Monday, December 15, 2008


Have you been thinking of adding a freshwater aquarium to your home? It's a lovely way
to enjoy a miniature riverbed from the comforts of your own room. A beautiful aquarium
with healthy, energetic fish swimming in clear waters and surrounded by green vegetation
is a stunning sight. But before you begin, you need to be armed with all the relevant facts.
As a person who has spent more than 20 years in this hobby, I have tried and tested many
of the tips, secrets and methods you will find in these pages. Setting up an aquarium is
not really a science but needs to be done correctly to give your fish the best possible
home. It needs a little bit of common sense and foresight. There are many dos and don'ts
that are learnt over a long period of trial and error.
This book is written mainly for beginners and I have therefore tried to keep things on a
very basic level and use a language that is easy to understand. By following these basic
instructions you will be able to successfully set up and maintain a freshwater aquarium
with easy or moderately difficult fish species. It is important to keep in mind that
different fish has different demands and this book does only give you basic knowledge
about aquarium keeping. It is advisable to start out with comparatively easy fish species
before you advance to more delicate ones. A lot of fish species have intricate demands
and in order to successfully keep such species you will need to research them more
thoroughly. There is however a lot of beautiful and interesting fish species to choose
among even for the novice aquarist, and by following the instructions in this book you
will be capable of successfully keeping a beautiful aquarium filled with thriving
vegetation and healthy and colorful fish.
How to set up an aquarium

How to set up an aquarium

An aquarium, to put it simply, is a container that can sustain fish and other aquatic life for
a longer period of time. Acquiring a good aquarium for your fish is not a very difficult
job as long as you give it some thought before you actually get it. There are some obvious
considerations to be taken into account. Setting up and fully stocking a good aquarium
will take anywhere between a couple of weeks and a month. The time that you spend with
these basic steps will save you a lot of time and trouble at a later stage.
There are several things to consider before you purchase an aquarium. How much time
you are willing to spend on the aquarium? What kind of aquarium do you want to buy?
What is the ideal spot for your aquarium? What kind of fish should you put in your
aquarium? How do you keep your fish and their environment healthy in the easiest and
quickest way? How much time would it all take to maintain? What should you feed your
fish and how much? What should you do when diseases strike? These are just some of the
many questions that you need to think about.

A good and well stocked aquarium needs quite a bit of equipment. Here is a simple list of
the items that you will need for a basic freshwater aquarium:
�� An aquarium tank
�� An aquarium stand
�� A hood
�� Lighting equipment
�� Air pump
�� Heater
�� Thermometer
�� Filters (internal or external)
�� Gravel
�� Decorations (optional, but interesting if you have these)
�� Maintenance items like scrubber, siphon tube etc.

Choosing a spot for your aquarium

First, you will need to think about how much free space you have for your aquarium,
whether that free space is open to sunlight, and which shape that is best suited for that
free space. Never place an aquarium in direct sunlight and keep the aquarium away from
any heating or cooling surfaces. Sunlight and heating or cooling surfaces will cause
sudden and drastic changes in the temperature within the aquarium, and sunlight will also
promote the growth of algae in the water.
Keep your aquarium away from machines that give out a lot of sound or cause vibration,
like the washing machine, since this will stress the fish. Water accessibility and easy
disposal of dirty water and waste are some other important factors to consider while
selecting a good spot for your aquarium as you don’t want to run around with buckets of
water in your entire house. You will need to clean and change water at least monthly and
better once a week. So, choose a place where you can work easily and without any
interference. In a family with children, special care has to be taken to keep the aquarium
away from areas of frequent activity. You do not want your children to push or fall on the
aquarium while they play and injure themselves or break the aquarium glass.
Any good home has a certain décor. While choosing a spot for your aquarium, you must
consider whether the general décor and lighting in the room will make it an attractive
place for the new aquarium. Take the type of biotope you plan to have in your aquarium
into consideration when you decide if an aquarium will work with the décor of the chosen
spot. Different types of biotopes works with different decors. A saltwater reef aquarium
will for instance have a very different look than a well planted South American biotope.
You should also consider that an aquarium is very heavy so the chosen spot has to be able
to support the weight of the aquarium. Any aquarium over 10 gallons/ 40 L will weigh at
least a hundred and fifty pounds / 70 Kg when filled and decorated. The weight comes
chiefly from the glass and the water, and decoration such as gravel will further add to this
weight. Heavy aquariums will need to be kept on a sturdy stand rather than a shelf or a

Choosing an aquarium

How big should your aquarium be? Aquariums come in many shapes and sizes. It is
advisable to choose an aquarium that is at least 10 gallons/ 40 L, since small aquariums
are much more difficult to maintain. The waste build up in small aquariums is quick and
quite large in comparison with a larger aquarium. A small aquarium will therefore require
very frequent water changes. Changes in temperature or water chemistry will also take
place more quickly in small aquariums. Rapid changes in the temperature or water
chemistry are harmful for fish.
I would recommend a 30-gallon/120 L aquarium to novice aquarists, since this will
provide enough room for more fish and is easier to maintain as it has enough water
volume to dilute fish waste. A larger aquarium will naturally be even easier to maintain,
but the benefits of an aquarium that is larger than 30-gallon/120 L is not as significant as
the difference between a 30-gallon/120 L aquarium and a smaller one. A 30-gallon/120 L
aquarium is large enough to buffer against to rapid changes in water values. 30-
gallon/120 L is therefore an ideal beginner size.
Fish aquariums come in many shapes ranging from rectangular to hexagonal or even
cylindrical. While making your purchase, it is not only the beauty of the piece that
counts. Mundane matters like how easy it will be to clean out the aquarium regularly, and
how to keep all the nooks and crannies hygienic are important considerations.
The height of the aquarium is also a very important aspect. An aquarium that is very deep
is complicated to keep for the beginner aquarist. Increased height means greater difficulty
when cleaning and your aquarium might therefore always carry some amounts of waste
even after a thorough clean up. Poor light penetration is another problem with a deep
aquarium. Plants will not thrive in water that has poor light penetration and special
lighting is therefore needed in deep planted aquariums.

Acrylic or Glass Aquarium

Glass aquariums usually cost less and do not get scratches as easily as acrylic aquariums.
Glass aquariums are also stronger, as they are bonded together by a silicone sealant. They
need support only on the edges, unlike acrylic aquariums. Glass aquariums are very
durable, and can last for many years without any problems. Proper lighting will make
glass aquariums look almost as clear as acrylic ones. On a negative note can be said that
glass aquariums are always much heavier than acrylic.
However, if you are looking for irregular shapes, than these are easier to obtain as acrylic
aquariums. Acrylic aquariums are much clearer than glass, and have better insulation.
This means that you can use a smaller heater in your aquarium to maintain the proper
temperature. Acrylic aquariums do however scratch easily and can therefore only be
cleaned with specially made soft pads. Removing scratches from acrylic aquariums can
be quite a troublesome procedure.
The price can also be an important factor when it comes to buying your first aquarium.
Glass aquariums are usually the cheaper alternative and there is also a wider selection of
second hand glass aquariums than there is of second hand acrylic aquarium since glass
aquariums are more durable.

Putting the aquarium in place

When you have selected the best aquarium for your needs, it is time to take it home. Here
is a checklist that you need to consider:
􀂾 Look for any scratches on the aquarium before you make
the purchase.
􀂾 Test to see if there are any leaks in the aquarium.
􀂾 Take care not to load any heavy items inside the aquarium
while you carry it home. This may lead to scratching or even
Get a tight fitting hood for the aquarium when you buy it. An open aquarium is never a
healthy option. More water will evaporate form an aquarium where the water is open to
sunlight, heat etc. Evaporation will lead to the water becoming concentrated with waste
and animal- and plant debris, and can also cause water damages and mildew in the room
around the aquarium. Contamination from falling waste is another problem. With an open
aquarium you will also risk casualties since fish often jump out of an open aquarium, and
ending up on the floor is more often than not fatal for the fish unless you immediately
spot it and put it back in the aquarium. Thus an aquarium needs a good and sturdy hood.
These hoods come in various decorative shapes and colors.
There are various accessories that go with your aquarium, other than the hood. An
aquarium is a complete set of a number of equipment that works together


The first equipment that you will come across is probably the lighting for the aquarium.
Most hoods come with fluorescent or incandescent lighting. Fluorescent bulbs are a better
choice despite the fact that they are a bit more expensive since they have long-term
benefits. They burn cooler, thereby not affecting the water temperature at all. Fluorescent
bulbs have another benefit as they uses less electricity. Fluorescent bulbs can be
purchased in sizes that cover the entire aquarium. This will provide even lighting in all
areas of the aquarium. There are a wide variety of fluorescent bulbs that emit different
spectrums of light. Some of these will even assist plant growth. Some will lead to an
increase in algae growth. Optimal plant growth requires a particular wattage, which can
be decided by the size of the aquarium. Usually, 1 gallon of water will require 1.5 watts.An average aquarium requires 8 to 10 hours of light a day. If you use incandescent
lighting it is however better to turn on the lighting for a few fixed hours a day. Especially
in the case of smaller aquariums, the water will become considerably hotter during the
day. And at night, once the light is switched off, the temperature of the water will drop


A thermostatically controlled water heater will help to maintain a regular water
temperature in the aquarium. This is especially good in areas that get very hot during the
day and cool off during the nights. The more wattage your heater has, the more heat it
will generate. Larger aquariums need more heat than smaller ones as there is more water
to heat. An immersible heater hangs into the water while the thermostat remains above
water. This makes it easier to take readings. Fully submersible heaters are fixed to the
back wall of the aquarium. In this case, one has to be very careful while taking the
readings. Carelessness can cause the glass of the heater to crack or even explode.
Even in places where the temperature is relatively stable, the use of a heater is still
recommended, and required if you keep tropical fish. Only fish that do well in cold water
like goldfish should be kept in aquariums without heaters. The heater will help you to
control the temperature in which the fish live. Even the hardiest of fishes cannot tolerate
steep fluctuations in water temperature and will eventually die if they are submitted to
such changes. It is therefore essential to have a thermometer that will read the
temperature in the aquarium at all times and a heater that will heat the water when
necessary. The crystal typ


Basically, there are 3 types of water filtration: mechanical filtration, chemical filtration
and biological filtration.

Mechanical filtration

In mechanical filtration, water is passed through a thin sponge or a screen, which
removes the debris. The size of the debris that can be trapped and the time required to
filter out the water depends on the quality and the density of the material used, as well as
on the power of the pump head. In the course of time, these filters will get clogged and
will need to be cleaned. Thus, mechanical filters help to clear out larger particulate matter
from the aquarium. Under gravel filters are a type of mechanical filters that uses the
aquarium gravel as filter material and trap the debris among the gravel

Chemical filtration

In chemical filtration, water is passed through Activated Carbon or a natural mineral
called Zeolite. Activated Carbons are used primarily to make water clear and remove
potentially harmful chemical substances. It will remove color and odor producing
substances. Chemical filtration is most useful for removing particles that have got
dissolved in the water and substances that are too small to be removed through
mechanical filters. Usually, it helps to clear the yellow color that develops in aquarium
water over a period of time. Chemical filtration is also very good to remove medicine
lingering in the water after successfully curing a disease in your aquarium.

Biological filtration

Biological filtration uses bacteria that live on gravel, glass surfaces etc to brake down
harmful substances in the water. This is the most effective kind of filtration for reducing
toxic wastes. Fish normally give out ammonia from their gills and in their feces. This
ammonia is toxic for fish. In a natural environment, Ammonia is turned into Nitrite by
one type of bacteria, and the Nitrite is then subsequently turned into Nitrate by another
type of bacteria. Both Nitrate and Nitrate can harm your fish, but Nitrite is much more
damaging than Nitrate. Fish waste products can propagate plant growth in your aquarium,
but it will also propagate undesired algae growth.
Biological filtration will take place in a healthy aquarium without you having to worry
about it, as long as you don’t kill the bacteria by vigorous cleaning or the use of
chemicals. One place where such biological filtration takes places is in the filter of your
mechanical filter and it is therefore very important not to clean this filter in hot water or
using any type of detergent. Clean it cautiously with room temperature water to allow at
least some bacteria to survive in the filter material and start the biological filtration again
as soon as you put the filter back in the aquarium.

Other types of filtration

There are also some additional kinds of filters. Foam fractionators pass a large stream of
bubbles through a column of water. Many substances will stick to the foam that collects
at the top, and can thus be removed. Passing ozone and ultraviolet light through aquarium
water are also effective to kill bacteria, algae and parasites. But, these are methods that
have got different levels of endorsements from aquarists. While some swear by these
methods, others say that ozone and ultraviolet rays do nothing for the aquaria. None of
these methods can be recommended to the beginner aquarist as they are expensive and
there usefulness unverified.
For effective filtration, you must take the size of your aquarium into account and use a
combination of the filtration methods described above.

Air Pumps

Air bubbles that rise to the surface of the aquarium not only help to detoxify and aerate
your aquarium, but also add to the beauty of the aquarium. These thousands of bubbles
move toxins and waste from the substrate to the surface where they dissipate. They aerate
the water, and add to the oxygen levels in the water which prevent low oxygen levels
which can be harmful to your fish. If you use under gravel filtration, air pumps will aid
these filters to work normally.


When setting up your aquarium, it is definitely recommended to add decorations. Your
fish will give you hours of viewing pleasure, and the more natural their environment
look, the greater your pleasure will be since they will display a much wider range of
natural behaviors. There are various kinds of suitable and aquarium safe decorations
available. Your choice is limited only by the amount of money you are willing to spend
and the fish species that you keep.
The primary focus when you decorate your aquarium, besides your fish well being, is to
keep all unsightly equipment well hidden. It is therefore nice to have some sort of scenery
at the back of the aquarium. The décor should be used to hide the equipment that you are
using within the aquarium, so that your aquarium takes on a more natural look. You do
not want wires and tubes peeking from all corners. There are several commercial
backdrops that simulate water, plants etc. They are an excellent buys if you are happy
with the look of these. This makes the fish feel more secure and makes your aquarium
look better. Many of the shy fish feel 'exposed' from all sides, if there is nothing covering
them from behind. Another inexpensive and easy solution is to use colored cardboards as
your backdrop. They are not very hard to make, and can be changed as often as you wish.
There are also more expensive backgrounds that you put inside the aquarium and that
simulate real biotopes in a more realistic way. These are stunning but can unfortunate be
rather expensive.
Painting the glass with your favorite shade is a widely used option, but this has to be done
carefully. Make sure that no paint is spilled into the inside of the aquarium since any
traces of paint in the water after the fish come in can be deadly to them. Also, if you do
not spread the paint evenly, light coming in from the back will show up the bad patches.
Changing the paint once you get tired of it is typically more cumbersome than simply
changing a poster backdrop.
Substrate refers to the material that you use at the bottom of your aquarium, like sand,
pebbles etc. This is not only a form of beautiful aquarium decoration; it will also serve
several purposes in your aquarium. There are some aquarists who advocate putting in
little or no substrate at all, while other can’t imagine an aquarium without it. The
substrate has complex physical, chemical and biological significance and helps keep your
aquarium balanced. Some types of substrates will for instance help to buffer your water
and maintain the right pH in your aquarium. Substrates help in anchoring plants and
decorations to the bottom, aid in the filtration process, and act as catalysts for organicprocesses within the aquarium. There are however a lot of aquatic plants that can grow
even without a substrate.
It is best to use non-coated natural color gravel as substrate in your first aquarium. Care
should be taken while selecting the size of the gravel or pebbles. When under gravel
filtration is used, the gravel size should provide for free flow of water. Sand is therefore
not a recommended aquarium decoration, especially not for beginners. Sand particles
being small, reduces water flow and aeration. Take the kind of aquarium and fish you
want to keep into consideration when you choose the gravel for your aquarium. Some
gravel effect the water values and may make it impossible to keep the water conditions
your intended fish want. An example of this is that gravel containing chalk will raise the
pH level, which can be a problem if you want to keep South American fish from acidic
As mentioned earlier, using sand at the bottom of your aquarium is generally not
recommended. Sand is very tightly packed and can make cleaning up rather tiresome.
Sand can also clog the filters, and pack away large amounts of waste and debris. But, if
you simply love to see sand in your aquarium, you can of course choose sand and spend a
little more time cleaning your aquarium.
Silver sand is the most commonly available type of sand. Though it is cheap, it packs
more and can therefore be difficult to clean. Aquarium sand is slightly larger than silver
sand, but is also about 5 times costlier. Marine sand comes from corals or seashells that
have been crushed. These look good, but may alter the pH balance of your aquarium.
Beach sand is not a safe option for your tropical aquarium. Beach sand has large deposits
of salt that cannot be totally washed off. Beach sand may also have lots of pollutants that
cannot be treated properly.
Certain substances like seashells, limestone and marbles should not be used in a tropical
aquarium if you are a beginner aquarist striving to keep the water chemistry stable. These
substances may dissolve slowly into the water thus gradually altering its pH balance.
How much substrate should you put in? The amount of substrate you will need depends
upon the size of your aquarium and the set up. Planted aquariums will typically need
more substrate than ones without plants. Aquariums without vegetation of one kind or
another are not as common as planted aquariums, but can function very well and are kept
by many aquarist all over the world. A 2-4 inches / 5-10 centimeter thick layer of
substrate is recommended for plants, since this will help them to establish their root
system. Once you calculate the area of your aquarium, it is easy to calculate the volume
of substrate that needs to go in. Simply multiply the area of your aquarium with the
desired height for your substrate.
Decorating your aquarium beautifully is an essential part of setting it up. Firstly, a
decorated aquarium LOOKS great. Secondly, it also helps the fish in various ways. Many
species need small nooks and crannies to hide from larger fish and to breed. Some fishare also very territorial. Familiar rock formations, plants etc provide these with
boundaries and landmarks which they can use territorial borders.


A lot of aquarists love the sight of lush vegetation swaying gently in a clear aquarium full
of healthy fish. "Natural Aquarium" often refers to an aquarium that has a wellmaintained
balance between lush plants and healthy fish, each supplying what the other
needs in a good environment. Plants and fish are the two main inhabitants of most
aquariums. They coexist so well because each complements the other. Plants give out
oxygen during photosynthesis. The oxygen released gets dissolved in the water and is
used up by the fish. In turn, plants use up the nitrogenous waste released by the fish for
their own growth.
In addition to their visual appeal and their capacity to produce oxygen, plants also
provide shade, a home, breeding ground and food for some of the fish. Plants are also a
nesting place for many microorganisms that are vital for the proper and balanced
functioning of an aquarium. As the fish in your aquarium increases, the nitrogenous
compounds also increase. Rich vegetation is a safety barrier that will keep toxicity lower.
Aquatic plants can be both floating and fixed. It is better to have a fair share of the fixed
type in your first aquarium rather than going for the floating variety. While they look
very pretty, floating plants can collect debris in and around them, and are more difficult
to clean out. If you keep fish species that continuously uproot and disturb the plants,
floating vegetation can however be the only feasible option if you want to keep real
For decorative purposes alone, many aquarists go in for fake plants. Of course, these
plants have numerous advantages. They are easy to clean, do not need any trimming, and
will never decay or die. They have a base that will make them stick easily to the bottom
of the aquarium and they will look perfect and healthy at all times. Artificial plants can
however look very fake, especially if you choose some of the cheaper alternatives. Real
plants will also help reduce the growth rate in algae something that plastic plants don’t.
Algae can therefore be a large problem in aquariums using plastic plants. In some
aquariums it is however impossible to keep real plants, e.g. aquariums with plant eating
fish species.
Some aquarists use a method where they put in plants – a lot of plants – in the aquarium
before they introduce the fish. By using this method, they eliminate the need for normal
cycling of the aquarium (cycling is explained a little later in this book). Using this
method does however require extensive knowledge about the relevant biology and
chemistry and other methods are easier for most beginner aquarists. If you wish to use
this method, you must for instance closely monitor the carbon dioxide levels in the
aquarium. The level of carbon dioxide in the water should be just right when you put in
the fish. It is a good idea to put in algae eaters first, and then gradually add the rest of the
fish over a longer period of time.
Water test kit
A water test kit is a MUST for any serious aquarist. This will help to keep the pH-value
under control. It is also important to test the water for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and
hardness. There are numerous test kits available; some more basic than others. Test kits
capable of measuring the levels of ammonia, nitrate and nitrite and the pH-value will
often be enough for the beginner aquarist.
A simple ammonia test kit is usually the first kit purchased by aquarists. This type of test
kit will allow you to observe the progress of the nitrogen cycle even though it is only
measuring ammonia, not nitrate and nitrite. The break in period, when the fish have been
just introduced into the aquarium, is the most dangerous period. At this time, the
beneficial bacteria that help in detoxifying natural wastes have not yet fully developed.
Biological filters can also stop working later due to many reasons and this will typically
cause a peak in the ammonia levels. A peak in the ammonia levels can for instance be
caused by a dirty filter filled with debris, having too small a filter for the load of fish in
your aquarium, or adding medicines that kills the beneficial bacteria.
The nitrite test kit is used for the same purpose as the ammonia test kit in its initial phase
- testing the nitrogen cycle. This kit is not as essential to the beginner aquarist as the
ammonia test kit. It will however make it easier for you to know what’s going on in your
aquarium, and investing in a nitrite test kit can actually save you a lot of money since you
will be able to rescue your fish before they all die from nitrite poisoning.
The nitrate kit is more important than the nitrite test kit, and should ideally be purchased
together with the ammonia before you set up your aquarium. At the end of the nitrogen
cycle, nitrate levels peak since nitrate is the end product. Increased levels of nitrate are
dangerous for the fish and even established aquariums can have high levels of nitrates.
Common indicators of to high nitrate levels are an oily shimmer at the surface of the
aquarium and fish chipping for air on the surface. If the nitrate levels are too high, you
should immediately do one or several water changes. Increasing the aeration of the water
is also beneficial. If the problem persists, you must naturally try to determine the cause
behind the high levels of nitrate.
The next important kit is the pH test kit. Before you buy fish, you will need to check out
the pH of your water. The kind of fish you buy will depend on the pH of the water.
Before they reach you, the fish may have been living in water that has a different pH than
the pH in your aquarium and you will have to let such fish get time to adapt to the new
values. Awareness of this will be helpful when you bring the fish home. Many fish
species have special requirements when it comes to pH-values and may not be able to
thrive in your tap water even if you give them time to adjust to the new pH-value. You
must either change the pH-value in the aquarium to suit the fish or choose fish species
that will appreciate the natural pH-value of your tap waterMost kits are very easy to use. They base their results on color changes in the sample of
water being tested. Certain additives help to counter specific problems. Frequently, a
water change is the most effective way to change the undesirable results in a water test.

Setting up the aquarium

Before you can actually start filling up your aquarium, you will need to give it a thorough
clean up. This will help to remove any traces of dirt, dust or contaminants. Using a very
small amount of dish washing liquid along with warm water to clean your aquarium is
ideal. But, follow this up IMMEDIATELY with a rinse in warm/hot water. This will
remove all traces of the detergent from the glass surface. Remember to RINSE
THOROUGHLY and than rinse again and again. Even a slight residue will harm your
The next step is to wash ALL the things that will go into your aquarium. Begin with the
gravel or sand. Wash half a bucket of sand or gravel under running water. Do not use
anything other than water and make sure that the bucket that you use has not been used to
hold detergent solutions of any kind. Stir the gravel around and keep changing water until
it runs clear.
Then wash all the décor thoroughly and individually. If you intend to use under gravel
filtration, you must wash the plates before adding them to the aquarium. If you are using
bogwood to decorate your aquarium, you might have to soak it for a few weeks before
you use it. Some bogwoods immediately sink while other has to be water drenched before
Any natural materials found in ponds, like rocks or driftwood, should first be treated
before they are used. Soak them first in a mixture of chlorine bleach and water. Rinse in
fresh water. Soak them again in fresh water and dry thoroughly. This can prevent
undesirable elements like snails, parasites and other malevolent organisms from getting
into your aquarium. It his however recommendable that you buy all your decoration at a
reputable aquarium shop if this is you first aquarium as it can be hard to know what is
suitable for use in your aquarium and what’s not. Some items will emit unsuitable
compounds regardless of how many times you soak them in bleach.
When you set up the aquarium, make sure that the spot that you have choose have a
completely flat floor, and that there is no shaking. Keeping a layer of specialist matting
between the aquarium and what it stands on is a good idea. This will help to reduce any
unevenness. Before you start filling the aquarium, make sure that you have a water
conditioner that removes chlorine. In many countries chlorine is added to tap water in
order to kill off micro organisms.
The first step while setting up your aquarium is to test for leaks. This may seem to be a
waste of time if you feel that you have already checked your aquarium thoroughly. Leaks
will however be very annoying and much more difficult to plug after your aquarium isfully functional. So, fill up your aquarium with tap water, and wait for half a day. If there
are no stains or indications of leaks, pump the water out, and rinse the aquarium.
Then, add the gravel into the aquarium. Underwater gravel filter along with its plates
need to be put in before the gravel if you intend to use an under gravel filter. Gravel
should be put in slowly to a height of 1-3 inches, depending upon the under gravel
filtration, if you are using one. While putting the gravel in, see that you slope the gravel
from back to front. The higher area should be towards the back. This will give the front
part a better view.
Fill half the aquarium with water by pouring the water on to a plate that you put on the
bottom of the aquarium to prevent disturbing the gravel. It is also a good idea to direct the
water flow to the sides of the aquarium. If this is done slowly and carefully, your
aquarium will be clear from the very beginning. In case your aquarium looks a bit cloudy
and the particles have moved, allow the water to 'rest' for a day or two until most of the
debris has gently subsided to the bottom again.
It is now time to install the thermometer, heater and filter. You should however wait until
later before you plug them in. At this stage, you should only safely attach the equipment
at suitable spots in the aquarium. The heater should be placed in an area where water
circulation is the maximum. This will maintain an equal temperature in all parts of your
You should also put in any decorative material at this stage. Rock formations, plastic
plants etc can be put in and arranged more easily now than when the aquarium is
completely filled. Remember to fix these materials in the substrate material so that they
do not topple or float away later. As mentioned earlier, it is very important to wash each
of these items before you place them in the aquarium. Position the decorations in such a
way that your tubes and other accessories are well hidden behind them and in such a way
that you find it ecstatically pleasing. A lot of fish species will appreciate if you create
caves, crevices or other forms of hiding spots where the fish can feel safe.
You may want to put in your live plants now too. Care should be taken to keep the plants
in areas that get good oxygen supply. Plants should be gently stuck into the substrate. If
time is not a factor, it is a good idea to let your water stabilize for a few days before you
add natural plants since this will be healthier for the plants. While choosing plants, do not
simply go for the prettiest and most exotic plants. Many aquatic plant species will not
survive long even in controlled conditions and are only suitable for experts. One such
beautiful but sensitive plant is the popular Rotala macranda. Colorful plants are nice to
look at, but they will usually require very strong lighting to survive. Plants that are not
healthy will add to the debris and waste in your aquarium. Good sturdy plants like Java
Moss and Water Sprite are therefore best for a beginner. Both Water Sprite and Java
Moss can be left loose on the top, stapled to decorations or plugged to the bottom. One
trick that comes in handy is to leave the plants floating in the water for a few days. They
will start developing roots in about 3-4 days. Once the roots have come out, it will be
easier to attach the plants to the substrate. Place some heavier stones around plants thatotherwise tend to float away. Don’t leave plants floating on the surface to long as they
will grow very strangely. When plants are floating, the aquarium lights will light up the
side of the plant, and when the plant is later turned vertical and planted it will look very
uneven. Growing sideways is unattractive in most plants.
Once the plants are in place and you checked that you didn’t forget to add anything else
it’s time to fill the aquarium full with water. Once you have filled your aquarium to its
optimum capacity, you will need to start the heater. Allow the heater to stay in water for
half an hour before you turn it on. Before you plug it on, make sure that the thermometer
is placed where it is easy to read. Read all the instructions in your operator's manual since
these can vary between different heaters. Once you turn the heater on, the water
temperature and the heater needs to be closely monitored for a day.
Sufficient and proper aeration comes next. When using air tubing for decoration, the risk
of water back siphoning into the tubes are high, especially if they are placed lower than
the water in the aquarium. So, the air pump should preferably be placed higher than the
water level. Anti-siphon valves are also easily available. If you are using more than one
air stone, a gang valve that has multiple outlets is very handy. The air pump should have
enough power to supply air to the multiple items.
Next, you can turn on the power filtration or mechanical filtration, if you are using such
appliances. After reading the instructions properly, set up the filter so that the flow of
water is concentrated to the center of the aquarium. After plugging it in, allow it to run
for a day. Never shut it off except for shorter periods for maintenance. The motor should
not run dry and will get damaged if it does. Turning on and turning off the filter
constantly will cause unnecessary wear and tear to the filter and more importantly will
cause toxins to build in the filter which are released into the water when the filter are
started again. It will also damage the biological filtration in the aquarium. In short, you
should never turn off the filter ones it’s on, except when you clean it.

Water chemistry

Since fish spend their entire life in water, water is the most important thing about an
aquarium. Understanding water and its constituents will greatly help to maintain a good
aquarium. There are basically three very important aspects to the water in your aquarium:
the temperature, the pH and the levels of constituents in the water.
Most tropical fish flourish and thrive in warmer waters. Though these fish are resilient
enough to withstand a wide range of temperatures, it is seen that warmer temperatures are
best for tropical fish. As discussed earlier, having thermostatically controlled heaters are
a must if keeping tropical fish. An easy to use thermometer is also very handy. Together,
these will help you to keep a constant check on the water temperature. The water
temperature will also affect a wide range of biological and chemical processes in your
The pH-value is a way of measuring the alkalinity or acidity of a solution. The pH ranges
from 0-14, where 14 is the most alkaline, and 0 is the most acidic. Fresh water fish canlive in a wide range of pH but the optimum pH values are for many popular beginner
species a slightly acidic to a neutral value, 6.5-7.5.
Water hardness is another factor of importance. Water hardness refers to the amount of
dissolved minerals in your water, especially calcium and magnesium. In most cases, you
should be able to get by without manipulating the hardness of the water. Excessively soft
water can cause problems in your tropical aquarium. Adding crushed coral to extra soft
water will increase its hardness. But beware as the pH of the water will change too.
Dissolved oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates are some of the
important elements present in your water. They are decisive factors in the health of the
aquatic life within your aquarium.
The life in the aquarium depends on dissolved oxygen in the water. Gaseous oxygen is
absorbed by water. Turbulence at the surface of the water increases the absorption of
oxygen. Plants within the aquarium give off oxygen during photosynthesis, but this
oxygen is also used up quickly. Just like fish and other animals in the aquarium, plants
need oxygen for respiration and will consume a part of the oxygen that they produce.
Since all the organisms in the aquarium – including microorganisms, invertebrates and
fish – use up the dissolved oxygen quickly it is necessary to keep your aquarium well
aerated. Plants alone will not always provide enough oxygen especially, not in aquariums
with large fish populations. Unhealthy and decaying plants will even increase the demand
for oxygen in the aquarium. A simple and basic aeration or filtration system is usually
more than enough to give plenty of oxygen to your aquarium. Regular water changes,
vacuuming off fish wastes and removing any rotting plant material will also help to
increase the oxygen levels.
Ammonia is produced by the fish metabolism and excreted via the gills in and the fish
feces. Ammonia can also be produced in your aquarium when plant material is broken
down. Ammonia is highly toxic and will kill fish if the levels get to high. Nitrites are
formed in the aquarium when the Ammonia gets broken down by bacteria. Nitrites are
also dangerous to fish and unhealthy in too large quantities. Exposure to too much Nitrite
can for instance make the fish anemic and eventually kill it.
Nitrates are another nitrogen-compound and Nitrate is produces when Nitrite is broken
down by another type of bacteria. High levels of Nitrates are also toxic for fish, but most
fish species are more resilient towards Nitrate than towards Ammonia and Nitrite. You
should strive to keep the levels of Ammonia and Nitrite at zero, but low levels of Nitrates
will always be present in the aquarium and your task will be to keep Nitrate under control
rather then to eliminate it completely. Taking some easy precautions can do this. Never
overstock your aquarium. Never overfeed your fish. Never lay off changing water
partially. Never allow debris and fish waste to collect in your aquarium.

Conditioning water

You should NEVER add the fish immediately after filling your aquarium. Allow the
water time to stabilize. The water will have some amounts of toxins in it from chemical
treatments etc and this can be very harmful for the fish. Thus the water needs to be
neutralized first. Any dissolved gases in the water will escape in a few days, and the pH
of the water will also stabilize.
Tap water is not the natural habitat of fish. Tap water usually contains high amounts of
chlorine and other disinfectants. These will harm the fish, the plants and other
microorganisms that need to grow in the aquarium. There are three basic methods to
dechlorinate water. Aeration of water will diffuse chlorine into the air. This can be
achieved by filtering the water for 24 hours. Using activated carbons is another way of
getting rid of the chlorine. Lastly, adding sodium thiosulfate to water instantly inactivates
chlorine. Sodium thiosulfate also helps in getting rid of traces of ammonia. When adding
the water preparation chemical it is important that you follow the dosing instructions
Adding aquarium salt or kosher salt is also recommended if you are going to keep fish
that tolerate salt as it reduce the risk for disease in your aquarium. Some tropical fish do
not tolerate salt in the water and you should therefore research if the types of fish you
intend to keep in your aquarium tolerate salt or not.
If your fish species tolerate salt, 1 tablespoon of salt for every 5 gallons/ 20 L of water is
usually a good rule of thumb. Some species will however only tolerate lower
concentrations of salt. The most important thing to keep in mind while adding salt is the
concentration of salt in water. As evaporation takes place, the salt in the water remains
the same. Salt does not evaporate. So, while changing water, only the salt that has been
removed should be replaced.
One more reason to research the species you intend to buy is to help you decide on the
pH value of your water. Neutral pH is 7.0. Usually, tropical fish can survive in a wide
range of pH. A pH of 6.4 to 7.9 is an acceptable range for a wide variety of fish. Knowing
the pH value of your tap water is a definite advantage. Your geographical location
influences the pH value of the water.
Before attempting to change the pH, there are certain things to be considered. Even if you
have researched the optimum pH for your favorite fish, you need to assess if you really
have to change the existing pH for the fish to survive and thrive. Mostly, the fish you
have are bought from an aquarium. So, they are used to a pH level that might be different
from the pH levels that are natural for them. A STABLE pH is more important than
reaching exact values. Changing the pH values will also change the toxicity of nitrite and
There is one more step that needs to be completed before you can add the fish and this
step probably the most crucial of them all. The water in which the fish live is a whole
new ecosystem in itself. There are other microorganisms living in this water beside the
fish, algae and plants. All the living organisms in your aquarium will produce waste that
can become toxic. Fortunately, there is also a class of organisms that work in tandem to
decompose this waste and to make it beneficial for the habitat. Understanding this basic
but sometimes overlooked fact and doing your best to aid this process will make your
aquarium a definite success.
Why probe into the details when you know that the waste that will be produced will also
be efficiently decomposed? Well, since the ecosystem in an aquarium is an artificial one
that you have created it can sometimes require your assistance. An aquarium that is just a
few weeks or days old is at its most fragile. The water is new; microorganisms in the
water may be beneficial or toxic. The key here is to minimize the undesirable organisms
while boosting the colony of desirable and helpful bacteria. This is where the
Nitrogen based substances are the most frequent byproducts of decomposition. The
Nitrogen cycle refers to the process in which this decomposition takes place. Nitrogenous
waste products in your aquarium will first break down into ammonia. Ammonia can be
very toxic for fish. If ammonia can be detected by your test-kit, then the levels are too
high for your fish.
Nitrifying bacteria are the microscopic organisms that aid the nitrogen cycle and convert
harmful ammonia to a more harmless form - nitrate. In nature, there are vast colonies of
these bacteria, but when you first set up your aquarium this type of bacteria is only
minimal in your water. In the first few weeks, you have to induce this bacterial colony to
multiply and reach an optimum level. A good nitrifying bacterial colony goes a long way
in ensuring the health of your aquarium. The initial period when this bacterium is being
coaxed to multiply is known as cycling the aquarium.
Certain conditions are optimal for the growth of the nitrifying bacteria. They grow well in
areas that have a rich supply of oxygen. Lesser sunlight means less heat and less light.
These are ideal for the growth of bacteria. Portions of the aquarium that are not disturbed
by currents, and are relatively unmoved are also good breeding grounds for the nitrifying
bacteria. This is however only the first half of the nitrogen cycle.
Slowly, as nitrites get converted, nitrates start building up. The second half of the
nitrogen cycle converts the nitrites into nitrates which are relatively harmless through a
process called denitrifying. This is then converted into nitrogen gas, which escapes into
the air. It is however impossible to get rid of all the fish waste by simply letting nitrogen
gas evaporate. If you do not perform frequent water changes, the levels of nitrate will
sooner or later become high enough to seriously harm your fish and eventually kill it.
Your aquarium can never be a perfectly balanced ecosystem. You are for instance adding
new organic compounds to the system every time you feed your fish.The nitrogen cycle begins when the aquarium is provided with a little bit of ammonia.
One great way to do this is to add natural plants. The leaves falling off from these plants
supply the first doses of nitrogen. Other methods include adding a pinch of flake food,
adding a sliver of fish or shrimp to the water. Using some gravel or water from another
aquarium is also a good way to kick starting the cycle since gravel or water from an
established aquarium will be filled with the two necessary types of bacteria. Care must be
taken to ensure that there is no infection in the water. Commercial products containing
nitrifying bacteria are available in many pet shops and can be used to speed up the
Another very popular means of starting off the cycling process is using 'cycling fish'.
Adding no more than one or two hardy and inexpensive fish, e.g. Zebra Danios, to the
aquarium will introduce the necessary nitrites into the water. Do not over-feed the fish,
because this will lead to the production of more ammonia than the yet fragile balance can
handle. Using feeder fish as cycling fish is generally not recommend, because feeder fish
is sometimes unhealthy and may introduce diseases into your aquarium.
Use your test kit to follow the ups and downs of the nitrogen cycle. In the cycle,
remember that the nitrite levels will first go up and then fall to zero. This process may
take 2-6 weeks. The speed in which the cycle completes will depend upon the
temperature in your aquarium. It is however usually ok to start adding fish after 1-2
weeks since the bacteria colonies then has grow to a large enough size to support fish as
long as the fish are sparsely fed. You should never add fish if the ammonia or nitrates
level still are high in the aquarium. The ammonia levels should be non-detectable before
adding fish.

Adding Fish

Now, we come to the most exciting and much awaited part of the hobby. The type of fish
you choose is a purely personal decision, but for a beginner a few hardy fish species is
the best choice to start with. Fish that are beautiful and interesting, but still easy to care
for and feed is an excellent choice for the beginner. DO NOT purchase too much fish at
once and put them into the water. Introducing a lot of fish will strain the habitat and
topple the balance of the environment within the aquarium. As you know, when you put
in new fish, you are introducing a whole batch of ammonia and bacteria into the water. If
this is not done slowly and in stages, the concentration of these undesirable elements will
increase beyond the tolerance level of your fish and your fish might die.
You also have to be aware of the species of fish and their compatibility with other fish
before you decide what types of fish you should include. Different species of fish will
flourish in different conditions. Having a wide variety of colorful fish is visually very
appealing, but some combinations are not to be recommended. Keeping a large number of
fish with similar demands and behavior will lead to an aquarium where the fish thrive in
their new home. Select fish that are used to the kind of water that you can provideThere are many ways to add fish into your water. While bringing the fish home, care
should be taken to only have a few fish in each bag. Too many fish in a bag will cause
the ammonia level in the water to rise and the oxygen level to drop. Since you will be
bringing the fish in a smaller bag, sharp temperature fluctuations in this water are quite
possible and you should avoid exposing the bag to heat or cold. It is necessary to plan
your trip to the pet shop in advance. This will reduce the stress and shock that your new
fish will be subjected to. Try to bring the fish home as quickly as possible, and in a large
As soon as you get home, float the bag in your aquarium for a minimum of 15 minutes.
This will allow the temperature within the bag to equalize with the temperature in the
aquarium. You should thereafter add about a cup of water from your aquarium into the
bag and wait another 15 minutes. Repeat this last procedure 4-5 times before releasing the
fish. NEVER put the water that you brought from the store in your aquarium. It may
contain diseases, parasites or other unwanted passengers such as undesirable bacteria and
There are certain things you have to avoid while transferring the fish into your aquarium.
Avoid using your hands while transferring fish. Net them out gently into the aquarium.
Avoid putting in all the fish at once. Transfer the fish one by one, and leave a gap of 15 to
20 minutes before adding each fish. If you already have some fish in the aquarium, feed
these well before you start the transfer. This will keep your new batch safe from the
curiosity of the existing fish. It is also a good idea to turn off the light in the aquarium
while adding new fish. The existing fish in the aquarium will not see the new ones arrive,
and will therefore leave them alone. If you keep very aggressive and territorial species,
you will have to use other methods when you introduce new fish, but such species are not
recommended for beginners and thus beyond the scope of this e-book.
How many fish do you begin with and how many can you add at once? The rule of thumb
regarding the number of fish is: "One inch of fish per gallon of water", but this rule is
very general and frequently unadvisable to follow. While stocking your aquarium, you
have to take the needs of your particular fish into consideration.
􀂾 Territorial fish require more space and boundaries.
􀂾 Room for swimming and other activities like schooling or
other common behavior patterns in your particular fish species.
􀂾 Taller fish needs more vertical space. While they swim,
they need enough room above and below their fins.
Aggression due to lack of space is one of the common reasons why many fish die after a
few days in captivity. If you put a fast swimming schooling fish in a small aquarium, it
will never be able to swim freely. Some fishes become aggressive when they are packed
together into a small space. Putting more fish in a smaller aquarium will also increase the
debris in your aquarium, thus poisoning the entire habitat.Fish compatibility is a matter of great importance while selecting fish. Not all types of
fish mingle well. Being able to predict what species will do well together comes from
research or experience.
Every school of fish has a certain natural pecking order. The dominant male, followed by
the dominant female typically take up the center of this order. When you add a new fish,
this pecking order completely changes. The fish that are already in the aquarium have
established behavior patterns and the new member has to adapt and find a niche for itself.
Meanwhile, if it is a perceived threat to the order, the others in the school may harm it.
This is a bigger problem for some fish than for others but it is best to avoid it for all
species. You should therefore always try to buy the entire school you want at once.
You should also try to avoid unnecessary aggression and territorial disputes. For instance,
putting two male Gouramis into the same small aquarium will give rise to unnecessary
competition among them. Adding a second male to an aquarium that already contains a
male can have even worse consequences since the first male has already claimed the
aquarium as his territory. The established male will attack the new comer viciously if it
enters his swimming space. The newcomer has no place to swim or hide. Things might
get worse, and you may lose either or both the fish. All this can be avoided if you do a
little bit of research before you stock your aquarium. Try to buy all the fish you want of
one species at once.
Fish, like any other pet, need care and devotion. You need to keep the conditions in your
aquarium just right for the fish to thrive and be happy. Healthy fish can be spotted easily.
They swim briskly, eat well and generally look sturdy. Every aquarist dreams of having a
well stocked aquarium and a flourishing ecosystem. Some care taken at the early stages
will help you to achieve this easily.
Doing the following things regularly will help you to keep your aquarium healthy and
􀂾 The aquarium has to be checked daily to make sure that
there are no dead fish lying around. Remove any dead fish
immediately. Remember, dead fish will spread infection and is a
breeding ground for bacteria. Dead plant material is less dangerous
than dead fish, but will also affect the water quality and should be
removed as soon as you notice it.
􀂾 On a weekly basis, clean out the plants and decorations in
your aquarium. Trim the plants and cut away any decaying parts.
Scrape away the algae forming inside the glass.
􀂾 Always make sure that your filters are working smoothly.
􀂾 Changing the water partially every 1-2 weeks will also
greatly reduce the debris and algae collection in the water. This can
be done by gently siphoning the water from near the gravel. This is
where the most debris collects.􀂾 Check for symptoms of stress in your fish. Once found, the
conditions that are causing the stress must be determined and
changed as soon as possible

Stress in your aquarium

Fish are subjected to stress due to various reasons. Stress weakens the fish and causes the
fish’s immunity to be greatly reduced, thereby making it susceptible to diseases. Stress
also leads to decrease in feeding. Breeding is almost non-existent in fish that show
symptoms of stress. Eventually, over stressed fish become ill and die. Thus it is best to
know the reasons of stress in your aquarium.
Stress is frequently species dependent. Some species thrive in an environment that may
weaken others. For example, if you have hard tap water, you need to purchase fish that
thrive in such conditions or alter the water conditions before you introduce your fish to
the aquarium. An unsuitable or unstable pH-value is also a common cause for stress in
aquariums. Some fish are very sensitive to changes in pH, while others are not too
susceptible to this. Always research your particular fish species in order to find out their
preferred pH-value and the span which they will tolerate. Find out the pH-value of the
water that the fish is currently living in before you purchase them and introduce them to
their new home, since fish unlike rapid changes.
As mentioned earlier in this book, increased levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrates also
lead to stress and you will need a test kit in order to monitor these levels. We have
already discussed the different actions that will help you to keep these levels down, such
as using several types of filtration, performing frequent water changes, choosing an
aquarium that is large enough and never over-feeding your fish.
Salt can also lead to stress. Some fish species have zero tolerance for salt. As a general
rule, fish that have no scales or very small scales will not tolerate salt water. Add salt to
your water only if ALL the fish species in it can tolerate salt. Some fish species will
become more prone to illness in an aquarium with no salt, even though they are not
marine species. Fish species living in brackish waters will usually stay healthier in a
slightly brackish aquarium, even if they are capable of tolerating freshwater.
An unsuitable water temperature or temperature fluctuations can easily lead to stress in an
aquarium. Some fish are comfortable in cooler temperatures, while others require tropical
temperatures. Care must be taken while mixing up species, so that they all have a general
tolerance for the same temperature. The goldfish is one example of a fish capable of
surviving in cool temperatures, while a lot of the common beginner species – Guppy,
Molly, Tetra etc – prefer much warmer temperatures. A daily thermometer reading will
keep the temperature stable and well under control.
Physical space or the lack thereof is another factor that leads to stress. Even normally
peaceful fish species can become extremely territorial when they have to fight for space.
Also, putting in different varieties of territorial fish with similar behaviors is like askingfor trouble in a small aquarium. Introducing competition in your aquarium by adding fish
that cannot cohabit will lead to stress; and frequently death due to direct injuries or due to
illnesses brought on by the stress. Also keep in mind that the onset of the breeding period
triggers a number of changes in the fish's behavioral pattern. Some fish chase stakes out
breeding territories at this time and chase away any intruders.
What are the symptoms of stress in fish? From the very beginning, you will need to
observe the patterns of behavior of each species in your aquarium. After a few days, you
will notice that each species has a behavior particular to it. Some fish keep swimming
briskly, while others are happy staying almost stationery. Some like to be on the surface,
while others linger near the bottom. Deviation from their normal behavior is the first
indication of stress. Some fish start hovering near the surface al the time, indicating poor
supply of oxygen. A stress fish can also stay away from its usual haunts and keeps itself
hidden. Sometimes fish shows nicks or spots on their body that are not healing quickly.
Prevention is definitely a better approach than waiting until the stress begin to manifest
and then trying to cure the symptoms. So, being aware of the 'character' of your species
before you bring them home and introduce them to your aquarium will help greatly in
warding off stress. As soon as you notice any symptom, make sure to explore the cause
and remove it at your earliest. Fish that falls sick and eventually dies harms not only
itself, but also the entire aquarium. Infections can spread quickly and you may find your
fish succumbing fast to these.

Water problems and their solutions

One of the most common problems in an aquarium is that the water becomes smelly,
foamy or cloudy. Each of these conditions adds to stress among fish. This is an unhealthy
While setting up your aquarium, water may become cloudy when you disturb the gravel
or sand at the bottom of the aquarium. As mentioned earlier, this can be avoided if water
is put in properly. This problem will sort itself out in a day or two. If your water becomes
cloudy or foamy after introducing the fish, bacteria is the most common cause.
When an aquarium is not cleaned thoroughly or regularly enough, fish waste and other
debris start collecting in the water. Even plants in your aquarium need to be trimmed
regularly and their dead parts have to be removed to keep the aquarium balanced.
Foamy or smelly water indicates that there is too much debris in your aquarium.
Changing small amounts of water every day will help to resolve the problem. Weekly
water exchanges will then ensure that debris levels remain low. This will also help to
control the levels of soluble waste in your water. Dissolved wastes in the water will thus
get removed and this will cause the bacteria to starve. Care must be taken not to change
too much water each time as this may harm the fish.Excessive amounts of fish food can also make the water foamy. There is no need to give
extra food to your fish, and any extra traces left at the top should be removed
immediately. Check regularly whether your filters are working properly and clean the
mechanical filter from debris and excess food.

Tropical fish aquarium problems

When you decide to keep a tropical fish aquarium, there are certain things that you
absolutely must NOT do. Even a very dedicated aquarist can encounter a wide range of
problems, especially during the start up period or when new fish is added that disrupt the
balance. Being aware of some of the most common pitfalls will help you to avoid these
mistakes and loss of precious life.
One common mistake that many beginners make is assuming that a small aquarium is
easier to care for than a larger one. The beginner should always go for a larger aquarium,
and keep small aquariums later when he or she is more experienced. The reasons for this
are quite obvious. Even though your aquarium is small, you will still have to pack in
quite a number of things. Most beginner aquarists want to keep at least half a dozen fish,
if not more. Even when keeping just one single fish, such as a goldfish in a goldfish bowl,
a small aquarium gets filled up with debris surprisingly fast and fish easily use up the
oxygen in small aquariums. Larger aquariums have larger volumes of water. This means
more oxygen for the fish, more space, and comparatively less dissolved wastes. It is
possible to get by with partial water changes less frequently when you use a larger
aquarium. A larger aquarium will be less prone to rapid changes in temperature and water
chemistry than a small aquarium, since there will be more water to preserve the
temperature and dilute any pollutants. You also have to be extra careful when you select
the kind of fish that will go into a small aquarium. Some fish need to school and can
thrive only in groups. Some fish are territorial by nature and will harm any other fish that
comes into its territory. Mixing different species, especially in a small space requires a lot
of know-how.
Adding too many fish too soon is another common mistake made by beginners. Always
keep the Nitrogen Cycle in mind when you set up your aquarium. The microorganisms
living in your water need time to develop. Only a rich culture of beneficial bacteria will
keep your aquarium healthy for a long period of time. Once the cycling process is over, it
is important to add only one or two fishes to start with and then to add all the fish you
indeed to keep of a certain species at the same time. Always give the fish time to adjust
slowly to their new environment, using the introduction method described earlier in this
Over feeding is another trait of the over zealous beginner. Never over feed your fish. If
you feed too much, the uneaten food gets deposited in the crannies of the aquarium or just
float in the water. It will pollute the water and also consume oxygen when being
decomposed. Uneaten food can therefore make the water cloudy and also lead to anincrease in the bacterial population of your water. The amount of food you give your fish
should be roughly dependent on their body weight. Usually, one or two feedings per day
is enough. Feed your fish five or six days a week. This changes only if you are rearing
young stocks. In this case you will need to give the fish small meals more frequently.
A lot of the problems that you can encounter can be solved by frequent water changes. It
is important to find a good balance, since large water changes can be just as harmful as
too small or too few water changes. Ideally, change about 15% of your water at least once
a week. Do not change water fully, since this will throw away too much of the beneficial
bacteria and cause your fish large amounts of stress due to changes in water chemistry
and sometimes also temperature. It is therefore much better to change a small percentage
of your water as frequently as possible. Changing 15% of the water once a week as is a
good rule of thumb, but smaller and more frequent water changes are just as beneficial.
Another common beginner mistake is to choose unhealthy fish, since it can be hard for
the novice fish keeper to distinguish normal fish behavior from warning signs. Fish that
do not look very healthy at the store is a definite NO. Fish that float near the top, gasping
for breath are not a good buy. Fish that shows spots, sores or nicks should not be taken
home. If you find that your new fish topple over or cannot keep their balance in their new
home, this is due to shock from being moved and can kill even healthy fish. Make sure to
always introduce your fish slowly to avoid shock.
A pet shop that forces their fish to cohabit with dead fish or sick fish should also be
avoided. Though the fish you plan to buy look very brisk and healthy, they may be silent
carriers the infection. Getting this fish into your aquarium will transmit the infection and
can have disastrous consequences. Always buy fish from a reputable pet store that
remove sick fish to special quarantine aquariums.
Fish that are transparent with neon colors running along the sides should also be avoided.
These are not natural fish. The neon colors are injected into the fish, and will fade after
some time. The dyes injected into these fish make them sick at a later stage. It also a very
inhuman process in which the due is applied.

Vacation care for your fish

Fish are the easiest pet to take care of because they do not need to be trained. They also
do not run around your house and cause havoc littering the place. But, when you plan to
go on a vacation, there are certain measures that you have to take to keep your aquarium
healthy and safe until you get back.
Change your water a few days before you leave. Never change the water just before you
leave. That way, you will be around till the fish get acclimatized to the new water. It is
better not to rely on well meaning friends when you need your aquarium taken care of.
Most people do not know how much to feed, and end up feeding more than what is
needed. Uneaten food will add to the toxicity of your aquarium and you will not be
around to change the water. Never give into the compulsion of giving your fish one lastextra feed, or one last live feed before you go. Most probably, this last 'extra' meal will be
uneaten and will later foul up the water.
The cheapest way to feed your fish while you are away is Time-Release Blocks. These
are bars of food that slowly dissolve or are fed upon by the fish. These kinds of bars are
however best suited for fish like Tetras that will eat almost anything with gusto. In an
aquarium that has territorial fish, the dominant fish will eat up this bar and the others will
be kept away from the bar. It should also be noted that quite a few aquarists have hade
bad experience with these blocks. It is therefore recommended to try the bars when you
are still at home and can monitor your fish behavior and interfere. Do not rely on bars
until you know that they are suitable for your particular aquarium.
Another better but more expensive option is mechanical feeders. Most feeders are
designed to feed granular food and flake food. The timing mechanism can be set so that
the fish are feed on the times you decide, and the amount you decide. Don’t forget to
adjust the portion size so it suits your aquarium.
It is important to set your thermostat to optimum temperature when you go away. A
closed up home in a hot area can become an oven for the fish. Many people will return
from vacations to find that their fish have 'boiled' to death. Another precaution is to desist
from adding new fish just before you go. Postpone this till after you return. Adding in
new fish a few days before you go is begging for trouble. Any diseases that come in with
the new fish will spread throughout your aquarium and you will not be there to treat your
fish during the early stages


While dealing with electrical equipments you should always take steps to stay safe. The
various equipments used in your aquarium like filters, lights, heaters etc work on
electricity. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity and it is easy to get a nasty, or
even lethal, electric shock if you do not follow the safety guidelines. Electricity is
however not the only safety hazard connected to aquariums. A broken aquarium can for
instance cause severe damages to your apartment. In order to prevent aquarium related
accidents, there are a few basic steps to keep in mind:
􀂾 Use materials that have been specifically made for
aquariums. Even if some of them appear to be a bit expensive, it is
recommended that you go in only for equipment that has the
necessary protection to be used in water.
􀂾 A power strip that has a circuit breaker built inside it is
very safe.
􀂾 All wires that go into your aquarium should be
UNPLUGGED when you do any work in your aquarium.
􀂾 Regularly check the equipment for any damages, burns,
leaks etc. In case of any problems, get a qualified electrician to
make the necessary repairs. It will however often be cheaper to
replace that part of the equipment with a new one.
􀂾 Mixing Ammonia with bleach will produce chlorine gas so
never use bleach to clean anything in or from an operative
􀂾 Get a stand that can withstand the weight of your aquarium.
Remember glass aquariums are quite heavy when you fill them up
with water. Most aquariums come with a warranty against cracking
and leaking. Check your aquarium for any signs of these before
you start setting up your aquarium. You should also check that
your home insurance covers damages that can be caused by a
broken or malfunctioning aquarium.
􀂾 The aquarium is a dangerous combination for little
children. Glass, water and electricity makes it unsafe for small
kids. You should therefore keep children a safe distance away from
the aquarium, especially when you work on it.
􀂾 Always wash your hands before and after working with the
aquarium. Your aquarium and its inhabitants carry a lot of debris
and microscopic organisms that are not desirable. It is also
important to keep in mind that soap and other detergents will harm
you fish, even in minute concentration. Always rinse your hands
well before putting them into your aquarium again after washing
your hands with soap.
An aquarium is a beautiful world in itself. Fish, plants, and invertebrates - all make up a
miniature seascape that is a joy to behold. Setting up an aquarium along the lines
described above is not at all difficult. I have pointed out a lot of potential problems,
safety issues etcetera in order to prepare, not discourage, you. There might be some
pitfalls on the way but those shouldn’t deter you. As you go along, you will find alternate
ways to look after your own aquarium. Trial and error and experimentation are the keys
to success and also one of the things that make fish keeping so fascinating year after year.
Do not be disheartened when a few of your fish die. It is inevitable that a beginner will
see at least a few of the fish floating dead in the aquarium. The steps, tips and procedures
described above will guide you through the different stages when setting up your own
aquarium. Always remember that looking after any pet is a job that requires dedication.
Taking care of the life of your pet is a matter of great responsibility.

Choosing plants for your aquarium

Most hobbyists are quite naturally drawn to making their aquarium look as natural as
possible. Adding plants is one of the better ways to make your aquarium look stunning.
Plants have some obvious advantages when it comes to looks as well as use. Most
viewers are stunned by the beauty of lush green plants that grow abundantly in water. As
described earlier in this e-book, live plants have a much more serious role to play in your
aquarium than being mere decoration. The plants provide a hiding place for the fish too.
So, you will find that many fish species are happier and more relaxed around plants.
Plants will also produce oxygen and use up the nitrogenous wastes that the fish give out.
This alone makes them desirable in your aquarium.
Natural plants have some inherent negative aspects. You should be aware of these before
you decide whether you want to keep them in your aquarium. Keeping real plants in your
aquarium requires an equal amount of dedication as keeping live fish. Plants need to be
maintained, nurtured and propagated. Dead and decaying parts will need to be pruned and
cut off regularly. Real plants may also introduce snails and hydra into your water and
they can be the transmitter of fish infections too. If your fish love to nibble on the plants
that you have decided to put in, you will have a hard time keeping these plants alive. Real
plants require some particular kinds of nutrients, fertilizers etc. That means you will have
to go in for a particular combination of materials in your substrate. When the substrate
becomes old, you will have to change it or fertilize it. A planted aquarium with real plants
generally needs more light than a fish-only aquarium, since fish do not rely on
photosynthesis. Without sufficient lighting, your plants will not be able to generate
oxygen and can even begin to die and decay.
If you do not have that much of time for the aquarium just at the moment, you can go in
for fake plants. There are numerous gorgeous looking fake plants available in the stores.
Fake plants are of course much easier to keep. And hopefully, your fish will not develop
a taste for it. A combination of fake and real plants can also be a good solution and give a
more natural look to your aquarium. Maintenance will be less because a large chunk of
your plants will not need to be maintained. When you select fake plants, it is usually
better to choose silk plants rather than plastic plants. Silk is easier to clean if you need to
scrub out algae. Plastic plants tend to fall apart while cleaning. This will however vary
from manufacturer to manufacturer and high quality plastic plants can still be a good
So, why put in live plants at all, when you can have equally beautiful artificial plants?
After all, artificial plants are so much easier to look after and maintain. And they NEVER
wither or die. Well, here are some very valid reasons to go for live planting, at least
partially, in your aquarium.
􀂾 Oxygen, the byproduct of photosynthesis, is a necessary
ingredient for any fish aquarium to thrive.􀂾 In addition to keeping Carbon dioxide levels low, plants
also keep a check on the nitrogen levels, thus protecting your fish.
􀂾 The natural surroundings that the plants provide give the
fish in captivity a sense of freedom and security. This is especially
important if you plan on breeding your fish.
􀂾 Plants are a source of food for many species of fish,
provided of course that they do not nibble away too much and kill
the plant.
􀂾 Plants also help to keep your substrate in place, especially
if you are using sand at the bottom. The tiny root systems of the
various plants help to anchor the substrate to the bottom of the
􀂾 Small amounts of algae are a natural part of an aquarium,
but excessive algae growth can be an aquarist's worst nightmare.
Real plants inhibit the growth of algae by releasing certain
chemicals. They will also compete for nutrients, since they live on
the same substances as algae.
Plants are also a sure shot indicator of the health of your aquarium. Unfavorable
conditions within your aquarium will typically first affect the plants, and this will warn
you that the fish will soon be sick too. This helps you to take timely precautions and
emergency protective measures.
Before you can make up your mind regarding the kinds of plants that will go into your
aquarium, there are some style statements that you should know about. There are two
main planting styles that have evolved among aquarists over a period of time. A quick
overview of these styles and their usability will help you decide which way you want to
go, or if you want to think up something entirely different.
The natural style: As the term suggests, the natural style is just that - natural. Here, we
strive to mime nature as closely as possible. Introducing a variety of plants without any
particular order is the most important thing in this style. Think natural - in nature, you
would not find groups of similar plants sitting pretty in some order. The aim is to
cultivate a 'wild' look. It may seem that no planning goes into this kind of style, but this is
far from the truth. Plants may seem to be placed at random without any serious
coordination, but to achieve that striking display of 'wilderness' in your aquarium, you
need to sift through the various plant varieties, and pick and choose the right ones.
The Dutch Style: This style is for the more serious planters. The aquarium is more for the
plants, and the fish seem to be added in as an afterthought. You will hardly find these
kinds of aquariums with superbly colored fish. There will just be a few colorless fish
hanging about. The style tries to replicate a verdant garden, in all its green glory. An
important element in this style is terracing or layering. You will find that the aquarium is
divided into terraces, with different kinds of plants growing on different layers. The back
of the aquarium will be higher than the front. The plants are the main focus of this
display.Firstly, there is the open style aquarium. In this kind of aquarium, the top of the aquarium
is left open most of the time. The plants are allowed to grow right out of the aquarium.
The tops of the plants are never trimmed. You need to be extra careful when you keep an
open aquarium. If you have any jumpers in this aquarium, you will find that you are
poorer by a number of fish after some time. An open aquarium is therefore not suitable
when you keep such fish species.
A habitat aquarium can also adopt the natural style. The habitat aquarium is one in which
you place ideally suited species of fish and plants that have the same requirements. A
habitat display will take plants and fish from some particular geographical location, and
mimic their ecosystem.
You can categorize the natural plants that should go into your aquarium depending upon
their behavior. Very broadly, there are three kinds of underwater plants:
􀂾 Plants that float at the top of your aquarium
􀂾 Plants that will stay firmly rooted to the bottom
􀂾 Plants that come in a bunch and keep moving or floating
Keep in mind that you cannot put in just any plant. Common household plants should
naturally be avoided. Any plant that is not a water plant is bad news in the long run. They
may adapt to the water initially, but may not be able to cope with their surroundings after
a period of time. Changing your set up after some time is not very easy, and plants also
take time to adapt and grow.


The first consideration would of course be the water in which the plants will grow. The
kind of water you that you have and the temperature in you aquarium all play an
important part in your plant life. Most aquarium plants found in marshes do well in
warmer temperature, and 75 degrees Fahrenheit is usually the ideal temperature for most
tropical plants. It is seen that plants flourish even better if the heat generated is from the
bottom so that their roots get enough heat. This can be achieved by placing a submersible
heater right at the bottom of the aquarium where the water meets gravel. Another way to
keep your plant life healthy is by leaving their roots undisturbed. When you are cleaning
your aquarium or changing water, care must be therefore be taken that the roots do not
get disturbed. The reverse is true in case of the leaves. Plants seem to do well when their
leaves move more. Therefore, regularly aerating your water using bubblers is a good idea.
Just like fish, plants also need fresh supplies of water frequently. This is one more reason
for making frequent water changes, but keep in mind that you should only change small
parts of the water at a time.


Since photosynthesis takes place in the presence of light, light is a necessity for healthy
plants. Natural sunlight is made up of a number of light waves that have different
wavelengths. The plant pigment chlorophyll will absorb only certain light waves.
Sunlight will promote the growth of algae. Long exposure to sunlight will also heat up
the water. Artificial light is therefore more advisable for plants growing in a aquarium.
Full spectrum or broad spectrum fluorescent light is best suited for plant growth.
Aquariums usually need about 1.5 watts of light per gallon of water and about 12 hours of
light per day. Of course, if your aquarium is deep, you may need additional wattage, and
need to keep the light on for longer hours. Using light colored gravel is a good way to
create a light bottom for a deep aquarium.
The wattage of light required for healthy growth in plants is also species dependent.
Some plants, like the Anubias, Java Fern and Java Moss, require only low to moderate
lighting. So, a single fluorescent tube will give enough light for these plants. The Water
Wisteria, the Indian Fern, the Water Lily, and the Waterweed are some plants that need
bright light. These plants will require at least one additional fluorescent tube to survive
and flourish. Some species like the Bacopa and the Cabomba require extra strong light.
These plants are of course not very suitable for beginners


In nature, plants are continuously receiving nourishment from their surroundings.
Aquarium plants derive nourishment from the substrate. There are different varieties of
substrate available now, but for the beginner a substrate that is low maintenance and
stable is the ideal choice. A substrate that needs constant watching and gets messy is not
recommended. Similarly, a substrate that is capable of changing the water chemistry is
also something to keep away from. This kind of substrate will require constant
monitoring of the water. Organic substrates, rich in nutrients, will mess with your water
quality and give out excess nutrients.
Since the substrate lies at the very bottom of your aquarium, it is difficult to change it
once the aquarium has been established. So, in many cases you are stuck with your
substrate for a long time. That is why you need to be wise when you choose it. Ideally,
you should select a substrate that is inert and that will not alter your water chemistry. The
perfect substrate will also have a high Cation Exchange Capacity. The Cation Exchange
Capacity refers to the ability of the medium to absorb nutrient ions. Simply put, this
means that your substrate will hold on to the nutrients and make them available to plant
In this respect, sand is a very poor substrate. It has none of the qualities described above.
It can be used only as an anchor for your plants. Gravel will usually also have a very low
Cation exchange Capacity and some types of gravel will alter the water chemistry.Fluorite is a great substrate. Though it is a bit expensive, it is very nice looking and
nutrient rich. It will not get soft when in water. It also has iron and other trace elements
that are good for your plants. Vermiculite is a soil additive that is very rich in nutrients,
but it is also very light and needs to be placed below a layer of heaver material.
Otherwise, it will start floating around and make your water cloudy.
Using suitable additives in your substrate will be beneficial to plants. Commercially
available products help to induce plant growth. Some of these are to be mixed in with
water, while others need to be pushed in near the roots of the plant. You will find more
detailed information about plant nutrients later in this e-book.
Do NOT use peat moss, bagged potting soil or compost in your substrate. These will
decay after some time and prevent root growth in plants. A soil that has only a little
organic matter and has a higher concentration of fine clay particles is best suited for plant


Both micro and macro nutrients are required by plants for growth. Macronutrients include
nitrates, sulfates and phosphates. The plant requires these in large quantities. If you
introduce a lot of macronutrients to your aquarium, it can lead to an undesirable 'algae
bloom'. Micronutrients are nutrients required in trace amounts. Nutrients like iron,
copper, zinc and calcium are some of these. Excessive amounts of these can prove
harmful for the plants.
Carbon Dioxide is the most important nutrient that a plant needs. Sometimes, fish alone
are not able to provide the optimum levels to support adequate plant growth. Carbon
dioxide injections for your plants are an easy but pricey way out. Carbon dioxide levels
in your water should be between 5-15 Mg/l. If you go any higher, your fish will be
Using commercially available tablets that dissolve in water and provide a lot of nutrients
for your plants is also a good idea. Unless you feed your fish a lot, they will not provide
all the nutrients that your plants need. And even if the fish produce enough nutrients,
these are available to the algae and other microscopic organisms too. Plants can have a
hard time getting it. That is why using additives in the substrate as well as tablets in the
water really assist plant growth. When using additives, take special care that they are not
harmful for your fish.
The use of aerators is also a factor in the growth of your plants. Constantly keeping your
air pumps or bubblers on will deplete the carbon dioxide levels in your water. On the
other hand, you need the aerators to keep your water rich in oxygen. The easy way out is
to turn on the bubblers only for a few hours a day, preferably at night. This will provide
enough oxygen for your fish while not depriving your plants of the vital Carbon Dioxide.
Keep in mind that plants require oxygen too.Plants will suffer when there is a deficiency in the nutrients. A deficiency in nitrogen and
sulfur is indicated when the leaves turn yellow faster than usual. If the leaves seem to be
very brittle, you probably need more iron in your aquarium. Over fertilization may lead to
problems too. The leaves getting yellow spots can indicate an excess of iron, zinc or


Almost any kind of filtration system will do for plants. Only a few things have to be kept
in mind. Constant use of aerators should be avoided. Use a filtration system that will filter
out floating particles. These particles will block sunlight and also form a deposit on plant
leaves. The filtration should not produce too much of water disturbance, as this will
deplete Carbon Dioxide levels. On the other hand, the filtration must create some currents
in the water, as this will help easy circulation of nutrients.

Suitable plants for beginners

Before you start planting your aquarium, it is a good idea to have a rough sketch of what
kinds of plants you will put in. Plants can be categorized depending upon how tall they
Foreground plants are species that are quite short and small. They mostly form carpet-like
matting at the bottom. They do this by producing numerous runner plants. These plants
are often used in shallow aquariums because they need plenty of strong light.
Glossostigma sp. is one of the most popular carpet plants around. It is not very easy to
grow but looks absolutely stunning. Water Wisteria can be used a carpet plant too, if you
put some stones on the stems till they catch root. The middle ground plants are taller than
the foreground plants. Their main use is in hiding the stems of the background plants that
are much taller. The background plants grow quite fast and can be used effectively to
hide all the accessories in your aquarium. They usually need lesser sunlight too.
Bunch plants – plants that look good in a group – are usually middle ground or
background plants. Some plants, called the specimen plants, are large decorative species
that are usually highlighted at the center. Floating plants are an attractive option, but care
must be taken to place floating plants away from the heat of the light bulb. Floating plants
also propagate very quickly and may block out all the light in your aquarium.
Java Moss and Java Fern are some of the most common aquatic plants and they are very
suitable for beginners. Initially, Java Fern should be attached to a piece of driftwood or
rock. After the roots are formed it will stick to its surface. Java Moss and Java Fern are
very hardy plants that can thrive in a wide range of soft and hard waters and even do well
in a brackish aquarium. These plants will also tolerate a lot of different pH-values. New
plants form on the older leaves of existing plants. The new plants will break themselves
off from the original plant, but can also be cut away. These shoots can then be replanted.
They grow quickly and give a very lush appearance to your aquarium.The Amazon Sword is another very popular aquatic plant. Just like Java Moss and Java
Fern, the Amazon Sword is a very hardy plant that is popular both among beginners and
expert aquarists. Amazon Sword grows pretty fast and therefore prevents algae formation.
Wisteria is yet another example of a beautiful and undemanding plant that is suitable for
your first aquarium. The plant grows quickly and also helps to inhibit algae growth. But
Wisteria also sucks a lot of nutrients from the water. Pale leaves indicate that there is a
shortage of nutrients in the aquarium, and that fertilizers need to be added to the
substrate. The Anubias Nana plant is also popular among beginners, since this plant
thrives in virtually all conditions. Best results are obtained by tying the plant to a tree root
or stone. This plant often flowers in water and is usually left alone by herbivorous fish. If
your aquarium is provided with strong light, you can keep Lillaeopsis. Lillaeopsis looks
more or less like grass. It grows fast, but does need bright lighting and can therefore be an
unsuitable choice for your very first aquarium before you have learned how to control the
algae. If you want to keep an amphibious plant, you can try the Cryptocoryne Beckettii. It
is a popular plant among aquarists and it grows really well when it is submerged.
Beginners must take some factors into mind when they select plants. Since you are new
to the whole concept, it is best to stick with plants that are not very exotic or pricey. As a
rule of thumb, very colorful plants are unsuitable for beginners and green plants are a
better choice. This is mainly because colorful plants typically require more direct light.
Providing this light may play havoc with the temperature and algae levels in your
aquarium. If you are not equipped with enough know-how and experience in dealing with
these situations, you will find that your aquarium will turn green with algae in no time.
Availability is another matter to consider. Some plants propagate themselves and give off
shoots that will develop into new plants. Such plants are usually available in most pet
shops since they are easy to grow. You will also be able to plant new shoots without
spending more money. Plants that are not easily eaten by fish are also good for the

Caring for plants

The first and most basic needs of a plant are sufficient amounts of light, oxygen and
carbon dioxide. Nutrients like iron, copper, zinc etc are also required in trace amounts. As
described earlier, these can be provided through the use of various fertilizers and
additives. There are certain things besides these that will be beneficial to plants.
Thinning and pruning of plants is very important for them to grow well. Many aquatic
plants will flourish if proper conditions are provided. The taller plants will grow right out
of your aquarium. They will also become too thick and block sunlight, and take up too
many nutrients. After pruning, many plant species can be replanted since the cut-off parts
are capable of growing into a new plant. In some of the leafy plants, like Swords, older
and bigger leaves will need to be removed to provide sufficient light for the younger
ones. Some plants that have floating leaves also need their leaves removed. These will
otherwise block the sunlight from the lower leaves as well as from other plants. Afteseveral pruning sessions, you will sometimes find that the branches are becoming too
dense. Such plants can be thinned by removing the older branches.
Here are some tips for basic aquatic plant care:
􀂾 Be careful when you select your plants. For your first
aquarium, it is advisable to go for the popular varieties that are
easily available.
􀂾 Young plants that are in good condition have greater
chances of survival.
􀂾 Be very thorough while planting your plants. Enough
spacing and anchorage are important.
􀂾 Plants should be groomed before you put them into the
􀂾 Before planting, any dying roots should be removed.
Otherwise, they will rot in the substrate. Decaying or dying roots
will appear dark brown and limp, while the healthy roots will be
rigid and pale.
􀂾 Remove any yellowing or sickly leaves on your plant
before you put it in. The plant will ultimately shed these leaves
anyway and they can pollute the water and consume oxygen.
􀂾 Protect the leaves of your plants from unnecessary damage.
Snails and plant eating fish should be kept to a minimum.
􀂾 If you intend to put in tubers, then position them at an
angle, so that the growing tips of the plants will be exposed to
􀂾 Once your stem plants reach the surface, cut them and
replant the cuttings. They will soon grow a new root system. This
will also give the younger leaves enough sunshine.
􀂾 Some plants like the Java Fern and the Java Moss will do
better if they are attached to rocks, rather than planted into the
Plants are good indicators of nutrient deficiency in your aquarium. One way to keep your
planted aquarium running smoothly is to measure the nutrient level in your water by
analyzing plant growth. In aquariums with low growth, plants do not show many
deficiencies because the nutrients present are quite sufficient for them. In high growth
aquariums where you have lots of plants and where you are using Carbon Dioxide
injections, plants are growing so fast that nutrients may get depleted. In such an
aquarium, it will typically be the fastest growing plants that show the first symptoms of
The first thing you must ascertain while looking for nutrient deficiency is to see whether
the symptoms are showing up in the older leaves or in the younger, fresher leaves. This
will help you narrow down the nutrient causing the problem. "Mobile" nutrients are those
that the plant can re-claim from the older leaves and use while producing younger leaves.So, deficiency in these nutrients will usually show up in the older leaves. Mobile
nutrients include Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, Magnesium and Zinc. The immobile
nutrients do not move, and their deficiency therefore usually shows up in the younger
leaves. Examples of immobile nutrients are Copper, Iron, Calcium and Sulfur.
Though analyzing nutrient deficiency using leaf changes is not an exact science, here are
some symptoms and causes that will help you. Deficiency in Iron usually causes the
leaves to become brittle and pale. If the older leaves show pinholes that gradually
enlarge, it may be a Potassium deficiency. Twisted and bent or cupped leaves with
yellowish to very pale edges are an indication of calcium deficiency. Withered edges and
dead leaf tips show a deficiency in Copper.
Though the aforementioned list is not very exhaustive, you will find that this provides a
general guideline to check for nutrient deficiency. With time and experience, you will
find your plants speaking to you about the ecosystem within the aquarium. Moreover, if
you take them seriously, plants will flourish and thrive in your aquarium. Your fish will
benefit a lot from this too.