Apartment Aquariums

An apartment aquarium is a great pet for busy people who just don’t have time for a dog or a cat. Most apartment managers are fine with a small aquarium in rental units, but don’t assume small means mini. A good apartment aquarium size to start with is a 20 gallon (24”long x 13”wide x 17”tall). This size can accommodate a nice selection of freshwater tropical fish and even live plants.

Whether you buy your set-up from a local fish store or through Aquarius Aquarium, Inc., our professional aquarists will help you get it going and then maintain it for you on a monthly basis.

We generally recommend many small, colorful community fish for a 20 gallon aquarium such as tetras, rasboras, danios, gouramis and maybe even one angelfish (don’t try two angelfish or you are likely to have one ending up being dominant, causing the other one to die). Some of our clients have gotten away with six or more angelfish for months, but compatibility issues usually develop as these not-so-angelic fish mature.

Popular bottom fish for a 20 gallon aquarium are corydoras catfish that come in a variety of colors and patterns. These catfish do a nice job keeping the bottom clean of extra food the other fish may miss. We do not recommend a plecostomus or other potentially large bottom fish as these take up too much tank space very quickly and produce copious amounts of waste.

Easy-to-grow live plants such as an Amazon sword, Anubias or Java fern will do well in a 20 gallon aquarium with about 8 hours of light a day. We have been impressed with the growth of these varieties under the white LED lights that come with even the most budget-friendly options combination kits. Some other aquatic or semi-aquatic plant species offered for sale do not fare as well in aquariums without specialty lighting, regular fertilizer additions or CO2 supplementation. Of course, if you’re interested in a high-end planted aquarium with more challenging species, we’d be happy to discuss the options available.

With all the choices out there, we understand that putting an apartment aquarium together can seem daunting, but that’s what we’re here for! Contact us today and we’ll walk you through the process so you can enjoy the beauty of this slice of nature.

More Fish = More Service

by Tom Lang

One of the most common requests we receive from our clients is that they want more fish for their aquariums. While we would like to make a sale or see a tank absolutely chock-full of fish of all types and colors, we are often put in the position of having to explain why more fish will require more service. Hopefully this article will explain why this is the case.

We all know that our fish pets produce waste. We just don’t usually see it like we would if we had a cat or a dog or a horse. But think about that for a moment. The larger the animal, the more waste produced requiring cleaning of the litter box, yard or stall. The same goes with quantities – two cats, three dogs and a stable of horses all create more work for us than one individual animal.

All of this might seem obvious, but it is the same with fish in an aquarium. Let’s say you have a good-sized tank with a dozen small to medium-sized fish and things are going along just fine with once-a-month water change, cleaning of the filter, etc., except that you would prefer to see twice the number of fish swimming in the aquarium.

With double the fish, the amount of waste that will need to be processed by the nitrifying bacteria living in your aquarium will be doubled. These bacteria are essential to the success of every aquarium and work to transform fish waste into nitrate through the nitrogen cycle. Nitrate will therefore be produced twice as fast and in twice the quantity when the fish population is doubled. Since nitrate is acidic, an increase in nitrate will cause a more rapid, unsafe drop in pH, endangering the lives of the fish.

Now, taking into account that young, small to medium-sized fish are usually the ones selected to go into a new aquarium, it is important to also consider the potential adult size of these animals. A small fish may stay small if that is the normal size for that particular species, or a small fish may, in a few short months, grow into a large, or even extra-large fish ten to twenty times the size of when it was first introduced.

Rather than focusing on the quantity of fish in an aquarium, it is always more helpful to focus on the total combined mass of all the fish fish within a given tank. We have some clients with one extra-large fish in a medium-sized aquarium and that is truly equal to having twelve to fifteen small fish in the same tank.

The point of all this is that the waste produced by a heavily-stocked aquarium will far exceed what is produced by a lightly-stocked aquarium and will require more water changes, more filter cleanings and more over-all attention to the system. Pushing the limits of what any given tank can support also means that the entire population is close to the tipping point for a tank crash if one or two deaths go unnoticed. Dead fish remaining in an aquarium even for just a few hours can rob enough oxygen from the water to cause all the other fish to die.

Heavily-stocked aquariums require attention multiple times a day accounting for each and every fish, very precise feeding since decomposing extra food can also rob oxygen from the water and scrupulously cleaned filter media and components. Offices that are closed on weekends or over long holidays run the risk of coming in on Monday morning to a tankful of smelly dead fish because it always seems to be that a fish will die on a Friday evening after everyone has gone home.

A light to medium stocking level gives the fish a much better chance for long-term survival should the inevitable challenges inherent with all aquariums occur. A power outage will not immediately wipe out a lightly-stocked tank. A pump failure will not mean quick death in an aquarium with a dozen fish versus two dozen fish.

We encourage all our clients to stock lightly and succeed with once-a-month service visits. We are always happy to increase service frequency to accommodate medium stocking levels as well. But even with increased service levels, the more fish that are in any given aquarium, the more we need our clients to be partners in accounting for all their fish on a daily basis and to call us immediately if anything out of the ordinary is observed with the fish, the water clarity or the filter system operation before a small issue turns into a major problem.

Water Softener Woes

By Tom Lang

We have been seeing more and more homes installing water softeners and then having problems with their aquariums. In order to soften a home’s tap water, many water softeners work by exchanging minerals (mostly calcium and magnesium) with sodium. While this is good for your pipes, shower doors and washing machines, it’s not great for fish.

Aquarium water needs to contain a balance of electrolytes (solutes that break down into ions when dissolved in water) in order for fish to be able to regulate their internal homeostasis. Freshwater fish, especially, require some calcium and magnesium as well as carbonates and other minerals in their water for this osmoregulation since they continuously absorb water into their bodies though their skin and flush it out through dilute urine produced by their efficient kidneys. Electrolytes are lost from the body during urination and if these same ions are not present in the surrounding water, then the fish is unable to achieve internal electrolyte balance rapidly leading to death.

So it is not so much the presence of sodium that causes fish problems in softened water, but rather it’s the lack of calcium and magnesium (measured as GH – general hardness) and carbonates (KH – carbonate hardness or alkalinity) that fish need to survive in an aqueous environment.

In a freshwater planted aquarium, a balance of minerals is also important, however it is interesting to note that plants may do fine for quite a while in softened water even as the fish perish. This is due to a hydrophyte’s (fully submerged aquatic plant) ability to retain minerals in its tissues since, unlike terrestrial plants, it does not need to expend energy retaining water. Calcium and magnesium are considered “secondary” nutrients because plants require these in smaller concentrations than nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Often, aquarists with planted tanks will also add plant nutrients that contain enough calcium, magnesium and other minerals for the plants, but not in enough quantity to provide for the far greater needs of the fish.

Finally, using softened water in a saltwater fish or reef aquarium creates other issues. Again, the lack of calcium and magnesium may require supplementation to bring them back into line with natural seawater. While saltwater fish are drinking seawater rather than absorbing it through their skin like freshwater fish, they still must regulate their internal electrolyte balance. It is necessary to add calcium, magnesium and carbonates to artificial saltwater made with softened water if tests indicate levels below natural seawater.

We are the Reef Aquarium Hobbyist’s Go-To Service Company

As a dedicated reef aquarium hobbyist, you have a lot invested in your tank, life support system and livestock – A LOT of cash, sweat and passion. Maybe you have an extra-special rare fish, a one-of-a-kind chalice coral, a Montipora that’s grown spectacularly or a rack full of high-end Acropora frags.

Now that it’s time for a much-deserved vacation, you feel like you’re a slave to your tank. You even consider staying home while your family goes on without you. This is totally unnecessary if you live in the Fresno/Clovis metropolitan area.

Our professional aquarists will come to your home or office and take care of all your aquarium’s needs while you’re away.

Our staff will feed your fish, top-off your RO water and even test and adjust your aquarium’s chemical parameters whether you’re sipping a fruity drink with an umbrella in a bure in Tahiti or visiting your brother in Tehama.

And even if your 5 year old blows up your tank and electrical throughout your whole house when you are diving in Bora Bora, you can rest assured that we’ve seen it and done it all many, many times before and that your reef aquarium will be in great shape when you return.

Contact Us today and we’ll set everything up so you can travel the world stress-free!

Your Ideal Saltwater Aquarium

By Tom Lang

Too many people call or email us when it’s too late – after they have already purchased an aquarium. Then we have to gently break the news that while they may have gotten a really good deal on a tank, stand, light and filter combination, off-the-shelf products are usually simply not ideal for a successful saltwater aquarium experience.

Of course, it’s possible to keep saltwater fish for a short time with less than optimal equipment, but the picture most people have in their minds of their ultimate aquarium – numerous colorful, healthy fish, colorful corals, easy maintenance – cannot be achieved with the equipment they now have sitting in their family room or office.

Understanding the spatial needs fish have in order to live long lives in your care should be the first and foremost consideration when selecting the size and the shape of your aquarium. This is purposeful aquarium shopping. A pair of common clownfish, three green chromises and a shrimp can be very happy in an aquarium in the 20 – 30 gallon range, but fish that grow much larger such as angelfish, tangs, triggers, lionfish, eels, and puffers, will not live for long in such a small space.

Pet stores routinely stock babies of the most popular and colorful saltwater fish, but it’s up to you, the savvy fish shopper, to know the ultimate requirements of each fish as it grows before you buy it. If you want to keep a fish that is genetically programmed to grow to a large size for more than a few weeks or months, you will need an aquarium sized to that fish. The old axiom “fish will only grow to the size of their aquarium” is true only because most larger fish will die before they reach even a fraction of their potential size in an aquarium that is too small.

So, how large of an aquarium should you buy? The short answer is to size the aquarium based on the types of fish you wish to keep. In our experience, the ideal minimum size for a nice group of colorful reef fish is a 160 gallon aquarium measuring 7 foot long, 18 inches deep by 24 inches tall like the one pictured at the top of this article. Taller tanks holding more gallons with the same or smaller footprints usually do not allow more fish to be kept successfully since reef fish are generally more concerned with finding their own place within the reef structure, not up in the water column.

Your ideal saltwater aquarium should have a built-in overflow box to draw water from the surface. Aftermarket overflows that require siphon tubes can be added to existing tanks, however there is a real risk of failure and a soaking wet floor if they do.

The heart of every aquarium is the filter. However, canister or hang-on-the-back filters that are fine for freshwater aquariums come up short for saltwater because of the tendency of enclosed canisters to deplete oxygen in the water and the limited capacities of the hang-on-the-back models.

Your ideal saltwater aquarium utilizes high quality, fully-cured live rock as both its primary biological filtration and as the base for either living or non-living decorative corals. Even if you don’t want the maintenance commitment and expense of a full-blown reef aquarium, our experience time and time again tells us that an adequate amount of live rock is still essential for success in fish-only systems. Add a couple of internal propeller pumps at each end of the tank to keep the rock as free of detritus build-up as possible.

Acrylic sump w/protein skimmer & 7″ filter sock

Your ideal saltwater aquarium has a custom acrylic sump tank under the main tank with a built-in filter sock holder and plenty of capacity to hold a quality return pump, heater or heaters, a large in-sump protein skimmer and various other water treatment, automation and monitoring options. We recommend a 7-inch diameter filter sock for the 160 gallon aquarium since this size has a capacity to efficiently filter thousands of gallons of saltwater even in a heavily-fed aquarium before requiring cleaning.

With the under-tank sump in mind, the aquarium cabinet takes on even more importance. Rather than being merely a stand for the tank, the cabinet needs to have doors that open as wide as possible or a door on one side without restrictions in order to get the sump in and out and also contain all the associated equipment. The cabinet should also be fully open in the back against the wall or outfitted with ventilation fans to minimize moisture build-up. A nice touch is a waterproof pan to contain minor spills and splashes that inevitably will occur.

Your ideal saltwater aquarium has sleek, bright LED lighting. Be sure to select LED lighting that is optimized for saltwater aquariums. Many LED lights offered for sale have mostly white LEDs that make the water appear yellow and wash out the colors of the fish. Choose an LED fixture that has about 50/50 blue and white LEDs, is programmable for on and off times and intensity and has gradual light ramp up and ramp down periods that don’t startle your fish. If you want to grow living corals, you will want to be sure to choose high intensity LED lights that are specially designed for the unique needs of the types of corals you are considering.

Finally, your ideal saltwater aquarium is optimized for the future. As technology advances, the system we have described here allows you to add the latest equipment such as controllers, reactors, dosers and lighting as they become available. There will always be improvements coming down the pike, but if you start out with quality components, you will have many years of enjoyment before you’ll need an upgrade. You’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that caring for your beautiful fish and corals is so much easier since you planned ahead.

Please contact us today and we’ll help you put it all together!

Clean, Don’t Scratch Your Aquarium Walls

One surefire way to scratch your saltwater or freshwater aquarium’s glass or acrylic panels is to leave your magnetic cleaner in the tank.

Sure, the various models on the market can be effective at removing unwanted algae from the interior surfaces of your aquarium, (and they can even be fun to swish back and forth as the dry side on the outside moves the wet side almost like magic through the tank walls!) but it is very important to remove them from the aquarium after each use.

This little step will prevent tiny critters such as barnacles (shown in the photo above), limpets, calcareous tube worms and other naturally-occurring saltwater reef aquarium organisms from taking up residence among the soft bristles of the wet side of the cleaner. Even in freshwater, tiny snails may do the same. If the cleaner is left in the water, these animals will surely move in as if you rolled out a red carpet and posted a “Free Rent” sign. When they do, they will attach to the cleaner with the strength of super glue and every time you move it (and them!) across your glass or acrylic, their hard shells will gouge into your aquarium walls.

Taking an extra 15 seconds after using your magnetic cleaner to remove both wet and dry sides from the tank and placing them separately in a dry spot until they are needed again will prolong the beauty of your aquarium and greatly minimize the scratching that inevitably occurs when cleaning algae. But be careful, some magnets are so powerful they can pinch your fingers and are even more prone to do so outside of water.

Keeping your aquarium walls clean is one of the many services we offer at Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. – be sure to contact us and we’ll be there to help!


Valley Children’s Hospital

This beautiful 240 gallon cylindrical aquarium Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. helped design and install in the Childlife playroom at Valley Children’s Hospital back in 1998 still brings joy to many young patients and their families today.

It is our hope that the aquarium, waterplay streambed (with dinosaurs!) and terrarium we maintain at the hospital relieve some of the stress children endure on their road to recovery and support the wonderful healing work of the people that are the heart of this important Valley organization.

Freshwater Asian Planted Tank

The beauty of a freshwater aquarium with living aquatic plants can be stunning. This 54 gallon glass bowfront tank is stocked with many different varieties of plants primarily native to Asia such as Cryptocorne and Rotala species. The special flourite substrate is rich in iron, thus eliminating the need for laterite supplementation.

The fish population was carefully chosen to protect the plants from being eaten and features a large school of 36 harlequin rasboras and 12 dwarf gouramis. There are also 12 Otocinclus affinis (small suckermouthed catfish from South America) and 12 Caridina multidentata shrimp for algae control and 3 clown loaches for snail control.

Of course, such an aquarium cannot be maintained without the proper equipment. This one includes a 150 watt metal halide pendant light, an automatic CO2 dosing system, a U.V. sterilizer and a canister filter which are maintained by Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. staff on a every-other-week basis.

If you are interested in having a planted aquarium like this in your home or office, Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. can either put it all together for you or give you all the specific information and equipment recommendations to do-it-yourself. Contact us today for all the details!

Fast Food Cylindrical Aquariums

Often, our clients ask us to create aquatic environments that are out-of-the-ordinary. Of course, we install and maintain aquariums of all shapes and sizes, but sometimes people just want tanks that really make a statement.

We designed these twin freshwater seamless cylindrical tanks so they could be viewed from all sides without any visible equipment such as heaters, plumbing or life-support systems. All of those components are neatly hidden in the cabinets under the tanks, which give the appearance of a slice of nature in the middle of this busy food court.

When such extra thought is put into an aquarium installation, we think the results are so much more attractive for the viewer. We are always very pleased when a client agrees!

Terry’s House

We were so pleased that Terry’s House accepted our donation of an acrylic freshwater hexagon aquarium to bring a little slice of nature into their family reading room (see before and after photos above). The tank is stocked with peaceful community fish, which is appropriate since Terry’s House is part of Community Hospital in downtown Fresno.

Terry’s House is a home-away-from-home for families of critically ill patients. Built in 2011 and funded solely on donations, Terry’s House is a place where families can eat, sleep and recharge while waiting to bring their loved one home.

Please join us in supporting Terry’s House today!