Select Aquatics Of Erie, CO.
                               Basic Troubleshooting With Select Aquatics Fish

                                             Fixit: The Tank
                             Water Quality, Algea, Bleaching, Unwelcome Guests 



         *Page 1 - The Tank

        Page 2 - The Fish

        Page 3 - Diseases



     Cloudy water is common, unsightly, and will lead to greater
     problems if not addressed quickly. It is nearly always caused
     by excess deteriorating organic matter in the tank, more
     than the aquarium's nitrifying bacteria, your filtration, and
     the water change schedule can process. A 50% water change
     begins the recovery, then cleaning the substrate and filter
     medium, while possibly boosting the aeration should keep it
     from re-occurring.



                                                                           Water Quality

      The aquarium is slightly cloudy- Cloudiness in a tank is a firm signal something is going on, and whatever it is needs to 
      be dealt with right away. Experience is that cloudy water issues, triggered for whatever reason, will cause loss of fish starting in 
      a few days, as conditions cause them to become vulnerable to lower oxygenation, opportunistic infections and other issues.

      Cloudy water is simply the result of an overpopulation of bacteria – a “bloom”, usually caused by excess organic material in the tank.
      The problem is that all this bacteria uses oxygen as well, and the oxygen level in the tank will fall during a bloom. Those species with
      higher metabolisms, such as  tetras and barbs, will have problems most quickly. Lowering the temperature to raise the oxygen level
      may seem like a solution, but in fact by doing so you are lowering the fish’s metabolism, and possibly lowering their immune system’s  
      ability to fight infection, at a time when they are most vulnerable.

      So with a cloudy tank, the first thing to do is a 30-50% water change to get them back into healthy water before fixing whatever it was
      that caused the water to cloud up. Removal of any mulm or detritus and cleaning any filter mediums (especially sponge filters, as they
      will hold on to decaying organic matter.) Follow with a thorough siphon cleaning of the substrate, and reduce any excess substrate if
      possible. Using live plants also helps maintain water quality. Consider what caused more organic matter to collect in the tank than the
      nitrifying bacteria and filtration were able to keep under control. Possibly make changes to your feedings and maintenance schedule,
      or boosting the filtration or aeration.

      If you are keeping bare bottomed aquariums, a sprinkling of a single layer of 1/4" pea gravel over 1/3 - 1/2 of the tank bottom will clear
      up minor water cloudiness in 3-4 days, and help protect against future cloudiness through the addition of nitrifying bacteria.  Increasing 
      the aeration, possibly with the addition of live plants will also have a positive effect.

      *** Doing a water change – The best water to use for a water change, particularly with a tank where the fish may already be weakened,
      is to add already aged, clean water from another healthy tank. Straight tap water can be used, properly dechlorinated with a dechlor
      product, but with some fish (such as some of the Synodontis catfish) adding fresh tap water is actually irritating to them, and not the best
      choice if you are looking to get them healthy as quickly as possible. Water changes when raising new fry, for example, are always best
      using clean water from another aged aquarium.


     This is what yellow water looks like, complete with a line
     of foam at the water line. If your tank ever looks like
     this your fish are in very dirty water that needs to be
     addressed immediately. In this case, these baby Green Dragon
     Plecos were given a few too many beans the day before, and
     this is what the tank looked like the next morning. For them,
     this isn't a problem, aeration is very strong in this tank,
     and a 50% water change and change of filter floss had the
     tank back in good shape in a few minutes.


     The aquarium water is clear, but yellowish – This indicates an overload of organic waste, and indicates that a water
      change of at least 50% is necessary. Those aquarists feeding zucchini, green beans or other vegetables will occasionally see this,
      and yellow water can be created through overfeeding or simple lack of consistent water changes. Though not always an immediate
      problem, yellow water indicates a deterioration of water quality and is definitely the first step toward issues arising from a decrease
      in the overall health of the fish. If also seen with small amounts of foam at the water line, an immediate water change is required.
      Water can turn yellow if water changes or filtration become inconsistent or ineffective, and this is considered a fairly serious  
      condition for a tank.

     The aquarium is clear, but brownish – This can be caused by a number of factors, some that are harmless or even desired,
      and some that are to be avoided. Brown water is most often caused by tannins introduced to the tank by using oak leaves, almond
      leaves, driftwood or any number of dried plant parts that soften or lower the pH of the water. Brown water from those causes is not
      usually a problem, and is often desired, even essential for breeding certain types of fish.

      Or it could be caused by excess organic matter, beyond what would cause water to become yellowish- excess fecal matter and mulm
      in particular are a problem. Some claim that “mulm is inert”, and is harmless in an aquarium. Only in an aquarium with very heavy water
      changes, where the mulm is older and well broken down, would the decaying organic matter not be a problem. Otherwise, mulm is 
      always a problem, reducing breeding and causing a deterioration of water quality.

     The aquarium is clear, but the water smells- This often points to the need for more aeration in the aquarium, to boost
      the health of the bacteria in the tank, and for more air exchange to assist the off-gassing of the minor odors that can accumulate.
      A healthy tank will not smell. After boosting the aeration, then search and clean the tank of any areas where dirt or mulm may have
      accumulated. Historically, many have used activated charcoal  in filters to ward off what they thought would be a smelly aquarium
      if they did not use it.  In my experience, charcoal will clog and become ineffective fairly quickly. With today's awareness of the need
      for regular water changes and an overall cleaner approach when setting up initially, I do not feel that  the use of charcoal is essential.

     There is foam at the surface of the water- When there is foam at the edges of the water line in your aquarium, there is an  
      excess of organic matter in the tank, best controlled this through water changes to avoid running into  issues that come about from
      deteriorating water quality. This is easy to ignore if the water appears fairly clear otherwise, but a healthy tank should not have a
      layer of foam on its surface. Some medications available to treat common fish ailments may cause foam to build up at the water line,
      but it is temporary. As a rule, foam comes about as a result of certain  foods that break down in a way that causes foam to develop
      Beans used here do this routinely. It is still something that needs to be resolved, as it represents excess organic material you do not
      want in your tank, and there is less "room' for organics to accumulate, before a bacterial bloom may begin.


     Filtration needs to be increased as items are
     added to the tank, that can collect mulm and 
     waste, and some foods, though good for the
     fish, can quickly destroy the water quality
     of a tank. Here, a Longfin Green Dragon hangs
     on a cave structure, while a young male feeds
     on green beans. Declining water quality may
     be noticed by die offs of other fauna in the
     aquarium. Contrary to what some believe,
     plants require clean, moving, aerated water,
     just like the fish do.


     The plants are dying- Not all plants will survive in all aquariums. Many plants require that close attention be paid to one or
      more aspects of their care, and without that attention, they do not survive. Often water quality  from your tap could be the problem,
      as plants generally prefer softer water. Adding salt to tanks will kill many plants, though some, such as Java fern and Java moss,
      can be fairly salt tolerant. Many plants have a temperature range they do best in, and an overhead light with the equivalent of a
      “Daylight” spectrum will do best for plants. Use of some types of LEDs can also be a problem for maintaining plants.

      Lastly, plants prefer water that is regularly changed just as you would for the fish, and many plants must have some water
      movement in the tank. (Bolbitis fern). The belief that fish food, or worse, an overabundance of fish food, is good for plants is
      simply not true. When caring for a planted tank, be sure to fertilize with an appropriate fertilizer, to provide the proper
      nutrition for your plants. Here, consistently high water quality with simple CFL60 Daylight bulbs and the Rapid Grow
      Aquarium Plant Fertilizer maintains lush, abundant plants, primarily Java Fern, Amazon swords and Bolbitis fern.
      We do not use CO2 or soil substrate of any kind, with the exception of pure Canadian Peat for the potted swords.

      The snails are dying- I am referring to the nuisance snails we all get in our tanks, that though unsightly, are still living
      indicators of how well the tank is doing – if the snails are healthy, the basics are going right. When snails die there may be
      a problem. A metal may have been introduced to the tank they cannot tolerate – In the 60s people would drop a penny
      into a tank, and the copper would kill the snails. We would never do that today, as too much copper is toxic to fish as well.
      Or the water is too soft, or the temperature has become  too warm. Each of these issues could be a problem for certain
      types of fish. If you are seeing a die off of snails or shrimp in your tank, check the basics - temperature, aeration, clean
      the filter medium, etc.,  then do at least a 20% water change. Then, be sure to remove any dead snails or shrimp from
      the tank.


     This is a Z. tequila tank with brown algea over the front
     and sides. Algea-eating Sucker mouth catfish, shrimp and
     other life we put into our aquariums often may not eat
     types of algea we see routinely. With brown algea like
     this I will go in and wipe down the sides, then boost
     the filtration for a period to clean the algea released
     into the water. I will then do that procedure as I notice 
     it. That has kept it in check.



      The aquarium is clear, but greenish- This could be the first step toward a bout of “Green water” where a type of algea 
      suspended in the water has begun to take hold. Ignoring this could result in the tank becoming dark green in a day or two. This is
      generally not a problem for the fish, but is unsightly, and if not addressed will spread throughout your tanks, becoming difficult
      to eradicate. Before algeacides were commonly available, aquarists would cover the tank for a few days so that it stayed dark,
      which if done for a long enough period would solve the problem. Today algeacides for Green water are available at any pet store,
      and most work very well. During the time that the green water is present, it can be spread easily on nets or your hands, creating
      more tanks with the issue. After being resolved, consider the placement of the tank, and whether it is exposed to excess natural
      light, which can cause bouts of Green Water to return. It is a pain once you get it, but it can be eradicated and then controlled.

      The tank glass is getting covered with green algea- Algea will grow in any tank given the proper conditions, and a  
      tank can also be kept clear of algea when the causes of the algal growth are addressed.  It is caused by an overabundance of 
      organic material that can be converted into food, combined with light. This is not to be confused with the water borne algea that
      can turn your water green. These are two different algeas, and causing the water to become green when cleaning the common
      type of algea that grows on the glass will not cause "green water" mentioned above to start in a tank. 

      Algea is a plant that can be out competed. Place the aquarium where the amount of light received can be controlled, and
      introduce hardy, fast growing plants that will do well in your water. When kept fairly clean with regular water changes, even with
      the use of a plant fertilizer, your algea problem should disappear. With less aggressive plants and an environment more
      conducive to algea growth, live plants and clean conditions should keep your algea growth in check, and the addition of a smaller 
      sucker mouth catfish (such as the Green Dragon), a catfish that eats algea its entire life, will keep it controlled. But with the catfish,
      additional feeding of blanched zucchini or green beans is required, as algea alone will not keep them going.

      If you do not have live plants, or they will not work in your setup, controlling the light, having a pleco or two, and keeping the tank
      clean of the algea by scrubbing occasionally may be your best means of controlling it. Lastly, some algea types can only be
      controlled by removing it, such as the hair algeas that some fish will not eat. With those, there isn't much that can be done
      but to clean it by hand and look into removing the excess organic matter that is causing the algea to appear.

      The tank has blue green algea- “Blue green algea” is not an algea, but a bacteria, and can be tricky to get rid of. It is easily 
      identified by its deep turquoise color and strong, oddly sweet smell. Some will add an antibiotic specific for it, which will get rid of it,
      but that is expensive, and often not a permanent solution. Short of Bleaching a tank (mentioned below), when it has occurred here
      we simply wipe the tank down, removing as much of it as possible, and we have been able to eliminate it without bleaching or 
      removing the fish. Often it is the result of deteriorating conditions, and the combination of cleaning the tank and keeping an eye on
      it, quickly removing any when it would re-occur eventually cleared it up.


     These are an all blue cichlid being developed here. They are
     a long way from their final form, and this is just one of many
     pairs. These are all nearly pure blue mutations, and the young
     being produced from these crosses are shown on The Fixit Fish
     page. These are 2-4 years away from being sold. With pots that
     can harbor organic waste, creating a tank where ammonia levels
     can be inconsistent, and with new fry around, the tanks are kept
     as clean as possible with a layer of 1/4 inch pea gravel over
     1/3 - 1/2 of the tank bottom. This maintains excellent water
     quality in combination with appropriate filtration.


                                                                        The Aquarium

     Should a tank be covered?- Whether a tank should be covered is not entirely a cosmetic decision. Experience has shown
      that with a few of the species kept here (The Skiffias), they require exposure to maximum air exchange at the water surface of their
      aquarium. The hardier species offered in the commercial pet trade can be covered routinely, and of course, those prone to
      jumping must be covered. However, if a species is not doing as well as it should, or deaths occur without other causes, keeping
      the tank uncovered may improve the situation. For those concerned about possible jumping, particularly with smaller fish, a layer
      of floating plants at the surface may be enough to keep them in the aquarium. (Killie keepers, don't chance it - always cover the

      Also keep in mind that fish may jump from a tank their first few days in a new environment, but may not be jumpers once they
      have acclimated. The swordtails, for example are often considered jumpers, but the tanks here were uncovered for years without
      ever losing a fish. Today, due to fishroom humidity issues, all tanks are covered, except those containing species that have
      proven to do poorly when their water surface is not exposed to the open air.

      Another fishkeeper suggested that the problem could be due to the elevation at this location near Denver, Colorado.
      The fishroom is at about 5100 feet altitude, and the naturally lower oxygen levels require that more sensitive fish may require
      abundant air exchange at the surface, obstructed to some extent when the tank is covered. For those ever having trouble they
      cannot identify, uncovering the tank is a variable that can be tried, particularly with these generally higher oxygenation livebearers
      that prefer water that is relatively clean and well aerated.


     To address humidity issues starting in a 100+ tank fishroom, twin wall polycarbonate
     tops were made for all of the tanks. As a result, minor temperature changes needed to
     be addressed in some tanks, and the alteration of air exchange at the water surface
     caused problems for some more sensitive species.


      The tank temperature is too warm- Obviously, you want to unplug any heaters and turn off the lights. With fish that do not jump,
      the tank will cool more quickly with the top removed. If the overheating had not been for longer than a few hours, you can gradually
      bring down the temperature with cooler water, doing so gradually, adding up to about 30-40% new water if necessary.  You should be
      back to the correct temp within an hour or so. With a heating that lasted longer than a brief period, you should bring the temperature down
      more slowly. The biggest issue is the lowering of dissolved oxygen in the water that heating causes, so if the tank is crowded, it  may
      be necessary to split up the number of fish, while increasing the aeration (which will also bring down the temperature). If caused by a
      malfunctioning heater, the heater must be tossed. See Heaters for more information.

     The tank temperature is too cold- The problem when a tank is suddenly chilled is that the fish, provided they survive, will
      have had their immune systems weakened for a period, and they become vulnerable to opportunistic infections, diseases, etc. 
      following the episode, even if they survive, and even if the problem is fixed and temperatures are returned to normal.

      Bring the temperature up slowly, assuming they all survived the initial chill. Before problems begin, keep a close eye on their
      behavior, and at the first sign of sickness (Clamped fins, etc.) do a 25% water change following the resumption of normal
      temperatures. It is also a good idea at this point to add a half medicinal dose of salt (1/2 tbspn salt to 5 gallons of water) to ease
      their acclimation back to normal conditions. If after a day they are still showing signs of distress (clamped fins, sluggish behavior)
      add the other half dose. Some with plants sensitive to salt may not want to do this, or will choose to remove any plants first. You can
      certainly wait to see if problems develop, and then add salt at that time. The judgement comes down to how long they were chilled for,
      and how weakened they became. With chilling, when the fish survive, you tend to think the worst is over and all's good. However, 
      prepare and expect possible infections or problems that may occur over the next several days. Most chillings occur during a power  
      outage, or when a heater has died. If a heater is the cause due to a malfunction, you must toss and replace it.


     Ideal water quality for the fish is a
     combination of temperature, aeration,
     and established bacteria that stay ahead
     of any deteriorating waste. Water changes
     of straight tap should stay below 20% - 30%
     per day, but at least 20% per week to
     maintain the biological health of your tank.
     Live plants and a minimal, easy to clean
     substrate creates the healthiest environment,
     leading to large, colorful fish that reproduce



     Can you change too much water? This is not a simple answer, as some species respond to heavy changes better than.
      others. Most fish kept here do best in a consistently clean tank with a fair amount of hardscape surface area for nitrifying bacteria
      (we use a minimal amount of 1/4" pea gravel described here), live plants and at least 20-50% weekly water changes. A healthy
      tank will then have a dynamic active nitrogen cycle going on, with a setup effective at keeping the water clean, clear and the fish
      looking and feeling their best. The question becomes, can I change say, 20% every day? Or, since water changes are so good
      for the fish, and they grow so large when doing them, can I change 100% a day (With dechlorinated tap water?)

      Well, you can put your tanks on a central filtration system, where aged water that has been filtered is put into the tanks on a
      continuing basis. Photos of discus hatcheries with rows of bare bottom, pristine tanks are often seen in magazines, etc., leading
      one to believe that fish can be kept in totally clean, bare bottom tanks.

      They cannot.

      In those discus hatcheries, the water is being changed daily - at some places as much as 100%, but the water being put into the
      tanks is aged and filtered so that it is fully natural and welcomed by the fish. Many hatcheries run filtered water from local streams
      or reservoirs for water changes after it has been carefully filtered. Tap water, however, is too clean and stripped of the bacterial
      activity that many fish require to be comfortable. Unless you are running large storage containers with water being aged for use
      as future water-change water, you will need to provide an environment that is healthy and more bacteriologically active than a tank
      nearly filled with dechlorinated tap water can provide. At Select Aquatics, the fish going out to customer's tanks are limited to daily
      water changes of 15%, and with more fragile or sensitive species that stay here, and are being bred or worked with, daily water
      changes are limited to 30%.

      In other words, it is possible to keep a tank too clean. As long as you maintain a bacteriologically active tank with an appropriate
      amount of thriving nitrifying bacteria to maintain even stability in the tank, you can change as much water as you like, particularly
      when already aged and seasoned, and most comfortable for the fish. The addition of the 1/4" pea gravel over 1/3-1/2 of the
      bare tank bottom, mentioned throughout this site for best, healthy care of these fish, was come to after problems with species
      that did not do well in simply bare bottom tanks with regular water changes. They required greater bacterial activity in their tanks
      to do well. (The Limia nigrofasciata, in particular). See "Can you Overfilter a tank?" below.

      Can you change too little water? And what's the deal with Sponge and Undergravel Filters? Or, didn't  
      we used to keep tanks without doing water changes at all? Yes, but we were in a very different hobby. In the 60s it was enough 
      to keep a fish alive, and the fish available to us were from pet stores that were bulletproof from years of the same lines being 
      produced in great numbers by the big fish farms. And with the exception of the livebearers and danios, it was assumed most  
      species couldn't be bred in the home aquarium.

      Today, only a few species carried by Select Aquatics can be found in fish stores, and many are just a few generations from the
      wild. Where nothing but guppies, swords, platies and occasionally mollies were all that were ever bred, everything here can be 
      bred, and many hobbyists routinely expect to breed many, if not most of the fish found in today's pet stores. Most importantly, 
      most of us now expect to be able to breed these rare species that are only a few generations from the wild.

      Not doing water changes and using filtration that keeps the dirt and mulm within the aquarium is not going to satisfy these fish,
      and will not maintain them at their best color and size, or so that they will breed. Today we know the best possible thing you can
      do for your fish is to change its water, a practice that only begins the steps required to breed these fish successfully.

      Some habits from the 60s are still in the hobby, particularly when the practice is inexpensive, or offers the implied promise
      of less work or maintenance. You will see that throughout the site I do not advocate the use of undergravel or sponge filters, as
      they come from a time when organic material left to decay in the aquarium was not considered to be a bad thing. With sponge filters,
      they must be removed and cleaned of accumulated mulm and debris with aged aquarium at least monthly. They also do not stir up the
      aquarium and remove the finer mulm that will collect, so you will need to go in 2-3x monthly and siphon out any excess organic matter.
      Most aquarists do not do those things, as they assume the sponge filters require less effort, and you cannot see how dirty a sponge
      filter actually is, when it may in fact be the equivalent of filter floss that is nearly black with waste.

      With these livebearers, often from moving streams and constantly replenished, fairly clean water, we now know that sponge type or
      gravel filters that keep the mulm within the aquarium are actually causing harm. Sponge filters are excellent for raising young egg
      layer fry that will feed on its surface, and though various styles of sponge filters will keep many types of fish alive for long periods,
      any sponge type filter should never be used as the sole source of filtration for a tank where optimum health and breeding of your
      fish are the goals. Some of the species here will simply not live long in a tank with sponge or undergravel filters as the sole form
      of filtration. Most hang on the back filters, in the tank box filters and canister filters are all excellent, where the collected organic
      waste can be removed from the water on a routine basis.

      Most importantly, fish cannot tell us how they are doing. A fairly washed out, stunted fish is not OK because it gets up, ready to
      eat every morning. Do water changes and remove the mulm. Your fish will thank you for it. Even if they can't say so.

      Can you overfilter a tank? No, but you can create a tank, with all the best of intentions, that is too clean for some fish, and
      they will not survive. And the issue isn't cleanliness, but the amount of nitrifying bacteria within the aquarium. An appropriate
      amount of nitrifying bacteria within an aquarium is essential to keep ammonia and nitrate levels stable and consistently within
      healthy ranges. Providing a bare bottom tank with robust, non disruptive filtration and a few plants, even with long seasoned
      water, will not work for some fish. This is why I provide the single layer of 1/4 inch pea gravel in all of the tanks here, they can
      easily be cleaned of collected mulm and organic waste, while also providing surface area for the colonization of bacteria. The
      Limias, particularly the Limia nigrofasciata require a lightly gravelled tank for this reason.

      If a tank is set up properly, and you are able to keep the disruption of the tank environment to a healthy degree with whatever
      filtration type you are using, you cannot overfilter the water in a tank. See "Can you change too much water?" above.



     A row of tanks in the alcove section of the fishroom. Though the
     PVC automatic water change system (not seen, but hooked up at the
     back of these aquariums) allows for tanks to be disconnected and
     pulled out easily, a leak is never a good thing. Extra tanks of
     each size are stored, so that when a leak does happen, a tank can
     be quickly drained, taken off system and pulled out. The new tank
     is slid in, filled, box filters dropped in, single layer of gravel
     sprinkled on portion of bottom, hooked up to the water change system
     and ready to go. the other tank is then dried out and repaired.


    The tank is slowly leaking- Tanks do not explode, or suddenly blow apart, but the occasional story of something like
      that happening is what people remember. As a rule, most tanks will start with a slow leak, and often it never becomes more than
      that. When this happens you always want to address it, as it will likely get worse, but generally over a period of days. Sometimes
      an entire seam will split, this is rare, but if ever a tank empties its water on to the floor, it will be because a seam came apart.
      I have found this more with older plexiglas aquariums than with glass, but it can happen to either. The first seams to split are
      usually the bottom. But an entire seam opening up is very rare. Usually you see dripping coming from the corner of a tank, and
      when that happens make sure it is the tank, and not a hose or something dripping water from the tank. Then immediately start to
      drain it down, as less water weight reduces the pressure against wherever the leak is. Move the fish, then drain the tank and
      clean it out. At that point, particularly with a tank of 40 gallons or less, you might decide to fix the leak yourself.
      See Repairing a leaking aquarium.

     The tank is half empty with water on the floor- Immediately fill buckets with water left in the tank, and get any fish 
      into the buckets. Be careful not to overcrowd them and get airstones going into any buckets that you put fish into. Drain the rest 
      of the tank and take everything out of it. Focus on getting the fish settled somewhere else, and don’t think about the tank.
      You can’t work on it till it dries out anyway. Next day, if it isn’t obvious already, you will need to find out where the leak
      originated. Then check out “How To Repair an Aquarium.”


     Adequate light is essential to a healthy
     aquarium. Besides making plant growth 
     possible, light contributes to healthy bacterial 
     growth, and fish respond to the light used. the
     alvarezi blue sheen is not normally seen unless 
     the light is correct. The Odessas require low to
     moderate light to feel comfortable, and show
     their best color.



     The light does not work / Do I even need light over the aquarium? – Many fishrooms will depend on the room’s 
      ceiling mounted overhead lights to provide all of the light the tanks receive. This can work if the live plants provided can survive 
      under exceptionally low light, or there are no plants at all, and possibly if there is some type of filtration going on beyond the 
      in-tank filters. (A central sump, for example). Light going into a tank does many things. It stimulates plant growth, which oxygenates
      and filters the water, and also stimulates bacterial growth, so that a tank can facilitate a healthy nitrogen cycle, aiding filtration.
      And without light, you can’t see the fish! Yes, light is important, and essential to a healthy aquarium.

     The light has fallen in the water- This isn’t the big deal you would think it is. There will occasionally be times when stray
      current could be introduced into your water. The fish will not be electrocuted, nor will you be injured by touching the water.
      When a live wire finds itself in your aquarium, simply go to the outlet and unplug it, then remove it the device from the aquarium.    

      I can't afford this stuff - is there another way? - Tanks and equipment are available routinely at often a small fraction
      of the retail price at local aquarium club meetings. Look for local aquarium clubs in your area to obtain fish you may never see
      in a pet store, as well as used equipment offered so other hobbyists will use it. If you do not have a local club nearby, consider
      starting one - putting up notices at pet stores looking to grow the local hobby. Most clubs are just a small group that trade fish
      amongst themselves, building up a treasury, auctioning off their fish to one another at each monthly meeting. Many clubs will
      rotate where meetings are held, so that the club gets to see a different fishroom each month. Think about it! And though most 
      clubs are for all types of fishkeepers, you can certainly focus on one type - such as livebearers, killies, cichlids or bettas.


     Good 'ol bleach. Any unscented bleach should do, just do not
     get "splashless" as thickeners have been added, and they will
     foam up when put into an aquarium with aeration, causing quite 
     the mess when bleaching a tank!



                                                How to Bleach / Chlorox/ Disinfect a tank


      This is a complete, radical solution to remove any pathogens from an aquarium. This process is used here routinely following
      a disease outbreak from a viral or bacterial cause, particularly when the disease outbreak was not fully resolved, or when the
      infection caused a loss of all of or the majority of the fish in the tank. There are two ways to do this, the first is the only option
      if you are dealing with external canister filters, wet/dry systems, etc. But if you are just doing a tank and some minor  equipment,
       #2 is much quicker, and with less work.


      1- Remove and destroy all of the remaining fish from the tank. Leave any plants, gravel filtration, etc. in the tank as the
       previous disease can be spread by anything from that tank coming into contact with another aquarium.

      2- Obtain bleach – Here, we use Chlorox, but when purchasing, avoid any products listed as “splashless”. When that is the
      case, thickeners have been added to prevent splashing. The tank will be running during this procedure, and splashless products
      will foam up and overflow from the aquarium. Plain, unscented bleach.

      3- Do not treat a tank this way in a non ventilated or closed room, particularly when other healthy tanks are present.   
      The chlorine released into the air could cause problems with other aquariums nearby, but a fan and open windows or ventilation 
       will work fine

      4- Add 1 cup of bleach per every 10 gallons of water into the aquarium. A 50 gallon aquarium would then receive 5 cups of bleach.
      Stir up the gravel and make sure that all areas of the tank are exposed to the bleached water. After the bleach is added, fill
      the tank to the very top. Let the tank run normally - filters, etc. for 24 hours. This will also destroy all bacterial activity in any wet/dry
      and trickle filters.

      5- After 24 hours, remove any broken down plant material, then drain and refill the tank with clean water. Let the tank run for 24 
      hours. Do this 2 more times, each draining and refilling separated by 24 hours. At this time remove any filter medium from the filters
      and replace with clean medium. The tank is drained and refilled 3 times over 3 days. I have simply found that three times seems to
      be required, stir up any substrate thoroughly each time.

      6- At the fourth refill, make sure the water is dechlorinated and add test fish that are not your most valued fish, and see if the fish
      survives for 48 hours.

      7- If the fish does well, add seasoned aquarium water from a nearby healthy aquarium, and prepare the tank for fish as you would
      any newly set up aquarium, and add fish as normal.



   1- Remove and destroy all of the remaining fish from the tank. Leave any plants, gravel filtration, etc. in the tank as the
      previous disease can be spread by anything from that tank coming into contact with another aquarium.

      2- Obtain bleach – Here, we use Chlorox, but when purchasing, avoid any products listed as “splashless”. When that is the
      case, thickeners have been added to prevent splashing. The tank will be running during this procedure, and splashless products
      will foam up and overflow from the aquarium. Plain, unscented bleach.

      3- Do not treat a tank this way in a non ventilated or closed room, particularly when other healthy tanks are present.   
      The chlorine released into the air could cause problems with other aquariums nearby, but a fan and open windows or ventilation 
       will work fine.

      4- Add 1 cup of bleach per every 10 gallons of water into the aquarium. A 50 gallon aquarium would then receive 5 cups of bleach.
      Stir up the gravel and make sure that all areas of the tank are exposed to the bleached water. After the bleach is added, fill
      the tank to the very top. Let the tank run normally - filters, etc. for 24 hours. This will also destroy all bacterial activity
      in any wet/dry and trickle filters.

      5- Remove any broken down plant material and totally empty tank. Clean out tank thoroughly and dry with a towel, and let tank then
      dry out completely for 24 hours.

      6- Refill and set up the tank as new, and add test fish that are not your most valued fish, and see if the fish survives for 48 hours.

      7- If the fish does well, prepare the tank for fish as you would any newly set up aquarium, and add fish as normal.



     At far left is a colony of the many
     tentacled hydra, and though small,
     they can still snag a fry. Near left
     is one of many flatworm species that
     can infest the aquarium. Most fish don't
     eat either of these, and getting rid of
     them without using chemicals is difficult.



                                                         Unwelcome guests

      There are worms on the glass inside the tank- A number of organisms can take up residence within
      an aquarium, and few are of any real concern regarding the health of the fish. They are generally unpleasant to look 
      at, and those most noticed are often not eaten by the fish we keep (or they wouldn't be a problem!). The most
      common are flatworms/ planaria, and they can be difficult to eradicate.

      The best solution is the most natural - find something that eats them, whatever they are. Two species are often used
      to get rid of unwanted organisms, the blue gourami and various species of botia - who are the best at getting rid 
      of the smaller snails we often encounter. Many species of Cichlid will eat shrimps, grammarus, and other smaller
      organisms that can come into a tank. But that solution is often hit or miss, and you will end up with fish bought just
      to eradicate the pest.

      The second solution is to remove them by hand by simply wiping down the inside of the aquarium and removing the
      worms or organisms as you see them. This will generally keep them in check, but rarely gets rid of them permanently.
      However, with species of fish sensitive to chemicals or foreign substances added to their water, it is the method
      generally used here.

      The third solution is chemical, by adding a product formulated specifically to get rid of the organism. Various
      remedies to get rid of planaria, for example, are available. Smaller organisms can often be eradicated by using
      the dewormer/ antiparasitic Levamisole hydrochloride, but I have found that full sized planaria can be beaten
      back, but rarely entirely removed using Levamisole at its normal dosage. It will likely work at greater
      concentartions, but I do not wish to expose the fish here to higher concentrations. With a little research, you
      can generally find products available online to eradicate various pests.

      There is a 4th way, and before using it, it would be best to do some research first. If your fish can handle
      higher temperatures, some organisms can be killed by raising the tank temperature to 84-85 degrees. I would
      not attempt that unless I knew it was a species that will respond to that treatment. The shrimp here, for
      example, can be eradicated that way.

      There are hydra in the tank - These appear occasionally, and are the result of a food used that is attractive to
      them. Routinely feeding newly hatched brine shrimp often results in hydra appearing in a tank. When hydra appear here, 
      they are easily eradicated by simply not feeding them the food that caused them to appear for a few days. Various other
      chemical methods are available, but by simply switching the foods going into a tank for a few days, they can often be
      kept under control. It is important to address them as they are first seen, as they will eat foods as large as guppy fry.

      There are little jumping critters on the water surface- Occasionally small flies, gnats and other fauna will
      find their way into your aquarium. Other than dragon fly larvae that will eat small fish, hydra that may eat fry, or mosquito
      larvae that may turn into mosquitos and bite us, introduced creatures are generally unsightly at worst, and an extra
      couple feedings for the fish at best. There is no magic to the accepted live foods we generally keep. Any small creature
      the fish will eat is generally a positive, and when it isn't good for them, they won't eat it.

      As to the little flies, I have found they are a seasonal, temporary result of humidity changes and possibly excess food
      being present. Increasing the ventilation over the water surface and cleaning up conditions will usually cause them to 
      disappear over a few days.



      How you set up your tank will determine how much work will be needed, how well your fish will do, whether they will breed,
      and whether the young that are born will survive. The tank you keep must best fit your needs and time available or the
      fish will suffer, and the tank will not be successful over the long term. Going home and setting up your tank just as you
      saw the tanks at the pet store is not always a good idea. They set up their tanks to look good so people will buy fish
      kept in the store for short periods, fish that are never bred. You want to set up your tank at home so the fish will live live 
      long, happy and reproductive lives. The information here assists you toward a tank that is affordable, easy to understand,
      and ideal for your fish and their fry.
      Hopefully the information provided here will better paint a picture of your options and how best to move forward, so that
      you are thinking of the fish first, and what is best for them. If you have further questions or concerns, please do not
      hesitate to drop me an email, and I respond to customer emails in the early morning, 7 days a week. Thank you!

      Greg Sage








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