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  1. 90% of ammonia tests test for total ammonia-nitrogen. Total ammonia-nitrogen is comprised of ammonia (NH3) and ammonium (NH4+). NH3 is "free-ammonia" and is highly toxic to fish and other animals. NH4+ is "bound-ammonia" and is totally harmless. Both kinds exist in the aquarium simultaneously. Depending on the pH and temerature of your water, You can safely have a specific amount of ammonia on your test kit without it being toxic. The chart below shows you the maximum amount of ammonia that is, or can be in the ionized form NH4+ (ammonium), according to pH and temp. In short, you are "allowed" to have this much ammonia without it being harmful to your fish: View attachment: pHchart.jpg If you regularly test and find ammonia on the test results, something is amiss and investigating is in order. I hope this helps! Paul
  2. I just recieved my Coralife T-5 series double linear strip from BigAls.com All I have to say is WOW! I never put much thought into T-5 lamps as they are much slimmer than regular flourescent bulbs. I figured that less surface area meant less light output but it doesn't seem to apply, really. Very bright with a good healthy, full spectrum. Anyway, the two lamps combined in the strip are creating about half the heat of one flourescent the same length. The BEST thing about this light strip is its dimensions: 46.25"L x 3"W x 1"H they also make 36" 30"and 24" as well as some "mini" models for tiny tanks. Each different unit still remains 1 inch high and 3 inches wide. Thats TINY!!!! Stats: Coralife Freshwater Aqualight T-5 Series - Double Linear Strip * 28 watt ColorMax full-spectrum and 28 watt 6700K plant T-5 fluorescent lamps * On/off switch and built-in ballasts * Sleek, designer-black aluminum housing * Highly-polished reflector * Acrylic lens cover * Adjustable width tank mounts Ideal for Freshwater and Planted Aquariums. All in all, I am VERY pleased and plan in switching most, if not all, of my tanks to Coralife lighting systems..... Here's a link to Coralifes parent company ESU: Energy Savers Unlimited
  3. I hope this lightly prepared page helps explain UV's and the whats and whys therein. I will be describing UV sterilizers, their uses and set-up scenarios. UV Sterilizers are VERY effective at killing of quite a lengthy list of baddies that may be lurking in your tanks. The addition of a UV is a huge boon to fish in the aquarium because, if used correctly, it will greatly reduce the number of fungi, bacteria and parasites within the tank it is sterilizing. In short, your aquarium water will be sooo crystal clear and free of harmful organisms, it will "almost" be safely drinkable! REMEMBER: replace your UV bulb after a years worth of use. They can and do quickly lose their efficacy after that amount of time.......... UV kill list All of the baddies listed below can be dessimated by a UV. Not to mention that they are all top contenders for "pathogen of the year" : Flukes, trichodina, costia, ergasilus, argulus, lernea, chilodonella, tetrahymena, epistylus, hexamita, spironucleus, coleps...... Saprolegenia, aeromonas bacters, pseudomonas bacters, flexbacter, tuberculosis, sporozoans....... Head pressure and why its imortant First, I need to touch on head pressure a bit. Head pressure is the force exerted back into the pump from ANY amount of water that is traveling upwards through tubing or plumbing. If you purchase a pump new, it should come with information about head pressures and how much water will come out of the outflow at certain heights. For example; If you take a pump that is sitting in just enough water to cover it, hook a 6 foot tube to the outflow, lay it down in the resevoir, and turn it on, its maxium flow rate will come out of the outflow. BUT, if you were to take the outlow end of the 6 foot tubing and hold it up above the water a foot or two, the flow rate from the outflow will decrease. This is because of "head pressure". The water above the pump/waterlevel is pushing back at the pump via gravity. The higher you pull the outflow above the waterlevel, the less comes out. So, you can try to do the math, according to the description in your manual, but the very best way to know exactly how many GPH you are getting through your UV unit is a series of simple tests involving a stopwatch or clock: Set your UV just as if you were about to run it permanently. Prime it and get water flowing freely. Now, take a 3-5 gallon bucket and place it as close to your return coming from the UV at the top of the tank. Place the return from the UV into the bucket for exactly one minute and return the outflow to the tank. Measure the gallonage in the bucket and multiply it by 60. The sum will be the GPH going through your UV. Remember, this only works accurately if the return coming out of the UV is going at least to the height of the tank before into the bucket. Basic set-up and operation There are three basic ways to operate your UV filter. A powerhead, an external (in-line) pump, or a canister filter. I'll start with powerheads. This is the cut-rate, bare-bones alternative to running your UV. I do not recommend them for long term use. Straight to the point, the pumps are not designed to push water up and out of the aquarium, let alone getting it back into the aquarium again. But, despite this, they still work well enough to mention. Here is a diagram of how the powerhead would be set-up for use with a UV: View attachment: uvpowerhead.jpg Tips for powerhead users: -Priming this set-up is quite a chore if you dont have a siphon starting rig. I have been known to resort to "orally" priming, via the return in the tank... (yuck? It works) -Hose clamp the tubing to the powerhead outflow. -Power outtages can cause the plumbing to lose its prime and restarting it will need to be done manually. -Utilize a sponge pre-filter -Utilize T's and elbows to reduce the need to bend the tubing any. Bent tubing can easily kink and stop the flow. -Set the powerhead as far down into the aquarium as it can go, its nice to try and keep it running at water changes since priming is manual. Did I say manual? I meant oral..... Next, we will hit on external pumps (in-line) and canister filters together. These guys do the job and are the two best choices for running your UV. Strong, long lasting and quiet (research permitting) are the major reasons for this. Here's a diagram that stands true for in-line pumps and canisters (If an inline pump is used, omit the splitters and bypass tubing) : View attachment: UVflowvalve.jpg You will need to think about an intake tube and possibly a return head if you are going the in-line pump route. It will need to have, at least, an intake screen to keep from damaging your fish and/or the pump. The intake tube needs only to go deep enough to keep the prime going. But, as with the powerhead, its best to have it lower than the water level gets during a normal water change. Prime restarts automatically though. There is also the VERY cheap way to get intake tubes and returns. DIY! I know its sounds tedious and boring but when money is short from the cost of the UV (and the pump to run it), a little ingenuity and patience goes a loooong way. ( I will have to come back to do the DIY part of the project at a later date) UV brands/models and flow rates for pathogens Coralife 3X 9watt Turbotwist Bacteria- 253gph Algae- 121gph Parasites-55gph Coralife 6X 18watt Turbotwist Bacteria- 500gph Algae- 240gph Parasites- 110gph Coralife 12X 36watt Turbotwist Bacteria- 1550gph Algae- 680gph Parasites- 290gph UltraLife Ultra V UV 16 watt Bacteria- 630gph Algae- 315gph Parasites- 150gph AquaUltraviolet (more brands to come soon)
  4. Here's another project made possible by plastic canvas (check DIY media basket for pic).... You know the silk plant/flower section of home improvement stores? Well, that is where you can find the silk ivy used in this project. You can get enough for several caves for less than ten bucks. They're the ones that have the wire inside of their stems so they are pliable. Anyway, you just pull each individual vine out of the spike at the base. Snip off the exposed wires at the base of each vine. Then, you want to make a small hook in the end. Slip the hooked end of the vine into one of the holes of the plastic canvas in the side. Loop it over to the other side and either snip one of the holes and run the vine trough it or secure it with some fishing line. A dab or two of aquarium sealant really helps keeping things secure. Heres a diagram of how you do the vine stems on a canopy fashion. I omitted the leave to avoid confusion: View attachment: DIYcave.jpg Once you have it constructed, clear a place for it to sit in the tank. Swish gravel to the side so the plastic canvas bottom sits nicely on the glass bottom. Then, pour some gravel over it so that the gravel falls through the leaves and onto the plastic canvas base. This will keep the cave stationary. If you have a bare-bottomed tank, you can still easily construct this hide/cave. Instead of using plastic canvas, use a piece of plexiglass, you only need to figure a way to weigh it down. Firstly, use a file or sandpaper to sand the top edge of the plexiglass to remove the sharp edge. Next, you can use superglue to "tack" the vine into place. Then the aquarium sealant is used to make the final seal/connection. I suggest making a small loop in the ends of the section of vines so that the aquarium sealant has something to hold onto. Glue river rocks, gravel or whatever to the plexi-glass wherever you like. OR You can cut the plexiglass a little larger than what you intend the cave to be and glue the stuff to the flaps of plexiglass on the outside of it. Again, the possibilities are endless. Heres a few pics of the plastic canvas way: In the last pic, you see the intended recipient thoroughly enjoying the the safety that such a cave provides. Hes a big ol pleco that outgrew all of his other hidey caves. Remember, if you have fancy goldfish in the tank this would go in, then be WELL and SURE to make the loops large enough so that no fancies can get trapped under them. Happy tinkering! Paul
  5. So, it's the middle of summer and the temps outside are pretty close to triple digits and your fish are feeling the pinch, huh? Air conditioner not running right/at all? Not to worry. You can help battle the heat for your fish very easily. Evaporation will be your friend.... When you sweat and a breeze blows across your skin, it feels cool right? *goosebumps* Well, the same applies to your fishtanks. If you place a fan to blow across the surface of your tank, you can actually reduce the temperature up to 7-10 degrees, given the right circumstances. This also helps increase aeration by causing a ripple and the fact that at lower temps, oxygen is more available. The fans that work the best are the little clip on fans that ar made of mostly plastic. Make sure its VERY secure before you walk away. two on a 55 gallon tank would only pull 30 watts and should help reduce heat by at least 5 degrees F. You can use one for smaller tanks. The way this works: Tankwater is constantly trying to evaporate. If there is no wind to move evaporated water from near the surface, more water will not be able to evaporate. This is called stagnation. This stagnant, moist, airpocket actually acts like a greenhouse effect to trap in heat and can raise temps. If you set a fan to blow across the surface, the moist stagnant air near the surface is replaced with dryer air and allows for more, and constant, evaporation. As water is evaporating, the water left behind in the tank is left cooler. Just like when sweat evaporates from our skin...... Hope this helps someone this summer! Paul
  6. I got the inspriation for this idea from Smack536's tip of the month submission in the tip o the month forum. B) There are essentially, two materials needed for this project: Plastic canvas (ridgid) from an arts and crafts store and fishing line. Your optional material would be aquarium sealant. View attachment: mediabasket.jpg This is a rather easy project if you have a free hour to throw this thing together. This is perfect for people who are utilizing a HOB (hang on back) filter and there is no media basket or bio-wheel. Basically, you just trace your filter cartridge onto the plastic canvas and cut it out. Then you measure how much of a basket you can fit into the filter and cut out the panels to act as the bottom, front and sides. Or measure the space you want to fill with the media basket. Any space that is open enough to fit a custom basket into will do, as long as you still allow room for the regular filter cartridge. Unless, of course, you decide to make this thing your actual cartridge and fasten new filter floss to it instead of bothering with rinsing. Anyway, with those numbers (length, heigt, width, depth) you cut it out of the plastic canvas and assemble the panels with fishing line. Tight knots burned flat (with a lighter) at each end of the seams keeps them from unravelling. Or, instead, you can use aquarium sealant on the seams to add some extra durability. Just think of all the possibilities there are for using this stuff. ANYTHING that has to do with water and flow has a potential place for it. I'm sure this won't be the last one you see either. Happy Tinkering!
  7. There are three very important factors in keeping your barebottom free of poop: 1--There needs to beat least 100gph total (in mechanical filtration) for every ten gallons of water in the tank. 2--The intake strainer needs to be right at the bottom fo the tank. This allows the water flowing into the strainer to draw bits of poo and uneaten food into the filter to remove it from the tank. 3--The placement of the filter in relation to the currents it creates (or adds to) makes a large difference. Sliding the filter back and forth across the back of the tank (or repositioning the outflow) to different locations causes different flow patterns and poo will collect in different areas. Another good way to keep the bottom clear of poo is to have multiple filters. Multiple filters creates more points to wich poo is attracted to. For this reason (and several others) It is always better to have several smaller filters than one big one of the same gph output. Hope this helps!
  8. It can be unanimously agreed that the single greatest advancement in fish keeping is the advent of the modern filter. We have come a long way since the days of keeping multiple plants in a tank only to support a couple of very small tropical fish like tetras. We now have the means to keep many large fish in a single tank without so much as a regular weekly water change to keep the nitrates low. However to this very day, The actual mechanics of the biofilter and the proper care and maintenance involved remain somewhat of a mystery to many in our hobby. Below is a general outline to shed some light on the techniques and strategies involved in maintaining a healthy filter to keep our fish in happy water. ---------------------- The filter and what it does for us Filters are first noted for their ability to keep suspended solids out of the tank which keeps the water looking clean and clear. The filter-floss or sponge is the "dirt trap" which cleans the solids from the water as it passes through. This is known as mechanical filtration. The next thing that filters are so highly prized for is the establishment of a colony of beneficial bacters that process ammonia on down to nitrAtes. This is called bio-filtration. Medias that beneficial bacteria thrive on are sponges, bio-balls, bunched netting, carbon (once full), pea sized chunks of lava rock and some commercial substrates. The last, but strictly optional, job of the filter is to remove impurities from the water such as medications, phosphates, heavy metals and the like. This is achieved by forcing the water flow through a chemical media that either adsorbs or absorbs the specific impurity it was designed to remove. Some medias include Phosban, Nitrazorb, carbon and zeolite. The secondary job of most filters, such as HOB and internal filters, is the oxygenation of the water in the tank. This is achieved by the water return on the filter. In optimal conditions, the filters return would be aimed across the surface of the water. The rippling across the surface causes oxygen to be "injected" into the water and raises the 02 value in the water. There are venturi valves that are used to inject 02. These are commonly seen on powerheads and specialty water returns for canister filters. It is all of these options and necessities that makes the filter the single most important part of keeping our water clean so that are fish are healthy, grow and are happy. For a good description of the different types of filtration we normally see on tanks, check this page out: Types of filters Mechanics of a properly run filter For most of us, the option of a huge, multi-staged filter like a wet/dry system to keep our water clean is out of the question. We have to resort to using as compact a unit as can handle the bio-load in a given tank. Most usually, an HOB filter. This forces us to coddle and baby our filters so that none of the viability of the beneficial bacteria is lost due to maintenance. If we didn't do this, our bio-filters would regularly "fail" whenever we cleaned them or changed cartridges. Below, in no particular order, are a few tips and guidelines to follow: --Never, ever clean out your tank and filter 100%. Not unless you want to go through the tough task of re-cycling your tank all over again. This goes the same for removing gravel from a tank. If the tank is fully stocked or overcrowded, you can bet that much of the beneficial bacteria is housed in the gravel. Removing all at once causes your filter to have to grow more bacteria to make up for the loss. This could take a week or more for the balance to be met again. Small increments of gravel removal or keeping it in a bag in your tank for a while allows for the colonies to be "transferred" over to the new gravel or the filter. --Never use water that has not been dechlorinated on your bio-media. The bio-media should always be lightly swished around in dechlorinated water so that some of the larger chunks of debris come loose and allow better water flow through itself. Same goes for additives like crushed oyster shells or coral and the like. The bags or baskets these are kept in need to be cleaned regularly to provide optimal flowthrough. If at all possible alternate cleaning of different parts of the filter weekly. --If you have a well established bed of bio-media separate from filter-floss, you can use the sink or garden hose to rinse the filter-floss. I repeat, this can only be done with a system that has a well established bio-filter that is separate from the filter-floss. Again, alternating cleanings helps. --ALWAYS use a strainer on the intake. ALWAYS keep it very tightly secured. The intake has been the doom to many fish. Let alone the tiny piece of gravel that stops the pump from working and kills the filter. See photo below of the intake strainer. --Keep the , strainer, up tubes and impeller assembly clean and clear of muck and debris on a weekly basis. Leave any and all buildup of brown gunk (beneficial bacteria) in the filter box/canister untouched. This is always a plus to have. Unless the filterbox is unundated with goop. then clean it up a bit but not spotlessly. Once again, alternate. --If you are depending on the "ten times filtration rate per hour" rule of thumb, make well and sure that your filter/s remains on the highest setting (or needed setting) at all times. Also, the water level should be kept at the manufacturers suggested level in the filters manual. At 2 inches below the suggested level, most HOB filters lose a HUGE amount of gph and become waaay less effective. Another reason for keeping the waterlevel up to the suggested level is because of power outtages. If the power goes out for more than a few seconds, your filter will drain the contents of its basin back into the tank. This might be ok for some brands of filter because of the powerful suction they exude, but MANY brands and models will seize up/run dry and overheat. This also pertains to the oxygenation of the water. If the filter is simply dumping the water back into the tank, it will create much less oxygenation than if the flow were directed across the surface. --Look into your filterbox and check the flowrate/waterlevel often. This is the very best way to know exactly when you need to either rinse or change the filter-floss or some other needed maintenance. --If chemical filtration (carbon, purigen, phosphate removers,etc.) is utilized, regular checking of each type is needed to judge if the efficacy is still there. --If more than one filter is used on any given tank, try alternating the cleaning and maintenance between the them so that you always have one undisturbed bio-filter going at any given time. --If you are using a filter that does not have a specified bio-media chamber or the like, when you go to put a new piece of filter-floss in, keep the old one and shove it in behind the new one so that beneficial bacteria can more quickly colonize the new floss. The old one can be remove a week or two later or left alone if its not impeding any waterflow through the filter. ------------------------ Below are some photos that show different parts of the filter and whatnot: This is an exceptionally well colonized bio-wheel from a penguin 330 That has been running for almost 2 years. I NEVER clean a bio-wheel at all unless it stops spinning correctly and the problem is uneven growth. And here is how you can extend your intake filter to the very bottom of the tank. This results in an amazing difference when you go to perform gravel vacs and theres nothing coming out! Last but not least, If you are employing a filter that does not have a bio-wheel, media basket or you just want to add some extra space for beneficial bacteria to grow, Sponges work great! You can usually find Aqua-clear sponges at your local fish shops. Just get the right size for your application. Cut the sponge like you would a loaf of bread except do it longways. Cut as thick as you need it for your application. The sponge should sit a little loosely up in front of the cartridge but not wide enough to totally impede the waterflow if it water to get clogged. A fingers width of a gap on one side is fine. I see no reason for not adding them in front of the cartridges (really, behind if you look at it from this angle). More space is always better. But, keep them relatively clear of debris, the same as you would the cartridge/floss. Heres what it looks like: Here's a link to a very good way to boost your bio-filtration of almost ANY HOB filter: DIY media basket/filter cartridges As you can see, There really isn't all that much to keeping your filters running properly, it just takes regular observation and a general understanding of the mechanics, and science, involved. Always remember, a happy filter equals happy water and happy water equals happy fish. Good luck!
  9. Have a gander at this: Nano-Filter Here's a better picture of it: I saw one of these units on display and set up on a betta bowl at my lfs. The betta looked very happy and not a spot of finrot on him anywhere so I imagine the parameters were held in check very well. This little thing seemed to keep the water absolutely clean without creating much current. Oh yeah, did i mention the fact that this HOB filter is no more than than 3x3x2 inches max!!!! Seriously, this has to be the smallest HOB filter I have ever seen! By my accounts, This thing seems to be perfect for a 1 gallon set-up and looks to be as easy to clean as an Aquaclear. So, do any of you have any experience with these units? Thanks!
  10. hi if you ever have any obscure technical queries about the products that you use, you can obtain info from many of these sites about their products. most of them even have a section where you can submit questions that arent answered in the manuals or on the site. heres a list that ive compiled of many of the best aquatic product manufacturers: Aquarium Pharmaceuticals rena/filstar filters, medications, additives Aquarium Systems everything you need Eheim fine filters, bio-media and accessories Kordon, Aqua-Vet medications, additives Aqua-Clear, Fluval and more everything under the aquatic sun Jungle Labs medications, additives, food Marineland Labs pretty much everything you need Tetra also, everything you need Kent Marine foods, additives tapwater filters SeaChem bio-media, additives, medications Perfecto tanks, stands, hoods, accessories Hikari fine goldfish, koi and tropical foods Danner Supreme, Aqua-master and many more peices of hardware i may have missed a few good ones (im sure of it). so, if youve got a good one that isnt represented on this list, please post the link here. manufacturers homepages only, please. i hope this helps! (I'll be updating this from time to time. so, bear with me if it ever looks a bit unedited. thanks)
  11. it is common knowledge to use a dechlorinator to prepare new water for an aquarium. what ive found that isnt common knowledge is that if your dechlor isnt also a detoxifier, your settling for less. below are a few reviews of my favorite water conditioners. the cost effectiveness of these two alone should make for a smart buy. Prime by Seachem directions for use: 1 capful (5 mL) for each 200 L (50 gallons*) of new water. For smaller doses, please note each cap thread is approx. 1 mL). This dose removes approximately 0.6 mg/L ammonia, 3 mg/L chloramine, or 4 mg/L chlorine. May be added to aquarium directly, but better if added to new water first. If adding directly to aquarium, base dose on aquarium volume. Sulfur odor is normal. For exceptionally high chloramine concentrations, a double dose may be used safely. To detoxify nitrite in an emergency, up to 5 times normal dose may be used. If temperature is > 30 °C (86 °F) and chlorine or ammonia levels are low, use a half dose. one 8.5 fluid ounce bottle treats 2500 gallons. this stuff just plain rocks. seachem packs so much goodness into such a small bottle. ive been using this stuff for about a year now and it has served me well. one 8.5 fluid ounce bottle has single handedly taken care of 6 tanks (120 gallons total) worth of water changes for almost a year now. i wont get into the math. its been very useful for parameter fluctuations due to power outtages and equipment malfunctions (ammonia and nitrite). when im treating a sick fish in an uncycled environment, it adds to my peace of mind that there isnt any ammonia building up. its especially invaluable when trying to cycle a tank with fish in it. the only thing is, i cant seem to find any literature pertaining to exactly how much nitrite and nitrate each dose will detoxify. Amquel plus directions for use: 1 teaspoon (5 ml) for each 10 gallons. This dose will remove chlorine, 1.2 ppm of ammonia, 2 ppm of nitrite, 13 ppm of nitrate. One 16-ounce bottle treats 960 gallons. Water treated with Amquel Plus cannot be accurately tested using Nessler's type ammonia tests or Winkler type D.O. kits. pretty much everything that i said about prime, you can apply to amquel plus. dont mistake amquel plus for kordons amquel. they are not the same product. i tried out some amquel plus that was given to me by my lfs owner on my 10 gallon betta tank (now tropical) for a month or two and i saw no difference whatsoever (between amquel and prime). an extra plus for amquel plus (pun not intended) is that it actually states how much nitrite/nitrate each dose detoxifies. the drawback is stated in the directions for use. although that depends on your testing eqipment. thanks for sitting through this looooong review. i just think that its important and helpful for aquarists to know what is available to them. paul
  12. you know those plastic rolls of backgrounds you can get from most shops? well, heres a little tip to make them more visible (sp?): get some spray on adhesive and a decal squeegy (hardware or hobby shop) clean the back of your tanks glass with a good cleaner (windex, xylene etc.) be careful not to get any in your tank. cut the background to the exact measurements of your tanks back pane. spray the plastic (the side with the picture you want) with a good coat of the adhesive.start at one end and line the plastic up with the glass pane and run your thumb top to bottom to get it started. then slowly work the squeegy along from that end to the other. all the while working any air bubbles and inconsistencies out. it should be relatively easy. once your done, you will have eliminated those unsightly water and air bubbles that form when a bit of water gets stuck between the glass and the background. you will also notice that this makes them twice as visible as before. i use the plain blue background (fades from light to dark) and when i finished, i was very surprised at how much of a diff it made. like night and day, i tell ya............
  13. i will be purchasing a uv sterilizer soon and i would like to know a few things beforehand. here goes: 1. what medications should i avoid while using the uvs? 2. is a uvs really effective at killing all parasites that are sucked through? if not, what doesnt it kill? 3. is a uvs effective against green and brown algae that is sucked through? 4. does a uvs kill beneficial bacteria that is sucked through? sorry for all the questions. ive read that several of the members here have them and i couldnt find the answers anywhere else ive researched.
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