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