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!

Pitfalls of Buying Fish from Retail Fish Stores

Fish Store

By Tom Lang

If you are considering stocking your aquarium with fish and other aquatic life from your local retail fish store (LFS), you should be aware of the risks associated with this practice.

This article is not meant to criticize the retail fish industry, but hopefully educate consumers about typical problems encountered when establishing an aquarium.

Even clients of professional aquarium maintenance companies such as Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. often succumb to the temptation of adding “just one more fish” to their established aquatic communities.

 

Buying a new tank and fish at the same time

It is always amazing to us to see customers walking out the doors of retail fish stores with a brand new tank and bags of fish in the same shopping cart! A good local fish store will strongly discourage this.

A new aquarium takes time to establish – not just because of the chlorine most municipalities add to their tap water, but also because the nitrogen cycle takes at least several weeks to complete.

This natural beneficial bacterial culture is the key to success in keeping all fish, whether freshwater or saltwater, in a closed environment. If you don’t know how the nitrogen cycle works (or how to test for it) then you should not be purchasing fish until you do.

For all new aquariums installed by Aquarius Aquarium, Inc., we carefully monitor critical water quality parameters frequently during the early weeks when adding new fish.

Once an aquarium is established, it is not as critical to constantly test the water, but many problems can be prevented by paying regular attention to the basic parameters. Taking appropriate corrective action when such action is warranted by testing can save not only the cost, but also the lives of your new fish.

 

Introducing disease to your new or established aquarium

Click on this photo to see if you can you spot signs of disease on these beautiful saltwater fish offered for sale at a local fish store.

Whether you have a new aquarium or a long-established community, the number one cause of disease being introduced to your aquarium is through the addition of new fish, living plants, corals or any other aquatic life. Retail fish stores receive frequent deliveries of fish, often from multiple sources.

The busiest stores can bring in multiple shipments in a week with an accompanying high turnover of fish in their sales tanks. These are the stores that gain a reputation for their “great selection,” which in turn attracts many customers!

The main problem with this is that even one newly-arrived diseased fish can infect all the other fish in its tank even if these other fish have been disease-free up to the day of the arrival of the sick one.

Add to this the common practice of linking all the tanks in a store together on one master plumbing system, and it is very likely that a disease can run through an entire section of interconnected tanks.

Free-swimming stages of parasites, viruses, bacteria and fungi can easily travel through the pipes from tank-to-tank and the water going home with an unsuspecting customer can be teeming with microscopic disease agents even if the fish in the bag appears completely healthy.

Buyer beware and the benefits of quarantine


So, how can you avoid the pitfalls of buying fish at your local fish store (LFS)? There are a couple of ways.

First, consider buying your fish through a local aquarium service company like Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. that is committed to only selling fish after quarantining them for a period of at least two weeks.

But if you still wish to purchase your fish at a LFS, be very sure that the fish you are considering adding to your aquarium is in good health. If the fish exhibits obvious signs of distress (rapid breathing or mad dashing around the tank), damage (torn fins. missing scales) or disease (cloudy eyes, fungus-like growths, or tiny white spots that look like salt stuck to the fish) you should not buy that fish, no matter how tempting it may be to try to “save” it or what discount the store offers you.

Also, if after asking a store staff member to feed the fish, the fish is not eating, do not buy that fish. When a fish isn’t eating in the store tank, it is unlikely it will in your tank.

Finally, if the fish appears healthy and is actively feeding, you can contract with a local aquarium service company like Aquarius Aquarium, Inc. to quarantine your new purchase for you or you can set up your own quarantine aquarium.

Keep in mind that any quarantine tank must also have an established biological filter just like any aquarium before you purchase your new fish or fishes. If not, you will encounter the same problems as those customers who buy their new aquarium and fish on the same day.

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!

 

Summer to Winter in Fresno

By Aletha Lang

An aquarium heater should be considered a critical piece of equipment for your aquarium, just like a filter that is essential to the lives of your tank inhabitants.

As we who live in Fresno and in the San Joaquin Valley well know, our seasonal temperatures vary from summers at 105 degrees Fahrenheit or more to winter temperatures as low as 32 degrees. So winter is a great time to check your heater to be sure it is operating as you expect it to. Heaters do go bad and rather than assuming yours is working because the light’s on or because its dial is set at the right temperature, be sure to verify that it’s working properly by checking the actual temperature of your aquarium water with a trusted thermometer. Tropical fish (both freshwater and saltwater) require water temperatures to remain very stable in order to survive. A narrow range from 77 to 82 degrees is ideal for most.

Perhaps you’re already aware of the stresses extreme temperature swings can cause your fish: parasitic outbreaks, lethargy, uneaten fish food sitting on the bottom of the tank. The latter is not a direct, but rather an indirect result of the fish not feeding normally in cold water, and we all know that rotting food leads to degrading water quality.

So before you lose any fish, check your heater today. And please contact us if you need a replacement!

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!