waste away. They’re absolutely beautiful animals to have and trust us when we say we get the temptation, but you’re best off leaving them be. Especially if you’re a beginner.

Seahorses

Seahorses definitely fall into that ‘great in theory’ category, but almost never work out as expected. Again – the issue is a rather complicated pattern of care. They need to feed three times a day, be in a very friendly-to-seahorsies tank and the water needs to be kept meticulously. Sound like a lot? Well, because it is. Most beginners don’t want to put up with the maintenance and if you don’t, you’ll lose your seahorses. So we recommend that you just pass.

Lionfish

There’s a lot of lionfish out there – but we’re talking about your classic, definitive ‘lionfish,’ here. They are one of the most beautiful species you can own, but you’re going to need an awful lot of dedication to keep them going.

They have three qualities about them that will be a challenge: their size, their aggression levels and their spikes. They get big quick and like to eat anything that can fit into their mouth. They can even sting you. So – if you’re new to this whole fish tank thing – there are literally hundreds of other species who’d be a better choice.

 

Owning a fish tank is a wonderful experience. Just make sure that if you decide to get into it that you take things a step at a time. Good luck with your new aquarium! You’re going to love it!

For the cost conscious aquarium owner


Owning an aquarium is a fantastic hobby and for most of us – it’s a great source of enjoyment in our life. That being said – it’s not cheap! In fact, expenses can pile up quickly from new gravel and food to the bump in your electrical bill and the cost of the fish and plants themselves.

While it’s better to do things right than on the cheap – that doesn’t mean you should be mindlessly blowing through your money. There are things that you can do both the right way and affordably. Today, we’re going to share a few of those things with you.

Here’s some ways you can get the most out of your tank without blowing the bank. Let’s jump right in!

Filters

Bio balls are a huge cost saver, but hey – we’re biased! Another way to cut down on the costs of filtering your tank are sponge filters. It basically picks up mulm, debris and waste and filters it out of the water for a nice, tidy cost between $5 and $25. While some folks worry about the idea of multiple air pumps, there are industrial pumps available that run sponge filters so you should be able to find a solution relatively quickly.

Food

People spend a lot more money than they plan on fish foods and sometimes end up cleaning more of it out of the tank then they actually feed their fish. If you’re creative, you can find your own fish foods. Fish enjoy things like earthworms, flies and mosquito larvae – all of which can be found right in your back yard. Brine shrimp is another common way to feed your fish on the cheap. It takes a little work, but most fish will not only thrive on that diet, they’ll enjoy their meals as well.

Lighting

Lighting is usually one of the more expensive things associated with owning an aquarium. Light fixtures tend to wildly fluctuate in price and can easily get into the hundreds of dollars if an owner isn’t careful. A cost effective option is by using a simple short light fixture that can be found at a hardware store. Especially if you’re growing plants in your aquarium, you might even be able to find certain plant-specific bulbs that will give you exactly what you need instead of taking a shot in the dark.

And finally, give some consideration to an LED flood light. Not only does it provide a generous amount of light, but it’s also inexpensive and uses little to no power.

Décor

We tell this to just about everyone: if you want to have a tank that’s uniquely yours, make it so. Put things inside it that reflect what you want to see and don’t be afraid about being creative. Flower pots, sculptures, nick knacks – anything from a local river or pond – do it. All you really need to do – particularly if it’s a natural element like a cool piece of small driftwood – is boil it to kill off any potential parasites and germs. Once that’s done though – there’s a whole swath of things you can do. Don’t go out and plunk $50 down on the ceramic diving guy. Make the tank yours!

 

Aquarium projects can be fun and easy to do on your own – and can save you a significant amount of money. Get creative, read articles, watch YouTube and put your own spin on things. As long as these things are safe, your projects will give you years of enjoyment!




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