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THE BASICS OF FISHKEEPING
By choosing the right kind of aquarium, equipment, plants, decorations
and optional accessories we lay the basis for the healthy conditions
in our fish tanks. It is up to us the hobbyist to set up the closed
environment in such a way that our fish can thrive.
This section will cover all the basics of setting
up your aquarium in order to reach your goal.
If you plan on keeping Tropical fish, an aquarium heater is necessary
even in a heated room. Automatic heaters with built in thermostats that
turn the heater on and off in response to changes in water temperature
are the best. There are three basic types.
- Rod type heaters
These heaters attach vertically to the wall of the aquarium. They
can either be submersible or not. They are adjusted by a dial that
is located on the top. Never submerse a heater that does not
say it can be.
- Bottom heaters
These heaters use cables attached to the bottom of the tank before
the substrate is added. They have the advantage of being invisible
and are excellent for plant tanks. They usually require a separate
temperature sensor and are quite expensive.
These are a filter with a built in heating element. They too are invisible,
but are very expensive.
Two watts of power per gallon of tank size is usually sufficient
at normal room temperatures of 66 degrees F. to 72 degree F, for cooler
rooms increase the capacity to 4 watts per gallon. If you live in
a cooler climate and go away make sure you leave your house heat set
at a temperature that aquarium heater will be able to handle.
Every tank should have some sort of thermometer in order to read the
temperature inside the tank. These are usually the stick-on type that
come in different styles and ranges, there are also floating glass types.
Air Pumps, One of the first devices made for use in the aquarium still
continue to play an important part in aquarium keeping. No longer a
necessity, Air pumps today can be used as a source of supplemental water
circulation and Oxygen supply. Rising bubbles agitate the water surface
and help in the gas exchange of carbon dioxide and other harmful chemicals.
Air pumps can be used to power the vast array of aquarium ornaments
from the the opening and closing clam and treasure chest to the free
flying UFO and scuba divers. A more laid back use would be to power
an airstone or bubble wall and in Salt water the low end Protein skimmer.
There are battery operated air pumps which can used in the case of a
power failure or on long collecting trips.
In Conjunction with the air pump there are two kinds of valves to use,
Gang valves and check valves.
- Gang valves are used as a distribution center for the air produced
by the pump, they come in sets of one to five and any number can
be combined. Each unit will have a small dial which allows you to
regulate the amount of air flow through it, you must have an air
pump that is capable of handling the amount of air lines you have
or the air flow will be lessened and of no use to you. Gang Valves
come in either Brass or Plastic, with Brass being my choice for
strength and longevity.
- Check valves should be used on every pump installation. They prevent
water from back siphoning down the air line and into the pump during
power failures and accidental unplugging and burn-outs. It is possible
to drain an entire aquarium through the air line as well as cause
permanent damage to the pump. Check valves are installed after the
pump outlet and before any gang valves and is a matter of simply
cutting the tubing and placing the valve "in line".
Air stones come in many shapes and sizes and can be made of plastic,
wood, glass and other materials. There are long and slender ones called
walls or wands and can be used to "bubble the entire back of the aquarium.
Air stones not only come in different sizes they also come with different
bubble sizes. Fine bubbles are used mostly in Protein skimmers, for
their ability to scrub the water. Air stones must be sized to the right
size air pump to work properly. Many things affect the size pump needed
to power Airstones, such as the depth of the tank, size of the Air stone,
size of the bubbles and the the number of stones to be used.
Power heads are small versatile water pumps that were designed for use
with the under-gravel filter. They replace the air stone at the bottom
of each lift tube and mount to the top, greatly increasing the water
flow through the gravel. Some can be used as "reverse flow" pumps which
force water through the gravel from the bottom to the top. Today we
use power heads for increased circulation, as a source of power for
protein skimmers, water pumps for wet-dry sumps and for just about anything
that requires water flow. A very useful Item to have on hand.
The following will be a list of other items that are useful to have around
when you maintain an aquarium.
- TEST KITS
A must for maintaining water quality see the Test Kit page.
Use only fine mesh nets designed for aquarium use.
- PLASTIC BUCKETS
You can never have enough.
- LIGHT TIMER
Used to turn off and on your lights. Available at any hardware store.
- SURGE PROTECTOR
Used to plug in all your electrical wires and they come with a build
in circuit breaker.
- GLASS CLEANERS
Magnets or some other type cleaner to clean the Algae off the inside
of the tank.
- GRAVEL CLEANER
Used in water changes, with the large end you can clean the gravel
every time you do your partial water changes.