6 Tips for Picking Your First Aquarium Fish

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The right aquarium fish can make all the difference. Here’s 6 great tips to help you choose the best beginner fish as you embark on your aquarium keeping adventure!

Choosing your first aquarium fish may seem like a daunting task for a beginner. However, with a little research, you will be able to know what fish will prove to be hardy, undemanding, and well-suited to beginners. Perhaps the pet store may have recommended guppies, neons, or catfish, but many beginners have found it difficult to raise them, considering that they are still learning the ropes of aquarium fish care.

These six important tips will help you pick your first aquarium fish. Taking care of these fish species will certainly be a rewarding undertaking that will fuel your love for the hobby.

1. Choose fish which can easily adapt to new surroundings

A good first species should be one that is hardy, active, confident, and disease resistant. Select fish that appear healthy. Avoid fish that manifest visible signs of disease such as white spots, discolored skin patches, frayed fins, etc. Make sure that the fish can withstand water fluctuation since a new tank often has fluctuations in water quality that can stress your fish.

Aside from water conditions, your new fish should be able to adapt well to the presence of aquarium decorations and to the company of other fish species in the tank. Large or active fish can thrive well alone in a tank with little aquarium decor. However, there are fish species that find being alone distressing. Even with excellent water quality, you may find your pet hiding, not feeding, and may become vulnerable to illness.

2. Avoid fish with known specific feeding habits

Pick a fish species that can be fed a simple flake food for the first 6-8 weeks. Fish with specific feeding habits may result in excess amounts of waste products leading to high ammonia and nitrites in the water. The accumulation of these compounds is hazardous to your fish population.

3. Select fish from the same community

Selecting fish species from the same community will help ensure that you achieve balance in your aquarium. If you choose to get several varieties, make sure that they will get along well. Be sure to select the hardiest species. Fish that belong to the same community will have similar water chemistry and temperature requirements while exhibiting like behavior.

4. Start with peaceful community fish species

Aggressive tropical fish species may need to be fed live feeder-fish and this can certainly add up on your list of responsibilities. It is important to know which aggressive fish species can be matched, or else your peaceful community fish species may end up being eaten by its more aggressive tank mates. Aggressive fish species also need more tank space. Some of the tropical fish species that can thrive well in a community tank include tetras, gouramis, and platys.

5. Don’t buy too many at once

It is important that you stock your aquarium slowly. Being a neophyte, you run the risk of losing large numbers of fish to disease or bad water quality. Putting in many fish at the onset may overload the new tank water and lead to a build up of ammonia. The size and type of your tank and aquarium filter will help determine the amount and frequency of introducing new fish species to your tank. As a rule of thumb, no more than six small fish species should be added every seven days.

6. Buy from reputable breeders and pet shops

Before buying fish from a breeder or pet shop, it is recommended to visit the establishment and observe how they take care of the fish. You can see for yourself if the fish has a healthy appetite or is suffering from any health problems or defects. Never buy fish from aquarium shops that are not particular about maintaining hygiene and sanitation in their tanks. Pet shops that allow dead fish floating inside the tank or fail to quarantine sick fish should never be patronized.

Peter Hartono is the founder and CEO of Just Aquatic – a proud Australian company that provides excellent online aquarium supplies for betta fish tanks, goldfish tanks and also aquatic plant care products carrying top of the line brands including API, biOrb and Exo Terra.

Striped Rafael Catfish, nicest “thorny” catfish pokes in on Animal-World

April 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Aquariums, Catch All, Freshwater fish

Spotted Rafael Catfish, Agamyxis pectinifrons

The Striped Rafael Catfish will be quite prickly if touched, but it is a darn nice fellow with a very pleasant attitude!

Despite its thorny protection, the Striped Rafael Catfish is a peaceful, friendly companion towards its tank mates. That is at least towards the one that are big enough that they don’t look like food! This fellow is moderately sized and very pretty too. It’s about 6″ in length with bold black and white striping running horizontally along its body.

Curiously, in the wild the youngsters can act as cleaner fish. They will clean ferocious piscivores (fish that eat other fish!) like the Wolf Fish Hoplias cf. malabaricus. These deadly predators allow them to remove parasites and dead scales from their skin. Cleaner fish are usually striped, so it may be that their patterning triggers recognition, allowing the juveniles to get to away with snacking on the predator, rather than it snacking on them!

If you’re a beginner looking for your first catfish, this pleasant fellow could be just the ticket. It’s hardy and will eat just about anything that lands on the bottom of your tank. It may rest most of the day due to its nocturnal nature, but then at night it will emerge to become a great natural vacuum as it snacks on tasty morsels on the substrate. Yet despite its nocturnal tendencies, this fish also has a very curious nature. Once its comfortable in its home, it may very well come out of hiding during the day just to scout around!

Provide it with a comfortable home and it can live 20 years or more. A decor of driftwood and rocks that offer caves where it can rest, and a bit of plant cover to help subdue the light, and you will have a happy catfish for a very long time.

Learn more about the nicest “thorny” catfish. Pictures and information for the Striped Rafael CatfishPlatydoras armatulus, also known as the Humbug Catfish, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Aquarium Fish Get Mean, Meet the Bad Guys

Red-bellied Piranha, Pygocentrus nattereriRed-bellied Piranha. Photo © Animal-World: Courtesy Jonas Hansel

Bad guys come in all shapes and sizes. Sometime even fish that are considered great community members can get mean!

There are several aquarium fish species which are known to exhibit aggressive behavior. One of the important causes of aggressive behavior inside the tank is attributed to their being territorial, thus you may find some fish species that chase away or nip at others as a means of protecting their space inside the tank.

Yet fish aggressiveness is also attributed to competition for food and difference in size. Sometimes fish will fight when a dominant one feels that its status is being threatened by another fish. Aggression can also be a warning sign; sick fish can become aggressive while other fish tend to bully sick fish. In some instances, a recognized peaceful fish can become aggressive, thus it is common to have one mean fish in the bunch.

The most common manifestations of aggression inside the tank include tail beating, fin-nipping, pushing water at the enemy, mouth-locked wresting, chasing, biting, and even killing.

When choosing to keep a community aquarium, you should know which species can live harmoniously together. Most species of aggressive fish are more suitable for a single species aquarium.

Some of the aggressive fish groups include the following:

Tiger Barb – The Tiger Barb is considered a good community fish however it is prone to nipping fins, thus they should not be kept with long-finned fish species such as angelfish. Tiger barbs can become aggressive if there is overcrowding inside the tank.

Large Tetras – Tetras are considered community dwellers however there may be an aggressive one in the group. When adding new fish, be sure to observe the temperament and whether the new addition is compatible with the rest of the inhabitants of the tank.

Cichlids – Many varieties of cichlids are aggressive and are best kept in one-species tank. Many cichlids can grow to very large sizes. These include the Green Terror, Jewel Cichlid, and Red or Tiger Oscar. African Cichlids are known to be highly predatory and extremely territorial. While not all Cichlids are very aggressive, the largest is usually the dominant one, behaving aggressively towards all the other tank inhabitants.

Giant Danio – The Giant Danio’s long and narrow body can crowd out other fish in the tank. It is also very active and likes to school.

Red Belly Piranha – Piranhas are notoriously predatory. They are known to eat live food. In fact, they will bite fingers when aggravated or hungry.

Large Gouramis – Kissing Gouramis are recognized for being mean and energetic. Gouramis are also considered fin nippers.

Large Rainbow Fish – Although Rainbow fish can live well with other species in a community tank, they can grow large and their fast speed makes it easier for them to prey on smaller inhabitants of the tank.

Wolf Fish – The freshwater wolf fish is a well-known aggressive predator. Also called “Piranha eater”, they have voracious appetites for feeder fish. Any fish that looks like prey can be disemboweled by the wolf fish. Although they don’t really mess with other fish, they are territorial and will nip other inhabitants of the tank.

Peter Hartono is the founder and CEO of Just Aquatic – a proud Australian company that provides excellent online aquarium supplies for betta fish tanks, goldfish tanks and also aquatic plant care products carrying top of the line brands including API, biOrb and Exo Terra.

Spotted Rafael Catfish, talking spotted spectacle on Animal-World

March 27, 2014 by  
Filed under Aquariums, Catch All, Freshwater fish

Spotted Rafael Catfish, Agamyxis pectinifrons

Not only is the Spotted Rafael a looker, but this catfish can talk!

The Spotted Rafael Catfish is a hardy fellow with a striking pattern of white spots on black. This spotted white-on-black design makes it very attractive and desirable. The spotting is quite variable with big spots, little spots, and even a few spots fusing into bars, and no two catfish will look exactly the same!

Looks and durability are some great things about this fish, but now let’s examine some of its other awesome attributes.

First off, this looker can also talk, and is often referred to as the Spotted Talking Catfish. It rubs its pectoral fins (the ones sticking out to the sides) by rotating them in the shoulder sockets which then produces “Clicks”, “groans”, or “squeaks!” Aquarist usually hear it vocalizing when they are removing it from its tank.

Which leads to its next cool attribute, it is a Thorny Catfish with built in armor. Its protective coverings start with heavy armor over its face and neck. Then it has rigid spines in its top and side fins that it holds out in an erect fashion to ward off any threats, or when disturbed. It also has a series of tiny spines along the sides,running the length of its body. No fish in its right mind is going to mess with this armored “thorny” dude!

Another great attribute is its daily routine of helping to keep the aquarium clean. It is nocturnal, so during the day it likes to rest, but at night it becomes a great natural aquarium vacuum. It will spend its evening and nighttime hours busily scavenging tasty treats from the bottom of the tank.

But the last and BEST attribute… it is a peaceful fish. It likes companions and enjoys hanging out with similar types of catfish. It’s moderate in size, at about 6 Inches, but it gets along great with most other moderately sized or larger fish, even with more aggressive fellows. I guess if you have all that built in armor, you just don’t have to be a jerk!

An aquarium with lots of natural decor and a variety of community fish will create a very attractive showpiece. Give it ample space with at least 35 gallons of water (though more is better), and you will be rewarded with a wonderful companion fish for up to about 10 years!

Learn more about this cool spotted “talking” catfish. Pictures and information for the Spotted Rafael CatfishAgamyxis pectinifrons, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Ocellated Synodontis, Large-spot Catfish making a splash on Animal-World

March 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Aquariums, Catch All, Freshwater fish

Ocellated Synodontis, Synodontis ocellifer

Ocellated Synodontis, an upside-down catfish with very large spots!

The Ocellated Synodontis is not a clown, but it does have a very spotted coat!

Sometimes those spots can be very large, and in size it’s not too small either. Most seen in an aquarium will be less than 10 inches, but if you see this dude in the wild, it could be a whopping 20 inches in length!

A good-sized aquarium with lots of natural decor and a variety of community fish will create a very attractive showpiece. But even better than that, this is a great environment for housing a very cool large-spotted Synodontis catfish. Rocks, driftwood, and twisted roots all work great to make places of refuge, and wood is especially appreciated for it to will rasp on. And because it’s nocturnal, plants floating on the surface help keep the light subdued during the daytime.

This fish spends its evening and nighttime hours peacefully scavenging delicious morsels from the bottom of the tank, and its days resting in a cozy hiding place. It pretty much gets along with almost any other tankmate, even semi to aggressive cichlids. It does get pretty big though, so beware of keeping it with very small fish. When these little fellows fall to sleep near the bottom of the tank at night, they could easily become scrumptious snacks!

In the wild it schools with its own kind while young, but then becomes a solitary fellow as it matures. Consequently, adults can be somewhat aggressive towards other Synodontis catfish species, especially if the tank is too small and without enough hiding places for all.

This easy keeper is not fussy about food, and with its non-intrusive demeanor, it makes a great community fish for both beginners and advanced aquarists. It can live for up to 20 years, so as long as its watery home is at least 50 gallons in size and is well kept, you can have this interesting and attractive fellow for a good long time!

Learn more about this “Large-spot” catfish. Pictures and information for the Ocellated Synodontis Synodontis ocellifer, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Health Benefits of Owning an Aquarium

Fish keeping as a hobby has gained popularity all over the world!

Aquariums are a good alternative for people who desire to keep pets, aside from cats and dogs.

The Chinese people believe that aquariums bring good luck to homes and offices. The water it contains is one of the five elements of the earth. Water is said to generate positive energy and promote calm and harmony. Water is also believed to bring in good luck, wealth, and prosperity.

Keeping an aquarium filled with bright fish and lush vegetation in the office or in your home offers therapeutic benefits for your physical and mental health. The miniature aquatic ecosystem is a great way to bring nature indoors. Spending a few minutes following the swimming movements of the fish and listening to the sound of running water will certainly reduce your body’s reaction to stress while inducing calmness and enhancing positive feelings.

The beneficial effects that you can gain from observing the tranquility of the aquatic environment and its inhabitants have been shown to be similar to the results attained when petting a dog or cat. This simply shows that interaction with animals and nature can lower stress levels while offering a lot of other health benefits.

People that are constantly bombarded with stressors can suffer from hypertension. Studies have shown that those who had fish in their room or office experienced a reduction in blood pressure and a stable pulse rate. The graceful movements of the fish make them a great stress reducer.

Elderly People

Fish make a perfect pet of choice for the elderly since they don’t have the energy to meet the physical demands of keeping a dog or cat. Fish keeping also gives them the satisfaction of being able to care for another creature. It is also a great way to overcome their solitude.

Hyperactive Children

Children can also enjoy the multiple health benefits of watching fish in the aquarium. Hyperactive kids have been shown to relax and gain social benefits including developing a sense of responsibility and good nurturing abilities when caring for fish.

Alzheimer Patients

Patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease have been shown to reap several health benefits from spending time with aquariums. Several studies have shown a positive effect on the patients’ nutritional intake and weight gain. Consequently, these patients also required fewer nutritional supplements. Patients also tend to have lesser displays of physically aggressive behaviors.

Patients

Doctors and dentists often put an aquarium in their waiting rooms because of the calming effect it exerts on patients who are quite nervous while waiting for results of medical tests or waiting for the dentist.

No matter how old you are, owning an aquarium will certainly offer you a lot of health benefits. Today’s busy lifestyles will constantly bombard you with a lot of stressors. However, at the end of the day, you will find peace and tranquility as you spend time gazing at the enchanting aquascape of your fish tank.

AUTHOR CREDIT:

Peter Hartono is the online ambassador for Just Aquatic – a website dedicated in providing homegrown aquatic plants and aquarium supplies for fish and aquarium enthusiasts as well as aquascape hobbyists.

PlanetXingu Project, A win for Catfish and the Xingu River

February 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Animal News, Aquariums, Catch All, Freshwater fish

Catfish Varieties: Royal Plecostomus, Panaque nigrolineatusRoyal Plecostomus or Black Lined Panaque, Panaque nigrolineatus. Color forms of this species are found in the Rio Xingu. Photo © Animal-World.com, Courtesy Ken Childs.

Two Thumbs Up! To Planet Catfish and the PlanetXingu Project

Planet Catfish and founder Julian Dignall truly deserve our praise and recognition for their successful fundraising project, PlanetXingu. Julian conceived PlanetXingu almost a year ago to help research into the Rio Xingu in Brazil.

PlanetXingu has been a great success. Big kudos to these guys in the UK for stepping up to the plate. Hundreds of aquarists and fish lovers became engaged and donated both money and time to the project. They not only reached, but exceeded their $11,000 goal!

Julian will be hosting an exciting event this coming Sunday, Feb 9th, 2014, where you can meet two of the major players on the project, Mark Sabaj Perez and Nathan Lujan. There will be two online sessions , one at 1900 GMT and the other at 1900 EST. Sign in at: http://tinychat.com/planetcatfish

The project evolved due to the plight of the endemic and migratory species of the Xingu River in Brazil. The Brazilian Government is currently constructing the Belo Monte Dam on one of the Amazon’s major tributaries, the Xingu River. It is estimated by Amazon Watch in their article, Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam, Sacrificing the Amazon and its Peoples for Dirty Energy, that this will be the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam.

This project brought to light many concerns over the impacts this will have on communities, rivers, and forests throughout the Xingu basin. Amazon Watch says it is designed to divert 80% of the river’s flow, “devastating an area of over 1,500 square kilometers of Brazilian rainforest”.

Dignall envisioned bringing together a communty of fish lovers and scientist to the aid of Rio Xingu. His inspiration was to help assist both researchers in the field as well as those that keep and breed Xingu basin species in captivity. Thus the launch of the PlanetXingu fundraising project in March 2013. The aim of the project was to raise $11,000 by January 1, 2014 to purchase equipment for studying the river before, during, and after the dam’s construction. You can learn more about PlanetXingu on Planet Catfish’s An Introduction to the project.

We are proud of the efforts of Julian Dignall and Planet Catfish, not only on the PlanetXingu project, but for their years of online information. Their website originated in 1997/98, at about the same time as Animal-World. With well over 2400 catfish varieties, it is a great resource for pictures and taxonomical information on catfish species, and one of our premium references. In fact one of our super team members, Ken Childs, who has over 2 decades of fish experience in the wholesale arena, provided numerous catfish pictures to their database.

Learn about the history and background of catfish on Animal-World, along with aquarium guides for the different kinds of catfish: Catfish Varieties, Fish Guides for All Types of Catfish

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Vivariums, Perfect Homes for Exotic Pets

Tetrafauna ViquariumCan’t decide whether to get a pet fish or reptile? How about a vivarium that offers the best of both worlds! The Tetrafauna Viquarium provides both a land and water environment. It’s great for a small to medium sized habitat and it’s really fun to setup too! First decide on your favorite inhabitants. Mollies or guppys, even bettas can work well in the water habitat. Small lizards like anoles, or amphibians like tree frogs, do well on in the terrestrial side. Next choose your interior decor, gravel, plants, mosses, and woods that are best suited to your pets. Put it all together and then add your pets. It’s fun, beautiful, and a great exotic pet environment!

Housing your pet will never be as fun or rewarding as when you create its perfect home.

Each animal has its particular habitat needs and a vivarium setup is a re-creation of its natural home. There are as many unique virarium arrangements as there are exotic pets.

A vivarium is an enclosure where selected plants and animal species are kept or raised. The concept of vivariums started initially as a medium to study and research selected flora and fauna. Literally, vivarium means “a place of life”.

The ecosystem inside a vivarium is created to simulate, on a smaller scale, the environment conditions, which are favorable to the species. Vivariums can range from small enclosures that can sit on a table to a very large structure that houses bigger animals and are placed outdoors.

Types of Vivariums

There are several types of vivarium depending on the habitat that you wish to simulate and the accompanying flora and fauna that will be used. These include:

  • Aquarium: These are water habitats that can house freshwater fish, saltwater fish, and coral reef inhabitants.
  • Insectarium: These habitats are for housing insects and arachnids.
  • Terrarium: This is generally a dry habitat for housing reptiles
  • Paludarium: The paludarium simulates a semi-aquatic habitat such as in rainforests or swamps. Other setups of a paludarium combine a terrarium and an aquarium, sometimes known as a viquarium
  • Riparium. A riparium recreates the wet habitats near lakes, rivers, and ponds. The setup is suitable for marginal plants that thrive best in the water-saturated soil along the water’s edge.
  • Penguinarium: A unique habitat for housing penguins

Materials for a vivarium

Vivariums are commonly made of clear plastic or glass containers. Wood or metal can also be used as long as there’s a side, which is transparent. There are also vivariums made from plywood with built-in sliding glass doors.

The material that you will use depends on what flora and fauna you plan to put in, the desired size, height and weight, cost, desired quality, as well as the ability of the materials to simulate the natural environment and provide protection against extreme environment conditions.

Coated plywood can retain heat better compared to glass or plastic vivariums. These types of enclosures can also withstand high humidity. When making a vivarium, it is recommended to place a high-drainage substrate on top of a layer of stones to help retain humidity without the substrate surface being saturated.

Substrates

The type of substrate will depend on several factors including what is favorable for the plants and/or animals, the benefits, and the aesthetic value. The most common substrates used include soil, wood chips, pebbles, peat, sand, coconut coir, and wood mulch. There are also vivariums that use tissue paper and newspaper.

Humidity

These are the recommended methods to effectively regulate humidity inside the vivarium:

  • Regular pulverization of water
  • Enhanced water evaporation by placing a basin inside
  • Use of humidifiers and automated pulverization systems

Lighting

The lighting system is always designed to meet the requirements of the animal and plant species. Various types of bulbs are needed to simulate specific natural environments. There are also certain flora and fauna that require a good source of ultraviolet rays for vitamin D synthesis and assimilation of calcium. Specialized bulbs are available which can emit a more natural sunlight effect.

You may also need to put in a day/night regulator to mimic the change between light and dark periods. The regulator is set depending on the natural habitat of the species including the season that you desire to achieve.

Temperature

Heat inside a vivarium can be provided in several ways:

  • Heat rocks
  • Infrared lamps
  • Heating lamps
  • Hot plates
  • Heat mats
  • Heating cords
  • Equipment that can generate hot air inside the vivarium

The heat inside the enclosure is controlled by a thermostat. Thermo-control systems are often employed to regulate not only heat but also light cycles and humidity.

Ventilation

Aside from promoting proper air circulation, ventilation can also prevent the growth and development of pathogenic molds and bacteria. This is particularly true in vivariums that maintain a warm and humid environment.

About the Author: Peter Hartono is the founder and CEO of Just Aquatic – a company based in Melbourne, Australia that provides a wide selection of live aquatic plants and aquarium decorations.

Who’s hungry? A Human Smorgasbord for Flesh-eating Piranha!

Swarm of carnivorous piranha attacked hundreds of bathers!

Photo © Animal-World.com, Courtesy Ken Childs

Christmas was a very warm day along the Parana River near Rosario, Argentina. Hundreds of city dwellers were trying to escape the 100-degree weather in the cooler waters of a popular beach about 300 kilometers north of Buenos Aires. But then, they began to notice bite marks on their hands and feet.

A swarm of carnivorous fish attacked hundreds of bathers, sending around 70 people to local clinics and emergency rooms for treatment.

The local Director of lifeguards, Federico Cornier, told reporters from BBC and other broadcasters in the area “it’s normal for there to be an isolated bite or injury, but the magnitude in this case was great… This is an exceptional event.”

A man is treated at a clinic in Rosario, Argentina, after a school of flesh-eating palometas, a type of piranha, attacked swimmers cooling off in the Parana River on Christmas Day. As per LA Times “Flesh-eating fish attack swimmers in Argentine river; 70 injured” (Silvina Salinas / Associated Press Photo/ December 25, 2013)

Cornier said that the fish responsible for the attacks were “palometas”, a type of piranha with large sharp teeth. Dozens of people had their extremities attacked. Paramedic Alberto Manino, speaking with the Associated Press, said that some children he had treated had lost entire digits!

The term ‘palometa’ is a common name used for several types of fish. This includes the Piranha, but it is also used for a Caribbean gamefish Trachinotus goodie and a Western Atlantic fish, the Maracaibo Leatherjacket Oligoplites palometa.

The Piranhas belong to a sub-family called the Serrasalminae, or the ‘serrated salmon family’ consisting of around 60 species. The unmistakable trademark features of the Piranha are their triangular, razor sharp teeth. As described in Piranha: Story of the Piranha Fish from Predator to Prey, these teeth enable them to ‘slice off pieces of meat, fins or scales, literally taking apart their prey piece by piece.’

The palometa that attacked these bathers is most likely the Red Piranha Pygocentrus nattereri, also called the Red-bellied Piranha. This is a very widespread species, occurring in several river basins of South American. Although it typically grows between about 3 to 9 1/2 inches (8-24 cm) in length, one specimen was reported at a whooping 19 1/2 inches (50 cm).

Keeping the Red Piranha in the aquarium is truly a fascination. In the wild the Red Piranha lives in large schools. This type of school is not usually possible in an aquarium, but with the proper environment these fish will show some traits of their wild behavior. In nature the largest fish is the ‘alpha’ animal and in the aquarium it is the most aggressive and bold. The alpha fish will dominate the best spaces in the tank and will basically own the feeding ritual. All other members are subordinate and will take on the traits of servants. Any unwilling ‘servants’ will be quickly and aggressively put in their place by the alpha fish!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and animal species write-ups.

Choosing an Aquarium Filter

September 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Aquariums, Catch All, Freshwater fish

Which Aquarium Filter is Right for Me?

Guest Post by Michael David

Installing a fish tank can be a great way to add some color and life to your home or workspace. It can even provide a sense of peace in the midst of a stressful day. However, keeping your fish happy and healthy goes beyond the daily sprinkle of fish food. Proper aquarium setup and adequate water filtration is crucial to the survival of all aquarium life.

Why Do I Need a Filter?

Let me answer this question with an example from the news. A few months ago, Carnival Cruise Line’s Triumph experienced a power failure during a four-day excursion to the Caribbean. This power failure also disabled the ship’s septic system, resulting in backed-up toilets and human excrement littering every floor. These unsanitary conditions caused many of the passengers to become sick. Had they been out there any longer, the consequences could have been much worse.

Much like a cruise ship, your fish tank is an enclosed environment with a high-density population. In nature, fish do not normally need to share such a small space. However, the higher concentration of fish leads to a larger amount of fish waste. If left unchecked, fish waste releases ammonia, which is harmful to fish. Without some kind of filtration system in place, your fish will get sick and eventually die.

How is the Water Filtered?

Biological Filtration

In nature, this ammonia is removed from the water through biological filtration. Naturally-occurring bacteria will oxidize and break down the ammonia into a less toxic form which can then be absorbed by plant life.

Installing a biological filter is one way to replicate this break-down process. In addition to installing a biological filter, it’s also wise to plant some underwater plants to absorb any additional toxins not initially broken down by the bacteria. Biological filters require very little maintenance, however, the bacterial colonies will take some time (six weeks minimum) to develop, so avoid adding too many fish too quickly to your new aquarium.

If you’re looking for something very low-maintenance, you might consider an under-gravel filter. As the name suggests, these filters are placed beneath the aquarium’s gravel, moving water through the gravel and creating ideal conditions for the bacteria to grow. Wet-dry filters are another good choice, particularly if you want to install a saltwater aquarium. These filters are exposed to both the water and the air, which allows for the maximum number of bacterial colonies to spawn.

Mechanical Filtration

Unlike biological filtration, which breaks down waste products, mechanical filtration simply removes undissolved waste materials (excrement, uneaten food, and other debris) from the water. Mechanical filters usually involve a water pump as well as a mesh material that catches debris. And while this is a great way to remove waste from the aquarium before any ammonia is released, mechanical filters do require more frequent maintenance and thorough cleaning before placing them back in the water.

Both power and internal power filters are the most popular and effective mechanical filter models on the market. Power filters hang off the back of your tank while internal power filters are placed inside the aquarium itself. Many have replaceable cartridges, which makes for fast and easy maintenance.

Chemical Filtration

Another popular method for filtering waste from your fish tank is through chemical or active carbon filtration. Activated carbon contains numerous microscopic pores, which allow it to absorb any dissolved chemicals in your aquarium. This is a fairly low-maintenance method to keeping your tank water clean, but you will need to replace your carbon every couple months or so.

While canister filters can be adjusted to provide both biological and mechanical filtration, they are most often used for chemical filtration. The advantage to using a canister filter for active carbon filtration is that they are significantly larger than most other aquarium filters, meaning you won’t have to replace your carbon as often as you would with smaller filters.

Michael David is a freelance journalist and blogger living in New York City. Michael loves writing about DIY projects, home improvement, and garden-related topics, and suggests you look into aquarium filters.

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