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FAQs on Freshwater Maintenance/Operation 4

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Related FAQs:  Freshwater Maintenance 1, Freshwater Maintenance 2, Freshwater Maintenance 3, Freshwater Maintenance 5, Freshwater Maintenance 6, & Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality, Treating Tap Water for Aquarium Use, pH, Alkalinity, Acidity, Freshwater Algae Control, Algae Control, Foods, Feeding, Aquatic Nutrition, DiseaseFreshwater "Scavengers",  

Second Opinion... Misc. FW op.    8/23/11
Hey all!
I was browsing the internet due to a lack of sleep, and found WWM.
This is such a cool site! Y'all seem pretty chill, so I thought I would double check that I'm doing all of this right. My large tank is a 10 gallon, (haha, large tank...) and has a wagtail platy (Named Rigatoni), two upside-down catfish, (Pineapple, and Cake), three Glowlight tetras, (Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.)
<Good names>
and a bamboo shrimp (Napoleon.) I've had it for about a year now, and it has been a labor of love. It has a filter, and a heater. Everyone in it is happy and healthy, and calmed down since I moved a few weeks back from one apartment to another one down the street. I used most of the original water, and transported it in a trash bag to the other apartment.
That was a fun experience, let me tell you. However, I have a couple of questions about this tank.
1. The bubbler I have is from PetSmart. It is in the form of a castle, and the bubbles raise and lower the drawbridge. It's pretty cool, but when the drawbridge "lowers", it makes a dull thud noise. This occurs every second or so. My question is, is this damaging to my fish's ears?
<Mmm, some; yes>
I can hear it from the couch a few feet away, and I know fish have somewhat sensitive hearing. Also, my bamboo shrimp, Napoleon, likes to lay under the bridge and get hit by it. I try to shoo him off of it, but he always comes back. Can this harm him in any way?
<Oh yes... if it gets whacked sufficiently it will meet its Waterloo>
2. I've never had a shrimp of any kind before, do bamboo shrimps need to be alone, or should they be in packs/schools?
<Can be fine solitarily>
Also, I heard they can climb out of the tank,
<Mmm, not likely, no>
where the filter and the heater are. I have this hole covered with plastic, and I don't think he can get out. Is this ok, or will it somehow hurt the tank?
<Not to worry>
3. My three tetras. I used to have four, but one had some sort of infection and unfortunately couldn't be saved. I know these are schooling fish, and feel comfortable in groups. Is three enough?
<In this small volume, yes>
If not, how many more can go into the tank?
<Perhaps seven or nine>
The tank is clean, and I do water changes every week or so. However, I do have a problem with some sort of black algae I've never seen before, and can't really find any information on the internet about. It is black, and looks fuzzy. It is also about half a centimeter in length. The only way I can think to get rid of it is to take out the ornaments in the tank and scrub them down with a toothbrush and warm water. (No soap or chemicals or anything) which I don't mind doing.
<Is likely a type of freshwater "beard" algae... See here re:
4. How often do I change the filter?
<Likely once every two-four weeks... when it appears "dirty" enough>
This seems like a rudimentary question, but I've gotten so many different answers from people. Some have told me every water change, some say every month, and some even say to never change it. Right now, I change it every month, and everything seems to be fine in the tank.
My Betta tank is a 2.5 gallon tank with an air bubbler in it. It has Fletch, my Halfmoon Betta in it. He's a real ham, and loves to dance for me whenever I'm in the room. I also have some questions about this tank. (Sorry for all the questions!)
1. I was interested in getting him a friend of sorts, since he's used to me being around a lot, and classes start soon so I won't be able to humor him with my presence all the time. (I need a life.) I know they do fine on their own, but I've heard they do well with some shrimp, and even African dwarf frogs. Is this true, and if so, can this tiny tank support more than one life in it? I change the water weekly.
<Mmm, best for you to read:
2. When I got him from the pet store, he had a tiny bit of fin/tail rot. He's since healed from it, but his fins always look ragged. I know he isn't tearing them on any of the ornaments in there, but I have seen him nibble his tail, and even twist to nibble his dorsal fin. (I think that's what it's called) He flares, has great coloration, and even makes bubble nests. (The first Betta out of five I've own that I've seen do that) Judging by these things, I don't think he's stressed or unhealthy, and his fins being ragged don't seem to bother him any. He still swims fine, and dances whenever I walk in the room. Could I just have a Betta that nibbles? Will any health problems come from this?
<Not likely>
Sorry about all the questions. Any help will be appreciated. Thank you so much! :)
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>
Re: Second Opinion   8/23/11
Just wanted to say, Thank you so much for the response! It feels great to know I'm finally getting the hang of this. Fish keeping is so rewarding! Thanks again! :D
<Welcome. BobF>
Second Opinion, Merritt's go    8/23/11

Hey all!
<Hi Nicole, I'm Merritt.>
I was browsing the internet due to a lack of sleep, and found WWM.
This is such a cool site! Y'all seem pretty chill, so I thought I would double check that I'm doing all of this right.
<I know I felt the same when I found WWM.>
My large tank is a 10 gallon, (haha, large tank...) and has a wagtail platy (named
Rigatoni), two upside-down catfish, (Pineapple, and Cake), three Glowlight tetras, (Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.) and a bamboo shrimp (Napoleon.) I've had it for about a year now, and it has been a labor of love. It has a filter, and a heater. Everyone in it is happy and healthy, and calmed down since I moved a few weeks back from one apartment to another one down the street. I used most of the original water, and transported it in a trash bag to the other apartment. That was a fun experience, let me tell you. However, I have a couple of questions about this tank.
<Seems like you have had a labor of love with your tank. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but your tank is overstocked. If everything fully matures then you are over the 1 inch per gallon rule easily. The upside down catfish at maturity will get 4 inches each, making your tank already maxed out. You will need to find homes for these guys as the get bigger due to the size restraint of your aquarium.>
1. The bubbler I have is from PetSmart. It is in the form of a castle, and the bubbles raise and lower the drawbridge. It's pretty cool, but when the drawbridge "lowers", it makes a dull thud noise. This occurs every second or so. My question is, is this damaging to my fish's ears?
<When it falls can you see your fish dart around the aquarium or act startled? If not then don't worry about it.>
I can hear it from the couch a few feet away, and I know fish have somewhat sensitive hearing. Also, my bamboo shrimp, Napoleon, likes to lay under the bridge and get hit by it. I try to shoo him off of it, but he always comes back. Can this harm him in any way?
<There is always a possibility but since he hasn't gotten hurt yet you might be safe.>
2. I've never had a shrimp of any kind before, do bamboo shrimps need to be alone, or should they be in packs/schools? Also, I heard they can climb out of the tank, where the filter and the heater are. I have this hole covered with plastic, and I don't think he can get out. Is this ok, or will it somehow hurt the tank?
<Bamboo shrimp are easy to keep happy. I wouldn't add more to your tank due to the size limit. They like to climb just above the water line sometimes which can lead to them getting out of the tank so great idea on putting mesh over the holes and it won't hurt the tank. Keep in mind that bamboo shrimp are filter feeders and should not be picking around the tank for food. They tend to sit in the open where the strongest current is, filtering the water.>
3. My three tetras. I used to have four, but one had some sort of infection and unfortunately couldn't be saved. I know these are schooling fish, and feel comfortable in groups. Is three enough?
<Three is perfectly fine.>
If not, how many more can go into the tank?
<Don't add any more fish.>
The tank is clean, and I do water changes every week or so. However, I do have a problem with some
sort of black algae I've never seen before, and can't really find any information on the internet about. It is black, and looks fuzzy. It is also about half a centimeter in length.
<Sounds like black hair algae.>
The only way I can think to get rid of it is to take out the ornaments in the tank and scrub them down with a toothbrush and warm water. (No soap or chemicals or anything) which I don't mind doing.
<Try doing a big water change like 75%, vacuum your gravel, wash out your filters (gently) and scrub your decorations. Keep doing 75% water changes when you do aquarium monthly maintenance and this should start to fix the problem.>
4. How often do I change the filter? This seems like a rudimentary question, but I've gotten so many different answers from people. Some have told me every water change, some say every month, and some even say to never change it. Right now, I change it every month, and everything seems to be fine in the tank.
<Since your tank is overstocked, it wouldn't hurt to do a gentle wash at the beginning of the month and then at the end change out the filter completely. Having less biomass in the aquarium will help greatly with any water quality issues. The "normal" amount is usually monthly but that really depends on the tank and the inhabitants.>
My Betta tank is a 2.5 gallon tank with an air bubbler in it. It has Fletch, my Halfmoon Betta in it. He's a real ham, and loves to dance for me whenever I'm in the room. I also have some questions about this tank. (Sorry for all the questions!)
<No problem, that's what we are here for. :) >
1. I was interested in getting him a friend of sorts, since he's used to me being around a lot, and classes start soon so I won't be able to humor him with my presence all the time. (I need a life.) I know they do fine on their own, but I've heard they do well with some shrimp, and even African dwarf frogs. Is this true, and if so, can this tiny tank support more than one life in it? I change the water weekly.
<Bettas do not require company and he would be happier alone.>
2. When I got him from the pet store, he had a tiny bit of fin/tail
rot. He's since healed from it, but his fins always look ragged. I know he isn't tearing them on any of the ornaments in there, but I have seen him nibble his tail, and even twist to nibble his dorsal fin. (I think that's what it's called) He flares, has great coloration, and even makes bubble nests. (The first Betta out of five I've own that I've seen do that) Judging by these things, I don't think he's stressed or unhealthy, and his fins being ragged don't seem to bother him any. He still swims fine, and dances whenever I walk in the room. Could I just have a Betta that nibbles? Will any health problems come from this?
<Well, some Bettas have been known to nibble at their tail but very few. Any tail damage is most likely from tail rot. I would recommend continuing the medication you used until his tail is recovered. I recommend something like Maracyn II, always worked for me.>
Sorry about all the questions. Any help will be appreciated. Thank you so much! :)
<Glad I could help and good luck in your new apartment! Merritt>

Aquarium Care, FW  4/4/2011
Hello WWM and thank you for taking a minute or two of your time for me.
<Glad to help.>
60 Gallon, currently in setup phase
20 Gallon
10 Gallon 'planning to use as quarantine'
Stock: 1 Red-Finned Shark, 2 Male Gouramis (1 Dwarf/1 Paradise),
<Paradisefish aren't gouramis, and they're also subtropical, and tend to be extremely aggressive as well! Can't imagine them working well in small community tanks. Normally kept in single species tanks, if kept at all.>
3 Bloodfin Tetras, 2 Peppered/Paleatus Corydoras, 2 Bala Sharks
<These Bala Sharks get huge.>
Water Parameters:
pH - 7.8
gH - 130-140 mg/L CaC03
kH - 120-130 mg/L
<So, moderately hard, slightly basic water chemistry.>
Ammonia - 0
Nitrite < 0.1 mg/L
<Zero is the goal; if you don't have zero, review stocking, feeding, filter maintenance, cycling.>
Nitrate < 10 ppm
Concerning products such as water conditioner and cycle, the bottles say "5 mL treats 10 US gallons", does that mean when I do a water change of 25% that I should be using 1.25 mL of water conditioner and cycle to the new water I'm treating?
<Wouldn't bother with Cycle. As for water conditioner, the bottle means you add 5 ml to each 10 US gallons of new water. If your bucket contains 5 US gallons, add 2.5 ml to it. If you use something like a Python that changes the water in the aquarium, then follow the instructions that come with that accessory.>
I've read on a couple different websites that adding cycle during regular water changes isn't even all that necessary, is there any truth to that?
In fact, I'm starting to wonder if adding 'all' that cycle bacteria they suggest on the bottle for the 3 day startup isn't just another selling gimmick on top of such?
<Is a gimmick.>
Until ammonia and nitrite levels are absolutely at 0 the tank isn't cycled?
<The tank may be 100% cycled, but if the tank is overstocked, or you overfeed the fish, or the filter is too small for the aquarium, the bacteria present will never remove all the ammonia produced by the fish in real time. Hence, you will always have a backlog of ammonia and nitrite.>
In lieu of the said question does this mean I shouldn't be taking bacteria from these filters for my 60 gallon I'm setting up?
<After maturing a filter for 6 weeks it should be mature, and as such, you can remove up to 50% of its biological media.>
Do you have any good links for fishless cycling or tips and tricks to speed up the process?
<Do start here:
Most good aquarium books will have a nice week by week timetable. Really, it's quite simple. Get the filter going for the first 3 weeks at least on a daily, non-fish source of ammonia, e.g., small pinches of flake food or ammonia up to a concentration (use your ammonia test kit) in the aquarium around 2-5 mg/l. After 21 days, you should find ammonia goes to zero within a couple hours, but nitrite may still be non-zero. If nitrite is still quite low though, below 0.5 mg/l, you can add a few hardy fish -- Danios and Peppered Corydoras are the two classic starter fish. Feed very small amounts every other day, doing 20% water changes every 2 days. Don't add ammonia any more! After a couple weeks the nitrite should be at zero, and the tank is normally completely cycled within 6 weeks of setting up. Over the next 4-6 weeks, add small batches of additional fish.>
My 7 Phase RO/DI water filter should be coming in the mail any day now, I've read through most of the links you guys usually give to people concerning their use and proportions, could you perhaps suggest appropriate levels of gH and kH for my stock and perhaps a timeframe to safely adapt them to such.
<What you have is ideal for a mixed community tank. Leave as is, at least for the first 6 months of your fishkeeping. Meantime, read:
Soft water is better for certain fish, especially tetras and Rasboras, but not without its risks.>
You guys truly are spectacular and have helped me learn more than I could imagine from all the help you've given me and others. "I love reading through all the different sections on your website during any breaks I get at work. Good stuff indeed." :)
<Thanks for the kind words, Neale.>

Aquarium care part 2   3/23/11
Wow was I naive. I feel like a freaking fool since this post.
<Oh, well, sorry to have made you feel that way!>
Tomorrow I'm picking up an 60 Gallon and I've ordered a 7 stage Reverse Osmosis filter which should be arriving soon.
PH 7.7 to 7.9
Ammonia 0 (finally)
Nitrite, less than 0.2 finally almost finished cycling in my 20gal ;
<Also good. But zero is the target!>
10 gal is cycled and obviously useless other than for quarantine.
<Perhaps, but you *can* do stuff with a 10-gallon tank. You just need to be creative, sensible, and sensitive to the limits that this places on what species will work. See here:
gH is 135-140
kH us 120-130
First and foremost thank you for taking the time to address my original post and not being a lot meaner; I know I deserved it; I was inspired to delve into heavy research on your website and other media in lieu of the many issues of water quality and stocking I'm now dealing with.
<My aim isn't to ever be mean, though sometimes it does happen I'm short with people. My actual aim is to inform, as honestly and clearly as possible, where -- in my opinion! -- their fishkeeping is going amiss.>
The motley assortment of needs for water quality for the fish I have are huge; I could use your help with; also the behavioral aspects and stocking for my specific specimens confound me despite all the links provided and research I've done.
<Do understand that many, perhaps most, aquarists start off by picking a whole variety of fish they happen to find attractive. Only the wisest of beginners starts the way they should -- testing water chemistry, choosing the size of the tank, and then picking species suitable for that combination of factors. Most folks do precisely what you did, choosing a few of everything. It's not the end of the world, but it is a less good way to start, and more likely to end up with problems.>
How I should separate them and what my optimal pH and hardness for the
60 gallon and the 20 gallon would really help me.
I have [2 swordtails m/f] [1 Bala] [2 Chinese Algae Eaters] [1 rainbow/red-finned shark] [2 Zebra Danios] [3 south-American blood-fin tetras] [1 Male Paradise Gourami] [1 Male Blue Powdered Gourami] [2 Bettas m/f] [1 yo-yo/Pakistani loach]
<Of these, the Swordtails must have hard water, while the Danios, Bala Shark, CAE, Bloodfins, Gourami, Betta, Paradisefish and Loach would all prefer softer water. But with that said, all would thrive in medium hard, slightly basic water, which is what you have. The Gouramis, Betta and Paradisefish are swamp fish that dislike strong currents, while all the others enjoy strong currents. Danios and Swordtails won't be happy kept above 25 C/77 F, and nor will the Paradisefish. So sort your fish out with these things in mind. I'd tend to create a "swamp" tank in the 20, and a "stream" tank in the 60, divide out the fish accordingly, and leave the water chemistry as is. I'd keep the 20 gallon at 25 C/77 F, and the stream tank at 24 C/75 F. With this said, I doubt the Betta will last long combined with much bigger and more aggressive Gouramis and Paradisefish, and frankly, the Paradisefish may well not get on with the Gouramis. So the "swamp" tank may end up with just one species, perhaps with some other species from a similar habitat chosen as required -- Bettas are best with things like Hatchetfish, Corydoras sterbai and Kuhli Loaches that pose no "nipped fins" threat, while Gouramis are fine companions for Five-Banded Barbs, Cherry Barbs, Harlequin Rasboras and Cardinal Tetras.>
Personally I've been thinking of relocating the swordtails,
<They're actually nice fish.>
I'm afraid of due to research I've done that the Chinese algae eater can be dangerous when they are older, I'm currently dealing with aggression from the red-finned shark, and dominance issues between the two Gouramis which fight.
My female Betta has been hiding a lot as of late so I'm thinking she might need to go on her own. The male Betta seems confident
and happy in his artificial reef and hasn't demonstrated any bullying so he might be good. I read bala's are better in groups of 2 or 3, I'm most likely going to pick up more to compliment him, and the Danios are of a different genus and I may just relocate them as well.
<Danios will end up Bala Shark food in time'¦>
(1) If you could give me your advice on how I should separate them, perhaps some optimal tank mates and population count and what the two tanks should be at for pH and Hardness in this regard I would be so grateful.
<See above. You seem to have middling hardness water, so I'd not mess around with it at all. Keep fish for 1+ years before even thinking about changing water chemistry.>
(2) Broad water parameters which may or may not work for these different species I've researched are roughly 76 degrees F, 8-10 Hardness (I'm still not sure whether they mean dH or kH and a pH of 7 to 7.2
<See above, and also read here:
(3) How much are the beneficial bacteria from my 10Gallon and 20Gallon substrate and filters going to help in the cycling process, and perhaps any pitfalls I should worry about.
<You can move live media from one filter to another, and instantly mature filters that way. Removing up to 50% of the live media from a mature filter will NOT harm its filtration capacity, and the new media you add to replace that lost media is very quickly colonised by bacteria. The removed mature media can be placed in a new filter, and that new filter will quickly mature, perhaps instantly if you're at least half-filling that new filter.>
Again thank you so much for helping me out.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Transparent Film at Surface of Aquarium   3/18/11
Dear Crew,
I recently began a new aquarium six days ago. Yesterday, I realized there was something of a transparent film at the surface of the water.
<Actually quite common... and often a source of real trouble for aquarists, their charges... as such films can greatly reduce the ease of gaseous transmission to/from the aquarium water>
I have no idea what this substance is.
<Often aerosols... from cooking mostly... but other materials... Best either to use a pitcher, dip it at an angle to remove, or wick the material off w/ non-printed, odorless paper towels>
I cleaned most of the film off of the water (it was difficult because it would break into smaller pieces) with my net then I did a partial water change. This took away most of it. What I'm mainly wondering is: Will it affect the water quality?
<Can indeed. Best to add the film-removal technique of your choice to weekly maintenance on your system/s>
I have never experienced this problem before.
Thank you,
Dante G.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

white material   9/23/10
<Hi Ray! Melinda here.>
I have a small 40 gal fresh water tank with about 9 fish. Lately I have noticed a white looking layer building on the bottom of the tank in the gravel stones that appears to look like thin white cotton, or like spider webs.
Should I just vacuum the bottom of the tank and replace clean water.
<I do think the issue here is with maintenance, or, more specifically, a lack thereof. What you're probably seeing is decaying waste or food... I'd change my cleaning regimen a bit. Also, do take a look at stocking, as nine fish in 40 gallons sounds okay, but this is totally dependent on what type of fish they are! Also, the fact that this is collecting on the substrate could point to a lack of water flow at the bottom of the tank.
Next time you feed, watch to see what happens when food hits the bottom of the tank. Does it sit, or become "trapped" in an area of low flow? This could be the problem. In addition, do ensure you're not overfeeding, which could be causing food to collect and decay.>
I vacuum about once every 3 months, and do a good cleaning once a month.
<Yes, you should augment your maintenance schedule. Ultimately, you'd want to be cleaning/vacuuming, at the same time, every two to three weeks. Get a Nitrate test if you don't have one, and work to keep Nitrate below 20 at all times. Even in moderately stocked tanks, this requires more work than what you're doing -- waste builds up in the closed system, and must be removed. Please do read here for a refresher course on freshwater
maintenance: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwmaint.htm>
Thanks. Ray
<Welcome, Ray. Do go over the "checklist" I give above, and take an objective look at your tank, in terms of stocking, maintenance, feeding, water flow, etc. I think that with more cleaning, your problem will
disappear, but it could be indicative of larger issues, and you want to catch those before they manifest as illness or some other malady. Please do write back if you have any more questions.
Re: white material   9/25/10

<Hi Ray!>
thanks for the advice.
<Glad I could help.>
After reading your reply today I vacuumed 25% of the tank water and did a super cleaning of all material. Your right about over feeding I believe we have been doing that.
<It's so easy to do, I'm still trying to convince my husband that he's overfeeding... at least someone is listening!>
I will start doing a vacuum cleaning every 3-4 weeks from now on. I have not checked my N level yet, I now have 8 fish and have been loosing my bottom feeders probably from the bacteria.
<Depending on what type of fish you've had on the bottom, the lack of flow which I think may be causing this problem could be the culprit. Your Corydoras are air-breathers, so this would have only stressed them, rather than killed them, but any other type of catfish would have trouble in this low-oxygen environment. Do take time to do the test I mentioned earlier, and check out the water flow at the bottom of the tank.... a small powerhead, or even more powerful filtration, may be necessary.>
I now only have one albino gold Bristlenose left. Lost my swordtails & my diamond tetra's. Have one gold & one blue Gourami, pretty good size. Have 2 Corydoras catfish. and 3 black skirt tetra's. Have had
the tank for about 7 years.
<I would definitely test this water, Ray -- any time you lose fish, water quality is your first suspect.>
Thanks again Ray
<Glad I could help. Do be sure and take this "gunk" as a symptom of a larger issue, and not an issue in itself -- while many of the things I talked about will be fixed by more frequent maintenance, I do worry about water flow at the bottom of this aquarium and its effect on the fish that inhabit that area. I think there's still a little work to be done before you can consider the problem solved. Please do write back if you have any more questions.
Re: Reply
Re: white material   9/26/10

<Hi Ray!>
Thanks again, guess your husband is like my wife eat now.
Not sure I follow about the bottom filter issue. I have 2 filters, a large one, it appears to have good water flow at the bottom, and a small one as well, they always worked well before.
<I'm talking more about water flow at the bottom, not filtration. By a "powerhead" I meant anything that is going to promote the flow of water within the tank, hopefully keeping that water moving over the gravel,
preventing things from growing there. This flow will keep the bottom of the tank oxygen-rich, which is what fish who stay on the bottom need to thrive.>
It sounds as if your suggesting a gravel filter.
<Not the entire filter -- powerheads can be used without the presence of an undergravel filter, and simply recirculate water within the tank. Pick one that's sort of like a fan, and position it low on one of the tank's walls, pointing across the gravel, and you're going to have better flow on the bottom of the tank. Just an idea.>
I checked my ammonia and it was good. less then 0,25 ppm.
<Depending on the test you're using, this may not be ideal. Most tests have a level for "0," and that's what you want -- no ammonia present at all. You could always have your local fish store double check for you, and if it's not zero, that could also point to why you've been losing fish.
Ammonia can stress them terribly, and even though this isn't a very high amount, in indicates something could be wrong with the biological cycle. A good thing to do, now that you're doing more regular maintenance, would be to run a test before and after your water change, and see if that affects the Ammonia presence. If you see a difference, it's likely the level is fluctuating, indicating something is wrong.>
I will have to take a
sample to the store to check N. Thanks again fish lady.
<No problem, Ray. Please do write back if you have any other questions.
Re: Reply, white mat.    9/27/10

Good morning Melinda,
<Hi Ray!>
I will be sure to take a sample of the H2O to the fish store Monday and let you know the results.
<Good to know. Here's an article which will help you better understand the relationship between these numbers -- in essence, there is much to be read "between the lines:":
There's also a ton of information contained within those links at the top of the page on the same subject.>
I must ask, when I did a search on Google you're the only person that replied to my problem but now I
don't really know who you represent with all your great reply's. Are you a web site that deals with fish problems in general?
Or a person that just enjoys helping us that are still in the learning game?
<I am one person of many who volunteers for this site, WetWebMedia, which aims to provide information on the hobby in an attempt to help fishkeepers practice their hobby in the most knowledgeable, conscientious way possible.
At least, that would be my estimation -- others may have different interpretations of our goal/mission. Those who volunteer their time have backgrounds of all types, and answer different types of questions, whether they relate to freshwater, saltwater, those weird critters that crawl around in reef tanks, brackish water, and even terrapins. In short, we are a varied group, with varied experience, but one common goal. We also have a forum that you can join for free and discuss all things fishy:
Also may I ask where are you located? I live in Arizona.
<I am located in Virginia, and other crew members can be found within the U.S., as well as other places in the world.>
Thanks again. Ray
<You're welcome, Ray.

Phenomenon - Possible leak?  9/13/10
Hi Neale,
I wanted to run an odd occurrence by you please.
<Sure thing.>
I recently moved a 55 gallon tank from one household to the other. It's been in its new place for the last two weeks. Every once in awhile - varies from every other day to every two days to three days etc - air bubbles and a mild thumping noise comes from a place situated at the bottom of the tank towards the back of it about 9 inches from a corner.
<How odd.>
My Mbuna naturally took care of this oddity by building nests and heaped about four inches of substrate over it.
Regardless, I have moved the heap and examined both the bottom of the tank and the floor and find no water. I also have a heater situated near the spot and have since removed some base rock which I thought may be the culprit since it's so porous.
<It is certainly the case that it may take some days for air trapped in the gravel and/or rocks to work its way out. This is especially true if porous tufa rock is used. Really deep substrates can produce nitrogen gas through denitrification, and sometimes small bubbles will be visible.>
But the thumping and bubbles are still occurring every now and then. It's GOT to be a leak right?
<Well, if there's water getting out of the tank, then yes. But if the base of the tank is dry, and the cabinet remains dry, perhaps not. HOWEVER, I will mention that when using rock I always place a half-inch deep bottom "cushion" of sand or gravel, and then a gravel tidy or mesh, and then the rocks and top layer of gravel on top of that. Why? Because I have seen rocks slip down, and one time that slippage was such the rock hit the bottom pane of glass, cracked it, and started a slow leak.>
Have you experienced this? Should I just replace the tank?
<I'd take the tank apart first, before anything else. Leave the fish and filter, just get out the rock and sediment. Have a good look around, and see if there's any sign of trapped air/water underneath the bottom pane of glass. Maybe leave the tank running that way for a day or two, with just some flowerpots or something for the fish to hide in. Place tissue around the edge of the tank. If there's a slow leak, the tissue will absorb the water and you'll be able to tell it's got wet.>
Thank you...Lisa.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Phenomenon - Possible leak?
Thank you so much for your reply Neale!
<Always glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: White growth in freshwater aquarium   12/19/09
Thanks so much for responding! I am trying out adding the plants you recommended. I also removed all the gravel for the fungus to grow on.
Thanks for your help. Andrea
<Welcome. These "things take time"... Happy holidays. BobF>

Follow up question after research (RMF, does Photo_111909_003.jpg look familiar?)  11/20/09
<<Does... microbial of some sort, as you state. B>>
After searching the web, I found one brief reference on your website to "circular white spots with hollow center" that I believe applies to my problem. (See Re: Freshwater Community Tank 7/9/09, answered by Neale) This exchange what makes me believe what we have is a fungus, but I don't see a confirmation of what kind & what the harm may be nor how to treat.
<They do look like either fungal or bacterial moulds. Not sure which. But either way, does imply pretty ghastly conditions inside the tank in terms of filtration. Fungi and bacteria feed on organic matter, and to get colonies as obvious as this takes some doing!>
We have a 135gal tank that's been set up for approx 60 days that started an algae growth. The odd thing is what you will see in the photos...those white circular patches which appear on every surface & appear to be clearing/eating the algae. We are not new to fish keeping but this is a new problem for us & we want to treat it correctly.
<I have never seen anything like this before. It certainly isn't common!>
We only have two Severums & a Gourami in there right now, so it is definitely not overstocked/overfed.
<And yet something is feeding these fungi/bacteria...>
We have cut the lights way back & cleaned the front of the tank so we could see in! The concern is that it is a fungus or something harmful to the fish. They still appear healthy.
<Unlikely to be directly harmful, but it's worth mentioning that things like Aeromonas spp. bacteria that break down organic matter under normal circumstances can become pathogens when the immune system of fish becomes compromised. So again, there's an issue here that needs to be resolved.>
Will just cleaning & controlling the algae get rid of the problem or do we need to use some other treatment?
<I'd take a long, hard look at the system. I'd check a few things. Is the filter turnover rate adequate to the size of the tank? For big fish like yours, that's something upwards of 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. Does the filter have enough useful media? Carbon and zeolite are largely redundant in systems of this type, but biological and mechanical media are important, and both should be cleaned/replaced on a regular basis (every 6 weeks or so, perhaps more often if the filter clogs up quickly). How deep is the substrate? Unless you have an undergravel filter or are growing plants with roots (pointless with Severums, but I'd mention it) then the gravel need only be just deep enough to cover the glass. Anything above that can trap faeces, uneaten food, etc. Is there anything "rotten" in the tank? A classic source of fungi is non-cured bogwood; as the wood decays, fungi sprout. Is the water silty? If you're using sand rather than gravel, if the sand wasn't cleaned well, silt gets trapped on everything, making things look white and murky.>
Thank you!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Follow up question after research... FW, microbial, colonial growths    11/21/09
I forwarded your reply (thank you, Neale) to my husband so he could check the specs you mentioned on the tank and filtration. His information is below:
A few more explanations about the system.
The tank is currently filtered by an AC110 and a Rena XP3, we also have a MaxiJet 1200 (295GPH) with sponge intake recirculating lower level water.
Substrate is 3M ColorQuart about .5-1" Deep. There is approx. 6 Medium pieces of Malaysian Driftwood. This system was running in a 46Gallon tank for at least a year (well the AC110, the Rena was added). We moved into the new tank keeping the media.
<As stated before, bogwood can be a source of organic matter. If you see white threads growing copiously on the wood, then that's one very probable source. Take the wood out and allow it to soak (cure) somewhere else until no fungus remains. This takes quite a while, which is why bogwood is expensive. An old approach is to stick the wood in the cistern of a lavatory for a few months. This will ensure it is constantly flushed with clean water.>
The new tank was doing great for 3 weeks. I then installed my new T-5 Lighting and the brown algae bloom started, followed by a green bloom. I cut back the lighting duration. I noticed the white spots just prior to dialing back lighting duration.
<Light isn't a factor here.>
There is no carbon in the system, only filter pads, ceramic rings, and sponges.
This is my first closed filtration system in a long time, (5+ years). Most of my tanks use trickle filters.
This tank is up for only 8 weeks (mind you using previous tank filtration and decorations), so there is minimal left over waste nor a rotting carcass.
Most interesting is that these white rings definitely are attacking the algae bloom. The fish seem to be as happy as ever. No appetite loss, no change in swim behavior.
<Good to know.>
With tank location I can watch the fish behavior for 2 hours min a day. The tank gets no direct sunlight. Tank temperature is at 75 degrees. No rings appear anywhere that there is no algae. After a closer look the rings appear to be brown algae related. Some rings have expanded past green algae, but the green algae remains, however no brown algae remains inside any ring on the tank.
Since the tank sits in a dark room it was light for 10 hours a day. That has been reduced to 4 hours.
<I would add some floating plants like Indian Fern, and offer good lighting for 10 hours. If nothing else, the Ferns will absorb nutrients from the water.>
Water changes are weekly 25-33% though sometimes it goes 2 weeks. Filters alternate cleaning so every couple weeks each filter gets cleaned.
I knew that regular water changes were being done & that we were running two filters. my husband's very good about staying on top of that & I'm glad he could provide more details about the system.
Do you have any additional thoughts? I did read where fungus & algae can be symbiotic, but I couldn't find anything specifically relating to an aquarium.
<These symbioses are what we call Lichens, and these aren't applicable to aquarium conditions. Among other things, few Lichens are aquatic.>
I guess because it's not common there is not much readily available information. any additional suggestions/advice is welcomed.
<What I would do is take out the fish, stick them in a big bucket. I'd take the filters off the tank, and ideally have them running using water from another bucket. If that isn't possible, I'd take the biological media out from them and lay these in a tub of water so they're just covered, and that means they get oxygen so won't die back. I'd thoroughly clean (maybe replace) mechanical media in the filters. I'd then deep clean the aquarium.
I'd replace the substrate if possible with plain vanilla gravel, but if that isn't what you want to do, I would thoroughly clean the substrate you have using hot water. I'd scrub the glass of the tank, wiping away as much of the gunk as I could. Use things like vinegar, lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide if you need some extra help wiping away stubborn stains. I'd then put the whole thing back together, and hope for the best. More specifically, I'd do everything possible to prevent a reoccurrence.>
Thanks, Julie
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re:  follow up question after research (RMF, does Photo_111909_003.jpg look familiar?)<Microbial> -- 11/23/09
Neale, Thank you for the information and the advice. We will work on getting rid of this and hopefully it doesn't come back.
<Good luck, and I hope the tank stays clean next time around! Cheers, Neale.>

Request for help identifying and controlling this.....Algae? 10/4/09
I have 115 gallon tank that has been overtaken by this substance. I say substance because at first I thought it was some type of algae, but through searches of your website, I could not find any references to a white/grey algae.
<... Not an algae... Do you have an inexpensive microscope?>
Plus I used API Algae Fix
and that had no effect on this substance.
As you can see in the picture, this substance is grey/white in color and has a cotton like appearance. It grows fast.
<Is fungal...>
What you see in the picture here was not there two days ago. It grows so fast I have had to pull all the plastic plants, decorations out of the tank as I try to get this under control. I have been trying typical algae control tactics such as: Leaving the lights off most of the day, more frequent water changes, using a gravel vacuum to pull this substance from the tank and from the substrate, but to no avail. Any ideas or tips would be greatly appreciated.
<Check for nutrient levels (NO3, HPO4 mainly), vacuum as much out as you can, use activated carbon of good quality (a couple units of Boyd's Chemipure perhaps) and possibly a pad or two of Polyfilter... Check your source water for nutrient and your feeding practices>
I feel like I am running out of options other than to pull all the substrate out of the tank as well and basically starting from ground zero with the tank again.
The substance seems to be having an effect on my fish as well.
<Likely poisoned by the "Fix"... see WWM re the use of such chemical algicides. They are not warranted, nor advised>
Of course, I have to caveat that by saying that the tank has been severely disrupted since this substance appeared (loss of plants/decorations, more water changes, lots of gravel vacuuming) so that may be the culprit for my fishes behavior as well. My fish have been eating less since this substance has appeared. I have lost 2 large Angelfish and several tetras over the past two weeks so I am getting worried that whatever this is will wipe out my tank completely if I don't figure this out soon.
Thanks in advance,
Jim Odom
<... Read. http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwalgcontrol.htm
and the linked files above.
Bob Fenner>

Re: Request for help identifying and controlling this.....Algae?  10/29/09
I would like to ask a follow up question on this. A quick recap on events since I posted my first question.
<Please do>
Shortly after posting, my 115 Gallon tank developed a silver dollar sized chip in the glass in lower corner so had to be taken down to send back to manufacturer for warranty repair. :(
Moved community fish to 29 gallon emergency tank, used water from 115 plus small amount of substrate and filter from 115 now working on 29 gallon tank
Added Boyd's Chem Pure and Poly filter as you suggested to filter when transitioning from 115 to 29.
<Good moves>
Bought a used 215 gallon tank to replace 115 as this is the 4th tank in a year from that vendor, so I am done with that tank vendor. Plus I got a REALLY good deal on the 215 upgrade! LOL!
After almost a month of being slime mold free, I am now experiencing the slime mold again in the 29 gallon tank!
So now to my question. I have been researching this slime mold stuff now and I cannot seem to find any treatments other than starving it out.
<There are other approaches... see below>
To me this reads that any other treatments would also be detrimental to the fish. But now that I am getting ready to move fish over to new tank I am very concerned about moving the slime mold with them and having to fight this battle again on a much larger scale. So BEFORE I move tank decorations, artificial plants, air stones, etc., are you aware of any treatments that I can do while things are in transit and away from the fish that will kill this slime mold?
<Not entirely, no. IF this is a "mycete" or something "higher" (Thallophyte) or lower/Moneran... even just "bits" will re-seed any system anything wet is moved to... It's the conditions that allow this pest to proliferate that you must address>
Thanks again for your valued advice,
Jim Odom
<Let's see... where to start, what to mention that will satisfy... Would be great if you had a 'scope of 400X magnification or so to take a look see diagnostically... But do want to direct your reading on WWM re "Nutrient Limitation", "Nutrient Export", Aeration, Circulation, RedOx/ORP, Competition possibilities... combine these terms with "slime mold", "algae"... and read on! And we'll be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Re: Request for help identifying and controlling this.....Algae? -- 11/02/09
WWM Crew,
We have a winner! I have an API Freshwater Master Test Kit, but it doesn't contain a phosphate test...go figure.
<Ah ha!>
But my oldest son has a saltwater Reef
Test Kit that did have a phosphate test in it. My Phosphates were ugly (10ppm according to the saltwater color chart)
<Yeeikes! Pollution-ville!>
not sure how this would differ on a freshwater test, but anyways, my son let me borrow his phosphate reactor and I have been running it now for 4 days with Seachem's PhosGuard and phosphates are still high (over 1 ppm) but almost all of the slime mold is gone or is shrinking in size and coverage areas. So I think, with your help, I have identified the root cause of my problem. Funny that the "Master" test kit for freshwater doesn't include a Phosphate test.
<Mmm, stay tuned... I suspect w/in a half generation there will be "junior mass-spec." test kits for most all!>
I also tested my tap water and I have 1 ppm straight from the tap
<Dang! That's high>
so I will be adding a bag or two of PhosGuard to my canister filters to keep things in check with regular water changes.
My final question for this round (hopefully) is this, I am providing the list of tests I am currently running on my Freshwater tank. Are there other tests on freshwater that I should be doing regularly?
PH high range
<Mmm, not really... unless you were breeding, rearing wild soft-acid water loving organisms... then you might be concerned with GH, KH...>
Thanks again,
Jim Odom
<Thank you! BobF>

Setting up tank and compatibility questions 8/6/09
Hi, I've been doing a lot of reading online, and keep coming across your answers to others' questions and hope that you may be able to help me with mine.
<OK, fire away!>
This summer, I became really interested in planted aquariums, and that's where the fun began - I ordered plants, a 65w dual 10k/460 light fixture, and bought my first tank - a 20 gallon High from someone on Craigslist. I set the tank up on 7/18 - and it's still cycling.
<I see.>
I've made quite a few errors along the way - and I'll explain them - first, I visited a local PetSmart and bought fish before the tanks were ready. 7 female Bettas - that became 5 over the course of the first weekend hanging out in several 2 gallon bowls together - not very happily together. On July 18th - I got the plant order in the mail, lay down the soil and eco complete, and gravel on top of that because the soil didn't want to stay 'down' with only the eco-complete on top of it ... So my substrate total is about 2.5- 3"
I put 4 girl Bettas in there over the next 3 days, and the large floating plant gave ample room for them to hide as necessary to prevent too many territory issues/fighting. The 5th girl was much smaller than the others and I held her in a 2 gallon bowl for a while longer to give her a chance to grow a bit without too much stress.
In weekly ammonia, nitrite, nitrate tests - ammonia was showing in the .25 - .5 range - w/no nitrites/nitrates.
<If the ammonia is not yet zero, while nitrite isn't yet registering, that implies the tank hasn't half-way cycled yet. Until you start detecting nitrite, your biological filter hasn't yet cultured the first tranche of bacteria, the ammonia-oxidising bacteria. You need these bacteria, and then a second trance, the nitrite-oxidising bacteria, to have a complete biological filter. In the meantime, add no more fish, feed very sparingly (perhaps once every other day), remove uneaten food promptly, and do frequently water changes, e.g., 10-25% every day or two.>
A few weeks later - 2 weeks ago? - I bought 3 tiny albino Corys, and an apple snail - because I wanted to deal with waste issues of food falling on the bottom, and algae that was beginning to grow green splotches, on one side glass on the tank.
<Think about this logically. Why would adding *more* animals improve things with regard to waste? More animals = more waste for your filter to clean up. Snails and catfish make things worse, not better. If in doubt, use science!>
lighting - I am doing 12 hours of light - with 6 hours on, 2 hour break, 6 hours on.
The apple snail can not keep up with the algae - I have several types growing in abundance in the tank. I visited the fish store and was told last week to not do any partial water changes - just let the tank run its course, and to stop overfeeding the fish. (HEY, I've never had fish before, and it's a learning process - yeah, my betas are all fat.)
<If your Bettas are fat, you're overfeeding them, so go easy on food. Apple snails are very poor choices for tropical aquaria and rarely live long. Do research the needs of any possible livestock *before* purchase.>
I reduced feeding them to only once a day, and am giving them one day off a week.
Last night, my tank for the first time - read zero ammonia - but the nitrites were 5, and nitrates 40.
<Cycling has proceeded to the second stage.>
I called the fish store to ask - and again was told not to touch the water unless the fish start looking ill ...
<Well, actually, they're wrong. I'd do regular water changes. Taking out water has zero affect on how fast the filter matures, and has a very big effect on the health of your fish.>
Anyway - that's tank one - 20 gallon planted.
Around the same time as I was setting up the 20 gallon, I received a 12 gallon and a 5 gallon eclipse in the mail. - I figured one would eventually be used for a Betta male - which I haven't bought yet - and the other for some dwarf gouramis...
<5-gallon tanks are near useless, and 12-gallon tanks not substantially better. Save your money.
WELL, when I had shopped for those Corys, I bought a gold Gourami (2") and 5 supposed threadfins - one turned out being a mystery rainbow - but most likely a boesemanni (1" each or less - the two boy threadfins are only 3/4" now), and 5 cardinal tetra.
<Why are you buying more fish before the tank has cycled?>
Mistake 2 or probably 3...? - I've been moving them around. I put the gold Gourami as a temp spot in the 12 gallon, with all the rainbows. And put the cardinals in the 20 gallon planted with the betas. Then, that same night, I worried that there was too much excitement in the 20 gallon tank for the Bettas because the Corys are all really exciting fish - so I decided to catch the 5 cardinals - and moved them to the 12 gallon. - the 5 gallon that had at this point been holding the one baby Betta - I moved the baby Betta into the 20 gallon at the same time as the Corys went in.
The other Bettas did not even notice her. (YEAH!) Thank goodness for zippy Corys.
So - the 5 gallon was empty for the evening. By the next morning - the 12 gallon had 1 cardinal death. (I later read that these are easy to kill...)
and by that afternoon, another one joined the first. :( But after seeing the dead cardinals I worried immediately that maybe the rainbows or the Gourami did it - not that the fish looked bitten or anything - so I moved the 3 remaining cardinals to the 5 gallon.
<Cardinals are not tolerant of non-cycled aquaria, that's for certain. So yes, what you did killed them. They need soft, acidic, somewhat warm water (pH 6-7, 3-10 degrees dH, 25-28 degrees C) and the tank must be completely cycled.>
A few days later, on doing a partial water change on the 12 & 5 - I found 1 dead female threadfin, with eaten fins. - and on watching the rainbows discovered that one didn't look like the others, and had to be another type - and she was chasing the boys, and the remaining thread girl - so I decided to move that mystery fish into the 5 gallon too.
<Fish will continue dying until your tank has cycled.>
A partial water change on the 5 gallon came up with a dead cardinal - so, that 5 gallon is now down to 1 mystery rainbow and 2 cardinals - no deaths in 2 weeks - seems stable now BUT - none of these tanks are cycled - so of course I worry that any time now I'll find more death...
The ammonia levels on the 12 and 5 gal are both testing between 1 and 2.
still no nitrites.
<Nitrites don't appear until the ammonia-oxidising bacteria are established first.>
I live in an attic apartment and can't control the temp more than to add the heater... and the tanks now - being summer - are fluctuating between 75 - 85 depending on the time of day and outdoor temps.
<Temperature largely irrelevant to the deaths, though some animals, notably the Apple snails, will need a cooler "resting" period outside the tank.
Here's a good site:
Most Apple snails die after a few months because people assume they need to stay underwater in tropical tanks all through the year. They do not. For about 3 months, they will need to be "rested" in damp soil.>
The fish haven't complained about the hot - but some of the plants in the 20 g. tank have melted. (which I siphoned out when the tank started to smell.) And I added a Koralia powerhead to circulate the lower tank - that runs on the same time cycle as the lights (so as to give the Bettas some 'easy' swim time/peace during the non-light times.
Did I say lots of algae? It's all looking pretty green these days.
<Not an issue at the moment. Fast-growing plants, plus a few Nerite snails, will deal with this.>
Anyway - I know that I will have problems with keeping the Gold Gourami in the 12 gal. so I found another tank on CL - a 30 gallon - and still have some wall space to fit it - hard to come by when you have slanted walls in an attic apartment. I pick that tank up on Sunday.
<Do be aware male Trichopterus Trichogaster are highly aggressive and sometimes can be real menaces in community tanks.>
I'd like to make another planted tank. The tank comes with a few 'issues' namely - more fish. 8 Neons, 2 red minor Serpae tetra, a mystery silver/orange fish (wont know what it is until seeing it Sunday), and lastly, UGH! a Bala shark (3").
<Serpae tetras? Class fin nippers! Avoid!>
I'm trying to think what will be most compatible with the gold Gourami /rainbow setting- and, intend to give away to a petstore whatever fish don't fit a 'happy' community scenario. I realize that the BALA is too large a fish for only 30 gallons - so that's definitely on the 'not stay' list.
I asked the seller about the lights - so that I can research plants to suit the wattage ...
<Aim for upwards of 2 watts per gallon if you want fast-growing, algae-beating species. At lower light levels the only plants viable will be slow-growing species, and these have zero impact on algae. And before you say anything, no, adding an "algae eater" won't help.>
The gravel, filter+media on the cycled tank is all coming as part of the package so I'm hoping that I'll be able to get the tank up and running quickly enough without affecting the fish coming with it ... can the fish stay in a bucket for a day without filtration? I'd hate to put them into my non-cycled tank because it seems a recipe for disaster. I can well imagine how toxic adding 10+ fish would be to my current tanks.
- so - question being - do Neons and minor Serpae get along with female gold Gourami? with threadfins? with boesemanni?
<Neons need fairly cool water, 22-24 C, so that limits their compatibility to other fish that enjoy cool conditions, such as Danios and Corydoras.
Serpae tetras should be kept in large groups on their own. They are too social, too aggressive, and too nippy to mix with anything else safely.
Threadfins are adaptable but can't be kept with nippy fish.>
What problems could I expect from this type of mixing? What fish should I 'gift' to the pet stores other than that Bala?
<All sorts of problems possible. Research their needs at WWM.>
And yes, I really do wonder what the mystery silver/orange fish is... sure do wish I had a picture.
thanks much for all advice - it's truly appreciated.
<Many mistakes, no evidence of research. Please, slide into this hobby more slowly, with more forethought. While I can offer advice, I can't go to the pet store with you to slap your wrists when you want to buy more, incompatible, fish. So you need self-discipline. Read, learn, understand.
Cheers, Neale.>

Re: setting up tank and compatibility questions  8/7/09
Thanks Neale for your comments - I'll continue researching before buying more fish - I already have too many.
<Glad to have helped.>
From your comments, it has helped me to decide how to shift fish into communities better - the Neons, I should be able to keep and give them that 12 gallon all to themselves.
<Fine; a dozen in a tank that size will look very eye-catching. Add a few Cherry shrimps or Bumblebee shrimps if you want some bottom feeding critters; they work well with Neons, enjoy the same coolish sort of water, and if happy, the shrimps will breed freely.>
The 20 gallon will remain as it is with the Bettas and Corys- although, It is now missing the apple - I found the empty shell this morning lying on the substrate.
<As I said, they don't last long in aquaria.>
The ammonia still tests at 0, the nitrites were 5 still (last night) with the same nitrates level of 40.
<Steps in the right direction... but are you sure it's not a nitrite level of 0.5? A nitrite level of 5.0 would be extremely toxic, basically poison.>
The 30 gallon will be planted, and will house the gold Gourami, the 3 remaining threadfins, and the 1 boesemanni mistake fish that came as part of my threadfin purchase, and the two cardinal tetras. (maybe someday once all these cycling issues are resolved - I can add to the schools so the cardinal and boesemanni won't be 'so' alone)
I'll hand over the Bala shark to the pet store on Sunday when I receive the tank and those fish - no point bringing her home knowing she doesn't fit, and the two Serpae will go with it.
The mystery silver/orange fish? ... well, no point guessing where that one goes until I know what it is. 30 gal? 5 gal (who's fish all went into the 30g.)? Or to the pet-store?
<Send me a photo, and I dare say I'll be able to name it. Sometimes mystery fish are wonderful surprises, sometimes a disaster...>
It's sure to be an eventful weekend.
<Mine too! I'm off on a trek to find some snakes on Sunday, and watching a steam engine race through London on Saturday.>
Since I am buying an already cycled tank, with used media - does this mean that the 30 gal won't have to be cycled? Or that the cycle will be shorter?
<Biological media doesn't stay "cycled" for long once the filter is switched off, unless it's kept in a shallow bowl where it can get oxygen.
Stuffed inside a filter it often suffocates. So while in theory yes, a "used" filter can be ready cycled, there are limitations. If all else fails, take some media from a mature tank you own and stuff it inside the new filter. That will jump start the cycling process.>
Someone also had recommended to me that if I take some of the used gravel and add it to my other tanks that this will help quicken my cycling of the other tanks - good idea?
<It does help, but not as much as transferring filter media.>
once again, thanks for your effort and patience,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: setting up tank and compatibility questions  8/7/09
Neale, I wasn't expecting such a prompt response.
<Isn't the Internet an amazing thing...>
- I will be packing up the tank (and catching the fish) with the couple who's selling them - and the drive is only about 20 minutes from my home - So, fingers crossed that I'll be able to keep the filter media alive in
that short commute.
<Great! Take the media out, stick in an ice cream carton or similar, just about cover with aquarium water, and then put the lid on. Hopefully there will be enough air inside the carton to keep the sponges or whatever
I'm intending to remove the gravel and put it in a 5 gallon bucket with tank water just covering them, to keep it all wet. My thought process was that if they dry out, that would be bad for the bacteria, is this correct?
<Correct. But equally, a deep bucket of wet gravel will become deoxygenated, and that will cause the bacteria to die.>
God, I LOVE the idea of cherry shrimp or maybe the Malaysian green shrimp in that 12 gallon. :) But, I worry that since I haven't put real plants in that tank, and don't trust the lighting fixture much (it's an eclipse 12 that tends to really heat things up) - that I mostly just leave that light off, except for feedings and such.
<Cherry shrimps and such-like are fine without real plants. If anything, get some bogwood with a Java fern or clump of Java moss attached. This should grow even under mediocre lighting. A nice, "instant" planted tank that doesn't need a fancy substrate.>
- The tank is well lit but indirectly for about 4 hours in the morning.
No algae at all in that tank - and I'm hoping there wont be - so I struggle with how shrimp would do in that environment.
<Probably OK. I have a windowsill tank much the same, and the shrimps breed like rabbits.>
I'll definitely send you that picture. I admit that I can't recognise what fish is what - except that the Neons and cardinals look alike. And Gourami have those really cool looking antennae. :)
<Some gouramis do, anyway...>
I'm trying to imagine hunting snakes in London - wild snakes among all the tall buildings and concrete? Or in a pet shop?
<Not in London. I live in Hertfordshire, in the "green belt" of farmland and countryside around London. We're looking for snakes on the Chiltern Hills. Reptiles are not diverse in England since it's a cold, cloudy island -- but we have a few.>
I'm in Boston and we don't have many wild snakes in our city, although every so often in the suburbs there's still cotton mouths, rattlers (very few left in New England), but a ton of garter snakes. But if you looking
for Boas - you'd have more luck in the pet stores. :) Earlier this summer, there were reports of several alligators in one of our local ponds - how crazy is that! this far north! - but, I'm sure that it was some
hobbyist who didn't know what to do with his growing pets.
<No alligators here. But Red-ear Sliders have become established in London, in the various ponds of some of the parks. Seemingly, the London micro-climate is just warm enough they can survive through winter.>
Lizards are much better looking than snakes.
<Not to another snake, I'm sure...>
train racing? Now that's COOL! :) You're sure to have a blast. Take lots of pictures.
<Good luck, Neale.>

Re: setting up tank and compatibility questions -- 08/11/09
Hi Neale,
Hope the weekend went well with the trains and snakes.
<Very well, thanks for asking.>
I got the tank on Sunday and there were a few surprises. First, the Bala shark died the previous night while they were emptying the tank.
<Oh dear.>
yes, that's the second surprise, when I arrived they'd had the tank emptied (except for the gravel and about 2" of water) - heavy! So I didn't have a chance to pack the filter or anything else in the manner that you'd
recommended - and all I could do was drive home and hope for the best.
<I see.>
third - the mystery silver/orange fish - it's a full grown flame Gourami - pretty - but what to do with it.
<The Flame Gourami is a form of Colisa lalia, and comes with all the baggage that entails. In theory a nice fish, but vulnerable to bacterial and viral diseases.>
I decided to try putting him in the tank with my little gold Gourami - and he became really aggressive with her and frightened goldie - so I had to take him out - and ended up putting him in the 12 gallon tank.
<Gouramis do tend to be feisty, and males will view males of other Gourami species sometimes as threats, causing problems in mixed species set-ups.>
Fourth - there wasn't enough time in the day to do everything that needed to be done and get to the fish store - so I put the two long finned Serpae in the 12 gallon with the flame Gourami - and they seem to all be leaving each other alone. I'm thinking that those three can stay together in there for the interim, it'll be a way to keep that tank cycling - it's really close to finishing - it's beginning to show nitrates now, and yes, nitrites
- and the ammonia was almost down to zero. (Sunday night after putting some of the gravel from the 30 gallon into the tank).
I did a partial water change on that tank that night because the nitrite levels were toxic - you remember how I mentioned "5" on the 20 gallon? - yes, it was testing "5" on the 12 too. - so I did a 50% water change, and
the number came down to "2" - nitrates were 10.
<I really don't get the "5" -- 5 mg/l (or 5 ppt, it matters not) is a very high level, beyond merely dangerous and in fact outright toxic.>
Friday night, I did a 40% water change on the 20 gal. - because the nitrites were still at 5, but the nitrates had lowered to 10 (zero ammonia). - the change, lowered the nitrites to 2.
<"Only" 2... step in the right direction, I suppose...>
last night, I went shopping - and bought an Eheim canister filter for the 30 gal, since the 350 Marineland didn't seem to work (surprise 5?) when I attempted running it on Sunday night. And I bought a Koralia nano for lower water circulation.
<Excellent. Eheim filters are generally superb, and add powerheads for extra circulation is always a good idea.>
I bought more plants for the 20 gallon, since I'd raided plants out of it to put into the 30 gallon the night before. And, I ordered some more plants from someone at the aquarium plant forum - hoping to get both of
those tanks more full of greenery and hopefully less susceptible to my current 20gal. algae problem.
<Provided those plants grow quickly, yes, they should help. Things like Hygrophila, Vallisneria and Indian Fern are among the most useful.>
I also decided to move the cories over into the 30 gallon tank, because the Neons don't eat half as much of the food coming down to the bottom during feedings - and, I figured the cories would be good for cleaning up the left-overs before they become troublesome.
And, yes - I admit it - I bought 3 fish - zebra Otos for the 20 gallon.
<Ah... be careful with these. The "death rate" of Otocinclus in captivity is extremely high. This species, Otocinclus cocama, needs cool water (20-25 C/68-75 F), strong water current, and lots of green algae. Algae wafers are a good supplement, as are certain softened vegetables such as courgette and cooked peas. In most fish tanks, they either starve to death or die from heat stress, so be careful.>
They weren't doing much in the bag on the way home but they sure looked lively when they acclimated and entered my tank. This morning, all 3 of them were attached to the front glass of my tank and busily munching away.
<Do be careful here... they must eat green algae, and will starve within a few days. By instinct, they scour hard surfaces and plant leaves, which is what you're seeing here. If there isn't much green algae, you need to be adding more food.>
My dear Bettas seem upset, after the past month of having the cories zipping around them, the entertainment has disappeared - but, they don't know what to make of these calm new cleaners...
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: setting up tank and compatibility questions -- 08/11/09
Neale, there's so much green algae, the water is green, and some of the glass (the two side glasses especially) - you can't even view the plants through them. Definitely all of it green. Feeding them is definitely
not an issue. And as long as my lights keep going, and my tank isn't planted 'enough' ... it won't be... :(
<Very good.>
Algae is rather annoying, truth be told - I think the Otos are really cute how they hang on glass, and plant leaves - but I'd be real happy not needing them in my tank and leaving all the space for the Bettas and a
couple of cories.
<I find Cherry Shrimps and Nerite snails infinitely better algae eaters.>
My local pet shop "skiptons" is one of the best places to shop in Boston - the staff actually are fairly knowledgeable, they all own fish, and are willing to impart info if you know how to ask the right questions. It's a hike to get there, but addictive to walk in the door... It's becoming a weekly 'habit' to drop in and take a look/see. Besides row upon row of tanks, freshwater and salt - customers come in with dogs, cats, ferret,
lizards ... good crowd and constantly busy.
<Sounds great!>
Yes, the levels were testing as toxic as the API test can show them - hence the need for water changing - despite a recommendation not to touch the tank until they're cycled
<Changing water while cycling does no harm. It's a myth that it does.
Virtually all the necessary bacteria are in the filter, not the water.
Similarly, you only need tiny amounts of ammonia for the bacteria to "eat", which is why a healthy aquarium has no detectable ammonia and yet the bacteria in the filter are fine. Change as much water as you want, taking care that pH and hardness remain steady.>
- a person's got to feel bad for the poor fish. (and I did, after all - heavily stock the tanks when I wasn't supposed to...)
But, I'm seeing a light at the end of the tunnel now. I think it's only the 5 gallon that I'm unsure whether has shown nitrites yet. I know they hadn't been as of last Thursday - but Sunday's dose from the 30 gallon's
gravel - will helpfully push that tank too, in a better direction. It's a heck of a lot easier changing water on a 5 gallon than on a non-cycled 20 or 30...
None of my tanks are close to water, and those buckets are heavy...
<Quite so!>
I have Val.s in both tanks, and Hygrophila ordered (hopefully will arrive today). Ferns - not yet, but am keeping an eye out for some on the plant forum.
<Indian fern specifically is the fast-growing one that helps with algae; Java fern is hopeless for this.>
My biggest worry now, is that I will need to upgrade the lighting on the 30g (and soon) - it came with a basic bulb/fluorescent fixture that shows no wattage info. It makes the tank look dim which is not the effect I'm shooting for, and my plants aren't happy. I've added an interim 'old' 15 watt fluorescent hood (the one that came with my 20 gal) - which seems to improve things 'a bit' but not enough.
<I see.>
I've been checking out the Dr. Fosters website, and there doesn't seem to be many 10K/6.5 K (or should I rephrase and say - any) options for 30 inch tanks that will get me above the 3 WPG that most of my plants require for feeling happy. :)
<Two watts per gallon is a good starting point, especially if you use reflectors and good quality, full spectrum tubes. On tanks to about 45 cm/18 inches in depth, 3-4 tubes running the width of the tank should be ample.>
It's all about feeling happy to get things 'growing' rather than 'dying'...
<Brown, dying plants can be depressing. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Am I simply thinking doom and gloom? FW op.   8/13/2009
Thank-you for your help crew, (special thanks to Neale) I now have my new aquarium all set up. I did what you said with the gravel and sand and it is working well (ROFL if a week is anything to go by).
<Very good.>
Oddly enough the dojo loach does not burrow or dig in either, though the eel dug in the first day and I have yet to see him except a quick glimpse in the middle of the night ;).
<Eels do like sand...>
It is amazing how large a tank seems when you move it (YAY for brothers who will do almost anything if you'll watch their kids for them *evil laugh*) yet how small it seems all set up (sadly you missed the look on my Dad's face when I said that), I am again going to have to reconsider stocking lol. Well thanks again and hope you all have a pleasant evening. Oh and instead of the lava rocks i have a river rock pyramid thanks for the help.
<Good luck with it all. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Am I simply thinking doom and gloom?  8/13/2009
Sorry to bug you this is going to seem like quite the stupid question, but I am worried about my guppies so I am going to ask anyways :D. Obviously I am fairly new to the aquarium thing but...... is it normal for my guppies (fancy) to lay on the bottom of the tank?
My ammonia is below .02
<Anything above 0 is bad.>
my ph is close to 8 (need to buy a better tester lol) and I don't have a nitrate test it is on my list of things to get
<Nitrate test kits aren't essential. Provided you do regular water changes, say, 25% every week or at least every other week, nitrate should never become a problem.>
but the tank is more of an endeavour than I first intended, the temp is around 22,23 degrees.
<This is fine for wild Guppies, but fancy Guppies are a little more sensitive, and you could raise the temperature to 25-28 C to see what happens.>
The guppies just lay at the bottom all are male and they just lay there, especially when it's dark a few use my onion leaves as hammocks but they are all laying, and I don't know them well enough to know if this is normal also one appears to have half of his back fin missing ......do I need to treat that?
<Only if there's signs of Finrot; if she's simply been nipped, then I'd leave it for now.>
Thank-you for your help have a pleasant evening.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Am I simply thinking doom and gloom?-- 08/14/09
Thank you for the prompt reply.
<You're welcome.>
I will have to get a better test kit than the sticker tab that stays in the tank for the ammonia as it only says less than .02. I have another question though, sorry for the persistence, you recommended upping the temp. to 25-28 degrees however my other fish are
*3 Bala sharks ( will leave the tank next spring courtesy of my uncles larger tank)
*1 dojo (weather) loach (soon to be joined by 2-3 more once water seems consistently stable),
*2 platies,
*1 bristle nose Pleco (6-7in),
*one common Pleco (2in),
*7 fancy guppies,
*3 rosy red minnows,
*5 white cloud minnows,
<Minnows of both types need fairly cool water, 25 degrees C, tops.>
*1 eel of undetermined origins which is rarely seen ( waiting for it to grow into some beast and eat my tank one night *keep fingers crossed that I am just paranoid*)
<Hmm... likely a Spiny Eel; do see here:
Yes, some get very large and predatory, others are more or less community fish.>
all residents came with the tank the previous owner stated they were "fish" when i asked if they knew anything about the species. As I understand all of the others prefer the lower temp am i mistaken or would it perhaps be best to give the guppies back to the store as I know no one else that has an aquarium and would want them, don't see the point in having an unhappy fish.
<If the Guppies are fine, don't worry about raising the temperature. But if you find you're having a constant battle against Finrot and Fungus, then things like temperature, pH, hardness, and potentially salinity are things to review.>
ROFL and going from no tanks since I was 12, to 3 tanks (Cray fish tank, this tank, and a warm water tank) in 4 months seems a little extreme.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Am I simply thinking doom and gloom? Now Mastacembelid ID... -- 08/14/09
Thank you for your previous answers
... pet store was going out of business got a small guppy only tank about 7 gallons *hangs head*, I couldn't resist (but the whole set up cost $7.89).
lol .
<Hmm... bit small, really.>
However another question (your soon going to want to break my fingers) do you know of any sites that show juvenile eels?
<"Eels" covers a lot of ground. To start with, virtually all the fish in the hobby are not eels at all. The five likely alternatives are as follows:
[1] Moray eels; typically brackish water species like Gymnothorax tile, and don't live long in freshwater. Often wriggle out of tanks. [2] Spiny eels; freshwater fish, difficult to maintain without a sandy substrate and lots of live/wet-frozen foods; notorious escape artists! Can be easily distinguished by their pointed snouts, large eyes, and the series of sharp spines along their backs. Most common species are Macrognathus siamensis, Mastacembelus erythrotaenia, and what the hobby calls Mastacembelus armatus, likely a group of species including Mastacembelus favus. [3] The Ropefish, Erpetoichthys calabaricus. Armour-plated with a green body and orange belly. Tiny eyes and very small pectoral fins. Long and thin, and has a dozen or so tiny dorsal fins along its back. Even better at escaping from tanks than Spiny Eels. [4] Kuhli loaches, various species such as Pangio kuhlii; orange and brown, small, excellent community fish, but shy and social, and must be kept in groups of 3+ specimens. Often jump out of tanks. [5] Swamp Eels, such as Synbranchus marmoratus. Most distinctive feature is their single gill slit, running from "ear to ear" rather than the two gill slits, one on each side, seen on other fish. Very worm-like:
no pectoral or ventral fins, other fins much reduced. Invariably grow big, are highly predatory, dangerous even to the fishkeeper. Not recommended for home aquaria.>
I have tried repeatedly to look at pictures of younger eels but can't seem to see any sites that compare pictures :( It's hard to tell by looking at the adults. So far my eel looks closest to the Asian swamp eel (not a true eel), don't want to panic till I find out for sure ... looks like I am going to go eel hunting at 3 am ... the only time I've seen him/her out of the rocks. It has a fairly snake like head (blunt), no top (dorsal?) fin and a flattened tail (buries himself tail first and never leaves the gravel except at night (don't know how he isn't starving....), is a light grey on top and almost white at the bottom transition from one colour to the next is fairly smooth. Difficult to describe when I have only seen it twice and as soon as he sees me he digs right in.
<Spiny Eels are probably the most common eels, so do review these. Apart from Kuhli loaches, none are easy to keep, and Spiny Eels especially are extremely difficult to feed and prone to bacterial infections when kept in tanks with gravel. A photo will help me identify your fish.>
Thanks again
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Am I simply thinking doom and gloom?-- 08/14/09
Already wrote you about the new tank ... *sigh* It's too small ... say hello to my new quarantine tank lol. So you don't need to include the guppy stuff but would still like to know about the previous eel question.
<Oops. Oh well. Yes, a 7-gallon tank would make a useful quarantine/treatment tank. I have an 8-gallon open-topped tank on a windowsill and grow plants, shrimps, and a few gobies (Australian Desert Gobies) in there. It's unheated, the sunlight warming the tank enough in summer to keep the fish happy as well as stimulating plant growth. It's slightly brackish so the gobies are happy, but not so salty the snails,
shrimps or plants seem to mind. So there are things you can do with small tanks, you just have to be creative. Cheers, Neale.>

air, filtration - 06/05/09
Hi, I've been combing through the FAQ's to understand a few things. Here are a couple of questions I'm asking as a result of water cloudiness, but first the basic facts:
1) 29 gallon freshwater, live plants, set up about 4-5 months ago.
2) Fish: 3 pearl Gourami, 5 silver tipped tetra; 4-5 platy's (a few juveniles) ; 2 tiger Gourami;
<Am wondering what species this is>
Water got cloudy last week.
No obvious changes at that time. I added the 2 bigger Gourami several weeks ago (although they are same size about as pearls right now). I do a 10% water change about every 1-2 weeks. I change the disposable filter (chemical) every 3 weeks (about). I've never rinsed the sponge (thought I wasn't supposed to do that). I vacuum bottom with siphon about every week to 10 days with water changes.
<I'd be changing out a larger percentage... weekly>
Current readings: pH is at about 6.5; KH about 20ppm; Hardness 75; Nitrite -0; Nitrate steady at about 40ppm;
<Mmm, too high by about twice>
ammonia-0. I have added the salts you previously recommended, Malawi salts, 1/4 to 1/3 strength recommended to try and raise pH, it hasn't worked so far (after a 2-3 months). By the way, the tap water readings are: pH- 7.2; KH -40-80;
<Mmm... are the plants making the water soft/er?>
Hardness slightly lower than tank. I use a dip stick for these readings except for ammonia, i have a test kit.
So questions:
1) Am I supposed to add oxygen to the water with an air pump?
<Shouldn't be necessary... though redundancy is a good idea... with the number and kinds of fishes listed, the tank size, shape>
2) I've just bought (haven't opened yet) a new filtration system-don't trust the one that came with the tank which I think is a Tetra. The new one is an AquaClear. 200 gph
<Both good units I'd warrant>
3) I started doing some extra water changes, and changed the filter again thinking it was perhaps clogged, but now I'm afraid to change anything in case I destroy or remove too much of the friendly bacteria. Do I continue to do 10% or more water changes more often, how often?
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2ochgs.htmV>
I vacuum with siphon pump 1x/week or so. And, is it okay to add the live bacteria one can buy in a bottle to support that system if I'm making all these changes?
<Should be unnecessary... What sorts of foods are you offering? And how much? Likely the root cause here>
Thank you so much. I'm quite impressed with your commitment and energy for this!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>  

Fish foraging and pooping too much? pls help  3/8/09 Dear WetWebCrew, I have a really strange fish question. <Hello.> Sorry for the long note but I'm not sure how much info you all need. We recently set up our new 30 gallon tank. It has an Eheim eco pro canister filter rated for 500 ltrs per hour. As the tank is new, we are lightly stocked with 3 juvenile red and white "Koi swordtails" as they are called here (Singapore) and three juvenile tuxedo platys and one male Betta (yes, we are aware of the compatibility issues so we are keeping a watch on the mixed company). <Just so you know to be careful...!> The tank also has rocks, bogwood and plants. The plants include Anubias, java fern and a floating plant with a long stem and smallish filaments that I believe is hornwort (I don't know exactly for sure as I have to look up all the names of plants we get as here no one is familiar with the English names of plants or the scientific names either). The java fern and Anubias are on one of the bogwood pieces and the java appears to be migrating to one of the bare pieces of wood so it appears the tank at this stage can support different types of life. Some of the 'hornwort' is fixed to rocks/wood and the rest is floating. I tested the water parameters yesterday evening and there was no detectable ammonia, nitrite or nitrate. I did about a 20 percent water change the day before yesterday. <OK.> The Betta was an existing fish that we had and he was added to the tank a week ago last Friday, after the set up had been running fishless for a week and a half. Four of the livebearers were added last Saturday, one day after the Betta. Yesterday, we added one more female platy and a male Koi swordtail to balance out the sex ratio. There are two females per 1 male of each species. <Good.> The fish, especially those added a week ago, appear content and are doing A LOT of foraging and pooping. Too much, in my view. <Swordtails (Xiphophorus helleri) and Platies (Xiphophorus maculatus) are both herbivores. In the wild, they feed mostly on algae and organic detritus. They are "programmed" to constantly nibble away at organic matter, and as a result will be feeding a lot of the time, and yes indeed, defecating a lot as inedible material is passed out. A common mistake made by aquarists is to assume these fish are carnivores. While they certainly do eat things like insect larvae, these are relatively minor part of their diet. So focus on algae, cooked spinach, cooked peas, and other green foods. Also, bear in mind that these are both relatively cool water fish (22-24 degrees C) and when kept too warm they have a faster, shorter life. Kept too warm they will eat more food than you'd expect because their body clock is running that bit faster. Keeping Xiphophorus species too warm is another common mistake. Because of their differences in temperature requirements, mixing them with Betta species isn't really a good idea.> The two female Koi swordtails and one of the female platys (those that were added a week ago) are foraging almost constantly, eating little bits of plant matter and other stuff that I can't see. The male swordtail is also starting to forage and poop a lot too (as of today - 1 day after acquisition) like the girls. They are doing this with great gusto and just about all day long. The male platy and one of the female platys are foraging and pooping somewhat less. The male, in particular, seems more interested in mating, which probably explains the differences in behavior. Now what worries me is that the mega foraging is also going along with mega pooping. They are pooping constantly. Some of what they are pooping definitely looks like there's some hornwort in it. It's fine with us, if they eat it; it's around 80 cents a bundle here and anyway these plants seem to replenish even if they are picked on by the fish. It isn't the nibbling itself that's got me wondering; it's that they are doing it so much and so much pooping. Yesterday, I cut back on the feedings (normally give small amounts 2x a day) and this morning I carefully measured out about 2-3 small flakes per fish which would not be overfeeding to see if that would reduce the pooping but it hasn't. The poop looks like normal livebearer poop (if there is such a thing) dark colored, mostly solid looking except for what I assume are some plant filaments) - it's not the very stringy or whitish stuff that many aquarists worry about. but wow, the pooping is going on constantly; one of the female swords in particular; what goes in one end seems to come out the other! I feed the Betta separately. He swims to the front of the tank and I measure out what he needs and drop in in front of his nose so there isn't a major food competition problem. And the Betta isn't foraging (they don't do this much anyway) or pooping too much - to the contrary I rarely see our Bettas pooping. <Betta spp. are indeed carnivores that feed mostly on insect larvae and zooplankton, so very different to Xiphophorus spp.> We have another livebearer tank (abt 16 gallon; heavily stocked; with a HOB filter) that has been running for about a year so though we still novices, we do have some experience with livebearers. It also has the same plants minus the java fern. Now from what I know and have seen with these fish (mollies, platys, swordtails) is that they do forage even after feedings and eat a variety of foods. But they don't forage ALL DAY long and they don't poop all day long either though they certainly poop more than the other fish we have kept like tetras and Bettas. We feed our livebearers different types of flakes, mini pellets, sprinkles of ground Spirulina and they also scrounge around to find bits of algae and other organic matter and leftover tidbits invisible to us. As of now in both our tanks, the fish appear to be well with good colours and activity level but I am really worried about the potentially excessive foraging and pooping in the new tank. We have 3 inch female "green swords" (look very much like the wild fish) in our other tank and even they don't forage and poop all day long. Any ideas? Should I worry? I'm kicking myself in a way. My son wants to keep some sort of "sucker" fish or fishes, which don't make the best fish for starting a new tank, and I wanted to try a "community tank" since my husband already has his livebearer "colony tank" and I had originally planned to avoid livebearers all together because for their size they are pretty messy but then my husband talked me into the Koi swordtails as I really love that particular variety; we had some before but we lost the ones we had previously to unknown ailments (probably bacterial in all but one case but fish antibiotics aren't available here to my knowledge). I suspect that genetically they may not be the strongest fish out there but I was willing to give them another try. I love Koi carp but we can't have them so we settle for "Koi swordtails" which are also cute when viewed from the top with their bicolors. I just wish mine didn't poop all day long. the ones we had previously were also robust feeders when well. As I recall they did forage quite a bit but I know that they weren't pooping as much as these juveniles Anyhow, thanks for reading and I hope you can help. I find the situation weird and quite worrying and definitely not what I want. It's hard to imagine so much poop from just a few 1 1/2 inch fish. Many thanks from Singapore, Carol <In itself not really a problem. Watch, observe and unless you see actual signs of ill-health, e.g., weight loss, don't worry. Cheers, Neale.>

I need stability! (RMF, query needs something on Earthquakes in CA!) 12/22/08 I need some help with stability in my FW tank. <Oh?> Here is some background to my tank I have: 20 gal freshwater tank up and running for 7 mo.s (I upgraded from a 10gal that was a pain in the butt to keep stable and clean, I used the same filter media and the top layer of gravel to cycle the 20 gal). <Indeed, 10 gallon tanks are a BAD place to start.> Total fish experience over 1 yr. Most of what I know is straight from your website, Thank You! <Most welcome.> Ammonia and Nitrite: 0 Nitrates never go above 30 ppm. <Fine.> Tank PH GH and KH, are posted further on. Filtration: hanging 20 whisper no carbon and a 1 inch bubble wand with med sized bubbles. <OK.> Temp: 79-82 (The temp doesn't vary on a day to day basis, it will vary slightly over a week time period). <Bit warm for most fish. Contrary to popular misconception, most tropical fish don't need to be "boiled". 25 C/77 F is adequate for the majority, and many (for example Neons, Platies, Swordtails and Corydoras) actually do better (live longer) in cooler conditions around 23 C / 75 F. The hotter water gets, the less oxygen it contains, but the fish's metabolism rises, so you can easily reach a crisis point where fish die for no apparent reason, or so it seems...> Lighting: 2-36 watt compact fluorescent bulb on for 10 hrs/day, total darkness for at least 8 hrs, the rest of the time is either sunrise or sunset (the cardinals love to play during sunset). Feeding: 2 small pinches of flake 2x/day, and every other night I feed either live black worms or frozen bloodworms (I float the guppies in a container until the very end of feeding so the bumblebee gobies have a chance). <Cool!> I break up 1 wafer 1x/day at night for the Pleco. And at 2x/wk I put zucchini in instead of wafers overnight (the swords love those nights). <Livebearers do indeed enjoy -- require! -- green foods. Most are mostly algae-eaters in the wild, contrary to this idea they go around eating insect larvae all day. They don't. Platies and Mollies are practically herbivorous in the wild.> No food goes to waste with the Corys and Malaysian snails Plants and Decorations: Live Med planted tank with various types of plants (I am experimenting with what will work with a lower ph and flourishes well in my tank). 1/3 of the tank is a forest (Sword Wendtii and Water sprite with Anacharis) for the cardinals and resting area for the Corys. As well as: Rotala indica; Unknown, Looks like a giant baby tears with a slight red hue; Red-Spot Ozelot; and a Borneo Fern. A cave made of plastic takes up 1/3 of the tank, and a piece of driftwood (that I boiled 3 times and let soak for 3 days). Livestock: 7 guppies 2M, 3 full grown Swordtails 1M, 5 bumblebee gobies, 6 Corys, 8 cardinals, 1 royal Pleco (3inches), some guppy and swordtail fish fry in a net (1-7weeks old) and many Malaysian trumpet snails. <Bit of a mix though, so temperature is tricky; would recommend no more than 25-26 C (77-79 F). Your Panaque will get enormous, and I will tell you from personal experience (I have had one the last 15 years) that your plants will be hammered. They don't eat all plants, but Echinodorus and Anubias for example get turned into Swiss Cheese Plants as they rasp for algae.> All fry are thriving and I haven't lost one of them, my LFS will be getting donations soon. <Heh!> I know Im heavily stocked, I watch water quality (under 30ppm Nitrates) keeping up on maintenance weekly or more, and everyone gets along very well with each other. Substrate: Eco complete (about 2+ in) and a thin top layer (.5 inch) of medium sized brown gravel cover ¾ of the floor. The Corys like to dig around in the eco complete, so I leave some exposed for them. Maintenance: Vacuum very top 1 inch layer of gravel every 2 weeks and service filter every week or 2 (whenever the flow decreases slightly I squeeze the bio bag and the bio mesh in tank water to get debris out of both, replacing the bio bag about once every 3 months). Weekly water changes of 5-8 gal. <That's a generous quarter to a third, which is pretty good, provided the outgoing water more or less matches the water left in the tank. If you're finding that isn't the case, then do smaller, but more frequent, water changes; say, 10-15% every 3-4 days.> Early next year I will be upgrading to a 70 or 90 gal to maybe add a pair of discus to the group (or start with 5 juvies and find a pair). <Six is honestly the magic number with Discus; keep that number, and they'll "swarm" nicely.> Or just a 46-55 gal for everyone I have now, I really love the discus though. <Need a LOT of heat, and as such incompatible with most Corydoras species, as well as Platies/Swordtails. Think about habitats, and that's a good clue.> Water Changes: Weekly water changes of 5-8 gallons pre heated not aerated stored for 4-7 days I used 4gal Crystal geyser, and 2-3 gal RO. Until I had a PH crash. Tap water parameters: PH: 8, 8.4dGH, 10dKH, SoCal tapwater, no ammonia and no nitrite or nitrates, If I use tap, I let that sit out for 4-7days, and condition with: Kordon NovAqua+ Plus Water Conditioner and Kordon's Amquel plus. <No real need to "sit" water if you're using a good conditioner. Simply aerating for half an hour should mix it great. I don't even do that. Add conditioner under running tap, let the splashing work for you!> RO water is from a Aqua refill station, for 30 cents a gallon (up from 25 cents, even the price of water is rising!) Crystal Geyser: 7.0 PH, 4.2dGH, 5.0dKH. (This is about where I want my tank parameters) <You have less carbonate hardness than general hardness? That's unusual. In any case, it's always critical to focus on carbonate hardness above all else, because it's the "key" to water chemistry. The big secret is that fish will adapt to a range of conditions. Most tropical fish will do just fine from pH 6 to 8, hardness 3-20 degrees dH. There are exceptions (like the livebearers) but barbs, tetras, catfish etc all fit this pattern. What NO fish will put up with is changes in water chemistry, and that's where KH comes into it. The higher the KH, the more stable water chemistry. A carbonate hardness of, say, 5 degrees KH will provide generally rock solid water chemistry, from week to week the pH will drop very little, if at all. That's why I call hard water a "blessing in disguise". Many people assuming soft water is better. It can be, if breeding is your thing. But for regular, decorative fishkeeping where you want a bunch of fish doing their thing, then "liquid rock" is fine. Your fish will thrive, once they're adapted. Apart from your Cardinals, which genuinely do prefer water that isn't too hard, under 3 degrees KH ideally, all your other fish either require (livebearers, gobies) or accept happily (catfish) high levels of carbonate hardness. This does of course leave you with the problem of what to do with the Cardinals, but if you alter conditions slowly, they'll adapt, and should they survive that, they'll be fine. You can always put them in the Discus tank!> My goal, 6.8- 7.0 PH, and alkalinity and hardness high enough to keep my water stable. KH minimum 4-5dKH, I figure. <5 degrees KH tends to be around pH 7.5, and ideal level for generic community fish and ESSENTIAL for livebearers in the long term.> Here is my problem: I had a PH crash in my tank, PH less than 6, 4.0dGH, and 2.25 dKH, ahh! Which I figure was from my driftwood, natural decomposing of organic material, and from my plants as well; all those leading to not having enough carbonate hardness for stability (I was using bottled water and too much RO at a 3:2 ratio also). <I'd recommend nothing more than 50:50 mixes of hard and deionised water. That's how I keep mine, using "liquid rock" from the tap and rainwater collected outside. Works fine. In all seriousness, the pH doesn't matter, so long as its steady. Think of an aircraft, and the pH as the colour of the tail fin, and carbonate hardness as the engines. Which is more important? In life, focusing on the essentials is what matters. Browse Fishbase, and you'll see most fish have a wide tolerance in terms of water chemistry, but what they hate are changes.> After reading up (at least 5 hrs worth of reading on your site) to understand GH and KH, I did 50/50 RO/tap at 5 gal total with 1 tsp of baking soda and did exactly what I didn't want, I ended up with PH 7.0, 4.2dGH, 5.25 dKH, but I guess since the tank had such a low alkalinity, it did a dramatic change during the water change. <Sounds fine. If your livebearers show signs of fungus or anything, feel free to nudge the carbonate hardness up a wee bit more; most do best around pH 7.5> So far I haven't lost any fish, but they are stressed, 2 F guppies and one F sword are still stressed. They have a little bit of excess slime and hang on the surface with dorsal fin clamped 50% of the day (not good) <Classic symptoms of "shock". All else being equal, they'll settle. Do check nitrite as well, to make sure the filter isn't unhappy.> So, I had no problems before when I was using Bottled water and RO (4:1 ratio) to keep my PH around 6.8ish and all else stable (with out the driftwood). Everyone was happy and reproducing on a monthly basis (extra live food for everyone), and water was stable, until now'¦.. Since I changed from using Bottled water and RO, to Tap water and RO (to provide more hardness and pay less per gallon), my fish have been flashing. I leave the tap water to sit for almost a week and treat with water conditioner listed above before using, but it seems as if there is something else in the water (I had this problem before which is why I switched to Crystal Geyser) Do you have any idea of what could be in my water that would irritate the fish??? <Likely just the pH changes. But consider all the usual things as well: parasites (esp. velvet, Whitespot); nitrite/ammonia.> Could it be fluoride? Iron? Copper? Lead, or some other metal that carbon doesn't filter out? and water conditioner doesn't neutralize? I cant drink my tap, aside from the taste, I have a sensitive stomach and if I drink it all day I will have stomach pains. <Wow. Still, lots of people in California keep fish just fine. Ask your retailer what they do.> I do have weights on the base of some plants, I don't think that is the problem since it happens only when I use tap water. <Those lead weights shouldn't be toxic, and certainly not an non-acidic pH levels.> I placed about 1 tblsp of carbon in the filter when I noticed the flashing, and no improvements over the next 2 days. <Carbon removes dissolved organic chemicals and, if I recall correctly, iodine, neither of which is likely the issue here.> So I did a 5 gal water change with only bottled water, things improved slightly, but the guppies and swords were still irritated. So I did another 5 gal bottled water only water change. And the flashing became minimal, but I do still see it sometimes. Since I am having problems with my tap water I would like to just use RO water and put the minerals back into the water (to a desired PH, GH, and KH) so I know exactly what is in my water, and I don't have to spend a dollar/gal. <Seriously, I'd be keeping these fish in 100% tap water, treated with dechlorinator, and figuring out what did well. The livebearers and gobies should thrive, and the catfish shouldn't care less. The Cardinals are the only fish that aren't wild about hard water. Do contact your water supplier, and also make sure you AREN'T using water from a domestic water softener. These replace calcium salts with sodium salts: fine for washing machines, very bad for fish.> I do aerate the water now a day before the change. I bought: A vitamin supplement for the fish (Kent Freshwater Essentials) and a Kent Iron supplement (I have always used this)for the plants as well as'¦. Neutral Regulator from Seachem Powder, ph 7.0 (to help maintain PH and mainly KH, added 1 day before a water change). Does this help with alkalinity like baking soda with out a major ph shift? <It's just a chemical buffer. Same principle, just "steadies" the pH to 7 rather than around 7.5-8.0. Mostly pointless for general fishkeeping.> And Kent Liquid RO Right (to help with GH and other minerals, added 1 day before the water change). This states that I would have to electronically measure GH if using this product and that my Jungle 6 in 1 test strips won't work. When I did my 3rd water change after the tap water disaster with this new water, I couldn't measure GH in the replacement water. I don't like not being able to measure something. I also added ½ tsp of salt to help with stress. (1tsp/ten gal) Should I look into a conductivity or TDS meter for GH? Which is better and more accurate? <Way too much work...> What levels should I aim for at minimum on GH and KH for stability? <5 degrees KH and around 10-20 degrees GH is about right for a wide variety of tropical fish.> I am finding as the week progresses I am loosing alkalinity and the ph drops by .5 to .8 (yikes!), should I get crushed coral and put just a little bit in the filter to offset what I loose in Alkalinity and PH during the week? Have you heard of Wonder Shells? Is the Seachem Neutral Regulator doing enough to help with KH? What do you recommend to maintain KH stability? and to reconstitute RO water? <If you have hard water out the tap, then adding carbonate to the system in the form of coral sand or whatever is redundant. If you want to use a hard water/soft water blend, then putting, say, half a cup of crushed coral in a media bag and popping it into a canister filter is fine. But understand that any chemical media needs cleaning and replacing: once covered with algae and bacteria it can't work -- think of the candy coating around the chocolate of an M&M. The carbonate is the chocolate, the bacteria are the candy. Can the chocolate get out? No.> I would take the drift wood out of the tank, but the royal Pleco eats it, and I want to have more in my larger tank when I upgrade (I love natural wood). <In tanks with hard water, carbonate hardness 5 degrees KH and upwards, moderate amounts of wood should have no effect, assuming they've been properly cured. If the water is turning brown overnight, then the wood may not be cured (carbon removes the colour, and this can distort this test). Some retailers sell uncured wood. You'll need to cure the wood yourself, which is easiest done by sticking the wood in the cistern of a lavatory and letting it leach its tannins into the flushing water. After 6 months, or whenever the water runs clear, you're done!> A couple of more questions'¦ If I completely cover the bottom with plants, do I need to vacuum the gravel? <Carefully run the hose across the plants when you're doing water changes. No need to stir the gravel (the snails will do that magnificently) but certainly wiggling your fingers about to dislodge dead leaves and bits of muck is useful.> What plants are good for ground cover? <All sorts. I find small Cryptocoryne species easiest and they tend not to be too badly damaged by Panaque. Anything smaller, like Echinodorus tenellus, will be destroyed by Panaque catfish, unless the catfish is still very tiny.> I wouldn't mind getting a 90gal, but I need to streamline water changes, how do I get the water from a Rubbermaid trash can to the tank? <I'd recommend storing water in a butt raised above floor level. Use the tap to release water into a bucket. Well, this is what I do anyway.> What kind of pump do I need? <Most any canister filter or powerhead should do this. If you have a canister filter rigged up as purely mechanical filtration, then after rinsing the media, blast through a bunch of fresh water by putting the inlet hose in the stored water and the outlet hose in the tank.> Are fiberglass tanks better than glass? Im guessing fiberglass is less likely to leak? <Are you sure you mean fibreglass? Tanks normally (here in England anyway) come in acrylic and glass flavours. Each has its pros and cons. Acrylic is right out though, because Panaque scratch plastics, making the tanks completely non-transparent (they look like frosted glass!).> Last question, this is a good one for Bob since he is in So Ca as well. Earthquake straps, I know I would have to custom make them, does anyone have any suggestions that are relatively easy make? <Let RMF answer this.><<I encourage a few things here... One, to "brace" likely movement in three dimensions... that is, to wedge stands/supports in front/back and to the sides, as well as provide substantial, redundant strength underneath... I would not strap anything down, as if/when the ground moves, the tank/s need to be able to shift along with whatever they're placed on top of. I would like to also mention the use of "lips" around the bases of tanks to facilitate all moving in tandem, and my misgivings re placing tanks, especially of "high profile" on high settings... as if these are to fall, it's better that there is less height for them to do so. RMF>> I almost lost my 20 gal in our last earthquake of 5.6, so I worry about a 90 gal (plus I don't think my landlord would appreciate 90gal on the carpet). Sorry for the length, I figured too much detail is better than too little. I really hate to see my fish stressed out. Thank you to everyone that takes the time to answer everyone's questions on this site (Im sure my fish would say the same as well). I wonder how many thousands of fishy lives you all have helped to save, or make their life better through knowledge?? It is so nice to get advice from people with years of experience and no interest in trying sell something (except for maybe those Rubbermaid Brute Trashcans ;-) ). Happy Holidays! Banjo <Cheers, Neale.>

Stinky tank  12/18/08 Hello, I have 2 tanks in my house, both are freshwater. We initially started out with a 10 gallon, but then upgraded to a 20. When we upgraded I washed out the 10 gallon one and set it aside to sell. Well, my 2 daughters decided they would like the 10 gallon in their room. So, I replaced the filter cartridges, bought new gravel as I had used the old gravel in my new tank, added water and cycle brand chemicals. We put in 5 small male guppies and 1 frog. All the fish seem to be doing fine (and the frog), but their tank stinks so bad. It smells really strongly of fish. I know this isn't normal, my other tank doesn't stink. It is now causing their room to stink. The water is clear, fish are fine, just the stink. What is going on? I set it up about 1 week ago. Thanks Kacie <Kacie, if the tank smells, it is surely being over-fed or under-cleaned. While the filter might keep the water safe, it might not be able to cope with the sheer amount of much in the gravel. Flake that doesn't fall in the water, but gets stuck in the plastic trimmings above the waterline will also rot and smell. You are correct in saying a normal fish tank doesn't smell; at most, there's a greenhouse-like "sweet water" smell. Ten gallons isn't a big tank, and smaller than I'd recommend for Guppies, but even so, 5 guppies shouldn't be creating so much mess the tank would stink. Likely the kids are overfeeding the fish or not cleaning the tank adequately. Do of course check the water quality: ammonia and nitrite levels above zero are a sure sign of overfeeding, under-filtering, and generally bad maintenance. Cheers, Neale.>

Filter Slime, FW    12/10/08 Hello All! Just a simple and easy question this time! I have a 60 gallon long tank w/ 2 Whisper 60 filters. I've had the tank for over a year. Anyways on to the question: I was just curious ... Every time I do a water change and rinse my filters there is always this brownish slimy gunk on my filter media and in the intake tubes and on the overflow outlet of the HOB filters. I've always had it since I first setup my tank. Every time I pull the filters out to rinse them some of this slime flows into the tank. I was just wondering what this is and if its harmful to my fish. Thanks guys (and gals)! - Nick - <No it's not harmful, and yes, it's quite normal. It's mostly bacteria with a bit of decomposing organic matter and inorganic silt throw in for good measure. You can buy bottle-brush type cleaners for scraping pipes and hoses clean. Fluval, Eheim and all the usual brands sell them. Never bothered myself. Freshwater waters are typically laden with silt, and the fish are quite used to it. In fishkeeping, it's important to remember that it's the invisible stuff -- ammonia and nitrite -- that harm the fish, not the stuff you can see -- like silt or solid wastes. So long as you have good biological filtration and a steady pH, most everything else looks after itself! Cheers, Neale.>

Slime build up   12/10/08 Btw ... My tank is a FW tank. Here's a pic of what it looks like now. And here's my fish list: 2 Bamboo Shrimp 4 Black Neon Tetras 2 Cardinal Tetras 5 Dwarf Golden Puffers 1 Dwarf Gourami 8 Emperor Tetras 4 German Blue Rams 2 Mickey Mouse Platys 10 Neon Tetras 3 Otocinclus Catfish 3 Peacock Gudgeons 2 Swordtails <Tank looks nice. Not convinced the Golden Puffers will work out in the long term: they're notorious biters. It's also time to beef up some of those groups: two or four tetras does not a school make! Six of each, at least, please! Peacock gudgeons are great. Ram cichlids, likely won't work in the long term; they need MUCH hotter water than Neons or Otocinclus will tolerate, so either the Rams will get sick and die (weakened immune system) or the Neons and Otocinclus will become stressed and die (too warm). There's not much of a happy medium between what warm water and cool water tetras want; but at about 25 C (77 F) you will be at the MAXIMUM than Neons will take and the MINIMUM that Cardinals will accept. It's really a case of choose one, but not both, when it comes to Neons and Cardinals. Platies and Swordtails also need quite cool conditions, particularly by contrast with Guppies and Mollies, which thrive on warmth! Getting the temperature wrong is one of those slow burning mistakes people make; while the fish don't keel over at once, you will find fish dying much quicker than they should. So instead of lasting 2-3 years, as Neons should, you'll find them dying off, one at a time, every couple of months. By the way, there is ZERO chance Dario or Badis spp would work in here. If you want an oddball Perciform, you're much better off looking at one of the smaller anabantids, perhaps Microctenopoma fasciolatum or maybe Betta unimaculata, though these larger Betta species can sometimes be surprisingly predatory. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Slime build up   12/10/08 Hey Neale thanks for the quick response as always. I am writing this in response to the temp comment you sent me. Here is a list of temps for the fish in my tank that I have found. As you stated, my tank is currently at 77F. I was considering turning it up to 80F. (Oxygen is not an issue I would think bc I have the 2 Whisper 60 filters, 1 Mag drive power head, and 3 airstones in my tank). Bamboo Shrimp: 70-80 Black Neon Tetras: 74-80 Cardinal Tetras: 75-84 Dwarf Golden Puffers: 72-82 Dwarf Gourami: 72-82 Emperor Tetras: 72-82 German Blue Rams: 78-85 Mickey Mouse Platys: 68-79 Neon Tetras: 73-79 ; 68-85 (min/max can tolerate) Otocinclus Catfish: 70-80 Peacock Gudgeons: 72-82 Swordtails: 70-80 As I said in a past email I sent you, I have not bought up to 6 of each tetra bc the cardinals school with the tetras, and the black Neons school w/ my emperors so I didn't see it as an issue. If it still is I will address it. In terms of the puffers ... YES absolutely they have been nipping at my emperors BUT I had 2 @ that time. AFTER I added 3 more (to make 5 bc I read on the internet they were less aggressive in groups) my emperors have shown 0 signs of fin nipping at all. In terms of the tetras and rams, its possible you are right about the rams; I won't know till they die, but the rams and Neons are all over a year old (in my tank age b4 purchase is unknown) I have not had any die at all. But if you are suggesting that I need to change something, I have no problem getting all cardinals instead of Neons and getting rid of the swordtails if that's what I have to do to raise the temp for the others and be able to purchase the badis badis. <Nick, the temperature range is informative, but the place to keep a fish isn't at its extremes but at the centre of its tolerance range. That's where you'll get best results. Hence Platies certainly do best around 75 F/24 C, gouramis around 77 F/25 C, cardinals around 82 F/28 C, and so on. In the wild Neons experience water temperature up to 25 C and down to around 22 C, so they're very much cool-tropical fish compared with Rams, which live in shallow, sun baked pools where temperatures between 28-30 C are typical. Each species evolved for specific conditions, and you abuse those requirements at your peril. If things are fine, then I have no problem with that. What I'm trying to say is that you're not keeping all your fish at their ideal conditions, and so you're more likely to encounter various health problems or overall shortness of life. On the whole aquarists tend to keep their fish too warm, which not only causes problems, but also wastes money (and increases global warming, I suppose!). Cheers, Neale.> Re: Slime build up   12/10/08 Also, I'm not too worried about the puffers bc after Christmas they will b moved to a 30 gallon puffer only tank <Okay. Cheers, Neale.>

Scavenger Question   8/21/08 Hello Crew, <Hello,> I would like to know some suggestions for scavengers in my fish tank. <Stop. If you NEED scavengers, you are overfeeding. A properly maintained tank has NO NEED for scavengers. Indeed, expecting any fish to survive by "scavenging" is unrealistic. Bottom feeding fish like Corydoras need their own supply of good quality food, ideally offered at a time of day when other fish can't eat it before them, typically at night.> It has angels, platys, zebra Danios, and a Gourami. <Your Platies should happily be pecking away at the algae in the tank, and in the process will consume any uneaten food they find, assuming said food isn't rotten.> I don't want to go with snails but i don't know which kinds of loaches or catfish can tolerate the aquarium salt i put in the water. <Why are you putting salt in the water? None of these fish need salt, and long term some of them will be stressed by it. At best, adding salt is wasting your money. If you feel the need to fritter away your money, can I suggest you sprinkle the salt on the sidewalk, making pretty patterns. It will do much less harm there than in your FRESHWATER aquarium. The recommendation to add salt is old school and made (some) sense when we (the hobby) didn't really understand about water quality. Salt reduces the toxicity of nitrite and nitrate. But in a properly maintained tank you should have zero nitrite and less than 50 mg/l nitrate, so these chemicals aren't a problem. A lot of inexperienced fishkeepers get told by retailer to add "a teaspoon of salt per gallon" or some nonsense. This dosage will have no appreciable effect on parasites or bacteria, and the idea it's a "tonic" is garbage. Now, guess who recommends using salt? Correct: the salt manufacturers and retailers! Wake up and smell the coffee... you are being taken for a ride here. Even allowing for the waste of your money, salt places an osmoregulatory stress on freshwater fish. Your Platies won't care being quite salt-tolerant anyway, but the Danios, Cichlids and Gouramis are all true freshwater fish with limited tolerance for salt, and over time things like Dropsy are more likely to develop than otherwise. So stop with the salt!> Also, the leader Danio likes to chase my platys and the other Danios around. It sometimes (rarely) nips my veiltail angel's fins. How can i get rid of this problem? I have 5 Danios. <Danios when kept in too-small a group become nippy. It's what they do, and it's widely stated in decent (modern) aquarium books. End of discussion. Keep them in bigger groups and in a tank large enough that they can burn off their energy without getting frustrated. I'd consider 5 too few, and would recommend you double that number. That would of course mean the tank would have to be big enough for them, and certainly not less than 90 cm/3' in length. Danios just AREN'T fish for "small tanks". They are big and they are active.> Thanks <Cheers, Neale.>

Re:  Scavenger Question 8/22/08 Then should my tank have NO aquarium salt at all? <If you're keeping freshwater, then no, you don't need to add salt. That's why they're called "freshwater fish"!> I've noticed that before i started to add aquarium salt to my tanks my fish died constantly but now they don't die after i started adding salt. <Salt detoxifies nitrite and nitrate. So if you have an aquarium with poor water quality, then adding salt can help -- at least in the short to medium term. But in the long term salt causes problems (for example, Malawi Bloat, which happens when non-salt tolerant cichlids are exposed to salt). Hence your job is to get water quality right by stocking sensibly, not overfeeding, and having a mature filter that's up to the job at hand. Adding salt is the equivalent of fixing a crack in a wall by painting over it. You hide the symptoms, but the problems are still there, potentially getting worse...> The water quality was and is fine but they still died without the salt. <Post hoc ergo propter hoc? Simply because two things happen coincidentally in time doesn't actually mean they're connected. Pick up any aquarium book and you'll see no mention of adding salt to the water of standard community fish. Why? Because on balance it does less good than harm. But good water quality, and understanding water chemistry, is very important.> Also, how are goldfish affected by it? <Carassius species including Carassius auratus are relatively salt tolerant and do occur in slightly brackish water. That said, they live and breed best in hard, alkaline freshwater.> Thanks <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Scavenger Question 8/22/08 Okay, I stopped the addition of aquarium salt into my aquarium. I would like to add bottom feeders. Since there still may be a little salt left in the water after the water change, is it still safe to add catfish or loaches to my tank? <Probably, yes. As ever, acclimate new livestock carefully.> If so, which loaches or catfish can get along with angelfish, Gourami, zebra Danios, and platys? I have food like algae tablets and such that they can consume. <Corydoras would be the best bets. Many species, ranging from the cheap and cheerful Bronze and Peppered Corydoras (Corydoras aeneus and Corydoras paleatus) through to more expensive and finicky species like Corydoras panda and Corydoras robinae. Can't really go wrong with any of them provided the water is clean and not too warm (few Corydoras like temperatures above 25 degrees C/77 degrees F). They are gregarious, so keep a group of at least three and preferably 5 or more specimens of whichever species you get. Whiptail catfish (Rineloricaria and/or Hemiloricaria spp.) are also peaceful and good value, and might appeal to you if you want something quirky. They are gregarious as well, though the males are territorial. Basically hardy, but like Corydoras, they do not like very warm water. Eat some algae, but primarily omnivores that feed on invertebrates and thrive on good quality pellet/algae wafers. I have a great fondness for Synodontis nigriventris, a schooling dwarf catfish from Africa; my only reservation is that it is sometimes a fin-nibbler, and not recommended for keeping with Angels. Otherwise a hardy and fun catfish (though very shy if not kept in sufficient numbers).> Thanks <Cheers, Neale.>

Fish shock, FW... hlth.   08/18/2008 I recently added 3 new fish to my tropical tank, two are the exact same specie and the third is another variety of the same species. When I attempted to do my weekly gravel cleaning and water change I was removing decorations from the tank. The new fish swam quickly from the other side of the tank towards the decoration I was removing and slammed into it. Then he floated around the tank for about 20 min.s barely breathing before he fully recovered. I was wondering what I could do to reduce his stress, I wasn't moving fast while removing decorations. Should I get another fish of the same species, I know the pet store has one. I also noticed my female guppy changes colour when my tank light is out, she becomes pale but when the light comes back on she regains her colour. I've tested ammonia and nitrites and there are none. Is this normal for guppies to do, my other female doesn't seem to do this though. <No, it's not normal. You should certainly be doing everything you can to reduce stress on your fish while performing maintenance. There's no reason to remove all the ornaments and plants from a tank when cleaning it, assuming you're maintaining the tank in a sensible way. If you do 25-50% water changes per week (the correct amount/frequency) all you need to do is stir the gravel a bit with your fingers and suck up any detritus with the siphon as the water is taken out. The filter will handle everything else, assuming it's adequate to the tank (I recommend choosing filters that offer four times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour). Tanks only become dirty if they are too small for the fish concerned, massively overstocked, or completely under-maintained in terms of filtration and water changes. Take care that any water added to the tank is identical in chemistry and temperature to any water removed. Guppies do not like dramatic changes in pH, and the use of marine salt mix (rather than "tonic salt") at a low dose of around 3-6 grammes per litre will help here by adding buffering capacity to the water. Generally livebearers appreciate the addition of marine salt mix, but other types of tropical fish do not, so review any tankmates carefully before doing this. Do remember that Guppies need a tank at least 90 litres/20 gallons in size, with a proper filter. Males are aggressive towards one another and pester females, and in smaller tanks this aggression causes serious problems. So consider the size of the tank, as well as the availability of hiding places, particularly floating plants, before adding any more fish. You should always have twice as many females (at least) than males if you want to avoid behavioural problems. Cheers, Neale.>

Foam in New Freshwater setup 4/7/08 Hi Crew, I know I've been asking a lot of questions lately, but I'm just setting up a new 55 gal Malawi tank, and I've been having issues with water quality. I set up the tank say 4 days ago. I put flagstone in it to increase PH. It's been at around 8.4 (according to the inaccurate strip tests.) My water is VERY soft, and from the tap its around 6.4 PH. My major problem is that my water is foamy. The airstones create foam at the top of the tank, and the filter (whisper HOB) is even worse. Watching the water spill from the filter creates thousands of tiny bubbles in the water, that collect on the surface, and they don't go away! I've been told it's due to poor water quality, but I've tested Ammonia (0) Nitrite (0) Total Hardness (Immeasurably low) and PH (8.4). I need a good test kit for more accurate results, but I cant figure out what's up with the foam anyway. Any help would be greatly appreciated, as always. Regards, Ben <Hi Ben. Normally if you're finding a lot of foam in a freshwater aquarium, then the problem is almost certainly eutrophication. In other words, a mixture of high levels of nitrate/phosphate together with a burgeoning population of algae and other microbes. You've perhaps seen a similar foam if you've ever walked around a polluted river or lake. In any case, the solution is easy enough to grasp in principle: reduce the amount of "pollution" in the water and things should get better. However, I think you may have some other problems at work here. I'm assuming there are no fish in the aquarium yet? I hope so, because soft water simply isn't acceptable for Malawi cichlids. Remember, the issue with Malawi cichlids isn't pH -- they are actually fairly tolerant of a range of pH values from about 7.2 through to over 8.5 -- but the carbonate hardness (measured in degrees KH). Why? Because it's the carbonate hardness that keeps the pH steady, and *that* is what Malawi cichlids want. The precise value doesn't matter, it just shouldn't move. This is why I tell people not to focus on pH-up or pH-down products if they don't tell me what their carbonate hardness is first -- if they're messing about with pH and not carbonate hardness, then they clearly don't understand water chemistry. So let's rewind a little. Adding rocks to aquaria isn't an acceptable way to raise carbonate hardness. It's too slow, and too unreliable. It's easier and cheaper to mix your own Malawi Salt mix, and then add that to each batch of water. Do 50% water changes per week, and this method will not only keep the nitrates low but also raise the carbonate hardness. As if by magic, when you get the carbonate hardness right, the pH will settle down at the right level too! There are many DIY recipes for Malawi Salt mixes on the web and in books. One I have to hand is this: Per 5 gallons/20 litres 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) 1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) 1 teaspoon marine salt mix (sodium chloride + trace elements) I think doing things this way will help. Soft water foams more easily than hard water, as you may recall from chemistry class at school. That's why laundry detergents (at least here in the UK) recommend different dosages depending on your water chemistry. Cheers, Neale.> Re: Foam in New Freshwater setup 4/7/08 Thank You Neale, I really appreciate all your help you've given me lately. It's really wonderful that people like you are out there that just want to be helpful to others. It's truly refreshing. <Thanks!> Anywho, yes there are no fish in the tank yet, and probably wont be for some time! <Maybe so...> If I had to venture a guess, I'd say my pollutants came from the used tank I bought not being scrubbed enough. There was a lot of pollen in it! I think I will do a 50% water change and gravel vacuum to see if that helps. <Yeah, I'd break it down completely, and simply scrub everything you can, and throw out what you can't. It's a lot easier to do this now than once the fish and rocks are installed.> As far as the Malawi Mix is concerned, is this something that needs to be tuned to my specific chemistry, or will the recipe you gave me kind of balance things out to a good KH and pH? <Pretty much takes care of everything all by itself. If you have hard, alkaline water in your area (outside of the domestic water softener, if you use one) then perhaps a 50% or even 25% dose will work. But otherwise don't worry about it. Carbonate hardness settles the pH at about 8.2, and doesn't raise it much above that. So you can't easily "overdose" the stuff. It isn't like salt vs. salinity. Do take some time out to buy/borrow a book about Malawi cichlids. All this will be explained, and it's useful to have it on hand.> Regards Ben <Cheers, Neale.>

White fluffy material   4/4/08 hello, I have a 75 gal fish tank with 2 red Oscars in it about a week ago it developed a white flaky substance at the bottom of the tank. I have completely cleaned out the tank gravel, filters everything and now this white flaky cotton like substance is back. One of my Oscars did have Hole In The Head but I got rid of it with 50% water changes every 3 days. This flaky stuff seemed to a peer about a week after I put in this stuff called STRESS COAT. I did the complete water change after I discovered it the first time, I also vacuum the gravel frequently. Any help would be appreciated. Thank-you, Scott <Hi Scott. Is this stuff "flaky" or "fluffy"? You seem to be switching between the two adjectives. If it's fluffy, then it's either fungus (off white, cotton-like) or bacteria (grey, long threads). In either not directly dangerous to the fish, but certainly a sign that there's a lot of decaying organic material in the aquarium. This in turn implies inadequate filtration and likely poor water quality. Even if the filter is handling nitrite and ammonia fine, there may be high levels of nitrate. Nitrate levels above 20 mg/l are considered potentially dangerous to cichlids, and can indeed trigger things like Hexamita/Hole-in-the-Head. Do make sure you're not overfeeding, and that any uneaten food is removed at once. Oscars invariably need big aquaria with big water changes; tanks should be 55 gallons upwards, and water changes should be 50% weekly, at least. At each water change the gravel should be stirred and any detritus siphoned away. Oscars are messy feeders, and they spill a lot of stuff. Make sure the filter delivers not less than 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour (e.g., in a 55 gallon tank, you need a filter rated at 330 gallons per hour, or more). Hope this helps, Neale.>

Algae eating bacteria?  3/14/08 Hi guys I have a 10 gallon tank that i set up again after it had been torn down for a move. <10 gallon tanks are too small for most tropical fish, and very difficult to maintain satisfactorily.> It took me a month to get it running right (found a plant bulb that i missed, was decomposing the whole time). It finally got to the point where i felt safe to add fish and i did so. One neon to start then another bout 2 weeks later. <I'd not recommend Neons for running in a new aquarium. In any case, these fish need to be kept in groups of at least six specimens. To be honest, ten Neons in a 10 gallon tank is about right, and then I'd add nothing else save perhaps a few dwarf Corydoras, such as C. habrosus or C. hastatus.> Shortly there after the algae exploded over night but i was already prepared with a Pleco in my main tank. I have since moved the Pleco into his new home and he's making his round on the tank walls. <Plecs aren't suitable for a tank this small, and in any case the impact on algae is misleading. By dumping nitrate and phosphate into the water, you're only making the problem worse in the long term. Things like blue-green algae and hair algae (which Plecs don't eat) become very likely. The "treatment" for algae is strong light and fast-growing plants. Algae-eating snails and shrimps can also help, since they add little nitrate to the water. But algae-eating fish are a myth in terms of being the silver bullet.> I do occasionally throw some algae wafers in at night to make sure Pleco has enough. The problem is in the past week or so the water has been getting cloudy on and off. And then today i noticed the piece of wafer i threw in the night before was surrounded by a mass of mostly clear fuzz or slim approximately 1/4 thick the whole way around the wafer. What the heck is that!??!? <Decay. Perhaps fungal, perhaps bacterial. In any case not directly toxic to the fish, but a good sign you are massively overfeeding/overstocking/under-filtering.> I freaked out and vacuumed the gravel and found previous wafers with the same casing around them, that and small sheets of whitish stuff. I neglected to take a pic to help, if it happens again I'll be sure to do so first. Any ideas? <Take out the Plec. It doesn't belong there. Stick with small (2.5 cm/1 inch-sized) fish. Feed sparingly. Remove uneaten food after a couple minutes. Ensure the aquarium has reasonably good lighting and then add lots of plants. Perhaps some Cherry Shrimps and Nerite snails.> Thanks, Joe <Cheers, Neale.>

Fairly new tank... FW maint.  -02/06/08 Thanks for reading! I have a 6 week old 60Gal cichlid tank (4 fish total). I understand that I am going through the end of the cycling process because my ammonia levels came down and now the nitrites are high. I do a water change 1 - 2 times a week at about 35 - 45%. Questions: 1) Should I be cleaning the gravel during the water changes? <No particular need, but it's a good idea to stir the gravel with a stick during water changes and siphon out the gunk.> 2) My Chocolate Cichlid has been changing colors for the past 3 weeks. It goes from dark to light to spotted. Is this stress? (looks cool, but I'm nervous). <Are we talking about Hypselecara temporalis? If so, yes, colour changes are normal and in fact part of the charm of this lovely species.> 3) Any additional tips for keeping the nitrates down? Along with each water change I add salt and prime de-chlorinator/Stress Coat (No other chemicals). My tap water is actually very ideal with little/if any Chlorine and a perfect PH. <Only two things matter: reducing the protein that goes into the tank (i.e., food) and increasing the amount of nitrate that comes out of the tank (i.e., water changes). With cichlids, a 50% water change per week, coupled with moderate feeding, generally works well.> I'd like to get more fish but I know I should wait until the tank has fully cycled. <South American cichlids are notoriously sensitive to nitrate, so if the tank has a lot of nitrate, even if it is not otherwise overstocked, it's best to leave the cichlids on their own. When nitrate levels go up, things like Pop-eye and Hole-in-the-Head become real problems.> Please help with my Chocolate (I'm worried). Is there any way to determine the sex of the Chocolate? <They're not easy to sex. At best, the males have longer rays to the dorsal and anal fins, but that might not be obvious.> You guys and gals are the best! <Thanks!> Thanks, Tom <I have fond memories of these fish from about 1992 when I got a pair of them for a university display tank. Lovely fish, lots of colour, great personality. Not common in the trade, so a good catch! Good luck with them, Neale.>

Problem with tank in my office... FW... maint.  - 1/31/08 I have voluntarily been looking after the aquarium in the office where I work. There is no local company in our area, so I took on the task. My knowledge / experience is very little. Basically, I can sum it up as the contents of "Aquariums For Dummy's" To be honest, I know very little, I'm just animal lover. I feed them daily & do water changes (approx 1/3) every 4-6 weeks. Beyond that, I'm not much help to the fish or their environment. <Read the book, and all will become clear. Fish are not that difficult to care for, and certainly less work than, say, a dog. Mostly it's a question of keeping the water clean and choosing the right fish for your local water chemistry conditions.> The 40 gallon tank has been established for at least 5- 10 years. I test the PH level - - not regularly, but it does always fall in the normal level. <Normal for what? Not all fish relish the same pH level. For a start, pH in itself actually doesn't mean much. What matters are two other things, changes in pH, and water hardness. Both of these matter a great deal. When we measure pH, we get a ball-park measurement of those things, but inexperienced aquarists often confuse this "quick look" with meaningful data. No fish wants a rapid pH change, so one of the first things to make sure is that week-in, week-out, the pH stays the same. More specifically, you want to make sure the pH of the water before you do a water change is about the same as the pH afterwards. All aquaria have a tendency to become acidic. If the pH of the water from the tap is, say, 7.6, but the pH in the aquarium drops to as low as pH 6.9 between water changes, then you have a problem. In a healthy aquarium with sufficient chemical buffering, the pH should only drop very slightly between water changes, say 7.6 to 7.5. The other issue is hardness. Hard water tends to have a basic pH, soft water an acidic pH. This isn't always the case, but it usually is. So when you detect a basic pH, chances are you have hard water. Certainly here in Southern England, the tap water is around pH 8, and lo and behold, it is also very hard, around 20 degrees dH (and consequently ideal for brewing beer). In the north of Scotland though the pH of tap water is closer to 6.5, and yes, it is also very soft, around 5 degrees or less dH (which is why its good for whiskey). So when we say the pH is "normal" we need to put that in context. Fish from hard waters, like Guppies and Platies, expect a basic pH around 7.5-8.0; fish from the soft waters of South America, like Neons and Cardinals, on the other hand, expect a pH that is acidic around 6.0. A "normal" pH for a Neon would be ghastly pH for a Guppy. Hence the two fish don't really mix.> The temperature is approx 70-74 degrees. <That's subtropical rather than tropical; perfect for Neons and Danios, but less acceptable for fish from warm waters, such as Angelfish. Kept too cold, warmth-loving fish will become sickly.> In December I changed the charcoal filter bags & the also the charcoal filters within the air tubes. <Carbon is largely a waste of time in freshwater tanks. Replace with useful biological media.> Did I wipe out too much of the bacterial colony with those changes allowing a bacteria to take over? ? <If all you did was change the carbon and did nothing to the biological filter media (the sponges or ceramic noodles) then no, no harm was done.> Currently we have only 2 angels & 1 neon left. <Hmm... you do realise Neons are eaten by adult Angels given the chance?> In the past two weeks we've lost a 1 year old Pleco & the balance of our school of Neons. <Neons are very sensitive fish at the best of times, and a disease called Pleistophora (or "Neon Tetra Disease") can wipe them out pretty rapidly if you don't remove sick fish on sight. It is very contagious, and is known to occasionally infect other species of fish too.> All the fish are / were mature & doing well until we got a dose of what I'm thinking may be blue green algae. I don't have a microscope to identify exactly, but It does produce somewhat of a smokey or dusty effect when wiped off the glass. <Blue-green Algae has a distinctive slimy appearance, so that it looks more like a sheet of slime rather than bushy algae. It is of course a bacteria, but you can't tell by looking; that said, on glass it looks to be made of fine threads forming the mat-like slime. It has a very distinctive smell, musty, like mould. BGA isn't dangerous as such, but tends to crop up where tanks either receive direct sunlight or have nutrient-rich water but not enough plants.> When I cleaned the tank last Friday, all the fish appeared to be fine. Within an hour after the cleaning began three fish were flipping onto their backs & struggling to swim (the exact symptoms' our Pleco experienced a week earlier) The neon's died sometime over the weekend. I feared when I came into the office on Monday they would all be floating, but to my surprise the angels were swimming normally again. The three that made it through seem to be fine once again. <When lots of fish die at once, the ONE test kit you MUST use is the NITRITE test kit. This is the best snapshot of water quality. Almost always, sudden deaths of multiple fish come down to water quality.> Today I've notice the green film is once again creeping up the glass and it hasn't even been a week. Do you feel this could be the dreaded blue green algae / bacteria I've been reading about & if so, is that more than likely what killed the fish. <BGA doesn't kill fish. The idea that it is poisonous comes from non-biologists confusing the name of the group of bacteria (Cyanobacteria) with the word "cyanide". In fact the "cyan-" part of the name refers merely to the colour. There are in fact some fish that eat the stuff, as well as snails and other invertebrates. Anyway, it is best dealt with by balancing the tank: I cannot make this clearer than this, a healthy tank with fast-growing plants under strong light will not normally have problems with BGA. Tanks with serious BGA problems are almost always tanks with too many fish, too few water changes, too much food, too little light, too much sunlight, and too few fast-growing plants.> I'm aware that not having all the "levels" doesn't help you in determining where the problem stems & you can only to speculate. <Indeed.> I have added no chemicals other than the AquaSafe when I did the partial water change. The angel fish are now about 3" in size & very beautiful. I would hate to loose them, but at this point, I have to do something before I would feel safe adding new fish. <Agreed.> Should I wipe the glass down again & do another partial (1/3 ) water change. if so how soon? <Cleaning the front glass is what people do to all tanks, though I make the point that a tank with actively growing plants honestly only needs to be cleaned thus once or twice a month. Plants really do make a huge difference on algae. As for water changes, 25% per week is standard, and 50% per week even better. In the meantime, whip out the Nitrite test kit and let us know the results.> Thank you in advance for your advise & assistance. Our fish will be ever so grateful! Regards, Debbie <Good luck, Neale.>

FW stkg. and good maint. advice  -- 1/18/08 Greetings Sultans of the surf, <Hello!> First off thank you for such an amazing library of knowledge! I have some questions that I have searched for on your site and various others. I sincerely hope I have not overlooked their answers. Well here it goes. I have recently bought a 25 gallon long aquarium with stand, filter and some fish. <Sounds good. But do remember 25 gallons isn't a huge volume of water (esp. US Gallons!) so be careful choosing fish.> First for the fish. The tank is inappropriately stocked with one large ( maybe 7 inches!) African cichlid, one rather large tiger barb ( owner said he had a school but the rest were eaten, how sad to leave that one barb in there) and one small Pleco. <Apart from the Barb, entirely unsuitable for this tank.> All are and were healthy in behavior, very active always hungry. I have given the cichlid to a local fish store but they wouldn't accept the tiger barb or Pleco. He said they are too inexpensive and because of their injuries (fins are almost complete gone) are too prone to disease and thus a risk to his livestock. <Who is eating who? The Tiger Barb? Or the Cichlid?> What do I do with these two? the Pleco gets way too huge for this tank and the barb worries me because he is massively aggressive towards the Pleco ( separated for now with breeding net) thus would be aggressive towards new tank mates unless I had a barb tank which doesn't excite me. <Your best bet is to find a Fish Forum online, visit the "For Sale" section, and ask for takers. You could also look for a local fish club. Do also look for other fish shops. Obviously you'll need to heal the fins on these fish a bit first.> I want to turn this tank into a community tank. My last fish was a Fahaka puffer in a 110 gallon ( had him for 7.5 years, water changes galore) that would rarely let my hand in the tank none the less a tank mate. <Pretty typical of this species. Not my favourite fish, though I admit they do have personality. A psychotic thug personality, but personality none the less.> So the thought of one species for this tank kind of bores me. <Me too.> Secondly the stock plan I have going so far I fear is overcrowded/incompatible at least from a water chemistry stand. Here it is... 1x Siamese algae eater, Crossocheilus siamensis <Nice, though redundant with the Nerite snails. A bit hyperactive in a small tank, and possibly territorial.> 3x Swartz's Cory cat, Corydoras schwartzi <Double the number and you're laughing.> 2x (M+F) Golden lyre tail Panchax killifish, Aphyosemion australe <Fine.> 2x Betta (F), Betta splendens <Probably not with the Killifish; I fear a little nipping and/or chasing.> 1x Flame dwarf Gourami, Colisa lalia <Total waste of space: avoid. Too sickly.> 3x Olive Nerite snail Nerite Sp. <Good, provided you get the true freshwater sort, not the brackish water ones.> Feel free to add, subtract and multiple! I was going to shoot for a Chao Phraya river tank but it seems like that area is mainly catfish per fishbase.org. <Looking at species lists can be misleading; there may be dozens of species of catfish, but in terms of numbers and mass, I'm sure things like cyprinids (barbs, etc.) are far more important.> Unless you know of native Chao Phraya fish that I can add. If not can you suggest a schooling small fish. I was worried Danios would prefer much cooler temps and that Rasboras and tetras would fin nip or be fin nipped. <Correct; Rasboras and Danios essentially come from different habitats. What the Danios want is fast flowing, neutral water with moderate temperature. Rasboras come from more blackwater streams. Your Bettas and Killies inhabit still waters, largely.> My selection is limited to 25 gallon, I now live in an apartment that allows big dogs but small aquariums! Now for the filter section of my question. The tank came with only an under gravel filter. <Nothing wrong with a properly maintained UG filter. Limits the range of plants though.> I took nearly all the water and kept the filter submerged. other then a brief nitrite hiccup the conditions are now zero other then 40ppm nitrate which I suspect were from few water changes, improper water supply, overfeeding, under vacuuming, overstocking and the UGF. For the time being I have added a small power filter with a mechanical sponge, Kent nitrate sponge absorber and bio-wheels. I don't remember the exact gallons it is rated for because it is old but it is obviously way too small and must go asap. I want to use an Eheim 2229 with the wet/dry feature but I am worried that the bio area is in the first compartment. If that is true wouldn't just become a mechanical/bio with emphasis on the mechanical? Canister is the only suitable type of filter as it must be quiet and be viewable from front and back. <I'm not familiar with this particular filter, but I'd trust Eheim filters to do the job well.> Any other suggestions? Also when I add a new filter and remove the UGF should I just take the whole thing out and cycle or perhaps break it and remove it periodically to leave as much bacteria in the water as possible? <I'd break down the entire tank and cycle it from scratch. That'll give you more options in terms of substrate choice.> I do plan to add plants later on after the filter changes are made, cycling is totally complete and I buy the proper lights. Fish will be added also after cycling is done and slowly. <Sounds good.> Just a few statements I have learned over the years and have read on WWM a thousand times ( if I may) to any new hobbyist. Nanocubes are hard, expensive and not for the beginners no matter what anyone says. <Pretty much.> Hagen's "Cycle" does not substitute for a natural cycle. <No it doesn't. But there are other products that do. But I simply grab some filter media from an established tank, and off you go: instant cycling.> Tried to start a cycle for my friend's tank using this, nitrites were off the scale for a month ( only 1 small comet, 20 gallon tank, whisper 400 filter) at least followed by massive nitrate problems. Last but not least a good water change schedule is cheaper and more effective then any additive or cool new gadget you can buy. Thank you all for your time! <Happy to help.> Ed ( recent transfer to Colorado, love those mountains) <Cheers, Neale.>

Help!!.....more info... FW... set-up issues    1/11/08 Hi WWM Crew: <Hello Kevin,> I have had my freshwater aquarium for over a year and have yet to put any fish in it because something white keeps growing in it. <One of three things: bacteria, algae, or mold (fungi). Each is characteristic of specific things. Bacteria tend to bloom in new tanks, algae tends to grow in tanks that receive direct sunlight, and mold tends to grow on surfaces that have some organic content the mold can consume (think wet rot on a damp wall). Do also note that silt can look a lot like a "growth", especially when it sticks to (otherwise harmless) layers of algae on the glass or sediment. Silt is usually introduced via substrate materials such as gravel and sand. It is best removed before the substrate is added to a tank, but failing that, a powerful filter (i.e., canister filter) coupled with filter wool should remove silt quite quickly (a few days at most, possibly with multiple changes of the wool in really bad cases).> It has an incubation time of about 1 day and afterwards the water is completely opaque. It then forms a sheet on the surface. I've tried a few antibiotics. I've had to completely clean it out almost 4 times now (w/ammonia, bleach, etc) Whatever it is keeps growing. I've never seen anything like it!! I've gotten rid of all of the decorations and rocks because I didn't want to carry it over. I usually wait a day or so after I clean it and add water....and it slowly begins to take over. <Hmm... this sounds to me like silt, which settles out of the water onto surfaces very quickly; bacterial blooms can take 24 hours, but do tend to die back themselves almost as quickly. Algal blooms, particularly diatoms, can happen, but these do require a source of light.> Is there ANY product you would recommend?? <No product, but rather identification of this issue. Did you clean the sand/gravel before using? It's really very, VERY easy to silt up a tank by not cleaning the substrate sufficiently.> Could it be my tap water? <Possible, and easy to test! Put some water in a large jar, leave to one side, and come back the next day. Is there silt or cloudiness visible?> I'd really like to put some fish in it one day! I'm in medical school so I have very little time to solve this problem as busy as I am. PLEASE HELP!! Any advice would be great! Thanks so much :) <Hope this helps.> MORE INFO: -- I have a 36 gallon freshwater tank. -- After the organism grew the first time (within 1 day of setting it up) I removed my filters-- I figured that would help them grow. <Ah, if it's silt, then you will need MECHANICAL filtration to remove solid particles. Filters perform at least two things, mechanical and biological filtration (sometimes also chemical filtration). Mechanical filtration is the first thing filters do, by pushing water through some filter wool and then sponge or ceramic media to trap the silt. Biological filtration comes next, and yes, excess silt will choke the bacteria by cutting off their access to oxygen. Hence a filter has to do both things. Some filters have two (or more) compartments so you can optimise each compartment to one of the specific jobs. But even a basic sponge filter will, up to a point, do both. By regularly cleaning the sponge, you remove silt, making sure the bacteria stay happy.> --The organism grew even after I removed the gravel and all decorations. (Tap water and Tank only) <Does sound like silt in the water.> --I live in Washington, DC (Georgetown). I am not sure if the water is hard, soft, processed, etc. <Get a test kit. If you're a medical student, presumably coming up with a home-brew way to test pH and concentration of calcium carbonate will not be difficult!> --I've tried to treat with tetracycline and another broad spectrum. <Why? Remember you medical school education: identify the pathogen or problem from the symptoms, and THEN choose remedial action. Not the other way around!> - At first I suspected it was the dechlorinator solution I bought from PetSmart that was contaminated and it still might be. I don't use it anymore, but if I leave ONE (spore, etc) behind it will come back. <A "spore"...? Time to apply some of your edumacation to the problem!> I conducted an experiment: "Control"- Water alone and "Treatment"- Water plus dechlorinator solution --> Grew in both after a week or so if I remember correctly. <Did you test other factors, such as light? Algae will bloom where there's light, but they won't in the dark. Bacteria bloom where there's light or organic material for them to consume. From the sounds of things, I'd veer towards an abiotic cause. Try filtering some tap water through filter paper and then leaving it to settle... does it still go cloudy? Maybe boil some too, to see if its bacteria in the water.> - I also thought it could've come from one of my decorations from PetSmart since its not uncommon to see birds flying in the store and bird poop on the merchandise. <Yuk.> Please let me know if you need any more info. Thanks again for your help. <All sounds very bizarre, but likely not too serious. Consider setting up a (second) dedicated filter for mechanical filtration, with filter wool or similar you can change as required without worrying about the bacteria. There are "filter aids" on the market, which are basically flocculants that cause silt and bacteria in the water to clump, so filters can remove them more easily. They're very effective, and supposedly harmless to fish. Cheers, Neale.>

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