I.Tank Glass Cheaper per gallon Hard to Scratch Scratches are permanent Higher index of Refraction Heavier Easier to break Tank stand support edges Acrylic More expensive Scratches easily Scratches can be buffed Lower IOR (less distortion when viewed at angle) Weighs Less Special stand needed Harder to break
II. Heaters Tropical fish need a heater. 78º F is ideal. Two types - submersible - partially submersible (controls on top) Rule #1: Don’t leave it on out of the water - Reason: It will crack! 2.5 W per gallon Heaters tend to stick. CHECK THEM REGULARLY!
III. Thermometers Monitors the temperature of the tank Can be: - floating bulb - suction bulb - flat liquid crystal Key is to choose the one at the store that has the average temperature
IV. Filters Three types: biological mechanical chemical ALL fish tanks must have biological filtration, that is use bacteria to decompose the toxic ammonia that builds up from fish wastes. This will take place in the substrate (bottom material) of your tank. Chemical filtration can remove ammonia, heavy metals, and dissolved organics by combining them with activated carbon. Mechanical filtration traps particles before they decompose into ammonia, like plant leaves and food particles (mulm). The above filter will do this to a degree. YOU must regularly use a net to do the rest.
V. Gravel (Substrate) Serves three (3) major purposes: decoration biological filter (bacteria live here!) provides hold for possible plants What to use: NO plastic coated gravel (bacteria won’t live on it, then no biological filtration = bad!) crushed coral or shells - excellent, but must be thoroughly washed first to reduce leaching of carbonates which will change the pH level of the water sand - also excellent, harder to clean, can buy as “live” with bacteria
VI. Decoration When buying, make sure that it says, “Safe for saltwater aquariums.” No wood, as it may leach substances into the water and change the pH. Most plastics, glass, and ceramics are inert and safe. Any naturally occurring objects like rocks, shells, or corals may be used if sterilized first by boiling or soaking in a 10% bleach solution.
VII. Lights and Hood A. Hood prevents fish and other critters from escaping keeps water from evaporating so quickly keeps salt spray from building up on outside of tank and adjacent areas A simple hood is just a piece of Plexiglas with a notch for the filter. B. Lights bring out the colors of your fish If you have plants, provides necessary energy for growth Most fish don’t like bright lights, so no light or only low-watt fluorescent bulbs should be used
VIII. Air Pumps simply bubbles air into the water provides dissolved oxygen for animals to breath It is NOT necessary if your tank maintains adequate water movement together with surface agitation (provided by the falling water from the filter). IX. Stands most tanks will be on the counter in the classroom some tanks may need metal stands make sure stand is level and tank is centered BIG messes and injuries can occur if care is not taken NEVER move a tank when it is full of water!!!***
X. Cleaning Equipment Siphoning is the easiest way to remove water from a tank When no siphon is available, small buckets will do the trick plastic, non-soapy scouring pads are good for scrubbing algae from the sides of tanks; magnetic ones are good for keeping hands and arms dry an old toothbrush can come in handy for cleaning algae and salt deposits from decorations and filter parts. Large 5-gallon buckets are necessary for water changes
XI. Nets Netting fish is stressful; it removes scales and some of the protective mucus coating over the scales If possible, use the net to chase the fish into a small plastic or glass jar.
XII. Test Kits absolutely necessary to test water weekly ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, conductivity (salinity), and pH should all be tested A. Ammonia Two uses: - tell you when the first phase of the nitrogen cycle has completed - if there are unexplained fish deaths, testing for ammonia (NH 4 ) verifies that your biological filter is (or is not) working correctly
Common causes for the mechanical filter to weaken or fail outright: not cleaning the filter regularly (water can’t flow through a clogged filter, where the nitrifying bacteria reside) naively adding fish medicines (antibiotics kill nitrifying bacteria, as well as disease carrying ones) having too small a filter for the fish load If you have fish dying in your tank, the first question your teacher will ask is, “What are your levels?”
NH 4 levels are measured in ppm (parts per million). At concentrations as low as 0.2-0.5 ppm (for some fish), NH 4 causes rapid death. Even at levels above 0.01-0.02 ppm, fish will be stressed. Therefore, test kits should NEVER detect NH 4 in an established tank. If your test kit detects NH 4, levels are too high and are stressing your fish. Time for a water change and to identify the source! Stressed fish ?
B. Nitrite The only time a nitrite (NO 2 ) kit provides information that an ammonia kit can’t is while testing for completion of the second phase of the nitrogen cycle. If your kit detects nitrite, then your biological filter is not working adequately. Once a tank has cycled, nitrite kits are pretty much useless. IF THE BIOFILTER IN AN ESTABLISHED TANK ISN’T WORKING, BOTH NH 4 AND NO 2 LEVELS WILL BE ELEVATED. Nitrite is less toxic than ammonia. But even at levels of 0.5 ppm, fish become stressed. At 10-20 ppm, concentrations become lethal.
C. Nitrate Nitrate levels increase over time in established tanks as the end result of the nitrogen cycle. Because nitrates become toxic at high concentrations, they must be removed periodically through regular water changes. Nitrates become toxic to fish (and plants) at levels of 50-300 ppm, depending on fish species.
D. pH per hydrogen ion acidity/alkalinity of the water need to check the pH of our tap water need to periodically check the tank’s pH so that you can be sure it stays stable and doesn’t increase or decrease significantly over time In some cases, tank decorations or gravel change the pH of your water.
Like all living creatures, fish give off waste products. This cycle is the biological process that breaks down nitrogenous wastes into harmless nitrogen compounds. XIII:
A. Where do we get the bacteria? The desired species of nitrifying bacteria are present everywhere. Therefore, once you have an NH 4 source in your tank, it’s only a matter of time before the desired bacteria establish a colony in your gravel bed. Nitrifying Bacteria The most common way to do this is to place one or two hardy and inexpensive fish in your aquarium. The fish waste contains NH 4 on which the bacteria live. Don’t overfeed them! More food means more NH 4. Damselfish are suggested for marine tanks or better yet, fish you catch in the bay or gulf! BETTER YET: LIVE ROCK*
During the cycling process, ammonia levels will go up and then suddenly plummet as the nitrite-forming bacteria take hold. Because nitrate-forming bacteria don't even begin to appear until nitrite is present in significant quantities, nitrite levels skyrocket (as the built-up ammonia is converted), continuing to rise as the continually-produced ammonia is converted to nitrite. Once the nitrate-forming bacteria take hold, nitrite & ammonia levels fall, nitrate levels rise, and the tank is fully cycled.
XIV: Basic Water Chemistry Water in nature is rarely pure in the "distilled water" sense; it contains dissolved salts, buffers, nutrients, etc., with exact concentrations dependent on local conditions. Water has four measurable properties that are commonly used to characterize its chemistry: - pH: should remain between 6.5 and 7.5 - buffering capacity (alkalinity): water’s ability to keep the pH stable - general hardness: dissolved concentration of magnesium and calcium ions - salinity (conductivity): refers to the total amount of dissolved solids, measured with a hydrometer, also referred to as specific gravity ( 1.020-1.023 s.g. Or 27 ppt to 32 ppt )
XV: Water Treatment Tap water is the cheapest source of H 2 O for your tank. Local companies add chemicals to it to make it safe to drink: chlorine, chloramine, fluoride, phosphates, pH raising chemicals. Therefore, it MUST be treated before it is used in your tank. A. Chlorine high concentration is toxic to fish - 0.2-0.3 ppm and up low concentrations, stresses fish by damaging gills - < 0.003 ppm can be removed by adding sodium thiosulfate - 1 drop/gallon H 2 O can be removed easier by allowing H 2 O to sit for 24 hours - Cl escapes into the atmosphere all on its own (use air hose)
B. Chloramine much more stable than chlorine products like AmQuel neutralize the chlorine and ammonia The active ingredient in AmQuel is known chemically as sodium hydroxymethanesulfonate, HOCH 2 SO 3 Na.
XVI: Adding and Feeding Fish So you’ve got your tank set up, filter running, nitrogen cycle established, testing kits learned, and lots of practiced knowledge. Now what?! Time to get fish!
A. Selecting “Good” Fish You want fish that are: - inexpensive - hardy Your best bet is going to the beach/bay/gulf and catching a few with a net, a trap, or a pole. These are “wild” fish and are used to a wide variety (compared to a tank) of salinities, temperatures, and microbes. You will need to bring a bucket with a top, and an aerator to keep the water oxygenated for the trip back to school or overnight until the next school day. Care must be taken to keep the fish (or other organisms like crabs, clams, sea stars, sea urchins, worms, etc. that you WILL find at the beach) alive until it can be “transplanted” to your tank.
You can also purchase saltwater fish from a local aquarium supplier: Damselfish are a good “starter fish” (also called “suicide fish” or “disposables”) and are relatively cheap. DO NOT buy the prettiest tropical fish for your tank to start - THEY WILL DIE! More hardy fish, like damsels or Chromis', members of the Family Pomacentridae, are actually in the same family as clownfish but usually the two are separated into anemonefish (clownfish), and damselfish. Most of the fish in the family Pomacentridae can become territorial (aggressive) when they get older. Among the exceptions to this are the Green Chromis, the Blue reef Chromis, and the skunk clown.
Now some of you are going to say, “but these fish are so plain looking.” Yes they can be, but once the tank has cycled and allowed to run for a month or so after that, you can trade them in at your local fish store or give them to someone else who may be starting a new tank. THEN you can step up to one or two of the more elegant beginner fishes for aquarists in the intermediate care range.
B. How many fish to start? A helpful rule is to add only one inch of animal for one gallon of water. - Example: If you have a 10 gallon tank, you can add 10 inches of fish. That would be one 10 inch fish (I don’t recommend that), two 5-inch fish, three 3-inch fish, five 2-inch fish, or ten 1-inch fish. Never add new fish directly to the tank. First, put the organisms (vertebrates and invertebrates) in the plastic bag from the store on the surface of the tank water. After one-half hour they should be adjusted to the temperature of the tank water. Do not pour the water from the bag (or bay/gulf) into your tank. This might introduce disease organisms to your tank. Use a net.
XVII: Fish Stress and Healthy Fishkeeping (Husbandry) A. What is “stress?” Example: Keeping fish in water that is cooler (or warmer) than its preferred condition forces its body organs to work harder to keep it alive. Increased stress reduces a fish’s ability to ward off diseases and heal itself (ex. Fins get nicked or parasites get introduced into the tank with new fish, etc.) Therefore, one of the most important goals of a fishkeeper is to remove sources of stress wherever possible.
B. Possible sources of stress - nitrogen compounds - pH - tank space - salinity - species competition - dissolved oxygen level - sudden water changes - medicating - poor nutrition - water hardness - lack of protection
C. Common Symptoms of Stress In short, stressed fish don’t act “normal.” - fish stays near surface gasping for breath indicating that it has trouble getting enough oxygen. Possible causes are poor water circulation, toxins have damaged its gills, high ammonia or nitrate levels - fish won’t eat, or eats less aggressively as in the past - fish stays hidden (does not feel safe) - fish has nicked fins, open wounds - fish has disease (parasites, fungus, etc.)
D. Feeding Fish Fish food is somewhat delicate: exposing it sunlight, leaving off the lid, or buying a large amount that won’t be used up for 8 months can sabotage the nutritional value of the it. There are 5 classes of food: - processed (flakes, sticks, pellets) and divided into categories for carnivorous, herbivorous, and omnivorous fish - freeze dried (blood worms or daphnia) - frozen foods (shrimp, etc.) - live food - other fresh (beefheart, zucchini, etc.) Usually twice a week feeding is sufficient. Be sure to clean out old uneaten food particles before feeding.
E. Partial Water Changes: “The solution to pollution is dilution.” Water changes replace a portion of “dirty” water with an equal portion clean water, effectively diluting the concentrations of undesirable substances in your tank. Regular water changes are the cheapest, safest, and most effective way of keeping nitrate concentrations at reasonable levels. The effectiveness of water changes is determined by two factors: - frequency, or how often you do them - the percentage of water replaced
Water Changes: Benefits must be balanced by the stress caused First line of defense in dealing with problems & disease The more frequent, the less water that needs to be replaced. You should do water changes often enough that: -the change in water chemistry resulting from a change is small - - nitrate levels stay at or below 50 ppm Be sure to Unplug heater treat water before adding new
F. What to do on vacations Healthy fish can easily go a week without food Don’t worry about weekends (two and three days) “vacation feeders” that slowly dissolve may change the pH of your tank If you are going away (and school is still on) have someone feed your fish for you. If your tank has a high evaporation rate, have them “top it off” with the proper water, too. Don’t add any new fish in the month before vacationing.
G. Moving a tank DON’T! But if you have to: - put fish in a holding container - drain the tank to less than 1/4 full - remove the filter, heater, and other apparatus you may have to avoid breakage and tripping hazards - reassemble and cleanup
Before you go out and spend a lot of money, please plan for what you will do at the end of the school year. Ideas: start a tank of your own, give to a friend who has a tank, or release native fish.
Tank Cleaning never use soaps or detergents use only water and a mild (10% max.) bleach solution Larger tanks require more work than smaller tanks Smaller tanks require more work than larger tanks* Avoid all tanks less than 10 gallons
Success and Your Grade What constitutes saltwater aquarium success? Healthy fish Fish longevity Aesthetically pleasing tank Clean tank Patience Prevention Maintenance Education