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Decorating your Tank [Finished, comments welcome]

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 8:17 pm
by KerBer
Background:
A background gives fish a sense of direction and security, this is especially important when a tank is located in a heavy traffic area. They can be a plastic background from your LFS; view of a river, rocks, plants, solid black/blue, a do it yourself externally painted background, or even a unique DYI. Stop into our freshwater hardware department to see what some of our members are creating.

Substrate:
Substrate is vital to providing an environment that reflects your fish’s natural habitat. This should be chosen on the basis of which fish you are planning on keeping. Be wary of artificial gravels or gravels with plastic coatings as over time they will break down. Catfish and other bottom dwelling fish naturally require a soft sand or smooth pebbles to prevent damage to their sensitive barbels and undersides. Many cichlids enjoy digging along with re-arranging rocks and require a small to medium gravel. Shell dwelling cichlids need a large grained sand or small gravel to allow them to dig and burry their shells. Not facilitating your fishes natural behaviors by keeping them in an un-natural environment can lead to stress and very unhappy fish’s.

Main Decor: (anything above the substrate)
Main decor can include live plants, rocks, plastic plants, ornaments from your LFS, and new clay flower pots. These items should also be chosen to accommodate your fish’s natural behaviors. As an example, a cave dwelling fish would feel exposed and insecure in a tank full of plants. Bearing the above in mind, there is absolutely no reason that different decor types can not be mixed. The following are items that may require a little forethought.

Rocks:
Never trust that just because they can be purchased at an aquarium store that they are safe. Some rocks can affect your pH or hardness. A few examples, granites can contain iron ore or arsenic deposits, slates can contain thin layers of objectionable minerals, and light coloured rocks may contain limestone. Avoid the following; soft brittle rocks, rocks with metallic or rust colored deposits or veins, rocks containing crystals. Do not use any sort of coral in freshwater tanks, as it is extremely sharp and will affect your water chemistry.

Ways of testing how a rock will affect your water chemistry: Test a cup of aquarium water for general hardness as well as pH, leave the rock you wish to use in the cup for about a week and retest your pH and hardness. Avoid introducing the rock if your general hardness or pH changes. Another test is pouring a strong acid over top of the rock in question, if it fizzes it indicates that it is basic and will affect water chemistry.

Wood
Wood offers a unique element to the aquarium, but requires some consideration. Commonly used woods are; driftwood, bogwood, and bamboo. Steer clear of any type of rotted woods and green woods since they can contain chemicals. Wood must be soaked in hot de-chlorinated water for a few days to a week to remove excess tannins, contaminants and kill any adverse bacteria present. This also helps wood ‘water log’ so it sinks. If your wood fails to sink, tie downs or weights such as attaching slate tiles with stainless steel screws may be necessary. Some catfish and cichlids chew on woods as part of their natural diets and it should be used in the aquarium setting for their wellbeing. It is important never to use bleach or any sort varnish or sealant on woods since they are toxic to aquatic life, and can leach into the water over time.

Live Plants
Little can compare to the natural splendor of the planted tank. Healthy plants contribute to the overall balance of your fish’s small ecosystem. Since aquarium plants are such a broad topic only some of the basics will be covered here. There are two main types of plants; emersed (grows out of water or floats) and submersed (grows underwater). There are three general categories of submersed plants; tuberous plants, rooted plants or plants that grow from cuttings. It is always important before choosing plants to read up on them to determine their lighting needs and their maximum growth potential. Since live plants can carry parasites or pests it is always a good idea to ‘dip’ your plants before adding them to the aquarium. If you have any plant related questions or need more information on how to properly dip your plants be sure to stop by our plant keeping classroom, where our local planted tank experts can lead you in the right direction.

Dangers
Any item that you wish to put into your aquarium should be thoroughly cleansed using warm de-chlorinated water. Items originating from other fish tanks or from natural bodies of water must be cleansed as well to avoid transmission of parasites, diseases and snails. Avoid items that are not intended for aquariums that may have come into contact with household chemicals, as well as any painted items or items held together with unknown glues. Ensure that any sort of opening or crack in the item is large enough that fish will not get trapped. Other plastics that are not originally produced for aquarium use can be used only if they are of food grade quality.

Un-natural Décor
There is a plethora of aquatic decorations unsuitable for use in aquariums ranging from underwater laser lights, disco balls, fast moving air operated gadgets and fiber-optic castles. These can be upsetting to fish and stressful at best. Some moving aerating ornaments can actually trap or injure small fish and fry. Before adding any item to your aquarium it is important to be conscientious of the risks involved.


An aquarium should be viewed as your fish’s home and for their own heath and longevity it should be as stress free for them as possible. If you have questions regarding the use or safety of any items, would like to ask about a certain fish’s requirements, or even show us your current tank set up, please feel free. Don’t forget that our members and site staff is here to help!

PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 4:08 pm
by KerBer
I think I've finally worked out most of the bugs in this. I've edited out some of the specific info (How to do potasium dips ect.) since I'm trying to make this as basic as possible. If anyone has any comments or suggestions (as the article says ;) ) please feel free, feedback is appreciated! :)

PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 4:50 pm
by Boxermom
Very nice, thanks! Is there anything that has to be done to stuff like the new clay pots before use? Boil, soak, etc? I'd like to find small ones for my betta tanks. Are the ones from the plant store okay to use?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 5:35 pm
by KerBer
Garden centres usually carry them, only new clay pots should be used since used ones may have come into contact with chemicals such as "miracle grow" ect. I should probably add in the article to avoid using painted or decorated pots since the paint(s) or any glue(s) used may be toxic. They should be cleansed using only warm de-chlorinated water.
If you wish to file hole(s) into your pot:
Soaking in hot water for a while softens them a bit making it a little easier to work with. When you are all done, ensure that edges are smoothed out to prevent possible injuries to your fish, rinse off the clay dust with dechlorinated water & it's ready to go!

PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2006 11:35 am
by beblondie
BACKGROUND
Only 2 things I came up with were
A background gives fish a sense of direction and security, this is especially important when a tank is located in a heavy traffic area. They can be a plastic background from your LFS; view of a river, rocks, plants, solid black/blue or you could paint the outside of the back of the tank black or dark blue.
Wood
Wood offers a unique element to the aquarium, but requires some consideration. Commonly used woods are; driftwood, bogwood, and bamboo. Steer clear of any type of rotted woods and green woods since they can contain chemicals. Wood must be soaked in hot de-chlorinated water for a few days to a week to remove excess tannins, contaminants and kill any adverse bacteria present. This also helps wood ‘water log’ so it sinks. If your wood fails to sink, tie downs or attach slate tiles using stainless steel screws may be necessary. Some catfish and cichlids chew on woods as part of their natural diets and it should be used in the aquarium setting for their wellbeing. It is important never to use bleach or any sort varnish or sealant on woods since they are toxic to aquatic life, and can leach into the water over time. -Anne