Tools For the Aquarium

Some Aquarists prefer to have dedicated tools for their aquarium, particularly if it has live plants. Aquarium tools are useful for trimming and pruning the plants. They can also be used to arrange gravel, remove dead fish and scrape the aquarium surfaces to remove algae.

Different tools are available for different functions. Examples are tools such as bent scissors, tweezers, scraper etc.

Specialized Tools may be required while handling corals in marine aquariums. These tools make handling plants easy.

Aquarium Heater

Fish are cold blooded animals. They cannot regulate temperature on their own and are thus extremely sensitive to temperature. Hence, the temperature within the aquarium should be within the limits experienced by the fish in its original natural environment.

Today, fish which were once present in one part of the world are found in aquariums the world over. Hence, special attention should be given to learn about the temperature requirements of each fish and maintain the temperature.

In cold climates, fish may need a heater to increase the temperature.

Aquarium heaters are heaters encased in a ceramic tube. The tube is immersed either partially or fully in the water. The heaters have a thermostat which can maintain the heater temperature.

Some planted aquariums have a heating cable below the substrate. This helps heat the tank. Heating mats are another method of heating aquarium. The heating mat is placed below the aquarium. However, since glass is a poor conductor of heat, this method of heating is not efficient.

Chillers in Aquariums

Chillers are used in Aquarium to reduce the temperature particularly during hot seasons. When the temperature rises, the oxygen level in the water drops. Fish, being cold-blooded, are very sensitive to rise in temperature and may be come stressful.

The Deep Ocean is always cold. Hence, if you have deep sea species in your marine aquarium, you must have chillers.

Some aquariums need both heaters and coolers at different times of the day or at different seasons of the year. In such cases, there are temperature control units which have equipments for both heating and cooling.

Chillers reduce the temperature of the water by removing heat. Thermoelectric Chillers are used for small aquariums up to 55 gallons. For larger Aquariums, inline chillers need to be used.

There are also Drop in Chillers which are placed directly in the tank or in the sump.

Sump in Aquariums

A sump is a separate tank placed behind or below the main aquarium. The function of the sump is to house the equipment which may be unsightly. Equipments such as filters, sterilizers, heaters and chillers can affect the aesthetics of the tank.

Hence, in large tanks, a separate tank which is connected to the main tank serves as the sump.

Reef Tanks always have an sump as part of their design.


PowerHead for Aquariums

A Power head is a pump which sucks water from the tank and passes to to devices such as filters or UV sterilizers. Power Heads are available in a variety of formats from hang on types to submersible ones to externally fitted power heads.

Power heads can be used to create water flow patterns which simulate the natural flow in streams and rivers.

Power Heads come in various power ratings.


Timer for lighting in Aquarium

Fish need proper and cyclic lighting which simulate the natural day/night conditions. Switching on the Light the whole time or switching it off the whole time may interfere with the fish's daily cycle.

An Aquarium Lighting Timer automates the task of switching the light on and off. Light can be switched on for a pre-set duration and switched off. This is ideal for light control on a daily basis or during vacations.

Timers can be connected with any aquarium light. Some timers also enable the gradual dimming or brightening of the light to more closely light cycles in nature.



Setting up a Saltwater Aquarium

A saltwater aquarium seeks to recreate a sea environment in your living room.  A saltwater aquarium can be an extremely fulfilling hobby and a great learning experience.

Setting up and maintaining a saltwater aquarium is not a difficult job as many people think.  A basic understanding of how the aquarium works is enough. A Saltwater aquarium is only slightly different from a freshwater aquarium.  The difference is obvious. It has saltwater instead of fresh water.

This saltwater has to be made by mixing salt and water at the right proportion to get the right specific gravity.  This is measured by a hydrometer.

A saltwater aquarium needs more space than a freshwater aquarium as it requires special filtration and  monitoring equipment.  It is better to place it in the centre of the room.

Saltwater fish are used to living in the ocean with limitless space.  Hence, a saltwater aquarium should be bigger.  Each fish should have a per capita area of at least 10 gallons.

A Saltwater aquarium will need some accessories such as lighting, filters, heater and a hydrometer.  The tank should be located near an electrical outlet to draw power for the accessories.

Mix water and salt till you get a salt solution with a specific gravity between 1.021 and 1.025.  The temperature of saltwater is also important as it affects the specific gravity measurement and the salinity.  A temperature of around 27 degrees Celsius should be maintained.

Leave the saltwater overnight with the filtration equipment running.  Check the temperature and the specific gravity the next morning.

If the values are ok, you can proceed with adding the gravel and fixing the decorations and the plants.

You can run the aquarium without the fish for 2 days for the tank to stabilize.

Introduce the fish, two at a time into the tank.


Preparing Artificial Sea Water for Aquariums

A Marine Tank requires periodic water changes. The water for the marine tank can be obtained directly from the sea through aquarium suppliers or can be mixed at home.

Artificial seawater is obtained by mixing marine salt mixes available at your pet store. These mixes contain salts along with the ions and trace elements found in the sea.

The salinity and the specific gravity are two important parameters to be checked before adding the water to the aquarium.

Specific gravity is measured with a hydrometer while salinity is measured with a refractometer.


Wave makers for the Aquarium – An Overview

A Wave maker is a pump which simulates the wave action in a freshwater body or in the sea. Wave makers come in various capacities, sizes. They can also simulate the wave action in different environments such as a freshwater stream or an ocean reef.  Wave makers are usually fitted in marine aquariums where they simulate the natural wave action or the sea.

Organism such as corals and anemones are fixed. They depend on the ocean currents and the waves to bring them the nutrients which they absorb from the water. In the absence of wave action in the aquarium, these organism will not be able to draw sustenance from the environment. A wave maker circulates the water and helps these species get their nutrition

Wave makers circulate the water and ensures the flow of oxygenated water throughout the aquarium. This ensure that the water does not stay stagnant at any single place.

Stagnant pockets of water in the aquariums result in the accumulation of dirt and detritus in specific locations such as behind rocks or plants. The circulation of water by wave makers ensure that these debris are carried away to the filters and removed.

Aesthetics is another reason for the wave maker. Wave makers give a natural feel the aquarium. The flow of water has a soothing effect on the viewers. Fish also feel more relaxed in a moving water environment.

While wave makers have benefits. They should be properly positioned. The output of the wave maker should not be too strong that it disturbs the aquarium set up and stresses the fish.


Protein Skimmers in the Aquarium 

Protein Skimmers are devices used in marine aquariums to remove unwanted proteins floating in the water. Proteins can originate from decomposing organic matter such as fish waste and plant detritus.

Protein Skimmers work by creating a large air/water interface by using a large amount of bubbles which are allowed to pass through a water column. The water bubbles rise to the surface along with the proteins which are attracted to the bubbles. In addition to proteins, these skimmers also remove fatty substances, carbohydrates, bacteria, etc

The result is a foamy layer of liquid in the skimmer. This foamy layer gets thicker as more and more proteins rise to the surface. This Foamy layer is then removed.

Proteins Skimmers are used in marine aquariums where periodic water changes are not possible. They reduce the load on the main filtration systems.

Protein Skimmers cannot be used in freshwater aquariums as the density of freshwater is lesser than the saltwater of marine tanks. Thus, the fine bubbles which can be created in the marine aquariums for higher air/water interface cannot be created in the freshwater aquarium.

Protein Skimmers can be used in freshwater aquariums which are overstocked. However, these are extremely rare.










Controlling Fish Population in Aquariums

Keeping the fish population under control is a necessary part of having a good aquarium. While it may seem difficult to get fish to breed in initial stages of an aquarium. Once the right conditions are made available, it is difficult to stop fish from breeding.

Fish breed in large numbers. Live bearers such as guppies and platies give birth to about 15 to 30 young ones while egg-laying fish such as goldfish, bettas produced hundreds of young ones.
In the wild, the population is kept in check by natural predators and the scarcity of food. However, in the aquarium food is plentiful and predators are absent. Thus, the population will start to increase in the aquariums. Thus, there is no way of keeping the population in check. This results in overcrowding and disease.

Hence, it is necessary to control the population of the aquarium.
There are several methods of keeping the population in check


Selling fish

This is one of the best ways of regulating the number of fish. This also helps you make some money out of your hobby. While newborn fry cannot be sold. Fish that are a few weeks or months old can be sold. If you have space for a few more tanks you can use them to raise the fry.


Keeping the males and females separate

This can be done only if you have more than one tank. Some hobbyists stock their tank with fish belonging to only one gender. This, however, is unnatural and can stress the fish as it disturbs the natural routine.

Introducing one or two large predator fish
Large Predator fish can eat up the small fry. This ensures that only a few number of fish survive.


Decreasing plant cover

Small fish hide in the plants. Removing the plants in your aquarium will result in the small fish getting exposed to predators.


Stocking the Aquarium evenly

Stocking your aquarium evenly is important as it ensures optimum use of the aquarium space and a pleasant viewing experience. Fish live at different levels in the water. Hence, selecting fish which occupy the top, middle and lower level of the aquarium ensures that all the fish have more space. This prevents fights and injuries.

Fish such as hatchetfish, zebra fish are top dwelling fish. Their mouths are upturned as they feed from the surface.

Fish such as guppies, swordtails, tetras are middle level fish. They swim in the lower levels. Gouramis are also another popular middle level fish.

Bottom dwelling fish have mouths which are turned downwards. These fish scour the bottom of the tank for food. Examples include loaches, cory catfish and the pictus catfish.


Selecting a net for your aquarium

Selecting a net to catch fish is important. A net should be big enough to catch the fish without injuring it. It should also be small enough for easy movement through the aquarium.

Nets are available in a wide range of shapes and sizes. There are square nets and round nets. There are nets which are fine and nets which are coarse. Coarse ones are ideal for big fish. Coarse nets can damage the fins of small fish which can get caught in the small holes.

If you have a rectangular or square tank, a rectangular net will be useful as it can fit better against the corners. If you have circular tanks, you can use circular nets.

When trying to catch the fish, position the net close to the fish without startling it. This will help prevent the difficult chases across the aquarium which can damage the plants and other fitments.

Some people lower the water level when they are catching difficult fish.

Another technique is to use two nets and drive the fish into one using the other.

Air Powered Filters in Aquariums

Air Powered Filters are filters of small capacity which are ideal for small aquariums. These filters do not require any external power source. They are driven by the air flow from the pump.

The air is allowed to rise through a tube which drives the water upwards. This causes a suction effect in the bottom. The water from the surrounding areas enter the tube through a sponge which filters the water.

The sponge material also serves as a medium for the beneficial bacteria to grow. Thus, it also acts as a biological filter.







Choosing the right location for the aquarium

Locating the aquarium in the right place in your home or office is crucial.  Here are some common tips for selecting the right place for your aquarium.


Place the aquarium at a place where you are likely to spend most of your time.

Placing the aquarium at a place where your spend most of your time ensures that you and those who visit your home enjoy the presence of your aquarium.  If it is placed in a corner where nobody goes, it can tend to get neglected.  At the same time, placing it in the centre of the room can sometimes become an obstruction as it may get in the way.


Ensure that there is adequate space around for maintenance

An aquarium requires periodic maintenance.  These maintenance activities require space for free movement of people and materials.  While choosing the place ensure that there is space around the aquarium.


Ensure the presence of electrical power supply and a water source nearby

An aquarium needs power to operate the aerator and the filter. Ensure that there is a power socket nearby to connect these equipments.  Having a water source nearby makes cleaning a lot easier.


Ensure a level location

An aquarium needs to be placed in a level location.  If it is not placed in a level location, there can be a leak or uneven stress on the tank walls which can result in a breakage.  Use a spirit level to check that the tank is properly leveled.


Keep the Aquarium Away from the Windows

Placing Aquariums near windows may result the water getting heated by sunlight.  Dust can also enter and settle on the tank and its fittings.


Make sure that the floor can bear the weight of an aquarium. 

Aquariums can get quite heavy.  Some can weight hundreds of kilograms.  Ensure that the flooring of the building can support the weight.  Talk to an engineer if necessary.


Selecting the proper aquarium tank size ?

When it comes to aquarium size, it is always better to have a bigger aquarium. Bigger Aquariums give more space for fish to swim about. You have a wider choice of aquascape designs to be implemented in a bigger aquarium.

Aquariums which are bigger can house more fish and more diverse species. Aquariums which are bigger are also more tolerant of mistakes such as overdosing and delayed maintenance as the water quantity is larger.

While bigger aquariums are better. They are not always feasible.

Smaller aquariums are easier to clean occupy less space and can be placed wherever you want. It is easier for beginners to sustain interest in them.

Many aquarists buy small aquariums and regret not have a slightly bigger one after they are quite established in the hobby.

Get the optimum size for you. Keep in mind the space in your apartment and the number of fish you would like to buy.

If you are a starter, you can begin with a smaller aquarium and then as your fish collection becomes bigger, you can exchange the old aquarium (some pet shops have exchange offers) and get a new bigger one.


Air Pump in an Aquarium

An Air pump is a critical and important equipment in indoor aquarium which are mostly enclosed. The Air pump helps keeps dissolved oxygen levels in the aquarium within limits.

The Air pump pumps air into the aquarium which is released through an air stone or through a filter.The bubbles which are released agitate the surface of the water and make the exchange of oxygen possible.

Air Pumps work on domestic AC supply. They are powered by an electromagnet motor which operates a bellow. Multiple connections can be taken from the same air pump depending on the capacity.

Keep the Air pump as close to the tank as possible. The Tubing should have a regulating valve to control the air flow.


Function of an Air stone in an Aquarium

An air stone is a special piece of porous stone through which air from an air pump is passed. The many holes on the porous surface of the air stone serve to release air as many small bubbles which is pleasing to look at.

The bubbles agitate the water in the surface and help in oxygenation.

There are wooden air stones as well which are made from special types of wood such as tila. Today, there are synthetic airstones as well which are made from fiberglass.

Air stones may need to be cleaned periodically for better flow.


Choosing the substrate for your Tank

A substrate is the material at the bottom of the tank. The substrate serves to anchor the plants in the aquarium. It also serves to conceal the uneaten food and dirt at the bottom of the tank.

It also adds to the aesthetics of the tank. Choose a substrate which fits with the scheme of colors in the tank. Some substrate tend to eclipse the fish. The substrate should complement the aquarium and bring out the beauty of the plants and the fish. Look at different types of aquarium and their substrates before deciding a substrate for your aquarium.

There are many different substrates to choose from Gravel and sand are the most common substrates.


Gravel

There are many types of gravel in varying sizes and colors. Gravel is simple and easy to clean. It does not irritate fish, particularly those species which love to scoop the substrate in their mouth. Gravel is available in large and small sizes. Large sizes may create spaces in between in which food and other particles can accumulate. However, larger gravel sizes are easier to clean.


Crushed Coral

Crushed coral has the effect of increasing the pH due to the calcium carbonate which is the primary constituent of shells and corals. This is used for fish species such as cichlids which are used to a higher pH level and hard water in their native environment. Crushed coral should not be used for fish used to a lower pH and soft water such as those from the amazon.


Sand

Sand is used to give a natural look to the aquarium. Sand is ideal for species which like to build nests. Other species such as stingrays like to bury themselves in sand.  There are many different types of sand available.

One of the disadvantages of sand is that it is difficult to clean. When siphoning the aquarium, sand gets vacuumed along with the dirt.

Sand also tends to compact over a period of time. This 'caking' effect needs to be periodically broken to ensure a fine texture.


Peat

Peat is made of decomposed vegetable matter. Peat is the natural substrate in many parts of the amazonia from which most tropical fish hail. Hence, if you want an aquarium mimicking the amazon basin, you can consider Peat. Peat tends to color the water slightly brown. Peat has good anti-microbial properties and is ideal for live plants.

There are also many other artificial substrate which are fertilized to support live plants. These can be purchased at your nearest pet store.