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FAQs on Rock and Wood Treatment, Use

Related Articles: Rock and Wood in Aquascaping, Aquascaping for Beginners; Twenty Tips for Realistic Aquaria by Neale Monks, Aquascaping Adventures in Aquascaping by Timothy S. Gross

Related FAQs: Aquarium Aquascaping

Wood can be good to necessary for some Loricariid species health... digestion and habitat!

A lot of poops?      2/20/17
Hey crew! I have a quick question with a photo attached.. I've done a large water change not too long ago to get rid of this weird 'slime' that keeps growing on my wood
<Mmm; not weird, but yes to slime of sorts>

but I also noticed that there was a lot. I mean a lot of poops (I think) everywhere and on everything. I have some shrimp with my Betta. And I've also added a plant that may have carried some snails as well.. any idea as to what this slime is and the cause of the fast growth?
<Yes; decomposition... Like the joke about Beethoven after he croaked>

As well as the fast accumulation of this poop?? Thanks so much hope to hear back from you soon!
<Well; you could try to (dry out, coat w/ chemically inert) seal this wood; but if not; it will continue to degrade till it's all gone. DO keep up w/ regular/weekly water changes, lest the decomp. over-foul your water. Bob Fenner>

Just a few aquarium questions... <20 some Megs...>; residual NH3, U1 zots, Crypt melt, moving pH    8/7/16
Please re-size and re-send all... Your files are more than an order of magnitude too large.
Re: Just a few aquarium questions...   8/7/16

Yikes...I was wondering why they were taking so long to upload, didn't even notice they were that big.
Resized in PS, hope this is a little better!
<Yes; now just need you to delete the carats (<<<<) in the text below and re-send. BobF>
re: Just a few aquarium questions...   8/7/16

<Oh, found the original text here>
Hello crew! I just started up my old aquarium and I have a fair amount of questions about water quality, some of my old plants, etc.
My tank is a 10 gallon. Started it up a little over 2 months ago, let it cycle through, and added a single Betta after the cycle was finished.
The parameters are
pH: 7.5

nitrates: 0
nitrites: 0
ammonia: .12? (it's not exactly at 0 and not at .25 on the test kit, so I'm
assuming it's right in the middle)
<Toxic; and am wondering wherefore/why the residual ammonia here?
temp: between 74-78 degrees
My first question is about the ammonia. Both in the past and currently, I cannot keep the ammonia at 0 for the life of me because my tap water has a small amount of it.
<This should cycle through though... And you should eliminate w/ water conditioner use ahead of placing it in the tank>
It's not at a terribly dangerous level but it's enough to be worrying,
I've tried using ammonia-removing products, including prime, on the water I store away for water changes, but the ammonia tests as 0 and then has a huge spike occurs a few days later. Is there any way to get it down and stay down?
<Yes... a few ways. Let's have you review here (as I/we have no way of knowing what you already know
and the linked files above>
My second question is about this strange white and brown stuff growing on my driftwood. I'll attach some pictures, some of them I couldn't get to focus but I hope they're good enough. There are brown chunks of what looks like fish feces or a kind of fungus, mostly on the bottom half of the driftwood. It's kind of tough to remove so I had to scrub it off with a
toothbrush, but it just comes back anyway. Along with that are white specs, mostly on the top of the driftwood.
<This appears to be bits of decomposition... the wood, likely food, feces>

I can't tell you how many pages I've checked trying to find out what these are. The only answers I come back
with are black beard algae/brown string algae and white fungus/Nerite snail eggs, but whatever's on my driftwood doesn't look like any of those. The white specs even look like they're starting to spread to one of my crypts.
My Betta seems to be unaffected by either of them, but I've had a baby Bristlenose in a hospital tank and I wanted to move him in soon. I'm worried that this stuff could make him sick if he eats it. Any ideas what either of them are?
<As stated... you might benefit from more circulation, filtration here>
Third question is about the crypts (also in the pictures) I was growing them in a large bowl for a while and they were doing very well with API leafzone and some natural sunlight. They shot out very nice, healthy green leaves, but when I transferred them to the tank, they started turning a reddish brown and getting ruffles. I read that this happened to a few
other people that changed the way they were fertilizing their tank, though they stated that they were still very healthy. Mine are kind of getting this weird translucent reddish-brown look and a couple of the leaves have completely melted, but the leaves had been bright green and strong before.
<Crypts are susceptible to this sort of decomp. under stressful and varying conditions>

I have an LED light strip but others have been able to keep crypts just fine with them. Is there another reason they're not doing as well?
<Can't tell w/ the data provided. There may well be a nutrient deficiency going on here... N, P, K, Fe....>
My final question (phew) is about the pH. It's always been at 7.5 (or higher, not sure if it even shows up on the test kit..) I want to lower it to around 6.8 or 7,
<I would NOT do this. Leave it as it is... will drop a bit in time. See WWM re pH and Alkalinity for a bit of background>
but just like the ammonia, I've tried two or three pH altering products and they drop the pH rapidly and spike it a few days later.
<... yes... alkaline reserve is buffering it back up. Common >
I was thinking I could try Indian almond leaves or wood, but they would release a lot of tannins and I'm not sure if it would add to the ammonia or not. Have tried adding distilled water as well and there is no affect (but I do have 20 empty gallon jugs laying around) Do you have other suggestions of how to lower it safely?
<Time going by is the very best. Don't fuss w/ pH here, period. 7.5 is fine for what you have livestock wise>
I'm very sorry this is so long, I was debating on whether I should divvy the questions up into different emails but I thought it might be more troublesome to get them each separately. But I thank you very much for your services. I always go to this site first if I'm having any problems and it has been extremely helpful and informative! I greatly appreciate any answers and advice you can offer.
<Glad to be (hopefully) of assistance. Please DO write back if all is not clear here after reading. Bob Fenner>

newly cycled tank, fungus, low NO3     6/12/16
Thank you very much! I'll start with the Ancistrus and get some Amazon Frogbit or water sprite, even though algae has yet to rear its ugly head.
<Glad to help.>
I do have a follow-up question, if I may. There is quite a bit of white fuzz growing on the rotting food and, to a lesser extent, on the bogwood. I presume this is some sort of fungus. Attached is a photograph of it growing on some crab meat; a few Betta pellets and grains of sand are entangled in the fuzz.
<Likely fungus and/or bacteria. Quite predictable where "fresh" wood is used. Not a problem in itself, but will add to the bio-loading the filter has to deal with. So best to remove such wood, allow to rot elsewhere, e.g., in a bucket in the garden for a few months, then use. Or else chuck out and use something pre-cured. Wood from the beach is usually good.>
Strangely, despite six weeks of cycling without a water change, nitrates tested this morning (using an API liquid test kit) at less than 5 ppm. They were at 5 ppm when I first used the liquid kit five days ago and appear to have gone down, despite an average of 50 Betta pellets per day having been dropped into the tank in the meantime. Ammonia and nitrates are zero.
<Agreed; odd. I would certainly give the tank a thorough clean and complete water change. I'd check the filter and rinse the media in tap water of the same temperature as the aquarium. I'd siphon out any/all of this fungus and uneaten food. But then I'd assume the filter had cycled by now, and act accordingly. Zero ammonia and nitrite are what you expect from a mature tank at this stage.>
I'm not sure what is going on, which makes me a bit nervous about putting fish in the tank. It seems unlikely that the plants are consuming all the nitrogenous waste themselves. Could the fungus be consuming the nitrogenous waste and turning it into more white fuzz?
<Possibly, but I don't know. They're saprotrophic, and these organisms usually break down complex organic compounds and release CO2 and ammonia ions in exchange.>
If so, should I be concerned about this?
<See above; I wouldn't be overly concerned provided ammonia and nitrite have been zero for some days, weeks at this point.>
Again, thank you for your help.
<Going forwards, act as if the tank was being cycled with fish. Add one or two small Ancistrus, feed sparingly, and don't feed at all if ammonia or nitrite rise above zero. Cheers, Neale.>


Feller Stone       4/26/16
Hi there,
Just purchased Feller Stone for my Betta tank.
<Ahh! I bought their products for PetCo in the early 90's>
Soaked it in water with Prime water conditioner because of the earth odor,
<Odor? Unusual>
kind of like new aquarium gravel before being rinsed. Still maintains the odor after an overnight soak. Any potential harm with this, i.e. changing the water's pH?
<Not likely; but; you could simply boil the rock in some freshwater and check the pH. This and a bleach, rinse, air-dry SOP are archived on WWM for such decor>
Thanks for your assistance. Hope you get to laugh a lot today.
Stacy in Tampa
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Texas holy rock. Testing proposed decor        1/16/16
I am wanting to add a 10 lb. piece of Texas holy rock to my 180 gallon freshwater tank. After reading that it would cause my ph to rise to round 8.2 I am having second thoughts.
<Mmm; if the rock is alkaline; it may take a good long while to raise pH appreciably.... try soaking it in a volume of water... measuring for such change>

I want to keep community fish that need a lower ph.
Questions: will this size rock have that big of an effect in my 180 gallon tank?
<Proportionately less>
And would a couple o large pieces of driftwood offset the effect of the holy rock?
<Possibly; again I would do an assay of this in a non-biological setting>
final question, is 8.2 an unhealthy level, or would most community fish adapt?
<Mmm; depends on the community. Most livebearers, labyrinth fishes, Rainbowfishes would be fine.... but small S. American Characins, Corydoras, Rasboras... not so>
Thanks in advance for your response.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Sea shells producing nitrites...why?       8/18/15
Hi crew,
I recently acquired some store bought sea shells..discarded the dyed/altered ones and kept the real ones in a small bowl. I tested the water a few days later and the parameters showed no ammonia, but high nitrite levels. I only tested further for KH values which came out to be 6°(typically my tap water is 3°). I am wondering why these shells are causing high nitrites. Any info would be appreciated! Thank you
<Is this a freshwater tank? Unless you're keeping shell-dwelling Tanganyikans, you don't want to add seashells. Lots of reasons, but two critical ones: they affect pH, and they trap fish. As they dissolve they raise the carbonate hardness which causes the pH to rise. Bad for most common tropical fish (livebearers excepted). Secondly, small fish, especially benthic fish such as Corydoras, swim into them but can't always get out. Been there, done this, learned the lesson. Even if fish don't get inside them, bits of food and other organic matter will drift in, decay, and produce ammonia (and eventually nitrite and nitrate). So two good reasons to remove the shells. At some point you might set up a shell-dweller aquarium, and they're super cool little fish for nano tanks. Because they come from a hard water lake they like high pH and KH levels, and because they actively dig and clear out the shells, there's little/no risk of organic matter (let alone fish) getting trapped inside them. Much better. If you want to add ornaments and knickknacks to an aquarium, select things for that use such as plastic and ceramic doodads that'll not affect water chemistry and will be designed to be easier to clean than shells. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sea shells producing nitrites...why?       8/24/15

Thank you for the thorough explanation.
<Born from experience... have lost a Corydoras to a rogue snail shell.>
I have been quite busy, so sorry for the delay. I was planning to add the sea shells to my apple snail tank, as well as my freshwater community tank.
<Apple Snail tank fine; community tank probably not.>
I think I am just confused about water chemistry. I have read endless articles , but still something just hasn't clicked yet for me. I still struggle with my apple snails and their eroding shells, despite adding cuttlebone, crushed coral and egg shell powder.
<Let me direct you here first:
There's a Rift Valley Salt Mix at the bottom. Use this at 50-100% the dose stated and you should be fine. Failing that, try buying some coral sand from an aquarium shop and stir that 50/50 with plain sand or gravel in your Apple Snail tank. This will help to buffer the water quite a bit, though over time it loses this effect so may need replacing every year or two, whenever you see pH dropping too much.>
This has been unresolved for about 2 months now with no improvement. The reason I wanted to add the shells to my community tank is because I believed it would help add buffering capacity.
<Can do. Tufa rock is cheaper and more effective though. But unpredictable in terms of how long either will work. You know those candy shells around the chocolate on M&Ms? How they stop the chocolate melting in your hand? Algae and bacteria do the same thing to calcareous materials in an aquarium. Over time the chemicals that would harden the water become isolated underneath a layer of algae and bacteria. Periodically you can remove the shells or tufa rock, scrub under a hot tap, and put them back in. So while it can work, it isn't a once-and-forget-about-it thing.>
My kH values remain low in that tank and although higher in my snail tank, the values are still low for snails.
<Do try the Rift Valley salt mix recipe. Cheap and effective. You can slightly change the proportions as necessary. If KH is your worry you could skip the marine salt mix and Epsom salt and just use baking soda alone. The baking soda provides the KH, the Epsom salt the general hardness, and the marine salt mix a bit of both plus various trace elements.>
At this point I believe I'm a helpless cause, but I sincerely appreciate the help attained from your site.
Thanks again,
<Welcome. Neale.>
Re: Sea shells producing nitrites...why?       8/25/15

Thank you. I had previously avoided the salt mix because I was worried the salt components would harm the snails.
<Understood. But at this very low concentration this is not a major concern. Nonetheless, you can leave it out if you want.>
My snails are having another issue at the moment (being addressed in a separate thread), so once that is settled I will try the salt mix. I also have a liquid calcium chloride additive intended for marine aquariums that I've been saving as a last resort.
<This will not change carbonate hardness, just general hardness.>
So assuming all else fails, would this be safe to use in freshwater and will it have a dramatic impact on pH?
<Yes, safe, no, not a big impact on pH. In fish tanks the above-7 pH comes from carbonate hardness, essentially the alkalinity of the water. General hardness is about the calcium and sodium salts in the water, and while some do affect pH, raising it slightly, they're far less important in that regard. Where they matter is osmosis, which affects fish and snails in how
they keep the salt/water balance inside their bodies.>
Would it make sense to add baking soda in combination with the calcium chloride.
<Baking soda will help with KH, the calcium chloride the GH.>
The pH in the snail tank is currently at 7.8 and kH is 5. I've considered an alkaline buffering product, but I would exceed acceptable pH values before achieving desirable kH values.
<Wouldn't be overly concerned. Standard Rift Valley cichlid mix, whether home-made or store-bought would raise the pH to between 7.5 and 8.5 depending on how much you used. Try a small amount in a bucket and see what you get. Regardless, Apple Snails are perfectly at home in this pH range.>
Thanks again.
<Most welcome. Neale.>
re: Sea shells producing nitrites...why?       8/29/15

Hi Neale. So I started with a 50% dose(baking soda only) and then increased it to 100%. I've been adding the calcium chloride as well. I'm much closer to reaching the optimum relevant values in this tank (thank you so much).
My only issue at this point is that I'm confused about how I can continue to maintain the results.
Should I continue to add the proper dosage of baking soda/calcium chloride to each batch of new water with every water change?
<Correct. So if you remove 5 gallons of water, you add the required amount for 5 gallons to the new buckets of tap water. The common mistake people make is to work out how much, say, their 20 gallon tank needs, and then add THAT amount each time they do a partial water change. That would end up raising the hardness and pH sky high after a while!>
I'm guessing this is a quick fix that I need to keep up with, but I just want to double check.
<Correct. One approach might be this: make up the correct ratio of baking soda and calcium chloride. I don't know what amount you're using, but let's imagine it's 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt to 1 teaspoon of calcium chloride.
That would be about right for 5 US gallons. Since 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons, if you were to mix those salts up nicely, then 4 teaspoons would be correct for 5 US gallons. With me so far? Since the ratio is the thing, you could use 3 cups of Epsom salt and 1 cup of calcium chloride, stir them together in a big Tupperware, and get the right salt mix. Take 4 teaspoons out for 5 gallons, or just 2 teaspoons for 2.5 gallons (an average bucket) and off you go! You'd have a ready supply of salt mix all made up and ready to use. Just remember to give it a bit of stir before use to keep both salts jumbled up nicely. Make sense? Quick, simple, and very cheap.>
Also, back to incorporating the sea shells. Since my original message I have boiled them quite a bit and soaked them in dechlorinated water for 2 days. Then I rinsed them and re-soaked them in untreated tap water for 2 days. After testing that water I am getting very slight (but positive) test results for ammonia and nitrites. Is there anything else I can do to purify
these shells or should I execute the plan all together?
<I would not use them at all in this case. You can buy shells that are safe for aquaria, and among the best are the cleaned shells sold in up market food stores alongside tins of French garlic-snails. These shells are spotlessly clean because they're used for cooking food. The garlic-snails ("escargot") are delicious if a bit weird in concept, so there's no waste!
Just looked on Amazon and you can even by the empty shells ("Empty Escargot Snail Shells") for under $10 including shipping!>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Driftwood Ready to Go?      12/9/14
I have a tank rated for 29 gallons by the manufacturer. The tank is 36" L x 12" W x 18" H. The ph is 8 and nitrates and ammonia at 0. My filter is a sponge filter rated for 40 gallons. This tank contains 2 guppy females, 5 neon tetras, 10 platy fish, 6 Otocinclus, and numerous bladder snails. It has a 150 watt heater and a stick on thermometer. The temperature is at 75°F.
I got some Malaysian Driftwood for my Otocinclus in my aquarium. The seller I got it from says it is "safe and ready to be put in your aquarium." Do I still have to clean it?
<Yes, under a hot tap to get rid of all the dust.>
Do I still have to soak it for 1-2 weeks?
<Shouldn't be necessary if sold as aquarium wood.>
Thank you.
<Cheers, Neale.>
re: Driftwood Ready to Go?      12/9/14

Thank you Neal! :)

Driftwood Coloration   9/6/14
Hello Crew, hope all is going well. I am actually writing this for my neighbor who has no access to email. He is in the process of setting up a
freshwater aquarium and found a piece of oak driftwood he wants to use when a neighbor cut down the tree. He has let it sit in water until the water became clear and has also boiled it several times. The last time he boiled it he noticed that certain parts of the limb turned a reddish color in several different areas. There was no red in it when he initially found it. He is worried that because the coloration changed that it might not be safe to fish. Have you ever heard of this happening, and would you consider it safe for fish. Thank you for your help.
James Hall
<Actually; oak/Quercus can be trouble with aquatic systems and life. There are ways to cure it; but I would not go this route. Bob Fenner>

Driftwood Growth; decomp.      7/11/14
Hey Crew!
I have this whitish growth growing on only one piece of driftwood. Haven't had this problem before. Did some research but no real definitive answers.
Any ideas? Thanks!
<... just the usual decomposition. See/search WWM re... some concern re dropping pH if there's insufficient alkalinity; discoloration... due to tannins, flavins... just water changes, GAC use... Bob Fenner>

Leaf litter      8/11/13
Hey Crew
How are you all doing? I have just returned from a trip in which I was lucky to observe south American dwarf cichlids in their natural habitat. Most of them live in black water pools or stream littered with leaf litter.
My question is what can I use for leaf litter? I live in Zimbabwe and have access to maple trees, acacias Mopani trees mainly, can I use any of these?
<Hello Yasfir. The answer is yes, you can use leaf litter, but with some caution. Leaves fall apart quickly underwater, and create a lot of muck that can block the filter. Such decay can also cause the pH to drop. Some leaves are also toxic, so obviously you don't want to use those and poison your fish. So basically some leaves are better than others. Here in England, Indian Almond Leaves (Catappa spp.) are actually imported and sold at the equivalent of about US$2 for just THREE leaves!!! But these leaves decay slowly, and they also seem to improve water chemistry a bit, encouraging many fish to breed more readily. At a fraction of the cost, some British aquarists use Beech and Oak leaves instead (Fagus and Quercus spp.) and these seem to work almost as well, and obviously cost nothing
because you can collect them yourself. So what about native leaves in Zimbabwe? Well, Maple leaves (Acer spp.) have been used with success, but Acacia spp. are reported, in some cases, to be toxic, so I'd avoid those.
I'm not aware of Mopani (Colophospermum Mopani) being toxic, but you will have to research that. So bottom line, provided the leaf is non-toxic, its leaves should be safe. But even if safe, you may find the leaves fall apart after a few weeks, or may cause the pH to drop very rapidly, especially in soft water. Some leaves last longer than others. Experiment with a few leaves from one species of tree at a time, monitor water quality and pH, and see what works! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Leaf litter
Thanks Neale :)
<Welcome, Neale.>

Yellow driftwood water?    10/7/12
Hello crew! You have always been exceedingly helpful to me in the past and I just have a quick question-or at least I think it is. I have a 20 gallon long that has been up and running for almost 2 months. Parameters are 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, nitrates<20 , ph 7.2. It has a Penguin 150 filter with BioWheel, I have a carbon filter and a good amount of filter floss as well. The  hood is an Aqueon deluxe hood with the standard fluorescent bulb that it came with. It was fishless cycled using media from another tank.
Substrate is pool filter sand, is planted with some moss, Amazon swords and Amazon Frogbit. I have a decent sized piece of driftwood as well as a few "cave" decor structures. The tank is stocked with 6 zebra Danios, 1 ADF, 1 zebra Nerite snail (who is busily cleaning the brown scum) and 4 ghost shrimp (also very busy). Temperature 76 degrees. Ok so here's the question- I have a brown scum all over everything that I assume is diatoms which will resolve itself eventually, however I am concerned that my driftwood is causing a yellow murkiness in the tank.
<Quite common; tannins and flavins... and more, from the decaying wood>
I cannot remove it as the shrimp, frog and fish have all made happy homes in, around and under it. Will this yellowing eventually fade if I keep up with the carbon and weekly water changes?
<Will gradually decrease, yes>
 Also what light bulb is best?
<Mmm, read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsetupindex.htm
scroll down to "Lighting">
 I don't like the green look of the current bulb and want to keep my plants alive? Thanks so much, you guys are the best! Marya
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Yellow driftwood water?

Thank you Mr. Fenner, you have eased my mind. You and your crew are appreciated. Thanks again, Marya
<Ah, welcome Marya. BobF>

Flagstone    6/8/12
Is it safe to use flagstone in a fresh water aquarium?
 I've seen quite a few different types.  I bought Mexican Rosa and Mexican Crema.
<It should be yes... these are often not chemically inert (unreactive) but the kinds of minerals they dissolve into the water are of use to organisms that use/tolerate harder, more alkaline waters. As long as your livestock does not require soft, acidic conditions you should be fine. Bob Fenner>

Sealing decorations for fresh water tanks     4/11/12
Dear WetWebMedia,
Thanks for your informative website. I have learned a lot so far. I have browsed many sites and yours very extensively, but have yet to find an answer to this question I have.
I read everywhere that adding corals or seashells to a fresh water tank is a bad idea,
<Yes, unless you have a hard water community. If you keep hard water fish, for example Guppies, Mollies, Platies and/or Swordtails, these will be 100% happy in tanks filled to the gunwales with corals and seashells! Likewise Rift Valley cichlids enjoy seashells, to the degree that "Shell Dwellers" positively demand them, and you can easily mix these with Guppies for a very unusual aquarium.>
and I can see why (dissolving and possible sharp edges).
<Sharp edges more of a problem with catfish and loaches, but generally best left out of aquaria containing fish that aren't used to corals. There are plenty of smooth ceramic and plastic corals you can use, as well as non-scratchy rocks.>
I also read in many sites and many of your answers to coat concrete, clay or other possibly harmful decorations with silicone, epoxy or that a polyacrylic (MinWax) would do the trick.
If I dipped seashells or corals (save those with sharp edges that could hurt the fish) in a polyacrylic several times to provide several coatings, and let it cure for several days to ensure full curing even inside the shell, would that make them safe for use in a fresh water tank??
<Should be. Do also look at safer (artificial) alternatives from the pet store, but if you only want to add one or two small seashells, then the overall effect on moderately hard water chemistry would be minimal anyway even if you didn't coat them. The other point of view is that because seashells don't belong in a freshwater environment, they can (and usually do) look pretty out of place there. Bogwood and rocks are often much more aesthetically pleasing.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

FW Live rock    3/24/12
Hi WetWebMedia
I saw some freshwater live rock and live sand in a store. It was rock with small plants (I think java ferns, Val.s and Anubias nana) sticking out of it. The label on it said it was Texas holy rock and had: freshwater bacteria, ghost shrimp, cherry shrimp, micro crabs, daphnia, scuds, orange crayfish, flatworms, hydra, pond snails, trumpet snails and underwater woodlice.
<Sounds fun. Do wonder how much of each the live rock has -- Micro crabs for example don't like rocks much and mostly hang from floating plants. So I'd be surprised if there were any on there at all. And Daphnia float about in midwater, so they're unlikely to be on board. Shrimps and Dwarf Crayfish, perhaps, but I'd want to see them on the rocks before assuming
they're there. On the other hand, flatworms will colonise rocks, and snails would colonise the Moon given half a chance! And, to be fair, Cherry Shrimp breed wildly in the right conditions, and it's possible to carry them from tank to tank on rocks, plants and other things. As for the sand, likely colonised by burrowing snails (Melanoides spp.) and worms, but that's about
It was $3.99 per lb. The worker at the store told me this was a new product that had been offered by their suppliers. I tried searching for information on things like this and did not come across anything. Have you ever heard of this? Is it worth buying a few lbs worth of it and trying it out?
<For sure, try a few lumps. Worth a shot. If nothing else, it'll be nice rock with a few epiphytic plants. Do realise most fish will eat virtually everything on that list save Melanoides snails and adult crayfish, so you'd need to keep these in a "reef tank" type environment with extremely peaceful and probably very small fish such as Dwarf Rasboras and Pygmy
Yours truly
Alex from Oklahoma
<Cheers, Neale.>

Tufa Rock and Hair Algae 3/1/12
Hi Crew,
<Hello Rebecca>
So I see on previous posts that Tufa rock seems to be implicated in some cases of hair algae troubles. What exactly is it about Tufa that could contribute to more hair algae growth than what you would get with other rock?
<Depending on where it formed or where it was collected from, Tufa rock may contain  significant detrital components along with phosphorous and can be problematic re nuisance algae growth.  Best not to chance it.>
<You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>
Rebecca Bray

Female angels <sexing> and driftwood <use>     1/26/12
I found something very interesting on YouTube. A guy did a talk about how to sex male and female angelfish
I do not know if I am allowed to post a YouTube link
It is about the little difference in shape when you look at the fish in profile. If this is the key to sexing angelfish then do they have this difference as juveniles??
<Hard/er to discern when young>
Also if someone had two or three females in a large enough tank would they be territorial or does the magic number of six still apply for all female angelfish unless it is just one?
<Would be territorial if spawning in particular>
I was also wondering about the importance of carbon in a filter.
<See WWM re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwchemfiltrants.htm
 I have an Aquaclear 70 filter which uses a sponge, a bag of carbon on top of that and these little pellets that absorb ammonia.
<Mmm, not>
 Someone on the net said to just use two sponges and forgo the carbon package, is this true?
Is it ever ok to use driftwood from the beach if it is soaked and tested for contaminates?
<See WWM re treating...>
Or are there some possible contaminates that would not show up in any test available?
<Of a certainty, yes>
I'm thinking it is too much of a risk and it would be best to stick with ceramic driftwood due to the high cost of real driftwood. Thank you!!!
<Or ones from freshwater source... Bob Fenner> 

Driftwood and never ending tannins  1/23/11
<Hey Jude>
I am thinking of getting a piece of driftwood for a 29 gallon tank. The tank holds 5 black neon tetras, 5 lemon tetras and one juvenile angelfish.
I was wondering if tannins ever stop leaching even if driftwood is purchased as "treated"?
<Mmm, slows down considerably w/ time>
Would the driftwood change the water chemistry to <too> much for these fish<es>?
<Not likely; no>
 Some people buy fake driftwood, but I hear that it looks awful after a while when algae builds up. Thank you!!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

lichen on lace rock    10/2/11
Hey Folks
I have recently put some lace rocks in a freshwater tank that has some mustard colored lichen on it. I don't know how harmful this is to shrimp or fish and was wondering if someone knew. I searched the internet and couldn't find a definitive answer. I have noticed that the pH has risen from 6.4 to 7.2 though. This rock reminds me of ancient reef rock. It is very light weight and brittle. I bought it from Arizona Aquatic Gardens.
I'm hoping to keep red crystal shrimp and red cherry shrimp and a few celestial pearl Danio in this tank. Does this rock need to go?
<Hello Lawrence. The lichen will die underwater, and can be a source of pollution. Better to either remove the rock or scrub off as much of the lichen as you can. Putting large amounts of decaying organic matter in your aquarium is never a good idea! Cheers, Neale.>

Vinegar to test rocks   7/25/11
Someone on the internet mentioned that the safety test for rocks to be placed in a fish tank was to pour a little vinegar on the rock, and if it fizzes, not to use it. If it doesn't fizz then it is ok. Would this be correct?? Also we have an aquarium store near us, and I am wondering if rocks in such a store are automatically safe to use? Thank you!
<Hello Judy. Acids react with salts of bases like calcium carbonate, as you recall from school if you're not a chemist by trade! So an acid like vinegar should react with calcareous minerals such as limestone to produce, among other things, bubbles of CO2 gas. The stronger the acid, the more vigorous the reaction. In any case, all this does is test whether or not a stone contains limestone. It doesn't test for things like copper that might be present in the rock and that might poison your fish. So take this test for what it is, and be aware that limestone content is just one factor to consider. Most pet shops selling rocks should sell ones that are safe in fish tanks, but limestone rocks that are acceptable in marine tanks and hard water aquaria wouldn't be desirable in community tanks or soft water tanks. On the whole the best cheap source of rock for aquaria is a garden centre, where any stone sold as being pH inert (i.e., suitable for use on
acid soils) and pond-safe (i.e., not toxic to fish) should work just fine in an aquarium. Granite and slate, for example, are both reliable rocks for aquaria if they meet these criteria. Cheers, Neale.>

Rocks from the hardware store  3/26/11
<Hi there John>
I was at the hardware store yesterday and they were selling decorative rocks for 30 cents a pound. I couldn't resist that, so I bought one. The rocks were outside about 50 feet from a paved road. The girl there said that I should really rinse the rock before putting it in a fish tank. I was wondering if I should soak the rock all night in freshwater?? Is there a best way to clean it, or is it a bad idea to use the rock in any case???
Thank you!!
<There are quite a few "things" to mention here. Do read:
and the linked FAQs file above. Bob Fenner>

Dead Live rock in Freshwater system?  2/5/11
Hello there, Hope you are well.
I have search your site but couldn't find an answer to my specific question (most returned results refer to regenerating live rock), so I ask for a
moment of your time if I may?
<Go ahead.>
I am in the process of setting up a brackish aquarium in which a GSP will reside (SG @ 1.003 due to GSP's occupying FW tanks at LFS. Will raise slowly over a period of time).
On my quest to find suitable rocks for this tank I decided that Live rock looked a lot better that other types at my local store.
<Can do. There's also a nice range of fake live rock that looks even better in freshwater and brackish water tanks.>
To cut a long, long story short, I have 20kg of dead Live rock on which there was a lot of life on, and within, when used in an old Marine system.
It has been standing in cold water with no filtration/acceleration for 3 month and therefore is very smelly due to decaying critters etc. I have rinsed and scrubbed and left standing in cold, clean water with acceleration.
<I see.>
Now for my questions for which I bother you..
Can this rock be used in fresh water due to the amount of live which was on it?
Can I just undertake daily water changes for a week or so, then use in my low end brackish tank?
Is this a bad idea due to the Ammonia which may be produced from a possible long decaying process?
<Oh, there'll be ammonia alright, but what better way to cycle the tank before adding the GSP?>
Thanks in advance.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Dead Live rock in Freshwater system?  2/5/11

Neale. Thanks for the speedy response and your dedication. Both are
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Aquarium Suitable Rock   2/10/11
Hey guys! Hope everything is going good with everyone.
I set up my tank with some cichlids. Right now I have a Cyphotilapia frontosa , and a Tilapia buttikoferi. I plan to add a few more fish but I would like to add more rock to have more caves and hiding spots before they get big and truly settled. I'm looking for a good website or something where I can order safe aquarium rock or my tank. I have a pH of 7.6 and my fish are doing well. I just want to make sure the rock I get won't change my pH or anything like that. Any help would be appreciated.
< Stay away from sedimentary rock like sandstones and conglomerates. These are lightly cemented deposits that can leach salts into the water and change the pH. You can always try an experiment yourself. Add some rock to a glass of distilled water and measure the conductivity, pH and total hardness. The reactions are probably quicker when the water is heated to a tropical aquarium temp.-Chuck>
Re: Aquarium Rock II   2/10/11
Thanks chuck, but did you or maybe someone else happen to know a website that has a good selection of aquarium rock that you'd recommend?
Thank you
< Aquarium rock is usually mined at a local quarry, so it is going to be different at locations all over the country. Identify the type of rock you are considering then do a Google search with that rock and fish or aquarium associated with it. People have usually come across this problem before and it is probably discussed somewhere. Since you are keeping rift lake cichlids the upper pH and total hardness levels should not really be a problem. It becomes a major factor if you were trying to keep soft water fish. Stay away from driftwood. the tannins in the wood may soften the water.-Chuck>

Driftwood question   12/30/10
I wanted to bounce this off you guys to get your take. I have a new setup, a 20-gallon high populated with 2 quarter-sized angelfish. In process of setting this tank up, I went out to the desert in an area unlikely to have pesticides/herbicides and picked up some creosote roots/branches that look as though they have been aged several Phoenix summers. (Note that here I mean creosote bush, a common desert plant, and not creosote wood preservative.) I scrubbed them down, then left them overnight in the swimming pool for a good chlorine treatment. The size and shape prevent boiling or immersion in anything smaller than the pool.
The roots have the expected white fungus film after 24 hours. I'm tempted to leave the creosote in the tank in the hopes that the fungus will run its course in a couple of weeks.
<Will take longer.>
My research produced mixed results, with some sources saying to let the fungus run its course, and others saying to get the wood out of the tank and keep it out. The fish seem unaffected.
<Indeed. The fungus is harmless, but it is consuming oxygen and it is dumping nitrate into the water as the biological processes take their course, and nitrate accumulation is the silent killer in cichlid aquaria.
Nonetheless, in a big tank with lots of oxygen and filtration this shouldn't be a major problem. Some Plecs will consume the fungus, and Panaque spp. catfish will simply eat fresh wood "as is". Whether or not Creosote Bush is toxic is a whole other question. Many plants contain secondary compounds in them, and these may be toxic to fish and/or filter bacteria. Observe your tank carefully and act accordingly.>
I do have one other question but I will send it separately so it's easier for you to categorize in the FAQ area.
Rick Novy
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Driftwood question   12/30/10
There are some areas on the wood that do not have any fungus, which leads me to believe that the wood isn't too far from being ready. Since I had to break the pieces to get them to fit, I should think any toxins leeched from the ends would have impacted the fish before the first 24 hours. However, I watch all my tanks daily. I know people use other desert plant skeletons, like cholla, for instance, in aquaria, so I'm hopeful creosote is a viable option. Free is a nice price.
<Sounds like a good plan! Cheers, Neale.>

Established Tank Meltdown   8/2/10
<Hello Margaret>
First, as many have said, thanks much for your help. Your website is magnificent.
<Thank you for your kind, encouraging words>
I've been keeping tanks for about 15 years now and thought I was pretty good at it--but apparently not as good as I thought. I have a 75 gallon tank planted freshwater that's been set up for about 5 years--two moves in there, but the community, plants, and drift wood have been pretty constant. I had five clown loaches (largest about 4 inches), 8 giant Danios, 6 Australian rainbows (the ones with red stripes), and 7 or so skunk cories. About two weeks ago I noticed that the fish were in distress--and there was a rotten egg smell.
<Trouble with a capital "T">
I assumed I had a pocket of hydrogen sulfide under one of the pieces of driftwood (research),
<Which I'd remove pronto...>
and did a massive (80%) water change, took everything out, vacuumed the gravel, and seemed to stop it--but then two days later came down and all the giant Danios, all but 2 Australian rainbows, one clown loach, and two skunk cories were dead.
I repeated the procedure daily for three days, and got good readings all around (nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia at 0) and no smell. So thought I was out of the woods. Transferred four silver dollar sized angel fish from another tank and planned to get replacement loaches and cories and rainbow fish, though not the Danios (since I needed schools for my remaining schools). Today, went to do a quick water change, and checked the readings--and the ammonia was really high, 4 ppm, but nitrate and nitrate were still zero.
<Well... your nitrifying microbes have either been killed off, or are metabolically inactive. In any/all cases it is necessary to re-start the biological filtration here. Happily, there are currently ready-working cultures to be had (e.g. Dr. Tim's One and Only). Please feed not at all as long as the ammonia registers more than 1.0 ppm, and read here immediately:
and the linked files above. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Thanks much,
Re: Established Tank Meltdown
Mr. Fenner (or whomever is on call now),
Thanks so much for the fast response. I do appreciate it. As soon as I detected the excessive ammonia reading, I did a massive water change, added some bacteria I had on hand (which was old--so ordered BioSpira), and last night, this morning, and at noon, the ammonia read between 0.25 and 0.50 ppm.
<Ahh! Much better>
I am planning to do a follow-on water change (smaller than yesterday's tonight, recognizing it'll slow the cycling, but quite worried about my fish. I can move some to another aquarium, but they're not really suitable, as my 48 gallon tank has only tinies in it.)
<I would still (definitely) gravel vacuum the smaller tank and put this "gunk" in your uncycled one>
I really didn't ever expect to have a crash such as I've had--wondering if adding gravel or the filter media from another tank would help, as it does with initial cycling?
<Indeed it usually does>
Should this be treated as a normal, new cycle, then?
Sorry to sound confused. I read the link and it certainly sounds as if this should have been expected. I just "assumed" with a 75 gallon tank and a reasonable fish load (it was reasonable, wasn't it? Let me know please if it was excessive--5 mid-sized clown loaches, 8 giant Danio, 4 striped rainbow fish, 7 cories--please),
<Should be fine... unless the Clowns are huge>
that despite vigorous cleaning of the gravel, and brief removal of the driftwood,
<I'd leave this out>
that the cycle would last. Oddly, all the plants seem very, very happy. Any further advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.
Anyway, thanks much for your time. I love your book (if Mr. Fenner is responding) and greatly appreciate your help (whoever is responding).
Best Regards,
<And you, BobF>
Re: Established Tank Meltdown   8/2/10
Bob (if it's still you),
Thanks for letting me call you that. One loach was about 4 inches, the others about 3 inches, so thanks for the reassurance on that.
<Under six inches is fine here>
I did note in this email (missed it in the first), that you highly recommend removing the driftwood. If you say to do so, I will. It was all purchased in aquarium stores, and most of the pieces have plants growing on them, including one really big broad-leafed plant. But if you say I need to remove them, I will.
<I would at least "gouge out", remove the anaerobic/soft parts of the wood that were rotting... provide more circulation about the piece>
Any explication would be greatly appreciated, however. I have driftwood in the 48 gallon tank too; it has only a dwarf ram, 8 cardinal tetra, 8 tiny rainbow fish (can't remember their names--but the males trail magnificent fins and they're less than third the size of the average rainbows?), half a dozen pygmy Rasbora, and a banjo catfish. Does the driftwood in that tank need to come out too?
Thanks much.
<Depends... Please read here:
and the linked article... B>
Re: Established Tank Meltdown 8/3/10

Mr. Fenner,
<Tis I, Bob>
(Or whomever is there.)
I really appreciate your help. And I need it.
<Certainly welcome Margaret>
I read all the articles about driftwood, took mine out, looked at it, poked at it, and found no fungus or soft spots. So I put it back in. If you tell me that was a bad decision, I'll pull it out.
<Mmm, is/was this the source of anaerobiosis? The "rotten egg" smell that likely led to your losses? Has simply moving it, cleaning about it obviated the source?>
I don't know what's going on, though. Clearly, though, I've been a bad fishkeeper, all unaware. I have two tanks, one 75 (as I've talked about below) and one 46 gallons. I was changing the water (I do a 40% water change
every two weeks)
<I'd do half this every week... in point of fact, I do>
and decided to test, since I have had such bad results with the other one. Again, this tank has been up and running for five years--moved twice in that time, but been in its current location with its current occupants (give or take a few tetra, as they die from time to time) for more than two years. The occupants are 2 dwarf rams, 8 cardinal
tetras, 6 miniature rainbow fish (the kind where the males have flowing fins), 8 pygmy Rasboras, and a banjo catfish (about 2.5 inches). Had planned to add 6 pygmy corries and 5 more cardinal tetras. O.k., the test results were 1.5 ppm ammonia, 1 ppm nitrites, and 0.5 ppm nitrates. I dumped in a bottle of SafeStart. But what am I doing wrong?
<Something is and/or has suspended nitrification. Did you read where I originally referred you to? I would feed NOTHING till both NH3 and NO2 were under 1.0 ppm>>
I feed frozen food, a mixture (brine shrimp, bloodworms, veggie), 2 cubes per day to that tank. I do a 40% water change every other week. Change out the filter media (carbon) once a month. Have BioWheels on both aquaria.
<Something... again, has "poisoned" the beneficial microbes involved in the forward (chemical reactions) in nitrogenous demineralization in these systems... What?>
My larger tank seems stable now--ammonia still registering, but at 0.5 ppm and nitrate and nitrite are both zero. Still, what happened?
<Do read again: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaintindex.htm
scroll down to the yellow coloured tray...>
Again, 40% water change every two weeks. I feed that one (or did before the massive die off and would like to replace the inhabitants--particularly feel sorry for the sole clown loach) 3 cubes a night.
Any additional advice for long term fishkeeping is welcome. Have been arrogant--advising new keepers on the cycles, on the minimal fish loads for tanks, and yet here I am--in dire straits.
Thanks for your professionalism and assistance.
Best Regards,
<Please write back after reading the trouble/fixing FAQs files... BobF> 

Manzanita wood   6/22/10
Hi guys,
I am beginning to garner the materials I need to set up a nature aquarium ala Takashi Amano, and I was just wondering would Manzanita wood word well as in such a system with moss and Bolbitis attached to it?
<If sold as "aquarium-ready" then yes, it's fine. Prior to aquarium use it needs to be sandblasted and then cured. The stuff sold for bird cages and sculpting may not be suitable for use in aquaria, especially if it has been
chemically treated. Check with your retailer.>
Manzanita I hear has a neutral chemistry but is there a certain way I should prep Manzanita before I use it?
<While relatively inert, like all woods, Manzanita wood will produce some acids as it decays, though rather less than many bogwoods.>
Thanks for any info you can give.
<Cheers, Neale.> 

Could it be the rocks?
Lake Tanganyika Cichlid Die -Off 06/9/10

Dear Friends, I have had fish tanks for over 30+ years and I recently decided to change my 150 gallon tank from salt to fresh water.
Water in my area is hard and I was planning a Tanganyika tank. I had some interesting rocks I found in a nearby quarry, the rocks were actually pieces of stalactites (or stalagmites), and they looked nice. I also had a few pieces of lava about the size of large softballs. To first test the water I had introduced a few mollies and then a few weeks later, just to be sure, I added a few angel fish. All was fine for a few weeks. I did water changes and things seemed fine so I finally introduced about 15 small Tanganyika cichlids. After about two weeks, within a 3-4 day period all the cichlids, who lived all around the rocks, started to die off, not the angels and not the mollies. I had my water checked at my local fish store and all seemed okay so I am stumped what caused the sudden deaths. I was
wondering, could it be the stones? Either the stalactites or the lava rocks? I read that stalactites are primarily limestone. Could this be my problem? Thanks for your help. Great site. Mark
< Thanks for your kind words. Lake Tanganyikan cichlids like hard alkaline water around 82 F. A water test that comes back "fine" is useless. Ammonia is very toxic at high pH levels. With only a few weeks of cycling your tank
may not have the bacteria needed in sufficient numbers to adequately deal with those toxins. Lake Tanganyikan cichlids are very diverse with many different feeding requirements. Tropheus for example are vegetarians and do
not do well on a diet too high in animal proteins. Check out the book "Enjoying Cichlids" by Ad Konings to help you select cichlids once your tank is tested.-Chuck>

Re: Could it be the rocks?
Cycling Problem In New Cichlid Tank 6/10/2010

Chuck, Thanks for your prompt reply.
So you don't think it's the limestone or the lava rocks, but rather the tank
has not properly cycled enough?
< Limestone type materials and lava rock are commonly used by cichlid keepers in the US with no ill effects. One way to check on the cycling is to check the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates yourself.>
I have a 150 gallon with an overflow to the sump, the overflow tower is filled with bio-balls and I have the sump filled with pond matrix and then the water circulates back to the tank.
So if it's a problem of cycling then I will have to work on that.
Any other suggestions?
Check the pH. of your tap water. If it is soft then the changes in pH are a problem for the Tanganyikans.-Chuck> Thanks, Mark

Real Tree Stumps 4/30/10
I recently purchased a 500 gallon aquarium and I am giddier than a kid in a candy shop.
<I bet! I can only dream. I don't think my house would hold 500 gallons even if flooded the whole ground floor!>
After keeping saltwater for some time I am ready to do a large freshwater Amazon tank.
<Very good.>
The trouble is it is extremely difficult to find large aquarium decorations.
<Can be, though online resellers help, and good aquarium stores can special order large pieces of rock and wood. Here in England, stores like 'Aquatic Design Centre' that specialise in doing big tanks for hotels, sushi bars and the like have a good stock of giant pieces of bogwood, so if you're in the UK, try giving them a ring.>
I want a 3d foam background, but none are large enough.
<These can be made special order.>
I was told by a manufacturer that a custom order for one would cost over a grand.
Any suggestions? I would make my own out of foam and cement but that will harden the water when I need acidic water.
<Ah, not necessarily. These have been made with polystyrene and polyurethane foam, and once hardened are chemically inert. I'd varnish them anyway, not least of all because of the paint you'd use on the foam, but it's certainly do-able.>
The main thing I want is a large tree stump/roots. I want to hide my plumbing within it and I need it to be about 3 feet tall. No one sells synthetic tree stumps this large. I am considering going to my local nursery to ask for a dead tree so I can cut off the roots and stump that I need. Do you see any problem with this?
<Yes and no. Freshly cut wood is rich in organic material. It will rot in the aquarium, and there will be fungus growing on the stuff for months, at least six months, likely more than a year for a large tree root. At the same time it will be producing organic acids that will lower pH. In a soft water tank there isn't much carbonate hardness and buffering tends to be minimal unless boosted with phosphoric acid. As you hopefully realise, biological filtration diminishes below pH 7.5, and below pH 6 stops altogether, so you don't want too much acidity. Indeed, in most cases a soft to slightly hard water aquarium maintained at pH 7 is about perfect for a very wide range of fish.>
Should I soak the roots first. I do not know much on plants, but could a real non-Amazon tree stump add non-native nutrients to the water that could be harmful?
<In and of itself, wood isn't toxic. But if the wood was sprayed, e.g., by insecticides, it can bring those toxins into the tank. Have done this by accident, and watched in horror as half my fish died within minutes.>
Thanks guys.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Real Tree Stumps  5/1/10
Thanks for the info. I will look into the polyurethane foam. I did not know I could paint it. If I do that and use cement will the polyurethane varnish keep the cement from hardening the water?
<You cure the polyurethane first, then paint it, let it dry, and then varnish it as required.>
As far as the tree trunk is concerned, I plan on hollowing the middle out.
I also live in Las Vegas where temperatures reach 125 degrees in the summer. Do you think putting it in the sun for a few months to dry it out will prevent it from growing fungus when I put it in the tank?
<Won't make much difference. As soon as it is put in the water, the dried organic matter will soften up and start to rot. Petrified wood isn't just wood left out in the sunshine for a while!>
Thanks again!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Rocks from river?  3/11/10
Hi WWM crew!
I couldn't find my answer on your page so I'm hoping you could answer it.
Okay, so I'm wondering if I could get rocks from my nearby river and put them inside my tank?
Thank you - Seth:)
<There's no easy answer here. In theory, any lime-free, non-porous rocks without metallic seams collected from a clean river should be perfectly safe. But as you can see there are plenty of conditional clauses there!
Anything with a calcareous content is likely to harden the water, and that may or may not be acceptable given the fish you're keeping. Porous rocks run the risk of containing organic matter than can rot when placed in the aquarium, and that can compromise water quality unless you allow time for such rocks to be "cured" (as you do with live rock for marine tanks). Seams of metals are commonly found in certain igneous rocks, and in theory these
can release toxic metals such as copper into the water that can kill livestock, particularly invertebrates but potentially your fish as well.
Finally, rocks collected from somewhere with industrial pollution runs the risk of bringing those things into the aquarium, though it is usually calcareous rocks that are more likely to collect such toxins rather than chemically inert igneous rocks. In short, only you can judge whether the rocks in your river are suitable for use in your aquarium. Can it be done?
Sure, have done this myself many times. Is it 100? No; you need to be careful. Cheers, Neale.>

Freshwater fungus...?   2/25/10
I'm wondering what this white "fungus" growing on my gravel and driftwood is. It's almost like a film.
<Most probably some type of bacteria, perhaps a Cyanobacteria. Fungus certainly does grow in freshwater aquaria, but usually on organic-rich substrates, like freshly cut wood. Bacterial films tend to develop where
the substrate is dirty (i.e., rich in organic matter) and when water current is weak. Cyanobacteria likewise, but with the additional issue of direct sunlight often being the trigger. Cheers, Neale.>

??? on Lace rock 2/23/2010
Hellooo Crew !
Recently I purchased a few pieces of what I was told is Lace rock. I took it home and scrubbed it -as best as I could- under running water with a small brush.
The tank is 20 gallon freshwater, basically new with new Tahitian Moon sand base ( seeded with a cup of fine grain gravel), artificial silk plants and an established filter ( Penguin 150 ) temp. is 77 f.
<I wouldn't be using Tahitian Moon Sand with cichlids that dig, and besides, with Lamprologus brichardi, the sand you want is coral sand.>
This tank is temporarily housing 2 Jewel Cichlids and after their new tank is ready will house 5 Neolamprologus Brichardi. The Jewels will be moved to a larger tank.
<Good. Even aside from differences in water chemistry requirements, the Jewel Cichlids will kill the Brichardi.>
About a week after I put this lace rock in the tank I turned the lights on one morning and saw what looked like gelatinous bubbles of various sizes from pea to marble in several of the hole pockets in the rock.
<Gas, most likely. Bubbles from decay of detritus inside the rock. Or else just air working itself out. Bacteria and fungi will form mats or threads on some materials, such as fresh wood, but this is obviously grey, slimy, and when touched feels like what it is. Gas bubbles will feel like bubbles.
May or may not be dangerous, depending on whether the gases are just air (harmless) or from decomposition of organic matter (potentially, not harmless).>
Color was translucent white and these organisms moved with the current, kind of like a jellyfish with no tentacles.
<Need photo. Sharp and close up, and no bigger than 500 KB please.>
I removed the rocks with the growths and noticed a heavy salty smell to the water and rocks. I re-scrubbed the rocks in hot water and returned them to the tank after changing 25 % of the water and in a few days the bubbles were back. This time I removed the rocks, scrubbed them again and boiled them for 5 minutes. No bleach was used. They are currently in open air / not in a tank.
<Would soak these rocks for a few weeks, months until they'd stopped giving off gas. Will then be safe to use.>
I was reading an article on WWM about this type of rock raising the PH.
<Calcareous lace rock will harden the water and steady the pH, but don't confuse with lava rock, which seems to lower the pH slightly, and has no useful buffering ability at all. In any event, you shouldn't be relying on rockwork to control water chemistry; once covered with algae, the rock is insulated from the water, like the plastic around a power cable, so its impact will be minimal. Use a standard home-brew or purchased Rift Valley cichlid salt mix to condition each new batch of water:
Combining buffered water made this way with a coral sand/crushed coral undergravel filter will provide the best conditions for Tanganyikan cichlids. Calcareous rockwork for hiding places is a bonus, but not the solution.>
So after all this, would it be better to put the rock in with the Brichardis or toss it ?
<If in doubt, don't use. Without seeing the rock in front of me, I really can't offer any guarantees either way.>
Any idea what this organism was and why the water smelled so salty and if it is safe to put it back in the tank? Have a great day, freezing in Indiana.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: ??? on Lace rock, FW decor...  2/23/10
Neale, if you need a better pic, lmk and I'll try again.
<Looks like standard calcareous rock. Good for Tanganyikan tanks. But if you're getting slime on it, could be trapped air, dead organic matter (e.g., algae) or a mix of silt and any flocculants added to the water supply. Would certainly soak for a few weeks, and use only once nice and clean. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: ??? on Lace rock, Hemichromis, Brichardi incomp.  2/23/10
Hellooo Neale !
<Hello again,>
I can't give you a picture of the bubbles on the rock as it's been taken out of the tank and boiled. I can send a pic of the rocks out of water if that would help.
<By all means do so.>
I chose the Black Tahitian because my water runs at a naturally high PH and don't really need it too much more than what it is.
According to the bag, this sand is supposed to be PH neutral so, it won't hinder the PH, am I correct?
<Yes; the thing with Tahitian Moon Sand is that it's chemically neutral because it's made from glass (or at least, a byproduct from glassmaking).
Anyway, it's "sharp", so anything that sits on the sand will find it abrasive, and burrowing fish will find it abrasive and impossible to tunnel through nicely. This is on the Carib Sea web site.
While these cichlids aren't major burrowers, so you should be fine, if you want to add catfish, it's not so good.>
I've had these Brichardis for 14 months and they were born and raised in this water, they appear fine albeit the mouth deformities discussed with you in a previous e-mail. (too much inbreeding.)
I know the Jewels will kill the Brichardis...you told me so, aye ?
<Can't remember. Certainly, Hemichromis spp. are both piscivorous and highly territorial.>
These lovely little Jewels, you might remember them as Rhett and Scarlett, had babies hatch Jan 1 and I thought all were eaten... save for one, which I caught and , - now don't forget to keep breathing, Neale - put in the playpen with some baby Gups of the same size. It turned out well.
The baby Jewel , now named Spunky, has grown and has eaten the two wee runts and so it was time for him to get his own pad.
<Ah yes... a fresh fish dinner.>
So last weekend he got his own place.
He just started showing his spangles the week before last. In a few weeks his bigger tank will be available and he will then go there to grow and after that I don't know.
<Perhaps a local fish club? Usually a good way to sell, rehome unwanted fish.>
Scarlett is back to hating Rhett again.
<Yes, happens. A temperamental genus. Pair bond is strongest if they have a common enemy, like a big, fast Shark Minnow of some sort, but that can create whole new problems.>
Their new tank will be ready by March the 15th providing all goes well. I can send you a pic of the rocks if it would help.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: ??? on Lace rock
Thank you, my friend !
<A pleasure. Enjoy your fish. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: ??? on Lace rock
Hi Neale, This is Spunky.
<Just a pup! And already killing stuff. How very Hemichromis. Cheers,
Re: ??? on Lace rock
Hi Neale,
<Hello again,>
Just went over to Carib Sea's web site to check it out. Most interesting.
This will open up yet another can of worms for me to digest. Can't wait.
I'm so, I guess, glad, you said something as I had thought about moving the Banjo to this tank when I put the Brichardis in. You saved him, Neale !
<He certainly wouldn't have been happy there.>
I don't see the Brichardis nosing around in the rocks or moving them so I think they'll be fine.
<Likely so.>
I am more concerned with those Lace rocks.
Yes the Checkered Barbs I have are indeed Puntius oligolepis. They and some expensive Danios (long ago digested , by Scarlett ) were the first occupants of my -now- Mbuna tank. Next came Rhett and Scarlett ( the Jewels ) Next came a pair of Albino Yellow Labidochromis, a Pictus cat and a Banjo cat....Everything was cool until Rhett and Scarlett's eggs hatched...All heck broke loose...
<This is how Hemichromis operate. They're fairly amenable to tankmates when immature, but once spawning, become very aggressive.>
I took out the Pictus. The Labs were hiding so I moved them. They didn't like their new house ( way too small ) So, I got another tank, discovered Spunky, moved The Jewels to the new tank, moved the Labs back to the 29 , then one Lab started picking on the other Lab so I got more Mbunas. This did the trick. Although I have one Hap ( Red Empress) in there that I thought was an Mbuna. So far, so good and they don't seem to even notice the Barbs are even there. They are all too busy digging everything up.
Now I know why I don't see many plants in Mbuna tanks !
<Does depend on the Malawian; some species, like Dimidiochromis compressiceps, actually prefer tanks that mimic their habitat and have stands of Vallisneria.>
LOL And you've already yelled at me about the Banjo. He is doing fine.
Nobody bothers him.
He even comes out every now and then after I turn the moon lights on.
Most of the time I can find him in a plant doing his famous leaf impersonation.
<Not the most exciting fish in the world. The big brackish/marine banjo catfish like Aspredo are, I think, rather more interesting.>
Sooz V
<Cheers, Neale.>

Mopani wood and a home for Gouramis   11/9/09
Hi everyone,
I was hoping you could help me out with something. I'm in the process of setting up a new 29 gallon tank, and I bought two beautiful pieces of Mopani wood I'm planning to use in the tank.
I've been soaking each in a 5-gallon bucket of dechlorinated tap water for a few weeks now, and been doing water changes in each of the buckets every few days. One of the pieces has a faint rotten-egg smell when I remove it from the bucket to change the water, while the other piece has no smell at all. Could this be harmful in any way?
<Is certainly odd.>
If so I'll definitely toss it--I don't want to risk any fishes' lives.
<Can you return the piece? Otherwise, try putting the wood in cistern of the lavatory, and after a couple of weeks, see if the flushing hasn't rinsed away any organic matter.>
Another question I wanted to ask you guys is about Gourami compatibility for this tank. I 'm hoping to center this tank around one or two female /Trichogaster trichopterus/, and I'm wondering what other fish would be compatible, as I've read these fish can be aggressive.
<Males are aggressive, yes; females generally pretty good.>
Several other sources I've come across have suggested harlequin Rasboras/ Rasbora heteromorpha /or white cloud mountain minnows /Tanichthys albonubes. /What do you think? Any stocking suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
<Either of these would be good. Rasboras prefer water on the warm side, Minnows on the cooler, so would choose depending on what other fish you had in mind. Corydoras for example like cooler water, so Minnows are a good choice. If you were keeping Angels though, they like warmer water, so Rasboras would make sense.>
Thanks in advance,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mopani wood and a home for Gouramis 11/10/09
Thanks so much, Neale! You've really helped me out!
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

White accumulation on driftwood   8/22/09
I just got a 20 gallon freshwater tank ­ in it now are two male blue dwarf gourami¹s and two albino Kory's. I previously had a 10 gallon tank with several plants in it. We were afraid that the 10 gallon tank got infected, for a lot of the fish started dying, the water was cloudy, there was algae buildup. We started the 20 gallon from scratch, but when the tank was ready for plants, we just took the plants from the 10g and shook off most of the water and placed it in the 20g tank. We also placed a piece of driftwood in the 20g... And now there are these like translucent white blobs of stuff all over the driftwood.
<Fungus... harmless, but does imply the bogwood wasn't properly "cured". There is enough soft material in this wood for the fungus to eat. Will go away with time, but it's a good idea to keep cleaning the wood.>
The other fish pretty much leave it alone, though the gourami¹s are near it sometimes. It honestly looks like a cross between egg sacs and some sort of underwater spider web/nest thing. It began appearing on the parts of the driftwood that were cut off, and now it¹s still at those spots, it is just more noticeable. Do you have any idea what this might be, if it¹s harmful to the fish, and what I can do about it? Thanks.
<Not harmful, but decaying wood consumes oxygen and releases acidity, so watch the water quality. If you're concerned, soak the wood in a pail of water for a few months. Yes, it takes months, even years, to properly cure wood! Cheers, Neale.>

Drift wood question, prep./use   8/7/09
I have some driftwood from the local lake. Can this safely go in my home aquarium?
<If the lake is not polluted, then yes, such wood can be used. Check with your local environment or fish & wildlife bureau if you're unsure. It's also a good idea to clean it thoroughly beforehand.>
I want to add it for the Pleco, but I take the statement--do no harm--seriously--and would like to not hurt anyone in the tank, even in the name of giving them what they need.
<Usually the biggest issue with wood you collect is that it isn't fully cured. When placed in water it rots, and you see fungus all over it as white threads. This doesn't harm the fish, but it looks messy. Other times, the wood floats. Use silicone to glue it to a slate that you can bury in the gravel.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Mangrove roots... FW decor use   08/02/09
I have a 200 gallon freshwater tropical aquarium with some live plants.
running at a PH of 7.0 and at (25 deg centigrade) Years ago I put in some pieces of dead mangrove roots or timber.
This was mainly for looks and effect. However the timber has now a soft rotting black coating on it. From time to time I remove much of this black timber slime. By removing the timber from the water and brushing with a wire brush, then jetting it off with fresh water.
<Unfortunately quite normal. Wood rots, inevitably, and there's nothing really you can do to prevent this. Some catfish, Panaque species, will eat the decaying wood, which keeps things cleaner, but it does mean the piece of wood gets smaller and smaller over time!>
The actual filter wool has to be cleaned on a regular basis, as some of this slime particles is constantly sheering off the mangrove wood.
<Just what happens...>
However I was wondering if by simply permanently removing these several pieces of mangrove roots or logs from the aquarium. Could this action in any way be detrimental to fish, plants or water conditions.
<No harm at all. Of course, wood reduces pH and hardness somewhat, so if you've been using wood for this purpose up to now, you'll have to change things accordingly. But otherwise, I add and remove wood from my tanks all the time and never worry about it.>
Best regards
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mangrove roots 08/02/09
Hi Neale, Many thanks for your helpful information.
<Happy to help.>
I thought about what you said about PH levels in the aquarium.
I have removed all the mangrove roots from the aquarium. However a friend is going to blast the pieces of wood off with a high powered water jet later today.
<Ah, sounds like a good idea. In itself, rotting wood doesn't cause any real harm in an aquarium since it contains very little protein, i.e., what can become ammonia. But the wood fibres are unsightly, and can clog up biological media, leading to inefficiencies. If the water isn't well buffered, these small fibres will also increase the background rate of acidification. So while not strictly necessary, what you suggest will be
entirely beneficial.>
If this removes all the soft rotting timber from them I may replace them in the aquarium. As apart from conditions they really look effective and add to the overall appearance.
<Good luck, Neale.>

Follow up: Praecox Rainbow Problem We Have a Fungus Amongst Us! Novel
way of removing fungus from driftwood.7/26/2009

Hello again Mike,
<Hello Andrew.>
Just thought you might benefit from an update....again.
<I always like to get updated.>
Contrary to your excellent advice, I could not bring myself to dispose of such beautiful driftwood (planted with much healthy Anubias) so I tried a different approach on a whim before tossing it in the bin.
<Fair enough, I can understand your desire not to get rid of a nice piece of driftwood.>
After one or two more unsuccessful scrubbing attempts (short term fix only), I thought I'd try something a bit more.... aggressive after all if it didn't work the stuff would have to be discarded. SO here's what I did.
First I scrubbed the heck out of the driftwood, then dipped/doused the area with boiling water, being very careful to avoid the roots and leaves. Now two weeks later.... NO FLUFFY STUFF!!
I still have no idea on what it was, but at least I know how to cure it (circumstances willing of course).
<Good news. How did your fish get along with the treatment?
Just thought this might be beneficial to the knowledge base at WWM.
<Will add it to the appropriate sections.>
Take care Mike.
<Will do, and you as well. >

Can the tank hold it? 7/27/09
Thanks for the earlier reply. I just have one more question, with it being a lake Malawi biotype I am going to be placing 88 pounds of rock and of 88 pounds sand, will the aquarium be able to support this weight? Its 180 gallon tank.
<No problem, any commercially available tank and stand will hold this without any trouble. Scott V.>

Praecox Rainbow Problem We Have a Fungus Amongst Us! 6/25/2009
Hi there,
<Hello again Andrew!>
Was hoping this message might reach Mike again! My little friends are in a spot of bother again. Everything has been going fine, until yesterday that is.
I woke to find one of my praecox females gulping at the surface, and another two with rapid breathing. A few white patches have appeared on their fins this time, but not so much around their mouth.
<Uh oh. I do not recall if you have a separate tank to use as a hospital or quarantine tank, but I would remove the fish immediately and start treating for a fungal infection. Treating the entire tank is an option, but do realize that it will kill off your biological filter, causing the tank to cycle again; and will likely kill off any snails and the like in the tank. . Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/fwfishmeds.htm and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwfshparasites.htm >
This time I've attached a pic showing the "white fuzz" growing on my driftwood. It started in one very small area on the back of one piece, but has now moved to all three pieces, this one being the worst effected. I
wonder if you are able to identify it, and perhaps shed some light on whether or not it may be related to the problems I'm having.
<Looks like a fungus, perhaps Saprolegnia sp. The driftwood was not likely the source of the fungus, but is does serve as a perfect incubator for it. I would remove the driftwood immediately and dispose of it. If you add more driftwood, you may want to consider adding some Java Fern as well - It grows readily on driftwood and will out compete the fungus it is also very easy to grow and is attractive. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/javafernfaqs.htm >
My water is still testing fine, 0 nitrite, 0 ammonia, and PH holding steady at 7.0.
<Very good. You did not list your temperature, but I am willing to bet it is somewhere around 24° - 26°C. >
Just one small piece of info to add, is that about 1 week ago, I added 1 additional female. Ironically, this new fish has no symptoms whatsoever, but I also understand it may have been the culprit that introduced this pathogen.
<This is a possibility. You may want to institute a dip and quarantine procedure when introducing new livestock. This is most often used for marine fish, but it certainly cannot hurt for FW fish as well. A FW dip with formalin and Methylene blue can certainly reduce the likelihood of this occurring in the future. The following article was written for marine tanks, but the dipping procedures are certainly applicable to FW as well. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dips_baths.htm >
Thanks for you time.
<My pleasure as always. Do write back with the results.>
Andrew B

Aquarium safe woods  6/11/09
I am in the middle of planning a tank for SA Cichlids. I was wondering if there are any safe woods that I can collect myself and how to cure them or do you recommend buying commercial drift wood for my aquascaping?
<Hi Dan. In theory you could use a variety of non-resinous woods, and things like apple, beech and oak have been used. But there are some specific issues. Firstly, fresh wood contains some organic material that
rots quickly, and this produces fungal threads. While unsightly rather than harmful, it does indicate additional decay going on in the tank, and this in turn means your filter is having to work that bit harder. The bigger
problem though is pesticide residues. Even small amounts can kill fish very quickly, and cichlids are especially sensitive to poisons. I've made this mistake before, and managed to kill a breeding pair of Nanochromis transvestitus by sticking in some rose wood that had been sprayed recently (and without my knowledge). So be ultra-careful about where you collect your wood. All things considered, artificial wood and aquarium-grade bogwood are probably the safest options, if not necessarily the least expensive. Cheers, Neale.>

Fire Belly Newt 3/27/2009
I put a lilac branch for the newts to climb on and now I have noticed a clear slime growing on the branch.
<Is this within a few days? If so, most probably fungal decay. Harmless in itself, but will be consuming oxygen and dumping ammonia onto your filtration system. Generally, it isn't a good idea to add fresh wood to an aquarium.>
I did some research and all I can find is a web page
that has what looks like that type of slime. Listed on the page under Slime Mold In A Fish Aquarium. Named plasmodium.
<Perhaps, but there is absolutely no way you can identify this either way, unless you're a mycologist. All fungi look very similar, once you realise the mushroom part is simply the fruiting body and the fungus itself is the mass of white threads.>
I was looking at one of the newts mouths and noticed what looks like a cut under the bottom lip. I am not sure how to treat this.
<Use an amphibian-safe anti-fungus medication.>
Can I use a anti fungus fish medication?
<If the package states clearly "Safe for use on Amphibians". If not, don't use it. Amphibians differ from fish in many ways, not least of all breathing through their skins, so some chemicals harmless to fish can cause major problems for amphibians. Your local amphibian/reptile specialist pet store should be able to help; failing that, call a vet.>
I took out the branch and I think I will change the water to be safe. Also, can I use salt treatments?
<Not with amphibians, no.>
After reading up on this slime on the web, I am worried about the newts.
<The two things are not really related. The fungi that cause fungal infections on fish and amphibians are ubiquitous to aquaria, being part of the normal nitrogen cycle. How do you think fish faeces and uneaten food is broken into the ammonia the bacteria use? Correct, it's fungi that do that! So the saprotrophic fungi are there already.>
Can you please help? Thanks.
<Cheers, Neale.>

pH always increasing   2/27/09 Hello- My question is in regard to the water parameters of my planted freshwater tropical tank. The 20 gallon tank has been set up for two or three years. I used two large bags "eco-complete" black aquarium gravel, which I got because it seemed like the best choice for plants. I also have driftwood and two rocks that did not fizz when I put vinegar on them (I think quartz). It is moderately to heavily planted with many species of plants. When I initially filled it I used conditioned tap water, which has a pH of 7.6 to 7.8. I continued to do water changes using tap water until about 8 months ago, when I decided that I wanted to gradually lower the pH to about 6.5. I began doing monthly 25% water changes with RO water, (and topping off evaporation with too), but I mixed the water change water with an electrolyte and trace element product called "electro-right". The pH of this prepared water was about 6.4. I added the clean water gradually, (over several days), so I wouldn't shock the livestock. I did this for a few months, and each time the pH would initially drop but then rise back to 7.6-7.8 after a couple days. I collected some dead red oak leaves from my yard and put in six. A few weeks ago I bought a peat granule product which I have added to my filter. The pH is still 7.5-7.8! How do I naturally lower it and keep it low? <Mmm, remove the "quartz" rocks methinks> Oh, and I have tested it with my own digital pH monitor, which I calibrated and tested 3 times in the last month, and brought a water sample to the LFS which they tested with a titration kit. Any thoughts/suggestions would be appreciated. Sam <Likely the rock is continuing to dissolve... particularly in the presence of your added acids. Try removing them. Bob Fenner>

Re: pH always increasing  3/1/09  thanks, I'll give it a try right away. <Ahh, please do report back your observations. BobF>

Red Worms In Aquarium, FW, /driftwood    1/7/09 Dear WetWebMedia Crew: After searching through dozens of answered questions on your site, I have not found an exact answer to my "problem." If the same question has already been asked, I'm terribly sorry! So here's my tank issue(s): Tonight I came home from a two week vacation to find some dreaded snails--the small, tiny ones that reproduce like rabbits on steroids--in my 37-gallon freshwater tank. I realized they must have come in on the driftwood that I had purchased from a LFS just before I left for vacation. I mentally kicked myself for not quarantining it. <Okay... not the end of the world... I assure you> In an attempt to rid myself of some of the snails, I removed two of the three pieces of driftwood and soaked them in cold tap water, hoping that maybe the chlorine might kill them off <Need a higher concentration... http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwdusefaqs.htm> . After soaking for a few hours, I removed the wood and drained the water only to find these tiny red worms wriggling in my sink! They were thread-like and only about a 1/2 centimeter or so in length. There is no way I could have taken a clear picture of them with my camera. I'd need an DSLR camera to zoom in that closely! <These also are likely not much of a problem> I immediately rushed to the computer to figure out what they could be. Most sites and postings I found seemed to think they were harmless nematodes <More likely Annelids but still, not likely a worry> that could be kept under control with water changes and gravel siphoning. However, I came across some postings that warned of the Camallanus worm. <Are definitely not these... would have to come in via a fish host> I searched for pictures of this said worm and found some disturbing photos of red worms hanging from the vents of fish. This would not have been a concern since none of my fish seemed to have any sort of anal issues or visible worms, but then it hit me. A week before I left, I had returned an Australian rainbowfish to a LFS that seemed to have a rectal prolapse or something. Something (that was not feces) was protruding slightly from its anus, and two, very thin red lines (spikes almost) came out of the vent as well. They looked almost like blood vessels, but I returned him just in case it was an illness. I had kept him, along with two other Australian rainbowfish, in a quarantine tank when I initially bought them. I returned the odd one because I didn't want to introduce him to my big tank just before I left on vacation, only to return to find everyone belly up! (I apologize for the novel...) So my questions are: What exactly could those red worms that I found in my driftwood be? <Most probably species of roundworms... not pathogenic/parasitic> Could they be harmful? <Very doubtful> If so, what should my course of action be? <Just usual maintenance... likely siphoning your gravel will remove most, and those that might remain are very likely of more use than deleterious.> And if what that A. rainbowfish had was indeed a Camallanus worm infection, could he have infected my other two A. rainbowfish that are now in my 37 gallon tank with everyone else?? <Mmm, a possibility, though again, quite remote> Unfortunately, I have found no information on the Camallanus worm's life cycle. <Is posted about on the Net...> I have read that if the fish are doing well, any worms you find probably aren't harmful, but I'm paranoid--I love these guys! Also, I do have a few live bearers in my tank (one plumetail platy, one blue platy and two of her babies, three guppies, and a balloon belly molly). I read on your site that the Camallanus worm is not uncommon in livebearers purchased in the US... <Correct> I really appreciate your time and effort! Thank you in advance, Chelsea <Thank you for writing so well... lucidly, completely. I assure you that your situation is not dire... There is very likely nothing to be overly concerned about here. If this were my system, I would do nothing overt here. NOT move these fishes, NOT place a chemical treatment. Bob Fenner>

Re: Follow up question... wood use, FW... cycling...   9/29/08
Hi Neale and crew,
Below you said I should add some plants to the tank, and suggested plants on "bogwood". I've got a couple of questions about this.
1) Is bogwood the same as driftwood?
<If it's sold in an aquarium shop, yes.>
2) I've read that driftwood will inevitably lower the pH in my tank, and I don't really want it any lower. It's around 7.6. Is it really inevitable?
I've got Anubias planted on driftwood coming today.
<Depends on the carbonate hardness (measured with your KH test kit). In hard water, if you do regular 25-50% water changes, you're unlikely to experience any serious pH changes with moderate amounts of bogwood. Stick a tonne of the stuff in a soft water aquarium, and things do need to be watched a bit more closely.>
3) In addition to the Anubias, I have some Limnobium coming and plan to put both plants in my 55g when they get here. My tank is trying desperately to cycle. There is no livestock in it at the moment, although there has been, I just moved them due to not being able to keep ammonia levels in check. So right now my readings are. NH3/4+ = 1.0, NO2 = .50, and NO3 = 5.00. Is it ok to add the plants at this point? Or are ammonia levels too high?
<It's fine; in fact the plants will use the ammonia as fertiliser.>
4) I know that adding the plants will have an effect on the cycle. I'm hoping that NH3 at least will go down, but realistically what should I expect as far as water chemistry at this point? Will the tank go into a "silent cycle"?
<It's cycle just fine.>
5) Since I removed the livestock, I've been adding two pinches of flake food daily as an ammonia source. Once I add the plants should I continue to do this?
<Yes, right up to the point the ammonia and nitrite remain zero.>
Thanks for the help.
<I hope his helps, Neale.>

Making Fake rocks, BGs    7/23/08 Hello WWM, <Hello,> I am setting up a 150 gallon aquarium for a Mississippi turtle and some U.S. native fish (some pumpkinseed sunfish, a white sucker and some fathead minnows). My question concerns the artificial rock background I am planning to make. I was planning to use the pink foam insulation boards with a coat of grout with some of the sand that will be used as the aquariums substrate mixed in. The only grout that my local home supply store carries has an anti-mold agent premixed into it. Their grout companies website (http://www.mapei.com/BioBlock/english/advantage.htm) states (or rather implies) that the anti-mold agent in their grout is not water-soluble and will not leach into water. Do you think it would be safe to use? <Not safe; the same anti-mould chemicals are in silicone sealant not designed for aquaria, and known to be toxic, hence the requirement to use aquarium silicone sealant rather than the generic stuff.> Do you know of any other alternatives to grout? <Polyurethane foam (e.g., "Great Stuff") has been much discussed (and used) to make 3-D backdrops for aquaria and appears to be non-toxic. But you'd need to cover it with sand or something to make it look realistic. Never used the stuff myself, and I'd heartily suggest a bit of time online Googling to find first-hand experiences. Will also make the point that some fish can destroy the stuff, notoriously Panaque catfish but likely anything big that likes to scratch or scrape.> I would really like to use something with sand or gravel in it (meaning no concrete), as I plan to mix the some of the substrate sand into it, so it appears that the sand in the substrate is made from the rock. Would plaster of Paris work or would it just dissolve? <Would dissolve, albeit slowly.> Thanks for any insight you can offer on my situation. Rick <Cheers, Neale.>

Treating bog wood 06/28/08 Hello i was wondering if you could help me( you most probably can being the fish gurus that you guys are :) ) . I found a nice piece of bog wood at my local pet shop. I need some help curing it. i have placed it in an empty container of water, but it seems to be developing a fungus, is there anything i can do to prevent this? i hope to use this piece of wood in one of my discus tanks but at the moment there is very little chance of that. any advice you could give me would be appreciated cheers Yasi <Greetings. You can't stop non-cured wood from becoming fungused in aquaria. Water + organic material = fungi + bacteria. Simple as that. But this isn't necessarily a disaster. Plecs, for example, will eat the fungus. Panaque spp. in particular love "fresh" wood, but most other herbivorous Plecs will eat the fungus at least. The impact on water quality will be minimal: the amount of protein in the wood is very low, so rotting wood doesn't contribute much to the ammonia in the system. Rotting wood does of course consume oxygen and lower pH, but those issues are easily managed in a large, well filtered aquarium with a decent amount of carbonate hardness in the water. I rarely both curing wood for this reason, and just stick the stuff straight into the tank. Your own mileage may vary of course, so take that experience for what it is -- my experience. If you want to play it safe, the best thing to do is cure the wood elsewhere. The old trick is to place rocks, wood, shells or whatever in the cistern of a flushing lavatory. After a few weeks or months of being constantly immersed in regularly changed water, the stuff should be nice and clean. Cheers, Neale.>

stones in fish tank, NNS?   6/9/08 hello sir how r u i have a 2'x2'x2' tank and have 8 goldfishes we also have stones at the bottom for decoration now i want to inquire that if we don't put the stones then is it harmful <Generally fish prefer tanks with sand or gravel at the bottom. Plain glass reflects light, and fish do not like light coming from underneath them. The reason is that they determine "up" and "down" by comparing where the light is (usually above them) and which way gravity is pulling them (usually downwards).> what is the use of the stones at the bottom <For most fish, it is just to stop light bouncing upwards from the bottom of the tank. But other species, like Goldfish and catfish, like to dig when feeding, so it is a "toy" of sorts, giving them something to do. Other fish move sand and gravel about to build nests or define territories. Gobies and cichlids will do this, for example. Yet others hide on or in the gravel. Loaches and flatfish are examples. Most fish adjust their colours to match the substrate. If you add a brightly coloured substrate, then they don't usually show their proper colours. The best sand or gravel is neutral or dark in colour.> is it only for decoration <The fish don't really care about decoration. But yes, many aquarists choose the substrate to create a particular "look" in the aquarium. I happen to like sand, specifically smooth silica ("silver") sand. It's fun to watch Corydoras dig through the stuff, and it is great for planted tanks too.> pls reply <Have done!> thank you <No problems.> -- SHADAB <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: stones in fish tank  6/9/08 so if i don't put stones then no harm at all??????? <As stated, not putting gravel in the bottom of the tank will make your fish unhappy. They will not feel comfortable. It won't kill them, but if you want your fish to be happy, put sand or gravel on the bottom. Please remember to put your messages in proper sentences next time, with capital letters in the right places! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: A little help with deaths and what to do please 4/1/08 We took a lot of driftwood out of the brook and put them in tanks that are unused for fish, but have the combo of cycled water that I started my tank with, and we change the water in those regularly to clear out fungus and parasites and other grossnesses that may be present. <As a rule, you really shouldn't use wood from "the wild" in aquaria. It takes many months, if not years, for all the decaying stuff to be leached out of the wood. As this stuff decays, it lowers the pH and consumes oxygen, two things you don't want happening in an aquarium. There's also the risk of bringing in toxins such as herbicides. Use ready-cured bogwood instead. May be more expensive, but far, far safer.> As of right now, I lost all 4 swordtails and 4 out of the 6 albino Corys, but nothing else seems to be affected as of right now. I cut back on the feeding to once every other day. My 125 has a leak so it'll be a while until I get the Arowana out of there, but I am keeping a close eye on that fish because it's my most valuable in my eyes. I just did a water test for ammonia because I didn't trust the "ammonia detector", and my ammonia level is at 0. <Most of the "Ammonia Detectors" I've seen have an operating life of around 1 year, and even within that lifetime, their accuracy is questionable. So while a fine supplement to having an ammonia test kit, I wouldn't rely on one. In any case, what you need to do now is remove the wood, and then do your best to ensure the aquarium is stabilised. That means running it for at least a couple of months without any new fish. In this time, check the pH is steady and that there is no nitrite or ammonia. When lots of fish die at once, it's almost always an environmental issue. So concentrate on the water quality/conditions, and see how things go. Cheers, Neale.>

Wood (sic) it be possible... FW softening... naturally   3/26/08 Best Crew, Living in the western US we have notoriously "hard" water. <Not a bad thing. Select hard water (or hard water tolerant) fish, and enjoy the benefits of rock solid water chemistry. Soft water is FAR more of a problem in fishkeeping than hard water. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwhardness.htm http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsoftness.htm > Hardness testing shows at the extreme end of the (tester) strip. We use some "soft" water from a local store, but hesitate to use too much, as we would like our fish acclimated to what we have readily available, besides quite a few were born/raised in the same conditions that come from our tap anyhow. <Sensible. Always choose fish adapted to your water chemistry where possible. Life is a lot easier that way. Do always remember domestic water "softeners" do nothing of the sort as far as fish are concerned, replacing lime with sodium salts.> As hard water can contribute to low sperm counts (thx 4 info Bob) and we have breeding FW angels and Severums (on second attempt now, handful of viable eggs!) I am always interested in natural solutions to natural problems, naturally! <Fuzzy thinking really. What matters is [a] does it work and [b] are the side effects acceptable in terms of cost or environmental impact. I use rainwater to created medium-hard, neutral water in my tanks. Cheap and effective.> So, 1- Are the Asian and African woods for sale really helping to soften water effectively or is this another attempt to bilch us out of hard earned money? <Yes, bogwood will soften water, but the degree to which it will do so depends on your initial hardness. If you have high levels of carbonate hardness (that's the test kit with the KH scale) impact of the wood will be minimal, especially if you do regular water changes. You'll still get yellowy water, but the water chemistry itself will be basically unchanged.> 2- Which is more effective (local gal says African, but then all her African pieces seemed twice as dense as her Asian ones, hence, two times as pricey!) <Neither will do what I suspect you're after, which is turn 20 degree dH, 10 degree KH water into soft Amazonian water. At least, not fast enough to be economically viable.> Thanks, Clint <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Wood... 03/26/2008 Best Crew, As usual your suggestions (gotta read more!) provided results! How about this for a possible solution: Alternate 20% water changes with hard/tap water and soft store bought water (tested to be sure it is soft). <Don't recommend swinging the water chemistry about each week. Much better to mix hard and soft water 50:50, and do each water change using the results.> Add bogwood for it's source of natural softeners. <No. Won't work this way. At best it'll slightly acidify the water over time, and quite quickly (weeks) turn the water yellow. But that's about it. The surface area of wood relative to the volume of water is simply too low.> Add some water softener plants (types suggested by Neale, thx) <Arghhh!!! No. Biogenic decalcification is something to work around, not use. Put another way: it's unpredictable. It depends on the CO2 in the water as well as other factors like seasonality. In soft water, rapidly growing Vallisneria and the like can dramatically soften the water further, leading to wild swings in pH between day (when CO2 used up through photosynthesis) and night (when plants are net CO2 producers). You don't want a piece of this, trust me.> A lot of extra work...could be worth it................ or... How 'bout I do the it easy way! Take the conch shell out of the Severums tank! <D'oh!> Take the PIECE OF MARBLE out of the angels tank, as this is what they were LAYING EGGS ON! <Replace with slate.> DUH! I'm a knowledgeable rock hound, no less!!!(Both are massive sources of calcium carbonate, or natural water hardeners, when dissolved in liquid) <Again, like the wood, this is easily overstated, because once the rock is covered with bacteria and algae the rate of dissolution is massively reduced. So the odd sea shell in a near-neutral pH, moderately hard aquarium will have little tangible effect. Especially once you allow for water changes and the background rate of acidification.> Funny how the simplest solutions are right in front of you, yet it takes a prod from a friend (or two) to see them!! Never would have realized without you, Best Crew! Thanks, Clintonite <Glad to have helped, Neale.>

Lysol...!  3/12/08 My "sweet" son dumped Lysol on all the rocks we were cleaning from our fish tank. They are a mix of quartz, volcanic (very porous) and sandstone?. Are these rocks in any way salvageable? We have one lonely old African Cichlid and were in the process of building up a new tank.... gotta love kids! Thank you, Deanna <Mmm, I'd give them a long rinse in hot water, perhaps a bleach washing (please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm "Children, the promise of tomorrow... If they make it that far!" Bob Fenner>

Driftwood and pH 1/2/08 Dear WWM crew, I have driftwood in my freshwater aquarium to keep the pH lowered in the summertime. Now I am experiencing a problem in the wintertime; the driftwood is keeping my pH too low and sometimes I am reading 0 pH. I would like to remove the driftwood. I was told once you remove the wood and it dries out you can not put it back in the tank. <Mmm, not so. May have to be re-waterlogged to "keep it from floating"...> Is that true? Or how can I preserve it for future use? Also, I have be using baking soda to keep the pH leveled. Is it safe to use baking soda or is there any other ideas you might have to keep the pH normal? Should I get coral and put it in the tank? Please give advice. Thanks again for all your help. Jean <Mmm, perhaps removal of some part (half?) of the driftwood, stepping up water changes time/percentage-wise will offset the loss of alkalinity here. Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwhardness.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Algae or what? FW   11/1/07 Hi Crew, Recently ( 3 month ago) I setup planted 20 gallon hexagon tank: fish= 6 harlequin Rasboras and 3 gold rams plants= water sprite, Amazon swords, java moss and java fern. Water parameters: pH= 6.7, NH3= 0 ppm, NO2= 0 ppm, NO3= 5 ppm Lighting= 40 Watts, 12 hrs per day <All seems fine.> I do not have any algae on the glass at all, but I see long gray hair on the driftwood. What is that? Is it dangerous for fish? <Ah, no, this isn't algae, but is likely fungal or bacterial in nature. It's common on bogwood (or any other kind of wood) that hasn't been "cured" properly. It indicates that the wood still contains sufficient organic material for bacteria or fungi to feed on. It is basically harmless, though perhaps unsightly. You can wash it off if you want. Some fish will eat this "mould", such as Plecos, and snails and shrimps may well peck at it too.> Thank you for your help Mark <Cheers, Neale>

African root wood and African Mopani wood questions 10/14/07 Hi: <Hello> I purchased a piece of wood from my local fish store last night that I was told was "African root wood". It was in a tank and is dark brown in color. When I handled it at the store, bits of black material were left on my hands. <I am familiar> I have found the terms African root wood and African Mopani wood on the internet. Are they the same material? <Can be, yes> Since this piece of wood has already been in a tank (they said about six months) do I need to treat it in any way? I would like to boil the piece of wood but it is large and unwieldy to fit into a household pot on the stove. I suppose I could pour boiling water over it but that wouldn't really permeate inside like I think it should. I suppose I could let it soak a few days in dilute vinegar water but then I imagine I would really need to let it soak in plain water to be sure all the acidic vinegar had now leached out. <I would not treat the wood... if, as you state, it has been in use for months already. Over time, this material does decompose... may lend a color to the water... perhaps change the pH and hardness to an extent. Not usually a worry. Bob Fenner> Thanks for any help on this topic.

Just a question... Rocks from the beach, use/FW  09/14/07 Hi I own a ten gallon tank and I found some stones on the beach and was wondering if I could put them i the tank? I have platies and tetras. If I can put them in what are the procedures for doing so? <Depends on the stones. If they're non-soluble, non-porous things like granite or flint, then simply washing well with hot water should make them adequately safe. Anything soluble, like limestone or coral, is less useful because these will change the pH and hardness of the tank (to test, add some a cid: if there's fizzing, the rock contains lime). The platies won't mind, but the neons will. So these sorts of rocks shouldn't be used. Porous rocks, like pumice, are generally best avoided because anything dead in the holes can decay in the aquarium and pollute the water. If in doubt, leave the stones out and just use ones bought from a tropical fish store. In a 10 gallon tank especially, hollow ornaments would displace less water and create hiding places for your fish, particularly baby platies. As such, they'd be much better value. Cheers, Neale>

Re: Just a question... testing FW substrates  09/14/07 Thank you Nelle, but how long should I soak them in the vinegar for? I tried and only one to three bubbles came up, so I put them in the tank is it alright? <No, you don't soak in acid. You add acid (like vinegar) and if there are bubbles, that means the stone contains lime. Lime + acid = carbon dioxide. The conclusion is you CANNOT use this stone in a freshwater aquarium. If you put it in the aquarium, it will slowly dissolve raising the pH and hardness. Cheers, Neale>

Curious behavior? FW... dis.    8/22/07 Hi, I have a small 6 gallon tank- new, about 4wks old. I had 3 small fish- 2 male Endler's and one Otocinclus, live plants and a piece of driftwood. At the start, I was doing small water changes every 2-3 to control ammonia and so forth, everything was fine. Last week however, I was gone for 4 days; I did a water change before I left and dropped some slow-release food. When I returned, the water was very cloudy white, one endler died, and the other two fish were very stressed of course. I did a 40-50% water change and removed the driftwood (it was decaying), and the two calmed down a little. My LFS told me to check the ph, it went down to almost ph6- was ph7 before. They gave me some type of buffer powder and the ph is back to normal, and water is clear again. The Oto seems to be acting fine, although it seems he has some white spots, and maybe even some goldish flecks on the body. But since I've only had these for a short time, I don't know if the gold color is it's normal coloration, the white spots maybe ick? Also, the endler stays swimming up and down in one corner, by the filter current. It can swim normally, horizontally, but mainly doesn't want to swim anywhere else in the tank. Sometimes he moves to other parts, but mostly just swims up and down now. He didn't do this before. Should I treat them with any medication? I raised the temp to 80-82, and have added salt. Anything else I should do? It's been a few days since everything's gone back to normal, should I just wait? Thanks!- vanrey <Greetings. The Otocinclus sp. likely have Whitespot (or, less likely, velvet) and should be treated immediately. Use a proper Whitespot medication, not salt or Melafix. It does sound as if the bogwood you purchased was not fully cured. Cured bogwood shouldn't rot, at least not noticeably. Bogwood does lower the pH though in tanks with low levels of carbonate hardness. In this case, I'd recommend sticking with fake bogwood instead. Endler guppies -- like all guppies -- want fairly hard and alkaline water. Given your mix of fish, aim for pH 7.5, and "moderately hard" water on whatever scale you're using. Guppies become very sickly at anything softer or more acidic than this. This is what you're seeing. Cheers, Neale>

Fungus ? White Fungus On Driftwood 08/11/07 Hi hope you maybe able to shed some light on this stuff that is driving me crazy !!! I run a 280 litre tank , Fluval 405 external filter , VisiTherm 300 watt heater, aeration stone , a small power head for circulation and an Arcadia over tank Luminaire t8 with 25 watt tubes which is on a timer between 3pm to 11pm everyday. My tank is well planted and I have some nice pieces of bogwood. The trouble is I have this white fluffy kind of fungus? on one piece of bogwood. It did happen to another piece I had but after relentless scrubbing and it just coming back. I threw it out, it also seems to be attacking my glass as well, now it is really driving me crazy any suggestions? My tank is stocked with the following fish 12 rummy nose tetras, 6 Glowlite tetras, 6 gold tetras, 6 neon tetras, 6 silver tip tetras, 2 euro rams, 1 scribble Plec, one bamboo shrimp and one Congo frog poss. to many fish? any help would be really appreciated. thank you < The fungus is feeding on decaying wood. Soft woods that are not appropriate for the aquarium often get fungus attacking the soft tissues of the wood. Sometimes these tissues can be removed with a very stiff wire brush. Sometimes pieces can be cut off. You probably did the right thing by throwing it away. If you cannot find a reliable source of driftwood then start to look at the artificial woods to get the desired affect you are looking for. Next time please use the spell check/Grammar feature on your computer. Your run-on sentences sometimes make it hard to follow what you are trying to say. Thanks-Chuck>

Re: Fungus ? Now: Heater Requirements 08/11/07 Hi Chuck, thanks for your swift reply, I think ill bin the furry bit! Just a quick one , at what temp do you think I should run my tank? its normally around 77/78 degrees is this ok? am having prob.s keeping consistent temperatures, I run a VisiTherm 300 watt heater. Do you think I should add one more? Thanks < The size of the heater depends on the ambient room temperature and where you want the temperature to be. For instance. If your room was 80 F during the summer then you don't need a heater at all. If you have an air conditioner that keeps the room at 68 F then your heater has to raise the water temp by 10 degrees F top bring it up to 78 F. Your heater may be placed in a "dead spot". I mean an area in the tank that doesn't get much water circulation. Place the heater in an area where the filter forces the water over it. You should get better hear circulation. BTW, 78 F is just fine for the fish that you have.-Chuck>

Texas holey rock 08/02/07 Hi Crew <Hi Rick.> I was thinking about buying some Texas holey rock I have seen for sale. They say it is limestone. <is> The people say it is safe to use in saltwater tanks? <Likely so.> I said its safe to use in saltwater tanks when WetWebMedia says it is LOL <laughing out loud?>. I love the rock its big with lots of holes and unique shapes and only a buck a pound. I was going to add 4 large pieces to a new tank set up and add some smaller live rock to let it grow on the new bare Texas Holey rock. Your knowledge is always appreciated. <Texas holey rock is limestone with holes from erosion with acid rain and groundwater. Its adequate for African cichlid tanks, but does not have the high porosity of live rock or dry coral skeletons sometimes referred to as reef rock or ocean rock. Therefore Id prefer live rock or possibly ocean rock (which is cheap, too) for biological filtration and denitrification. Holey rock wont help much and just look nice.> Thanks Rick. <You are welcome. Cheers, Marco.>

New Freshwater Tank and Cypress Driftwood  7/31/07 Hi, <Hello,> I just found you're site and have been up all night (literally) reading everything! This is great, finally a place where there are answers to questions instead of advertisements for products. <Cool.> My tank is a 30 gal with River pebbles and pea gravel bottom. So far, the only occupants are 2 purple Mystery Snails and they've only be there for two or three days, they're doing great! <Good. Just remember that mystery/apple snails [a] don't really mix with fish and [b] are subtropical beasts and die quickly when kept too warm all year round. They're best kept alone in their own tank.> I just have one or two quick questions. I just purchased a piece of Cypress Driftwood from Florida and am having it shipped to where I live, I figured I'd just pop it in the tank (novice that I am), then I started reading about driftwood and tanks. OK, is Cypress OK to use in a freshwater tank that will contain guppies and the 2 (for now anyway) snails? <Assuming the wood has been [a] aged and [b] not treated with chemicals, then yes, it should be safe. Confirm with the supplier before doing anything else that the wood is sold for aquarium use. Sometimes bogwood is sold as an ornament and hasn't been aged, so when you put it in the tank it leaches organic acids. Worse still, if it's been sprayed with a preservative or varnish, that'll harm your fishes.> Because I live in a small apartment, I won't be able to boil it but I can soak it. Should I soak it in anything but just plain water or is there something I can put in the water to help the process along? <Here's an old school method for curing wood in the home: stick it in the cistern of the loo. Every time someone flushes, it gets rinsed and then soaks up the new water. After a few weeks or months, you should notice a lot less brown stuff (tannins) coming out of the wood, and that's the time to use the wood. Guppies and snails in particular hate acidic water conditions, so monitor the pH of your tank once you've installed the wood. If you have very hard and alkaline water already (and many of us do) then this probably won't be an issue, because the carbonate hardness in the water will neutralise the acids from the wood. But if you live in a soft water area, then adding a big dollop of organic acid will cause major problems. For both the guppies and the snails, you want something around pH 7, and "moderately" to "very" hard on whatever hardness test kit you're using.> I've already realized that I'm going to need a second tank for guppy babies, let's face it they are prolific breeders to say the least! I haven't even got fish in the first tank yet - guess I'm really hooked. I used to have 2 - 20 gal, 1 - 10 gal, 1 - 5 gal and a 1.5 gal when I was just playing around with guppies for fun, back then I used plastic plants, no frequent water changes (maybe monthly) and then it was change everything and scrub and clean and put the guppies back into totally new water! They thrived anyway. <Guppies can be pretty fecund, though this varies depending on factors like diet, predation, water quality, etc. The best way to "rescue" baby guppies if you don't have lots of extra tanks is to install floating plants like hornwort. The baby guppies instinctively hide among them, and all else being equal a significant number will survive.> Thanks in advance for your advice. Lynn <Cheers, Neale>

Question about cypress driftwood and African yellow lab cichlids.. Lake Malawi Cichlid With Driftwood 07/24/07 Hello, I have a 55 gallon freshwater tank with regular gravel and water in it. I want to add a lot, and I mean a lot of cypress driftwood into it. The cypress driftwood is currently soaking in a sink in my garage. My other 55 gallon tank has yellow lab cichlids, with about 40 babies in it (the parents had kids). I want to add the cypress into the new tank first, then add the yellow lab babies. I was wondering if a lot of cypress will affect the PH for the yellow labs. If I do frequent water changes, have carbon in the filter, and monitor the PH ( I use SeaChem alkaline buffer), will everything be alright? Before I go ahead and do this, I just wanted your opinion, to put my mind at ease. Have you or anyone you know had problems with African cichlids and cypress driftwood before? I greatly appreciate your help and information on this site!! <The organics in the water like driftwood absorb calcium ions. When all the calcium is absorbed their will be excess hydrogen ions in the water that will then bring down the pH. Frequent water changes will help replenish the calcium in the water. Adding a buffer would be good insurance. I think you will be fine.-Chuck>

Flagstone... use for?   6/23/07 I recently purchased some flagstone from Home Dept. I have looked all over the internet and your website for specifics on safety of Flagstone. Is flagstone as safe as some of the other rocks? <Mmm, most such rock is composed of sandstone... in turn a mix of mostly silicates (largely chemically inert) and some other material with variable solubility... IF you're using this material in a setting where the water is not too acidic, or alternatively don't mind/can use the slight alkaline reserve this material will impart (e.g. Great Lakes African Cichlid, Central American biotopes, as a surround on a garden pond... there is not likely a cause for concern... I would NOT use this material in most marine aquarium applications... more for the need/use of more soluble calcareous material, than toxicity issues. Bob Fenner>

Rock weight and glass breakage, FW  05/02/07 I have a few questions about rocks. First, I have a 55 gallon freshwater tank and I was wondering how much weight in rock I can aquascape with. I am just concerned about glass breakage from all the weight. <Its not only about the weight in rock. It is about stress and strength of your glass. Imagine a large rock touching the bottom of a tank only at three points. Stresses at these points will be rather high. Now imagine 10 smaller rocks of the same total weight touching the tank at 30 points. Much smaller stresses. In addition, glasses and acrylic materials used to build tanks vary with regard to their thickness and strength, so it is impossible to make specific calculations for you. To be on the safe side, you may want to use some egg crate below your rocks. This will decrease stresses very much. Anyway, most glass breakage in tanks does not occur due to static situations, but due to dynamic ones, e.g. a rock falling down/tipping over. Secure your rocks to exclude that. Cable wraps can be used to hold them together.> I also have a 56 gallon reef tank (just got my first coral a few days, very cool stuff) and I was wondering if stacking live rock against the tank walls is ok, I have seen spectacular looking tanks with live rock stacked against the tanks walls. I have heard this was not a good thing to do and may cause your tank to break. <See above, the answer is the same.> Thank you for your time and help. <You are welcome. Marco.>

Lace rock growth, likely BGA   5/2/07 Hey all! <Denise> After a quick search, I decided to just ask.... I have lace rock in a cichlid tank. After about 1 month, the rock has started growing a blackish film/'algae' type? growth? <Yes... likely Cyanobacteria...>   I am in hopes it is not the beginning of the black beard type algae :(  I did soak this batch in RO water for a few weeks and rinsed it well to remove sediment etc. I plan to add a phosphate hoping this will solve the problem. <Not likely limiting here... Often Lace Rock is a source itself...> I am wondering if this is common with lace rock? <Not uncommon> I have also used it in another aquarium with the same issue. <Do read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwbgafaqs.htm and the linked files above> Thanks! Denise BTW, once upon a time it was easier to find what we search for with the 'cached' option, this is not available any longer?  Researching is no longer user friendly on this site <Do try the search tool here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/question_page.htm Unfortunately, all others are not "cached" capable... Google Adsense doesn't offer such. Bob Fenner>

Collected Rock for FW use prep.  4/18/07 Hi, I have done quite a lot of research on the web and on your site, and though other people have asked similar questions, I couldn't find a specific enough answer. Here goes: I found some beautiful black-and-white striped rock on a beach in Santa Barbara, CA. I tested it with some vinegar, and yes, the white part does fizz slightly, so I'm guessing it's limestone or other calciferous rock. I'm determined to use the strikingly gorgeous rocks in my 6.6pH soft water ADA-style planted tank by finding an appropriate clear sealant for the rock. <Mmm> In different posts you've suggested using "epoxy paint," "latex-based acrylics," "water-based acrylics," and "polyurethane resin." My question is this: what are these things called in a hardware or paint store, and how will I know which ones will be safe for fish after curing? <Well... these are listed with at least these descriptive terms on their labels... but I encourage you to first try none of them... Instead, soak some/all of this rock in a chemically inert setting for a few days... and measure its effect on water chemistry... You may find that the small changes it brings about are not deleterious... perhaps even beneficial> Can you please suggest an actual brand name, such as "White Mountain Wet Look Lacquer" or "Jusco Water Sealant III" or "Minwax polyurethane satin clear topcoat" (are any of those okay)? Thanks so much for clarifying this for me! Eryn Rosenbaum <Again... w/o knowing the chemical make-up of the rock, it is not plausible to guess a good "fit" to coat it... In other words, there is too much likelihood of whatever prep. being used failing... flaking off, perhaps causing more trouble than just exposure alone. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm and the Related FAQs file linked above. Bob Fenner>

Preparing aquarium decor    1/17/06 Good day again, Crew! This is my second question this week, I hope I am not burdening you with too many questions. <Mmm, not yet> I just bought a 55 gallon tank for my African cichlid fry, and not a moment too soon. There are 20 of them in a 29 gallon, and they are growing fast! Most of them are already 3/4" long now. I don't suspect the cycling process in the 55 will take much longer than a week or so, since I have ample used media and gravel. W <Mmm, do move some of the "old water", gunk you siphon out of your present tank/s... and old filter media... this should "do it"> hat really concerns me is how long I will have to run the tank after that, to ensure that any toxins are removed from the decor. <?> I have two large, heavy pieces of lava rock which will each be supported against a substantial piece of shale. I have one piece of granite, which was given to me by a fellow aquarist and has been in his tank for many years. The rest are just pebbles from my rock collecting jaunts in Maine and two landscaping rocks (not limestone or anything). <Mmm, these materials should be okay with most Africans...> I have two questions: 1. Can I use a pressure cooker to prepare the new lava rock? It has some moss on it. <Interesting> It came from a pile at a landscaping place. I have a large lava rock cave which I'm transferring from another tank to help decorate and cycle the new tank. If the pressure cooker is safe to use, I would like to use it for a 7" driftwood piece also. <Mmm, not this... it will fall apart... almost assuredly> It's been outside as an ornament beside a fountain, so I want to make sure it is completely clean first. I may also use the pressure cooker on the other rocks, but first want to make sure it's safe. I know an autoclave can be used for sterilization, so I wondered if a pressure cooker could be. <Mmm, please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm and the linked file above... FAQs> 2. Will it be necessary to support the bottom glass? <Not likely... if some sort of "not point sharp" support for the rock can be found/used to spread out the weight...> I have tried searching for this on Google but perhaps I am not phrasing my search correctly. Or perhaps supporting the bottom pane of glass is not necessary? <Generally not... I don't... and have substantially large rocks in my glass African Cichlid tanks... with them digging about, under...> I was considering using Plexiglas or an undergravel filter plate (just the plate, not the airlift tubes) to protect the bottom, <A good idea if you have concerns... thin bottoms to your tanks...> but I would love to get your opinion on this. I certainly don't want to encourage dead spots. I am planning on using only about an inch and a half of substrate which will be a blend of aquarium gravel and finely crushed coral, the old substrate from the 29 gallon tank. Thank you so much for time and assistance! Nicole <Dead areas are a valid concern... but I encourage you to do as I do... and pull out/move such support... weekly, along with your good-sized gravel-vacuuming, water changes... And clean up about at this time. Bob Fenner> Re: Preparing aquarium decor  - 1/18/07 Thank you very much for this. I realize I am being a little paranoid, <Is a healthy condition/state...> but this is my first time using materials to decorate my tank that are not from an LFS. I know lava rock is very absorbent, <Mmm, no... such igneous rock is almost always the opposite... composed principally of silicates... like glass... non-reactive> and the pile it came from has sat there quite a while - over a year, according to the owner. It was positioned right next to the entrance of the place which is near a busy road, so I began worrying about exhaust fumes, among other things being absorbed into the lava rock. <The clean up procedure you list below should render it fine> After reading online about how dangerous pressure cookers can be (this is an old one, used to be my grandmother's) I have decided to just boil the decor in pure water, rinse and repeat, and pack the hang-on filter the 55 gallon came with full of pelletized carbon and floss. I was also thinking about using some PolyFilter - I have never used it before, and the reviews/opinions I've read of it have always been glowing. <Is an amazing product, for sure> Additional filtration is provided by an Eheim 2234. It's packed with two baskets of Ehfisubstrat, and one basket if full of the pads it came with, including a carbon pad, so I am feeling quite certain this will suffice. Thank you for the link, Bob, and your usual wisdom! Nicole <Welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Rock in FW tank   12/4/06 I have a reef tank for the past few years and am considering setting up a native FW tank. <Yay! Score one on the FW side of things! There are lots and lots of beautiful FW fish to be discovered...a whole world of possibilities.  Plus, you can plant the tank...> As we know the benefits of live rock in a SW tank my question would some type of porous rock like lava rock or even some clean base rock give me the same sort of biological advantage in a FW tank. <Unfortunately, the same concept doesn't apply in FW aquariums.  Rocks of all different sorts are used for decoration purposes, to create caves, give depth, plant java fern and moss on, etc.  I have never used lava rock myself in any of my FW aquariums, but have read that it can be safely done.  I have a type of "zebra slate" in my 29 gal. at the moment - it's non-porous with beautiful coloration. There's all sorts of aquarium safe rock that can be used...just depends on what effect you are trying to achieve.> Of course I would not be using as much as in a SW, but do you think this is a good idea. <It's merely a matter of aesthetic preference - neither good nor bad.  Do be sure to stay away from limestone and other types of calcareous rock that can alter the pH of your tank.  There are plenty of aquarium-safe rock types that can be used, and will definitely make your FW aquarium look more natural.  Enjoy your new tank! Jorie> Driftwood Not Created Equal    11/28/06 Hi crew, I am writing in hope to get some further explanation about the kinds of driftwood I could use in my tank. I have written in the past, mentioning the growth of brown wool-like patches on my driftwood. (Note: 100L aquarium, pH=7.4, ammonia, nitrites=0, nitrate=10mg/L on average, temperature 25.5 deg Celsius). Chuck mentioned that the wood was actually rotting and the patches were fungus. He also mentioned that I should use hardwood as decoration. I have made a small survey about the kinds of wood used in tropical tanks and found out that most people recommend driftwood. The advantages they mention are that it contains tannins that give the water a nice brown colour and can also aid with lowering the pH a little. What is this kind of hardwood you are suggesting? Should I stop using driftwood in my tank and move on to another kind of wood? Or should I just renew the driftwood pieces every once in a while so as not to let them rot? By the way, how long does it take for a piece of driftwood to start rotting in the aforementioned conditions? Thanks in advance, Spyros < Any wood pieces found along a shoreline or along the side of a river bank could be considered driftwood. The term does not define the type of wood or its ability to be used in an aquarium. Many types of driftwood are used for terrariums. Some driftwoods sold in stores or online have been sand blasted to remove any soft parts that may rot. You could simply scrape/sand/buff off the softer parts of the driftwood that you currently have. The harder parts of the wood that remain would be fine. Generally, only the center or heart portion of a piece of would is the hardest part. Wood not ready will get fungus within a few weeks.-Chuck> Bogwood    11/4/06 Dear WWM Crew, <Tom> I have just discovered your site today and have found some really interesting stuff, thanks to you/ your contributors for the info. I am trying (and failing) to find out some stuff about bogwood (and/or any other suitable wood for my freshwater aquarium). <Mmm, please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm and the linked files above> I would really like to get some wood for my tank, partly for aesthetics, but also because I have a couple of Plecs (gold spotted and clown) and a Whiptail Cat. However I am worried about where bogwood comes from, is it grown in any sort of sustainable way, or is it just harvested in the wild? <Almost exclusively this last> If there is any way of getting some from an ethical supplier, (in Britain)? <Mmm, don't know... much of this material is collected in Africa ("Mopani wood" and others), some from the Far East... and one can collect/cure it oneself...> I'm trying to be conscientious. I really appreciate you getting back to me on this one. Regards, Tom <This is one area/product that I fervently believe is not a drain on the environment in its use... More impact from the energy concerned/consumed in its shipping/distribution... Bob Fenner> Drift Wood Decaying  - 10/13/06 Hi, I'm 57, and I've always wanted an aquarium.  A friend of ours basically gave me an entire set up, except for the hood, light, and stand.  He had a beautiful piece of wood ready for the tank - it's 20 gallons, or 25, with some java moss growing on it.  Trouble is, we didn't have the other parts for quite some time, and the wood remained wrapped in plastic wrap in the aquarium for several months.  The java moss didn't die completely in all that time. Then, he came and set up the whole thing, rocks to filter.  He added some guppies and mollies.  A week or two later, it looked as if it had snowed in the tank.  There was this white fuzzy stuff all over the wood, although it did not seem to affect the fish, except that they avoided the stuff.  Some pieces looking brownish sometimes broke off and floated around.   He came by and scrubbed the wood with a toothbrush, but we didn't remove the wood, just cleaned the water out of the filter.  One guppy looks very sick, but I'm not sure it's that white stuff because the others seem okay.  The white stuff took a week or so to come back again on the wood.  I pulled off a lot of the java moss, because it seemed to be growing on it, and definitely on the wood. He is going to remove the wood tomorrow, and replace it with some slate. Will the white fuzzy stuff grow all over the rock, too?  I can't see it growing on the rocks at the bottom of the aquarium.  I am hoping that removing the wood, will get rid of the problem. Is there something else that you can recommend?  Might that work? Thanks. < The wood is not working and needs to be replaced. The white stuff is a fungus that feeds on decaying matter. While the wood was wrapped up the bacteria began to break it down. Now the fungus is eating the broken down wood fibers. The fungus itself does not hurt the fish , but the decomposing wood will increase the waste in the water and stress the fish to the point where it will make them sick.-Chuck>

Coal As An Aquarium Rock  8/28/06 Good Morning and or evening as  the case may be! First of all thank you for sharing your knowledge, I learn something new every day. The whole Crew should be in Who's Who in America. I am an avid reader of the site and have had a great success with my aquariums thanks to you folks. I have searched the site for days now and I have one quick question regarding coal: in Peter Hiscock's book The Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants, page 94, he says to "Be careful when choosing rock...... and shows a picture of coal as a rock that can be used in an Aquarium. The caption with the picture says "Once washed, coal is a striking rock that is safe to use in an aquarium." Am I dreaming or is there something that I've missed? Would coal release substances such as Sulphur into the water? Thanks for your time, Dino <There are two kinds of coal. There is a soft or bituminous coal that is burned for fuel, and a second hard coal called anthracite. You actually put coal in your aquarium when you place charCOAL in your filter. Anthracite is a dark silvery grey and probably look good in a tank. Not all coal contains sulfur.-Chuck>

SW/FW Lace Rock  ??    6/14/06 Hi Eric or Crew, <Daniel> I was wondering what are your thoughts on using lace rock in the salt water aquariums. Is there any special way I need to clean it? <Best to really "blast" it with pressurized water to remove organic material (most is dug up out of soil...). See below. I have half of my tank set up with live rock and thought it would be a good contrast to use lace rock on the other side. It is a 135 gallon fish only with live rock ..so far. Any info. would be great - Thanks -daN <Mmm, a chance for a more complete "answer" here... I am not a fan of using, or at least carte blanche endorsing the use of "lace, also often labeled/known as Tufa rocks" for marine aquarium use (though more so for some types of FW... e.g. African Rift Lake...) as the descriptive term is not accurate... Some of this rock is calcium carbonate based (principally), derived from sedimentary processes... perhaps from lime-rich hot springs (we've just installed travertine flooring in part of the house... similarly derived)... other sources for this material include pyroclastic volcanic ash that has solidified into rock... The largely calcareous material may be safe, adding carbonate (raising pH, alkalinity), and the volcanically derived material may be largely inert... composed principally of silicate (SiO2, Silicon Dioxide)... but both may have "other components" that may well be to a degree problematic, toxic. If it were me/mine, I'd either stick with "pure" sources of said decor, or at least have questionable ones thoroughly tested. Bob Fenner>

Rocks and tanks, FW   6/13/06 Hi,     I have a bit of a challenge for you, but nothing  too difficult. I have a 55 gallon glass aquarium with Eco-Complete (the black  stuff) and wanted to know a good rule of thumb on how large rocks can be in  an aquarium. The rock in question is about 12"x 6"x 8" (LxWxH); a pretty  dense river rock. Would this be ok? <Should be... how's it look to you aesthetically?> It is a very nice looking rock, and goes  well w/ the driftwood. Should I put some eco-complete under it to distribute the  weight? <Yes... important that no "sharp spot" directly impact the tank bottom> If so, how deeply? Thanks, Anthony <An inch or two. Bob Fenner> Using local driftwood in  fresh water tank  6/5/06 Good day. <Jacques> I have a freshwater 110 gallon tank an d would like to put a stump I have harvested from the forest here in southern Ontario. I have cleaned and boiled this stump of ... hopefully all contaminates. Is there anything else I can do to safeguard my fish from toxins? <A good idea to soak it with a rock weighting it down for a few weeks... test (bioassay) the water at that point to see if it is toxic... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Rocks For A Malawi Cichlid Tank   5/9/06 Hi, you might remember me, I'm the one with Nemo the Red Zebra Cichlid. Well, anyway, I'm trying to give him more rocks in his tank and fewer cheesy decorations, so I was thinking about Lava Rocks. Will they be okay? < You need to look at the rocks closely. Chemically they are fine, but the very rough texture may damage the mouth as he feeds off the algae. Pick rocks that are not sharp top the touch.> I'm also planning on building a few caves for him out of them too, if they can go in his tank. They are a medium size. Will he hurt himself on them? < When stacking rocks to make caves I would recommend that the rocks themselves be placed on the bottom of the tank. When Nemo digs his pits, there will be no danger of the rocks and the cave collapsing on him.> Also, his little fins are growing back very rapidly. I'll have to take more pictures of him when they fully grow back. Well, thank you for your time, Zhara < Keep the water clean and they will be back before you know it.-Chuck> Making artificial rock ... for Af. cichlid sys.   5/9/06 To the Crew! <Tom> I hope that you are enjoying your day; South Florida is hot and muggy as usual.  My question, after searching the archives, is on making artificial rock for my 75g African Cichlid tank.  I came across an article about making rocks from a mixture of 6 parts Aragamite sand and 1 part cement for reef tanks.  Would this be suitable to use in the cichlid tank?  The pH is 8 and the water is moderately hard, about 12dkh.  The article explains construction, drying and 'curing' before being placed into the tank.  My concern is the effect on the water parameters.  I want to add more rock, but at $2.00 lb for coquina rock, I am looking for a less expensive way of adding rock, with the added benefit of customizing my own 'natural' rock formations.  I also do not want to damage the fragile world my babies live in.  Any thoughts on this from the "pros"?  Keep up the good work! <The only further comment I'll make is to make sure to seek out "Plastic" cement, as this material has much lower initial alkalinity, is easier to rid thereof. Please do send pix along of your project. Bob Fenner> Thomas N. (Tom) Bilello Rocks For A Discus Tank  4/29/06 Thank you so much for all the information. I cannot wait to delve it.   I am a book junkie too! Hey- I made the decision based on your input to go ahead with compact  fluorescent lighting. I ordered a 96 watt strip. I would like to create a  ledge of sorts made out of the rock, and stagger the plants on it. I  thought it was quartzite since the guy who sold it to me said it was, but I have  since discovered he is an idiot, and it is sandstone. < Big difference between the two.> My question to you is this.  Do we know if sandstone will  alter the pH in any way or dissolve and ruin my filter? < Sandstone is a sedimentary rock. It is formed but sand particles being compressed and then cemented together by minerals like calcium. In an aquarium these minerals will dissolve into the water and increase the hardness and most likely the pH will rise above 7. Discus usually don't like hard water.-Chuck> My water  is  7.0  pH from the tap.  I have 4 inches of Eco-Complete,  and a big 18 inch hunk of bog wood in there now.  No fish yet.    Everything is still murky, I am assuming from the eco-complete, but it might be  the wood. < The tannins in the wood will turn the water a tea brown. Carbon and water changes will help clear it up. The color will prevent some of the light from reaching the plants and high light intensity plants may not do to well.-Chuck> I have had the filter running non-stop for 3 days. It's packed with  bio-max and carbon, and some old gunky carbon from my other tank to help  cycle.  Thanks for your time, once again. Yours truly, Karen

Driftwood With Ich  4/27/06 Hello, I caught a mild case of ick on my black moor and treated it right away.  The white spots are now all gone, however, I see some little white spots on the end of a piece of driftwood in my tank.  Could they be ick?  Is it even possible to get ick on wood, plants, or anything else in the tank other than fish? Thanks a heap!! Sossy. < This is not ich. It is a fungus that is breaking down the driftwood. Some woods are too soft for an aquarium and tend to decompose. It will not hurt the fish. Cut the piece off if it bothers you.-Chuck> Live rock in Fresh water  04/17/2006 Hi There, I am looking to establish a fresh water aquarium. I currently have some live rock in my saltwater aquarium that I'd like to use. I understand that it is important to clean out the rock of all living organisms and creatures. Is it possible to rinse out the rock thoroughly with fresh water, (maybe even leave it lying in the sun for a while) before putting it into the fresh water aquarium ? I understand I may need to put it in a separate fresh water aquarium and monitor ammonia levels for a while. I just wanted to know if 1) it is possible for me to do this safely and put it in the fresh water aquarium; and 2) Will live bacteria eventually grow for freshwater aquarium (similar to the cycle established in a saltwater aquarium?) Thanks >> HI Wallace, Yes, you can use the live rock in the freshwater tank. I would first bleach it, until it turns white. Then rinse it WELL. It will not be dead rock, with lots of calcium, so it will raise your pH in a freshwater tank. This will limit the fish you can keep in your tank, basically to cichlids from Lake Malawi and Tanganyika. Or perhaps cichlids and live bearers from Central America. The rock will, eventually, get covered in algae, but nothing like you see in a marine aquarium. Good Luck, Oliver

Peat and Malaysian Bogwood Raising Ammonia Level in Aquarium Water?  11/24/05 I am sending the e-mail below one more time since I am not sure if you received the previous one. Thanks. <Thank you. Had not seen this. RMF> I recently discovered that both Fluval's Peat Granules and Malaysian bogwood lead to a positive reading for ammonia if soaked in water for one to two weeks. <Yes... from organic decomposition> After soaking a nice, large newly acquired piece of imported Malaysian bogwood in a Rubbermaid container for two weeks, I tested the soaking water for ammonia with a Tetra ammonia test kit.  I was surprised to get a reading of between 1 and 2 ppm ammonia.  I repeated the test with an Aquarium Pharmaceuticals ammonia test kit and got the same reading of between 1 and 2 ppm ammonia. This made me curious.  I took a pint of Fluval peat granules, put them in a nylon filter media bag and soaked them for two weeks in a Rubbermaid container.  Then I tested the water for ammonia.  The water I had soaked the peat granules in also gave a reading of between 1 and 2 ppm ammonia with both test kits. I have used peat granules in my canister filter and bogwood in my 120 gallon soft water Discus tank for many years.  Now, after discovering that both materials give off ammonia, I am wondering if it is a good idea to use peat and bogwood in fish tanks. <Almost never a problem... as in established systems there are mechanisms for dealing with this> Especially fish in newly set up tanks in which the beneficial ammonia consuming bacteria and the nitrogen cycle have not yet been fully established will suffer from the presence of peat in the filter and bogwood in the tank.  Once the tank is cycled I suppose the ammonia given off by peat and bogwood, just like the ammonia resulting from fish waste, will be reduced by the Nitrosomonas bacteria. <Ahh, yes> Luckily, aquariums which are decorated with bogwood and filtered with peat are likely to have a pH value at or below 7.0, which means that ammonia will exist in the form of  the less toxic ammonium. <Also so> Nevertheless, biological filtration will convert ammonium to highly toxic nitrite and pose a considerable risk for many sensitive Amazonian aquarium fish.  Even if the bacteria involved in the nitrogen cycle are able to keep up with the increased levels of ammonium and nitrite, in the end the amount of nitrate in the tank water will be higher than if no peat and bogwood are used. <Likely so... but made better in other ways by its/their presence as well> I have searched your web site and many others for information about the ammonia/bogwood connection.  There seems to be very little information available on this topic.  Because of my discovery of increased ammonia levels as a result of decorating with bogwood, I am hesitant to introduce my beautiful, large (and expensive) piece of Malaysian bogwood in my Discus tank.  Do you have any information or advice regarding the use of Malaysian bogwood and peat in fresh water aquariums?  Should I be worried about the ammonia my new Malaysian bogwood may add to my Discus tank? Sincerely, Jordan E. Mollersten <I have used these materials and am not concerned. Try the piece and see/test is my advice. Bob Fenner>

Collecting Wood for Aquascaping  9/26/05 I am currently setting up a freshwater tank and plan to have live plants. I've noticed that often times driftwood is used as a decoration or base for plants to grow on. Due to an unusually dry summer, the water level in the lake behind my house has dropped a good bit exposing old tree branches and roots that have been submerged for the last ten years or so. This wood looks similar to what I find in the pet stores though that seems to come from Malaysia. I found a great piece I would like to use in my aquarium, but am concerned whether it would be safe or not. What kind of problems could I run into? Pollution comes to mind, though the lake is in a residential area and covers about twenty acres and has lots of fish and migratory birds. Is there something special about Malaysian driftwood that makes it safer? Is there anything I can dot to treat the wood I found to make it safer? <There is always a chance that the wood you collect will poison your tank.  If it has been sunken that long and looks that good I would be tempted to at least try a bioassay.  I would not go dropping it into any established prize winning show tanks.   See here for more information Rock and Wood in Aquascaping http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/rkwdaquascaping.htm  Best Regards, Gage>

Grapevine wood  9/12/05 Can I use grapevine wood in freshwater tropical aquarium and how should I treat it before use. Thank you Emma in Australia. >>>Hello Emma! I don't see any problem with using this wood - it certainly wouldn't hurt anything. I've used a variety of wood types, and I just hold it down with rocks until it gets waterlogged. Good luck Jim<<< Fuzzy, White Algae  9/11/05 Hello Bob and Crew, First, I want to say thanks in advance. The WWM crew offers an invaluable service for no fee. Though I have never written in a question, your site lent me a much needed hand during my shaky beginner days. But on to my problem! I have a 20 gallon tank that is lightly stocked with some small community fish (4 neon tetras, 1 Cory) that I added shortly after the cycle. On the back is the cheap HOB filter that came with my first tank, as well as a Penguin 100 w/BioWheel. It has been up for about 2 months and has had all parameters at zero for more than half that time. Inside the tank I have a piece of driftwood I bought at the LFS to use as a center to my aquascape. Recently, the driftwood has started to grow a white algae <Mmm, maybe a mainly bacterial or even fungal growth... decomposition> on along the "cut" portions (the lighter side, not the darker "bark" type areas). I was surprised to see this as I don't overfeed and the tank receives no direct sunlight, though I don't know much about white algae. I don't like using any chemicals in my tank, so I want to avoid any of those treatments.. Can I simply take out the wood and scrub it off? <Yes... but will come back likely> Or better, would an Oto cat or a snail feed on it? <Perhaps. Worth trying... perhaps another small Loricariid species> There is no other traces of it in the tank, but I have noticed an increase in tiny, white particle matter float around. <Yes... unfortunately most such wood "breaks down" over time> Not anything extreme, but it is there. I did my 30% water change, as I do every couple weeks and changed the Penguin's filter media cartridge, but I still see the stuff floating about. Is this related to the white algae? Thanks in advance, and have a great weekend, Brandon <Thank you... Is likely related to the wood... with regular maintenance, should be no problem. Bob Fenner>

Aquascape, rock safety 9/11/05 Hello again,    I just was given two sliced slabs of limestone holey rock with orange veins throughout. I am assuming it is an iron oxide. Will this leech into my water and harm my fish? My pH is 8,8-8.8 and GH > 300. Is there an easy way to test the rock? Allen Thanks for all the help! <Mmm, there are test kits for free ferrous ion... and this can be toxic in concentration... but I suspect you will likely be okay with your hard, alkaline water and this rock. Bob Fenner> Home made cement decor  9/9/05 I have yet another question.  I've been looking for suitable decorations for my tank and I haven't been able to find anything that fits what I have in mind.  I was wondering if I could make my own tunnels and caves with cement. <Can be done> If cement would not be suitable do you have any suggestions on what to use? <Plastic cement, suitable rock, color... acid washing, curing...> I would use rocks but so far the ones I like are too pricey.  I want something that has a little color to it and was going to "decorate" the cement by pushing pretty rocks into it while it dries.  Thanks again for your help! Christine <Look up terms like "Aragocrete" on the Net. Bob Fenner> Driftwood  8/30/05 Hi Bob, <Matt> I've found your page very useful. My question is in regard to driftwood. I had a piece of driftwood that was store bought which I used for a while in an old tank without problem. I moved to college and lost everything but the wood which has tagged along for 5+ years, it has set outside in the garden for a couple of those years. <I also have some old driftwood... outdoors> Now that I am able to I have set up an aquarium again. It is completely cycled thanks the Bio Spira. I want to reuse the driftwood that I have. I have read and read countless sites and have determined that the best way to prepare my driftwood is to boil it with a little baking soda and aquarium salt. <This is generally prudent... helps to re-waterlog the pieces, clean them up, remove (and there can be a bunch) the loose bits that have decomposed...> I have been boiling this wood for   hours a day for the last week or so and each day the water turns black as blackwater could possibly be. I would have thought that by now I would have boiled out all the tannins and that it would be ready to put in my aquarium. Can wood boil for hours upon end and still leach tannins? <Yes... at this point I suggest soaking the piece/s in water... a clean trash can, whatever container of size... with weights to keep them submersed> This wood did fine in my old aquarium, I am just being cautious   because it sat outside for so long. Am I being over considered? <Don't think so... the wood "falling apart" in your tanks can be a huge mess> Will the charcoal soak up any tannins left over in normal water   conditions? <To a large extent, yes> My water is crystal clear and I don't want to mess that up. Thanks for your help, Matthew Brandon <After soaking for a couple of weeks, rinse and place a "bit" of the wood, see if you like the consequences... if your fishes like the effects... softer, more acidic, darker water (e.g. general Amazonians, not African Lakes...) so be it. Bob Fenner>

Sealing aquarium rocks 7/11/05 Can you recommend an aquarium-safe sealant that I can use to "encase" a cement rock for use in a home aquarium.  Thanks. <Mmm, am hesitant to suggest anything... as it's far better to just utilize decor items that are either chemically inert or advantageous to use in aquatic settings. What is the chemical nature of the rock you want to seal? You might try epoxy or polyurethane resins... I would let these cure outside the water, practice letting them soak afterwards, not in a biological system, to see if they alter your water chemistry. Bob Fenner> Old lava rock wall and how to clean - Or, Bob's Experience With Rocks Hello, I don't know if you can answer my question or not but here goes. My husband and I are renovating an older home and came across a lava rock behind our wood stove. It had been covered up by paneling. It is from floor to ceiling and there is no fireplace just a rock wall. Any ideas on how to lighten the color or clean it. We would like to have it remain looking natural but a little lighter or cleaner would be good. Any help you can share from your experience with rocks would be appreciated. Thank you... Faye <Can be safely cleaned, used. Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm.  Cleaned the same as coral skeletons, other decor. Bob Fenner>

I Wanna Rock Hi, I want to create my own decor for a 25g tank I'm getting ready to set up.  A few web sites say to use sandstone, while others say stay away.  I would like to use flagstone, I have been told this is similar to sandstone, and again also slate - which I have also read was good for the tank.  I'm so confused now, help???  The flagstone I picked up from a local rock yard, looks good, haven't completed a acid test yet, but looks similar to what I could buy at my local fish store.  Is flagstone a good choice for creating my own decor?  If not, what types of rock should I use and were can I get it for free?  Don't have much of a budget. < All this depends on what kind of fish you want to keep. Acid loving fish like discus, angels, Cory cats and tetras will require soft water acidic water. This same water will leach minerals out of the rock and into the water and create an unstable pH and hardness in the tank that will stress the fish and eventually make them ill. If you were keeping African cichlids then they require hard alkaline water. The minerals in the rocks would keep the pH up and keep the water hard which is a good thing fro these cichlids.-Chuck>

Rotting Wood Hi there! I don't know what to do anymore with that problem that comes back again and again. I have a blackwater Amazon biotope tank with a lot of plants and soon discus (ph 6.5, GH 3, kH 2). There quite a lot of wood (from LFS) in the tank both drift and floating, the latter anchored with a plate of rock. I don't know really how to call it but there is this very abundant and unsightly whitish moss or fungus on the wood and it's still spreading. At places it looks more like hair growing (fungus ?) and on other spots it's more like a slimy coat. I have boiled the wood and replaced it in the tank. Boiled again adding a lot of salt in the water and replaced it. Didn't work. Following the advice of my LFS I reluctantly bleached it at high concentration of bleach during 48 hours followed by a rinse period of 10 days, changing water each day.  Nothing will do, the problem comes back. How can it be? I don't hear other people having such problems with wood in their aquarium. Now I have a heating cable under the gravel but over the rock slate so removing the wood again would be a lot of trouble (for no result it seems). I start to think I'm cursed. Is there a solution to this apart from permanently removing all wood from my tank? The end of my biotope :(Thanks for any advice! Dominique < The wood you have purchased from the local fish store is probably for terrariums and not for aquariums. The white film is indeed a fungus that feeds on decomposing matter like dead plants and animals. Not matter how you clean it, the fungus comes from the water and not from the wood. Any wood that funguses is not suitable for the aquarium. Sometimes these are softwoods and contain oils that are not good for fish. Get some African Ironwood and you shouldn't have any more problems.-Chuck>

Driftwood II Hi Chuck! Thanks for the quick reply! Your answer makes a lot of sense. Indeed most of the fungus is/comes from the most recently bought piece of wood and seems to be quite soft. Still, before buying that one, I already had some problems with the safer type of wood (the heavy sinking type that gives a yellow taint to the water) even after bleaching. There was much much less fungus growing on it, but there sure was some. <The softer parts of the wood can often be knocked off with a wire brush.> What do you think of the option of sealing all the wood in the tank with epoxy resin? < Not sure, never had to do it.> It would for sure permanently solve the problem and it's not supposed to be toxic. Do you think it's a good idea? <It would be worth a try.> Would it show (I think not)? <You will have to try it out on a piece and see how it turns out.> If one can see that it's sealed, then again it's not an option. I could even "stick" some peat on parts of the sealed wood to allow some java moss to get a hold on it. Thanks, Dominique < Maybe the epoxy could be lightly sanded so it won't look so shiny.-Chuck>

Fuzzy Driftwood III It's not just that piece of wood. It seems any/all pieces I get are causing problems to some extant, even those that are not supposed too. I can't imagine that my situation is so unique. I must be cursed then.   < Once a piece starts to break down and the fungus attacks it it then easily spreads to other things. There are medications that would get rid of the fungus but it would just grow back after the medication was discontinued. I would try a different source for driftwood and soak it in a tub of water outside until it was water logged. Once again think about using hardwoods with tight grains and not soft woods.-Chuck> 

LET'S ROCK I just discovered your website and would like to inquire about rocks. I recently replaced my 55g tank rocks with landscaping rocks. I have had brown algae form pretty quickly. I thought I had thoroughly rinsed them off prior to use. Can you shed any light on the use of landscaping rocks in tanks?  Linda McCleary <Not all rocks are safe for fish tanks. Some may leach chemicals in the water that make the water cloudy. Others leach other minerals to the liking of this brown algae you have developed. Landscape rocks may or not be used as aquarium rocks depending on their composition. Find out from the landscape yard what kind of rock you have purchased. Sedimentary rock like sandstone are usually not very good in the aquarium because they leach calcium into the water. Igneous rocks should be ok. -Chuck.> Tree Logs for a 6 by 2 by 2 Hey Crew, <Hello> Your awesome and yeah yeah heard it all before! LOL! <Okay> I want to add some tree logs to my tank. But.. I know they discolour the water and make it brown. so I have to soak it. But.. how long should I soak it for? How can I speed it up? Anything to add to the water to speed it up? <Good question... the time involved may be long/short depending on the type of tree, its size... I would use some trashcans, outdoors, and add pickling lime to the water... change the water out, set stones on top to keep submerged... and when waterlogged enough, try testing the wood, water with some "assay" organisms to assure if there are toxic materials left, that they are not TOO toxic.> Presoaked tree logs and rocks are expensive! So I am trying to find my own rock and logs. Please advice. <A good idea, project. You might be lucky to find some "felled wood"... some that is already dead, water-logged that you can similarly treat, test.... Bob Fenner> 

White patches on driftwood Hi guys. I have a problem with my driftwood. I have been cycling my aquarium fishless for a week now and I have recently noticed some white patches growing on the wood. It looks like a spider's web (long wool-like threads) and is easily detached from the wood. Unfortunately I don't have a microscope to examine it. I have read somewhere that wood that has been introduced in a new aquarium can develop white fungus of the genus Saprolegnia. Could this be the case? I have also read that lighting (how much?) will aid the growth of algae, which feed on the fungal spores. Wouldn't this result in an algae outbreak, regarding the absence of any algae-eating fish? Taking into consideration that brown patches (brown algae?) have already begun covering the aquarium's glass and that the tank cannot accept any fish yet (uncycled), how could I keep the algae under control and in the same time get rid of the ugly white patches?. (Note: Nitrate levels are stuck to 0). Could peat filtration help? Thanks. Spyros <All you need is time. Everything you are describing is normal in a new tank. Don't worry about brown or green algae or the white fungus on the driftwood right now. All will either disappear on their own or can be easily cleaned up after cycling is complete. For right now all you should do is ensure a steady supply of ammonia to feed into the cycle. A small raw shrimp is great. A pinch of fish food every few days will also work. Nitrates will not rise until you establish the two bacterial colonies needed to convert ammonia first into nitrite, then nitrate. As long as you are fishless, do no water changes or clean up until the cycle is in place. About six weeks. Then do a 50% water change and stock a fish or two. Stock slowly to give the bacteria time to adjust to your new bio load. Don>      

Aquarium Rock I really need your advice. In the Spring/Summer of 2005, I want to start a business selling rocks for aquariums.  Caves are dramatic and functional additions to aquarium aquascaping.  Generally, owners create them by arranging a group of individual rocks. Being a serious aquarist, I too do this. But, I always wanted to find an individual rock with a cave already carved into it.  I never found one that was really as dramatic as I had hoped.  So I decided to make one out of cement. I chose a rock with a very interesting shape and molded an exact replica with one exception - I built a cave into it.  I painted, dyed and stained the rock. I was amazed at the results.  It looked like a chunk of granite with a natural cave.  Then I decided to take it a step further - a series of caves built into a large rock. Then further - a tunnel through a rock.  Then further still - caves with interconnecting tunnels.  To date, I have also created an underwater volcano, a geyser, an underwater grotto and an underwater air-filled grotto for amphibians (the grottos have a view port so that you can see inside).  I'm sure there will be new ideas by next year. I am looking for feedback from professionals.  The rocks will not be inexpensive.  I have not developed a price list yet because I don't know my costs but producing them is labor intensive.  I will say, however, that I have seen those large plastic mountain rocks go for as much as $40!  I would expect my rocks, depending on their complexity, to retail for more than that. My questions are: 1.       Is there a market for this? < Probably not. Most aquarists like to see their fish and only lightly aquascape their aquariums. While the fish may appreciate the caves and hiding places the aquarist may not. 2.       Do you think an item like this could only be sold at "up-scale" aquarium shops. < Usually the ornament is actually placed in one of the tanks at the store so customers can see it being used and how it appears under actual tank conditions., Store would not like an item in which the fish could hide and not be seen by the customers. 3.       Would you consider selling this product? < If you think one of you ornaments would retail for $50 then figure at least 1/2 would go to the store $25. If you sold them wholesale than you would get 1/2 of the price that the retail store would buy them for $12.50. I would suggest that if you really want to sell your product that you try and sell them online and develop your own website. Build some proto types and see if your local fish store has any interest and can give you some direct feedback.-Chuck> I would really appreciate it if you could provide me with feedback and any further thoughts. < Go to eBay and check out aquarium stuff and see how much these things really go for. Chuck>   Thanks for your time. Bart Purcell

Artificial Rock molding I have a fresh water 33 Gal aquarium and I read an article about large aquariums using dental plaster to create artificial coral reefs.  They embedded food for the animals.  They mentioned this was in an artificial salt water tank.  I was wondering if it was safe to create rocks and objects using this material or if it would cause problems for the fresh water fish. <Should be fine. This material is almost chemically inert once it sets up> If it is safe what sort of paint could you use to colour it that would be safe for the fish. <Epoxies> I keep goldfish in my tank.  I would appreciate your thoughts. Chris Lyon <I say "go creative!" here. Likely many objects you can make that would be beautiful and utilitarian. Bob Fenner>

Salt to Fresh (11/8/04) Thanks for emailing me back. <You're welcome.> My brittle starfish died. <Sorry to hear.> I was thinking about changing my saltwater tank into a freshwater tank. I have live rock in my tank. Will changing to freshwater effect the rock and if not can you give me some insight on where to begin? Thanks, Kristi. <You cannot use the marine LR in an FW set-up. All sorts of things on it will die and pollute the tank. Also, the rock will likely make it hard to maintain the more neutral or even acidic pH many popular FW fishes prefer. I would suggest trying to sell or give away the LR before doing a complete clean out of the system to get a "fresh" start. Steve Allen.> I have a question about Aquascaping. Instead of paying $1.50 lb for some slate from my LFS I went to the local stone merchants and bought a bucket of slate for $10. They let you root through all the broken pieces and whatever you can get in a 5 gallon bucket costs $10 no tax. I got 65lbs by the way. I also collected some rocks from my garden, after recently excavating about a foot of dirt when I was putting a patio in I found some pretty good sized stones. Now I have had both the slate and the stones in separate garbage cans full of water for about a week to monitor if there is any change in the pH of the water. The Ph hasn't changed. I am now asking if I have to boil or bleach the slate and stone before putting it in the aquarium. Or prepare it in any other way. Any help would be greatly appreciated. < Sounds like you rocks are pretty inert and a soak in a brine solution for a day or so should get rid of any living organics. Give them a good blast with the garden hose and you are ready to go.-Chuck>

Scrubbing driftwood Chuck: I've been cleaning some of the media in my 38 gallon tank, and have a question:  should driftwood be cleaned? And, if so, how and with what?  It's got quite a bit of algae on it.  Not like it's covered, or anything, but there are definitely areas on the piece that look lightly moss covered. Please advise.   I should also mention I have a Pleco-would I be cleaning part of his mealtime off the wood? < The Pleco should be eating some of the algae off the wood., In fact some Pleco species require some wood as part of their diet. If it gets to be too much simply take the piece of wood out side and give it a good scrubbing with a still brush and that should go it. A quick rinse and back in the tank.-Chuck> Your thoughts, please. Cyndy Rock, Wood use in aquariums Hello, we would like to know the difference with using natural rocks, driftwood etc. and using the ordinary aquarium set-up?  Can we use outside rocks and such and is there anything we need to do to them??? Thank You, Jess & Lee <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm Bob Fenner>

Aquarium Safe rocks? 8/2/04 Great suggestion about the rock and the vinegar test-first time I've heard that. I was thinking about using a bleach solution on it if it doesn't prove to be dangerous to the aquarium. Your thoughts? < Bleach would disinfect the rock for biological agents but not for chemical leaching.> My aquatic guys also told me tonight to leave the lights off completely for a couple of days.  I have the 3 strip fluorescent, and was leaving them on 10-12 hours per day.  Although I had no problems until recently, they said that's way too much, and to cut it back to 6 or 7(I've done that for 3 days). Since it hasn't cleared up the water, they suggested total darkness for a couple of days along with very light feeding.  I'm also going to remove the rock and test it.  Fish seem to be fine, so I'm not feeling too desperate at this point, but I would like to get it cleared up, as cloudy water is always an indicator that something is off-kilter, right? By other rocks, do you mean the gravel?  There are no other rocks, just that one.  I believe it's called sandstone. < Now I am almost certain that this is the culprit. Sandstone is a sedimentary rock.  Sand particles long long ago were washed into a creek bed.  When the water subsided it left the minerals behind such as calcium.  These minerals cemented the individual sand particles together and formed sandstone.  Now that you have put it into your aquarium the water has re-hydrated the minerals and they are leaching into the water. Probably casing a rise in the pH too.-Chuck>

Toxic rock decor for freshwater tank? Following the "when in doubt, take it out" rule, the old rock is gone, and a new white quartz rock is in its place. Hopefully, the rainbow will eventually find it to his liking, although the bright white is kind of blinding right now. Many thanks, Chuck, for helping me sort this out. < Your white rock will soon be covered with algae so the blinding effect will be gone in no time. Hope you have many years of successful fish keeping.-Chuck> Cyndy Toxic rock decor for freshwater tank? One more question...I am considering getting a small amethyst geode for my tank.  Are these acceptable for tanks, as long as they are from a reputable dealer? < That would be fine.-Chuck> Cyndy Monarez/Thomas Nelson Freshwater Tank Rock question Greetings!  Who am I speaking with this evening?    Cloudiness has gone, but I thought it was just because I cleaned the rock and decoration off, and left the lights off for a day or two as mentioned. I guess I should just resign myself to taking the rock out.  I can't understand why every fish store I've been to sell these rocks if they are so inappropriate for fish tanks.  Your thoughts on this? < You have to admit that they do look good because they are so easily shaped. In an area with hard water (high mineral content) there would be less leaching of the minerals into the water.>   Also, please suggest other rock possibilities as my rainbow shark REALLY loves this rock, and  this is his "territory" in the tank, so I have to find a more suitable replacement before I can remove it.  Please advise. < Granite, quartz, lava rock, petrified wood even driftwood would work. Basically you want metamorphic or igneous rocks. Rocks to stay away from unless you want to increase the mineral content are sedimentary rocks like, sandstone, siltstone (shale), claystone, and conglomerate, are a few. Other things to watch out for are aragonite, limestone, dolomite, shells, crushed coral sand, oyster shell and coral.-Chuck> Cyndy Monarez/Thomas Nelson

Drifting wood Dear Bob <Fiona> We have had aquariums before, years ago. We have just set up a Juwel today and find that the Mopani wood keeps floating - will it fill with water and sit on bottom or can we lead weight it like some of the plants. Never used this before. Please reply as its driving us potty keeps floating up hahahha Genuine request Mrs. Henderson Aberdeen    <A very nice natural decor product... but often does float due to drying... and can be "re-soaked"... I use pieces of slate, that sometimes I've drilled and can in turn drill/attach to the wood from underneath (using brass or stainless screws), but rock can be laid on top for... a few weeks to months (yikes!) to aid in water logging the wood. Otherwise, it does still look kind of neat just floating about... Bob Fenner>

Construction site rocks Hello fish people....great website by the way...I have a 55-gallon freshwater tank and want to add rock to it.  I collected a whole bunch of beautiful rock, but it was from a construction site. I assume it's concrete.  When washed, small amounts of sand were released and this could detrimentally affect the pH of my tank.  Can I leach it or make it safe by boiling, bleaching or anything else. Rock bought at the LFS can put a dent in my wallet.  Also I currently have a single ram in a semi-aggressive tank...should I get him company and make them a pair of rams? Same question for a GLASS knife fish. Thanks for the help. J.P. <<Dear J.P.: Rocks collected from outdoors can be used in our tanks, but you need to sterilize them first. Scrub with a wire brush, then boil small rocks, and bleach larger ones in a big Rubbermaid bin. If you use bleach, please rinse well!! You can let them air dry also, rinse again, and add some good dechlorinator to the water as a final step before adding them to your tank. If you want to know if your new rocks will raise the pH, simply put them in a bucket of water, let them sit a few days, then test the pH of the water in the bucket and compare the test results with your normal tank pH. Also, rocks bought at your LFS are already sterilized and tank-ready, which means less hard work for you. This is quite helpful for many folks. :) Good Luck -Gwen>>

Construction site rocks Hello again fish people....I have a semi aggressive/aggressive tank in which there is a single Bolivian ram. I'm wondering if I should give him company and make them a pair of rams. He spends a lot of time going up and down one side of the glass in the aquarium...I assume this isn't quite normal behavior and believe he might be seeing his reflection in the glass.?? Anyway this is the list of fish I have in a 55 gallon:6 cories, 1 ghost, 1glass Knifefish, 1 yellow lab, 1 jack Dempsey, 1 red zebra, 1 ram, 3 guppies, 3 platies, 2 spotted Raphael, 2 red-tail sharks, 1 spotted puffer...what do you guys think of the mix? Thanks <<Hi J.P.; Sorry I neglected the part about your fish. You will definitely need to remove some fish, as they are severely incompatible. First let's address the cichlids, I assume they are still small, otherwise they would have killed all the other inhabitants by now! You need to decide which fishes you want to keep, I have separated them into two workable groups: the jack Dempsey and red zebra are equally aggressive and can be kept together, but the zebra is an African cichlid and requires a much higher pH than the Dempsey. They can survive together temporarily, but it's a good idea to decide which you prefer to keep, depending on your pH, for example the Dempsey, and add other south American cichlids ONLY, no Africans. Or keep the African, and add only other Africans. Remove all the community fish and return them to the store where they you bought them. Whoever sold you this mixture gave you some bad advice. The second group, Corys, platies, Raphael's, sharks, ghost knife and glass knife can all live together relatively peacefully. Make sure there are enough caves for the shark and both Knifefish so they don't fight for territory. Perhaps with the ram, or even two rams, if you like. Remove the guppies, as someday the Knifefish will be large enough to eat them. The spotted puffer should be alone, IMO, as he will eventually shred every fin on every other fish in the group. A bit of salt added to his water would be good also, spotted puffers are brackish fish. To sum up, if I were you, I would keep the latter group, a nice community tank, and get rid of the zebra cichlid, the puffer, and the jack Dempsey. And please, research your fish BEFORE you buy them, from now on :) -Gwen>>

Wood Hi, I'm in the UK but my brother has just set up a tank in Bangor, Maine with some South American fish and wants to put in some bog wood as I have in mine.  His local aquarists say they have not heard of this.  Do you guys call it by another name and can you advise who might sell it please? <I have found that Driftwood is often used to refer to just about every type of wood sold in aquarium stores, I guess it depends on where you go and how specific they get about the types of wood they carry.  A search on google.com should turn up plenty of results on suppliers of this wood.  Best Regards, Gage> Regards, Janet Ball

Live rock in freshwater tank question want to know if I can use my cured live rock in a 120 gal fresh water tank that will house only Oscars <Yes you can use live rock that once was in a saltwater tank in a freshwater tank. All the animals that make your rock "live rock" will die in freshwater. But you will have to soak it in freshwater for some time.  Reason is that if you place all the rock directly into a freshwater tank, all the small animals and bacteria that make up the rock will die off and then raise you ammonia/nitrite/nitrate levels.  You will have to soak it, or place it in boiling water, then rinse it before moving the rock to a freshwater tank.> reason I want to use it is maybe I can utilize my resources instead of buying limestone or different kinds of rock that cost a few dollars a pound, can live rock be used for fresh water, salt water I know it can <What I can't figure is why don't you just sell your live rock and use the money to buy cheaper base rock.  I'm sure you can sell your live rock to someone with a marine tank or a marine shop for around 2-3 US dollars a pound (if not more).  Heck, I paid 5 dollars a pound for my live rock. Then you can purchase base rock from someone like www.hirocks.com and not worry about boiling it.  It seems like a waste for live rock to used when base rock would work just the same.  Just something to think about. -Magnus> Rock from the Rock yard I am setting up a new freshwater tank. <Sounds like fun!> Is there any reason NOT to use rock (flagstone pieces for example) from a landscaper for 15¢ per pound, instead of identical looking rocks from a pet store? <As long as you stay away from pH-altering rock (limestone, chalk, etc.) and stick to inert stuff like flagstone, slate, sandstone, etc., you're probably just fine.  Quite honestly, that's exactly what I do for rock for my tanks.  Nothing is happier than coming home with 140 pounds of gorgeous gray slate to play with, other than only spending 20 or 30 bucks for the whole lot of it!  There is some risk involved, however, as you can't be positive that the rock hasn't had oil, transmission fluid, dog pee, and other wonderful stuff like that on it in its travels.> Would boiling or using some other method to pre-treat the rock be recommended? <If it is small enough to boil, I would do so.  Otherwise, boil kettles of water and pour over the rock repeatedly.  It might be a good idea to double check the rock with a few very inexpensive fish before putting any costly or precious life in the tank.  Though I'm not fond of using "guinea pig" animals, I would definitely do so in this case.> Thanks,  Phil Schwier <You bet.  -Sabrina>

Moor Root?! Do you know what moor root is?   <Well, I could be wrong, but I think this is just a European way of saying bogwood.   A moor is a vast boggy heath, basically, and I imagine "moor root" refers to sunken, waterlogged wood/roots.  Bogwood.  Driftwood.> I read about it in the Aqualog catalogs.  I have a 75g Pleco tank and I would like to have some in my tank.   <Indeed, bogwood is of great importance to the diets and overall well-being of many Plecs.> I've asked people in my area no one knows.  PLEASE HELP!  Also where do you think I can get some living in Tampa? <Any local fish store, most likely.  Ask about bogwood/driftwood instead of moor root, though, unless you're visiting London for your wood!  ;)  Or, if you're feeling adventurous, you can collect/clean/prepare your own.  Have fun!  -Sabrina>

Moor root? what is moor root referred to in the Aqua log catalogs. <I'd write Dahne-Verlag concerning this (the publisher of Aqua Log). An address: info@daehne.de Bob Fenner, who suspects this is something like submerged driftwood>

Getting the drift re using wood in aquariums Hello Gage, <HI, sorry for the delay, I had to help my sister move this weekend.> We were able to trade in the 19G for a 33G due to the misprint.  The 33 G has been cycling since Nov 21st. <Sounds good.> The Mopani driftwood (got the name right this time) is now growing white fungus, but interestingly the small piece in his little 5.5 G isn't.  Would he be eating the fungus? <Yes, in fact I had the same problem with this type of wood, I guess I never bothered to learn the name, my Pleco took care of all of the white fungus that grew out of the wood.  It never harmed him, but if I were to do it again, I would soak the wood longer in a different tank/tub, or even boil it or bake it if possible.  You can also scrub the fuzzy stuff off with a toothbrush or something similar before you do a water change, then siphon the stuff out. Keep an eye on the water parameters on the tank that is cycling.> If so will it hurt him? <Probably not, but I cannot say for sure.> I am going to soak it in bleach/water, I haven't found anywhere that tells me for how long. <Couple days to a couple weeks, it depends on how long it takes to get the wood to stop growing the stuff.  If you use bleach, only use a small amount, and rinse the piece really well before putting it back into the tank.  You could also soak it in a bucket with a lot of dechlorinator to ensure that the bleach is gone, then let it sun dry.  Should be safe by then.> Then I will soak it in dechlorinated water, again not sure how long.  He has already grown over an inch (over 2 1/2 inches) in the last two weeks.  We can't wait to move him, originally planned the move for Nov. 30th.  Should I wait longer with the fungus problem and should I salt the new tank? <Water tests will determine when it is safe to add him to the new tank.  You could add a very small pinch of food to the new tank to ensure it is cycling, but I am willing to bet with the fuzzy wood there is plenty of cycling going on in there.  Ammonia and Nitrite tests kits will be needed, or your Local Fish store can test your water for you. Also, should I also soak his little piece of wood as well? <I'd let him hang out with it until you get him moved.  Best Regards, Gage>

Need Clarity Hi www crew! <Hi, Don!  Sabrina here, this evening> Thanks for this great site! <And thank you for the kind words.> This is the second time I have ask a question, the first being about stocking. But before I can really begin I need to solve a little problem. I have a 2 month old 55 gallon tank filtered by an Emperor 400. No plants, just natural gravel (1/2 pea size), some slate caves, one coconut cave and a small driftwood arch. Current residents are 10 Zebra Danios and one Otto. The Danios were added to start the cycling, the Otto after the brown algae started to form. <Mmmm, algae....> Plan is to return them to the LFS and house a breeding colony of L260 Plecos. <Oh, you are after my very heart!!  Of all the Loricariids out there, this is by FAR my favorite!!  I absolutely LOVE these little Plecs.> Cycling was textbook perfect, with all the spikes and crashes occurring as you would expect. Nitrates have never gone above 20 ppm due to daily, or almost daily, 5 gallon water changes. Ammonia and nitrites have been at zero since their initial spikes. <So far, so good....> That is until I added a very large knot of driftwood. It had been soaked for about 2 weeks, the soak water being changed daily. This must have changed my water chemistry enough to cause the tank to "re-cycle". The water went cloudy and ammonia started to build up. The driftwood started to break down and formed a white "mold" in the crevasses. <Oh, that sucks.  You might want to try running the wood through the dishwasher (no soap!), or, if it's small enough, boil it.> The ammonia spike crashed in about a day, but the resulting nitrites stayed around 2.5 ppm for almost 2 weeks. I gave up and replaced the large knot of wood with a the smaller arch and the coconut cave. <Okay, so the problem wood's out of the picture, eh?> Nitrites crashed in two days and the nitrates started to build up, but have been kept below 20 ppm with frequent water changes. <Sounds like you're having trouble battling those nitrates - there's gotta be something making that so high; in a new tank, nitrates should be rather easy to keep low.> All the fish are doing very well, the Danios are very active and colorful. The Otto appears to have doubled in length and tripled in weight. I feed the Danios twice a day with a very small pinch of Tetra crisps <Perhaps cut this back to once a day, and don't be afraid to skip a day every now and then.> and some dried blood worms twice a week. In the evening I drop half an algae wafer in for the Otto. <I'd cut this in half, too; a whole half of an algae wafer is a pretty big meal for a single Oto.> Gravel is vacuumed during the FWCs.  The only thing holding me back from adding the Queen Arabesques is the water's appearance. It has always been crystal clear (expect during the initial spikes) until the driftwood started the second cycling. At that time the water became very white/cloudy. Today the white has turned to murk. Much darker, almost muddy. <Sounds perhaps like a sudden growth of bacteria, perhaps introduced or fed by something with that hunk of driftwood, or maybe even something that would have happened anyway - this is not an uncommon occurrence in new tanks, to be honest.> I did my water change last night and while pouring the tank water into the sink you could see it was tinted green. <Ahh, perhaps "green water" algae, then.> You can't see this color in the tank, only against the white of my kitchen sink. I never saw any green algae form anywhere in the tank, but with the Otto in there I assumed that was normal. <I would strongly recommend getting some hardy vascular plants in there (Anacharis/elodea, Vallisneria, water lettuce, etc.), as this will help with removing nitrates which are probably feeding the bacteria and/or algae in the water.> I use treated tap water (Tetras "AquaSafe") for my FWCs, but nothing else. No salt. We do have Chloramine in our water supply and I do see a trace of ammonia in the new water after treatment. The tank continues to show zero ammonia after the water changes, I assume because it is so diluted. I took a water sample to a LFS to confirm my tests, all readings consistent with mine. Ph is 6.8.  So, what's causing this discoloration of my water? <Excess nutrients, likely from extra food.> I can understand the green algae, but what about the white haze? <Again, likely bacteria.> And am I causing harm to the fish by adding the trace of ammonia with all these water changes. <Consider making your water change water ahead of time in a separate Rubbermaid-type container.  You might want to use a conditioner that neutralizes ammonia as well.> Would it help if I set up a slow siphon to replace the water though the filter rather than just pouring it into the tank? <As long as you match temperature and pH, you'll be fine.> Or should I just break everything down and start over? <Certainly not, I'm pretty sure you'd face this very same issue, anyway, if only to a lesser degree.> If I do start over, should I preserve the Bio Wheels or clean/replace them? <They're likely fine, let 'em be.> Although the fish do not seem affected, this tank is in our living room and "She Who Controls The Love Life" is threatening the basement as a new home for me and the tank if I can't get the water cleaned up. <Hey, you've got a basement??  Excellent!  No worries about spills, and you can set up a whole WALL of Plec tanks!> So you see, this is becoming VERY personal. <Yes, I can understand.  Ask her to try to be patient, cut back on feeding, and your problem should start to solve itself.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina.> Don Clarke     

Collecting Tank Decor New to fresh water tanks.   <Awesome, welcome to the club.> I'm setting up a cichlid tank, 55 gallon. <Great size tank perfect for Africans or some of the smaller cichlid species, try to avoid the temptation to buy the monsters, Oscars, Red Devils, etc.> I have a lot of creek rock from creek behind house.  Is this ok to use in my tank if I boil it first?  I found a nice piece of drift wood too. Is it ok to use in tank after it dries out? <It is a good idea to boil it first; the driftwood will probably be ok.  It is hard to say with the rock, no way to determine how it will affect your water parameters without testing it.  Check out the following link for some more info on using collected wood and rock.  Let us know how it goes.  Best Regards, Gage  http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm  >

Cypress in Aquarium While touring the "Tennessee Aquarium" recently, I noticed Cypress knees were used in their displays depicting the gulf coast regions, as cypress is a part of the ecology in that area. Would I be correct in assuming that cypress would be safe to use in the confines of a home aquarium, or would the "cypresseine" in the heartwood be a problem? <Not a problem as far as I'm aware. I compiled a list of problematic surrounding (pond) landscape plants some time ago (archived here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/landpltspd.htm It may be that the cypress you see are quite old (recovered underwater) or artificially aged (I would inquire of the folks at the aquarium itself. They will know). Or even entirely faux...> I wanted your opinion before I subjected any of my tropicals to experimentation. Thank you.  Jess <Worth trying... boil a bit of the wood, bark... and place some of the cooled liquid from same with some "test fish" for a week or so. Bob Fenner>

Preparing Rocks Hello! <Hello! Ryan with you> I have some larger rocks I pulled from a local lake. Do I need to do anything to these rocks before I ad them to my fresh water aquarium?  Boil, scrub, freeze?? <Soak them in a bucket with 1/10 part bleach/water for a week to kill all bacteria, then a week in just water to leech anything out that may have remained.  Best of luck! Ryan> Thank you

Sandstone? Hey guys...long time no speak. how are ya all ??? <Great! Thanks for asking! Ryan with you> Anyway my question is this, and it's on the subject of rocks and buffering the PH. <OK> Where I live our water straight out the tap is around PH 6.7, I'm planning on having a kind of large rock as a center piece in the tank, and I know Limestone is good as it helps with the buffering slightly.  But I was wondering would it be safe to use Sandstone in a Mbuna tank, I don't know if it would make the water Alkaline, Acidic or worse still toxic...could you assist me please.... <Raymie, it's a bad idea to use large sedimentary rocks in a captive system.  They often fall apart, creating a mess.  It can also create unnatural wear and tear on that hard earned equipment!  Save yourself the headache.  Good luck! Ryan> many thanks Raymie

RE: Coconuts In My Tank   3/31/03 Hi Phil!<Hey there!> Yes, this helps.<Good good.> Although, I think that even driftwood decays and adds things to the water.<Yes it does, but it's not really used in saltwater.> What made me suspicious of the shells is that lots of algae is starting to develop, including hair algae.<Could be an early sign.> I am disappointed though because my Corys love them and they look more natural than clay pots.<I'm willing to bet there is a company that makes coconut shells.  Try Google and maybe your LFS.> Thanks<No problem!  Phil>

Re: Pleco and driftwood Can I use ocean driftwood in my freshwater tank if I've soaked it for a few days, or do I need to purchase special driftwood from a store? <It will need to be soaked a lot longer than a couple of days and its recommended that you don't use it at all. If its not fully cured (soaked long enough) then it can leach into your water and affect several of your readings, especially the pH. And you always run the risk of introducing unwanted things into your tank when you use items that were wild collected.> I am very new and inexperienced in the fish world....I've had this Pleco (a small spotted common variety, cheap from a pet store) for a couple of weeks, and so far it hasn't seemed to bother my 2 little goldfish. (My mom got them for my daughter's birthday about a month ago, and I'm trying to keep them happy.) A friend told me to get a Pleco to keep the tank clean, not knowing they have a reputation for eating the slime coat off of goldfish. But so far, I haven't given it anything besides a romaine lettuce leaf and peas. Is this enough? <Only occasionally will a Pleco bother other fish. Just keep an eye on him. As for feeding him, he will do much better if he gets algae to eat. If there is none growing in your tank you can buy algae wafers that are inexpensive and easy to feed. Lettuce doesn't have a good nutritive value and the peas should only be given occasionally. You can also feed him green beans (canned or thawed frozen) once in a while.> I have a 10 gallon tank with a filter and light, and am hoping not to have to expand my set up. <You will eventually need to and it may be sooner than you want. Goldfish can get quite large and so can Plecos. And Goldfish can grow very fast.> I don't have a local fish store, and the pet store guy wasn't too helpful. Any advice is welcome. <Hope this helps!> Thanks. Erica <You're welcome! Ronni>

Re: It's a jungle in there! Hi Ronni, so glad you like my tank! The driftwood came from a place called aquariumdriftwood.com and these guys were great. I had checked out a lot of places but this was the only one that answered all my questions via email and phone. I described my setup and they sold me 'bits and pieces' and a small centerpiece rather than sell me a regular centerpiece etc. And it wasn't a lot of money either- something like $35 all together.  It sank right away and took only 2 days for water to look pristine again- I had some friends who told me horror stories about tannins and wood that stained water for well over 2 weeks- so I highly recommend this place. <Ill definitely go take a look.> LFS gets plants in today and more fish on Friday so will go sat to get the Otos and ask if they'll hold them since I don't have QT- hope they will. Also, I've been reading more on QT from site but wanted to ask about plants- you had said to soak them in lime- where do I get it and how- I want to get the crinum onion if they have one in and or some spiralis- so would like to know how to do this soaking. <Not lime but a product called Lime-It. There are numerous online retailers who carry it. I got mine when I ordered plants from AquaBotanic but I think Drs. Foster & Smith and Pets Warehouse also carry it. You dilute it with water and soak your plants in it for about 15 minutes then rinse them well. It kills snails and eggs. Its also rumored to kill diseases but I don't know if Id trust it completely on that. QT after soaking is still the best option.> BTW, I got 2 Amano shrimp yesterday and they seemed great- they took to the big piece of driftwood right away, swam everywhere which scared the Rasboras and clouds and stayed outside. Then last night they hid and I thought maybe they died- but they stay hidden in middle of driftwood- are alive, can see their antennae moving about, but even this morning, still stay hidden- any experience with these guys? think its normal acclimation? I hope the Otos don't freak them out! <Im sure its acclimation and they are probably more of a nocturnal creature anyway so you may not see them a whole lot.> THANKS FOR ALL your advice, really. Will let you know if other plants work and send another photo when they've grown and I've got more fishes... best, Rosa <Take care! Ronni>

Geodes were indeed the scum problem - 02/23/03 <Ananda here again...> What a smart advisor! I removed the geodes (2 blue, one green, 2 natural), cleaned the tank and (though only 24 hours later), no scum at all! <Thanks -- but I have to admit that I made the same mistake myself about a year ago! I put a big chunk of geode in the tank and realized its lovely blue color was fading in the tank... I figured you probably had at least one green or blue one -- I think one of the colorants used in those may be copper-based.> I haven't done a pH assessment, but I'm certain you set me in the right direction. Oh, and the other fish comprise 3 Serpae (i.e.?) tetras and a flame tail...so I only have 25 fish. Thanks for counting! <I'll pass it along... Phil did the counting.> I'll take my water samples to the fish store & look for Melafix. I have some pH altering drops, but will heed your caution to change things slowly. <Do pick up a pH test while you're at it -- when your tank pH is about the same as your source water pH, you won't have to do the water changes just to fix the pH. (But you will still need to do the water changes to get rid of the nitrates.)  --Ananda>

Use of live rock in fresh water? I have set up a 120g reef system with refugium and sump.  I used about 110lb live rock.  I have about 20-25 lb live rock left over, fully cured for a few weeks in salt water.   Ammonia and Nitrite in the water used to cure the live rock are zero.  Can I use it "as is" in an established 55g African Cichlid tank with an aragonite substrate?  Or must I re-cure it in fresh water?   <Putting this into freshwater is going to kill all of the little critters on it and make it just normal rock but if its what you want in your tank you will need to re-cure it with freshwater before adding it to the tank. My suggestion though would be to trade it back in to your LFS and get some plain rock to be used in your Cichlid tank. You'll be able to get a lot more FW rock (or other things you need) for the price of this live rock.> The water in the cichlid tank is weakly salted, not really brackish; I add a tablespoon of sea salt for each weekly 5g water change.   <Just remember that this is gradually going to change your salt content unless the salinity of the new water is the same as the water you're removing.> Cichlids are doing great. <Very good. Cichlids are beautiful fish. I've been considering starting another Cichlid tank myself. Ronni> Jeffrey M. Zegas
Re: Use of live rock in fresh water?
I bought the live rock online so it is not practical to return it.  Also, I was thinking that since live rock (even thought it would no longer be "live") has great porosity, it would become a good medium for biological filtration, much like lava rock.  (In contrast to FW "dead" rock, which displaces more water and cannot be a filtration medium.) That's part of my rationale for wanting to do this. <OK, I see your reasoning now. Yes, it does make sense but you would need to fully cycle the rock again in freshwater before placing it in your FW tank. Ronni

New tank decorations? Or maybe not... - 02/24/03 I went to the Seattle Flower show and you could replace the lovely colorful geodes with hand (mouth)-blown glass leaves...at only $600 apiece. <And here I thought they were overcharging for the glass flowers at the home decor shop! I think I'll pass -- just think of all the aquarium goodies you could get with that much cash....> Not even by Chihuly (if his name means anything outside of Washington state). <Uh, no, but then I'm not much into home decorating... that's what tanks are for, right? --Ananda>

Re: River rock G'day Crew <Ahoy!> I've decided to go for a very natural looking freshwater aquarium and decided to go to the local river and get a whole lot of river rock and sand to put into the bottom of my tank.  The only problem is I've washed, rinsed and drained it about 5 times very thoroughly and still this very fine silt (too small for a filter to pick up) still comes out and sends my water dirty. Any ideas on how to clean it and get rid of this mega fine silt? Regards Marc Post <Well, using river rock and sand aren't really recommended due to undesirable natural organisms they can introduce into your system but to clean it I would recommend making a gravel washer. These are simple and inexpensive and work great. Use 1x4 to make a wood frame and then use a staple gun to attach metal mesh (screen) to one side of it. You can get the screen at most hardware or farm supply stores and it comes in various sizes, you should be able to find one small enough that the sand wont go thru but the silt will. I prop mine in the bathtub and turn the shower on it so I can just let it run for a little bit. Alternately, you can do it outside and spray it with the hose. Ronni>

White jelly-like mass growing on wood in tank - 2/16/03 Hello- <Hello. Ananda here today...> I am just starting a new 29 gallon tank (one week old) that is home to 5 black skirt tetras. <This tank needs to go through the nitrogen cycle... many articles and FAQs on that; do read up on it, and don't add any fish for a month or so.> There are a few live plants in the tank and a piece of found wood.   <Uh-oh. This could be home to all kinds of nasty stuff. I would remove it and sterilize it -- options include baking it (yep, in the oven, on your lowest heat setting for a couple of hours to several hours depending on the size of the piece), running it through the dishwasher (no soap, sanitize cycle; remove the top rack if necessary), soaking it in bleach water and then water with a heavy dose of dechlorinator. There are other methods. Note that this will kill all the living stuff, but may  leave behind some inorganic nasties.> The fish have adapted well to the tank and their color, appetite and other indicators are good.   <Appearances can be deceiving, in fish health as in other things.> I have had one problem though. The piece of found wood I added to the tank quickly grows a thick covering of a white jelly-like mass that coats the entire wood piece.   <Something was living in the wood and now it's growing.> I took it out and washed the wood, but when I placed it back in the tank the coating soon covered the entire piece again.  The rocks, gravel and plants do not show signs of this jelly-like coating.  Will cleaning the wood in a light bleach solution and fresh water soak get rid of the problem?   <Possibly.> Does the tank water now carry the seeds to cause this problem again when I return the wood to the tank?  If so, how do I eliminate the problem?  Clearly the environment is not yet stable. <And will not be stable for another few to several weeks.> Should I wait a week or two and try reintroducing it again? <Clean and sterilize it first. Even then, it may not be free of everything detrimental to your fish. This is why I use only driftwood from a local fish store or fake wood made of resin -- some of which looks quite realistic! -- in my fish tanks. More expensive, yes, but safer for your fish and you.> Thanks for you help. --Karl <You're welcome. --Ananda>

Floating Lava Rock I have two small pieces of Lava Rock and I can't get them to sink in my tank, they just float on the surface I was going to place a Java Fern in-between them. Any suggestions on how to get the rocks to sink. Thanks Anne <Try anchoring them with fishing weights. You can either tie some fishing line around the rocks and clamp the weights onto that or you can use some aquarium epoxy and put a glob of it on the bottom of the rocks with some fishing weights embedded in it. Ronni>

Fungus-like material covering white driftwood. Hello Guys!!!! <HELLO!!!> I have a 37G brackish with 2 Puffers and 2 spotted dollars. A few days ago, I bought some driftwood from my LFS. It was the Fluker's brand wood. It is made up of mostly a dark wood with some whitish branches. The label said that it had been sandblasted clean. I soaked it (but did not boil it since it is a large piece). The problem I am having is that on the white parts of the wood only, a whitish cotton-wool, like substance appears to be growing. It looks very much like the stuff that covers uneaten food left in a tank for a few days. It feels a bit slimy and seems to come off when disturbed. I vacuumed it off the wood but it seems to come back quite quickly. It covers all the white areas of the wood and not on the darker areas. It seems not to affect the fish and I tested for Ammonia, which was zero. I have not been able to find any FAQs on your site that might have dealt with this problem before. Any ideas?? Thanks, David. <Could be harmless, but I don't trust it.  I would take the piece out, boil if possible, or at least soak it for a few days/weeks, until the water runs clean and the fuzzy stuff goes away.  Maybe a soak in bleach.  Check out the links below.  Best Regards, Gage http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwdusefaqs.htm  >

Bogwood We are going to clean our fish tank and the bogwood looks full of algae, any ideas on cleaning this? <There are cleaning solutions one can buy, make up from bleaches, acids... I would just rinse and scrub (with a new scrubby pad) the wood under running water, let air dry before re-submerging. Bob Fenner>

Cleaning Algae from Driftwood Hello, I was wondering what you recommend for removing algae especially the black hair like kind that is near impossible to remove from driftwood in a tank? <Rub the wood with a coarse cleaning pad like one uses to clean the algae off the tank glass. It should work...if not, email back.> I cannot scrape it off, and was wondering what you suggest. Thanks, Noel Cote' <You're welcome! I hope this helps. David>

Cleaning Algae from Driftwood David, I have tried the rubbing off before. I end up taking as much wood off as algae. I was wondering about a salt bath <May leave an ugly residue that won't come off. But I'm just guessing.> and then soak off, or maybe leave it outside for a couple of days. <I like the idea of letting the wood dry out. That may work. I like to soak things in bleach. Remember...bleach is nothing but chlorine and it will evaporate. Soak the driftwood in a bucket of bleach/water for a day or so, let the wood COMPLETELY dry out, then rinse and place into the aquarium. Or if you're worried about the bleach...soak the wood, let it dry, then soak it for a day or two in a bucket of water that has been heavily treated with a dechlorinator. Once, again...let it dry COMPLETELY before placing into the aquarium. If you try this, let me know how it works. David Dowless>

Re: Wallaby wood Thanks for the quick reply. The specimen marketed under the name "wallaby wood" was purchased at my LFS, my research seems to suggest that it is actually Swahala wood from the dark reaches of mighty Africa. <Ahh, I do know this product> Nobody at different LFS stores seem to know much about it although they all stock and sell it. Their instructions are all similar, just soak in hot water for 1-2 days and it will be fine, no staining of water and if there is any, well the filtration system will clear it up. Well 8 days later of soaking and boiling it in my huge lobster pot still produces a beautiful light brown water which would make any ice tea company proud! Thank you for your input, I will not give up, sodium bicarbonate is next. Quick follow-up on one of my earlier ?'s regarding sexing of the Mormyrid "elephant nose fish", after researching bibliography came across small paragraph stating that "the fish with the more curved anal fin is the male". Just thought you may like to know. Thanks again Stephen <Thank you for this. Have heard similar statements. Bob Fenner>

Aquarium Rocks Dear Bob, I have a 30 gallon freshwater aquarium with South American cichlids. I plan to upgrade to a 90 gallon tank. We travel to Missouri often and there is a lot of rock there. Do you know of any way to sterilize rock to use in an aquarium? <You can boil the rocks in water to sterilize them, but that does not necessarily make them aquarium-safe. Many rocks have metals in them which leach into the water. You are far better off buying rock and gravel that is guaranteed safe for fish.> This sure would save a lot of money. Thanks for your time. Sincerely, Greg <Have a nice day. -Steven Pro>

Cichlids and Aquarium Set-up Dear Bob, I actually have several questions. First, I want to set up a cichlid tank. (I have done this before, but I experienced a few complications.) I have a 55 gallon tank and, since I live near a beach, I went out and collected my own driftwood for the tank. Now, I know I have to first boil the driftwood before placing it in the tank.  <Maybe more than this... I see you are considering South American, maybe just Dwarf Cichlids below...> But I wanted to know how I could go about anchoring the driftwood into the bottom of the tank, since it floats.  <A few ways... the simplest is to secure it (the driftwood) to something heavy and dense enough (like slate, shale... )drilled through and fitted with a brass screw... A good idea to really soak the wood... Please see: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm> Second, I really am interested in maybe using South American Cichlids (especially the Rams) instead of the African cichlids I had used before. But I really haven't seen many around here. Any suggestions for finding them?  <Yes. Ask your local fish stores to special order them for you, and let them "harden" them by keeping them at the shop for a good week or two... Barring this, contact the etailers of such livestock (some are listed on the WetWebMedia.com Links Pages). Lastly, but not least importantly, do contact the American Cichlid Association (on the Net if you'd like) and their affiliate Clubs, possibly/hopefully in your region, and ask for their input, assistance> I also wanted to know if locating the tank by a heater would be a problem if the ambient temperature of my apartment is kept lower than the desired temperature of the tank. <Mmm, only way to really tell is to set up the system (w/o livestock) and experiment here. The temperature should not vacillate more than a couple of degrees Fahrenheit in a day/night. Bob Fenner> Thank you for your time and help. Sincerely, Mel

Bamboo for Aquaria Hello this is Jake. ( I just wrote about a dragon wrasse) I would like to ask a question but first I would like to say that I work in an oyster restoration lab at University of Maryland and will have my marine bio degree in 8 months (hopefully) Point is that if you guys are ever in College park stop by Ken Paynters lab and if you ever have a question on oysters or other things in the Chesapeake Bay I would be happy to help you (Not that you need it but you do the same for me and my tanks) <Appreciate this> THE QUESTION My girlfriend has an Asian swamp tank. Wants to put Bamboo in it and a certain book suggested using varnish. We bought Spar Marine varnish but will not use it until we know more. SHOULD WE TREAT BAMBOO BEFORE ADDING SO IT DOESN'T ROT? <I have used bamboo of various species in freshwater and marine displays... but never with varnish/as... I know that Spar is rated for use around water, but would leave it out... Just use the bamboo by itself. Bob Fenner> Thank you for all that you do, Jake

Re: rocks Hi the fish we have is an Oscar the rocks we want to use are street rocks we did a vinegar to test them they did not foam we have soaked them in salt water for about a day and fresh water to rinse for another day then we set up the tank. The sucker fish we had ended up dying and we think it might be the rocks if you could please email me back information on the right rocks for fresh water tanks thank you for your time. <Do this small experiment for testing the rocks. Place one, two of them in a cooking pot and cook them underwater till the water boils... let cool down for an hour or more, and test the pH of the water the rocks have been in. Has it changed much compared with the tap water pH? If not, the rocks are likely safe to use with your Oscar, and probably didn't have much/anything to do with the loss of your sucker fish. Bob Fenner>

Lace rock I have heard that lace rock can increase the pH of water in a tank. Is this true, and if so, by how much does it increase the pH? Are we talking about increasing a tank from 7.0 to 8.0, or more like 7.0 to 7.2? <Possibly to about 8.0... variable product, and values do vacillate with make-up of existing water. Bob Fenner> Love your web site <Thank you> Thanks for your help Doug Fitzpatrick <Doug... just to set my mind at ease... we're talking about "Tufa" rock here aren't we? Not the man-made with cement variety hawked by GARF et al...? Bob Fenner> Wow! I didn't expect that. To answer your question, I think the lace rock is natural, not cement. So, I guess it is the "Tufa" rock you asked about. <Thanks for this... you can imagine what goes through ones mind... short distance in my case... sending out responses, then thinking... "what if"?... > Just a follow-up question, then. If the rock can increase the tank to 8.0 from 7.0, does it take a long time to do this, or is it an "overnight" sort of thing? <Takes a while... the KOH... wait, let's not do this thing quantitatively... the solubility being what it typically is, surface area... a whole bunch of the rock in a small volume of water, a matter of weeks... not days> My friend has a 60gal tank with what he thinks is about 60 pounds of lace rock in it (large mountain of rock is the only real decoration in the tank). If he does a weekly water change with 7.2 pH water and replaces 5 gallons at each change, can he keep the pH down, or will the lace rock bring the pH up right away? <It will take time... in freshwater (now you see what I'm getting at re the worry here...) and probably never noticed in marine,,, where other buffers/buffering influences will keep the pH higher.> Additional information: He has been cycling the tank for about 2.5 months with goldfish, and he is trying to bring the pH down to get the tank ready for Discus. <Ahhh, now we're getting somewhere... I would NOT use this rock with Symphysodon at all... it will cause the water to be harder, more alkaline than s/he wants... and is too sharp to have around these fish/es> The water started with a pH of 7.8 and is very hard (he lives in Southern California, and I saw one article describe our water as liquid rock).  <Yes, some came out of the tap this morning here in San Diego, and cracked the kitchen sink...> He has an RO/DI filter, so he should be able to produce 7.0 water when he wants. He is also aware of adding trace elements back into distilled water. He is also aware that the addition of driftwood would help the situation, but he really likes the rock look. So, he really wants to make the rock work. Is what he is trying to do possible, or is he facing a no win situation? <No win in my opinion... look for chemically inert decor> Any information will be greatly appreciated. Doug <Please see the rock/driftwood piece, FAQs under the "Planted Tank" Index on the www.WetWebMedia.com site. Bob Fenner>

Rock/Decor for FW We have a 3 month old freshwater 40 gal. aquarium. We have stocked it with the usual community fish, tetras, swordtails, gouramis, angels, etc. In one corner we would like to build a tall rock formation. Is this possible and what kind of rock is safe? Please answer. Thanks! <Please read over the rock and driftwood section posted on the Freshwater and Planted Tank Indexes of the site: www.WetWebMedia.com Such an assemblage is possible, but as you say with only chemically inert or conducive materials. Bob Fenner>

New Rock Hi Bob, Haven't sent you an e-mail in a really long time, I like the changes to WWM, it's looking better every time I look!  <Ah, great to read.> I have had a 26 gallon reef for almost a year now, you helped me quite a bit in the early days! I have since found many discussion boards and the wealth of information that goes along with . . . <Great.... the more input an intelligent caring mind can cogitate furiously over, the better> Couple of quickies for you . . . we have a little eclipse 3 gallon freshwater tank at work with some neon tetras, albino catfish and a clown Pleco. I want to remove a ceramic bridge in the tank and replace it with some small pieces of lace rock for a more natural look. (The tank has been setup for about 4-5 months) If a rinse the rock really well, maybe place it in a bucket of freshwater with a powerhead for a few days would that be sufficient to not harm our current inhabitants. (I don't want to shock the water, bacteria levels, etc.) <I understand... and encourage you to look into other materials than the lace rock... it's a bit sharp and can/does usually increase pH and alkalinity. Maybe petrified "wood", or some of the prepared driftwoods for aquariums... real or ceramic logs...> I am in the planning stages of a 140 gallon reef. (60 X 18 X 30) Metal Halide will be the lighting of choice, possibly with VHO actinic supplementation. I plan to keep a mix of softies, LPS and SPS. Do you think I could be successful with 2 250 WT MH (Iwasaki 6500K) along with 2 130 WT VHO Actinics, or I should I opt for 2 400 WT Ushio 10000K's with the 2 130 WT VHO actinic supplementation?  <For thirty inches deep... this is a tough one... I'd personally opt for the 250s, but you could have the 400s...> My understanding is that a standard MH bulb will produce a useful arc of about 2 feet, so if I place the bulbs properly I would only have 6 inches of non-optimal light at the ends of the tank. (Good spot for Shrooms I suppose!) <Something like that/this...> Thanks as per usual for your invaluable advice. Brian <Glad to be here my friend. Bob Fenner>

Bogwood Blues Dear Mr. Fenner, I have never in 40 years of aquarium ownership seen anything like this! I recently set up a 26 gal. tank with natural gravel, Asian plants, and two large pieces of bogwood sold under the name "Wallaby Wood" at the local store. (Yes, I washed and soaked the wood a few days before placing in the tank. No special directions in their labeling indicated lengthy preparation needed.) Anyway, the tank began within 48 hrs. to take on the appearance of weak coffee, and no amount of water changes (10-20% at a time) or activated carbon filtration (outside power filter) has yet reduced the color appreciably. Constant testing of pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate indicate that the water is cycling normally and remaining fairly stable. Do you have any ideas on what I might do to reduce the staining more rapidly? I'd appreciate whatever hints you might offer ... Karen Wilkerson <Wish I did... the procedures you list: water changes, using activated carbon... even the live plants, will eventually reduce the amount of apparent coloring... but as you are obviously aware, this "dilution" game will take a few months... Small dispensation to find that the chemicals (flavins, tannins) are not toxic. Bob Fenner, who has indeed, "been here">
Re: Bogwood Blues
Thanks for the reassurance, Bob .. good news is that the "tide" is finally beginning to turn a bit, so I suppose I'm gaining on it .. whew! <Thank "stained" goodness> Guess I need to invest in a gigantic washtub (enameled, of course) to use in future bogwood endeavors.  <Good idea... some folks utilize a bit of borax... other materials to leach their new woods... or just keep overfilling the ding dang basin outside while doing other gardening duties... Appropriate technology.> You know, it's a gorgeous set up, what we can see of it. And the fish still seem very happy, so I will soon be adding more Asian relatives. By the way, do you know of any good online ordering sources for Orange Chromides?  <Go to your web search engines and put in the terms "Cichlid Trader" and look for Etroplus from there> I want to get a small pair, if possible, to complete the collection of Asian fishes, and we rarely see them in this area. I'm in Tyler, Texas, which is 100 miles E. of Dallas. Thanks again for the help, Karen Wilkerson <Bob Fenner, who has a dear friend, colleague in the interest named Joyce Wilkerson... and runs with the Texas Interhash every opportunity... last time at "Cut n' Shoot">

Driftwood/fish questions Dear Robert, You asked recently what other fishes did i have. I have platies, mollies, guppies, swordtails, sucking catfishes (2), a black phantom, a neon tetra and that's it.  1) Are any of my fish (above) affected by the tannin? <Hmm, the livebearers might be if they were close to wild types... but no... once all have been exposed, they would not suffer appreciably... The catfishes and tetras would actually benefit.> I think my driftwood should not have any harmful chemicals, etc but i would like to double check that. I bought it from a very professional pet center (with lots of variety) and i am pretty sure it is mangrove root. It has also been waterlogged, it did so on the second day!  2) So what else should i be careful about in the driftwood? <Nothing really... unlikely it contains chemical, physical or biological problems.>  3) They said that carbon in the filter removes tannin so should i just put it in? (i am a very impatient person!) <A very worthwhile effort. Will remove a great deal of the color and more> WATER CONDITIONS My water conditions are about 1 tablespoon of salt (not table salt) per 20litres of aquar. water. and the pH is either 6.9 or 7.4(my pH test kit is stuffed!) but my livebearers (see 1st paragraph) are breeding. Does this mean they feel "at home" in my tank? Most of my neons died, only 1 black phantom remains. <Yes on the measure of "suitability", and the Neons dying isn't unusual... sometimes, often don't adapt to new surroundings, being moved.>  1) Would a kuhli loach survive, i mean 'feel at home', in my tank? the red and black one. <S/b fine... these loaches live in softer, acidic water... with considerable wood acid content.> 2) I also wanted a pair of Ancistrus temminckii (Bristlenose) catfishes. Is that the small one with the whole underside as a sucker?  Is this the one that is peaceful and would be a good community fish? <Not the whole underside, though their mouths are subterminal... and yes, good community fishes... though can/do get large with time.> 3) What conditions are required for this catfish? <Aged systems, neutral in pH to lower... some dedicated feeding (like with sinking pellets) and driftwood to chew on (yes)>  >> <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

DIY Rock background Dear Bob, I am in the process of setting up a large freshwater tank and would like to include extensive rock backdrop as well. Could you tell me how I can achieve this? How do I stack them (or glue them?) together to get the desired effect? What glue is to be used? Here in India, I can obtain good quality marble, sandstone or slate. Which of these is safe to use? I do look forward to your advice and help. Thanking you, Arvind >> A few ways to go here... you might want to simply stack the pieces at this juncture, though a permanent sort of arrangement can be executed (very heavy... and permanent) by a few mechanisms... putty, resin.... Depending on the type of livestock, you might want to use marble (will make the water more hard and alkaline) if your livestock like the shift in water quality... or slate (more chemically inert)... by and large sedimentary rock (like sandstones) are not a good idea in captive systems... fall apart, grind down pumping mechanisms... make a mess... Bob Fenner

Floating Driftwood I recently purchased a 75 gallon tank and am planning to put tropical fish in it. To decorate the tank, I also purchased a piece of driftwood attached to a slate base. The driftwood is pretty large, but fits nicely in the tank. It has been soaking for about 6 days now, but it is showing no signs of wanting to sink. I even tried soaking it in hot water for a few hours. Does it usually take a long time for driftwood to sink? Is there anything I can do to speed up the process (the wood is too big to boil)? Are there weights or some other method I can use to help weigh it down? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks, Craig >> Good questions... and you're not alone... I've had the phenomenally beautiful pieces of wood that just would not sink as well... Boiling does help... soaking as well (if you don't perish from old age, or forget the project in the interim)... there are even chemicals you can add to the soak (don't do this, too dangerous) that may be used to speed up the process.... And yes, if your water is sufficiently hard, alkaline, you might well add a couple of lead weights (as in scuba diving) to the base to hold that log down... Or better/safer still, some other sort of chemically inert "rock" like petrified wood... more slate... rocks from around your area that won't/don't mal-affect your water quality.... Maybe take a read through the following site: Home Page for more input on decor of this sort. Bob Fenner
Re: Floating Driftwood
I hate to bother you again, but I do have one more question. I just began my first fish tank (75 gallons, freshwater), and I set it up last week and purchased the fish on Saturday. I am a little concerned that they do not seem to be eating. I have 3 fish for now (red tailed shark, tri-colored shark, and a blue gour). The Blue Gour seems to eat enough, the red tailed shark has eaten a little, but the tri-colored shark hasn't eaten at all. It just hides out all day and doesn't seem to even know that there is food in the tank. Should I be concerned? Is there anything I should do to change this? Thanks in advance for your help. >> Never a bother to answer/ask something in earnest. And no, not to worry. The Tri-colored shark (prob. Balantiocheilus tricolor, family Cyprinidae) is a notorious poor feeder when moved. It will soon regain its appetite... BTW, do be aware that these "sharks" are great jumpers! Make sure and keep your system covered... any, all holes that are big enough are suspect...  Bob Fenner

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