Freshwater Aquariums Guide
Aquariums are becoming more and more popular everyday. People are understanding that taking care of these small habitats are very addicting and make you feel somewhat special. Fish are great pets and you should do your homework before just jumping into buying them. This is a guide devoted to help people understand some of the basics involved with beginner fish tips and tricks.
Aquarium Diseases & Noticing, Fixing Them
Most diseases in the aquarium are due to poor environmental conditions and can be successfully treated. Here we identify some major ailments and proposed treatments for anchor worm, constipation, fin rot and dropsy.
Symptoms: As the name suggests you will see worm like entities attached to the fish. The fish may be seen rubbing itself against the substrate, rocks or wood in the tank and swimming abnormally. The skin may be inflamed with greeny white threads hanging.
Reason: Caused by a parasite, Lernaea, which fixes its head (shaped like an anchor) in the body of the fish.
Treatment: Take the fish out of the tank and pull out the worms being careful not to break off the heads. Use tweezers (It seems that if you dip the tips of the tweezers in Potassium Permanganate first the worms head will release its grip once touched by the tweezers.). The wound can be treated with suitable antiseptic. It may be worthwhile using an an anaesthetic to calm the fish first.
For really bad cases you may need to treat the aquarium with Anchors Away, Dimilin, Proform La or Potassium Permanganate. But beware, permanganate is very strong and can kill your fish if not used appropriately. I have noted the use of Metriponate in Europe.
Not really a disease but included here to help those aquarists whose fish suffer from it. Symptoms: A swollen stomach is the obvious visible sign and if this condition continues the fish will become weak.
Also watch out for the fish not eating and laying on the bottom of the aquarium. Note that a swollen stomach is also a symptom of Dropsy so it could be confusing.
Reason: Can be caused by giving the fish the wrong food or in some cases the fish eats to much.
Treatment: Use Magnesium Sulphate with a dose of about half a teaspoon to a gallon of water. Magnesium Sulphate is also called Epsom Salts. You also need to review your feeding strategy to see if that is causing the condition.
Dropsy or Malawi Bloat
Symptoms: All dropsy cases have swollen stomachs and for cichlids its called Malawi Bloat. The condition can develop over a period of time or very suddenly. Could be mistaken for constipation but with dropsy the scales may stick out away from the body. Reason: Could be due to the internal organs of the fish failing. Also poor aquarium conditions such as high nitrate levels, high sodium chloride (salt) levels could be the main factor. Bacteria and poor diet are also other reasons for this ailment.
Treatment: No medical treatment is prescribed. Check your tank conditions by measuring all water quality parameters.
Symptoms: The fins of the fish are affected. You’ll notice some inflammation of the fins (red color), and possible disintegration of the fin. And in the case of catfish the barbells (whiskers) will suffer. Fish with longer fins than others are most at risk. A common fisht o have this issue is the betta fish and near sister fish.You will learn more about fins with more time around fish communities. Once you become educated on fish fins, you can know when your fish are sick or not.
Reason: Like a lot of diseases, poor water quality can lead to bacteria causing the damage. Other reasons are other fish nipping the fins or poor food diet, lacking essential nutrients.
Treatment: Make sure your water conditions are as they should be. The area of infection can be treated with a suitable bactericide such as the Maracyn products. My research also suggests that the antifungal product Gentian Violet can be applied to the damaged area once the fish has been removed from the tank and has proved successful. (In Europe I note Myxazin is specified as a bactericide). Look out for more articles in this series on disease in your aquarium outlining the symptoms, causes and treatments available.
Freshwater Plants for Aquariums Guide
Here we cover how a freshwater planted aquarium uses these different types of plants, how to plan your layout and ways of planting them in your freshwater aquarium.
Generally speaking, a freshwater planted aquarium will use three types of plants; proper aquatic plants, marginals and terrestrial. And similar to your fishes they also have preferences for different water conditions so you need to discover this information before you start putting them into your aquarium.
Proper Aquatic Plants
These type of plants are commonly sold as cuttings and are true aquatic plants as they spend all their time under water and must remain so. Example: Cabomba caroliniana from the Cabomba genus commonly known as the Green Cabomba.
Most of the aquarium plants come under this category. As the name suggests, in their natural surroundings, they are only submerged for part of the year. And during the dry season grow out of the water with most of then flowering and seeding at that time.
Cryptocoryne and Echinodorus genus. There are 50-60 species within the Cryptocorynes genus and amongst the Echinodorus genus is the very popular Amazon Sword species. (Echinodorus amazonicus).
These plants are not totally suitable for freshwater aquariums and total submersion for prolonged periods as they will then rot and lead to poor water quality. Avoid these as they can sometimes be offered as ‘aquatic plants’.
Planning Your Plants
Before buying any plants you need to decide how your aquarium is going to look and need to sketch out what is going to go where. And whether you are looking for coldwater or warm water (tropical) plants.
Look at the colors available, types of leaves and the sizes they will grow to. On your sketch position the smaller varieties at the front with taller/larger plants further back. You may not be able to buy all your plants at once but as you have your sketch you can fill in the gaps over a period of time.
You need to develop your plant set up as carefully as you would for your fish. Dead leaves are just as bad for the water quality as fish waste is.
Buying Your Plants
Don’t forget that some plants, just like the fish, may prefer warmer conditions so tropical plants won’t be happy in cold water. Obvious but worth mentioning. And when you are buying these particular plants from the store check that the tanks they rare kept in are warm (feel the glass) or put your fingers in the water if they are kept in trays. If its cold, don’t buy these tropical plants.
Plants may be sold as cuttings (no roots but a length of stem, leaves and a growing tip) or as individual rooted plants. You can transport them home safely as long as they are damp and warm, so they don’t need to be submerged.
Once you’ve got your plants home lay them out in water trays (warm if necessary).
And if you need to trim any cuttings then use a sharp pair of scissors as bruising can lead to plant disease. We are assuming here that you have your substrate in place.
Coarse sand or a fine gravel are ideal as you’ll need water movement and the ability for roots to establish themselves in the substrate. Locate the plants with a separation distance of the leaves width. This allows sufficient light to reach the substrate. And don’t plant in bunches. Follow your sketch plan and aim for the strategy of increasing plant height as you go further back in the aquarium.
Other plants don’t need to be planted but float. For example Azolla caroliniana (Family … Asteraceae) is a smaller floating fern that has leaves with blue-green algae in them. If you have enough light and nutrition there is a floating fern called Salvinia natans that will grow rapidly. A lack of micronutrients shows up as light colored leaves.
Varieties of this fern are resistant to water due to the fine hairs on them. And algae is reduced by the shading it makes and the mopping up of nutrients from the water.
Other plants will need to be fixed to rocks or wood till they establish themselves, e.g. Microsorium pteropus, also known as Java Fern. And Vesicularia dubayana (Java Moss) can be left free to find its own attachment. But beware, once established it grows rapidly and will need frequent cutting back.
Three Very Popular Tropic Fish
Pencil Fish – Nannostomus eques (Lebiasinidae)
The pencil fish have long thin bodies are a bit timid but will be fine and act well as a tropical fish in your community tank. It is also called a brown tailed pencil fish, a knightly pencil fish or the barred pencil fish. They are capable of swimming quite fast when they want to but generally are not that active.
Ideally the water should be soft, at the usual temperature range for tropical fish and the tank well planted. A varied diet is advised for pencil fish though they do particularly like small live food and they also like to feed near the top of the aquarium.
The Nannostomus eques has a wide maroon band along the whole body with a gold stripe on top of it. The maroon band moves on to the bottom part of the caudal fin where the color alters to a reddish shade. The main body color is golden brown and thin stripes on the back. The anal fin has a red spot next to the body and is brownish. The lower part of the body has a row of dark spots.
There is a Nannostomus auratus which has a black band instead of a maroon one and the color goes into the caudal fin. Adults can reach a size of 5 cms. Telling the difference between the sexes is not easy. Getting breeding to take place in the aquarium is not very successful.
You could try a tank at two degrees higher than the main aquarium, plant it well and use old water. Eggs will be deposited underneath the leaves and can be up to 40 in number. Remove the parents after spawning. Hatching should take place after about two days. Fry must be fed on infusoria for quite a while before more adult type food is provided. Note that the fry are very delicate initially.
Red-tailed Black Shark – Labeo bicolor (Family: Cyprinidae)
There are other Labeo species but they could be too large for the amateur aquarist to deal with. The red-tailed shark is the most popular. It is not related to true sharks. You can keep this species in a tropical fish community tank but it is wise not to have a single fish as it will probably become aggressive.
And with two males together, one will become territorial and battle to maintain it, although the confrontations are more showy than dangerous. Calm will return after the conflict. Conversely there are suggestions that in an aquarium the fish will become shy and use plants for cover. It is best to assume the former quality is the dominant behavior.
Your aquarium must have thickly planted areas, soft water with a temperature range of 23 to 27 degrees centigrade and lighting that is not too bright. Food wise it is not a fussy eater, will graze on algae and likes vegetable matter.
The length of the fish for an adult will be about 5 cms and its has two pairs of barbels. Its caudal fin is a vivid red color, the main body color is black and it has the recognizable long shark shape. The other fins are also black. Algae can be removed from an aquarium by the use of well developed lips that make up a suction disc.
The fish is egg-laying and apparently breeding has been successful now and again in captivity but there is no detailed information for the aquarist.
Red-tailed Rainbow – Melanotaenia nigrans
This playful fish swims under and under other aquarium occupants and is a brilliant colored fish to have in your community tank. It will grow up to 11 cms. A water temperature of 24 degrees centigrade is adequate and has no particular dietary requirements.
The female is larger than the male, not as brightly colored and thicker in the body. The overall body color is green and the scales reflect violet, green and blue tints. The scales have a dark brown edging. Its eyes are comparatively large and the body has yellow and red bands along it. It has pretty dorsal fins.
Breeding wise, the fish do not be taken out of the tank after spawning as they are good parents. A well planted breeding tank is needed for the eggs to latch on to, either in groups or individually.
Spawning lasts for quite a while as eggs are only laid now and again. Then fry will appear after about seven days and rearing them is quite easy. Give them a live diet as soon as you can.
2 Top Tropical Tank Fish From M To O
Two top tropical tank fish are described here; Scientific names, preferred conditions, colors description, sex differences and breeding advice are given for the Marbled Headstander and the Neon Tetra.
Marbled headstander – Abramites hypselonotus (Family: Anostomidae)
An unusual feature of this fish that becomes obvious immediately is its position in the water. It swims with its head downwards. It is not a common tropical tank fish but is alright in a community tank as long you assess the sizes of all the fish you propose to have. This is because the headstanders can grow up to 12 cms and as they become bigger they become more confrontational with smaller fish.
The water temperature should be at least 24 degrees centigrade because cold water will adversely affect their health but they are pretty resilient to poorer water quality. A thickly planted aquarium with hiding places is also required.
Food wise they are not fussy but will need a fair percentage of vegetable matter. Despite its head position it does not get food from the bottom of the tank.
Compared to its body the marbled headstander has a small head which is somewhat pointed. The main body color ranges from a reddish brown to yellow. It has several vertical irregular shaped gray to brown stripes on its sides. The tail fin is noticeable due to a white crescent and its back is arched.
There appears to be no authenticated information on how to breed this fish although there are claims that it has, in rare instances, been bred in an aquarium. Without any specific information you would have to assume that they should be treated as any egg-laying (oviparous) species should be.
Other names for this fish are the ‘Striped headstander’, the ‘High-backed headstander’ and ‘Norman’s headstander’. It has previously been classified as Abramites microcephalus.
Neon Tetra – Paracheirodon innesi (Family: Characidae)
There are other tetras but their coloring is not as vivid as the neon. Other well-liked species are the dwarf tetra (Hyphessobrycon minimus), the dawn tetra (Hyphessobrycon eos) and the flame tetra (Hyphessobrycon flammeus).
I give the scientific names here because the neon tetra is also known as the Cheirodon or Hyphessobrycon innesi and shows that the popular name of tetra is not restricted to the Hyphessobrycon species.
It only grows to about 3 cms so be careful about the size of the other community occupants you have and if possible have them in a shoal of at least half a dozen. It is a sturdy and peaceful fish and is probably only second in popularity to the cardinal tetra.
The neon tetra will like a water temperature between 20 and 25 degrees centigrade. A variety of food is suitable; fine dry food, smallish live food and freeze dried will give you this range. Telling the differences between the sexes is difficult. The female is a little bit bigger than the male – not easy.
The neon tetra is a slender fish and has a smal mouth.There are several aspects of the neon that make it stand out from the crowd; a bright red patch of red covering the area from the caudal peduncle to the bottom of the pelvic fin and a green and blue stripe that goes from the snout via the eye to the adipose fin.
Breeding the neon tetra will not be easy for the beginner. But you could try the following which has proved to work in the past;
* set up a breeding tank with no gravel and clear water (slightly hard)
* use a young compatible pair for breeding
* up to 200 eggs will be laid after morning spawning takes place
* take both fish out of the tank straight after the egg laying
* darken the tank after the fish are removed
* about 5 days later let some light into the tank and you will see some fry
* let additional light into the tank on a gradual basis
* several times a day feed the fry with very small live food
* vigourously keep the tank free of uneaten food and debris
The first few days are really important and the good news is that if the fry get through this period then they will start to grow quickly and will soon become tropical tank fish.