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Sunday, August 29, 2010


The next big thing to look at on a tank set up is your filter. You can have the perfect tank with excellent biodiversity but if you have a bad filter then the water will get dangerous to your fish and not clean anything. Which can be very expensive. There are many different types of filters, canister, diatom, trickle, internal, and external. For the person just starting out simple is best, start with an external canister filter, they are simple and cheap and easy to maintain.

Many things that you put in a tank will also help with the filter process, thus the point of this blog. But the marine museum is a small environment with a high concentration of animals compared to the natural world, and therefore will need a little outside help to maintain.

The basic function of a filter is to remove debris from the tank, but also important is the chemical filter and the maintenance of the nitrogen cycle. That will come in a later post. Now is about the filter.

First is the mechanical filter, this is the process of removing debris from the tank environment. This covers everything from uneaten food to plant debris, fish waste, and many more things that can break float around the tank or contaminate the water. This is usually done by passing the water through a sieve, something that traps debris in the meshwork while allowing the water to pass through. This also means that the mesh work will need to be removed from the filter system and periodically cleaned or replaced. If this gets too blocked with debris then it will affect the effectiveness and efficiently of the filter.

The second is the chemical filter; this is the process for removing the dissolved debris out of the tank. This is done two ways; one is with plants, which helps remove certain chemicals and nitrates from the environment in order to grow. The second is with carbon filter in the canister. The carbon absorbs nitrogen gas along with other chemical reactions because the carbon is extremely porous; 1 gram has a surface area of 500 meters squared. This carbon pad must be changed at regular intervals to avoid rereleasing the absorbed materials in large and harmful doses if it gets saturated.

Plants also act as good filters so having many of them in a tank is a good thing. Not only to the turn carbon dioxide into oxygen but they also help with the nitrogen cycle by removing nitrates from the tank to help them grow. Driftwood, live rocks, and the type of gravel you have all have an effect on the tank as they allow beneficial bacteria to grow.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Zones, Zones, Zones

Today’s lessons are about zones. Zones are important for tanks for many reasons. Understanding the relationship betweenthe zones and what creatures live in the different areas and how they interact will create a healthier and more vibrant aquarium. While this may seem straight forward there are different things that you will need to understand about the way they keep a tank healthy. If you support each level of the tank then you lower your need to use chemicals, and your need to interfere in the tanks cycle, it means less water changes, less cleaning, and healthier and happier fish.

There are 3 zones to a tank, the bigger the tank the larger the zone, and some will say more zones, however at the end of the day there are really only 3 zones to worry about.

1. Top zone

2. Middle zone

3. Bottom zone

The top zone is straight forward; it is about the top ten percent of the tank, and this means from the high water mark down ten to fifteen percent of the tank. This area of the tank is where oxygen enters the system, more on that in a latter post; it is also where food will float. It is important to have at least one top dweller in the tank. This fish, or school of fish will eat most things that sit on top of the tank, it is important because it keeps the surface of the water clean, thus allowing more light to reach the bottom.

The middle zone is the largest zone, some people will sub-divide this zone, but it really is not necessary, this is the area most fish will stay in. It represents seventy to eighty percent of the tank. The fish here keep things moving in the water, they will by their movement keep the plants and other things in the tank clean, they will also eat and disturb things in this zones, again keeping it clean and the water circulating. The filter will push most things into this zone, so it is important to have fish here. The intake for most filter types is also in this zone, which makes it important to have active fish in this zone, the more they move the more the filter will remove.

The bottom zone is the last ten to fifteen percent of the tank. It is where the sand is at the bottom, and more importantly it is where everything will eventually settle. It is very important to have fish here who as they will eat the food that settles. If they are happy and active fish they will also dig and disturb the bottom surface preventing pockets of chemical built up or decaying matter to accumulate. Both of which can be harmful to fish. Their activity will circulate the bad substances in the middle zone and into the filter, thus eliminating the need to manually clean the bottom of the tank.

Using fish in the different zones will keep build up of various decaying matter and natural chemicals that the fish produce, such as waste, circulating in the tank, which means the filter will remove it. If there is little movement in the tank it means things will settle, and then you have to manually remove things, and disturb the bottom of the tank, as well as frequent water replacement. This adds extra stress to fish, something you want to avoid. This means you should have a good filter and clean it regularly, which will be the topic of a future post.

Das Newf

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In the Beginning

First you need to know the term and definitions for the tank environment. Yes, while that is not the most exciting part you should first know what you are getting into. It is hard to find answers and solutions for problems if you do not know what is happening. With that in mind I am going to start with the beginning of the journey into the life aquatic.

The first thing that must be determined is the type of enclosure that you want to have. There are four types of tanks that you can have:

1. Saltwater

2. Freshwater

3. Tropical

4. Temperate

Saltwater: this is exactly as it sounds, a tank filled with saltwater. This means that you are going to be housing things that come from the ocean. Within this group of aquariums you could house fish, live rock, corals and invertebrates. You can mix and match any of these things into the same tank you just need to understand the relationship between the various groups, which will come in a later post. These types of tanks are very popular as they usually have a large assortment of colourful fishand corals. They are more expensive to maintain and fill, as well as being harder to maintain as they require specific salinity and chemistry to maintain. Because of this they are more frequent with companies and movies and the affluent. The ocean is vast and containing it in a small space is a large endeavour.

Saltwater setup

Freshwater: this is a tank filled with, you guessed it fresh water. This means more species that come from ponds and lakes. These tanks usually have fish, plants, invertebrates and amphibians. You can mix and match, again as long as you understand the relationships involved. These tanks are the most common tank setups due to their low cost and maintenance. They are relatively easier to setup and the species are generally low in cost. This is the perfect place to start you aquatic adventures for any age. Freshwater tanks have a very large assortment of fish and can be quite colourful as long as you look for the proper fish, making them as enjoyable as the marine counterpart.

Freshwater setup

Tropical: these are tanks that can be either freshwater or saltwater, what is important here is temperature. Tropical tanks usually try to maintain a temperature between 24 to 27 degrees Celsius (75 to 80 Fahrenheit). This is done with the addition of a heater. The best place for the heater is next to the outtake of your filter, this way it circulates the warm water around the tank creating a more even temperature throughout the tank. If you place the heater next to the intact you waste a lot of energy and heat as the warm water travels through the filter, and if you put it nowhere near the filter you run the risk of creating a hot spot on one side of the tank.

Temperate: these tanks are usually tanks that maintain a temperature below the 24 degree mark. These are also some of the less expensive fish, such as goldfish and some koi fish. They do not require a heater in the tank, but the aquarium is more sensitive to temperature fluctuations in the room. Which means if the tank is kept in a basement where the heat is not always on the temperature in the tank will eventually meet the room temperature, thus fish will be going through more temperature changes then ones with heaters in the tank.

Whatever your pleasure, remember that each option has its own pros and cons. It is always best to start with the most popular so the prices are better and support is more, once mastered one area then move to another. Most aquarium parts can be used in any combination of the above.

Das Newf

Monday, August 9, 2010


I have always enjoyed the sight and sounds of an aquarium, I have also had a tank and fish for many years now. One of the many things I have found in my search for understanding the underwater world is that all tanks need to have a lot of care and chemicals. Every store you go into has entire walls filled with chemicals to put in your tank to increase X and decrease Y while maintaining Z. It always struck me as odd that a marine museum needs so much help. I can create entire ecosystems in a terrarium yet my fish needs barrels of chemicals.

The trick I found is to have a balance, as long as you understand the ecosystem you are trying to create and balance it properly, then you reduce your dependency on chemicals, which I think should be the goal of any aquarist and if we can get it to the point of no chemicals even better. The reason for this is not based on laziness or lack of willingness to put work into something people would enjoy; no it is more about the fish. These creatures are sensitive to environmental changes, even on the smallest scale. Keeping the environment in the tank intact with as little change as possible will be healthier for the fish, which will lead to happier fish. Happier fish explore more and are more exciting to have around then fish that are stressed and hide a lot. There is no point in having a tank with fish you never get to see.

In order to create a balance for the tank you need to understand different parts of the tank, the different cycles that will affect the environment. This means understanding some science, such as biology, chemistry, and a little physics. This does not mean you have to be a science major to figure out what is going on, and this blog will be a spot for the average person to come and find out whatever information you want about Der Ocean auf dem Tische, The Ocean on the Table.

This is not to say this will be a long diatribe about what you can and cannot do with a fish house. There will not be strict rules that if you do not follow then you are a horrible person forever banned to the places that cannot be named. Rather I want this to be a guide that allows you to understand the ups and downs and in and outs of the aquatic world in glass. The other thing that you will not find here is a list of expensive things you need to have to make everything work, at best you will find suggestions of things that have worked for me in the past, but mostly it will be a simple guide. A guide to show you with a little time and care anybody can make a beautiful underwater tapestry that even Cousteau would want to sit and watch.

Das Newf