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THE AQUARIUM

By Rhett Butler

THE AQUARIUM

Setting up the Aquarium


The best policy is to choose the types of fish that are desired before choosing the tank. However choosing the fish is not absolutely necessary beforehand.
    1. Place the aquarium in a suitable location (see "choosing the tank location").

    2. Rinse out the inside of the tank and check for leaks.

    3. Add any background paper or foil to the outside of the back of the tank.

    4. If cable heating is to be used, add the cables following the manufacturers instructions.

    5. If an undergravel system is going to be used, add the plates.

    6. Add any rocks or wood decorations, securing them in position with line. Heavy rocks should rest upon the tank floor on a piece of Styrofoam.

    7. Add base fertilizer for planted tanks. Follow the instructions on the package for proper allotment.

    8. Rinse the gravel to remove dirt and other unwanted particles. For this, a bucket can be used and the gravel can be removed from the bucket with a strainer.

    9. Add the gravel (see "Gravel" on pg. 4-2). If possible, use gravel from an already established tank so there is already a culture of nitrifying bacteria. The gravel also helps stabilize rock structures. If the gravel is to be "banked" or "terraced," add the appropriate structures to do so.

    10. Install the filter (see "Filtration" on pg. 4-3 for the right filter choice). If possible, use some filter media from an established tank to speed up the "cycling" process.

    11. Install the heater, but do not plug it in (see "Heater" on pg. 4-3).

    12. Install the thermometer (see "Thermometer" on pg. 4-3).

    13. Begin adding the water. Use cool to luke warm water (68-72F, 20-22C). Add water using a hose, and run the stream onto a rock or into a container so the gravel is not disturbed. Add water conditioner to the water.

    14. When the tank is over half full plants can be added. The plants chosen should be hardy, fast-growing species such as Vallisneria, Hygrophila, Java Moss, and Amazon Swords. Plant tall plants along the rear of the tank, and low-growing plants in the front. Sensitive plants like Cryptocoryne species should be added after two or three months.

    15. Install the lighting (see "lighting" on pg. 4-2).

    16. When the tank is full, the heater can be plugged in (assuming that it has been immersed for 20 minutes).

    17. After an hour or more, when the pilot light of the heater turns off, check the temperature. If the temperature if not correct, then adjust the heater accordingly.

    18. Test the pH and the water hardness to see if the water properties are suitable for the fish you would like to keep. The pH can be manipulated with chemicals available at a pet store.

    19. Once the temperature has leveled off, a small number of hardy fish can be added. Suitable fish include robust tetras, barbs, and Zebra Danios. Allow the bag of fish to "float" in the aquarium for 10-15 minutes before opening the bag to let some tank water enter. Wait a few minutes and let more tank water enter the bag. The process can be continued with more delicate species in order for more gradual acclimation. Net the fish and transfer them from the bag into the tank. Do not allow any of the bag water to enter the tank because pet store water is often less than desirable and may be treated with medications.

    20. Place the cover on the aquarium.
Now the initial set-up has been completed and it is time for the tank to "cycle" (see "Water Chemistry").

The fish should be fed lightly everyday. Be sure to monitor the water conditions two or three times a week for the initial cycling. The fastest way to "cycle" a tank is to use some gravel or biological filter media from an established tank. Another way to reduce "cycling" time is to use a nitrifying bacteria culture (available at stores). Without adding any nitrifying bacteria, the cycling process anywhere from three to six weeks. After two to three days, fish and plant waste will cause the ammonia level to begin rising. As ammonia is converted to nitrite via Nitrosomonas, ammonia levels begin to recede. Nitrite levels rise until a population of Nitrobacters is built up, which convert nitrites into nitrate. Nitrate levels rise until a water change is preformed.

Make the first water change (50%) after a week, and subsequent 25%-33% changes every three days for the next two to three weeks.

Less hardy fish can be added after the tank has cycled; when ammonia and nitrite levels are nearly immeasurable. Always add fish gradually, do not add 10 new fish in one to a 10 gallon tank. Instead add the 10 fish over a period of several weeks.

Add new fish at night, when the lights are off, or when the resident fish are being fed. In both cases, the resident fish are preoccupied with something, so they are less likely to harass the new fish. In adding new fish to the tank, follow the same procedure as mentioned in step 19 previously. In tanks with aggressive species the best plan of attack is to rearrange the tank and introduce the new fish when the lights are off. In the morning, the resident fish will have to establish new territories along with the new comer.




Aquarium Maintenance

Cleaning the Aquarium: Every aquarium should be cleaned on a regular basis. In tanks with heavy fish loads, sensitive species, or over-feeding, water changes have to be preformed often; every week or two, depending on the condition. In aquariums with small fish loads, water changes need only be preformed every three to six weeks. If an aquarium is neglected for a long period of time, its inhabitants suffer.

Here are suggestions for cleaning an aquarium:
    1. Turn off all electrical accessories to lessen the risk of electrical shock.

    2. Algae may build up on the tank glass and on rocks if no algae eating fish is kept. The algae can be removed from the glass using an algae scrubber. There are several such products available including magnets so you do not even have to get your hands wet. Unsightly algae can removed from rocks using a toothbrush or other scrubbing object. Remember that algal growth comforts many species, so do not remove any tolerable algae. If algae eaters are kept, leave some algae where it is not noticeable. If the aquarium has been treated with medications, all algae should be removed because the medication accumulates in the algae and fish that consume the algae can be poisoned.

    3. Occasionally salt and mineral deposits develop on the hood or edges of the tank. These can be removed by scrubbing. Vinegar can be used to remove stubborn deposits, but be sure to rinse all the vinegar off the object before returning it to the tank.

    4. Remove any dead or dying leaves from plants, and trim any excess growth.

    5. Clean the gravel using a siphon with a funnel-like gravel attachment or a strainer attachment. In order to start the siphon, submerge the hose in the tank and place your finger over one end. Keeping your finger on the end, place the end of the hose in a bucket or sink (below the tank level). Release your finger and water should begin to flow rapidly into the bucket or sink. Take care not to suck up any fish while working the gravel. Depending on the condition of the tank, remove 15-40% of the water. If the tank is especially dirty, up to 70% of the water should be removed. If the tank has not been changed for a long time, a massive water change is not the best course of action. Instead make a series of smaller water changes over the course of the week so that the tank inhabitants are not shocked by the change in water chemistry. However, if time is not available for several water changes, try to match the new water with the previous pH and hardness.

    6. The filter should be cleaned at each cleaning. Follow the manufacturer's instruction when cleaning the filter. If the filter has two or more media compartments, only clean one per cleaning so that the nitrifying bacteria population will not be diminished. When cleaning the biological part of the filter, use cool water, not hot water. Do not use disinfectants or detergents in the filter, because this will have adverse affects on the nitrifying bacteria.

    7. Refill the tank using water treated with conditioner and having a similar temperature and chemistry as the tank. In order to not disturb the tank inhabitants, poor the water in slowly or poor the water through a strainer.

    8. Smooth out the gravel if it was disturbed during the cleaning.

    9. Restart the filter. If bubbles are trapped in the canister filter, restart the siphon (read the instructions). Fill the power filter with water before starting it.

    10. Turn on the power.

    11. Replace the cover on the tank.

    12. Clean the outside of the glass with glass cleaner, being careful to avoid allowing any cleaner into the tank.

    The flow rate of some filters is measured when the filter is empty of all media. Thus, the actual flow rate (when media is included) is much less.

    The Aquarium

    Plants and Furnishings

    Set Up and Maintenance